Photo Credit: ESL
herO: The Executioner
Right off the bat, herO was a key player in the CJ Entus lineup. Due to his success, he was selected as their ace player, paving the way to their only Proleague championship title.
Along with being a great team player, he also found success outside of proleague in individual tournaments. Being a regular contender in the GSL, herO finds himself finishing in
various positions ranging from Code A all the way to the Ro8 in Code S. Along with his moderate success in the GSL, he was the first player to win two IEM championships,
back to back at that, with victories in Singapore and Sao Paulo, both having been a PvP final.
His style revolves around crisp execution, relying on his unfaltering micro to deal damage to his opponents. Whether it be a small aggression play in an oracle picking off probes,
or a well executed 7 gate blink timing, herO always finds a way to mesh his way into dealing some form of damage. He's relatively strong at all points in the game, not making
many mistakes from cheese, and in turn can even open with his own fromage, and still keep his composure. His units seems to have an aura of invincibility, like he's always watching
every pack of units at the same time and making the correct decisions with them. Watching him control his army almost feels majestic, his actions are smooth to the touch and
deadly in its deliverance.
herO vs Sora
CJ herO has always been extremely good at executing builds and having impeccable decision making. In the WECG semi-finals, herO faced Sora, his teammate in a best of 5, which herO ultimately wins. The first game of the series was fantastic, and deserves to be on every single "top games" list for 2014. It's not often that you hear that about the PvP mirror match up, but trust me on this one - you do not want to miss this game.
Sora spawns in the bottom left of Overgrowth with herO in the top right. Both players mirror builds in the opening minutes of the game. The standard nine pylon, 13 gate followed by two gasses on 15. In fact, both players have the same early game plan for Overgrowth - early nexus. Pursuant to this early game plan, both players opt for one gate expand with the natural nexus following a sentry and mothership core.
Let the mindgames begin
The one difference between the two however: Sora places his second pylon behind his natural in an attempt to trick herO into believing there is something proxied on the map when scouted. Unfortunately for him, herO sends a late probe scout seeing the nexus, completely invalidating Sora's attempt at a mindgame. Sora's nexus is also twenty seconds behind herO's due to the fact that he chose to get a stalker before the nexus, whereas herO went for a second sentry after the nexus. herO's decision to do this makes sense, with a one gate expand, he loses to many forms of early aggression from his opponent, so choosing to get the earlier nexus will can only help him. Should Sora have opted for a fast three gate aggression build a second sentry would have made little difference for herO. In the situation where a slightly later attack is made however, the nexus is completed quicker, allowing for photon overcharge to be used in the natural.
Once the nexuses are complete, the two players decide on their opening tech paths. Sora decides to open with robo - the safest option due to observers and immortals being key in holding many follow up all ins, while herO decides to open stargate. Here, once more, we see herO's decision making favour a "go big or go home" mentality, because the first unit he makes is an oracle. Once more we have a scenario where the oracle could be punished heavily but the potential outcome is weighed against this fact. If Sora had also opened with a stargate and made phoenixes, herO loses the match, getting no probe kills and losing air superiority from moment one. Luckily for herO his gamble pays off - Sora opens robotics, meaning the oracle should be able to get a high number of probe kills, and allow herO air superiority and map control through follow up phoenixes - or so he thought.
Sora uses an early hallucination scout, specifically, he chooses a hallucinated oracle meant to scare herO into playing defensively, and sees that herO has indeed opened oracle first. As is always the case in PvP, mindgames continued to be played. Sora played defensively, making sure the oracle does the least possible damage. Sora also decides to sneak a probe into the corner of the map and decides to proxy two stargates.
Not one but TWO Stargates, huge risk with a huge potential payoff
Sora like herO takes a calculated gamble, by proxying two stargates, he wants to make a large phoenix air force intending to surprise herO and gain not only air superiority back from his opponent but to also gain map control. The gamble creates a fantastic win condition for Sora - if he can blindside herO and destroy his air army, the investment, the opening, the game plan, it all falls apart. Sora can quickly destroy probes gain an immense advantage. Sora even makes a fleet beacon, and eventually a mothership core to solidify his air dominance.
Sora however, didn't account for the decision making of herO in this match. Seeing no immortals or other robotics units, herO begins to wonder - where is all of my opponent's gas going? Seeing four gas geysers and no tech units makes herO scout around the map, and he finds the proxied stargates. Its just a little too late however, since Sora already has enough phoenix to contest herO's air army.
Unfortunately for Sora, herO's build has a built in fail safe. He gets not only an early forge, but an early twilight, from which hero begins blink. While blink is researching he also starts his third base and adds 5 more gateways totaling eight. While doing this he also sends his phoenix to Sora's natural, creating an effective distraction allowing herO to make a warp prism.
The warp prism unlocks for herO an immense amount of options in this game. Many Protoss players wouldn't dream of making a warp prism without air control. For herO however, its just another risk he is willing to take to win the game. This warp prism unlocks for herO many options that dictate the rest of this game.
That is a LOT of Stalkers
herO at this point realizes that if he plays defensively, he loses the game. He has no air control, and he can't allow Sora to follow his game plan, instead, herO decides to take control. Walking across the map with eight stalkers and a warp prism, he warps in eight more stalkers outside of Sora's natural. This 16 stalker army proceeds to push up into Sora's main base, kill an immortal and trade for some of Sora's stalkers and phoenixes. By forcing Sora's phoenixes back to defend, his warp prism remains free to move around the map. During the fight in Sora's main he places the prism at the third base location of his opponent, warping in eight more stalkers and attempting to kill the third base.
Sora manages to hold his third however from this initial attack, herO loses additional stalkers to Sora's army but he keeps the phoenix busy long enough that the warp prism, once again, gets away. He puts the prism into phase mode just outside Sora's gold base location and moves his stalkers back towards Sora's natural. herO sees a mothership, and decides to blink under it to kill it, running the rest of his stalker army back into Sora's main. The warp prism that was still alive? It warped in eight more stalkers, which proceeded to finish off the third base Sora had saved only moments ago.
If you look carefully you will see a dead mothership - and stalkers at Sora's third - and a warp prism that continues to live
Sora attempts to make two oracles from his hidden stargates, but herO luckily sends a zealot just in time to kill the pylon powering the two stargates (again, from the warp prism) forcing Sora to cancel the oracles. herO also makes additional zealots with the warp prism to harass the third as it is being rebuilt.
Sora throughout this has gained an army supply advantage, but due to the constant harass has forgotten about upgrades. The execution of herO however, is nearly flawless, he begins his +3 attack before Sora begins +1 attack, and has already reached templar tech for archons and beginning zealot charge.
herO maintains map control with his blink stalker army, and the warp prism proceeds to do a drop in the main after warping in zealots to harass the third. Sora pulls his entire army back to defend the third. During this attack at the third, and the main herO decides to blink into sora's natural, killing an immense of probes. The stalkers then blink into the main of Sora sniping the second mothership of the game and killing a few more probes. The large investment into this attack and harass has paid off: herO has killed over fifty probes, leaving Sora with three nexuses, and only 15 probes - Sora either leaves now or goes for one final attack.
Sora chooses the latter, a last chance attack to win the game. The army however gets caught under a timewarp from herO, and being two upgrades behind, gets destroyed.
The real hero in this game, surviving in the face of air units some Protoss players make specifically to kill it
The decision making, multitasking, and approach shown by herO in this game is nothing short of masterful. Mindgames, multitasking, map control - everything that is important in a game of PvP. The executioner, herO, does it all, and does it all damn well.
herO has proven himself multiple times that he can perform under pressure, as shown by his back to back titles at IEM. At the start of 2014 he was one of the best PvPers,
taking the finals from San and MC. Head to head they are 5-5, with the more recent result favoring herO 4-1 over MC. His masterful builds and execution timings were too much
for the boss toss to handle, earning him an easy first place.
With that being said, recently herO has shown some lackluster PvP. Since the start of July, herO has gone 19-18 in games, and most of his set wins come from playing vs. foreign Protoss players. His last win against a Korean Protoss was against Sora, while dropping sets vs Zest, Stats and Rain. Albeit not the easiest set of players to face, his PvP has fallen off quite a bit from his early Stomp-A-Protoss days. Even with his declining PvP, his other matchups are at an all time high, and unless herO breaks down mentally, this will be his series to lose. MC himself has been having a mediocre time with PvP, with a similar track record against foreigners and Koreans. As long as herO continues to swing his sword, he will be taking this series in a closer than should be set of matches.