In an almost complete reversal, the second Battle Grounds Global Qualifier saw two of last week's notable losers come out on top. From an ignominious round of 128 elimination in the first qualifier, Park "DongRaeGu" Soo Ho stormed into a slot at Battle Grounds. He ended up losing in the final, however, to the runner-up at last week's IEM Shenzhen: Kang "Solar" Min Soo.
It was a swift change of fortune for the Korean Zergs, but while both might be headed to Battle Grounds Global, they will arrive there at very different places in their respective careers. For Solar, it is the chance to write yet another chapter in what could be a breakthrough year for a fledgling career. For DRG, however, it is a chance to make a return to the top and reverse years of relative decline and disappointment.
DRG had a hard road through Sunday's qualifier, starting with a series against Jung "Mvp" Jong Hyun, who came so close to his own victory in last week's qualifier. Once again, Mvp proved that he's still a formidable opponent and may perhaps be recovering after a year of steadily-declining results. But of the two legends, DRG proved the stronger, edging past the multiple champion 2-1.
From there, he had to face Kim "viOLet" Dong Hwan, one of the most impressive players at Battle Grounds Atlanta and at MLG Anaheim earlier this year, and managed to wring out another 2-1 victory. Finally, in the semifinal match and with a trip to Battle Grounds Global on the line, DRG faced Shin "Hydra" Dong Won, one of the best Zergs on the CJ Entus team.
It was classic Zerg vs. Zerg between the two players, a Wings of Liberty-style dance of rival swarms. But in this kind of contest, with moving carpets of Roaches and Hydralisk supported by Infestors, DRG proved untouchable. He showed his complete mastery of his race in the first game by routinely breaking StarCraft's 200 supply cap, engaging Hydra in the climactic battle while boasting 211 supply. Even though Hydra fought hard, he couldn't stave off this kind onslaught. He seemed to concede the point in their second and final game, trying to deliver a knockout blow with early Zerglings before DRG's macro could seize control of the game, but DRG easily parried the attack and took the victory.
Solar's Sunny Day
Solar's big upset win came when he took out Baek "Dear" Dong Jun, one of the best Protoss players in Korea. He out-thought the Protoss player in their first map, tricking Dear into the wrong composition and then crushing him. But Dear was not going to be a pushover, and proved the better tactician in their second game, crushing Solar's armies with superior positioning and force fields. Unfortunately, a moment's carelessness in the deciding match cost him his air force and let Solar break him with a horde of Mutalisks and Zerglings. With that win, Solar was on to Battle Grounds Global, and a final against DRG.
DRG seemed impatient in the final, as if he were either exhausted after the day's qualifier or worried about Solar's macro. He rushed Solar with Zerglings and Banelings in the first game, but missed his timing by scant seconds and watched his wave of Banelings detonate harmlessly against Solar's. He surrendered immediately, then tried a Drone rush in the next game. Once again, he missed his window, and gave up when he saw Solar's Queen arrive on the scene.
Given the cutthroat nature of Battle Grounds Global, DRG may be wise to hold his fire against Solar. His Zerg vs. Zerg was strong when it needed to be on Sunday, but he'll need to kill a lot more Zerg to survive in Santa Monica. DRG might be happy to surrender bragging rights to Solar for now, knowing that their most important games will take place later, when a ticket to Battle Grounds Washington is on the line.
High Stakes StarCraft
For DRG, however, the stakes may be even higher. Once one of the greatest players in the world, and unquestionably the best Zerg of his day, he struggled throughout 2013 to stay relevant within the Korean scene. While his career is remarkable for its consistency (he's not been outside of GSL Code S since 2011), it's been a long time since he appeared in the final of a major tournament.
Now, joining the likes of Choi "Polt" Seong Hun and Kim "Impact" Joon Hyuk at Battle Grounds Global, DRG has a chance to put himself back in the running for a major tournament victory and return to the spotlight he used to make his home. But if Sunday's result against an up-and-comer like Solar is anything to go by, there are a few Korean Zergs who are ready to show the old master that his day is done.
The final qualifier to choose Battle Grounds Global's last two competitors is on Thursday, July 21st at 11 AM Pacific. You can watch it all live right here.