In Group B of BlizzCon over the weekend, we had a group with soO, Rogue, Neeb, and Nerchio. For now I will focus on three particular matchups: Rogue vs Neeb round 1, soO vs Neeb, and Rogue vs Neeb round 2.
I’ve watched Neeb’s career since when he debuted as a Terran player. There is an obvious overarching theme to his play style: Standard play, good decisions, and excellent execution. This style was only exemplified when he made the jump from Terran to Protoss player (I suspect good decision making at a consistent level as a top-level Terran was harder up until the creation of the liberator, but it’s not like Neeb knew how strong that thing was going to be). So going into this year, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say this is probably the best Neeb has played and his style is such that it is strongest in late game.
This is what we saw in the first series between Rogue vs Neeb. Rogue played out the standard game, which was Neeb’s game and Neeb won.
Going into soO vs Neeb, I saw plenty of people pick Neeb to win the series. They weren’t blowing up the foreigner hope or anything like that. It was complexly understandable if you understood the relative strengths of both players. In a pure theoretical sense of what people consider “strong starcraft.” Neeb is a superior player to soO in the matchup of PvZ. Rogue is a better late-game player than soO is in that matchup, and Rogue lost. Thus if you follow the same logic that soO would follow the game plan of Rogue, he should lose.
But soO isn’t that kind of player. He understands the strengths and weaknesses of his opponents and targets those. One of his masterpiece series was against Zest in 2013 GSL Season 3 season where he pulled out a series plan to counteract how Zest was beating him in their prior matchups. He did the same this year in both his GSL runs (unlike Maru, who showed an extreme amount of preparation work in his first OSL run against INnoVation, but never did again, which makes me think it was a fluke of chance). What soO did was create a game plan that avoided Neeb’s strengths in the macro game and just kill him before the game ever got to that stage.
After Neeb lost, he was set to play Rogue in the elimination match. This is of particular note in that Koreans are well known to adapt after a loss. This is why it’s so hard to make a deep run for a foreigner in a GSL tournament beyond just the raw number of Korean players. They adapt and learn at a faster pace. But the question I had was if Rogue had the arrogant sort of ego to believe that he should win a late game against Neeb if they played again. He was good enough and such a scenario would likely end in another 50/50 coinflip. Rogue didn’t. He saw what soO did and followed the formula. The games were different, but the theme was the same. Kill Neeb before you get to the late game.
I forget who said it, but someone said something along the lines of real StarCraft is the late game macro game where both players are forced to macro, micro, and make tactical/strategic/economic decisions across the map. That’s one way to look at it and a valid way. The other way though is to look at it the way Mvp did. You get the map point regardless if you win a maxed out 200/200 battlecruiser max army game or if you win with a 2rax. In which case, you must create series plans that give you the maximum chance of winning maps while decreasing the chances of your opponent taking any. That isStarCraft to me and for that reason Rogue and soO were better players than Neeb despite the fact that I don’t think either could conclusively beat Neeb if they played Neeb’s game.
Avoid strength, target weakness. That is what how you win.