Uncanny Talent Prevails in Katowice

  • Dave Oliver, Blizzard Entertainment

The Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) Katowice is always one of the most highly anticipated events of the year. It’s the first time we’re able to see players from every region across the globe compete against each other. It also boasts the largest player pool of any event, so we’re treated to nearly a full week of high-level StarCraft II games. This year, we were fortunate to catch the best of the best playing at a new peak level.

King Rogue

To say this is the best era of Lee “Rogue” Byung Ryul’s career would be an understatement. Since late July of 2017, he’s won four premier tournaments—including the World Championship Series (WCS) Global Finals at BlizzCon. While hype around Lee “INnoVation” Shin Hyung and the possibility of Eo “soO” Yoon Su claiming a long-deserved trophy, Rogue slipped in under the radar. He barely qualified to the Global Finals at all, and ended up winning the whole thing. Going into Katowice, his story was one of expectation and excitement—and he delivered.

Rogue showed us everything that defines an exceptional StarCraft II player. He was already known for excelling in long games using the entire breadth of the Zerg race, but he also proved that sharp aggression is within his wheelhouse, taking the first game of the grand final in an instant. Whenever he attacked, he hit multiple locations with perfect timing. Whenever he defended, he denied even the smallest harassment of his workers. While most players have a particular strength that they lean on, Rogue displayed prowess that positions him easily as the greatest StarCraft II player in the world today.

Terran: The Mighty Few

Terran players had a rough go of it in Katowice. In the playoffs, only two Terran players remained out of the final 12. While they both fell to the eventual champion, Rogue, they both played at their absolute best level. In Jun “TY” Tae Yang’s first game against Rogue, the Terran player looked absolutely unstoppable. He showed us how powerful his game sense was while utilizing clutch Anti-Armor Missiles to bring down seemingly unassailable Zerg air armies.

Sadly, that wasn’t enough. Cho “Maru” Seong Ju fared a bit better in his match against Rogue and took the series to a fifth map, but he too fell to the Zerg terror. Terrans have had a rough year in both the WCS Circuit and the Global StarCraft II League (GSL)—we’ll need to see if they’re able to break out of their slump as 2018 continues.

With IEM Katowice behind us, we have a good idea which players are likely to continue making waves throughout the year. Kim “Classic” Doh Woo looked unstoppable throughout the event all the way until the finals. While he fell in an unexpected sweep, he’s still kicking in the GSL, and the quarterfinals continue on March 9th. There’s plenty more StarCraft II to come this year, and Rogue is only the first of eight players to get guaranteed seeds into the 2018 Global Finals. Stay tuned throughout the year to see who else will join him on that illustrious global stage.