Over 7 years of competitive Starcraft 2, we’ve seen countless gripping storylines. But time and time again, one keeps coming back: Korea vs The Rest Of The World.
Korea has always been considered the home of the game’s professional scene. After all, StarCraft esports was born in Korea, with the genre-defining Starcraft Brood War being the first esport to really cross into the mainstream. And since the inception of the Korean StarCraft scene, the very best RTS players in the world have been cultivated from that environment.
Of course, while StarCraft was growing and thriving in Korea in the 2000s, the rest of the world was looking on with envy and reverence. Players outside of the Korean StarCraft hotbed became known as ‘foreigners’, a term symbolic of how dominant the Korean StarCraft scene had become. The idea of a foreign pro reaching a level of play that could rival their Korean counterparts was extremely rare. Very few Brood War pros from around the world ever managed to assert themselves as true competitors when facing the best of the best.
Then came the release of StarCraft 2, and with it came the explosion of popularity and attention for the esports industry outside of Korea. With so many fresh faced foreigners vying for the title of ‘best SC2 professional in the world’, there was renewed vim and vigour worldwide. The Global StarCraft League (GSL) was kickstarted in Korea, and the world was invited to come battle in the most historic scene in esports. Thus began the most famous, most historic, most beloved, and most intense storyline in SC2’s existence – the battle for dominance between foreign and Korean pros.
The GSL vs the World tournament series is the next chapter of this famous storyline, and it promises to be quite the spectacle. Selected by a medley of invites and fan voting, some of the absolute best players in the SC2 scene worldwide find themselves in Korea this week, ready to duke it out for not just prize money or glory, but for pride. And the amount of talent on each team is staggering.
GSL Allstars look unbeatable
The GSL Allstars team is comprised of Stats, INnoVation, soO, TY, herO, ByuN, Dark, and sOs, with their team captain NesTea. Anyone even remotely familiar with these players has surely just given an audible ‘wow’ upon reading these names. The amount of talent found in this team is nothing short of jaw dropping, with more premier title victories between them than you have fingers and toes (31 in total). Every one of these players has lead storied careers and will be a part of esports history forever.
The GSL Allstars have no glaring weak-spot in their roster – it’s frankly silly how much strength in depth this team possesses. From reaper rushes, to ultra-late game macro abilities, the GSL Allstars have quite the toolbox at their disposal.
TY will be seen by many as the strongest member of the GSL Allstars. Just last weekend, TY conquered many of his teammates on his path to 3rd/4th at IEM Shanghai. He was also recently acquired by team Splyce , which will surely play in his favour when it comes to mentality. Being on a team means one worry fewer for pro gamers regarding job security and support. Although he doesn’t boast the win ratios of some of his teammates, he does have the advantage of coming into this tournament off the back of a strong run of results.
Reigning world champion ByuN might in fact be the in the weakest position on this team. Recently, Blizzard decided to nerf ByuN’s favourite unit, the reaper, lowering the damage of its explosive KD8 ability. ByuN is so well known for his reaper control that many fans blame him directly for the nerf. His affinity for the unit is far from a reliance though. ByuN has killed many tournament runs with his reapers but he is equally capable of playing into the mid/late game. In fact, the reaper nerf may not even be relevant to ByuN. Many professionals and casters remark that his reaper use is otherworldly. The dance that he performs with his reapers is on another level from the rest of the scene. It seems equally likely that ByuN will shrug off the reaper nerfs as it is unlikely that his play will be affected in any serious way.
But World Allstars could bring some surprises
On the World Allstars, every single player is going into this tournament with something to prove. The World Allstars team is nothing to sniff at, including Neeb, SpeCial (formerly known as Major), Nerchio, Serral, ShoWTimE, Kelazhur, Scarlett, and iAsonu, with Stephano performing the role of captain. Though the foreigners cannot claim a comparable number of first place premier finishes, each one of these players has shown the pedigree to beat the best Koreans in the world. The real question though, is whether they’ll be able to reaffirm their abilities during this tournament.
American Protoss Neeb was the first foreign player to win a tournament in Korea since the Broodwar days when Grrrr… conquered the OSL in the year 2000. Since Neeb’s Kespa cup win, he’s finished in first place at two WCS Circuit events, so its hard to refute that he is the best foreign player of 2017 thus far. Neeb is known for downplaying his skill level though. Shy and softly spoken, Neeb will be the first to tell you at any given moment that he should not be considered a favourite to win any tournament. Surely in the GSL vs The World tournament though, Neeb will be looking for the runback on his 2016 success in Korea. And you can guarantee that on the short list of foreign pros that the Korean players may fear facing, Neeb’s name is at the top.
Fan favourite and former holder of the title ‘best foreigner in the world’, Scarlett, has been slumping in recent years with the occasional glimmer of her once great form shining through. The Canadian Zerg has spent 2017 seemingly trapped in the round of 16 of WCS Circuit tournaments, unable to advance any further, she did manage to make it into the GSL Code S. Unfortunately for Scarlett, she was knocked out in the round of 32, finishing last in her group. Facing TY in the first round, the odds are stacked against her. As I mentioned earlier, TY is experiencing success at the moment, and Scarlett’s weakest matchup is vs Terran. There are so many moments where Scarlett shows that she can still be one of the best players in the world, but will she be able to reclaim that glory in this tournament? It seems unlikely, but if Scarlett can pull out a win in the round of 16, she’ll be the biggest storyline of the tournament for as long as she can keep advancing.
Polish Zerg Nerchio is heading into the tournament looking to back up his own trash talk. Recently, during IEM Shanghai, Nerchio posted a comment to the TeamLiquid.net forums saying ‘Did Maru find a girlfriend or something?’, remarking on the popular Korean Terran’s fall from grace and a string of disappointing tournament runs. Apparently, this comment was reposted to a Korean SC2 forum where the fans there took offense to Nerchio’s statement. Korean fans will be looking for Nerchio to be proven as an inferior Zerg to the GSL Allstars, while Nerchio is hoping that he’ll have the chance to smirk on stage after his victories (and perhaps make a few more smug comments on social media). Classic Nerchio.
Can he pull out some big wins though? First things first, Nerchio must conquer the WCS 2016 runner-up Dark in the Round of 16. Zerg vs Zerg is seen as the coinflip matchup by many, which may work in Nerchio’s favour. He boasts a higher win ratio vs Zerg than Dark, but he will still be considered the underdog by most. Having said that, underdogs frequently come out on top in ZvZ.
With such a star-studded roster of players, every match and every round of GSL vs The World presents deeply engaging storylines and complex predictions. There is so much content to be found in this tournament bracket, one could almost write a novel as a tournament preview. This is simply a brief overview to entice and excite. If you have any interest in StarCraft 2, this will be a fantastic tournament to take in. No matter who advances from round to round, we are guaranteed high caliber StarCraft 2 action. At the end of the day, that’s all that any of us are hoping for.
GSL vs The World kicks off August 3 at 9 AM GMT on twitch.tv/starcraft