I will name my “players of 2016”. The best. The most improved. Controversially, the most overrated. And so on.
This is my opinion. I don’t have any fix criteria. Simple. Don’t rage at me, but feel free to disagree and share your opinion.
The choice is easy. I really cannot think of another player who deserves this more.
Before the WCS grand final in Blizzcon, I think you can make a case for Dark, because he was arguably more consistent through out the whole year in the notable tournaments. This is reflected on the WCS Korea points ranking, in which he is ranked number one with the second place trailed by more than 2500 points. In fact, if you remove 4000 points (i.e., a GSL or SSL champion worth of points) from his absurd 9400 points, he could still qualify for the WCS finals. Also, you can argue that Proleague is more important than online tournaments. However, the results of the WCS grand final just made it clear who is the best player of 2016, especially when these two players pitched against each other in a best of seven in the final.
Best Terran player
It makes sense that the best player is the best player of his race. However, I must say that TY might come close if ByuN did not win the WCS grand final and defeated TY in the process. This is because TY was more consistent through out the year in the major tournaments. Anyway, that GSL victory at the end basically sealed the deal unless TY outperformed ByuN in the WCS finals.
Best Protoss player
I know Zest hadn’t been performing well recently, but there is no doubt that he was the best player in the first half of the year. When I say best, I include Terran and Zerg too. His GSL victory really set him apart from his competitors. When you look at his so-called slump period, it is not as bad as it looks if that is another player.
Stats came second in season one SSL and went to the semi-finals of the WCS finals. That achievement and consistency make him one of the best Protoss player this year. However, Zest’s GSL win and higher WCS Korea point ranking force me to rank Stats below Zest. Yes, I know Stats defeated Zest in the WCS finals quarter final in a best of five, but I still think that the GSL victory and being the best player in the first half of the year should carry more weight.
Neeb and ShoWTimE have proven that they are among this level of elite Protoss players. Neeb won the KeSPA Cup, and had been performing very well for the year with multiple second and semi-final finishes. ShoWTimE won WCS Spring and had been performing well through out the year too. Overall, in terms of consistency and major tournament placement, I give Zest the edge.
Best Zerg player
There is no debate here.
I think Solar is a real contender for this spot, but the difference between 9400 and 6825 points really tells the story. Both won a SSL this year, but Dark had an additional second place. Furthermore, Dark went all the way to the grand final in Blizzcon, so it is fair to say Dark is truly the best Zerg player this year.
Most surprising player
If I tell you to name the top 50 players for 2016 after last year’s Blizzcon, you will not name ByuN for sure. His name would not even cross your mind. All of a sudden, he is the best player this year. How can I not name him the most surprising player?
Taeja is another notable one. How can someone who had declared his retirement managed to get to the quarter finals and round of 16 for the two GSL seasons this year?
Most improved player
Neeb (I am not going to call him Neeblet)
I wanted to put “non-Koreans” in general as the most improved player(s). There is little doubt that the 2016 WCS system has its intended effect on the non-Korea scene, and the players did not disappoint by showing that they didn’t just able to compete with top Koreans but even defeat them.
Neeb is the face of this non-Korean revolution, so I picked him. His historic KeSPA cup win sets him apart from the rest.
Most influential player
I am biased toward Terran because I understand Terran better than the other two races to appreciate how influential certain players are. TY set the tone for Terran in the early days of Legacy of the Void this year, and he was arguably the only one who managed to compete well against Protoss when Adept two-shot Marine and SCV. He adapted very well to the harassment approach in Legacy of the Void, and I have written a piece about harassment solely based on his games. Furthermore, he was the only one who had notable success with the Sky Terran composition in TvZ.
Zest and Solar would be my choices for the other two races, because they figured out how the general style and builds of Protoss and Zerg in Legacy of the Void.
Most under-celebrated player
I think most of us consider Dear to be a top Protoss in the world, and he also qualified for WCS finals this year. However, despite his great performance, we almost never talked about him.
I will play along by not having his picture here to further “under-celebrate” him.
Most underrated player
If I tell you to name me some top players in the world, you probably won’t name Patience. If I tell you to name me some top Protoss players in the world, you probably still won’t name Patience.
The fact that he made it to the WCS finals speaks volume of his ability.
Most overrated player
Let me clarify something first. By overrated, I mean the general sentiment toward the player’s performance is more positive than my assessment, and by no mean I am saying overrated means bad. Without a doubt, Maru is a great player. However, I think the community rated him higher than how he really fared this year.
Maru is ranked 24 in WCS Korea this year. He did not qualify for both SSLs, and GSL season one. His only individual achievement this year was round of 16 in GSL season two. That is far from glamorous, and it is obvious that he did extremely poor compared to how highly the community rated him.
The only thing that went well for him this year was Proleague, in which he had an insane win rate of 85%. When you compare that to the best Proleague players of all time in Starcraft II, they are at around 60+%. Maru himself is ranked ninth all time. 85% is really crazy. Then, why do I consider him overrated?
For most part of the year, many have said Maru was one of the best Terran players, if not the best. I think he was definitely up there in the top five, but to say he was the best for a certain period of time seems a bit too much to me. There was a discussion in the Pig Story Cup (just casual chat in the living room) regarding who was the best Terran player (after TY got second in GSL), and people kept saying Maru. I said, TY was a better player, but no one agreed and insisted Maru was better than TY. Retrospectively, there is no doubt that TY is a better player than Maru this year by some margin, so the opinion that Maru was even better than TY made me think that he was overrated.
Another funny thing is how people were using Maru’s performance to infer how bad the WCS 2016 system is, because a player of his calibre should be performing a lot better than he did. The fact that he did not gather much WCS points was attributed to the WCS 2016 system. Also, it was common to read arguments along the line that Terran were bad because even Maru could not do well. I am not going to debate about the WCS 2016 system and racial balance, but the fact that people rated Maru so highly to use him as justification made me select him as the most overrated player in 2016.
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