Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Interview with Idra at MLG
Zerg players had a disappointing showing at MLG Raleigh, with the best Zerg finish clocking in at 11th Place. Things might well be different in D.C.; Idra is coming, and he will be looking to put the swarm on top. MLG got a chance to speak with one of the world’s best Zerg players about his life as a pro StarCraft player in Korea, the move to Evil Geniuses, and what he’s expecting from D.C.
MLG: You’ve spent the majority of your gaming career in Korea with the pro Brood War team CJ Entus. Tell us about the move to EG, a team that was well-represented at MLG Raleigh.
Idra: After spending around two and a half years on a Korean team, I was a bit tired of the rigid practice schedule and lack of freedom that came with it, and the KESPA teams were dragging their feet on SC2. Given all that, it seemed to make sense to move to a foreign team, and EG was the obvious choice for me.
MLG: Give us an idea of the lifestyle and practice regimen of a pro gamer in Korea.
Idra: We practiced for 12 to 13 hours a day, had around two hours of free time during the day, and got, on average, two days off a month—couldn't really leave the house other than that.
MLG: That’s intense. Do you still train as extensively now that you’re off CJ?
Idra: No, a big part of the reason I left was that I began to feel it was counter-productive; we were overworking ourselves. So I still make sure I practice a lot, but not too much.
MLG: Are you excited about the switch to a team with a heavier focus on SC2?
Idra: Yes, definitely. One of the problems with playing SC2 on CJ was that I was their only SC2 player; it's much more difficult to practice and prepare for matches without teammates to help you.
Idra will join Kiwikaki in the quest to unseat Huk; who will triumph?
MLG: You were a Terran player in Brood War. What was appealing to you about Zerg in SC2?
Idra: I've always preferred to play management- and macro-based games. Focusing on controlling the map and winning through economy… Zerg is most suited for that style of play. Terran is more gimmicky and harass-based, and while Protoss can play macro games, I originally felt Protoss would have a lower skill ceiling than Zerg in the long term.
MLG: With your stint on CJ over, will you be moving back to the US?
Idra: No, the Korean GSL runs monthly and is currently the biggest league in the world, so I'll be staying here to play in that.
MLG: With the move to EG, do you think your focus will be shifted more to North American, European and online tournaments?
Idra: For now I'm still focused on Korean leagues. I have great hopes that European and North American leagues can catch up to Korea with the release of SC2, but for now Korea is still the place to be for StarCraft. I will definitely keep travelling to tournaments outside Korea whenever I can fit it in my schedule, though.
MLG: Major League Gaming is the biggest pro gaming league in the US. What are you looking forward to with your first MLG appearance?
Idra: The opportunity to play in front of a big American crowd will be great. I've played some StarCraft events in the US before, but they never really got much attention.
MLG: Most of the best North American players will be at D.C., along with some great foreign players. Who do you think will be your toughest competition?
Idra: All of the Terran players are dangerous, but Huk, Kiwikaki, and White-Ra will probably be the hardest to beat.
MLG: Protoss took the top three spots at MLG Raleigh. Do you see Protoss as the most well-represented race in North America?
Idra: Yes—Protoss is the simplest race to get good at, though it’s very difficult to improve from that point, so a lot of people choose Protoss and they do well in mid- level competitions.
MLG: North American and European Zergs have struggled in the tournament scene for the most part, while superhero Zerg FruitDealer is winning major tournaments in Korea. At MLG Raleigh, Slush had the highest Zerg finish, at 11th. Is there a major difference in style you’ve noticed between foreign and Korean Zergs?
Idra: No, FruitDealer is really good but he’s nothing superhuman. He said himself he doesn't seem much difference between himself and other top Zergs. He just had a really, really good streak, and Rainbow played like trash in the Finals. Korean Zergs are better than foreign Zergs on the whole, but no more so than the Terrans and Protoss.
Slush was the highest finishing Zerg in Raleigh; Idra now has the chance to beat that.
MLG: Lots of talk swirls around about Zerg being underpowered; do you agree?
Idra: I do. Almost every aspect of Zerg is weak right now. We have the weakest units, which means we have to be able to establish a superior economy early to overwhelm our opponents. But we [also] have the least versatile openings and almost no scouting options until Lair. This means we have to play really safe and defensively to try to survive early on, meaning we go into the midgame with a disadvantage nine times out of ten. At that point, Zerg doesn't really have many options to try to make up ground, either—Nyduses and drops are easy to prevent, and Infestors are great, but they aren't game-changers to that extent.
MLG: Do you agree that Zerg is currently the hardest race to play?
Idra: Once the game is balanced, I feel Zerg and Terran will probably be equally difficult to play, in very different ways. Zerg is mechanically difficult, trying to hit every larva injection and manage creep spread while taking advantage of Zerg’s mobility to buy time. That takes a lot more speed and accuracy than the other races. But Terran will require very intelligent play because they have so many options for aggression, but they have to make something happen with them or they'll just be overwhelmed by the more macro-oriented races. So everything will come down to decision making and harass-based multitasking.
MLG: What do you see as Zerg’s biggest weakness? And what do you think could be done to get the swarm on a level playing field?
Idra: The early game, clearly. Zerg's hatch tech units are weak and easy to hard-counter. This means we have to know exactly what our opponent is doing to be able to defend it, but we lack reliable scouting. Increasing Overlord base speed and buffing Roaches would probably even out the early game—stronger Roaches might give Zerg some early aggressive options, which it completely lacks right now, and faster Overlords would give better scouting options.
MLG: Conversely, what is the biggest advantage Zerg gives its players?
Idra: For me, personally, I like the fact that it's so mechanically demanding because it allows you to outplay your opponent—there's always room to play better. The race itself doesn't have too many strengths right now.
MLG: You’re well-known for a fundamentally macro style of Zerg play. Have you been working on any creative or innovative styles lately?
Idra: The new style I've been playing ZvT is pretty creative; though it's been done before, it's never seen much use. My ZvP is quite a bit different now too, though not in a very creative way. Unfortunately no foreigners have seen the way I play recently so I'm not going to give it away here right before MLG.
MLG: If you could pick one player that’s influenced you the most in StarCraft 2, who would it be and why?
Idra: Probably FruitDealer, but honestly I haven't drawn much from anyone because I don't get to see how the Koreans play ZvT and ZvP very much, since I'm just ZvZing against them and everyone does their best to hide their play.
MLG: How big of an impact have the 1.1 patches had on the Zerg metagame?
Idra: Proxy Rax Reaper still hard-counters Hatch first expansion, but after seeing the Reaper build time change, all Terrans are scared to do that build anymore, so it's much safer to expand now. The Tank nerf was also a bit more significant than I expected. Hydras are still quite bad, but Ling/Baneling fares a bit better against Tanks now. Overall not a huge impact, but it was better than nothing.
MLG: What is your favorite and least favorite matchup, and why?
Idra: ZvZ is my favorite right now. Once you get past Ling/Baneling it actually becomes a diverse, interesting matchup. ZvP is probably my least favorite because it’s the hardest to win straight up. [In] ZvT, the problems lie mostly in early game diversity and the luck based on that. [In] ZvP, they can just get a big unkillable ball of Stalkers and Collosi and most of the time it feels like there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s very frustrating.
MLG: Last but not least, where do you see yourself placing in D.C.?
Idra: I expect to win.