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

Thumbnail image courtesy of N/A / Blizzard Press

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.

Artosis: 'The Korean [SC2] scene isn't dead'

by 5d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

With the shuttering of the StarCraft ProLeague as well five Korean teams, speculation has run rampant in the StarCraft 2 scene about the game's future as an esport. Dan "Artosis" Stemkoski, the legendary player turned commentator currently living and working in South Korea, recently spoke to Cyan Esports about the game's future.

Artosis began by addressing theories floating around social media, saying that "People are pointing their fingers at like Blizzard or the WCS region lock or things like that and that just doesn't really have anything to do with it."

"If a player flies to another tournament ... is that gonna make it so Proleague doesn't go away, that he can still do that? No," he said.

When it comes to concerns that the loss of Proleague will have an impact on the top level play in Korea, Artosis believes that people's passion for the game won't go away. With plenty of people still queuing up for pubs, tournaments and cups like Olimo League and Leifeng Cup, it adds up to Korean SC2 sticking around. As Artosis put it, "the Korean scene isn't dead. I'm not gonna say it's fine, this is a blow to it but we'll see how it goes."

Though Artosis admits he doesn't know exactly where the scene will go in the future, he believes that people need to stop hurting the public perception of the game by calling it dead.

"I assure you it's not dead, I live out here with my wife and child and I will continue to pay my bills by casting StarCraft," he said. "It will continue somehow, some way, we'll see [...] people should try to hold their judgement a little bit."

Annabelle "Abelle" Fischer is a writer for theScore esports with a love for Dota 2, birds and cheese. You can follow her on Twitter.

SKT disband StarCraft 2 team, Sorry and Impact retiring

by 6d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of SK Telecom T1

SK Telecom T1 is disbanding their StarCraft 2 division following the news that KeSPA would not be holding ProLeague in 2017 or operate the teams involved in the league.

In a statement posted to SKT's official Twitter account on Tuesday, the organization stated that they would disband their SC2 team with the end of the 2016 season. According to the statement, SKT could not secure sponsors for their SC II team for 2017.

As a result, several of the players signed to the team are either retiring or moving to new games. Kim "Sorry" Ji Sung and Kim "Impact" Joon Hyuk have both retired from pro gaming, while Kim "MyuNgSiK" Myung Sik and Park "Zoun" Han Sol will no longer play SC2, but move on to other esports games. Specifically, MyuNgSiK will be playing for Team First Heroic's Overwatch roster.

Related: StarCraft 2 community reacts to the end of KeSPA ProLeague

The remainder of SKT's former SC2 roster will still be playing the game, though will have to seek out new sponsors for the 2017 season. Those players are Kim "Classic" Doh Woo, Park "Dark" Ryung Woo, Cho "Dream" Joong Hyuk, Lee "INnoVation" Shin Hyung and Eo "soO" Yoon Su.

ProLeague has run continuously since 2003, beginning with StarCraft: Brood War before moving to SC2. It was the only premier SC2 team league at the time it was shut down, and was considered to be the most competitive SC2 team league in the world.

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

The End of Proleague

Thumbnail image courtesy of KeSPA

The world’s longest running esports league is ending. Today, KeSPA announced that it was “discontinuing” the league, and ceasing support for five teams. A report in FOMOS named the teams it would no longer operate: KT Rolster, SK Telecom T1, CJ Entus, Samsung Galaxy and MVP.

It’s unclear at this point what the fate of the players on these teams will be, given that Proleague play was the main impetus behind the large infrastructure set up to support them. So far, mainly SKT players have spoken out: MyuNgSiK and Sorry have retired, while soO tweeted what appears to be a goodbye to SKT.

Meanwhile, Jin Air, one of the teams not mentioned in the KeSPA announcement, has committed to maintaining its support for its currently signed players. Jin Air houses some of the world’s best players, including two-time world champion sOs, Maru and Rogue. The other unmentioned team is the league's newest, the Afreeca Freecs.

But the shakeup of the team environment is likely to leave dozens of players in the lurch, many of them world class stars like Zest, Stats and TY from KT Rolster; INnoVation, Dark and Classic from SKT; Dear and Solar on Samsung; and herO, MC, GuMiho and Ryung from CJ and MVP.

Worse, its departure could leave some players who could otherwise have excelled without a venue to display their skills and find domestic success in Korea. With GSL and SSL moving to two seasons rather than three this year, the loss of one of the only other top-tier venues for StarCraft's best to display their skills will certainly be felt.

All in all, it’s the end of an era for Korean StarCraft in particular and StarCraft esports in general. Proleague, as one of the few constants in a rapidly changing competitive StarCraft system, has provided the backdrop for some of the most significant moments in SC2’s history. From the meta innovations pioneered to snipe the Bo1 format, to the drama and sheer unpredictability of the all-kill.

The memorable moments are too many to mention, and each of us will have our own personal highlight reel from the league. Those who saw it will always remember sOs’ reverse all-kill of KT Rolster in 2015’s playoffs. One of my favourite plays of all-time is Rogue’s Baneling drops against herO just a week later. Looking back earlier, the final fight between FanTaSy and TY on Newkirk Precint, or Bisu’s ridiculous basetrade against Shine in 2013 were among the many standout moments.

Proleague was also the nexus for some of the biggest transfers, power-shifts and storylines we’ve ever seen. From PartinG’s antagonistic departure from SKT, Maru’s transfer from Prime to Jin Air, Life’s signing to KT Rolster and the Prime match-fixing scandal. We have seen SKT dominate in unprecedented fashion in 2015, and seen many teams collapse under the pressure. Each of these moments has helped enrich the narratives and memories that have shaped StarCraft esports.

Proleague was a place where sheer StarCraft genius was often on display, as the high level of competition encouraged innovation (INnoVation also did well, with a 61-33 record) and dynamism. It has also been home to some of the most controversial moments in SC2 history, like MarineKing’s embarrassing loss to ByuL on Expedition Lost.

Proleague was even a major attraction for the foreign scene, though it has always been aimed primarily at a Korean audience. Wings of Liberty veterans should look fondly back on the EG-Team Liquid alliance in the 2012-2013 Proleague which, though largely filled out by Koreans, helped solidify Stephano as the greatest foreigner of all time, not to mention his unforgettable “glhf” incident in his very first match. Beyond this, all of us have come to appreciate seeing StarCraft played at its highest level, in one of the world’s most unique formats.

We have seen all that in Proleague, and that’s just in the past few years.

Proleague has been one of the most important parts of StarCraft 2, but its history extends far beyond that. Before KeSPA had fully transitioned to StarCraft 2, it helped organized the 2011-2012 hybrid Proleague. The league was meant to help Brood War pros transition to the game’s sequel, and so fans were treated to a wacky format in which regular matches were composed on two best of threes — one in Brood War, one in Wings of Liberty.

And even before that, Proleague was a staple of Brood War. Led by the greats like Bisu, Stork and Flash, teams fought it out in much the same style as we have seen in StarCraft 2. In this way, Proleague has acted as one of the great threads that have run between different StarCraft iterations. Teams like SKT, Samsung and KT have provided continuity, and fostered some of the greatest players in every version of the game. Where other teams leagues — GSTL, Acer TeamStory Cup, among others — have come and gone, Proleague has always been a pillar of the scene.

To say that the end of Proleague will be an enormous loss, then, is an understatement. Beyond providing a brilliant mechanism for the creation of rivalries, narratives, and fostering new talent, Proleague has been an integral part of the health of the Korean scene. Players who either miss out on the individual leagues, or are not suited for that kind of tournament, were able to rely on Proleague for exposure and practice. And there were lots of players like that. Flash (though he didn't need the exposure) never reached a GSL quarterfinals, but was one of the best Proleague players in SC2.

Flash smiles in the booth during a match against CJ Entus

With Proleague gone, only GSL and SSL, the two Korean Premier leagues, remain open for the best of the best in StarCraft. Since the leagues are only offering two seasons each this year (down from three each in 2015), players had to do well in the qualifiers and early rounds, or face half a year with little competitive play. The only opportunity for them was Proleague. Maru was just one of many to face this challenge in 2016: his best result was a GSL Ro16 appearance.

Anxiety about the health of the Korean scene and its teams, which has increased markedly this year due to the two-season format, the lack of global events and the popularity of Overwatch in Korea, will no doubt continue to grow in the near future.

KeSPA’s statement allows for some hope that the KeSPA Cup tournament will step in to fill the gap. Yet we’ve heard similar language from the organizers in the past few years, and yet have only four tournaments in three years to show for it. Whether KeSPA and Blizzard will commit to filling the gap left by Proleague, therefore, remains to be seen.

In the foreign scene, where teams have far less interaction, it’s sometimes hard to understand how seriously teams are taken in Korea, and by extension how important Proleague was. But like any other sport, teams have been the focus of some of the most important narratives, the highest drama, and the fantastic lows of StarCraft 2. Proleague was where all that drama and hype, all the elation of victory and the despondence of defeat, all the anticipation of a new season and the tension of the final matches played out. It was where the world’s greats proved themselves capable, or not.

It will be sorely missed.

Christian Paas-Lang is an esports journalist from Toronto mourning the loss of one of SC2's great institutions. You can follow him on Twitter.

StarCraft 2 community reacts to the end of KeSPA ProLeague

Thumbnail image courtesy of Kirill Bashkirov / IEM Katowice 2016 / ESL

The news Monday that StarCraft's longest-running league would be discontinued by the Korean e-Sports Association sent ripples through the press and social media. Yet with shrinking viewership and fewer Korean sponsors willing to invest in StarCraft II, the game's most prominent region has been in decline for some time, and many aren't surprised to see major orgs like SK Telecom T1 and KT Rolster take a step back.

StarCraft's only remaining team league, where pros competed alongside their teammates in best-of-five, king of the hill-style matches, helped organizations test out up-and-coming players who weren't yet ready to compete at the highest levels of individual leagues like the GSL.

Though SC II's audience and playerbase have for years been gradually migrating to newer games like Counter-Strike and Overwatch, the loss of a major institution brought a lot of emotion to the fore. ProLeague English caster Wolf "Wolf" Schröder took the opportunity to look back on the league's 14-year history in a commemorative video.

The announcement comes less than a month before the WCS Global Finals, the highest level of SC II competition. Concerns arose about what the end of ProLeague — and of the five teams that together sponsor six of the Top 8 WCS Korea players set to attend the Finals — would mean for the future of the Korean scene.

For some, there were still reasons for optimism. Korea still has the GSL and SSL, and the international scene beyond Korea has never been more competitive.

Josh "Gauntlet" Bury is a news editor for theScore esports. You can find him on Twitter.

Zest, Snute, Neeb and Patience in Group B at WCS Global Playoffs

Thumbnail image courtesy of theScore esports / Blizzard Entertainment

The groups for the WCS Global Playoffs at BlizzCon 2016 have been released, with Joo "Zest" Sung Woo, Jens "Snute" Aasgaard, Alex "Neeb" Sunderhaft and Jo "Patience" Ji Hyun making up Group B at the tournament.

Neeb and Snute are currently considered two of the strongest foreigners in the StarCraft 2 scene, particularly after Neeb's first-place finish at the 2016 KeSPA Cup, making him the first foreigner to win a Korean SC2 event. Snute also recently took first at WCS Copa Intercontinental and second at the 2016 Winter Circuit Championship.

Meanwhile, Zest is currently considered to be one of the strongest Korean players, and recently finished first at the 2016 Global SCII League Season 1 finals and 3rd-4th at the 2016 WCS Korea Season 1 Cross Finals. However, Neeb beat Zest 2-0 in the KeSPA Cup group stage.

Another notable group stage matchup is Park "Dark" Ryung Woo and Kim "Stats" Dae Yeob, who are set to face off in Group A. The two recently faced off in the 2016 WCS Korea Season 1 Cross Finals, where Starts won 3-1, and the 2016 SCII StarLeague Season 1 finals, where Dark won 4-2.

The full groups for the WCS Global Playoffs look like this:

Group A Group B Group C Group D
Dark Zest ByuN Solar
Elazer Patience Dear viOLet
Stats Snute Polt ShoWTimE
Nerchio Neeb True TY

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

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