The problem is, the only thing we know about 2016 Proleague is the fact that it is happening. We don't know yet when it will start, if there are new rules, we don't know the dates of anything and whether there are in fact 8 teams. I could still come up with something to write about for it - e.g. what I expect out of every team and player based on what we've seen from them in LotV so far - but I'll start out by looking back at 2015 Proleague. Because it's my blog and I can do it.
This is gonna be long as I'm going to go into every team in detail (and also players). I'll start at the very bottom and finish at the very top. Well, almost top, right below lichter. Shoutout to lichter for being lichter by the way.
Oh, Prime, how you have fallen. Once at the very top of StarCraft 2, in its latest stage the team hit the absolute rock bottom. Their total SPL point value didn't change from 2014 to 2015, surprisingly enough, but quite frankly that must have been due to divine intervention. At the end of round 2, Prime and the team that was at that point still known as Startale (aka We need a Sponsor) faced each other. It was a battle between two teams to avoid absolute shame - the 0-7.
In his last stand for the team, MyuNgSiK.Prime became the hero they needed, and gave Prime the win they were so desperate for. Less than a week later, MyuNgSiK left Prime and joined Startale, and shortly after that, Startale was reformed as SBENU. He found peace there (for a while), but Prime's struggle would continue.
Former champions like Creator and YoDa, and team league veterans like BBoongBBoong and KeeN struggled to even get map wins. YoDa, who had started the year in quite strong form, went on a tremendous losing streak spanning several months. And in the end, even Prime's most loyal soldier left behind his old home. Creator couldn't take it anymore and left. A man who cried in the booth after taking losses and wept tears of joy after wins had enough of this team.
And then, after the season was already over, after Prime had gone 0-7 not once but twice, in came the fatal blow that changed everything. During the final round, things suddenly started looking up to an extent. A new sponsor had been found for Prime, willing to restore the team to its former glory. Their attires changed (thank god) and so did their attitude, and with the former STX coach coming in, things weren't looking too bad for the next season. Despite the fact that the team had no members to speak of (as TANGTANG retired after the final day of the Proleague regular season), there was hope.
October 18th, 2015 - KeeN leaves Prime. A shock to the team's fans, as he was the best player on the team by leaps and bounds. ByuN joins X-Team. A shock to everyone, as his existence was only known from myth and legend.
October 19th, 2015 - YoDa, B4 and Gerrard are banned for life due to matchfixing. The straw that broke the camel's back. As stated by Kim Jung Hwan, it was due to this scandal that sponsors withdrew from the team. And thus, it was due to this scandal that Prime is now dead.
Well, it's a bit hard to find good things to say after a season like this. But the good things did exist, I assure you. Starting off is, of course, Creator. We don't know how life was for him at Prime, we don't know what he did and didn't know about the matchfixing. What we do know is that all the pressure was on him, every week. He was their ace, their shot to win. And reactions like these make Proleague great.
Next up, the only player on Prime with a positive winrate - Zoun. A young and talented player, giving his debut in Proleague. Considering Prime's roster, younger players were sure to be fielded at some point. And perhaps, just perhaps, they could find a new Maru or Creator or ByuN. And while Zoun certainly didn't reach those heights and his first match in Proleague ended with a loss to Maru, he certainly didn't disappoint anyone either. He scored wins over DeParture, a talented Zerg who would later break CJ herO for a few weeks & win a Gfinity, and the veteran San. By virtue of that, he scored half the map wins for Prime during round 2 by himself.
Finally, KeeN. Though his pretty bad record wouldn't give it away, KeeN did an admirable job in the situation he found himself in. Faced with some of the strongest players in the world every week, KeeN always did his best. As many times before in his career, generally his great play was only almost enough to defeat his opponents. But god damn if KeeN didn't try his hardest. Unlike YoDa and BBoongBBoong, he never gave himself up. He kept fighting, and for that he has my respect - and his first individual trophy in SC2.
We can't say with any degree of certainty what it was, but from the start things weren't going too well on Prime. An absurd amount of players left the team or straight-up retired with no replacements in sight. Among those, there were TerrOr (who at least retired having finally taken his first win!), TANGTANG (the slayer of Zest who retired at 0-8 in Proleague), Zoun, who got picked up by the giant that is SK Telecom, Creator, who now finds himself on Jin Air, and MyuNgSiK, who joined a team that was barely any better and also didn't have a sponsor at the time.
The matchfixing scandal and finally the death and disbanding of team Prime. One of the last great teams from before the KeSPA transition died a horrible death. YoDa, B4 and Gerrard brought the greatest possible shame to Prime and ruined the team's name.
To top all of that off, apparently Gerrard was big into gambling himself, sold ByuN's personal computer and kept the equipment sent to him by their SPL partner Invictus Gaming. Dick move, bro.
A list of every player's best game (in my opinion, including games they lost).
Creator vs Zest
KeeN vs Life
MyuNgSiK vs Leenock or MyuNgSiK vs Sleep for something a bit more MyuNgSiK (Prime only)
Zoun vs DeParture
TerrOr's greatest moment
TANGTANG vs Rogue
Following their bans by KeSPA, the Youtube channel for Proleague has erased all but 1 game of each B4 and YoDa, and honestly they don't deserve honorable mentions either.
Fuck me, I have a lot to say ._.
7. MVP - Most Valuable Players
MVP is the only team that managed to improve but not actually improve. Like 2014, their point total leaves them at 7th place. Considering the roster, that's not actually unexpected. However, their point total is (marginally) higher than last year and their average round placement actually improved. Despite their best efforts, the disciples of Choya couldn't repeat that one deep run to the round playoffs they had in 2014, which surely would have helped the team a great deal.
Their round 1 was their "best" round. By virtue of Yonghwa and Losira returning to glory (and MarineKing winning an ace match against Dear during his near-infinite Proleague TvT losing streak), MVP placed ahead of the then-defending champions KT Rolster (who had received 1 map penalty point).
I put "best" in quotation marks because it was their best in pure placement. Through cruel irony, when MVP finished rounds with equal or even better map scores than their round 1, they still always finished lower. Probably a curse brought about by the whole MarineKing-ByuL disaster.
MVP, or rather, Choya does what he can to get the best out of his players, and it really showed. Losira had a resurgence upon joining the team. He had a very strong round 1, and though he fell off in later rounds, it was a good year for him (though he ended up leaving MVP to join KT Rolster). The same is true for YongHwa, as not many expected him to pull as much weight as he did as MVP's Protoss ace. Ace wins against herO and Zest - certainly impressive. It's sad that neither of the two is on the team anymore, but they definitely did a great job this year.
Another one of those guys who has made a huge jump in his development is DeParture. A player with great potential but meddling results until this year. By his own admission, he gets very nervous when playing offline, rendering him unable to play at his best at events like GSL qualifiers (good for him the 2016 Code A qualifier made it nearly impossible to not get into Code A if you're as good as DeParture). In 2015, he had some great moments in Proleague. Convincing wins over CJ herO and KT FlaSh and hardfought battles against several other high-level players, aswell as his strongest year outside of Proleague bode well for the future of DeParture. And somewhat surprisingly, none of the bigger teams bought him away from MVP.
MVP was also able to count on the support of Team Liquid's very own HerO, who finished the year with a 5-4 record, including a win over INnoVation that broke GumBa for good, and Blaze. Blaze, after changing his ID from Panic, reached a new form and finished the year with an 8-4 record, becoming one of the heavier hitters for the team at the end of the year.
And finally, when all else failed, MVP still had the GuMigod. The greatest GSTL-finals player ever. The man who can beat the best player in the world despite being attacked by a booth. A true mechspert and a man of 1001 builds. He only joined the team in round 3, but it took him very little time to establish that he's actually the best player on the team. GuMiho also had his best year in HotS outside of Proleague this year.
MarineKing was a giant mess. Sorry to all his fans, but it must be said. He accumulated a record of 0-8 in TvT. Let me repeat, 0-8. You'd figure at some point they would start an intervention and force him to play TvT for 24 hours a day. His vZ record at 1-4 was also nothing to brag about, and featured one of the most controversial matches of the year. He actually ended the season with a positive winrate in TvP, but with only 3 matches played in the MU, you have to wonder how his best matchup was dodged so many times. Even when they fielded him on good Protoss maps, most of the time he would hit a Terran instead.
Choya's experiments didn't go too well. Many times, Choya has made questionable decisions. Often times he makes the right choice, but he's also gone wrong a number of times. Much to the annoyance of the team's fans, Choya experimented a lot this year, arguably a bit too much. Choya's willingness to change the lineup every week could cause anyone a headache. Instead of fielding his top players in matches that MVP could have won, he experimented and benched his top guys. Among those experiments are Seed and Center, who finished the year at a combined 2-12 with 0-3 in ace matches. Yep, Center played an ace match in Proleague. Against the best team in the league.
Losira vs INnoVation
Yonghwa vs herO
GuMiho vs MMA
Blaze (Panic) vs FlaSh
HerO vs DongRaeGu
DeParture vs herO
MarineKing vs Leenock
SalvatioN (Forte) vs TerrOr (only game he played)
Seed vs Bomber
Center vs Symbol (not actually that good but certainly hilarious)
I should stop writing so much stuff ._.
6. Samsung Galaxy
Samsung did a lot worse this year. They went from being the (unfortunate) 5th place in the overall rankings to being fortunate to get 6th in the overall rankings. They had an abysmal showing in round 1 where they finished in 8th place. Afterwards, they finished 5th every round. But they were haunted by an inability to beat the actual big teams. Only in the last round did they finally get past this issue. To put Samsung's issue at overcoming the top 4 teams into numbers, across the 4 rounds of Proleague, they went 0-4 vs SKT, 0-4 vs KT (as the only team in the league that failed to beat them), 1-3 vs CJ and 1-3 vs Jin Air (both in the last round, arguably during Jin Air's weakest phase of the year).
Speaking of their roster, it certainly looked promising. Solar had become a force to be reckoned with, he had placed highly in some weekend tournaments and reached his 3rd GSL Ro8 in a row at the start of the year. Dear was once the undisputed best player in the world, surely his form would return upon practicing with a KeSPA team once more. Shine is always ready to commit some evil deed. Armani is very talented. Stork has been known to beat players he shouldn't beat. Journey and BrAvO are both great talents, they were on SKT after all. Hurricane is solid at least.
So where did it go wrong? Well, Solar earned himself a single win over the course of 3 rounds aswell as a total of 5 ace match losses. If your best player performs like that, these things happen. Dear, despite overall performing much better, also was unable to take wins in ace matches, notably losing to MarineKing.
Another factor certainly was Stork's reluctance to field his Terrans as often as he could have. Guilty, Journey, Reality and BrAvO account for 22 of Samsung's 50 map wins, despite not playing as often in round 1 and Reality only joining before round 2.
And finally, they lost RorO. Now, you may be thinking "Surely you jest. RorO wasn't even in Code S anymore, Solar was way better" But in Proleague, RorO was a league above anyone on Samsung.
Solar started the year in amazingly horrible fashion, at least in Proleague. But I will give credit where credit is due. After going 1-13 in the first 3 rounds, with an 0-4 in ace matches, Solar came back with a vengeance in round 4. He went 4-1, 1-1 in ace matches, and was one of the top 8 performers of the round. Of course, surprising nobody, his one loss came at the hands of GuMiho, his eternal online rival..
The Terran trio - pardon me, quartet - of BrAvO, Reality, Journey and Guilty were pleasantly surprising. I guess Reality wasn't as much of a surprise, we knew he was solid. But BrAvO and Journey made a name for themselves. As did Guilty on that one glorious day.
And finally, they managed to revive Dear. 13-12, 0-2 in ace matches, that's not the greatest record ever. But if we remember where Dear was before Samsung picked him up, it's a nice development. His time on mousesports didn't help him at all, and his merits as a player, as a GSL royal roader, were brought into question. Samsung brought him back. He didn't truly ascend back to where he was (the best in the world), but he's shown glimpses of his old self. On some days, he plays like a true genius. For the longest time, he was the only Protoss to beat Maru in the regular SPL season (in Proleague format). He even managed to get himself a top 4 finish in the last GSL of HotS.
Well, Solar's record obviously. Also, Hurricane's inability to win. Dear's many off days, when he goes from genius to amateur. Stork's unwillingness to field himself after being called out by FlaSh in the latter's final week of regular Proleague play. The team's inability to beat top 4 teams until it was too late, and the team's overall drop in performance.
Also for The_Templar: not resigning Guilty.
The WTF Stork
I already went into this, Stork could and should have fielded his Terrans more regularly. None of them ever played more than 5 games per round, Journey didn't even get that many. His repeated stubborness. Solar as ace or die trying. His unwillingness to play himself. He got into Code S in 2015 but refused to play in Proleague. Even though he had the second best record on Samsung in 2014, he played only once in SPL 2015.
Dear vs Maru
BrAvO vs Life (was torn between this and BrAvO vs Maru but had more fun with this)
Reality vs Yonghwa
Journey vs MMA (ye olde marine/tank)
Solar vs herO
Hurricane vs INnoVation
Shine vs Rogue aka the Shinest game in Proleague
Armani vs Leenock
Guilty vs TY
Next time, on Blogball Z: STYLE. START. SBENU. if it still exists by then, KT, and CJ.
PS: Shoutout to whoever reads all of this.