Is there a new G.O.A.T. in Starcraft 2?

Last week we had one of the most anticipated finals in Starcraft 2 history – and my goodness did it come through. Before we get into just how significant of a win this was for Lee “INnoVation” Shin Hyung, let’s recap this incredible series.

Game 1

Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin would start out the series with a quick scout on Innovation’s tank push. Pumping immortal Sentry while a Warp Prism backstabbed with Adepts, sOs gained a sizable economic lead.

Minutes later when sOs forced the base trade, Innovation’s 4-medivak drop would only be able to wipe the Protoss main, while forcefields and overcharges protected the natural until sOs’s fearsome ground army could return home.

 

Game 2

“IS THAT THE STRAT?” Shouted Artosis as four Oracles razed not only every add-on in Innovation’s main but denied stim and combat shields as well. No big deal, just sOs revolutionizing the way we see PvT forever.

After a void ray picked off Inno’s forward Tanks by the skin of its teeth, sOs decided to go for a kill move, shading into the main and igniting his four green lazers. Despite inflicting heavy worker losses, widow mine hits and marines would eventually clean it up. The situation still looked great for the 3-base Protoss, but the feisty Terran would finagle his way into another base trade – but this time with an impenetrable Liberator force at his front door – gg.

 

Game 3

In Game 3 we got to witness everyone’s favorite strat – the Cyclone rush. Oh boy, how I enjoy spectating Cyclone rushes. Over and over, sOs dove on the “pew-pew vacuum cleaners” and over and over they melted. Nexus falls – gg. I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.

 

Game 4

sOs said “Two can play that game,” in Game 4 – he made Adepts and murdered Terran. Not much else to say.

 

Game 5

My god Game 5 was cool.

“Hey Innovation remember when I killed you with that Adept all-in 5 minutes ago – this is that I promise.”

“It sure looks like it, sOs, I’ll be ready this time .”

 

 

sOs appeared to be going for a gold base all-in on Odyssey – something he has done many times. Whether a double-gold Oracle/50 Chargelot bust or a quick Adept bust, sOs is quite well known for these type of builds. sOs knew this and knew that Innovation knew this, so while appearing to go for a complete Adept All-in, he was actually double-expanding and building a Pheonix fleet.

When Innovation would march across the map to murder the post-cheese Adept army, he would have his mind blown open by a well-rounded and well-funded Protoss Army.

 

 

“HE JUST WENT ‘WHAT’ WITH HIS MOUTH – HE DOESN’T EVEN SPEAK ENGLISH – SOS MAKIN’ THIS KID SPEAK IN TONGUES TASTELESS”

The rest of the game would be a strategic dance of army positioning. Innovation for most of the game had an untouchable Air-Force of ranged Liberators, while sOs’s stalker force was minuscule.

Still, however, sOs managed to circumnavigate the Freedom Zones to kill bases and Blink on lone Liberators. Eventually, sOs’s commanding economy, with the help of a VERY crucial hidden base, would be able to force a base trade and kill Innovation’s Orbitals while a horde of Blink DTs turned Inno’s bio to shredded cheese.

 

Game 6

“It’s almost better to not even scout him” -Artosis

With his eye on his first ever GSL title, sOs chose Nightmare’s signature Charge/DT Blink bust. Unscouted, Innovation dropped a clutch early scan that allowed his first volley to turn the tides, wiping out the expensive Dark Templar. A few more attempts would prove increasingly wasteful, until sOs was forced to tap out.

 

 

Game 7

Oh please, anything but death by tank push – noooo not a tank push. I’m completely impartial by the way – no dog in this race.

Innovation set up a Seige Tank/Bunker line outside of sOs’s third against Colossus/Stalker. If you’ve played five games of TvP in your life you know how that ends. Innovation crushes the third. sOs tried for a hail mary recall to a newly built hidden base, got quickly overwhelmed by Vikings, Bio and SCVs at Inno’s 3rd, GG. I’m definitely not crying at all did I mention how impartial I am?

This win marks the 3rd GSL Code S title for INnoVation – tying him with Jung “Mvp” Jong Hyun… which begs the question…

 

Greatest of all Time?

 

                                 Mvp                                          INnoVation

  • GSL Code S x3
  • Blizzcon 2011
  • GSL World Championship 2011
  • WCG 2011
  • WCS Europe 2013
  • 2013 MLG Winter
  • IEM Season VII Cologne
  • 2011 MLG Anaheim
  • 2011 WC Seoul
  • Total earnings: $408,891.73
  • GSL Code S x3
  • WCS Korea 2014
  • WCS 2013
  • GSL vs the World 2017
  • IEM Gyeonggi
  • 201 Star league S1
  • IEM Gamescom
  • Total earnings: $445,354.79

 

MVP was, until very recently, the undisputed greatest player of all time. Only one young Zerg ever came close, he who shall not be named- screw that noise his name was Life and he was unbelievable. He’d surely be in the running for GOAT had he not made a terrible, unforgivable mistake two years ago. But that’s Life – badum tsss.

What does it mean to be the greatest?  I’d say there’s a bit more to it than results. Sure – you can’t even be in the conversation without winning 3 GSL Code S titles – but the GOAT of any sport didn’t just enter, dominate, and leave the sport how they found it – to be the GOAT you have to change the game forever.  MVP did that.  His finals against Squirtle changed the way we look at Best of 7s.  Not only was Game 6’s Archon Toilet arguably the most bad-ass moment in any Starcraft 2 game ever – he managed to top that by following up a Battlecruiser/Mass Planetary build with a freaking proxy 2 Rax SCV pull. MVP taught us that a best of 7 isn’t 7 separate games but a single series and ongoing mental game – and that sometimes you have to risk it all to achieve greatness.

 

So here’s the question: did INnoVation… innovate? He didn’t re-evaluate the way his race was played from the ground up like a Stephano. He didn’t revolutionize micromanagement like MarineKingPrime or Byun. He didn’t push the limits of strategical complexity like sOs… he crushed all of that with rock hard consistency.  What INnoVation brings to the table is unparalleled precision and mechanics, and an ability to do what he does every single time against any player.  Innovation accomplished what MVP did and he did it in the modern day, in a game that’s is harder than it’s ever been and one where there are more ways to suddenly die than ever before.  INnoVation knows when to cheese like MVP did, but more often than not he has no secrets – no tricks up his sleeve – just overwhelming numbers, perfect crisis management, and the cold calculating intelligence of a T-800 Terminator.

 

“1010110001” -INnoVation

For these reasons, INnoVation, in my humble opinion, is now…

The Greatest Player of All Time.

Good luck DeepMind.


Photos courtesy of AfreecaTV and The Terminator
Featured Image courtesy of HBO’s Game of Thrones

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GSL Finals: The Genius and The Machine

It’s finally nearing the climax of this Season’s GSL and we start out the Semifinals with a showdown between the two best Protoss players on planet Earth. Representing opposing sides of the Protoss coin, we have GSL Champion Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob, the rock of Protoss – the immovable Macro Giant that represents the pinnacle of standard Protoss play in Legacy of the Void.

In the other corner we have Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin – the Cucaracha himself, two-time Blizzcon Champion and the most feared man in all of Starcraft 2 – a man who is smarter than everyone he plays and a cold-blooded killer with a bottomless bag of tricks.

 

Stats vs sOs

 

Game 1 set the stage appropriately, a fitting introduction to these two very different Protoss players. The bloodthirsty sOs opened with four Adepts looking for probe kills while Stats went with a standard Oracle expand. Stats managed to kill an initial 10 workers with great control while never missing a shade block on sOs’s Adepts.

Hopelessly behind in economy, sOs chose to shove all his chips in the pot with a Glaive Adept all in. Stats smartly sacked his third Nexus with his almost 20 Probe lead and after a few attempted Shade-bys, Stats had an overwhelming Adept advantage and forced GG.

 

In Game 2 Stats seemed to get a bit overconfident. After crushing sOs’s two Stalkers with his four, Stats got an easy kill on the natural Nexus while his own was comfortably mining – an almost impossible position to lose from. Instead of asking himself “but how COULD I still lose” Stats built a Twilight council instead of a Robotics, a move Tasteless called a “Win-more move”. The mistake would cost him the game, as two Dark Templar would descend on both his Stalker Army and main base, neither of which had detection. Checkmate.

 

 

The Cucaracha would come out swinging in Game 3, proxying a Stargate and killing eight Probes with his first Oracle. His second Oracle would accomplish nothing and die to the Phoenix of Stats. Thinking he had air supremacy, Stats went to kill the proxied Stargate. Seeing that it wasn’t producing, he had every reason to believe his Phoenix couldn’t be defeated… wrong. SOs had made TWO MORE Stargates at home and now has the Phoenix lead. Hitting with Phoenix Range a few minutes later would send the air battle snowballing into sOs’s favor and force Stats to tap out.

 

 

If there was ANY doubt at all that sOs is the smartest human to ever play Starcraft 2, Game 4 put an end to that nonsense. The brilliance, creativity and poker-like psychological deception displayed in this game was truly remarkable.

SOs appeared to open up with an extraordinarily standard build and one of the safest in all of PvP: a two Gate expand into Robo. Stats poked with four Stalkers to find no damage. Soon sOs was chasing Stats across the map, picking off a stalker and appearing to be making a committed push – allowing Stats to assume a Warp Prism was in play and an all-in was immanent. SOs then showed that Warp Prism – a hallucinated Warp Prism – push was a complete ruse.

Here’s where it gets really interesting. Any player in Stats’ shoes would think “Ok that push was entirely fake, he must be getting me on the defensive while he does the opposite – he probably has a third nexus finishing up and is taking a commanding economic lead. I have to take my own third Nexus and research +1 attack to catch up.” In other words, why would you want to make your opponent THINK you are going all in… RIGHT BEFORE YOU ALL IN?


 

But sOs is playing Starcraft 2 in the year 3017 – he’s not expanding at all he’s adding five gateways, Charge and a Templar Archives on two bases, a COMPLETE all in.

 

Right before attacking, sOs finds Stats’ FULL energy Mothership Core with a REAL warp prism, drops out one High Templar, feedbacks it to death, and turns that baby into a Forcefield-crushing energy ball. Blasting into Stats’ natural base with a superior Charge/Archon force with Guardian shield support against no overcharges whatsoever, Stats had only a line of forcefields to keep from getting swarmed by Psi Blades. It works for only a second before sOs dropped a single Archon on them, opening the floodgates and winning one of the coolest games all year.

 

 

 

 

This is why sOs has been my personal favorite player of all time. He’s always thinking levels deeper than his opponents. He’s not only keeping information from you – he’s feeding you a false narrative that makes you think you’ve figured him out right up until you’re dead.

Sickest nerd chills all over my body Tasteless.

 

By Game 5 the Cucaracha already knew he was going to the GSL finals, so he just built a Robo and Warp Gate in spitting distance from Stats’ base, walked in and killed him.

 

One of the most talented and full rounded players in the whole game – bludgeoned to death before he even had a chance. As Tastless put it, “You just never get to play the PvP you practiced for.”

 

Innovation vs Dark

Next up we’d get another world class showdown. Playing for Terran, two-time GSL Champion and contender for G.O.A.T., Lee “INnoVation” Shin Hyung, a.k.a. the Machine. Trying to bring him down, Park “Dark” Shin Hyung, the best Zerg in the world, the man who just slaughtered TY 3-0. Despite being one of the world’s best for years now, he has yet to win a GSL title.

 

Game 1 we saw Innovation showcase his new favorite Mech Build: two Port Speed-banshee into Tank-heavy Mech.

It wouldn’t find much damage beyond some Ravager snipes, however, and a devastating Roach/Hydra push would dismantle Innovation’s aggressively postured Mech army with the help of some choice Vipers spells.

 

Innovation didn’t lose hope in his practiced Mech just yet, opening the exact same in Game 2.

 

 

Some ling harassment and mutli-pronged burrowed-roach attacks would slow down the booming Terran economy somewhat, but Innovation’s mech would have no problem cleaning up Dark’s Broodlord army and taking the map.

 

 

 

Game 3 was one of those one-in-a-million type games. Innovation started the game by proxying a reactored barracks, a tech lab Factory and a Starport. Before long the Pool and the main Hatchery were dead and it looked like Dark would follow soon.

 

In a brilliant hail-mary of a play, Dark put not only his entire army but also a whole base of Drones into his Nydus Worm. Innovation evacuated his buildings and floated them across the map to meet his army, and Dark began mining from Terran’s former main base.

 

Behind in mining against a now 3-base Zerg, Innovation attacked. A baneling landmine and some well placed Biles would knock Inno’s cheesy army off the map and secure a very bizarre win for the Zerg.

 

Innovation kept the cheese wheel rollin in Game 4 with a Proxy Two-Rax. Despite just barely not killing the natural hatch with Marines, the follow up Hellbat/Banshee push would kill the Zerg.

In Game 5 Innovation went for a Macro mech style, building Tanks and early double mech upgrades at home while Hellions and a Raven patrolled the map. Dark’s Vipers managed to pick off a few Tanks but Innovation’s first push would take only minimal losses before sieging the Zerg natural and smothering him.

 

Innovation wasn’t done with the cheddar in Game 6, and went for a double Proxy Rax on Mech Depot. It didn’t go much better than Game 3 however, as a Dark Nydus counter attack would land the KO.

Game 7

Dark and Innovation would go to the rubber match. Innovation returned to his 2-Port banshee build with mild success. His Hellion hit-squads wouldn’t do much better. The map began quickly to look like Game 2 – Vipers pulling Vikings into Hydra, and Roaches killing SCV from underground. Broodlords would fall to Vikings and Thor, while small groups of Mech units sniped satellite bases. Innovation would march his menacing Mech force onto a pressure point of the Zerg – between the fourth and fifth bases – and crush Dark’s hopes of a GSL title.

 

HOLD ME TASTELESS

Innovation and sOs are two of the most legendary names in SC2 History. They have not faced in a Grand Finals of any kind since 2013, when Innovation swept 4-0. Will we see cunning mad-scientist builds from sOs to take down the raw macro power of Innovation’s mechanics? Will we see the robotic Terran out-cheese the cheese master himself? Maybe we’ll get 40-minute Tier-3 Air showdowns or some down and dirty scrap-fests. Either way, pray to Nestea it goes to a Game 7.

 

 

The Grand Finals between sOs and Innovation will be on Saturday September 16th – see you there!

 

Photos courtesy of AfreecaTV

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PvT: The Guillotine Build

Are you SICK and TIRED of losing games to players that are better, smarter, or more handsome than you are? Have you had ENOUGH of all those Trisha-Tryhards out there thinking they are entitled to the win just because they “played and studied the game diligently for years”?

                     “Ooooooh look at me I can make supply depots on time, give me money”

 

Well then try the Guillotine build – the best way to cut that smarty-pants head right off before they can even play the game!

The Guillotine build is a fast and easy way to plop down 16 supply of Protoss magic right into your opponent’s Main at just past 4 minutes! Inspired by the original cheeser himself, Mr. Maximilien Robespierre, the Guillotine build is the best choice for squelching counter-revolutionaries or Macro Terrans.

       “Lmao uninstall”

               -Maximilien Robespierre

The Build:

13 – Pylon – Send Probe to Proxy location – somewhere close but avoid normal Reaper-scout locations

14 – Gateway

16 – Gas

18 – Cybernetics Core

19 – Gas

20 – Mainbase Pylon (for an SCV scout to see)

20 – Proxy Pylon (for Robotics Facility)

21 – Robotics at Proxy

23 – Adept (chronoboost)

23 – Warp Gate (chronoboost)

25 – Gate at Proxy

25 – 30 MINDGAMES ALERT: This is Roughly when a Reaper will arrive, build a cheeky Stargate right in his face.

After you’ve zoned out or killed that aristocratic piece-a crap with your Adept, cancel the Stargate – this will throw them off your rancid cheesy scent.

 

 

 

25 – Start an Immortal (chronoboost)

31 – Adept #2 (chronoboost)

33 – Warp Prism (chronoboost) – Shade both Adepts to Proxy location

33 – 3rd Gateway

When the Warp Prism is done drop the two Adepts and one Immortal on the edge of Terran main and warp in three Stalkers.

Unleash your inner Puck and Micro your damn heart out

Step 1: Speed and Secrecy

You want to find a balance between #1: Hitting as fast as possible and #2: Not being discovered.

The second Main-Base pylon will slightly slow down the drop, but a decent player will notice its absence.

The Stargate fake will slightly slow down the drop, but will also disguise your all in.

Step 2: Ready the Blade

Make sure the Adepts arrive at the proxy location on time. Make sure your three Gateways and Warp Gate research are done before your Prism reaches their base and that you have plenty of available Supply to work with. Rally the Prism to the Terran main and hop in from its flight path with your Immortal/Adepts for maximum speed.

Step 3: Off with his head!

Drop on and Warp in at the edge of Terran’s main

Move command towards the production and try to engage any Bio or Cyclones they have before the SCV pull arrives – focus down any Viking or Liberator with Stalkers and protect the Prism.

If they withdraw patiently, kill add ons (Rax or Factory reactors, Stim) first and then Production structures in order of tech (ie Stargate first then Factory).

Pick up and drop injured units as efficiently as you can, only warp in when the Prism is safe.

Rally additional Immortals to the main base Cliff and elevator them up.

Keeping both Immortals and the Warp prism alive at the end of the first scrap is your top priority – with some fancy micro they can defeat small packs of units or stray Tanks indefinitely.

Note: you often won’t outright win with the first drop and will have to lift the surviving 8 Supply after killing 10-12 SCVs and a chunk of Terran units – it’s sometimes the 2nd or 3rd drop/warp and the 3rd or 4th Immortal that forces checkmate.

The Warp Prism must not die:

Vikings and Cyclones are the greatest threat to your Warp Prism until the Marines have stim – watch for Widow Mines.

Your three Stalkers need to always be in between any Vikings and your Warp Prism – Stay very far away from Multiple Cyclones.

Multiple Cyclones:

Chronoboost Immortals.

Stay a screen length away with the Prism and focus-fire them down with all available units.

Siege Tank:

Warp in only Adepts – Shade on Tanks/Drop Immortals.

All Bio:

Keep close with Prism and juggle hurt units.

Elevator/Warp Trick:

The fastest way to move an army from the low ground to the high ground is to drop two Immortals on the edge of the Terran main and enter “Phasing Mode” so that it can Elevator low ground units and warp in new units at the same time.

 

 

 

 

                                                      This is what Terran nightmares are made of

 

Viva la France and Enjoy!

                                                             “Get out of my Game, Claude” [Warning: May induce salt/democracy]

Replay for Reference:

http://drop.sc/replay/5224189


Featured Image Courtesy of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Unity

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Sound Structure – Intriguing Designs That Hit The Mark

A week ago I wrote an article discussing the most stressful units in StarCraft II. Here’s the followup to that piece, a discussion of some of the most interesting designs StarCraft has given us. Here are units that prove that it is possible to create gameplay that is satisfying for the player without causing your opponent’s blood pressure to spike.

 

Stalker

Perhaps a trigger warning is necessary here for victims of the Blink-Stalker era. Either way, I do maintain my point from last week. Aesthetically speaking, my honest opinion is that Stalker is the Little Nicky of StarCraft designs. The Stalker’s gameplay, however, is another story, and in a way, distinct.

Among all core units in the game, the Stalker is by far the weakest in terms of raw dps. For its lacking offensive ability, the Stalker boasts superior mobility. Once its ability Blink is unlocked, the Stalker becomes unrivaled in its ability to pick-off priority targets.

Stalkers can’t survive prolonged engagements without the support of units higher up in the Protoss tech tree. Instead, as its name implies, the Stalker functions as a sniper unit for both cutting off units attempting to retreat, and giving the Protoss the ability to dictate the terms of engagement. The latter is usually achieved by using blink to hard engage a dangerous target before it can react, or up to higher ground to secure a tactical advantage.

Like most standard Gateway units, the Stalker functions as reinforcements in long engagements; they will eventually fall-off without actual heavy firepower at the rear, so focus fire is imperative.

The idea of taking a mobile low damage unit and making it a race’s core is a tough sell but the Stalker carved its own niche with its distinct and satisfying play-style. Now if only it didn’t look like a concept reject for Genesect.

 

Ghost

Conceptually, the Ghost seems like what you would get if you told a 10 year old boy to make a StarCraft unit. To start, it’s a spellcaster built to counter other spell casters. It can stealth and has massive burst that can shred even the tankiest units; if need be, it can call in a Nuclear strike, which, appropriately enough, is nowhere near as broken as it sounds.

That’s pretty much the theme of the Ghost. It’s a unit that, on paper, sounds like it should be all kinds of busted, but isn’t. The fact that it’s on one of the furthest ends of the Terran tech tree has a lot to do with this. Furthermore, its more outlandish abilities either require additional research or further investments to prepare.

Design

The Tactical Nuke is worth particular note for being the first supply pit in StarCraft. Ironically,  it is the best example of a supply pit done right. In both StarCraft and StarCraft II, each Tactical Nuke requires further investment to build. Usually only one could be prepared at a time. Although in StarCraft II, both the direct and opportunity cost is significantly lower than its predecessor.

The significant investment that goes into preparing even a single Nuke makes it a rare sight. But it’s still an exceptionally powerful tool that can be devastating in the right situations regardless. The rarity of the event just makes it that much more of a spectacle for both players when it actually does happen.

 

Arbiter

My personal favourite unit from StarCraft I, and possibly just StarCraft in general. The Arbiter is the unit at the furthest end of the Protoss tech tree in Brood War. Furthermore, even despite its heavy cost and even heavier build time (longest in the game, yes even longer than the Carrier), it has three further upgrades to research that collectively take close to 4.5 minutes, and 450 minerals/450 gas to complete.

In that way, it’s very unique. Most notably, for a unit at the furthest end of the tech tree, its direct offensive ability is almost non-existent. It has an attack, but it’s mostly negligible. Rather, the value of the Arbiter comes entirely from its spells and abilities. Of its three abilities/spells, the Arbiter starts with one, its Cloaking Field. Cloaking Field, as you can guess, cloaks (grants stealth) to every unit in an area beneath it.

Design

Its only two spells, both of which need to be researched, are Recall and Stasis Field. They both feature their own respective strategies for which they act as the focal points. Stasis Field freezes any unit caught within the spell’s area of effect. Under stasis, units are completely immobile and cannot be attacked for its duration. It’s a particularly powerful tool against Terran and Protoss for shutting down Siege Tanks and Reavers, respectively.

Recall is a global spell that teleports all units under a 5×5 spell area directly to the Arbiter. The Mass Recall strategy centered on this ability usually involves flying an Arbiter directly into an enemy base and using recall to teleport an army onto the enemy’s production facilities.

The Arbiter is unique as the only final tier support unit gated behind massive investments and research upgrades like none other, but somehow ends up being undeniably worth it.

Side Note: You’ve probably noticed from the Ghost to the Arbiter that there’s a reoccurring design principle here that StarCraft II ignored. That principle being – if you’re going to give a unit some seriously busted-ass spells, stick it at the furthest end of the tech tree and lock its potential behind a million upgrades.

 

Viper

I didn’t mean to order this list but it happened anyway, I guess this would be the number one spot. As much as I love the Arbiter, the Viper just wins on so many levels.

I’ll start with Parasitic Bomb, which proves it’s possible to create a spell for punishing mass-air deathballs without being a spell that instagibs mass-air deathballs. Furthermore, while Parasitic Bomb will significantly slow, if not stop, the advancement of a mass-air army, its effect can be significantly mitigated with practiced micro control that feels very satisfying to outplay.

This is a very rare mechanic in StarCraft where a punishing spell can actually feel somewhat rewarding on the receiving end for having successfully mitigated the full effect.

But by far, Viper’s most intriguing ability is Consume. It’s an ability that uniquely allows the Viper to replenish energy by sucking the life from (damaging) your own Structures. Not only is the spell absolutely ominous to watch, particularly when watching a swarm of Vipers kill their own Hatchery, but it adds a distinct depth to the Viper. After exhausting its energy, Vipers can be pulled from the front-line back to the Zerg’s base to replenish their energy at the cost of damage to their own structures, after which it can return to the field.

The Viper has its own synergy between its abilities, spells, and the battlefield itself. An intriguing novelty unlike anything else in StarCraft that I can only describe as an absolutely beautiful model of sound game design.

Design

 

Featured images courtesy TheKillerAngelAfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

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ASL Season 3: Round of 16 Preview

The second round of ASL is just days away. While my bae Stork may have made an early exit, the lineup is packed with legends and shows you absolutely don’t want to miss. Here’s your guide to the Round of 16.

 

Group A

Lee “Flash” Young Ho

Ko “HyuN” Seok Hyun

Lee “Shine” Young Han

Kim “ggaemo” Kyung Mo

 

Welcome to the battle for second place. Flash straight up got a free pass to the Quarters here. The second slot is a bit more tricky. Neither Hyun nor Shine have particularly stood out, both advancing second from relatively unremarkable groups.

Ggaemo is another story, but has yet to be tested in any matchup other than ZvP. To advance, he’ll have to prove himself against the best Terran to ever touch StarCraft, and at least one ZvZ.

 

Predictions: Flash, HyuN.

Airs: April 30th, 3am PST/6am EST

 

Group B

Yum “Sea” Bo Sung

Kim “EffOrt” Jung Woo

Kim “Bisu” Taek Yong

Kim “Soulkey” Min Chul

 

Despite sSak’s efforts, Group B somehow became the Group of Death. Without question, this is the group to watch. It says everything that not even Bisu can be considered safe here. Quite the contrary when you consider Bisu and Sea’s recent history. In the ASL Season 2 Quarterfinals, it was Sea that knocked Bisu out in a 3-0 shutout. With Protoss in general struggling under the current ASL map pool, we’re looking at a real possibility of Bisu making an early exit.

EffOrt looks like a genuine contender at the moment, steamrolling his way through Group B and Soulkey. He proved himself after knocking out the Season 1 ASL Champion on his way out of the Round of 24.

Literally every player in this group has a case to make for the Quarterfinals, and competition for the two available slots will be like nothing we’ve seen yet.

 

Predictions: None. But I’d put the odds ever so slightly on Sea.

Airs: May 2nd, 3am PST/6am EST

 

Group C

Doh “BeSt” Jae Wook

Yoon “Mong” Chan

Kim “IamMang” Seung Hyun

Kim “Jaehoon” Jae Hoon

 

With Protoss’ struggles in the current Season of ASL, it seems harsh that three of the four remaining ended up in one group. In reality, this actually ended up being the best case scenario for Protoss, guaranteeing at least one Protoss in the Quarterfinals, and a strong probability for a second.

Group C is another interesting one. BeSt got seeded in from his semifinal run in the last ASL where he took Sea to a Game 5 series. With this in mind, he’s a player that cannot be ruled out. Mong got into the Round of 16 at the top of his group, defeating Shuttle on the route out. We know he can hold his own in high level PvT, and in this group that makes him a genuine threat.

Meanwhile, IamMang advanced to the Round of 16 through two PvP wins, dropping Stork on his way out. His PvP is in proven form. In a group with three Protoss, he absolutely cannot be underestimated.

As for Jaehoon. He made it out of his group by 2-0’ing Light. If he can somehow make it past IamMang, and ends up against Mong in the Winner’s Match, I can see him possibly advancing. Of course, making it past IamMang’s PvP is no easy feat. Jaehoon does have a route out, but it’s undeniably a long shot.

 

Predictions: IamMang, BeSt

Airs: May 9th, 3am PST/6am EST

 

Group D

Lee “Jaedong” Jae Dong

Choi “sSak” Ho Seon

Kim “Last” Sung Hyun

Jo “hero” Il Jang

 

With Zerg dominating Season 3 so far, Jaedong would be a given. But a wrist injury in February does put his current form into question. He did participate in the I love StarCraft showmatch in March, so it’s likely not still an issue.

Last made it into the Round of 16 at the top of Group F. However, the level of competition he faces here is a steep climb from Group F. Despite an impressive performance, he’s yet to be truly tested which makes him a bit of an unknown.

This brings me sSak. For those of you lucky enough to read Naruto before it went downhill to its comically slow and painful death, you’ll remember Jiraiya. Jiraiya’s character carries a lesson: don’t judge someone’s capability based on their interests. The comparison to Jiraiya becomes even more relevant when you consider sSak’s apparent love for female Broadcast Jockeys and drinking streams. Unlike Jaedong, don’t let this distract you from the fact that sSak advanced from the Round of 24 at the top of a stacked group. sSak is more of a threat than he lets on.

 

Predictions: sSak makes a surprise advancement in first place, Jaedong advances in final match.

Airs: May 9th, 3am PST/6am EST

 

 

Featured images courtesy AfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

Follow me on Twitter: @Stefan_SC2

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Protoss vs Terran in 2017 – A Historic Low

 

I am very unhappy with Protoss vs Terran right now. This has been a really popular subject lately. Although I am neither a professional game designer nor Artosis, I do adore Starcraft 2 and want it to be as good as it can be. With the departure of David Kim (peace be upon him) from the Starcraft 2 team, I’d expect some rather large changes coming in the near future.

 

Anyone who’s been watching top Starcraft 2 this year knows that Protoss vs Terran has been almost entirely Phoenix/Adept. There are exceptions, like Warp Prism Adept all ins, Cyclone all ins, and Stats, who seems to be the only Protoss alive to play defensively without it. Phoenix Adept games CAN blossom into interesting late game slug fests, but most of the time they end when either the Bio ball or the Adept ball snowballs into an unkillable mass of hitpoints. I’m talking 25 Adepts losing the game and 28 Adepts winning it.

 

Although Adept Phoenix isn’t overpowered, it isn’t abundantly easy to play either. However, it is boring to play, and even more boring to watch. The game is often decided by one big Adept shade onto the Terran army. Either there are enough Adepts and the Phoenix kill everything else, or there are not enough Adepts, the Phoenix drop like flies, and the game is over.

 

If you are forgetting how awesome PvT in Legacy of the Void can be, watch TY vs Parting at Dreamhack Roccat from back in late 2015.

 

 

The games had nonstop action all over the map, nail-biting micro battles, creative strategies, and climactic GG timings. Now compare that to a 2017 Phoenix Adept game. Every game looks more or less the same; the endings are dull, and evenly matched players will take quick and empty wins off each other.

 

Solutions

Now, the hard part. Let’s talk solutions. When I dissect PvT, it seems to be the fragility of the Blink Stalker opener that forces Protoss down the Phoenix/Adept route. Without a mobile anti air force to shut down Medivacs and Liberators, harass can become overwhelming very fast. This problem began when the “Tankivak” combo was removed in favor of more damage, and Blink Stalkers’ openers became nearly obsolete over night. With only Phoenix to handle air units and Tank/Liberator contains, Protoss had to choose a cheap unit that could close the distance to tanks instantly – the Adept of course. Due to the vital importance of the Adept ball’s cumulative HP, it became detrimental for the Protoss to diversify their composition at all.

I’m not suggesting an outright buff to the Stalker. Although I believe they are the root of the issues with PvT, Blink Stalkers have of course gone through meta swings of immense power and killing potential. In addition, Stalkers seem to be in a perfectly good place versus Zerg and Protoss. So what can be done?

Idea #1: Buff the Sentry

The Sentry was one of the coolest units in Wings of Liberty, and one with a very high skill ceiling. Watching players like MC and Parting use force-fields masterfully to control the battle was incredibly interesting to watch. I’d argue that PvZ was at its most interesting when the Protoss army was Sentry based. That is, after all, core to the design of Protoss. Expensive power units designed to control the battlefield and keep enemies at bay – not to Yolo masses of Adepts onto Bio in an outcome I could work out on a calculator.

Protoss has very few early-game options for scouting. With more Utility out of the Sentry (a simple energy cost reduction would do), Protoss would have an easier time scouting and handling Multi-Rax pressure, bringing back a more complex unit composition for the mid-game. An extra Hallucinated Archon or two could be invaluable in breaking a Siege Tank contain, and some extra force-fields could help your Stalkers survive the aggressive stims that make Colossus so unattractive.

The Sentry is all but gone from the game. You’ll see one per army for Guardian Shield, and an occasional Force-field/Recall Hatch snipe, but there are no more Parting Force-field Donuts.

 

 

Idea #2: Nerf the Adept

This has been thrown around a lot lately, and it would certainly hurt. The 3.8 patch was one of the most frustrating times for Protoss players in years, and a further nerf to the unit could make our collective win rates plummet. An HP nerf to the Adept might relegate them to a harass-only role.  This solves our Phoenix Adept problem but leaves Protoss high and dry against Tank pushes, which leads me to…

Idea #3: Reduce the Cost of Zealot Charge to 150/150

With a more accessible Zealot Charge, Protoss players could survive against Tank Pushes without Phoenix Adept.

 

These are just ideas. I’m sure there are a dozen reasons why each one would be disastrous, but thus is the impossible task of balancing this game.

 

When all is said and done, it’s the Strategy and Micro that keeps me coming back to Starcaft 2. It’s the Poker and the Chess, it’s taking that perfect fight and microing your heart out. I like seeing two armies clash and not knowing who will come out ahead. I like watching Byun win a fight with inferior numbers, and I like watching sOs mind-game someone into the dirt. Protoss versus Terran has no individuality right now. Whether you open like Hero, Classic, or Dear, all that skill, knowledge, and experience only stand to give you a few extra Adepts for when the “Big Shade” happens. The only actual choices the Protoss have during the fight are, Shade or Don’t Shade, and What to Shoot/Pickup with the Phoenix.

The Protoss players we have right now are so clever and talented. It really makes you wonder when they all decided that this is the only way to reliably beat Terran. While I’ll confess this piece is certainly more criticism than solutions, we as a community need to make it clear to the new balance and design team that Protoss vs Terran is in need of a change.

 

Photos Courtesy of AfreecaTV

Featured Image Courtesy of BumbleBee of TeamLiquid

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Brood War

Brood War Adventures – Preparing for the Journey Home

 

A few weeks ago I wrote an article talking about the possibility of a Brood War Renaissance. It’s 2017, and Brood War is once again completely relevant to current events. This is not a wishful, “what if” piece. This is it, we’re actually on the trail. I have to wonder how many esports writers over the years have thought of this moment as a wild dream.

For so many esport writers and athletes, their passion for craft started with Brood War. Most went on to other games and other projects: League of Legends, Hearthstone, Overwatch. Yet Brood War was the starting point of that passion, and it’s for that reason it holds a sentimental place in the esport world. With that in mind, it’s a powerful experience to be here, writing about a game that meant so much to so many.

It is no secret that Brood War has a steep learning curve, even by StarCraft 2’s harsh standards. You’ve likely heard so much about it. What I’d like to talk about are the things they don’t tell you. The walls you run into that catch you off-guard.

 

Map Vision

You’ve heard so much about Brood War’s pathing issues that affect your ability to get around the map. But what you didn’t expect is the almost completely black screen you’re met with once you get into a game. Unlike StarCraft 2, which features a greyed out map from the start of the game, the maps in the original are completely black until you explore them for the first time in that game. This means that before you get into a game, it will be worthwhile to spend some time studying the map layouts.

A good starting point is just picking a single map, study it and play an AI game or two to get a feel for the terrain. Lost Temple and/or Luna are good options for their popularity. There’s a useful page worth looking at containing a list of the most popular maps in Brood War, courtesy Team Liquid.

Once you’re comfortable enough with a map that the black screen isn’t as much of an issue, try hosting a few games on it. If someone refuses to play you on a map you’re familiar with, just call them an LotV scrub and block them.

Brood War

Luna: an infamously straightforward, macro-focused map. Good for learning the basics of the game.

 

Builds

If you’ve done your research on Brood War, you’ve likely heard and perhaps even studied a few of the more famous builds. As commendable as that is, just forget them. At least for your first month. Macro in Brood War is an exceptionally complicated affair. Your first goal is to be able to start producing units. Rather than following a strict build order, just keep a priority list in mind and a general idea of what your end game strategy will be.

Of course, this is not to say Builds should never be used. Build Orders are especially important later down the line as you’re looking to refine your technique with pinpoint accuracy. But you’re better off avoiding them until you’re at least comfortable enough that you’re producing units at a steady pace.

 

Basic Defensive Tactics

 

Positioning in Brood War is everything. Even more than in StarCraft 2. In your early studies on maps, it’s important to identify choke points and open areas you’ll either want to hold or avoid depending on what race you’re playing. If you’re playing Protoss vs Zerg, for example, you’ll want to avoid straying in open areas or risk being surrounded. Furthermore, you’ll want to focus on positioning your units on choke-holds. With Zealots positioned at the bottom of the ramp and Dragoons holding the top. Zerg players will want to focus on baiting Protoss into open territory, usually by threatening map control.

It’s worth noting that in Brood War, attacking into high-ground from the low ground is suicide. This is due to units having a percentage chance of missing when attacking units at an elevated advantage. A final point, specifically for Protoss players, don’t be afraid to split your units. In StarCraft 2, Protoss can’t split units in the early game, but this couldn’t be more different in Brood War. Creating lines of defense is an important tactic for all races. Especially when making an attack into an enemy position, it’s good to have a defensive position held for your assault team to fall back to in case the attack goes badly.

Brood War

Priority zones: Green – A Ramp Protoss can favorably hold with Zealots and Dragoons, Blue – A funnel Terran can exploit using Siege Tanks and Spider Mines, Red – An open area Zerg can use to flank from multiple angles

 

 

Featured images courtesy Team LiquidAfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

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SSL

StarCraft Weekly Recall

Welcome to my seventh ever Weekly Recall, a recap of the major events in the StarCraft Week.

 

StarCraft II Starleague (SSL) – Premier

 

Players

Joo “Zest” Sung Wook, Han “ByuL” Ji Won, Cho “Maru” Seong Ju, Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob, Lee “INnoVation” Shin Hyung, Park “Dark” Ryung Woo, Kang “Solar” Min Soo, Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin

 

Highlight Match

sOs vs Solar

 

Zest vs ByuL

 

Often it seems Zest’s biggest issue is his self-confidence. It seems ironic to say that about Zest. Someone who looks like they would be voted most likely to date a Victoria’s Secret model.

But lately Zest just seems completely unwilling to play into the late-game. Instead, he prefers to close early through timing attacks. In Game 1 on Overgrowth, Zest attempted an Adept all-in, from which the game was decided once ByuL held.

Again in Whirlwind he over-extended an attack that he could have used to set himself up for a healthy mid game. Instead it seemed like he wanted to close the game through Archon harassment. Zest over-extended his harassment, rather than teching up while he had map control. After losing all four Archons, the game was pretty much over.

SSL

The irony of Zest’s situation becomes all the more apparent when you consider Game 2 on Daybreak. The only game that went relatively late was the only game that Zest won. Deciding the game from a fight at disadvantageous positioning with superior crisis management. Using his available PsiStorms perfectly to deflect a baneling flank.

In the end, ByuL’s defensive ability to hold Zest’s early aggression in Games 1 and 3 saw him through to a 2-1 victory.

 

Maru vs Stats

Stats’ form at the moment is the stuff of a legend, considering this series was played the day after the most important Protoss vs Zerg of Stats’ life. This was against Maru too, one of four Terran horsemen. Stats didn’t break a sweat here. Game 1 on Daybreak was heavily in Stats’ favor from the first engagement.

After dismantling Maru’s MMM attack, Stats expanded into four bases while transitioning out of Phoenix-Adept into Thermal Lance Colossi.

Near the end, Maru attempted a retaliatory attack onto Stats’ 4th with perfect timing just before Stats finished production of his first Colossi wave. The Protoss lead was already too massive at this point. Properly understanding the situation, Stats abandoned the 4th to buy time to get out his Colossi, which shut down Maru’s attack, ending the game shortly after.SSL

Newkirk was another stomp, but largely a build order win. Both players went for proxy air tech openings, but Stats was able to scout out Maru’s StarPort and dealt with the worker before it could complete construction. The Oracle out of Stats’ proxy StarGate secured massive value, decimating Maru’s mineral line on his natural and the handful of marines protecting it. The game was a landslide in Stats’ favor from this point, and he easily closed out the series 2-0.

 

Innovation vs Dark

 

Dark took control of Game 1 on Newkirk early with repeated zergling harassment. By the mid-game, Dark had such a commanding economic lead, it would have been easy to say the game was his.

The decisive moment of the game, however, came when Innovation made a doom drop into Stats’ main at the perfect time as Dark made a push with his slow Ultralisk-based army across the map. The damage was catastrophic, and on the retreat Dark’s army was eventually pulled apart and dismantled from all sides.

For a Dark fan this would have been a hard game to watch. Even Dark seemed almost unable to process the sudden flip in advantage, trying to fight on from an impossible situation to the bitter end.

SSL

Game 2 on Overgrowth was completely in Innovation’s control from the get-go, however. Innovation, unwilling to give Dark breathing room, hammered Dark again and again with harassment while he macroed up a death-ball behind it. By the time the final engagement came, the game was long over.

 

sOs vs Solar

 

sOs kept pressure on Solar throughout the early stages of Game 1 on Whirlwind. The critical moment came at the eventual head-on engagement where Solar crushed sOs’ main force with his superior positioning. Solar took the advantage here to keep sOs in check with a Roach drop.

Then, in a move you would expect from sOs himself, Solar set a baneling trap, coupled with surprise transition into Swarm Hosts. Caught off-guard in the worst way, sOs tapped out within seconds.

Game 2 on Overgrowth was much more of what you would expect from sOs. Opening with a proxy Gateway Adept all-in, then a Dark Templar follow-up, both of which Solar held comfortably. Solar was well ahead early in the game and prepared for everything except sOs sneaking an expansion into a Gold base. After putting on a spectacular defense, Solar was forced to tap out after realizing the massive economic gap.

This took us to Abyssal Reef. Meeting every expectation, it was the best in show for the night. sOs almost had Solar’s back against the wall early on after a massive Adept warp-in following a WarpGate explosion. Solar, however, quickly leveled the game with a baneling run into sOs’ army. From here, Solar took control, shutting down base after base with Swarm Host guerrilla tactics.

In the end, Solar took the fight right to sOs after securing a massive lead at a critical time. He hit sOs just before he could finish PsiStorm research to close the game, ending the best series of the night, 2-1.

SSL

 

 

Brood War v1.18

 

StarCraft and StarCraft: Brood War, Patch 1.18 has been delayed at least a week. Pushed back from its originally planned release from March 30th.

 

For specific information, see Blizzard’s official thread.

 

 

 

Featured images courtesy SpoTVAfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

Follow me on Twitter: @Stefan_SC2

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SHOUTcraft Kings: March

StarCraft Weekly Recall

Welcome to my fifth Weekly Recall, a recap of the major events in StarCraft over the past week.

 

Highlight Games

 

GSL Semifinals – Eo “soO” Yoon vs Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin (Abyssal Reef)

GSL Semifinals – Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob vs Kim “Ryung” Dong (Daybreak)

SHOUTcraft Kings – Joo “Zest” Sung Wook vs Tobias “ShoWTimE” Sieber

SHOUTcraft Kings – Stats vs Artur “Nerchio” Bloch

GSL Semifinals – Stats vs Ryung (Daybreak)

 

 

GSL Semifinals

 

 

soO vs sOs

 

Echo

Game 1 on Echo was an interesting idea from sOs. Here he attempted to keep soO on the defensive through repeated multiprong Adept harassment while teching up back at home. Instead he continually traded out waves of Adepts for very little return. By the time sOs had completed PsiStorm it was just too late. soO army easily overwhelming sOs in the end to take an easy lead to the series.

Whirlwind and Proxima Station

This game would set the theme of the series. Where sOs maintained the role of aggressor while soO’s defensive ability would be put to the test. sOs would break soO’s defense on Whirlwind, getting himself into a favorable mid game to tie up the series. Again on Proxima however soO’s defense would hold out against sOs’ series of aggression letting him take 2-1 lead.

Abyssal Reef

As they always do, things eventually did get interesting on Abyssal Reef. sOs took a massive economic lead early into Game 4. Taking out soO’s 3rd Hatchery with an Immortal drop reinforced by Adept Warp-Ins. From there soO maintained an airtight defense that allowed him to get back into the game. sOs would again take a massive lead after soO attempted to engage sOs’ from a choke point. soO would lose most of his Lurker based army in the engagement forcing him to retreat. A tech shift into Brood Lords would catch sOs off-guard letting soO again bring himself back into the game. Unable to fight soO in a head-on engagement sOs instead used his superior mobility to his advantage. While sOs played a strong tactical game for a while he was eventually cornered and without a base to retreat to. Putting soO at a 3-1 lead.

Cactus Valley and Newkirk Precinct

sOs went into Cactus Valley with a standard Dark Templar-Prism build. Following up with a second Prism and a second wave of Dark Templars sOs dismantled soO through multi-prong harassment. soO wasn’t able to recover from sOs’ early lead taking us to Game 6 on Newkirk Precinct.

It’s possible this match could have gone to a Game 7 had sOs’ play been up to standard. Or at least the same level we saw in Cactus Valley. Instead he went for a Pylon rush into soO’s third failing to kill the hatchery after a lackluster engagement. He would later attempt to followup with a massive Adept push but seemingly forgot to research Resonating Glaives. soO took a huge early advantage just by holding off sOs’ attempts at aggression which sOs would never recover from. Running over sOs in the inevitable counterattack, soO closed the series advancing to the finals 4-2.

SHOUTcraft Kings: March

Hatchery bleeding almost as heavily as sOs’ supply

 

 

Stats vs Ryung

 

Abyssal Reef

Stats had a rough start to Abyssal Reef losing his first Oracle to a Widow Mine. Shortly after his third was to cancel by an early push by Ryung denying any chance of early aggression. Stats and Ryung fell back into a defensive game for a short time to build up their tech. As both players entered their mid-game tech the game became a street fight.

Stats made the first engagement with an army of Colossi, Adept and Phoenixes. After trading out his Adepts for worker kills Stats was forced back and Ryung made his counterattack. Stats’ main was brought to its knees by Ryung’s bio-drop, having most of his expensive tech taken out. But Stats would retaliate with Adept harassment sending Ryung’s worker count plummeting.SHOUTcraft Kings: March

Behind the frantic attacks at eachothers bases Ryung teched into Ghosts while Stats built up his High Templar count. The final stage of the game was decided by EMPs and PsiStorms. While Ryung landed several solid EMPs Stats’ superior positioning let him deal crippling damage with PsiStorms deciding the game.

Act II

Echo was decided in just over 30 seconds where Stats found a gap in Ryung’s defense to land a Prism right behind the mineral line of Ryung’s main then cutting off Ryung’s army as he attempted to fall back. One game later on Cactus Valley, Ryung crippled Stats’ economy in the same way, exploiting a gap in Stats’ defense to make a massive drop into Stats’ 3rd base.

This put the series at 2-1 heading into Newkirk Precinct. Apparently not wanting a repeat of Cactus Valley, Stats’ defensive game was completely on point in game 4. Defensive play made all the difference in this game as both players made attempts at harassment. While Ryung had some relative success with a single Reaper, overall Stats’ was able to clear Ryung’s aggression taking very little economic damage in the process while dealing economic damage on the other side of the map. This created a huge economic gap that Ryung wouldn’t recover from.

The deciding moment of Proxima Station actually took place in the first few minutes of the game. Stats attempted a proxy StarGate but failed to do anything with it. After losing both his Void Rays while failing to secure any real economic damage, Ryung was given a massive advantage he never let go off taking the series to Game 6.

Daybreak
SHOUTcraft Kings: March

Well, you don’t see that everyday

Stats went for another proxy StarGate again on Daybreak. And if possible, this went just as bad as the last. While he did get some damage in, he would lose his Oracle for it. A widow mine drop into Stats’ base would level the game for Ryung and propel him into an advantage. From there the game entered a deadlock with both players seemingly determined to take the game as late as possible. Stats kept up his attempts at aggression while teching up in the background. Each took there own turns attempting to cripple the others economy. Stats focusing on small economic attacks. Ryung on the other hand went big, pinning Stats’ 6th base with a Tactical Nuke. At one point Ryung had as many as three silos available.

For all their tactics however, it eventually it came down to a final engagement. Stats having repeatedly picked off Ryung’s Ghost with Feedbacks and had the advantage with free use of PsiStorm. And after several Storms weathered down his army, Ryung was forced to tap out advancing Stats to the finals after a 4-2 victory.

SHOUTcraft Kings: March

 

 

 

SHOUTcraft Kings: March

 

SHOUTcraft King: Han “aLive” Lee Seok

 

Streaks

aLive: 4

Kim “herO” Joon Ho: 4

Stats: 3

ByuN” Hyun Woo: 2

 

 

Map Pool Updates

 

New Maps

• Ascension to Aiur by SidianTheBard
• Blood Boil by Avex
• Sequencer by NegativeZero
• Defender’s Landing by YoungRustler

 

Dropped Maps

• Newkirk Precinct TE
• Bel’Shir Vestige LE
• Cactus Valley LE
• Honorgrounds LE (Please for the love of Tassadar NO)

 

Mapmaking Community Discussion

 

 

 

 

Featured images courtesy AfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

Follow me on Twitter: @Stefan_SC2

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Diva Cup

Diva Cup Insight With Allaryce

 

Just over two weeks ago, AfreecaTV, organizers of StarCraft II’s flagship event, GSL (Global StarCraft II League), announced their first ever female tournament, the Diva Cup.

With the Diva Cup just days away, I got a chance to talk to the event organizer, Allaryce, for some insight into the tournament and the female StarCraft scene.

Note: This interview has been edited and revised for clarity.

 

The Diva Cup

 

The Game Haus: How did you first become attached to this project?

Allaryce: “Someone from Afreeca Global reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in running a female only tournament, so of course, I said yes! I started participating in tournaments only 3 weeks after I first started playing so running a tournament is something I’ve always wanted to try.”

 

To your knowledge, how long has the Diva Cup been in planning?

About a month

 

What can you tell us about the behind the scenes planning involved in this project?

“When it comes to running a tournament, it’s pretty simple. You figure out the format (this one is double elimination), the players, and the prize pool. Since Afreeca was providing the prize pool and I got other additional sponsors, the rest was easy!

The only tricky part of the planning comes from finding a time and date that works for all the players considering they’re all in different time zones. It’s all about staying on top of communication between everyone, even while I was away for IEM Katowice in Poland. With my work schedule and other obligations I have, it’s also great to have the team at Afreeca work on the promo/PR stuff for the tournament.”

 

At risk of asking the obvious, is there a story behind the name “Diva Cup” or is it just because of the Overwatch character?

“Yes, it’s inspired by the Overwatch character. D.VA‘s lore, for anyone who doesn’t know, is that she’s a pro StarCraft II player who became the GSL Code S champion at 16 and went undefeated for 3 years. I would love to see that story step out of fiction and into reality. Someday, I hope we can see a female lift up that trophy in a moment of glory on the big stage!

Many people seem to think that I, as a female, have ignorantly chosen this name for my tournament. To me, that’s very laughable. It’s meant to be a double entendre. It’s meant to be a provocative and funny play on words. I hope that people can appreciate my sense of humor and laugh with me! Even if they can’t, I would encourage them to look past the name and focus on the players instead!”

 

 

“I’ve asked many of my guy friends how many girls they think play Starcraft II and many of them estimate around five and are surprised to learn there’s about 20+ that I know of. It’s not sexism… It’s just unawareness.”

 

TGH: One of the key criticisms that has been brought up regarding female-only tournaments has been: why is there a need for a male/female division? How would you respond to this question?

 

Allaryce: “There’s no defined male division, it’s just that they’re more likely to sign up more often for online and offline cups. Girls are more than welcome to join and there’s nothing stopping them but themselves. I can only speculate that a few of them don’t feel like their skill levels are up to par and therefore don’t enter. I refuse to speak for the other girls and make assumptions about this matter since it’s not a question I’ve asked them about. Everyone has their own individual feelings about it and deserves their own voices.

For me, the Diva Cup is a way to highlight the many female players in the scene that people may not know about. It’s not meant to be a gender divided issue.  Many of these girls don’t promote their social media as much or may stream every once in a while. Others participate in the FSL (Female StarCraft League) or they just play on their own. This is a way to bring awareness to them as players and promote their play.

I’ve asked many of my guy friends how many girls they think play StarCraft II and many of them estimate around five and are surprised to learn there’s about 20+ that I know of. It’s not sexism… It’s just unawareness.

There was a really great article published by Polygon that explains the need for female tournaments and uses Chess as an example. In summary, the female demographic is under represented and it’s a good way to foster growth in the community and encourage other girls to try the game and compete!

I also hope that these girls will join more online and offline tournaments, regardless of results. There are many that cater to all skill levels no matter the player. Regardless of the reason why girls play in female tournaments or gender neutral tournaments, what’s important is that they’re putting themselves out there to compete and enjoy the game we all love to watch: StarCraft II!”

 

 

“I, personally, don’t think it’s demoralizing to see SCII being a male dominated scene. Anyone who plays StarCraft II enjoys the competitiveness to a certain degree.”

TGH: I’d imagine it’s also potentially demoralizing on many levels to see a competitive scene so male dominated. There’s a psychological aspect there that isn’t often explored.

I’ll use a contrasting example, if my first competitive experience were to be against 100 women, I think it would make an already intimidating situation exponentially more so. And if I were to get crushed, it would psychologically reinforce the idea that I didn’t belong there.

Regardless of the reason, I think it’s important to have events like these to let the female StarCraft world know there are competitive outlets available for them.

 

Allaryce: “I, personally, don’t know anyone who’s cocky enough to enter a tournament and expect to win. I’ve spoken to a few of my friends who are pro gamers and almost all of them are very humble about their skills. They mostly just want to perform well enough to their own standards. When it comes to competition, failure is inevitable but it’s how we cope with our losses and come out stronger that matters. It’s a character building tool, if anything, which is why I think tournaments are important. This is one of the reasons I enter tournaments no matter what skill level I’m at.

This is why it’s called ‘tournament experience.’ You’re forced to face your opponents head on, in real life, in defeat or victory. How you choose to handle your sportsmanship says a lot about yourself.

Again, I cannot speak for the other girls, nor would I want to generalize their experiences. I, personally, don’t think it’s demoralizing to see StarCraft II being a male dominated scene. Anyone who plays StarCraft II enjoys the competitiveness to a certain degree. Many people have different reasons that drive them to play the game. That being said, seeing it be male dominated encourages players like me to do better and raise myself up. I can still find role models in the men because I see them for the player they are and not their gender.

Speaking from a personal perspective, I have never once felt like I didn’t belong in the scene. Quite the opposite, in fact. People have been nothing less than generous with their time when it comes to teaching me how to play and my understanding of the game. They encourage and inspire me to improve every day. Some even go as far as to ask me ‘so… when are you getting GM?’ I love the Starcraft II community!”

 

Follow up question; do you think growth of the female StarCraft scene is possible and what do you think is necessary to foster further growth?

“Yes I think it’s just about having a community they can be a part of. This game can be quite intimidating to get into, regardless of the gender, so having friends to talk to is important!”

 

Players

 

TGH: So now let’s move on to the participants. Who would you say are the players to look out for?

Allaryce: “Based on her track record, I think Koshkii has a really good shot. Miyako also seems to be a favorite among some of the girls so I’m looking forward to casting their games! We also have a few newcomers that I haven’t seen play before so I think it’s still anyone’s game.”

 

Any personal predictions?

None

 

Fair enough, any players you would like to see participating in (potential) future Diva Cups?

“Most of the girls, on average, are diamond and above so I encourage any of the other girls to get to diamond and come to compete!”

 

If you were competing yourself, where would you rank yourself among the competition?

“I’m a bit out of practice because of my work and travel so I don’t think I’d make it past the second bracket. I only get maybe two to three hours of practice these days. Some of the girls are better practiced and have a better shot!”

 

Allaryce

 

TGH: Finally, let’s talk about StarCraft a bit. What are your thoughts on the current state of the game?

Allaryce: “I think we’ve seen some of the most exciting gameplay lately in premier tournaments and even online ones. I’m excited for the new changes to Zerg (which is what I main) and to see how that translates amongst the top players. I’m also excited to play on a new map pool! Who isn’t hyped for that?”

 

It really has been a great year of StarCraft gameplay so far. IEM produced so many amazing games and the GSL Quarters was just one mic drop moment after the next. It helps as well that we have a really exciting map pool at the moment. I would be surprised if there’s ever been a map that has delivered as many amazing games as Abyssal Reef has in the short time its been live.

 

If there is one change you can make to StarCraft what would it be?

“I think if they made it free to play, it would be really great for people who are hesitant to pick up the game. We’ve seen that kind of success with LoL and DOTA so I think Starcraft II could benefit from it as well. They’re starting to finally move towards DLC, which I think is a good direction but there needs to be a good balance for people who can’t afford some of it.

I think for everyone who’s purchased the game up until now, they can release some kind of exclusive skins or content to ease the transition. I’m no expert about what this would mean for Blizzard internally, so I’m not sure how feasible the strategy is.”

 

I share this sentiment. Though I think it’s still a bit early to go free to play, currently. Of course I’m no expert on this either but I think there needs to be more micro-transactions available than what we currently have to make it a feasible model. I expect there will be a huge spike in traffic and interest if StarCraft II does go free to play, the game should be well stocked with cosmetic options to capitalize on that. Blizzard is on a good track at the moment.

 

 

TGH: Finally, any last words to close?

 

Allaryce: “Regardless of viewership, I’m really happy to be working on this tournament with Afreeca and give these players a platform and a little extra cash! I’m also excited to cast with my friend Temp0 since we see each other at events often but have never done a cast together before.”

 

 

Tune into the Diva Cup on Saturday March 18th at 12PM PST on Afreeca.tv/Allaryce

 

For more from Allaryce follow her on Twitter, AfreecaTV Global and Twitch.

Follow me on Twitter: @Stefan_SC2

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Stefan!

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