Proleague 2014 is entering its second round and things have changed quite a bit from 2013's lineup. KeSPA’s team league may not be StarCraft 2’s most watched league, but to me it’s the most exciting. This year has not disappointed; every team has gone through at least one change worth noting. Let's dig into it!
As always, we start with KT Rolster. Last year the team ended with a solid performance at third. Going into this year, they dropped several players, but the only one that saw play was Puzzle. Losing a Protoss in what seems to be the year of the Protoss isn’t great, however they did manage to pick up one of the best Terrans currently playing in the form of TY (aka Baby). This was an amazing steal and one that led to positive results. KT Rolster ended round one in first place and won the playoff end-of-round tournament as well. Going into round two, I see absolutely no reason they shouldn’t perform beautifully again.
SK Telecom T1 finished with another second place in round one after a disappointing (at least to me) fourth place last year. SKT went through significantly more changes than their rivals in KT. They lost the occasionally-played BeSt and Brown as well as Coach Boxer (The Emperor) and—most importantly—Bisu; still, SKT managed to pick up Bravo and Soulkey and a new coach, bonjwa iloveoov. Bolstered by zerg hero Soulkey and a returned-to-form PartinG, SKT made a strong start and ended up in third, placing second in the playoff tournament. SKT proved they were the second-best team last round and going forward I can certainly see an even stronger performance out of them, unless the next guys can stop them…
Competing with SKT as the second-best team is Samsung Galaxy. After losing Jangbi, they bought two LoL teams and changed their name to Galaxy (from Khan). They picked up MVP’s Hurricane, but didn’t even play him. Instead, Stork, RoRo, and Solar guided them to second-place finish in the standings and third in the play-offs. Maybe they haven’t been through the most interesting changes, but they show it’s hard to argue with results. We’ll have to see who comes out ahead in round two between Galaxy and SKT.
Possibly the team with some of the most exciting changes, The Jin Air Green Wings: Formerly KeSPA underdogs, the sponsor-less Team Eight, they not only got a new sponsor, but they got a whole facelift as well. Despite losing their ace, TY, they picked up young star Maru. The Terran power house spent the end of last year taking over as best Terran and has kept it up with his new team. In addition to Maru, they picked up our WCS World Champion, sOs. The result? They ended last year in seventh place and now they’re in fourth; competition may be stiff, but for a team that’s gotten so much better so quickly, it’s hard say it’ll end here.
Going into this year I had high expectations for CJ Entus. Ending the first round in sixth, frankly, I’m disappointed. They picked up coach Park and had a convincing performance at IEM Singapore, but only herO seemed to maintain the momentum. Going into round two they pick former fOu (formerly FXO, formerly fOu) player Gumiho. Whether or not the Towel Terran will be enough is hard to say, but I haven’t lost all faith yet.
If you’re at all familiar with Proleague, the last five teams are no surprise at all. However, from there it begins to get weird. In the months between Proleague 2013 and Proleague 2014, Evil Genuies and Team Liquid ended their partnership and left Proleague. STX left their team SouL in the dust, who responded shortly thereafter. Woongjin let all their players except sOs and soulkey loose before leaving e-sports after those two had found new teams. This left KeSPA in a bit of pickle, with only five teams to compete in the upcoming Proleague, they needed some new blood. As it so happens, StarCraft 2 is dying and GSTL had just about run the course of its existence. This left Incredible Miracle, Prime, and MVP free to join KeSPA.
Helped by the acquisition of Trap (formerly SouL) and HerO, on loan from TL, Incredible Miracle ended in an unsurprising fifth. It’d be easy to write-off IM in round two if it weren’t for a deal with Startale. In round two, IM will be able to use Pet, Panic, Hack, Life, and Curious in addition to former fOu (formerly FXO, formerly fOu) player Lucky. Gaining Life in particular is big boon for IM, though whether or not this will be enough to push them further remains to be seen. The challenge from here for IM is cracking into the playoffs.
Ending round one in seventh, we come to MVP. Things don’t look great for the former eSF team' they've lost duckdeok and made no new pickups, leaving the team feeling weak. Super proved to be the only consistent player they had last round. If GSL champions DongRaeGu or Sniper can get things together then maybe they have chance, but to be blunt, things don’t look good.
Finally, we come to first-round punching bag: Prime. Round one was utterly horrible for the new underdogs, despite picking up GooJila, SalvatioN, KassiA, and DeParture. They just couldn’t put anything together. Round two may be more promising -- in addition to picking up former fOu (formerly FXO, formerly fOu) player Choya, we also see Byun and MarineKingPrime return to play. How their play has fared since we last saw them is hard to say, but for anyone who likes Korean StarCraft, it’s hard not to be excited about the return of three fan favorites (or at least fan-happy-to-see, in the case of Choya). I don’t think I’m alone in hoping to see MKP destroy some nerds in Proleague.
Proleague may not be filled with surprising results thus far, but nonetheless, it’s stood witness to some interesting changes. Round two looks to have further changes in the pipes, hopefully with some good games as a result. If you’ve been missing out, this article can give you some reference when you tune in tomorrow at 6:30PM KST for the beginning of round two!
- Keegan "HornetSting" Gallick.