The first group stage brought few surprises, with all three Korean players topping their group and only one map dropped between them. As HateMe was forcing to forfeit his spot in the tournament due to illness, RotterdaM stepped in and promptly faced GuMiho in perhaps the most anticipated series of the initial group stage. Despite some nice early game control by the brave caster, GuMiho eventually rolled him over, as he did everyone else he faced on his way to the quarterfinals.
ByuN had no trouble either, as he also breezed through the first two group stages without dropping a map. Dayshi, Harstem, MaNa and ShoWTimE were crossed off his hit-list, before he was drawn against Harstem again in the quarterfinals. The Dutch Protoss had caused the biggest upset of the event up until that point, defeating WCS Valencia finalist Snute 3-0 to advance to the bracket stage.
Zest had by far the hardest time of the three Koreans, having to grind his way through three bloody 3-2 series in his Ro16 group—two against HeRoMaRinE, one against Elazer, the first two in his favor, the latter in Elazer's.
Something seemed to click for Zest, however, as he considerably improved seemingly with every series he played. His series against GuMiho was highly entertaining and, despite everyone highly favoring the reigning GSL Champion GuMiho, Zest ended up pulling through in another 3-2 scrap. The series had everything you could hope for in a match and went down to the wire in very close games. Eventually Zest weathered the storm, though, and booked his place in the semifinals.
uThermal knocked out Serral with a dirty 4-barracks-proxy on Proxima Station and, when a similar build was held on Ascension to Aiur, turned to reapers instead. The switch proved successful as he won the next two games and moved on to face Zest.
The newly crowned WCS Champion Elazer displayed great PvZ against ShoWTimE, with relentless attacks and aggression breaking through the German's defenses. His multi-pronged attacks on Ascension to Aiur especially showed exactly why he feels confident in the match-up.
ByuN again had little trouble with Harstem, sweeping the Dutchman a second time with clinical precision that Harstem had no answer for.
Zest looked like a man revived as he dismantled uThermal in an impressive PvT showing, spoiled only by a loss to uThermal's proxy factory. The rest of the series featured rock-solid defense with a newly popular phoenix/chargelot style that did very well against uThermal's aggression, but also allowed smooth transition to blink and colossus as the games went on.
Elazer did very well to defend ByuN's 3-rax-reaper build on Abyssal Reef and made a few great moves to take the first set, but ultimately ran out of steam against ByuN's relentless bio aggression. ByuN seized every opportunity he was given, and closed out the series 3-1 in the end to set up a Grand Finals against Zest—a match between the two GSL Champions of 2016.
The series began on Ascension to Aiur, and if anyone still doubted Zest's ability to compete with one of the best Terrans, that doubt was quickly washed away by a brilliant defensive display. ByuN got the better of the openings as his greedy 3CC build was met with no aggression due to Zest choosing a robotics facility as his tech of choice. The Protoss responded with double forge and colossus, keeping him safe from ByuN's larger than usual army. ByuN scanned and killed every single one of Zest's observers, making it that much harder for Zest to defend properly. And yet, with zealots and pylons in the right places, Zest was never caught out of position and eventually defended a big bio/viking attack to swing the game heavily in his favor. ByuN tapped out shortly after, giving Zest a 1-0 lead in the series.
Zest's revival continued when a proxy stargate on Abyssal Reef did huge damage to ByuN's economy and standing army. Nevertheless he almost lost the game when his army was caught in the open, and ByuN then sieged his natural base. Zest broke the contain with the help of friendly fire from ByuN's widow mines, and even caught ByuN's retreating medivacs and all his units inside them. Left with nothing to defend Zest's imminent counterattack, ByuN conceded again.
The third game looked good for the Protoss as well, with double upgrades and colossus out to defend three bases. Unfortunately, though, the game ended abruptly as ByuN caught Zest at the only weak moment, when only one sentry had been warped in to defend his colossus. A large bio army stimmed into the third base of Zest, shot down both colossus and Zest immediately GG'd.
Odyssey turned into another messy game, with Zest again choosing to play a phoenix opening with charge zealot follow-up. ByuN this time attempted to break his opponent with a 2-base-attack, but Zest eventually overpowered the Terran army while his own economy remained untouched. ByuN never went beyond two command centers, and was forced to concede as his army was mowed down by zealots.
He got off to a much better start in the 5th game by scouting Zest's proxy stargate right away. a second pylon secured the proxy, though, and Zest's oracles eliminated ByuN's marine count early on, forcing him to invest in a few cyclones to keep himself safe. Zest chose an aggressive follow-up, with stalkers pressuring the front of ByuN's base, while Zest teched to a dark shrine. The DTs did no damage, however, and ByuN was able to deliver a very easy killing blow in return.
Zest still appeared quite comfortable in the series and went back to a build he had tremendous success with in 2016, but that has fallen out of favor recently—a DT drop, with double upgrades, blink and charge as a follow-up. ByuN was caught unprepared by the DTs and sustained some damage, but not to the point of no return. Zest made no mistake as the game went on, though, was never caught out of position, while always staying ahead in upgrades and threatening ByuN heavily with a very mobile army. When a warp prism found its way into the back natural of ByuN, the Terran was forced to fight the Protoss army as his SCVs were killed back at home. Zest cleaned up ByuN's army with ease and the Terran conceded.
Zest emerged from the booth as a HomeStory Cup Champion, after he had barely lost a close series at previous HSC. His victory grants the Protoss 4.500€ and, perhaps most importantly, a much needed polishing of his reputation, which had suffered due to poor results as of late.