There was a lot of great StarCraft at Red Bull’s New York Battle Grounds event, but no series was as tense and dramatic as Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn’s slugging match with Choi “Bomber” Ji Sung. Their third-game was an emotional roller coaster as perennial fan favorite Scarlett took on one of the best and cockiest Terrans in the game. It was a shoe-in for the best of 2013 highlight reel.
Scarlett has been a bright spot in North American StarCraft for the last year. She’s gone from being a regional star with lots of potential to being a top-tier threat in the vein of a NaNiwa or Stephano. She has yet to win a major tournament where Koreans are in play, but she keeps getting closer to the finals, and the list of players she’s either defeated or taken a game from is increasingly impressive.
She and Bomber went five games in the Season 2 finals, and he finally took her out with a proxy attack. He went on to win that tournament, and made a strong challenge for the world title at Blizzcon. For the rematch, while there was a lot of enthusiasm for Scarlett, the odds were on Bomber’s side.
Bomber took command of the series with typically methodical Marine play, simply running over her on Cloud Kingdom with his trademark macro play. The thing about Bomber is that, if he has a slight edge, he will simply out-produce his opponents and batter them down with Marine and Medivacs, and that’s exactly what he did to Scarlett in game 1.
He tried the same thing in Game 2, but Scarlett kept holding him back so that he couldn’t inflict the kind of damage he needed to take a decisive edge, and she came up with a few crucial Baneling hits to cut his forces down to a manageable size. After annihilating a particularly strong attack from Bomber, her counterattack forced him out of the game.
Which brings us to their third game, which Bomber tried to win via a similar cheese strategy to the way he’d beaten her in Season 2. But the difference between then and now is that Scarlett had had three months to think about that series. The result was a sprawling battle that practically mined-out the map as the two players built and lost army after army.
Unlike the last must-see StarCraft game I wrote about here, this one was less a suspense film and more of an action movie. Halfway through the game I gave up trying to predict anything, because I’d already expected it to be over like two or three times.
So what we get is two prize fighters going the distance, trading heavy blows, then somehow peeling themselves off the mat and going back to the battle. The ending is incredible.
Ultimately, the sitting world champion Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin would face Won “PartinG” Lee Sak in the final, and Scarlett would end up in third place. But nothing ever quite surpassed the fever pitch intensity of this deciding match of the group stage.