The WCS Global Finals at BlizzCon is a dream stage for all StarCraft 2 players. Daeyeop “Stats” Kim and Seonguk “Zest” Ju are among those who’ve been fighting to reach this dream stage.
Both of them used to be the best Protoss players who represented kt Rolster. Even after the team was disbanded, they are still supporting each other and continue to challenge each other where they are now. Although 27 is somewhat is a somewhat old age for a pro gamer, they have proven to StarCraft players and fans worldwide that they still have what it takes to compete. With the finals right ahead, we had an opportunity to chat with them.
They anticipated that the WCS Global Finals will be more competitive than ever before; not only is Seongju “Maru” Cho at an almost impenetrable level, there are also players from other countries who have shown remarkable improvements compared to the past. “There is no easy foe in this finale,” agreed Stats and Zest.
Q. It’s been a while since we’ve seen you guys in an interview like this. How are you doing? Please tell us how you are feeling about entering the WCS Global Finals.
Stats: I took a long rest after the GSL Super Tournament. With the WCS Finals coming in a few days, I’m staying at home practicing all day. It feels like I’ve been through this many times even though it’s just my 3rd time. My performance wasn’t good enough last time and I had to step out a bit earlier than I expected. I’ll do my best and get to the quarterfinals at least this time.
Zest: I got disqualified from the GSL Super Tournament preliminaries - the last domestic league of this year - because I was late, and I had a long break afterward. Now, I’m practicing really hard for the WCS Global Finals. I was quite idle last year and failed to enter the league last year, but I managed to do it this time. I personally prefer a stadium with personal booths, and the league starts using a stadium with booths from the quarterfinals. I believe that I’ll be able to get good results from the quarterfinals.
Q. The league is just a few days ahead. How are you preparing for it?
Stats: I practice in ladders just like how I do for the GSL. I did have many players who used to help me out with the GSL, but the season is finished and there’s only the WCS Global Finals left for this year, so there aren’t many players who are willing to help as much as before. So I’m practicing by myself for now.
Zest: Same for me. I think there’s about a week left, so I’ll double the practice time.
Q. You were in the same team; kt Rolster’s StarCraft 2 team in the past. There must be a couple of common things between you two; the same age and you both play Protoss. Do you guys keep in touch?
Stats: I used to call Zest quite often whenever I visited Gangnam. I even visited his house sometimes and had some meals together. Then one day, a guy named Jihyun “Patience” Jo came into my life. I hung out with this new guy too many times, and I couldn’t call Zest out as often as I did. It has been quite a while since we last met. Even so, I ask questions about the game to him quite often, and he always gives me answers generously.
Zest: I’m not the type of person who calls the other first. I’m pretty much a homebody so I don’t go out often. I just like being at home so much. I sometimes call him and whine about the game when it doesn’t go well.
Q. Don’t you miss the time you spent at kt Rolster?
Stats: Sometimes. There are times when I feel lonely and want to see old teammates since I am alone now. I also miss the delicious meals that our auntie used to cook for us. I miss the busy weekends because of the pro leagues, even when I was disqualified early. I used to ask questions to nearby teammates anytime since they were right next to me; it’s a bit of a shame that I can’t do that anymore.
Zest: I miss the auntie more than anything. She cooked extremely well and always took care of us. Also, I’m the type of person who plays games so hard when motivated, but it’s quite difficult to get motivated and I easily become idle because I’m alone now. No more motivation, you know.
Q. (to Zest) You had a severe slump in the year of 2017, but it seems that you somewhat overcame it as you entered the GSL Finals this year. What were the reasons for the slump and how did you manage to get over it?
Zest: I became tired of playing the game since late 2016. The salary system didn’t allow me to increase my salary even if I did well. I then became lazy thinking that it was going to be the same no matter how hard I try. The laziness grew much bigger after hearing the news of my team’s disbandment, and you could see the result in 2017. Although I’m trying really hard this year and entered the WCS Global Finals, it’s still not as good compared to how I used to do in the past. I think I’m trying only at 50% (laugh).
Stats: I was really surprised to see him disqualified at the preliminaries last year because I knew that he wouldn’t fail just like that. I then understood his circumstances after hearing that he didn’t practice as much. I started watching his streams since last year, and he was placed first as Protoss with a 7000 ladder score. He knows what he’s doing when he makes up his mind, I thought.
Q. (to Stats) You overcame the 1v1 league slump by winning the 2017 GSL Season 1. However, it seemed that your performance wasn’t as good in the WCS Global Finals, which is presumably more important.
Stats: I would love to break this WCS Global Finals slump. In fact, if I can win the WCS Global Finals, I don’t need the GSL (laugh). Whatever you do, you need to wrap up properly, and I’d like to do so this year. My motivation is so strong with about a week ahead and I’m practicing really hard.
Q. Maru of Jin Air Green Wings has some of the most dominant scores this year. It seems like a match between Maru and everyone else. What do you think about the WCS Global Finals composition?
Stats: Maru really is amazing. When I meet him in ladders, it’s really difficult to end the game easily even if I am ahead of him at the time. He plays passively and tries to gain the advantage in the late game. It’s definitely nothing like ordinary Terran players. I knew that he was going to do something big, but it became way too big. I don’t want to see him in the Finals.
Zest: Maru bullied us when we were in kt Rolster, and he destroyed those former kt Rolster players in the GSL this year. I thought it was a bit too much, but then I realized it’s about time for players at his age to have their heyday. I just envy his youth.
Q. You will likely see him as you climb the ladder. Are you confident enough that you can defeat him?
Stats: I hope he gets disqualified before that happens (laugh).
Zest: I doubt it (laugh) because I lost 4:0 in the finals this year and 4:1 in the semifinals too. But, don’t you think it’s about time to win? You can’t say that when you lose like that. I don’t want to run into him.
Q. Other players showed remarkable performances this year as well. Joona “Serral” Sotala won against Stats in the GSL vs the World. Has the gap between foreign players and Korean players decreased?
Stats: Very much. Serral is more than good enough even compared to the best Korean Zerg players. Juan “SpeCial” Lopez seemed to lack the skills last year, but I could see that he improved quite a lot when I practiced with him recently. They are improving year by year. I don’t think it’s going to be easy just because I’m against foreign players; they all will be quite challenging.
Zest: I’m in the same group with Serral, and I knew that he was a good player even before the GSL vs the World. He is as competitive as good Korean Zerg players like Byungryeol “Rogue” Lee and Ryungwoo “Dark” Park. There are many good players like Tobias “ShoWTimE” Sieber as well. I’m not really sure if our skills became worse or their skills became better (laugh); I think it’s both. I doubt there’s anyone whom we can consider an easy opponent.
Q. Let’s talk about the StarCraft 2 balance. The proxy barracks and cyclone in Terran vs Protoss are quite popular. Many players claim that Protoss has a hard time against Terran nowadays. What do you think about this?
Stats: I think that the Cyclone needs to be patched. It’s too strong and there are many corresponding tactics at the moment, and Protoss needs to think about too many counter-strategies. There will be no particular patch related to this in the WCS Global Finals this year, so I’ll just need to prepare the most suitable counters.
Zest: Protoss can gain small advantages if they interfere with Terran’s proxy barracks and cyclone build by claiming their frontal base first, but it’s not that easy. Protoss usually defends with one base, and it’s not as advantageous even if you interfere like that.
Q. How can you describe the stress that Protoss feels against Terran in a more understandable way?
Zest: You do rock-scissors-paper and you can only choose one of them, but Terran can choose two.
Stats: It’s like Terran already knows which one I’m going to show when playing rock-scissors-paper. Terran has the Reaper which can definitely scout out my build.
Q. How about Protoss versus Zerg?
Stats: It’s not that easy since Zerg can defend and increase their numbers quite well nowadays. There are many incidents where Protoss is completely destroyed by Zerg even though people generally say that Protoss is superior to Zerg. On the other hand, Protoss barely wins against Zerg by waiting until the late game and completing their comp. It feels futile even after winning because Zerg crumbles so easily when Protoss completes the comp. This is why people say that Protoss is too good, but the process to complete that comp is extremely difficult. I’d rather have Blizzard nerf the potential in the end game for Protoss and the potential of Zerg mid-game to balance out the entire game.
Zest: I think that the skill threshold of Zerg depends on how you are producing larvae. Zerg tends to produce larvae quite easily if Protoss uses obvious tactics. That’s why Protoss need to think a lot about using various strategies, and this is quite painful. It’s becoming gradually easier for Zerg to predict what build Protoss will use, so it seems that they are not that stressed out by matches against Protoss.
Q. It does look like Zerg has a strong position towards the end of the year. Although Zerg suffers from various tactics of the other races right after the major patch, they seem to become resilient and stronger towards the end.
Stats: Agreed. Zerg suffers from a variety of strategies at every major patch at the beginning of the year, but they soon learn to cope with what the opponent will likely do and increase their numbers fast.
Q. Both of you would probably be stressed out by military service as you were born in 1992. Your determination to win this WCS Global Finals must be more powerful than before.
Stats: I’m starting to realize that I’m really 27 after receiving a draft notice. I would definitely want to get a good result at the WCS Global Finals before serving the country.
Zest: It’s already my 4th time at the WCS Global Finals. I was disqualified twice at the round of 16 and once at the quarterfinals. It was always disappointing that I stepped down so early. I think that there aren’t many opportunities left considering my age. I guess I’m more desperate than anyone else. I also received a notice yesterday. What timing (laugh). That did awaken me though, and it inspired me to do my best before going to the army.
Q. The StarCraft series reached the 20th anniversary this year. What are the things you would expect from Blizzard as a StarCraft 2 pro gamer?
Stats: New StarCraft 2 players continue to show up in other countries, but there is no such system to find and foster players in South Korea. I believe that Blizzard is not making significant investments in StarCraft 2 in South Korea. A number of players who are not getting satisfying results are starting to quit, and I fear that the StarCraft 2 scene may disappear when I come back from the military service. I hope that Blizzard takes care of maintaining the StarCraft 2 scene.
Zest: StarCraft is the game that represents RTS, and I hope that the company further develops the series. And I also share similar thoughts with Stats; the esports structure of StarCraft 2 provides profits only to those who are in the top 5 to 10%. Those who are in the low tier cannot earn much and hence cannot sustain their life as a pro gamer. The lower number of players will lead to the smaller size of the esports scene, so something needs to be done about it.
Q. It’s time to end the interview. Do you have any last words or aspirations for the WCS Global Finals to share with your fans?
Stats: The WCS Global Finals this year is quite a meaningful league for me and I’m preparing really hard to win. I believe that my dedication will pay off. My performance has always been disappointing at the end of every league, and I’ll do my best to not let that happen this time. Your support will be appreciated, thank you.
Zest: I feel more desperate than anyone as I couldn’t participate in the last WCS Global Finals. I definitely want to feel the shouts of the crowd on the big stage this time. The fans supported me even though I wasn’t good enough last year. For that, I would like to pay them back with satisfying results at this WCS Global Finals.