Why Dear being good is good for StarCraft II
One of the most exciting developments during this season of SSL Premier has been the resurgence of Dear. In many ways a mythological figure, Dear is a player who has become more legend than flesh and blood. He was so good for such a brief period of time, it almost seems like we've been watching a specter over the past three plus years. The Dear of late 2013 was a dynamo in every respect. He was decisive and intuitive, incapable of making a erroneous move, perpetually a step ahead of the opponent strategically and tactically. Simply put, he looked invulnerable.
But Dear's greatest gift wasn't gracing us with his ascendant skill. It was an unintended byproduct of his magnificence, something that barely registered as he dominated opponent after opponent on the Royal Road. By being such an impregnable obstacle he brought out the best in his opponents. In victory or defeat, players had to elevate their play to new levels simply to contend with his mean.
On the edge of defeat, Maru had to play the perfect game to have a shot at toppling Dear during the 2013 Season 3 Finals. However, it was a feat he was unable to replicate as he was eliminated in the very next game. He tried ceaselessly to break Dear but the Soul Protoss proved indestructible. The 3-1 result suggests a one-sided match at first glance, but together they produced an exceptional series, one greatly undervalued in the annals of Starcraft.
It's remarkable to reflect upon Dear's success in 2015-2016 without appreciating how his achievements were immediately forgotten afterwards. He made the Round of 4 in three straight GSL's during this period; he actually came within one game of the finals in Season 3 2015, pushing three time Starleague finalist ByuL to the very brink. Down 3-2 and coming off a game 5 victory, Dear forced ByuL to adapt. He pushed the Zerg in a direction he either had not intended or specifically planned for Dear, someone so adept at dispatching standard play that ByuL frantically searched for another counter.
The move into infestors ultimately failed, but it was part of Dear’s signature. To defeat him at his peak you needed to bring something special. In the end ByuL won the final game, but it was one of his most impressive performances of the year, only possible because Dear placed so much stress on him.
When INnoVation, the current best player in the world, is in peak form he hardly makes competition seem fair. Opponents simply bow before him. He has hardly looked vulnerable in recent times (his loss to Stats a mere day after winning GSL vs The World can be forgiven by even the most cynical), but he was hopeless against Dear in SSL Premier. Dear’s 2-1 victory may not sound as one sided as some of INnoVation’s triumphs, but the same ruthlessness INnoVation exhibits was on display, albeit in a more dynamic form.
It’s not a stretch to say that Dear could have won all three games of the series. Despite losing the second game, he looked like the superior player throughout a significant portion. The fact that a has-been forced INnoVation to use his full capacity, breaking the aura of sprezzatura that usually accompanies his effortless wins, illustrates Dear’s transcendent talent when it is accessed.
Dear being good is good for StarCraft as a scene. It produces more exciting games. It means more exciting rivalries, both renewed and burgeoning, and most importantly the continuation of a legacy that saw him crowned best in the world in 2013. For 3 years he vainly struggled to reclaim the throne. Now after an uncertain start to 2017, Dear is back. He may be gone from this season of GSL, but his bid to win his second Starleague is still alive and well. And one would be foolish to look away. Because when Dear enters the booth, magic happens.