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Reflections on a Decade: The Best Games of Competitive StarCraft II, Part III: Legacy of the Void

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StarCraft II Design Team
31-07-2020 17:00:00

Part I: Wings of Liberty | Part II: Heart of the Swarm | Part III: Legacy of the Void

It’s been almost five years since the release of StarCraft II’s final expansion, which concluded the main campaign storyline but certainly not our esports story. Below, we’ll finish our journey through ten years of competitive StarCraft II with the best professional games of Legacy of the Void.

2016

Scarlett vs Stats

  • HomeStory Cup XIV Ro32, Game 1 (November 17, 2016)

  • Played on Dasan Station

  • Commentated by Harstem, Snute & Tod

  • VOD

Beginning in 2011, the TeamLiquid Map Contest was introduced as a means for the community to contribute maps to the official ladder map pool. From this contest, no map to ever hit ladder was perhaps more famous (infamous?) than Dasan Station, the creation of mad-scientist mapmaker Enekh. With the shortest rush distance ever featured on a ladder map, the map heavily encouraged aggressive strategies, and the average game was much different from what you would typically see in professional-level StarCraft.

One such game was played at the sixteenth iteration of HomeStory Cup, a perfect laid-back setting for the saga we’re about to describe. The game commenced with a Drone rush, the most aggressive and immediate attack available to a StarCraft II player. These types of “all-in” strategies usually play out in decisive fashion. Either the attacker immediately wins, or the defender survives with an insurmountable advantage. Somehow, in this case, Kim “Stats” Dae-yeob defended Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn’s all-in by such a narrow margin that the players wound up on equal footing, with four Probes against just five Drones! Building on these unlikely origins, the game developed into one of the most back-and-forth Zerg vs. Protoss battles we’ve ever seen.

2016 Honorable Mention

Yun “TaeJa” Young-seo vs Joo “Zest” Sung-wook”

  • GSL 2016 Season 2 Ro16, Game 3 (August 10, 2016)

  • Played on New Gettysberg

  • Commentated by Valdes and Wolf

2017

INnoVation vs Dark

  • GSL 2017 Season 3 Semifinals, Game 3 (September 8, 2017)

  • Played on Acolyte

  • Commentated by Artosis & Tasteless

In StarCraft, a “basetrade” occurs when players attack each other’s bases instead of fighting a climactic battle. These games become a race to destroy structures with quickly diminishing resources… in other words, a complete unpredictable mess.

In a 2017 battle between Terran legend Lee “INnoVation” Shin-hyung and the equally acclaimed Zerg star Park “Dark” Ryung-whoo, INnoVation began with a highly unusual proxy all-in strategy, assaulting Dark with Siege Tanks and Liberators produced just outside his base. When Dark realized the futility of defending against this attack, he opted to abandon both his main and natural via a Nydus Worm that transported all his units into INnoVation’s unprotected home base. What followed was a literal trading of bases, as Dark took over INnoVation’s defunct base while INnoVation was forced to lift his Command Center and relocate to Dark’s. The game continued from there with both players forced into increasingly scrappy situations. Creativity and adaptability would ultimately determine the winner.

2017 Honorable Mention

Lee “INnoVation” Shin-hyung vs Jeon “TY” Tae-yang

  • GSL vs the World 2017 Grand Finals, Game 2 (August 6, 2017)

  • Played on Abyssal Reef

  • Commentated by iNcontroL & Rotterdam

2018

Classic vs Reynor

  • GSL 2018 Season 3 Ro32, Game 3 (July 4, 2018)

  • Played on Lost and Found

  • Commentated by Artosis & Tasteless

2018 was definitively the year of Joona “Serral” Sotala, who became the first non-South Korean player to challenge the very top of the StarCraft II scene. But Serral wasn’t the only amazing player to emerge in 2018. Another up-and-coming Zerg, Riccard “Reynor” Romiti, had not yet come of age to compete in the official WCS circuit. In an effort to prove and improve himself, he traveled to Korea to practice on the Korean ladder and compete in the Global StarCraft II League (GSL).

It’s no secret that the best StarCraft players haven consistently hailed from South Korea. One contributing factor is that pro team houses in South Korea enable a level of rigorous practice and idea-sharing other regions cannot match. And though non-Koreans competing in GSL were commonplace in the first three years of StarCraft II, the trend died down when few of those competitors found much success.

The stats were not on Reynor’s side. When he was placed in a group with a top Protoss player, Kim “Classic” Doh Woo, things looked grim.

In the game we selected, though, Reynor more than rose to the challenge. His characteristic multipronged harassment crashed against Classic’s concrete defenses, creating a game with runaway action, unexpected turnarounds, and a picture-perfect finish akin to something you’d find on the back of one of our game boxes.

2018 Honorable Mention

Joona “Serral” Sotala vs Kim “Stats” Dae-yeob

  • GSL vs the World 2018 Grand Finals, Game 5 (August 5, 2018)

  • Played on 16-bit

  • Commentated by Rotterdam & Tasteless

2019

Maru vs Stats

  • GSL Super Tournament 2019 #1 Ro16, Game 4 (April 18, 2109)

  • Played on Year Zero

  • Commentated by Artosis & Tasteless

Though Factory-based Mech play was standard in StarCraft: Brood War Terran vs. Protoss (TvP), it never caught on as mainstream in StarCraft II. Critics of the composition said it was impossible for a Mech Terran to combat late-game Protoss air forces, to defend against mid-game pushes, or to oppose expansions all over the map. In 2019, though, a few brave Terrans made Mech work against Protoss on the biggest stages in competitive StarCraft II. 

In the first match of the 2019 GSL Super Tournament, Cho “Maru” Seong-ju surprised the world by debuting Mech as his primary unit composition in a best-of-five series. Thanks to the introduction of the Cyclone in Legacy of the Void, Mech now had a mobile option with which to shark around the map. With the Cyclone as his core unit, Maru was able to show off a dynamic playstyle that challenged an impressive Protoss opponent, Kim “Stats” Dae-yeob. In the fourth game of the series, Stats adapted, transitioning into an air-heavy, Carrier-focused endgame.

As both players repositioned constantly around the map, switched back and forth between all their available unit compositions, and landed devastating blow after devastating blow, only one thing was sure: No one—not the casters, the viewers, nor the players themselves—had any idea who was going to win. After more than 30 minutes of tension, with the map close to mined out and players struggling to break 100 supply, a single unit would ultimately decide the game.

This series started a minor revolution. Mech was debuted on one of the biggest stages imaginable, and to this day, we still see it mixed in by Terran players to keep Protoss opponents guessing.

2019 Honorable Mention

Joona “Serral” Sotala vs Eo “soO” Yung-su

  • IEM Katowice 2019 Quarterfinals, Game 3 (March 2, 2019)

  • Played on Year Zero

  • Commentated by Rotterdam & Tod

2020 and Beyond

That brings us to 2020, the first year of an awesome new competitive circuit facilitated by ESL. We've already had some amazing matches in 2020, but we thought it was a little premature to deem anything the best of the year just yet. After all, the nature of competitive StarCraft II is perpetual change. Players are always evolving and surprising us with bold new strategies, not to mention hairstyles and ceremonies.

Thanks for spending some time exploring the game's history with us—we look forward to sharing its future with you in the years to come!

Part I: Wings of Liberty | Part II: Heart of the Swarm | Part III: Legacy of the Void

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