You may have thought that after the GSL Season one finals, Korean StarCraft 2 pros would be allowed to take a bit of a break. Well if you did, you would be (happily) wrong. Its 2017 and this year’s WCS schedule in Korea is offering another opportunity for your favourite pro to gain some ever valuable WCS points and of course, stake their claim on the thousands of dollars in the prize pot. It’s time for the AfreecaTV’s GSL Super Tournament!
The GSL Super Tournament offers fans and players the chance to take in the highest level of SC2 that exists. However instead of presenting it in the standard multi-week league, AfreecaTV is presenting this tournament to us in nice bite sized pieces over the course of only three days. Players have already qualified through an open offline qualifier (aside from our GSL finalists Stats and soO, who were invited), so the tournament and its players are ready and raring to go. The round of 16 bracket starts April 6, where each player will compete for part of a ₩30,000,000 KRW prize pool (roughly $26,000 USD), and a portion of 7,500 WCS points.
It won’t be easy for ANY of the qualified pros to win the largest share of that prize pool. An outsider would say it’s rare to see such a stacked bracket, but in Korean StarCraft, that just isn’t the case. The Korean StarCraft 2 scene has some of the highest density of talent that one can find. When you host an open qualifier, you know that you’ll be seeing the best of the best. And that’s exactly who qualified for GSL Super Tournament.
Every match in this bracket should be considered ‘the one to watch’. Every player in the bracket offers their own storyline.
The largest, most engaging storyline in this tournament must be soO’s. After his crushing defeat in GSL just over one week ago, fans and pundits alike were speculating that poor soO would possibly retire. After a crushing fifth second place finish in the most prestigious SC2 tournament in the world, soO was surely rattled. The question has been exactly how much though.
It seems that soO is eager to get back on the horse though. He’s been consistently active on twitter, even retweeting some jokes about his apparent destiny to forever finish in second place. We’re lucky that this seems to be the case as well, it would be a shame to see a world class talent like soO have his spirit crushed. If his good humour and healthy mentality holds, soO has to be considered a contender to take 1st place in Super Tournament. Considering the fact that soO will have no stigma in his head for Super Tournament, this may be his time to shine!
Of course, he’ll have to conquer the myriad of top tier talent that fills the event’s brackets. There are several players who are seeking a reclamation of former glory here. Names like Innovation, Maru, Byun, and herO are held in the highest esteem in SC2. They’re all players who have experienced perennial success of incredible proportions. In fact if the stars align, it’s possible that soO has to face Stats in the finals. Surely such a match would give him pause, and perhaps he’d be dealing with the same unfortunate mindset that he seemed to face in the GSL finals. Or maybe soO could tap into his good humour and redeem himself against Splyce’s Protoss.
When talking about favourites to win this tournament, Stats has to be at the top of the list. Coming off of a GSL win, he is widely considered to be the best player in the world at the moment, and certainly the best Protoss. Stats is a consistent force to be reckoned with and he’s now proved that he can take a tournament run all the way to the end with his GSL win and his recent results across multiple tournaments. It is entirely possible that Stats can fall at any stage of the tournament though. This is a stacked bracket and none of the players should be understated. Looking at Stats’ matchups individually, our GSL champion may not be as strong as we think.
Stats at IEM Katowice. Courtesy of Helena Kristiansson and Blizzard Entertainment
There are some potential holes in Stats’ play. His GSL win was as much about soO psyching himself out, as it was about Stats’ skills. In that series, Stats had a heavy reliance on adept pressure. The top Zergs in Korea will be adjusting their gameplay with this in mind. If one of them is able to outpace Stats and play their preferred style, we will already be seeing a completely different form of game to what Stats showed off in the GSL finals. When Playing soO, Stats forced him to react and cut off any long term plans that the Zerg may have had. If one of the four Zergs can put Stats on the backfoot, we’ll be seeing a very different style of ZvP.
When it comes to Stats’ matchup vs Protoss, he is usually quite well equipped. PvP is one of the games’ most volatile matchups though. Games are often won on your build order or in the opening seconds of a large engagement. PvP can be as much about your opponent making a mistake as it is about your own execution. Stats recently fell to Zest in the Olimoleague. Zest has historically been an incredible Protoss player, however he’s had less success recently. In fact, he failed to qualify for the GSL Super Tournament. Few would put him on Stats’ level right now, but nonetheless he was able to defeat the GSL champion 2-1.
Looking at Stats’ PvT, we can look to his semi finals series vs Ryung in the GSL. Stats emerged victorious, but it was hardly a walk over. Looking at his Aligulac statistics, PvT is Stats’ worst matchup by quite a bit. He has only won 56.99% of his games vs Terran, as opposed to his games vs Protoss and Zergs, where his stats climb above 60%. Of course his record is still stellar, but perhaps there is a chink in his armour here. Terran is the most represented race in the GSL Super Tournament with eight players, and Stats is set to face some of the best. In the first round, Stats will come head to head with the nontraditional player Gumiho. If wins there, he’ll come up against TY, his former teammate and another contender for the title of ‘best SC2 player in the world’. Indeed, Stats may have to face a Terran in every round of the tournament.
Some of the biggest challengers in the tournament may not be soO or Stats, but in fact they may be the players who are vying to reclaim the success that they experienced in years gone by. Players such as herO, ByuL, Dear, and Maru are perennial fan favourites, but none of them have claimed a first place victory in a premier tournament in years. Though there are 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place finishes for many of these players in the past year, the most recent first place finisher amongst them is herO’s SSL win in September of 2015.
These are players who you should look out for at the GSL Super Tournament though. They’re hungry for a win and they have the experience to claim it. Some have shown very recent sings of a return to form. Maru finished 2nd to TY at the WESG finals in January, and ByuL made it to the 3rd-4th spot of IEM Gyeonggi in December. Anyone from the class of yesteryear can win this tournament and make their fanbases pleased as punch for doing so.
GSL Super Tournament is kicking off on April 6, at 8:00 AM BST. You can take in the action at twitch.tv/GSL, and I DO recommend that you do so! It should be an incredible tournament!