By far the most heated discussion within the StarCraft community recently has been the state of Protoss versus Terran. With Protoss winrate in the matchup at times falling below 40% and the very recent announcement this week by Blizzard’s balancing team that they were looking into nerfs to Terran’s Liberator unit. It should come as no surprise, that Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob’s advancement in first place would prove to be a highlight moment of the day, having to best two Terran players back-to-back to do so, including the reigning World and GSL Champion and ESPN’s Esport Player of 2016, “Byun” Hyun Woo of Team Expert.
Stats is one of the very few Korean players to find a new team, Splyce, following the end of Proleague. Having shown consistent strength at the highest level in 2016, he is considered by many to be the current best Protoss player in the world. A showdown between Stats and 2016’s crown king of Terran could well have been a match you could have expected to see in the finals and it sure as hell played out like one.
The Opening Act
Game 1 was something you would expect from a high level game of Brood War, an intense back and forth where both players traded turns pushing into the other’s side of the map attempting to break their fortified choke points. Game 2 was a beautiful, if scrappy, non-stop skirmish between ground infantry. While both players repeatedly traded out their armies, Stats was pushed back harder, wave after wave as Byun continued to tech up behind his constant pushes and Stats failed to do the same.
This was but the opening show for what was to come. Game 3 was the climatic ending this game deserved. It left you guessing who would emerge the winner until the very last, absolutely beautiful, engagement.
There’s a lot to get into, so let’s dive in.
One of the best signs that you’re in for one hell of a game is seeing two players of the highest caliber opening in the safest manner possible. Byun started this game by immediately scouting for proxies while Stats rushed out two observers almost immediately. A major note about Echo is that the base layouts leave you very open to drop strategies, Widow Mine harassment in particular is a very strong strategy on this map.
One of the best examples of how easily Protoss can play prey to Widow Mines on Echo came from Stats’ former teammate on KT Rolster, Joo “Zest” Sung Wook in the very first game of GSL this year against Hwang “KeeN” Kyu Seok. In that game Zest’s forward positioning of his observers left him constantly vulnerable to Widow Mine harassment and unable to respond for extended periods. Stats here was far better prepared with his observer placement and Byun’s early Widow Mine drop was dealt with for minimal damage.
Freedom isn’t Free at all
There was a point in this game where every Protoss player had their heads between their hands while suffering flashbacks and internal screaming. Byun rushed to Advanced Ballistics and Stats had no Stargate out. More confusingly, Byun actually parked a Liberator outside of Stats’ base and he didn’t seem to have a care in the world.
The reality of the situation was that if you knew what Stats knew, you probably wouldn’t be that bothered either. In what was one of the most brilliant but perhaps most overlooked moments of the day, Stats made an amazing attempt to outplay a massive liberator blockade. Making amazing use of the map, Stats forced Byun to siege up an open area with multiple entrances then attempted to flank one entrance before making a beeline to the other.
Because each Liberator needs to be sieged individually there is a significant delay in the time it takes a mobile Protoss army to flank one position compared to the time it takes a Liberator army to siege, un-siege, relocate and re-siege.
The idea was to use the open terrain to exploit the time it takes the Liberator to set Liberation Zones to get in some amount of safe damage. Ultimately the base he attempted to attack into was empty anyway but the idea behind it was nevertheless ingenious.
Tooth and Nail
Among equals, sometimes for all your planning and tactical maneuvering, it all comes down to one final engagement. All that can be said here is to try to keep a count of what resources you have immediately available before making a major engagement and don’t be conservative in the late game. Always remember that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. You have energy available? Empty it.
And in the case of High Templars, make a mental note to fuse them once they’re spent because those PsiStorms and Archons are exactly what won Stats this game in the end.