SSL Premier Week 1
With recent news of Jin Air sponsoring the first season of the 2017 SSL, the competition is sure to pick up pace right from the get-go. The 'Premier' division kicks off on Monday at 7PM KST with five best-of-3 matches between some of the most fearsome players on the Korean scene.
Match 1: sOs vs Maru
Two teammates, whose principal sponsor has now become the naming rights sponsor of the entire tournament. For sOs, whose GSL run was brought to a halt by soO in the semi-finals, defeating Maru will be a tall order. Not only did the Protoss have to prepare exclusively for the PvZ matchup, Maru has had no particular events to look forward to in quite a while. Helping his teammate prepare against soO, Maru has the upper hand in that he has a better inkling of what sOs's current weaknesses might be, thus having a better chance of exploiting them. Granted, the Jin Air Protoss is likely to bring unorthodox play to the table, but it shouldn't catch the Terran off guard.
Match 2: ByuL vs aLive
aLive's Intel Extreme Masters Katowice run is reminiscent of the dominant fashion in which he brought the scene to its knees in the 2012 IPL 4. For years after that tournament, he kept a low profile; lay dormant for most of the time, not achieving any significant results. ByuL, likewise, has had a tough time transitioning from Heart of the Swarm to Legacy of the Void. Consistent all throughout the second expansion of StarCraft II, he was at his prime in 2015 as a CJ Entus player, when he took three second place finishes in various StarLeagues. Both professionals seem to be slowly reaching a comfortable place within the scene. The question is, whose adjustment to the reality of a post-KeSPA scene is more solid?
Match 3: Dark vs Patience
I wouldn't go as far as to say that Patience doesn't fit in when it comes to Korean StarCraft, but at the same time I can't see anyone holding it against me, if I claim that his offline performance is somewhat lackluster. Although a frequent online cup participant, the Protoss doesn't seem to be able to keep pace with the rest of the South Korean players. He shines in weekend tournaments, having consistent top finishes at DreamHacks, Homestory Cups and the like, but hasn't made a name for himself on home soil, save for two back-to-back semi-finals of the SSL in 2016. So I'm rather skeptical about his chances in a tournament whose format is so unlike anything we've seen so far, with regular weekly matches in a round-robin bracket. On top of that, Patience's opening match is against Dark, who simply overshadows any other Zerg on the scene. Granted, soO has had stellar performance in recent months, but Dark's reign of dominance has lasted almost two years.
Match 4: INnoVation vs Zest
A year or two ago this would have been one of the most anticipated matches of the league. However, with Zest's lack of results and INnoVation's unexpected losses, I fear the match might turn out to be a damp squib. For anyone else, reaching the round of 8 of the GSL or an IEM would be a more than satisfactory result. INnoVation, though, has set the bar quite high for himself, and falling out of the competition in the quarterfinals just doesn't feel right. He's got a lot to prove here and I feel he knows that. INnoVation used to be a top performer in Proleague, so perhaps the tournament's format will play to his advantage.
Match 5: Solar vs Stats
Though on paper the match might seem like a proper treat for any StarCraft enthusiast, in reality I doubt we will get to see anything worthwhile. Stats's priority is, without a shadow of a doubt, his GSL grand final against soO. The Protoss player's adversary is bound to be making inroads into figuring Stats out, and keeping strategies hidden will be crucial towards achieving victory. Though Solar's performance nowadays is not as preponderant as his teammate's, he'll have the upper hand in being at liberty to utilise whichever strategy he feels most comfortable with.
Headline image: SpoTV