This weekend’s Global Starcraft League final is a study in contrasts. On the one side is Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin and on the other is “ByuN” Hyun Woo. sOs was formerly known as sHy and was one of the players forcibly moved over when the Korean eSports Association made the switch from Brood War to StarCraft 2. ByuN is as old school as it gets. One of the only members of what I call “The First Class.” The group of players that played in the first ever GSL Open back in 2010 and are still playing today.
ByuN in his early career was a promising Terran prospect. He was a macro player with a flair for late-game and particularly loved long, drawn out 40-50 minute games. He also used a few off-the-wall builds, most notably an all hellion build vs. Protoss back in the early days of Wings of Liberty. He hung around the fringes of Code S and had one noteworthy run in GSL July 2011 All of that changed in 2012, where he showed resurgent form and looked to be one of the favorites going into the finals in the third season of GSL in 2012. Up 2-1, ByuN was on the verge of securing his first ever finals after gaining tremendous leeway in the early game by massacring Ahn “Seed” Sang Won’s probe line. With an army that Seed could not defend against, he bet it all on Dark Templars. As ByuN pushed halfway across the map, they struck and in that moment came the animalistic instincts buried within all human minds.
“Fight or Flight?”
ByuN ran home. The game could have ended there, but the DTs created enough of a threat that ByuN didn’t want to take the high probability gamble. He wanted certainty. So he ran home. After securing the home, he moved out again. And again he stalled, never fully committing or fully retreating. In the end, he wasted eight minutes of his time and proved Mobb Deep right. ByuN was just a halfway crook. Scared to death, scared to look, he shook. And when it was far too late he pulled the scvs for one final all-in that Seed barely held off.
That game, that match, that series was the most important one ByuN ever played. It was at the apex of his powers in Wings of Liberty and the loss was so crushing that he’d never recover. He got worse and worse over the years and finally became a hermit. He didn’t re-emerge into the living world until the beginning of 2016.
In the time ByuN was gone, sOs came into prominence. His story was completely different. sOs was wild, unpredictable and aggressive. He had all of the skills of a high-level Protoss and the culmination of every cheesy Protoss packed into one man. Because of those two skills, he was a specialist at two things. He was a specialist in Proleague, where all games are best-of-ones so no one could ever predict what he’d do next. More than that, he became SC2’s big-game player. He lacked the consistency of the other great players of that time. Instead, what made him an incredible player was his resume at international weekenders. He won two Blizzcons, an IEM World Championship, MSI and a Hot6ix Cup.
The other difference between ByuN and sOs besides the gigantic gap in results is that ByuN had his dream shattered. sOs was a dream shatterer. He destroyed Lee Jaedong’s hopes of killing his second place curse at Blizzcon. He killed Kim “herO” Joon Ho’s hopes of winning the IEM WC in a winner-take-all $100,000 grand prize. He ended Lee “MarineKing” Jung Hoon’s final run with a whimper. He killed Lee “Life” Seung Hyun’s last bid to win a final title before his career ended abruptly because of a well-documented match-fixing scandal.
When sOs faced that same animalistic instinct that ByuN did at that moment, when his mind asked him “Fight or Flight?” sOs fought. And he took down some of the biggest prizes and most prestigious tournaments because he never shook. He was utterly composed and nothing phased him.
This GSL Final is a battle between one of the clutchest to have ever lived and a player whose biggest achievement before this GSL finals was choking in a semifinal more than four years ago. On one side is ByuN. In pure skill, fundamentals, understanding of the game, he is a better player than sOs. But that doesn’t matter because this is a battle of the psyche. This is a test for both players. Will ByuN finally get the redemption that has been four years in the making? Will sOs finally win a GSL and clinch himself another seed into Blizzcon again?
For sOs, it is another chance to do what he loves to do the most: To crush people’s dreams and make money. It doesn’t matter how many matches ByuN has won online or on ladder or even that ByuN beat sOs earlier in the tournament. This is the finals; this is sOs’ sacred ground. When it comes to the highest pressure moment, when he asks himself “Fight or Flight?” He will fight because that is who sOs is.
For ByuN, it is the ultimate test to see who he is in his most primal state. He has always been a player plagued with indecision. He started off as Protoss before switching to Terran. He changed his ID multiple times from Bleach to Excrement to ByuN to GhostKing back to ByuN. He’s promised to attend both Proleague and Code A qualifiers, but then never showed up. In the GSL Finals, his resolve will once again be tested. He will ask himself the one question that has plagued him for 4 years.
Fight or Flight?
Cover photo by Morten Skovgaard.