GosuGamers explains Korea

Posted by Lars "cYaN" Olsen at 06 February 2007 23:07
The Korean scene can seem a bit overwhelming. This guide can help you get a basic understanding of what is going on with the professionals. Also, the league formats are a bit complicated. However, they are also explained here - your guide to Korean StarCraft professional gaming.

General information
Korea has 11 professional teams. These teams have a squad of players on their payroll. Just like a football team I suppose. There are two major StarCraft channels in Korea. One is OnGameNet (OGN) and the other is MBC. These two have a StarLeague each. OGN StarLeague is just called StarLeague, but to make things simple let's call it OSL. The other is the MBC StarLeague (MSL). These are the two major individual tournaments. You win one of these and you're an instant legend.

There are never any replays from Korean leagues, only VODs!
This is due to the fact that the TV stations also air old VODs and offer VOD download on their websites etc. Therefore they don't want replays spread around. The players don't want replays spread eather because they don't want their opponents to analyze their gameplay too close.

To qualify to play in one of these you need to do the following.
1) Get through an offline (non-televised) tournament, such as Courage.
2) Get through the qualification tournament for OSL or MSL. (These are televised)

The qualification tournament for MSL is called MBC Survivor League. The one for OSL is called OGN Dual Tournament (ODT). All four (Survivor, MSL, ODT and OSL) of these tournaments have different formats that I'll go through in a separate section below. First, the ProLeague


korea-proleague.jpgProLeague is the team league. No qualifiers here. The team coach picks the roster for each game. So you have to be on a proteam and you have to impress the coach enough to get on the roster. It's a shared project between OGN and MBC. The year is split into two seasons. The teams play a round robin (that means everyone plays everyone). They play best of five with 1v1, 1v1, 2v2, 1v1, 1v1. In that order. The lineup is announced prior to the match, except for the last game. This is called the Ace game.

According to the rules a player may play only once during a ProLeague match. However, if it reaches the last game you can reuse a player. Say you used Savior to beat July in the first game. If the score is 2-2 and it's going to be decided in the Ace match you can reuse Savior.

After the round robin is over, the four top teams battle it out with this format: #4 vs #3. Winner vs #2, winner vs #1. In the second season they do the exact same thing and then #1 from season one and two face off in the grand final of the year. If the same team wins season one and two they just play the runner up from season two again.

OnGameNet Dual Tournament

korea-odt.jpgOnGameNet has ODT (the qualifier remember?) and OSL. ODT has nine groups (A-I) with four players in each group. These four players are paired and play best of one. The winners of the initial games face each other in another bo1. The winner here goes to the OSL. The losers of the initial games will face each other in a bo1 for the right to play the loser of the winners game. The winner of this final game will go to the OSL.

Note: I will refer to this as the ODT format throughout this article!

Example: OGN Dual Tournament, Group I
Much> FBH Initial game
JJu > keke Initial game
JJu < MuchWinners game: Much qualifies for OSL as winner
FBH > keke Losers game: keke eliminated
JJu < FBH Final game: JJu eliminated, FBH qualifies for OSL as runnerup

OnGameNet StarLeague

So from each of the nine ODT groups two players qualify for the OSL. That makes 18. OSL is a 24 man tournament. The last six are seeds from last season. This means those six players who finished top six last OSL season get automatically qualified. This is also important for the group selection. Each seed gets placed in a different group. Seed one selects a player for his group. Then seed two selects a player for his group and so on. Lets say Boxer is seed one. He picks Much. When all the seeds are done picking, Much picks another player to join him in the group with Boxer and so on. There are six groups of four in the OSL.

korea-osl.jpgThese OSL groups will play a round robin and the top two advance. If #1 and #2 are tied, the internal games count. Otherwise (tie between second and third, or three way ties) there's a tiebreaker. The third place finishers will play a WildCard round. This is just a single 1v1 where the three winners also advance. The three losers here will play another round robin and the winner advances.

Two direct qualifiers from the group make 12 players. Add the three + one from the wildcard round and you have the OSL round of 16. From here on it it's single elimination tournament style. The round of 16 and quarterfinals are bo3. Semis and finals are bo5.

Remember top six from OSL get seeded for the next one. The 18 who did not make top six goes back to the ODT. Then there are 18 from offline qualifiers. That makes ODT a 36 man tournament which i've explained earlier. The ODT runs prior to OSL. The ODT finishes, and then OSL starts.

MBCGame StarLeague

korea-msl.jpgMSL is a 16 man tournament. The players are divided into four groups of four. They then play just like in the ODT. Initial games, then a losers, winners game and the final, all bo1. This means two players advance from each group. The player who finishes in third will go to Survivor League round four. The fourth place finisher will go to round three in Survivor. I'll explain what that means later on when I explain the Survivor format. In round two of the MSL, the players are split into two groups of four again. Then they play the same format again, with a twist. The initial games are still bo1, but the loser, winner and final matches are bo3. The two who do not make it through this stage go to Survivor round four. The winners make it to the semifinals.

We've reached the semifinal of the MSL. The semifinal and final are straight single elimination best of five. The four players who make it to the semifinal are seeded for next season and will not have to qualify through Survivor for the next MSL.

MBC StarLeague Format
Round Players Format What happens
1 16 ODT Top2 advance
3rd goes to round 4 Survivor
4th goes to round 3 Survivor
2 8 ODT with bo3* Top2 advance
Losers go to round 4 Survivor
3 4 bo5 These 4 are seeded for next MSL
4 2 bo5 We have a MSL champion.

*Initial games are bo1, then winners, losers and final is bo3

MBCGame Survivor League

korea-mbcsurvivor.jpgThe MBCGame Survivor League is the qualifier for the MSL and it runs at the same times as the MSL. Survivor is a 32 man man tournament, sort of. It starts with 32 players in round one at least. These are split into eight groups of four and play the ODT style format with bo1. The winner goes to round two, while the runner up goes to round three. In round two the winners of round one play each other in a bo3. The winners here qualify for the MSL. The losers go to round three.

Round three has the eight runner ups from round one, the four losers from round two as well as the four fourth place finishers in the current round of 16 in MSL. That makes a total of 16 who play each other in a bo3 to decide who goes to round four. In round 4 these eight who advanced from round three are joined by the four third place finishers from the round of 16 from the current MSL as well as the four losers from the MSL semifinal. This makes 16 again and again they play a bo3. The winners here advance to the MSL.

That makes the next MSL: four seeds from the current MSL. Four winners from Suvivor round two, eight winners from Survivor round four.

MBC Survivor League Format
Round Players Format What happens
1 32 ODT Winner goes to round two
runnerup goes to round 3
2 8 bo3 Winner goes to MSL, loser to round 3
3 16 bo3 Winners go to round 4
4 16 bo3 Winners go to MSL


Where can I get replays of these games?
You can't. Korean proleagues do not release replays. You can however get the Video On Demand (VOD).

Where can I download VODs?
There are several places. YouTube actually has quite a bit now, so check there. http://www.teamliquid.net/tracker/ is a torrent tracker that offers most the VODs. That requires that you install a BitTorrent client. YaoYuan.com offers all of them, but is usually slow for people located in the western world. The best website might be sc2.org . This requires you to register an account.

How can I watch the games live?
The best solution right now is the amazing site sc2.org . After you register an account there it's quite easy to watch both the MBCGame and the OGN streams.

How do I know when the games are played?
This is often mentioned in the news here at GosuGamers.net. Also GosuBet is an excellent source of this kind of information. If that doesn't help you sc2.org offers a schedule as well.

Disclaimer: There are changes in the formats. This is valid as of the start of 2007.