Polt, Scarlett, Zest, 9 other StarCraft pros react to the current map pool

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Blizzard has decided to approach Legacy of the Void's map pool with a dash of eccentricity. The seven maps that make up the pool have been a hugely debated topic amongst StarCraft players as they begin to find their niche in Legacy of the Void’s still-new meta. With that said, certain maps seem to favor one race over the other, and that, along with awkward pathing, has led to its share of frustrations.

Dusk Towers has proven to be one of the most standard maps due to its ability to fit into the current meta. The natural is easier to secure without suffering heavy punishment with early aggression. With that said, it might be considered too dull to play on because of the inherent ability to turtle and prolong games. There are also maps like Prion Terraces that have pros scratching their heads, as the natural expansion now has a gold mineral line that makes it more favorable for Zergs while also making it difficult to hold off early to mid game aggression. As a fairly new expansion, this creates a unstabilized structure for a fair game. From a viewer's perspective, these maps create exciting and unique matches. However some pros view playability as a trumping factor over uniqueness.

The map pool’s diversity is a hot-button topic for pros in the competitive scene. From two-time GSL champion Lee “INnoVation” Shin Hyung to Team Liquid’s Jens “Snute” Aasgaard, here are what some of the scene’s best players think of the current map pool.

Zerg Players

Sasha "Scarlett" Hostyn

After a few months of playing on this map pool, I mostly like it. It's a much more diverse pool than we've had over the past few years which lets players have their own unique style by vetoing maps that don't cater to them (also helped by LotV being less figured out than HotS was).

There is only one map — Central Protocol — that I really dislike with the current game design. Having an open third, no ramp to main, short distances between bases, large air space around main, and open main; there's just too many things that are hard to deal with.

Jens "Snute" Aasgaard​ - Team Liquid

I was always in favor of standard-ish maps such as Coda, King Sejong Station, Polar Night, Whirlwind and Cloud Kingdom. Maps like Ulrena, Prion Terraces and Bridgehead for example, don't appeal to me in the same way.

I do enjoy the variety a little, each map plays out differently. Ulrena for example has some nice features to it. I just wish that they would help reduce randomness a little overall, and then it wouldn't be so bad. For example, on the previous version of Prion Terraces, there was a lot of luck involved with the opening build orders in ZvZ. To some extent, there still is. Central Protocol had issues with vertical positions initially being enabled. Some maps play out incredibly differently based on the spawns. Ruins of Seras horizontal is very different from Vertical and Cross. I don't think that's a good thing if the rush distance is too short. I don't mind four-or-three player maps as long as the rush distances are long, regardless of spawning positions — like Cactus Valley, or Whirlwind.

I think Dusk Towers is a great map that is well appreciated by players across all skill levels. It has the size of a four-player map, without the randomness. In general, I think the map pool isn't all that bad, but a lot of maps are just flat out in favor of certain races. I think that there are many maps out there that would create a better map pool as a whole with more room for stylistic vetos rather than vetoing maps because they're really bad in a matchup.

Shin "Hydra" Dong Won​ - ROOT Gaming

In my opinion, the best map for me is Dusk Tower because I like a straight map that I can play basic skills vs basic skills. I think Dusk tower is the most simple and flat map in the current map pool. I didn't like Lerilak before they patched it, but after they patched (blocking the thirds with breakable rocks), it's much better to play on than before. I like current map pool basically.

Stefan "PengWin" Mott​ - mYinsanity

Overall, I think it’s fair to say that the official Blizzard map pool has been nothing short of abysmal since release. Blizzard has said that they want unique maps so that we get a wide variety of strategies, but essentially we are stuck with maps where people will only do one or two strategies because abusing them is so much better than anything else. An example of this would be Ulrena where now, in ZvT and ZvP, it is almost impossible to hold a properly executed ling-queen drop all in even if the Zerg doing it is making a fair number of mistakes. Another good example would be roach-ravager-ling all ins against Protoss on Lerilak, or multi barracks reaper TvZ on Central Protocol. Even on a map like Ruins of Seras where it’s not really full of “abusable tactics,” the game will almost always be decided simply on the spawn locations and the advantages they give. The changes that have been instituted on Prion, Lerilak and Central are decent changes, but you can’t fix a complete failure of a map with a bandaid.

Many people seem to agree that this is the worst map in recent memory since the Dreampool, and it’s frankly something of a travesty that Blizzard decided to keep the maps for a second season running and will only remove half of them next season.

Kudos to whoever made Dusk Towers though. That map is actually not horrible.

Terran Players

Choi "Bomber" Ji Sung​ - Afreeca Freecs

Out of the seven maps, Orbital Shipyard and Dusk Towers are the ones that have the best balance between the three races. I don’t like Ruins of Seras. If the starting point is vertical, the distance between the two teams is too close and so the strongest build is to go for an early to mid all in. Random factors also occur too often making the balance between the races very divided.

Choi "Polt" Seong Hun ​

In my opinion, the current ladder map pool is quite favored for Zerg, and I think it is one of the main reasons why Zerg players are performing very well right now. For example, Lerilak Crest and Ruins of Seras could've been a decent map in HotS, but they can't be like that in LotV. The game has changed a lot, but those two maps are very similar to the maps in HotS. The trait of the maps with wide main entrance were not too bad in HotS, but it is hugely favored for Zerg in LotV. Prion Terraces looks cool with a lot of gold bases, but the map maker should have thought of why almost all of the other maps have gold bases in the middle of the map or somewhere hard to secure. Dusk Towers is ok balance wise, but playing on that map is quite boring because the map forces players to take the third base in the early game.

Ethan "iaguz" Zugai ​

The changes they made recently were good changes, but I wouldn't be against just having a new map pool. Blizzard stated their goal was to not have a map pool dominated by four boring macro maps and a slightly weirder one and they certainly accomplished that.

As a nerd who likes a bit of consistency in his games, my preferred maps are the boring ones like Dusk Towers and Orbital Shipyard. The other change that made maps bearable was the adept nerf which made it harder for Protoss to cheese Terrans out on f******** maps like Ulrena or close air Ruins of Seras. Not impossible, but a good bit harder.

Lee "INnoVation" Shin Hyung​ - SK Telecom T1

I enjoy Orbital Shipyard and Dusk Towers because they are maps where you can secure your second base. Safely, I think of this as a map where you are simply having a match of skill. I don’t like Ulrena and Prion Terraces. Playing Ulrena versus Zerg is ok but there are small details in the map that make it difficult for me. Prion Terraces has a gold natural and it is difficult to block off an all in versus Zerg. On Ruins of Seras, If the starting points are diagonal, push and management is hard versus Zerg. While on the other hand, there is no good feeling versus Protoss and the opponent cannot do anything strategically. It is too hard to scout on this map.

Protoss Players

Théo "PtitDrogo" Freydière​ - mYinsanity

I think Blizzard did a good job creating maps that create a lot of different kinds of games. But this come at the cost of great imbalance, especially in PvZ where you just expect to lose always lose prion/protocol and hope to be lucky on Lerilak/Serras (close position is always pretty much gonna be a loss against Queen/ravager all-in if the Zerg knows what he's doing).

Overall there's a lot of very stupid situations created by the current map pool and its "unique" maps, but it seems that from Blizzard's point-of-view, these are entertaining and good for the game. So I guess that if the imbalance looks cool then it's alright.

Ahn "Seed" Sang Won​ - MVP

First of all, I don’t know why there is such an emphasis on gold mineral on Prion Terraces. It’s not just one, it’s two. The race that has the easiest time acquiring the expansion means Zerg receives a lot of advantages. Also, Protoss players who face Zerg have only a 10 to 20 percent winrate so I don’t understand why there is no patch for this map.

Second of all, Ulrena. This map is too close. Especially, the streets or the air space are too close so even though you know about the Zerg player's early strategy, there is almost nothing you can do to block it (early zergling, ravager, queen rush or fast queen and zergling drop, etc.).

Thirdly, Lerilak Crest is a map that has been around since beta, but is a map that really shows how lacking the map designer’s knowledge of the game is. If the entrances are this large, in a TvP, the Terran, or in the instance of ZvP the Protoss, the early damage you get due to the map is really hard to recover from. Before you make a map like this I think it is critical that they have to understand how the three races are designed. The current maps are the worst. I don’t understand how though the season changed, we are to keep playing these maps.

Chris "HuK" Loranger​ - Evil Geniuses

In general, I feel like they are good maps. I'm happy to see Blizzard trying to keep the map pool fresh. At the same time though the balance on them isn't perfect but at least Blizzard are making steps in the right direction, especially listening to the community and pro feedback.

For me, as a pro player, I will always want maps that aren't difficult as a Protoss player, but more importantly as a fan of the game,I just want to keep seeing new maps. I think the most important factor is to not let the map pool get stale, so new maps constantly would be a lot more preferable for me as a fan/spectator and even pro player.

Joo "Zest" Sung Wook​ - KT Rolster

I like Dusk Towers because it is generally considered a very balanced map. A map like Orbital Shipyard because you can secure your expansions pretty safely. For maps I don't like, it would be Prion Terraces and Central Protocol. For Zergs, Prion Terraces is a map where they can acquire gold minerals very easily so it is hard to face them. On Central Protocol, the distance between the opponent and me is close but our expansions are far apart from each other. Therefore, it is an open terrain so it is hard to play on it.

The interviews in this article have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Skye Bui has a passion for dry humor and esports. Follow her on Twitter.

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ROOT Gaming sign ViBE, puCK and Semper

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ROOT Gaming is adding three more players to their Starcraft II roster, two of which, Danny "ViBE" Scherlong and Brandon "puCK" Qual, are familiar faces to the organization.

puCk and ViBE go back to the earlier days of SC II as they initially had joined the team back in 2012. puCK left the team in 2013, going on to play with IvDGaming and place fourth at the World E-sport Championships 2014. ViBE took to streaming after leaving ROOT in 2014.

The fresh face on the team is Alexandru "Semper" Dimitriu, a Canadian player who was formerly with Team Gravity and known for being a solid Terran player. The three players will be joining the current roster, which includes Shin "Hydra" Dong Won, who placed first at DreamHack Austin.

Olivia Da Silva is a news editor at theScore esports. You can usually find her freaking out over someone's dog or telling terrible jokes to anyone who will listen. Feel free to follow her on Twitter.

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TaeJa retires, next GSL match to be his final game

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Young Seo "TaeJa" Yun has decided to retire from competitive StarCraft 2 at the age of 21, according to a release on Team Liquid's website. His next GSL match, in the 2016 Season 2 Round of 32 will be his last game.

The Terran player had struggled with wrist pain through much of his career and has been contemplating retirement as far back as 2014 — when he tweeted, "I will retire soon," after losing to sOs in the IEM world championship semifinals.

"Since March of 2012, I was able to spend four happy years on TeamLiquid, thanks to fans who always cheered for me and showed me love, regardless of whether I was doing well or doing poorly," TaeJa wrote in the post.

TaeJa had several Code S stints and a slew of foreign tournament victories including his memorable 4-3 win over Lee "Life" Seung Hyun at 2013 DreamHack Open: Winter.

After returning to Korea in the wake of the new region lock system, TaeJa placed Top 8 in the most recent GSL, falling to Zest — the eventual champion — in the quarterfinals. The Top 8 berth is particularly impressive for a player who has played abroad for much of his career. Many other returning Koreans have had less successful domestic stints.

The majority of his storied pro career was spent with Team Liquid. The organization that helped foster his career was admittedly sad to see him go.

"All of us at Liquid say goodbye to a friend and a man that meant the world to us in building our team and organization. I’m proud to have had you on our team, proud of all the things you have done for us, and eternally grateful for the legacy you have built for both of us. I’m going to miss you," wrote Victor "Nazgul" Goossens, one of the owners of Liquid.

There was no indication as to TaeJa's immediate plans for the future, but Nazgul wrote that he is "sure [TaeJa] will make the right decisions."

Josh "Gauntlet" Bury is a firebat who sprays memes instead of fire. You can find him on Twitter.

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Soulkey renews contract with TCM

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TCM-Gaming have announced that they have re-signed Korean Zerg player Kim "Soulkey" Min Chul.

Soulkey joined TCM in December 2014 after playing with SK Telecom T1.

At the 2016 StarLeague Season 1 Main Event, Soulkey was sent to the Loser's bracket after losing his Round-of-16 match 2-0 to Samsung Galaxy's Kang "Solar" Min Soo.

He finished the tournament in 9-12th place after a 2-1 loss to SKT's Kim "Classic" Doh Woo in Round 2 of the Loser's bracket.

Will Alcopra is a news editor for theScore esports. You should totes give him a follow on Twitter.

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WCS Circuit continues at DreamHack Valencia with $50,000 tournament

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DreamHack ZOWIE Open Valencia will play host to another stop on the StarCraft II WCS Circuit ahead of the WCS Summer Championship at DreamHack Open Montreal. The Valencia event will offer a $50,000 prize pool and a total of 5,000 WCS points.

An announcement on the DreamHack website said that the main tournament will take place at DreamHack Valencia on July 14-16 at the Feria de Valencia, and will feature a maximum player count of 96 competitors.

Of those 96, 88 will come from open signups, while the final eight will earn their spots through online qualifiers. The qualified players will also receive pre-seeding into Group Stage 2.

The first-place winner will take home $16,000 and 1,000 WCS points.

Josh "Gauntlet" Bury is the only Firebat in the Koprulu Sector who only moderately enjoys fire. You can find him on Twitter.

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ByuN leaves X-Team

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Byun "ByuN" Hyun Woo has left X-Team, according to a succinct tweet from the South Korean Terran player Wednesday.

Despite some solid performances at the beginning of Legacy of the Void, including a 5th-6th placement at 2016 StarCraft II StarLeague Season 1, ByuN has yet to find consistently strong performances this year.

The tweet provided no indication from ByuN regarding his next move.

Josh "Gauntlet" Bury sometimes wonders what the Koprulu Sector would be like if creep was grape-flavored. You can find him on Twitter.

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