Well, round five of StarCraft 2's ProLeague has come to an end and we’ve been left with almost no breathing room before round six is set to begin. If you're new to the Korean scene of StarCraft 2 e-Sports, check out last week's article that offers a top-level intro of the major Korean teams and players.
KeSPA ProLeague Round 5 Summary
It’s been a long ride through ProLeague's treacherous All-Kill format this season, but one team made it look easy: KT Rolster has cleared the rest of the pack almost entirely on the back of two players -- KT's Flash and Zest (formerly Wooki; formerly-erly P7GAB) brought KT Rolster through the league almost by themselves. Even after a rough finish in round four, they were able to prove their strength in the all-kill format and end the round in second place in overall standings - first place for the round.
Woongjin Stars, who have been leading the pack since round two, had a rougher time than expected in the All-Kill format, coming in at 4-3 for the round. Even with their unexpected 3-loss streak, they still lead in overall standings by such a margin that four wins in the next round completely locks them for the playoffs.
SK Telecom T1 fared similarly to Stars in the All-Kill format, falling in third for both the round and overall standings. Rain performed particularly well as the team’s ace, pulling out several close wins when PartinG, Bisu, and Fantasy weren’t able to close-out the match. For STX SouL, however, it’s been a rollercoaster ride through ProLeague. They've been all over the standings since the beginning, though things were looking up for them again after a strong round four, coming out in first for the round. INnoVation's performance was probably the most impressive, who stands second only to Flash in the PL player rankings, but was the runner-up (despite being the favorite to win) in GSL Season 2.
Even with two all-kills and a three-kill, SouL still showed signs of weakness, with hyvaa being the only other slightly reliable player. Moving forward, the team’s Protoss players will have to show some of the skill they displayed in previous rounds.
CJ Entus can't escape the middle of the standings. Aside from an absolutely terrible showing in round four, falling dead last, the best they’ve managed is third place. Now facing another upsetting fifth place finish for the round, they're entering the next round in sixth place. For a team that has historically looked so strong in PL, this isn't where they want to be at all, especially after winning last ProLeague. Looking toward the sixth and final round of PL, they need a miracle just to have any hope of making the playoffs.
Tied with CJ Entus, perhaps surprisingly, was EG-TL. The combination of two foreign teams (and two crowd favorites, at that) hasn’t made it further than their fourth-place finish in round one. To anyone keeping up with PL, their seventh place finish this round isn’t too surprising, given the rough year had for KeSPA’s Team 8. First, Jaedong abandons them for a better (more profitable) place on Evil Geniuses, and since then, they’ve slowly limped along near the bottom of the rankings.
The only difference shown in T8 this round is that TY (aka Baby)—despite the fact he consistently falls short of all-kills (3xthree-kills, to be precise)—is pretty dang good at Heart of the Swarm. Even if Team 8 has dragged behind this round, TY is definitely a strong player moving forward.
The most surprising finish of the round? That’d be Samsung Khan, in last place. Khan finished the first round of PL in last place, but since then they’ve finished each round in second, fourth, and second. Ending the fifth round of PL in last place is definitely not where anyone wants to be, much less Khan. Now fifth overall, they’ve fallen to the point where they can’t afford loses. They’re looking at an uphill fight against the teams leading the way -- Stars, Rolster, and SKT -- just to make it into the playoffs.
Moving from All-Kill Format to Standard Bo7 Format
With barely even 24 hours between rounds, OGN is ready to begin round six of PL. Returning now to the regular best of seven PL format, we leave behind the all-kills and now look to the depth of each team. For those who aren’t familiar with this format, teams must send out six players to do battle, all decided upon ahead of time. Should the match go that far, a seventh will be picked on the spot to be the ace player for the team. This means that before each week of ProLeague begins, we’ll know the players and maps for the first six games each match. This format tests the depth of each team, as each team is going to play between four and six players each match, but it will also test each team's ability to prepare. Since the teams know who the opposition is sending out, we’ll get to see the counter-strategies each player plans in their match.
Only the top 4 teams will make it to the playoffs -- let’s take a look at each team going into the round.
The Teams: ProLeague Round 6
Woongjin Stars, 24-11 in matches, 120-79 in games, has an insane spread of +41. They lead the pack by a bit and for good reason. Especially after this season of GSL, their roster has never looked scarier, with Flying just barely missing top eight, sOs convincingly making it to the semifinals, and Soulkey himself beating formerly-possible-best-player INnoVation in the GSL finals. Add to this a strong showing from Free in PL this past round and even ZerO after a long stretch of rather sketchy play, and Stars has shown some return to strength just in their final match. Sure, Light has struggled, but if Stars has shown us anything this year, it’s really all you need is a Zerg (the best Zerg, probably) and a handful of the top Protoss. Heck, even just having a bunch of Protoss seems to be working for SK Telecom T1. Regardless of how the other teams do, four wins this round assures Stars the playoffs, but depending on how the other teams do, they might not even need that many, these are definitely the big kids on the block moving forward.
KT Rolster was out for blood last round -- nerd blood, to be exact. They’ve snuck into ProLeague playoffs before, but this time they’ve had enough sneaking and have instead decided to have Flash and Zest mercilessly beat their way into the playoffs. Fortunately, all-kill format was the perfect place for this, unfortunately we’ve left all-kill. Fun fact: Aside from Flash and Zest, Stats was the only KT player to get wins last round. He was only sent out twice and raked in 3 wins; and, actually, only one other player got fielded from KT at all -- Action was sent out against soO (and lost). What does this mean? Well, we know almost nothing about Rolster’s line-up since round four. We’ve seen Crazy in GSL some, and he’s looked alright. KT Rolster sent out players like Hitman, Crazy, and MyuNgSiK in Round 4, but they struggled to produce results. After having not seen these guys at all last round, what can really expect from them? Unless they have some aces hidden up their sleeves, KT Rolster may very well have a tough time ahead of them, despite having two of last round's heaviest hitters in Flash and Zest.
BISU IS BACK. Err, I’m getting ahead of myself. SK Telecom T1 has been all over the standings since the beginning, but after round four, it looks like they’ve stabilized near the top of the standings. This is no doubt partly because they were allowed to play PartinG starting with round four. Since then, Protoss have been their key players: Rain and PartinG have both proven to be dependable and Bisu seems to be making a comeback, showing some good games last round. Add in some solid play from FanTaSy, and these players seem to be the core of SKT moving forward. While SKT has a lot of decent players to fill out their roster, none of them have been as dependable as their team needs them to be in this last round. Brown and BeSt have previously been able to get wins when they need to, but neither player has looked particularly strong lately. Paralyze has all but disappeared, having not been played since early in round four. The team's Zerg players, s2 and soO, have gone mostly unnoticed, but both have shown they’re capable of winning games on occasion with soO even managing to sneak back into Code S. They might not have the same depth of skill as Woongjin Stars, but SKT definitely has a lot of players they’re capable of fielding and no doubt Boxer (the coach) wants to make it to the playoffs. SK Telecom’s roster each week will certainly be something to look foward to.
STX SouL showed real stones in round four, only dropping a single match. Unfortunately, the Protoss core of their line-up—Classic, Trap, Dear, and Mini—didn't fare well in round five. Despite decent play from Hyvaa and some stellar play from INnoVation, SouL will need the support from their other players now that we’ve left the all-kill format behind. Last’s PartinG with Code S showed a loss of Life for the STX Terran (aren’t you glad I avoided the 'Last place' pun?), and a loss to CJ Entus b-teamer Bunny seems to have confirmed that. STX definitely has the ability to maintain their current fourth place, but in this last round their line-up is going to have to step-up if they want to keep the hungry wolves—CJ Entus and Samsung Khan—at bay.
Samsung Khan is in fifth place, but they're so close to the valuable fourth place that they can taste it. They have the line-up to do so and they’ve shown it. Despite some shaky matches this past round, their line-up is still quite strong, boasting Jangbi, rOrO, Stork, Reality, and Shine. Jangbi was easily their best player last round, but we shouldn't count RorO out just from a few bad games. Stork didn’t boast many wins, but his games were close. Finally, if Shine’s individual league matches are worth anything then we should expect to see him regularly. Reality and Kop managed to snag a few wins, and between them, it’s not unreasonable to say Khan should be able to win four games each week, even if the matches get scrappy.
To be honest, I don’t think I’m the only person disappointed with CJ Entus’ performance so far. Despite a line-up that looks theoretically strong—EffOrt, herO (no, not TL-HerO, c’mon guys), and Hydra—CJ Entus can't break the barrier and get into fourth place. Entus suffered all-kills from both INnoVation and Flash and 3-kills from Rain and TY, putting them in an uncomfortable position moving forward. EffOrt showed good play last round and herO, while not the best play we’ve seen from him, still did well. But CJ Entus needs to fight with all they’ve got if they want to advance, and this means every one of their players are going to have to seriously commit.
For Team 8, there’s virtually no hope of making playoffs. That doesn’t mean they don’t have anything on the line in the next round, though. Although initially set-up by KeSPA, this was only meant to be until they found a sponsor. It’s unlikely they are at risk of disbanding, but it's important that they show their skill to secure those sponsorships. Last round wasn't the good display they needed (unless you’re TY), but they've still got a chance to make that effort. After Jaedong left, the title of ace fell to TY, a title he definitely tried his best to live up to last round. Argo (formerly Jaehoon) has been a solid player and we’ve seen some decent games from Terminator, but Team 8 is going to need reliable play from everyone in the new round. Cure has played well in the past, but he didn’t show it in round five. In past rounds, Team 8’s Zerg players—ALBM and TRUE—have helped them in tight spots, but lately they haven’t been played at all. Meanwhile, Savage made Code S through the up/downs, which bodes well. Perhaps theirnew jerseyswill inspire some new strength -- they’ll need it in the sixth and final round of PL.
Finally, last place in the overall standings, EG-TL. At this point it's basically impossible for them to make the playoffs, and without much on the line (aside from pride, of course) it’s hard to say how dedicated they will be to PL. Only four of their players were able to attend the last day of Round 5 - six people are needed in the ProLeague format. While it’s unlikely this will happen during the next round, it’s likely their players will be focusing far more on individual leagues. That said, EG-TL always manages to get a few kills and HerO (carriers and all), aLive, and Jaedong are fairly strong players. With TLO and Snute coming back toKorea, we may even see some foreign players in ProLeague over the course of the next round.
Continue to the next page for predictions and the Round 6 schedule.