Alex “Neeb” Sunderhaft has been hailed as a savior of American StarCraft 2. Exclusively sponsored by Ting, he’s been travelling the world as a professional gamer for several years now, making a name for himself as one of the best.
Last time we featured Neeb on the Ting blog, we praised his abilities as one of the top foreigners (non-Koreans) in the pro scene and the best American ever to play StarCraft 2. With consistent top results throughout all of 2016, we went as far as to say this would be the “Neeb era of StarCraft 2” and that the best was yet to come.
Was it ever.
Mere weeks after we wrote that article, Neeb would go on to become the first non-Korean in 16 years to win a premier StarCraft tournament in Korea (and the first ever in StarCraft 2).
This was no close final either: Neeb handily defeated Trap 4-0 in the grand finals of KeSPA Cup in Seoul, South Korea with stellar macro and clutch disruptor play. Representing Ting and North America, Neeb took home $18,000 and the KeSPA Cup trophy, making history in the process.
About a month later, Neeb would find even more success as the lone American representative at BlizzCon, placing top eight at the WCS Global Finals and picking up another $15,000. Earning over $93,000 in tournament winnings in one year is no easy feat, but it’s clear this is just the beginning for Neeb.
The first tournament of 2017 was the World Electronic Sports Games (WESG) in Changzhou, China on Jan 12-15, featuring a massive $402,000 prize pool. Yet again, Neeb showed that he can hang with the best, posting victories against several top foreigners before getting ousted by the eventual champ, South Korean veteran TY. Walking away with third place and $50,000 has gotta feel pretty good.
After WESG, I had the chance to catch up with Neeb and ask him about his time in Korea, how he’s doing back in the US, his thoughts on WESG and more!
You’ve been back from Korea for a couple months now – how does it feel to be back in the US? Interested in going to Korea for season two of GSL?
I’m doing pretty good back at home, just relaxing mainly and not being as stressed as I was while in Korea. I definitely want to go back though since I liked Korea and it felt good to try my best at a Korean sc2 tournament. I miss that feeling a bit and it’s still my goal to win a longer Korean tournament like a GSL or an SSL (RIP). This goal might be a long ways off though since Koreans are actually practicing again unlike during KeSPA Cup, and it’s harder obviously with two group stages instead one and more preparation time between rounds. I don’t know if I’ll make it back to Korea in time for season 2 of GSL though, but it would be nice if I could.
What does your daily practice consist of?
I definitely don’t play as much as I did back in Korea. While staying in Korea, I pretty much played all day since I had very few responsibilities, Jake was out all day with his girlfriend, and the language barrier made it hard to go out and do stuff. These days I play maybe 4-8 hours a day, with some days where I don’t touch SC2 at all. I also took a three week break back in December, which was the longest time I hadn’t played SC2 for in almost two years. Despite all this I feel like I’m improving at a similar pace as I was while in Korea. There are a lot of reasons for this but regardless it’s nice to be more relaxed and still get results that I’m proud of.
You’ve had some great games recently, such as taking out several strong Terrans in OSC (as well as splitting games with Innovation), beating Scarlett, Major and Elazer in the round robin of WESG and then Nerchio in a super close, 3-2 series.
How do you feel about your current form compared to when you were living in Korea?
My form right now and for the past few weeks has been really good. Since coming back from Korea I’ve been having days or weeks where I’m doing amazing, like I’m really happy with my play, but then the very next day it’s completely reversed and I play pathetically for a while. The last month or so I’ve been doing okay though, my form doesn’t seem to be all over the place. Compared to when I was in Korea, I think I was more consistent then, but about the same skill level or maybe even a bit lower than my current skill.
You had a difficult WESG group with a lot of great players and you managed to come out on top. With that being said, how confident were you coming into WESG? Did you expect to place top 3 and win $50,000?
I felt quite good going into WESG. I was confident in every matchup and felt my play was solid all around. My goal was the same as it always is for me, which was just passing the first round (in this case the group stage). Getting top 3 was a big surprise for me since although I was confident, I still felt like I was a level below the Koreans obviously, but also a bit worse than Nerchio, ShoWTimE, and Scarlett. Passing the group stage in first was enough for me, but Nerchio kindly gave me the last game of our series so I got to play the semifinals. Even though I lost to TY there I was still able to play my favorite matchup for 3rd place. I would have been happy with just top 8 though.
How did you enjoy WESG overall? The stage looked impressive!
WESG was fun overall. I got sick a few days before leaving for the tournament so I felt awful while traveling and the first few days in China, but besides that it was great. I miss being around other SC2 players since at home I don’t have any close friends I see regularly. The venue itself though wasn’t anything special. The stage looked nice but besides that everything was just so-so. I also never got to play on stage, so I was a bit sad about that.
What are your hopes and expectations for the 2017 WCS season? Any goals you’ve set for yourself?
I don’t have any specific goals right now other than just enjoying life. Last year was very successful for me, so I don’t feel the need to win everything. I’d still like to go to as many tournaments as I can since there won’t be as many as last year, and maybe I’ll finally win a non-Korean SC2 tournament :).
What are your thoughts on PvT? You’ve had some success lately in this matchup, so I’d love to get your thoughts on what you think should happen with the next patch.
I’m awful at PvT. It’s currently my worst matchup by far even if tournament results don’t say so, but I haven’t given up yet since I still have a lot of ideas and the Koreans are all trying new stuff too. I’m excited to see if the Protoss community can come up with anything that works. I haven’t thought much about what should be changed, that’s not really my job. I just try to work with what I’m given, but something needs to be done for sure.
Anything you’d like to say to your fans?
I don’t have a lot to say, just thanks for sticking with me even if the past few months have been rough. I really appreciate every message/tweet/etc. and thank you all for being a part of SC2 and making me feel like I have something to work towards.
Thanks to Neeb for taking the time to chat with us. Look out for Neeb in his next premier StarCraft 2 tournament appearance at the Intel Extreme Masters in Katowice, Poland on Feb 27, 2017.