The State of INnoVation


INnoVation. My dear INnoVation. The player who entered WCS Season 2 Final with the title of being the best player get knocked out with a 0-2 (1-4) in the group state. Surprise. Surprise.

Interestingly, if you were to look closely, his “state of the game” deems him not succeed this weekend in Germany.


INnoVation vs. Zerg

Mirror mirror, who is the best TvZ player in the world?

The answer is obvious.

It is easy to remember who did INnoVation lose to in this match, simply because there are few since Heart of the Swarm. The fact that Team Liquid’s recent comprehensive TvZ guide is filled with his name just sums it all up. He does his usual three command centre oriented builds better than anyone.

Statistically, he is impressive. TLPD: 36-10 (78.26%). Out of these ten defeats, four came from SoulKey and two came from Symbol in WCS Korea Season 1. This season he has not lost a TvZ (because he didn’t really get to play it anyway).

TvZ is by far his best match up. The low number of Zergs in the Season Final makes it harder for INnoVation to do well.

INnoVation vs. Terran

Look at his post-patch result.


Then look at his pre-patch result.


The difference is obvious.

It’s Hellbat vs. Hellbat before the patch, and INnoVation is best in the world. When INnoVation won FanTaSy so convincingly in SPL playoff just after the patch, everyone thought he is fine with the patch. Perhaps, it was simply FanTaSy had not get used to it either.

His 4-0 defeat against Maru sums up how relatively poor INnoVation is in TvT. He seems lost in his builds and decisions.

INnoVation would have come into the Season Final as the undisputed favorite if only his TvT was as good as his TvZ. I was expecting him to bring something worthy on the table against TaeJa yesterday, and he didn’t disappoint. He went for mech with mass Hellion in the opening, which caught TaeJa off guard to take game 1. TaeJa adapted well and won game 2. Game 3 is the talking point. It is the best game I have watched in Heart of the Swarm. 50 minutes Terran mirror. No stand still situaion. Action and exchanges all over the map for 40 minutes.

Although INnoVation’s openings for the three games are different, his general strategy is the same. In the early to mid stage, get a bunch of Hellions early on and get Raven with Vikings. Then, get a third command centre and play mech. In these three games, INnoVation showed that he has no problem in the mid and late stage of the game. Perhaps his opening warrants some attention as late Siege Tank is vulnerable to stim timing.

Time will tell if this will become his general approach to Terran mirror. But I doubt so as it does not fit his aggressive standard style.

INnoVation vs. Protoss

His TvP is weaker than many think. It only gets less attention because of his recent TvT.

He is one player that sticks to Reaper opening into 1-1-1 Widow Mine attack. Even though he mixes in quick three command centre builds into his Reaper opening (especially in Newkirk Precinct), his play has not evolved as much as others. I’m not saying it is a bad thing. If it is not broken, why fix it? Just look at his TvZ for example.

His Widow Mine aggression no longer deals damage. It hardly kills a unit nowadays as Protoss players start to figure it out. PartinG won INnoVation convincingly in WCG Korea semi final with a 2-0. PartinG clearly has studied this style of play. His choice of build and timing countered INnoVation well.

In the mid game, INnoVation will then start to poke around with his MMM. Once he has a sizable army to split up, he does a two-pronged attack by dropping in the main and attack the third. PartinG and NaNiwa demonstrated how to play against this conventional TvP style and smack INnoVation down without a single loss.

Youtube video time (in game time)

Game 1

INnoVation opens up with Reaper then 1-1-1.

9:40 (6:30) – INnoVation does his Marine Widow Mine attack and killed a Stalker using Widow Mine. No photon overcharge was forced.

10:20 (7:30) – A subsequent drop does more harm to himself than the opponent. This is partly because he was not able to force a photon overcharge early on.

13:00 (11:00) – Start mid game aggression when stim is done.

13:30 (11:50) – Did a two-pronged attack and got shut down. NaNiwa splits his army up well, and photon overcharge is extremely effective.

15:00 (14:00) – INnoVation continues to be aggressive at opponent’s third even though he did not deal damage early on to set that up. NaNiwa shut it down again and counter push with the charge upgrade.

17:20 (17:15) – NaNiwa pushed across with storm. GG.

Game 2

INnoVation opens up with Reaper into three command centre then 1-1-1.

30:00 (10:10) – Attempt a drop with two Medivacs. Observer spotted it. Defended.

31:10 (11:30) – Move out with MMM. NaNiwa has charge and storm. Cannot achieve much.

32:00 (12:45) – Attempt to do a drop in the main since the main Protoss force is at the third. NaNiwa warped in units in main to anticipate the drop. Defended.

33:15 (14:30) – There is no place to attack. Both side try to get a good composition.

34:40 (16:30) – Protoss has a slightly better composition and engages better.

A 1-1-1 opening emphasizes on dealing damage with timing. Protoss players are defending well against INnoVation’s timing now. A tradeoff for such build is getting late upgrade. Without upgrade advantage window, late game Protoss deathball is inevitable.

Bomber and Polt are the best TvP players and they have very different style.

Bomber is more macro oriented and nails timing with overwhelming force. He makes Scv pull looks easy due to his precise timing.

Polt is a very tactical player. He does not go for a one time big battle like Bomber, and tends to move around the map and find gaps to attack.


INnoVation is still one of the best out there.

His TvT is actually fine and I expect him to come up with new approach in the future. This is because he does not like passive builds that he is using now.

The main problem is his TvP. His style is not working now. If he manages to find a new way, he will be Terran’s savior again.

11 thoughts on “The State of INnoVation

    1. It is hard to predict his “form” using a model (more specifically, a typical linear assumed one), because he has been on a [sort of] losing streak recently. If he plays his usual dominant level after the switch, you may argue that the switch is actually lifting his “poor form”. If he is being mediocre (by his high standard), it is then even harder to justify if the switch is having an impact on him. Anyway, it is hard to give an empirically sound explanation of the causal effect of his switch to Acer.

      I’m more interested if he is going to stay in WCS Korea next year if the players are allowed to move again after Blizzcon.

      1. I have two things to add which are sort of pulled from this interview with Artosis.

        But here is the gist of it. Innovation brought his superior mechanics to a style that was very in vogue. This brought him great success, but as the meta-game started to catch on, we started to see a dip. But I believe his superior mechanics are still keeping him among the top players even though other races have started to figure his style out (watch DRG vs Inno in WCS Korea Season 3 Ro32).

        Having said that, I have a theory about terrans. Terrans are probably the only non-reactive race in the game, and most meta game shifts are because terrans are doing something new while other races try to react to them. This is not true 100% of the time though. But a corollary to this is that once a superior play style comes along from the other races terrans have a hard time adapting to it as they need to find new timings and new methods of aggression. This was quite true in the WoL meta-game for most of its lifespan I believe.

        1. You made a good point.

          The problem with Terran being the least reactive race is because it cannot react well. Terran is a linear race. That is, you basically just keep producing from the buildings constantly. In contrast, Protoss for example, the player can choose to stop unit production and tech up etc, chrono boost on what is necessary in that situation, build many gates at one go then get a big warp in round. Terran has less things to work around in that sense. So in general, Terran doesn’t react much, because you still just keep producing.

  1. Forgive me if I seem rude. Polt is not even remotely the best TvP player. Polt was beaten by First TWICE. Polt wasn’t even on the same level! Watch the games.

    Read Polt’s match history. Who are the relevant protoss players Polt has defeated in the past month Oz, Alicia, and Jim. Oz has not defeated a relevant Terran, Alicia has not defeated a relevant terran, and Jim has defeated aLive. aLive played on a completely different level at the S2 finals so that can’t be used either.

    In conclusion you are only calling Polt one of the best PvT players because of aligulac’s statistics for him. Look at his match history instead of following inflated statistics. Beating foreign and mid level korean protoss does not mean you have the best PvT in the world. Beating Dear two months before the S2 finals does not equate to the best PvT either. His losses to First showed how weak his TvP was against top level PvT. I hope you change this. I appreciate the content all the same.



      1. Well based on games that I have seen in the past month.

        1-3. Maru, Bomber, Taeja,

        Maru and Taeja demolished Rain while Bomber was demolished by Rain, but he demolished First.


        -Maybe Supernova (almost beat First and Rain) He lost to dear and sOs, but that could mean that they have PvT on First lvl or above. Or his skill level dropped since his games vs First/Rain or his builds were figured out or he was just having a bad day.).

        -Maybe Jjakji (defeated first twice). First used some builds that were flat out bad. He tried a proxy oracle that was immediately killed by a widow mine, etc. Not sure if that was just because of First’s horrible builds or because Jjakji is great at TvP.

        -Maybe aLive (almost defeated First). This is tricky since he played on a higher level than NA playoffs. What if his skill goes back to what it was at the NA playoffs? He needs to prove he can stay at this level. We shall see.

        Everyone else hasn’t proven that they are on the same level in TvP. For all I know Flash, Fantasy and TY have the best TvP. xP

  2. Your ranking is based on the relative success of the Terran players against Rain and First. These two are definitely great players, but the measurement itself is a matter of perspective (all measurements are to a certain extent). Nothing wrong with that. I do have my own preference. I value consistency more than beating a top player once. By beating a top player shows talent and potential, but consistency tells a more convincing tale.

    Here is my ranking (in tier):

    1. Bomber
    Undisputed best TvP player.

    2. TaeJa and Polt
    TaeJa is a really all-rounded player. His late game TvP is better than most Terran.
    Polt has a close to 80% win rate in TvP. That speaks a lot for itself. Although he lost against First, he won many top players. By losing to one player over one tournament does not make one’s match up turn from good to bad overnight.

    3. INnoVation, Supernova, Maru, Jjakji and aLive
    TvP has been INnoVation’s weakness for a while. His number of defeats in several tournaments does suggest that he is not the top tier TvP player. But still very good relatively.
    Supernova looks great last season in TvP, but he lost against Dear and First (pretty convincingly). It is hard to rate him any higher.
    Jjakji performed well yesterday. Beating First is certainly an accomplishment, but time will tell if he is really good in TvP. Just like Supernova.
    Maru is a little random at times. It is hard to rate him, especially when he plays few TvP games.
    aLive has proven many wrong again and again. I put him there simply to be fair to him..

    It is just a matter of relativity. There are few who can make a legitimate shout that they are better than Polt in TvP.

    1. Having watched the games of many protoss. First and Rain proved to be the greatest at the time. sOs and dear might be greater than them. I agree though. I hate having to determine how great someone is off of one match, but defeating a lot of lower level opponents consistently isn’t impressive to me. If it was up to me I would rather not rank anyone at all, because of all the different factors in starcraft and how so few games have had top players playing against each other.

      However, I decided to go through with it because I don’t think Polt deserves fame for TvP by defeating lower level opponents and losing to a high level one (one-sidedly) in four games. Polt’s TvP is inflated by all the lower level people he has defeated. So his 80% is not impressive when looked at closely. If i arm-wrestled and beat 100 little kids and some adults, but lost to some adults, and my winrate was 80%…would that still be impressive? No. Statistics like that can be very deceptive and need to be looked at closely.

      The only games that matter are the recent ones. Look at Life. He had the best ZvT a few months ago and still has the best winrate vs terran. Does he have the best ZvT? No. Why? Because over time people’s skill level either fails, stagnates, or raises. Meaning either you become worse, stay the same, or improve. While the same is happening for your opponents. Let’s make a list of all the protoss Polt has defeated in HOTS.

      Defeated: Creatorx2, Seed, Hero, Minigun, Grubby, Sagex2, Acrox2, Starnanx2, GungfuBanda, Tassadar, Nomatch, Mana, Tails, geodude, Knowmex2, krolu, underdark, puckx3, jacko, macsed, shew, Naniwax2 (back when nani said his vT sucked), Dear, light (non korean one),

      Lost: Grubby, Huk, squirtle, succeed, fiertycoon, puck

      All of these wins and losses happened (minimum) 48 days to (max) little more than 6 months ago.

      Only notable wins: His defeat of Creator and Hero happened 6 months ago while HOTS was young. So those wins are irrelevant now. His defeat of dear was impressive, but that was almost 2 months before the S2 finals. His skill could easily have lowered since then and as you said defeating someone once doesn’t mean much. The metagame has changed and various players’ skill have changed since then. Thus those wins are meaningless at the present time. All that matters is how good someone is at the present time.

      More recently.

      Wins: Alicia, Jim, Oz, and Grubby.
      Losses: Firstx2

      Alicia, Oz, and Jim haven’t proven themselves to be top level Protoss versus Terran players. So beating them doesn’t make his vP one of the best either.

      Innovation: None of his vP matches recently were impressive. Definitely doesn’t belong in the top 5.
      Supernova: His losses to Dear or sOs could mean that they are First/Rain level or above. So that doesn’t necessarily mean he is not top 5 tvp. Remember there are not many impressive TvP players at all.
      Jjakji: agreed.
      Maru: I wouldn’t call him random. He has shown that he is a preparation player. If he knows how well you play and he prepares for you then you are in trouble. Zest doesn’t play enough for Maru to have prepared well enough for him or that just means Zest has one of the best PvT.
      aLive: he is very inconsistent. we shall see.

      Indeed. This is all relative, but I wouldn’t put Polt alongside Bomber as the poster boys of TvP. The whole point of my original message was because you listed Bomber and Polt as the best TvP players which I found to be a travesty. Considering the abysmal performance or absence of games from so many terran, Polt is definitely in the top 10. However there can be a huge gap of skill between the best and being in the top 5. The point is that I haven’t seen anything to justify him being written alongside of Bomber in recognition of TvP skills.

      Sorry for the tl;dr

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