The Liquid HerO

Team Liquid’s Protoss prodigy HerO has officially retired from StarCraft 2, so let’s celebrate a career that shaped the game and touched the hearts of fans worldwide.

The world is full of heroes. But for StarCraft 2, there will only ever be one HerO.

Except for the other herO. But come on, how could you possibly get those two confused…

Joking aside, HerO’s official retirement announcement came long after his own star was eclipsed by the other herO.

It had been so long since HerO was truly relevant that perhaps the biggest surprise regarding his retirement was that a lot of us thought it had already happened.

Now that might sound harsh, but sometimes the truth is. That being said, there is absolutely no disrespect intended towards HerO. He’s the freaking Protoss Godfather!

The game has changed so much, and a huge driver of that change all the way into the Heart Of The Swarm expansion was HerO.

To celebrate the ending of an absolutely brilliant career, let’s take a look back at the career of Starcraft 2’s first HerO.

Table of Contents/Career Highlights:

  • DreamHack Winter 2011
  • NASL Season 2
  • GSL 2012
  • NASL Season 4
  • DreamHack Winter
  • WCS America Season 1
  • IEM Cologne

2011

It all has to start somewhere, and the summer of 2011 was HerO’s first premier results.

He managed to claw his way into Code A, where he faced Terran Noblesse in a best-of-five, which you can watch right here: Game 1Game 2Game 3Game 4Game 5

Honestly, there isn’t a lot to take away from this series, but hey, everyone starts somewhere!

Dreamhack Winter 2011

Early “next-Gen Protoss” Macro/Aggression balancing it and perfecting proper Protess Pressure between all-ins and turtle macro… If he sees weakness he’ll pounce. King of countering Terran, first Phoenix Lord. Even managed to do it successfully vs Two-Rax.

If HerO went unnoticed in Code A, everyone was paying attention by the time Dreamhack Winter came around.

Since signing with Team Liquid, he had been making a name for himself in the Pro scene outside Korea.

HerO had been picked up by Team Liquid in August, a few months before the event kicked off on November 24th, 2011, and had been making waves in the NASL Season 2 (we’ll get to that next).

Showcasing an amazing skill set, HerO’s reputation was of a player with huge potential that just couldn’t seem to execute in tournament settings, inside or outside of Korea.

But this was the tournament where two very important things happened:

First, HerO began showcasing the innovations that shaped how Protoss would be played moving forward…

This series itself was a master class in the origins of Standard Protoss. Balancing macro and aggression, the style of play HerO employed was practically revolutionary at the time. He was the first Phoenix Lord, and Terrans the world over would quickly learn to fear his builds.

Second, he met PuMa in the finals.

And what a finals it was!

After making it through the Playoffs with a 6-1 record (having lost only a single map to Team Liquid teammate Ret) HerO would come face-to-face with arguably the best Terran player in 2011 (PuMa already had two premier titles to his name).

PuMa had won the first game in series, but HerO went on a took three consecutive wins and pushed his Terran opponent to the brink.

PuMa pushed back. And won the next two games.

The final map would be Antiga Shipyard, and it would a contest for the ages:

(If anyone has a more complete version of this game, let me know PLEASE!)

HerO would walk away with his first premier StarCraft 2 Championship and the adoration of StarCraft fans worldwide.

NASL Season 2

The North American Star League had started back at the end of October 2011. HerO had gone 7-0 in the offline division qualifiers and advanced to the Playoffs.

The NASL Grand Final Playoffs would be held December 4-6th, barely more than a week after his Dreamhack Victory.

HerO had a relatively difficult road, starting with a PvP against HwangSin, which he took 3-1. The quarterfinals went even smoother with another PvP, this time a 3-0 sweep against HasuObs.

The semifinals saw our HerO finally get out of the mirror-matchups as he took on Taiwanese Zerg Sen. That best-of-seven was decided in 4 games…

HerO would once again meet PuMa in a grand finals. He would be the most-recent champion, but PuMa was the defending NASL Champion from Season 1.

This was the finals everyone was dreaming of immediately after Dreamhack. So remember, sometimes dreams do come true! The only question was, which one of these players would have to face the nightmare of losing?

Watch these games. Your StarCraft 2 education won’t be complete without them…

Game 1Game 2Game 3 Game 4Game 5Game 6Game 7

2012

It would be hard to end 2011 on a higher note, but the good times had only just started rolling for the Liquid HerO.

GSL Season 2

Back in Korea, GSL Season 1 wasn’t much kinder to HerO than it was in 2011, as he got stuck in Code A again. But the tide would soon turn…

GSL Season 2 would start in March and HerO would finally make it out of Code A! Once in Code S he would down Curious in the Round of 32 and then Leenock and Mvp in the Round of 16 Group stages.

If HerO was hot in the group stages, he was on fire by the time he met SuperNova in the playoffs. It was supposed to be a close series, but HerO’s mastery against Terran was on full display. He would advance to the GSL Semifinals in only three games: Game 1, Game 2, Game 3)

A week later HerO would face fellow Protoss Squirtle for the right to advance. Squirtle had just made it to finals of IPL 4 and was essentially entering the peak of his career.

Employing some risky mind-games, hidden proxy pressure, and solid rush defence wouldn’t be enough to overcome the Protoss Pokemon, however, and what would turn out to be HerO’s most successful run in the GSL would come to an end.

But that didn’t mean the good times were over, not by a long shot. Squirtle may have beat him in Korea, but HerO hadn’t yet reached his final form…

GSL Season 4

GSL Season 3 ended up being a forgettable one with HerO unable to advance out of the Round-of-32 group stage. Season 4 was a return to form and would be the beginning of an incredible rise.

HerO would ultimately make it as far as the Round-of-8 Playoffs, but no further on account of Rain. That being said, it’s actually one of HerO’s  Round-of-16 games that worth highlighting in particular:

HerO would end up losing this series against Leenock 1-2, but this game on Antiga Shipyard would be one for the ages, right when the unstoppable power of Brood Lord/Infestor was defining the era.

NASL – Season 4

NASL Season 4 would kick off in September 2012 in the midst of the Brood Lord/Infestor era.

This can’t be understated. If you weren’t around for it, here’s the deal: Zerg players build a bunch of infestors and tech to Brood Lords, and win. Period. ZvT, ZvP, it doesn’t matter. These were the dark days when Patch Zergs ruled supreme.

HerO’s entire journey is chronicled in this playlist from NASL, and it started in the group stage in Division 3 against a recognizable name even today, Dark.

If you want to see how powerful infestors can be, especially in defence, watch these games. Somehow, despite all the imbalance, HerO leveraged his micro prowess and overcame his first Zerg opponent.

Beastyqt was up next on the docket and proved little challenge for the Liquid Protoss. But after that, it was Korean Protoss Alicia who would prove a much greater threat in a solid, back and forth series.

HerO would end up losing a series Belarusian Zerg LoWeLy, but would be victorious again over Ukrainian Terran Strelok in 3 games each And then… viOLet.

HerO vs viOLet would be a PvZ clinic. Nobody could abuse Brood Lord/Infestor the viOLet could at this point, and this series would be a little preview of things to come… HerO would lose the series 2-1.

The marathon continued as HerO defeated MaNa and Korean Terran GanZi in three games each. He would end the group stage with a match record of 5-3, having won 13 maps and lost 10. That would be good enough for a wildcard seed, and a 2-1 win over Sheth secured his spot in the Main Event Bracket.

His Round-of-16 opponent would be a PvP against finale (duckdeok), who went 7-1(15-5) in the group stage, and this best-of-five would only need 3 games to decide.

Then it was a Team Liquid Teamkill vs Taeja 3-0 in the quarterfinals, the highlight, in my opinion, being the ”Rotti” game 3.

The Semifinals would be another PvT, this time against Polt. Polt would make it interesting, but nobody was going to stop HerO from making his way to the Finals. But there was someone who would stand in way of winning that final Best-of-Seven…

viOLet and all the Brood Lords and Infestors you could shake a Zealot at…

Game 1 was highlighted all the things that made Zergs smile and Protoss cry. Game 2 was HerO’s attempt to end the game before the BL/I combo could come into play, but things didn’t go according to plan and viOLet was sitting with a 2-0 series lead.

The pressure was on going into Game 3, and true to form HerO delivered leveraging every advantage he could get to end the game before a single Brood Lord could take the field.

An old-school looking PvZ would be played out in Game 4, including some Fake Colo play and a map full of Blink Stalkers.

Tied up 2-2, it was now a best of three. HerO would switch up his meta for Game 5 and mind-gamed viOLet to take a lead and would turn that advantage into a victory with excellent timing and micro.

Taking the lead for first time in the finals, HerO would be looking to win his fourth game in a row to secure the $30,000 Grand Prize and another Premier Championship Title:

HerO’s NASL Championship established his reputation as a clutch performer, PvT expert, and reaffirmed what everyone at the time already knew about Protoss vs Zerg: The only way to beat Brood Lord/Infestor was to end the game early.

Dreamhack Winter

HerO would return to Sweden to defend his title of Champion of Dreamhack Winter in November. He wouldn’t drop a match in the Group Stage, dropping a single map to Ret.

Snute would be the next to fall victim to the Liquid Protoss in a quick 3-0 matchup, and Austrian darkhorse monchi would actually deal HerO his second map loss of the tournament but ultimately fall in 4 games, allowing HerO to advance to the finals.

And so the best-of-seven finals for the $37,000 grand prize would be a team-kill between Liquid’s HerO and TaeJa.

Want to see how you dissect a terran? Here’s the four-step-process:

Seriously, HerO made Taeja look bad, right in the midst of the hype that had Taeja pinned as the next big thing. Especially in Game 2 shows some incredible starsense and understanding of your opponent (featuring the most clutch DTs you might ever see).

HerO would secure his third Premier Championship, making it look easy.

It’s amazing to see how far HerO’s play had come over the course of a year, and how that evolution would influence how everyone played, or tried to play, Protoss.

We saw the development of the signature HerO Prism, along with a playstyle all his own. It was incredible to watch, but it would also foreshadow the Liquid Protoss’s fatal flaw…

It was the end of the Wings of Liberty (and Brood Lord/Infestor era), but the next installment of StarCraft 2 wouldn’t be the end of HerO’s hot streak…

2013 (Heart of the Swarm)

2013 would debut the first expansion for StarCraft 2, Heart of the Swarm (not that other HotS…you know the one), and it wouldn’t take HerO long to adjust to the new units, balance, and tempo of the game.

WCS America Season 1

Success would come early and in the biggest tournament series available for “American” based players in the World Champion Series.

To be honest, HerO was the best player in this tournament. Yes, including the Korean players he faced directly (Terrans aLive and Ryung, Protoss Alicia, and the final boss Zerg Revival).

Testament to this was in the Final Series with a HUGE win that came with the series tied up despite being down 60 supply. Watch the magic:

You can find the rest of the finals right here:

Game 1Game 2Game 3Game 4Game 5 Game 6

Otherwise 2013 was at best full of semi-finals for the Liquid Protoss, such as at DreamHack Stockholm and IEM Shanghai. But those would be the high-water marks for what would be an otherwise underwhelming year.

2014 (Heart of the Swarm)

IEM Cologne

If 2013 ended slowly for HerO, 2014 started off with a bang!

He would enter IEM Cologne a fan-favorite underdog. This was a tournament stacked with top-tier Korean talent, full of names still relevant today.

HerO would fail to secure his seat into the tournament in the Korean Qualifier, albeit just barely.

Instead, it would he would have to thank his WCS Points Ranking for the opportunity to compete in Germany.

Protoss Rain, Terran ForGG, and Zerg HyuN would be his opponents in the Group Stage, and HerO would show a return to form only losing one series to Rain. That would be good enough to get him to the Quarterfinals.

The Liquid Protoss would face off against the machine himself, INnoVation. Acer’s Terran…ace… was yet to drop a game in the tournament. If there was any question of whether HerO was still the Terran killer of old, he answered them in this sweeping series of games.

Next up in the semi-finals was The Tyrant, Jaedong. EG’s Zerg had already devoured fellow Protoss players MaNa, StarDust, and Patience before meeting HerO in the semifinals. The EG vs Team Liquid rivalry would prove just as potent as ever in this series that went the distance.

Part 1Part 2

And when it came time for the finals…have we seen this before? I think we might have seen this somewhere before: HerO vs Polt in a best-of-seven. Sound familiar… But don’t think that’s any reason to skip this one!

In fact, when it comes to drama and butt clenching action, both in-game and otherwise, this is the series to watch!

And it all goes off the rails right away in Game 1 with the infamous “Polt Drawing”:

It had to be said that while the Brood Lord /Infestor era was long dead, but it was now the Blink-OP era. That being said, HerO was never as much about abusing builds as he was about abusing players.

Considering Polt put on a TvP clinic to reach the finals, it’s fair to say that while Protoss was powerful in the current balance, it was hardly what defined this particular series.

This is a microcosm, maybe even the absolute pinnacle, of what made HerO so great, at the time in the game when that style could be leveraged most effectively.

Watch this series, watch it, Watch It, WATCH IT!

Somehow HerO won 4-2 in seven games for his most impressive tournament victory (and $10,000 American Fun Bucks).

He still had some impressive results ahead of him in 2014, but Cologne would be the high watermark not only for the year, but arguably for his career as well. HerO would never again win a championship tournament.

He would come close, however.

DreamHack Summer

HerO would make his way through some stiff competition to make it to the finals in Jönköping, including YoDa, MC, and San

Perhaps the most notable feature was Taeja finally getting the better of his Liquid teammate in the finals, although it’s probably not something HerO would consider a Highlight moment…

The final hurrah, at least as far as premier tournament results go, was at the World E-Sport Championships in Hangzhou.

HerO would make it all the way to the Lower Bracket Finals but would fall to eventual tournament winner Jaedong to secure himself a third-place finish.

2015-2018

As the game continued to change and evolve, HerO was seemingly left behind.

He would qualify for GSL Code S three more times between 2015 and 2016, but would never advance past the round of 32.

HerO would leave Team Liquid on February 14, 2016, after more than 4 years as one of their most important and popular players. He would sign with Team RevolutioN in October of 2016, but it was a partnership that only lasted until June the following year.

He was just never the same after leaving Team Liquid, but to be fair the game had changed so much across three expansions that the style that brought HerO so much success was also what would bring him down long-term.

Nonetheless, his influence on the game, both the professional scene and in the eyes of the fans, can’t be undersold. HerO helped guide the evolution of StarCraft and gave us a truly inspiring personality to follow in the early and most popular days of the eSport.

In the end Song “HerO” Hyeon Deok retired with $265,498.66 in tournament earnings and 5 Premiere Tournament titles and legions of fans the world over.

Here’s to the amazing career of the Liquid Protoss, HerO!

If you’d like even more insight, from players and commentators with FAR MORE credibility than me on the subject of StarCraft, Protoss, and HerO, give stuchiu’s commentary a listen:
SC2 History: Liquid HerO (ft. Gemini and DarkLordOlli).

 

 

 


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