For the StarCraft franchise, Lee "Flash" Young-ho is the best player of all time. The Terran bonjwa not only reached peaks in Brood War that no other player could ever replicate, but he returned years later to also excel in StarCraft: Remastered, proving he's still got it and that he remains the greatest StarCraft force in the world.
When it comes to Brood War and Remastered, Flash has really done it all. He's the first player to win three OSL and three MSL titles (the most prestigious leagues of the Brood War era), breaking Elo records along the way, which are yet to be matched. When he picked up SC: Remastered, he won three consecutive Afreeca StarLeague (ASL) titles for Seasons 2-4, placed second in Season 6, and added a fourth title in Season 8. There has never been — and likely never will be — another StarCraft player of his caliber.
Which is likely why Flash announced this April that he will officially switch races from terran to random for future tournaments. It was a power move that, once again, was a first in StarCraft esports history, signifying one player's ambition to excel and improve even after he's reached an untouchable status.
Nobody plays random in StarCraft for a reason
While there have been a few switches from one race to another, not a single professional player in StarCraft: Brood War has ever played random. Being one of the most complicated, skill-demanding esports in existence, pro gamers in StarCraft need every advantage they can get. Blizzard's RTS is also a game based primarily on information, and not knowing what race you'll get in any given match is just too much.
Playing random also takes away a lot of the planning in a best-of series. Top players will always have a variety of plans for each map in a series, based on how their opponents are performing, how the previous maps went, and so forth. But these plans only work when you know what match-up you're getting every single time. As random, the number of plans a player has to prepare triple, and everyone goes into the uncharted territory of navigating that many match-ups and scenarios.
What's more, a regular StarCraft player will only have to learn three match-ups and, while they will know the timings of their opponents, will only have to play these match-ups from just one side. A random player has to learn nine match-ups (counting both sides, e.g. ZvT and TvZ being different), four of which contain races they've never practiced. When you add that to the fact that StarCraft is already mentally, mechanically, and strategically exhausting, you get why nobody ever tries to random.
Flash's random debut leaves mixed results
Flash debuted his random in an exhibition series against three of the best StarCraft players in the world: PvT and PvP specialist Doh "BeSt" Jae-wook; reigning ASL champion and ZvZ expert Kim "Queen" Myung-woon; and the Protoss Revolutionist, legandary Brood War veteran Kim "Bisu" Taek-yong.
Though fans likely hoped for a scenario where Flash comes out and destroys everyone, that wasn't really the case. Even then, the "Ultmate Weapon" went 4-4 in maps, going 1-2 against BeSt and Queen, and 2-0'ing Bisu.
Flash spawned as protoss twice against BeSt, going 1-1 in the exchange, and winning the second map on Optimizer after an expertly microed dragoon base trade. Flash got zerg in the third game and set up a healthy mid-game production off three bases, but an overconfident hydra/lurker push got stopped, cleaned, and turned around right at BeSt's natural, giving the protoss the series win.
Flash finally got to play his main race terran against Queen and opened the series with a confident win off of a bio push, but a build order gamble cost him game 2. Flash got terran once again, giving his fans hopes he will take the series home, but a CC-first opening got hard-countered by Queen's 9-pool rush and the game was over before it began. Flash and Queen spawned into a ZvZ for game 3, where Queen's superior speedling micro helped him recover from his own build order hard loss.
The most straighforward series for Flash was his match against Bisu. Flash got terran twice (Bisu's historically worst match-up) and drove home a clean 2-0 sweep.
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Losing two out of three series, and only winning one map on an off-race, perhaps sounds anticlimactic for Flash's random debut, but it really isn't. While the "Ultimate Weapon" likely won't be winning tournaments playing random any time soon, it's just only been a few months since he officially switched away from a race he's been maining for 13 years — a race he's reinvented and pushed the limits for.
Most progamers never get to do that with their main race. Flash will now attempt to do it with all three at once. It's the most uncharted territory StarCraft has ever been in, and an event fans of the RTS should really be excited about.
The God of StarCraft has started playing New Game+ with one arm tied. How far can he fly?
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Esports editor and journalist of 10+ years. Lives on black tea and corgi love.