2017 Rewind: The Protoss Prince (Almost) Dethroned

  • Dave Oliver, Blizzard Entertainment

Throughout the 2017 season of the World Championship Series (WCS) Circuit, the first name out of anybody's mouth has consistently been Alex "Neeb" Sunderhaft. It’s no surprise, as the American Protoss player won three of the four Circuit championship titles and looked unstoppable all year. While he didn’t make as much progress in the Global Finals as most expected, he did a bang-up job the rest of the year with only a few players able to consistently challenge his dominance.

One of the most surprising and interesting series of the year came from his matchup against Sean "Probe" Kempen in the Round of 16 at WCS Valencia. While Probe has been a talented player who showed consistency throughout the year, he didn’t make it past the Round of 16 in any Circuit event. When Valencia came around and Probe found himself pitted against Neeb—the dominant force of the 2017 season—the favorite was clear. It did not go as expected.

Probe took an early lead on the first map and then held it as he took a 2-1 lead in the series. Sitting on match point, things looked primed for the biggest upset of the year. Since this was back when Disruptors were still an often-used option in the Protoss meta, large game-changing swings were common and every game in the series was a white-knuckle dance of death between these two masterful players. While Neeb ultimately came out on top and took the series in an intense ace match, on that day Probe showed that he was very much on the same tier of Protoss play as the three-time Circuit champion.

As we head into 2018, Probe will be an important player to watch as he continues to grow and improve.