A Zerg was.
Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn, nicknamed the “Queen of Blades” for her impeccable Zerg play, opted out of her least favorite matchup one game, Zerg versus Zerg, instead turning to Protoss for the second game of her series against Park “DongRaeGu” Soo Ho. And she came out on top, besting a Global Starcraft League champion with an offrace.
It was a nearly unprecedented move in Starcraft 2. Players are simply too skilled and too specialized to make practicing the unfamiliar mechanics of an entire other race worthwhile. It can take years of practice to master the ins and outs and intricacies of playing a certain race in a certain matchup.
“Racepicking”, or choosing a race for a specific matchup, used to be more common in the early days of Starcraft: Brood War. Players like Fredrik “Slayer” Østervold won tournaments more than a decade ago by forsaking his usual Terran for the Zerg. But these days, that kind of success is exceedingly rare.
In Starcraft 2, some players have found success with another race, like Terran-turned-Zerg Dario “TLO” Wunsch, but usually only after making the move full-time. Stefan “MorroW” Andersson earned the nickname “The Infested Terran” by making the same switch as Wunsch.
Andersson also experimented as a race picker for tournaments that allowed it, leveraging his experience as a Terran for the matchup against Zerg but playing his new Zerg race against the other two. But he ended that largely fruitless endeavor with the launch of the Heart of the Swarm expansion, moving back to Terran full-time.
Hostyn maximized the utility of her race pick by specializing: She used Protoss for a specific map, Frost, in a specific matchup, with a specific build, a seven-gate two base assault. That limits the nearly endless permutations a matchup can throw at you to a manageable amount, allowing you to practice only a small subset of what would be required for true mastery. And with MLG’s map pick rules, all you need is the other player not to veto your selection for it to be used
She used her Zerg race for the other two matches of the series, winning the final third map with some solid roach positioning. Switching races mid series isn’t allowed in some tournaments, like Dreamhack or the GSL, which require a player to lock in to one of the four race options (including Random) at the start of a series. But MLG rules clearly state that Hostyn’s strategy was allowed, and she took advantage of that rule by preparing her little Protoss surprise.
While MLG should have the video up on their YouTube channel sometime soon, the only way to watch the match right now is with Chinese commentary on top.
It was an important game. The loser would finish in seventh or eight place, with the winner guaranteeing themselves at least $500 more prize money, with the opportunity to earn much more. Hostyn would follow up by beating her third Korean Zerg in a row, Shin “RagnaroK” Hee Bum, before falling to the eventual champion Cho and finishing fourth.
But her foray into Protoss has tickled the fancy of many a fan, and earned her a new nickname, coined by commentator Paulo “CatZ” Vizcarra: the Queen of Psi-blades, so named for the Protoss Zealot’s iconic weapons. Hostyn has certainly earned it.