Stats vs Ryung
A Cut Above the Rest
When the dust settled, Stats was forced to yield the stage to TY. Reduced to an afterthought, Stats deserve more recognition for his inarguably impressive tournament run. Highlighted by victories over TY, Neeb, jjakji, Nerchio, ByuN and Dark, it highlighted just how far Stats had come since playing second fiddle to Zest on KT Rolster. Despite the who’s who list of conquests, Stats was sent home without a trophy.
For Stats it’s just another stumble in a journey which has taken him all over the globe. He displayed excellence at Katowice, defeating formidable opponents in all three matchups; that alone confirms his status as the best Protoss in the world. Despite all the talk of Stats' failures he’s kept his nose to the grindstone, putting forth a dedicated effort in every event. He’s looked great in everything he's participated in over the past few weeks. Stats qualified for both VSL and SSL, one of only 5 players to do so (Solar, Zest, ByuL, Patience were the other four). He’s also locked up another trip to California with his semifinals appearance in TING Season 3.
How is Stats juggling so many plates with so little apparent effort? The first place to look is his PvZ and PvP. Stats posted a 13-3 mark in these matchups against foreign and Korean competition during March, including the aforementioned Dark and Nerchio as well as herO and Rogue.
One would think Stats would be disappointed to face a Terran in the semifinals. While the matchup has recovered somewhat from its disastrous 60% mark in Terran’s favor, Terran is still winning 55% of the time. PvT remains the most uneven matchup by a good margin, which would justify qualms in most players and especially for someone with a history of being unstable in PvT. However, Stats has ascended within the pantheon of new age ex-KeSPA Protoss gods to become their undisputed king. Through March Stats was 12-3 against Terran, with a series win against INnoVation in the quarterfinals a week earlier. He didn't discover anything revolutionary to pull this off; instead, he relied on his ability to optimize builds to give himself the best edges. He has made a matchup which many considered unwinnable appear easy with graceful play. Every decision looks effortless, every action crisp. Besides his attempts to open robo against TY, something he likely won’t duplicate versus Ryung, Stats almost always looks a step ahead.
There is no doubt that Stats is the clear favorite heading into the second semifinal. He’s the stronger player all around. He's shown himself superior at planning as well as executing strategies, more adaptable, wilier and the best Protoss in the world. The thing is, superlatives don’t mean anything and Stats knows this better than most.
Drowning in Mediocrity
That’s how much time has elapsed between Ryung’s GSL semifinal appearances. A little over 4 years, 10 GSL’s and 2 expansions later, Ryung finds himself in the same spot he was back in 2012.
He got close back in Season 2 of 2016. He gave eventual champion ByuN the most trouble during the latter's championship run. This time around he managed to clear the Round of 8 hurdle. He looked completely dominant in TvT against Maru, but isn’t that something people have come to expect from him? Ryung has always been viewed as a TvT expert and with his precarious shifts in forms in the other two, TvT has been his bedrock. Surprisingly his two deepest GSL runs have been built on the back of the non-mirror matchups. During that other semifinals run in 2012, Ryung didn’t play a single Terran until the Round of 8 when he defeated MarineKing. In this current campaign he only played Terran once out of 6 matches in the group stages.
How good is Ryung really? For a player who has advanced so deep in the hardest tournament in the world, you would expect him to shine in other events. Yet beyond GSL, he hasn't displayed the consistent form expected of a top-tier player. Ryung started off IEM well but was quickly disposed of by INnoVation. Since then he failed to appear at the VSL qualifiers and limped to a place in SSL Challenger League. Most of the time he swims neck deep in mediocrity, but his recent GSL showing and brief peaks of success early in Starcarft 2’s history suggest a potentially dangerous player lurks below the surface. All of this paints the picture of someone who can't put it all together for long stretches of time.
What exactly is keeping Ryung back, then? It can’t be a lack of experience. Ryung is one of the oldest veterans in the scene: Aligulac counts 2250 recorded games for Ryung, almost 1000 more than his opponent. It shouldn’t be mechanics – Ryung appears to be everywhere at once in TvT. Perhaps he lacks the series planning, game understanding or the killer instinct exhibited by players like sOs or Maru. Maybe his uneasy footing in TvZ and TvP never allowed him to constantly go the quarterfinals/semifinals of events beyond the lucky draw.
The bottom line is Ryung never steps up when the stakes are high. For all his games played since the launch of Starcraft 2, he is unfamiliar with a stage of this magnitude. If Ryung wants to finally break the semifinal barrier, he’ll have to transcend his leanings towards mediocrity and become the version of himself he needs to be.
More than a pretty face
Seeing these two facing off in 2017, it would be hard to tell they came from different worlds. Groomed for years in a KeSPA team house Stats was seen as a polished product, a KT protege who had refined his game to prefabricated specifications. Ryung, on the other hand, was one of many Brood War players who eagerly seized the opportunity to win fame and fortune in a new game.
Lately the community has been forced to question their perceptions of players like these two. Stats is no longer Zest’s sidekick whose only hallmark was unrealized potential. He has risen from the wreckage of KT Rolster as a new man, one who can be a champion like his former partner. One of the first to adopt the banner of a foreign team, Stats is also streaming and offering perspective on a man who had formerly been given so few opportunities to express himself. He is garnering new fans with his newly acquired, but not new, fun-loving reputation as much as he is wowing with his in-game skills.
Ryung is celebrating a coming-out party of sorts. He languished in anonymity for so long that it was easy to forget he still played, but his host of victories over the past 6 months have thrust him into the spotlight. Still perceived as somewhat of a TvT specialist, Ryung is little by little changing his reputation.
The first GSL of 2017 has offered unprecedented access to all participants. For players like Stats and Ryung, who have earned the most time to promote themselves, it has been exceptionally beneficial. It only took a few weeks to confirm that their newfound sponsors made a wise decision, as they quickly shed their old images.
Stats was a rising star perpetually ready to break out, while Ryung was never good enough to attract much attention. Besides their results, the community was never given much opportunity to form new opinions outside of those reputations. Now that they’ve gradually reshaped their public identities, there’s no going back. No longer are players cardboard cutouts. Stats and Ryung are perfect examples of how players are actual people, with complex emotions and personalities that exist beyond the games.
Stats 4-1 Ryung