With last Tuesday’s results, we are heading into the Round of 8 of the Afreeca Starleague Season 5. Especially the last two days of the Round of 16 stage featured amazing and breathtaking games, with fan-favourites like Jaedong falling, but still putting up amazing battles. There is no doubt that StarCraft: Remastered has achieved what no one had thought was possible. It brought back a whole new hype on a game that has long been said to be dead. Well, it is not. The Round of 16 was, all four days together, watched by more than half a million people. Whereas the international scene is still rather small, South Korea is going crazy about the original game of all eSports. Also, it seems that with every season, every tournament and even every day, the players seem to get better and better, even the infamous caster duo ‘Tastosis’ stated that some performances might be on the same level as we could witness during Brood War’s prime, in the years from 2008 till 2010.
But the question remains: Who can beat Lee ‘Flash’ Young Ho? The ever-so dominant Terran player is on his way to win his fourth ASL in a row, although it seems like everyone was trying to give him a hard time, even the map-makers. This year’s ASL featured island maps, a very rare thing in StarCraft: Brood War. After having seen some island maps on a competitive level in the early 2000s, one could think that they were never coming back. But the game evolved over the years, even without being patched, and so did the maps. So, they gave it a new shot. With the new maps not really favouring Terran, it becomes obvious that someone was trying to give Flash, especially, a hard time. His first obstacle, however, the Round of 16, was an easy sweep. He was put on stage, he delivered. Just like he always does. Unlike all the other Terran players except Mind who were all eliminated in the first stage of the tournament.
The Round of 8 features crazy matchups. All players that are left have played superb in their respective groups making it very hard to predict the outcome of what is coming up. Nevertheless, let’s take a closer look at the players, the matches and possible outcomes.
Shuttle vs. Rain
Mirror matchups tend to be boring for the majority of all the viewers of RTS games. However, in the current state, you could not ask for a better Protoss versus Protoss between any of the remaining players. Rain, as always, is a forced to reckoned, he is one of the most solid players in the entire bracket, and the plans with which he comes into every match are, simply put, true perfection. He has improved with every ASL since he switched back from StarCraft II and could soon be a top contender for the championship. Shuttle on the other side has one championship in his pockets. Although Season 1 was the least competitive of all ASLs, it was him to secure the trophy. Since then, his results have been pretty good, not amazing, but he always delivered some good fights despite never making it into the Round of 8. Going into the Round of 16 in this season, no one really counted on him making it out in one of the hardest groups ever to be seen in ASL. But then Shuttle went on to crush his opponents in two amazing macro games, he played brilliantly. He even got the loudest cheers of all the players, fans were obviously super impressed by his performance. While we might be looking at a very close series, Shuttle might be in a slightly better shape now.
Prediction: Shuttle 3 – 2 Rain
herO vs. Mind
Ladies and Gentlemen, what a match this is! HerO who made it into the Finals last season, is looking stronger and stronger with every day. His play style is immaculate, last season it looked like no one could keep up with him. But then, there was Flash, and, yet again, the finals looked rather one-sided. Fans were not sure how he could deal with that crushing defeat, but here he is, looking better than ever, hungry for another Finals against the best StarCraft player of all time. Honesty, going into the Round of 8, it seems like this will happen. But then, there is Mind. The second best Terran in the world. While he always looked good in every ASL season, he could never really live up to his true potential. Mind can never be counted in any situation, but if he wants to keep up with herO, he will have to do more than well executed, two-base timing pushes as we’ve seen in the previous round.
Prediction: herO 3 – 1 Mind
Larva vs. Mini
In my opinion, this is the matchup which is the hardest to predict. Yes, Larva is one of the best Zergs worldwide, somebody who has been improving rapidly over the last two years. But then there is Mini, the dark horse of this year’s ASL, currently sitting at a record of 4-0, with victories over the likes of Soulkey or Action. Mini has never really received the attention other players have. But it seems like, especially in this season, he is the most underrated player. Larva showed some minor errors and weaknesses in his ZvP which is normally said to be his best matchup, but then, it was Shuttle who absolutely played out of his mind on that day. Further, Mini looked super-hot on the two island maps we will be seeing in the map pool, another big advantage for the player. As stated before, for me it is really hard to predict any outcomes here, but I can totally see an upset incoming.
Prediction: Mini 3 – 2 Larva
Flash vs. Snow
StarCraft fans worldwide, hold your horses, you are in for a treat. Best TvP in the world hits best PvT in the world. While Snow is not too famous, especially internationally, diehard fans will be aware of his extraordinary PvT. Even back in the days, when Proleague was still going on, he would always be thrown into the ring to snipe one of these strong Terran players – and often he did. Although, against Flash, everybody seems to be the underdog nowadays, Snow absolutely has a shot here. Of course, it is still Flash we are talking about, and you should never bet against this guy. Going into the Round of 16, people were excited to see how Flash could cope with the new and slightly odd map pool. Of course, he did what he always does – he went on to crush his group. But one should not count out Snow yet. In the round of 24 he beat Mong, a very solid Terran player, and Last, a Terran who is said to be the next big deal in StarCraft: Brood War. People have already said it: If there is somebody who can beat Flash, this could be Snow. However, the Protoss player will most certainly have to play out of his mind to compete with the Ultimate Weapon.
Prediction: Flash 3 – 1 Snow