The beauty of competition, or 4 things which made WCS Season 2 unforgettable
If you tuned in to WCS Season 2 any time during this last weekend, chances were you'd hear a bombardment of superlatives coming from the casters. "The best StarCraft 2 tournament ever" they often said, the excitement in their voices sounding sincere are not the forced product of undeserved hype.
With the StarCraft 2 scene abundant in tournament activity and with competitive history dating all the way back to 2010, it's hard to say if the Season 2 finals were really the best we ever had. We've seen fantastically produced all-foreign events like the 2012 WCS Europe continentals, foreigners crushing through Korean-infested MLGs and a handful of geeks playing StarCraft in an apartment in Krefeld in the company of a dancing girl.
The best? I don't know. What I do know is that it had fascination pouring from every second of it which made it an unforgettable experience and here's why.
There rarely are tournaments which go on to ridicule every form of prediction made by the media in such a brutal way as WCS Season 2 did this weekend. While most of the upsets were kindly confined within the group phase, the density with which they occurred was just astounding.
Literally every single group witnessed events going contrary to what experts believed. It started with Jeadong who was left for dead in the company of three Protoss players. With subpar ZvP results – his 56% win rate maintained mostly through victories over lesser players – and sandwiched between the star of SK Telecom Rain and the prize money hungry MC, the Tyrant was given only but a sliver of a chance, prompted mostly by his BroodWar legacy and his three grand finals in SC2 to date.
As we now know, Jaedong would go on to not only win his group with 4-1 but would not drop a single ZvP series the entire tournament, finishing with 10-2 in maps in the match-up. “The Tyrant is back” he said in one post-game interview and although those were words directed at his fans, it was also a handy reminder to all those who write StarCraft for a living (few hours after this statement, Jaedong would go on to lose another 0-4 grand final against a Terran, gift-wrapping another curse story for us, writers, so thank you, Jaedong, I guess).
As Group A was done, we moved on to Group B where CMStorm’s Polt was supposed to deliver new levels of domination upon Bomber, at the time bound by the infamous “Bomber law”, and First whose recent PvT adventures included a brutal 3-0 stomping from the latter and a hard-fought 3-2 against Supernova. Polt had 70% win rate in TvT and the stupid 79% in PvT, making him statistically invulnerable to the biggest threats in the group. He triumphed over WCS America in commanding fashion, he had the recent MLG Spring championship to further his momentum and he was likely playing the best StarCraft of his career. He went on to lose to First twice without taking a single game, indirectly making fun of the term “statistically invulnerable”.
Logically, Group C and the grand fall of Innovation are next. In part one of our Season 2 pre-coverage, we wrote how Innovation should stop with the "hellbat-nerfs-nerfed-me-as-well bullsh*t” and projected him to win the group. Of course, at that time, we had no idea that he would win just a single map in all of his two games and make us look stupid (and make TL’s Zealously look like a crazy friggin Nostradamus).
Unfortunately for the men of the quill, there was still one more group left which took it to heart to tar the beautiful story of Maru. The youngster had just crushed the OSL and had risen to heights he’d never achieved before. Bearer of the title “youngest OSL royal roader”, the Prime weapon flew to Cologne on wings of praise and hype, his fans eager to see how he conquers arguably the weakest group of them all. TL’s Stuchiu wrote in his piece how Maru has crushed every doubt the community has ever had in him and although he admitted the next chapters to his story are still to be written, he did project him to be group’s winner. In our own write-up, we allowed ourselves a sliver of a doubt and placed Maru second, indulging the possibility of him losing to MMA or Scarlett (but certainly not to aLive, no way, Maru is just way better than the EG player, you know it).
Nobody thought Maru will not make it out. Just like nobody dared place aLive first with a flawless 4-0 or think he will become one of the sensations of the tournament, playing the best TvP in the entire event. Appropriate conclusion to the string of upsets, wouldn’t you say?
Stories of revenge – especially involving names of high caliber such as this – are always intriguing. Clothed in shades of struggle and blood thirst and putting a man against his greatest nemesis, the legacies of these StarCraft rivalries have more often than not been a recipe for tournament’s success, sometimes even regardless of the score.
A healthy mix of such rivalries was present at Gamescom this weekend, courtesy of the stacked player pool and a few lucky pairings. Unlike the upsets, those stretched outside the group stage and plagued the playoff rounds as well, ensuring that viewers are in constant expectation of the next episode.
Duckdeok gave the start to the series of revenge storylines as he fell by the hand of Naniwa. The rivalry between the two Protosses began at the WCS Europe playoffs where the Korean was able to 3-1 the Swede, ousting him from the competition to eventually become champion. It would be just a few days before the two would meet again, this time on Season 2 grounds and again the king of Europe trampled the home-turf player.
Yet the strong showing of Taeja and the poor performance of Innovation made so that Duckdeok and Naniwa meet again the very next day. Ahead in maps with 5-1 between them, Duckdeok was looking forward to deal the Swede his third loss this month. Only Naniwa had plans of his own and two games later, the Korean lay defeated and out of the tournament. A favor returned with perfect timing.
Naniwa’s success was directly chained to another great rivalry of modern SC2 - that between him and EG’s Jaedong - and the Swede rushed into the quarter finals to partake in the most expected match of the day. His expectations were similar to Duckdeok’s from a few hours ago: “The match is mine. It will be a 3-0”. And it could’ve been if Naniwa hadn’t met the Tyrant in the middle of his ZvP reincarnation, a match-up evolution of such magnitude that it left every single Protoss lying in the dirt.
Right after Jaedong exacted his revenge, another contender, too, broke his ugly losing streak. A star in a much less flashier story than Tyrant’s or Naniwa’s, Taeja met a player who’s been following and beating him everywhere – SKT’s Rain.
It has really been a rough rivalry for the Liquid Terran. Where both Jaedong and Naniwa were at least able to snatch a map from their enemies, Rain had repeatedly beaten Taeja mercilessly, leaving him down 0-6 spread across MLG Dallas 2012, Code S Season 4 and Proleague 12-13. For Taeja to return the favor in kind and in a timely fashion meant lifting a curse that has been chasing him since the end of his magical summer.
Finally, as bonus revenge, we have the universe taking it out on MC for his $400,000 wish. Not today, MC, not today.
Many will look at the pantheon of Season 2 storylines spanning from beginning till end and will compared the tournament to a rollercoaster. The truth is this is a vast understatement. What the weekend in Cologne was what you get when you take the fourth season of Breaking Bad, substitute all character with StarCraft players and put it all on drugs.
Why am I telling you all this and am I on drugs, too? Because after hours and hours of drama and suspense, the Season 2 finals arrived at a finale defying the very structures of contemporary StarCraft, just like I’m sure Breaking Bad will in the sphere of TV series.
One can argue that the grand final between Jaedong and Bomber wasn’t a particularly exciting one and there’s certainly some truth in that. Compared to the plethora of jaw-dropping games before it, it was anticlimactic, quick, brutal, sad and painful and a myriad of other adjectives we prefer to throw at shitty matches. This is surely one way to look at it but it’s the wrong one. The grand final of Season 2 was not about how the winner triumphed but against whom and what did that mean.
As Jaedong went on the stage to face Bomber, the audience knew that fundamentals will be broken. Whether it would be putting an end to the silver streak of the Tyrant or erasing one of the most popular community-born phrases it mattered not. Either way, history was about to be written regardless of the performance.
Today, we know the outcome. After four maps and exactly two years of lackluster appearances around the globe, Bomber’s law is no more.
응원해주신분들께 감사드립니다~ Thanks for cheer!! Good bye Bomber's law I'll miss you— 최지성 (@Startale_Bomber) August 25, 2013
To be honest, we knew that. Even after it was an all-Korean top eight in Season 1 finals and names like Stephano, TLO and Dimaga were shamelessly slaughtered, the community never lost faith in the players west of South Korea. Even when all seasons of WCS Europe and America thus far saw a Korean king upon their throne, followers of the scene believed that someday, somewhere, someone will pay in blood even if it’s but a splinter of what the foreign scene owes the easterners for their endless reign.
We knew that but it was still good to have a tangible confirmation. It was good to see how players like Duckdeok, Innovation, Maru and MMA couldn’t keep a couple of foreigners from the playoffs. It was comforting to know that Naniwa is indeed a worthy successor of Stephano and it was a moment of pride for North America when Scarlett was by far the toughest opponent Bomber faced.
It was good to see that despite lacking a tournament win since Snute's HSC VI championship, the westerners won’t just lie down and wait to be eaten even if it’s the entire Korean elite that’s coming. Despite its quarter final defeat, the foreign scene demonstrated how it’s not a puppy but a hound and if you poke it, it will bite.