Leading the Pack in 2017

  • Blizzard Entertainment

With the Korean Global StarCraft II League (GSL) in full swing and Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) Katowice on the horizon, let’s take a look at which players are proving to be at the top of their game in the 2017 World Championship Series (WCS). Keep in mind that while the first season of GSL has been underway since early January, there haven’t been many opportunities for WCS Circuit players to shine—so most of the players here are from WCS Korea. You can look forward to hearing more about Circuit players as we get further into the year.

Terran

We can’t discuss the best Terran players in the world without talking about Hyun ‘ByuN’ Woo. After a stellar performance in the 2016 Global Finals, he’s bringing his brilliant micro to another year of professional StarCraft II. While ByuN was knocked out in GSL Season 1 this year, he’s still a serious contender for Katowice. His exceptional micro is a sight to behold, and he can split and focus his forces better than most professional players. It’ll be interesting to see how he continues to adjust to the latest changes to the game, as ByuN used deployed Siege Tanks with Medivacs very effectively—a gameplay mechanic that no longer exists.

Lee ‘INnoVation’ Shin Hyung tore up the standings early this year, securing his number one slot by a large margin. In the opening weeks of 2017, he won seven online cups and proved a dominant force in the first season of the GSL. He hasn’t relied on aggression or harassment as much as most players, but the longer the game goes, the more dangerous he is. If he’s left to his own macro-heavy style and isn’t challenged early and often, his first major attack is very likely to end the game. Watch for INnoVation’s exceptional mech builds when he takes the stage in Group D of the Round of 24 in Katowice.

Jun ‘TY’ Tae Yang is also making a strong showing this year. After finally winning his first tournament in last year’s World Electronic Sports Games (WESG), he seems more determined than ever to continue the upward trend. His play is cool and collected, and his confidence in GSL Season 1 was nearly unshakable. His ability to handle multiple drops without sacrificing his high-end micro has taken many games so far this season, and his ability to quickly adapt to new information has made him a difficult opponent to break. TY’s in Group B of the Round of 24 in Katowice along with Neeb, so keep an eye out for these two to get their rematch from WESG.

Zerg

The runner-up in 2016’s Global Finals, Park ‘Dark’ Ryung Woo, remains an important player to watch as we head into WCS 2017. He’s had a rocky start to the year as he fell from the GSL Round of 16 without taking a single game, but dismissing him would be a mistake. Dark is an incredible Zerg player who mixes aggression and patience in conjunction with the strongest Zerg macro game in the world. He’s also in the same Round of 24 group as INoVation, which means we may see a rematch between the two after Dark fell to the Terran player in the semifinals of IEM Gyeonggi.

Han ‘ByuL’ Ji Won has also made his presence known in the GSL this year. While he fell to a particularly tough Round of 16 group, he showed a very aggressive and effective style. He was never afraid to pull out a unique or even cheesy strategy to get an edge to exploit, though as is usually the case, these strategies often cost him more than they gained. ByuL is a player to watch as we continue into the second season of GSL this year.

Eo ‘soO’ Yoon Su is the only remaining Zerg in the first GSL season of the year, and he’s more than earned that honor. While he won’t be at Katowice this year, it’ll be interesting to see how soO performs in the remainder of this GSL season. While not as strong a macro player as Dark, he makes up for it with his micro skills. He’s fantastic at reading his opponents and changing up his tech on the fly to react to new strategies. He played exceptionally well against TY in the Round of 8, so he’s only one step away from taking a spot in the GSL Season 1 finals.

Protoss

While most of the players in the limelight are from WCS Korea, Alex ‘Neeb’ Sunderhaft is a monstrous Protoss player who deserves attention. He set a record in 2016 as the first non-Korean to win a Korean StarCraft II premier tournament—sweeping the finals of the KeSPA Cup 4-0. With so much excitement and interest surrounding him, it should be a fascinating ride to see what he manages to accomplish in 2017.

Kim ‘Classic’ Doh Woo is a solid Protoss player who’s not afraid to adjust his play to exploit his opponent’s weaknesses. While he’s at his most comfortable with his solid mid and late game, he’s confident and capable when a match calls for early aggression or even a risky all-in. He was recently knocked out of the GSL Round of 16, but we’ll no doubt see some more remarkable games from him throughout the year.

Kim ‘Stats’ Dae Yeob recently took the top slot in the WCS Korea standings, and it’s no surprise. His Adept micro is truly exceptional, and he has almost a sixth sense about what’s happening on the battlefield. He knows just when and where to scout to get the information he needs, and he adapts to the enemy effortlessly. His recent reverse-sweep of the GSL Season 1 favorite, INnoVation, proves how capable he is when evolving his strategy in response to his opponent. He’s proving to be a difficult opponent to keep up with so far in 2017.