‘Chiu on This’ is a short and regular opinion blast
The first time I saw ByuN play, he was playing Protoss. I cannot for the life of me remember any of his games, though I doubt ByuN did either as he quickly switched over to Terran. However the indecision remained as he switched his tags around multiple times, the two most memorable of which were NEXExcrement and GhostKing. That inability to decide, that mercurial nature, has been the hallmark of ByuN’s play and life since the beginning of SC2.
Back then he was experimenting with his play and from the period lasting from the end of 2011 to mid 2012, he slowly solidified himself into the upper echelon of SC2 competition. As a player he was almost completely unrecognizable to what he later became in Legacy of the Void. He was an end-game player. Someone who was incredibly patient, almost ThorZaIN* esque in his approach.
He wanted to play the late game, he was slow and methodical in his approach. He did a one-inch push across an entire map in TvT where he seiged, unseiged, and seiged his tanks again until he finally won his game. However, the weakness in him was still there. At the height of his powers in Wings of Liberty, he made it to the semifinals of Season 3 and had a 2-1 lead up against Seed, the eventual GSL Champion. He had a huge lead in the fourth game and was about to push and end the game.
In that moment Seed attacked with DTs. There were two choices that lay before ByuN. He could either go home and defend against the DTs or attack and wipe out ByuN. Instead he went for the third path, he broke under the pressure. It was like watching a headless chicken cut off, a lot of motion, but with no purpose. He didn’t defend the harassment and by the time he pushed, Seed was able to get enough energy and units to stall him out and eventually win the endgame fight. That series broke him mentally and the next time we see ByuN as a top player is four years and two expansions later.
When he resurfaced from his self-imposed exile of washing dishes**, he was a changed player. After reading his interviews and watching the way he speaks, I’ve come to the conclusion that during the Heart of the Swarm, he watched many of the top Korean tournaments. He came to the conclusion that INnoVation was the player he wanted to become. So when we see him in Legacy of the Void, we see a player with fairly cookie cutter builds, but great execution. Instead of being a more passive player and trying to get to the late game, he played the INnoVation style of constant unrelenting pressure and parlaying that into economic and positional advantages across the map until you snowball the game.
I was impressed with the change, but a part of me did wonder how much of it was induced by the meta. During the reaper era so to speak, it directly fed into his greatest strength, aggressive control in one area. What happens for instance if you go into a meta like early 2016 where TvZ was dictated by combat across 3-4 different areas at once at the highest levels?
As it turned out, he couldn’t cope. While this is also a relative weakness of INnoVation’s, it rarely pops up for him because the amount of exceptional players that can take advantage of it can usually be counted on one hand when he is at peak form. In the case of ByuN, I’ve seen it time and time again now. The latest being in Group E with his games against Impact and PartinG. Both players took advantage of what I said, They either attacked him early with a full on attack or early harassment and then they stretched the map into a multidirectional game where ByuN must both attack and defend or defend in multiple places.
Even after right years, three expansions, completely revamping his style of play, the base of who ByuN is and why he failed was still in there. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
*For those who are unfamiliar with ThorZaIN, he was the most passive Terran player to have lived. The Koreans famously called him the “Spoon Terran” because it felt like he was killing you with a spoon.
**The only confirmed appearance we had of ByuN was him washing dishes in the Chinese team house he briefly joined in the interim. Apparently it’s a hobby of his.