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Dropping Dice Loves Sasha "Scarlett" Hostyn's SC2 Zerg

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So, I didn't post up a ton last week. I kept trying to type something up, and each time I'd get half-way through the article and then lose steam. So today, a topic finally hit me. Something I've been watching a lot of during the past week, and it's something I didn't expect to care about again...


Connecting the Olympics to eSports.

More specifically, I want to talk about a gamer whom has smashed through the competitive scene recently; Sasha Hostyn, aka "Scarlett".

Let me take you through when and why I fell in love with watching Starcraft games.

Back in the dark days of my past, when I was dropping out of university during my 2nd year (went to university for mom and dad's sake, not my own, so couldn't carry the will to continue), I was living in an apartment in Ottawa. My neighbor's brother was a top-end Starcraft player, who didn't pursue the eSports career, since it wasn't a career that existed at the time. I had the pleasure of watching this guy play in person. Before that, I had always seen Starcraft and strategy games as just fun times, but couldn't win big multiplayer games. I would just build a couple bases, try to amass an army, and just wanted to laugh as two big armies destroyed each other. I had no clue about the depth that existed in the game. When I saw this guy play, I was witness to a symphony of strategy, mouse clicks, and keyboard strikes. He darted from screen location to screen location, using single units to achieve more than I could with whole armies. He would dart in and out, lure units into traps and ambushes, and just devastate his opponent before they could do anything. It was truly something else, something I knew I could never do, but done in a way that made complete logical sense. It was like watching the Superbowl; you loved seeing it happen and trying to guess what the next play would be, even though you couldn't achieve that level of play. No other eSport I witnessed before Starcraft 2 ever seemed to match up to that. And then I saw Scarlett play.


I've followed Scarlett since I happened across an SC2 Tournament down in Toronto back in 2013. I was in Toronto for a Magic prerelease, and I found out that there was a big gaming tournament for SC2 happening. I was able to duck in to see it, and was blown away watching this amazing Canadian player, known only to me as Scarlett. She was a Zerg player (Zerg have always been my favourite Starcraft race, and were the reason that I picked Tyranids when I started playing Warhammer), so right away I was on board to watch her. Unlike every other Zerg player that I had seen compete, Scarlett was doing something totally different - she was hard-expanding the Creep. Creep is a Zerg-specific feature that modifies the battlefield in a game of Starcraft 2, as Zerg units get a movement speed boost while on it. Most Zerg players used Creep defensively, connecting their bases to travel quickly between them, but Scarlett used it offensively, sending it out to her opponent's bases so that she could quickly support her attacks, or to retreat faster to where her units were safe. She piloted that strategy to victory at that tournament, and I cheered loudly when it happened. Here was that something I had missed in all those years since Ottawa.

And then, Starcraft 2 competitive scene died down. Scarlett had a hot streak, but then faded out, and new eSports games were drawing much larger crowds. Hearthstone came out and was drawing a lot of streamers to it, DOTA became a thing, and on top of that, the competitive Starcraft scene seemed to become way too competitive. Even in Scarlett's early successes, the main methods of victory by players were based on macro strategy; execute a build, make a "deathball", and roll that ball into your opponent. If your opponent built the wrong deathball and/or couldn't transition quickly enough into a different build, then your ball would roll through their ball and crush them. In many ways, it was reminding me of the Death Star builds in 40k, which were also starting to become a thing (a very reviled thing) in the 40k community. Gone were the things that I loved about seeing those matches in Ottawa; using just a few units to pick apart and destroy an enemy better than a whole army could. Gone was the symphony. I stopped following Starcraft 2.


Despite what you think, this is about as exciting as watching fiendishly complex long division.

But of course, YouTube wouldn't leave me be.

Something both good and bad about YouTube is how it remembers your history, and let's face it, there are times when there's history you'd rather it forget. I hadn't looked up any Starcraft related stuff in years, yet every week I would see something Starcraft related pop back up in the Recommended Videos section of my YouTube homepage. This past week, I saw that something which had excited me back in Toronto - Scarlett was taking on some big pros. Out of curiosity, I opened a video at 11pm at night in bed and started watching.

I was blown away.

There it was. The symphony! Scarlett wasn't just executing a build order and making a bio-ball or a mech-ball or roach-rush. She was hitting early and using 4 zerglings to dismantle her opponent's entire strategy. She was taking a few roaches and kitting back in and out luring her opponents into traps. She was executing totally unseen strategies to catch opponents off guard. She was trying to get maximum value out of all of her units. And yes, the heavy creep expansion was still there. And the great thing? Her opponents were trying to do the same thing. And there it was! I was hooked again! Seeing these players make actions and attacks this way is a level of the game I can never hope to achieve, and yet, I am endlessly compelled by it. Not going to lie, I am endlessly compelled by Scarlett.

Scarlett's running strong right now. She just won IEM in South Korea (an event co-sponsored besides the Olympics, meant to pair in with it), which, like most Starcraft 2 events, is dominated by South Koreans, defeating Kim "sOs" Yoo Jim, the highest earning Starcraft 2 player in the world. Now, she's at GSL in North America, and has just crushed her way into the Top 8, defeating multiple "favourites to win the whole event" (Joo "ZestSung Wook and Lee "InnovationShin Hyung). I'm hoping she can win back-to-back championships, as she's bringing back the life of the game to me.

Go ahead and check out her amazing ZvP winning match here!


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