WCG has been the biggest tournament in the foreign scene since its inception. It began in the year 2000 with the WCG Challenge (less known) but really took off in 2001 with the "World Cyber Games". In the first years, Starcraft was the main game, and the even was held in Korea (an obvious connection). The WCG event was intense with high quality players, double elimination bracket, and even national tournaments, in which countries battled it out (not sure of the exact format of these events). Ever since WCG began to be held outside of Korea's borders, we have seen a decline in the foreign participation in the Starcraft event, and less emphasis placed on the game in general (note; the BW tournament went from being double to single elimination, and the national tournament was eliminated).
WCG has taken a lot of heat in recent years for not being all that it can be, but nonetheless it is the best thing we've got.
For nearly the entire history of this game, Koreans have been largely dominant, never moreso than in the past few years (although one might argue that in the past year the foreign skill relative to Koreans has been improving slightly). Boxer became famous on the world stage with his absolute dominance of WCG in 2001 and 2002. In 2003 the not-even-official progamer ogogo was able to take home the gold, while in 2004 Xellos really was the "Perfect Terran" as he dominated the tournament without losing a game.
One of the oldest progamers, fOru was able to win convincingly in 2005. 2006 was arguably the strongest year for the Koreans, as they took all three medals; oov defeated July in the Grand Final, with Midas taking home his second medal (bronze) to complement his silver medal in 2004.
Protoss was on top of the world in 2007 as Stork took home the gold, and many thought the same would follow this year, but Luxury took glory back to the clutches of the Overmind, and Stork was able to snag a silver medal.
What about Foreigners?
"We're good too... I swear"
Foreigners don't get a lot of love when talking about Starcraft skill overall. Koreans rarely respect the skill of foreign gamers, foreigners themselves have a lack of respect for their own skill level - and generally the general sentiment is that the foreign skill is far below that of the Koreans. However, at every WCG event except 2006, a non Korean has been able to take home a medal from this prestigious event; in fact, in 2003, 2005, and 2007 (note every other year) two of the three medals went around the necks of non Korean gamers.
WCG Challenge - 2000
In the year 2000, there were many top rated non Korean gamers taking part, most notably Grrr and Elky who at the time were on top of the world. At this time, sVEN, Slayers, and NTT were also quite dominant. Surprisingly Grrr and Elky were not even able to get past the first round.
Here, the bronze medal was taken by NTT. He was able to defeat Bassy. a Korean gamer before losing to I_Love.Star, another Korean in the loser bracket finals.
Congrats to NTT for being the first foreigner to win a medal at WCG!
WCG 2001 - Korea
2001 was Boxer's time, however it was also a time when foreigners were able to contend with Koreans. In fact, this is the only year ever where a Korean has failed to get out of the group stage - Elky and Nazgul knocked the hyper-famous Gundam out of the tournament early. The Nazgul, Grrr, and Elky were in the top 16 of this event, but only one of them would take home a medal. The American player Whear also was able to get quite far, along with Nazgul earning 5/6th place at this event.
Elky was able to take the Silver medal, defeating GoRush in the winner bracket as well as in the Loser Bracket finals before eventually losing to Boxer in the Grand Final.
WCG 2002 - Korea
Again Boxer was able to dominate this tournament but there were many strong foreign gamers taking part too - Elky, Grrr, and Nazgul again reached the top 16 for consecutive years, newcomers Fisheye and Blackman were looking to make a name for themselves, and Froz sought another strong American performance. Nazgul went undefeated in his group before being upset by Hellghost then storming back to finish in the top 8 before losing to the eventual second placed Yellow; things didn't go quite the way Elky had hoped for as he finished just out of a medal spot, losing to Yellow in the loser bracket final.
This tournament's foreign hero was Blackman - who defeated the Korean gamer EsSay before losing to Boxer in the winner bracket final and ultimately being defeated by Yellow in the loser bracket final afterwards. It was with this powerful performance that Blackman and Poland in general shot onto the center stage in the foreign world.
WCG 2003 - Korea
In 2003 the format of the Grand Final changed from Double Elimination to a Single Elimination format - the first marks of decline. Non Koreans however were well represented as this was the very first year that foreigners were able to take home two of the three medals at this event. Elky and Grrr were again competing, along with Fisheye, Hellghost, and Advokate (who is still a well renowned gamer).
After four years of taking part in the World Cyber Games, Grrr was finally able to take home a medal, winning the bronze after defeating Silent_Control in the 3rd/4th place match. The man who eliminated him in the semi-finals, Fisheye was able to take home the silver medal, losing a tight three game series to the champion, Ogogo.
Sadly, this would mark the last year many of these old school gosus would be taking part in WCG, but their departure opened the door for a new generation of strong players.
WCG 2004 - USA
Although the tournament was only single elimination, it was the largest body of players (in total) to play at the Grand Final, and had the biggest single elimination. Usually the format is a 16 man bracket, but in 2004 there were 32 players in the single elimination bracket. As a result, there were more foreigners than ever before having a shot on the world stage - most notably, Fisheye was back to defend his silver medal, Elky was back for one last try, Froz and Advokate also returned. This also featured the first time Mondragon was able to get past the group stage, and was also Testie and Sen's first forays into the bracket round.
In addition, Androide made his first appearance along with the progamer Legionnaire and the newcomer Draco. Three Nordic greats, Trek, Eriador, and Clawson were also present in the bracket round.
Heavy foreign favorites Fisheye and Testie met with Koreans quite early in the bracket, each losing in the 2nd round; Fisheye to Midas and Testie to fOru. In what was quite a surprising turn of events, the semi-finalist included two relatively lesser known non Korean gamers at the time - Beast (Christian) and Androide.
The 3rd/4th place match pitted foreigner against foreigner and Beast was able to defeat Androide to take home the bronze medal.
WCG 2005 - Singapore
There were many familiar faces among the foreigners in Singapore; the Russian powerhouses Advokate and Androide returned once again to prove themselves, previous medalists Fisheye and Blackman were in the bracket, and finally the wink toss, Legionnaire and Sen were also in the final 16.
Sen was able to give a valiant effort against fOru but was unable to win, and Fisheye once again came upon a Korean early in the tournament, losing in the second round. As Androide defeated Legionnaire in the semi finals and fOru defeating the Chinese player CNSTORM, two non Koreans were guaranteed medals.
For the 3rd/4th place match, Legionnaire was able to take home the bronze, while Androide was not able to defeat fOru, but took home a silver medal for his efforts. Once again two medals for the foreign community.
WCG 2006 - Italy
This was the most brutal year of all for the foreigners - as none of them were able to take home a medal. There was great hope with Testie, Mondragon, and the recent progamer Draco that one of them would be able to take down some Koreans and bring home medals but the Korean lineup was the most fearsome it had ever been, with three players widely regarded as some of the best ever to play; oov, July, and Midas.
The Koreans also had a very strong draw, but the balance was almost upset with Draco nearly defeating oov in the second round, taking the series to a decisive third game where he was unable to close out a victory, which would have been arguably the biggest upset in the history of WCG. But alas, he was unable to get the victory, and the foreigners went home medal-less.
WCG 2007 - USA
The Grand Final once again was brought back to the USA, this time in Seattle. There was a strong Chinese lineup with PJ and Phoenix representing, Mondragon once again made it to the bracket stage to try his luck, while Draco and Androide were back once again. It was another unfortunate draw for foreigners, Androide faced off against Savior in the first round, while countrymen Draco and Dreiven faced off first along with PJ and Phoenix.
However it was in the quarter finals where the biggest upset in the history of WCG (so far) happened - PJ managed to beat Savior with a 2-1 score. Savior who was largely considered one of the best players, if not the best player in the world, was dethroned by the Chinese gamer. He followed his impressive and history win by narrowly defeating White-Ra in the semifinals. On the other end of the bracket, Mondragon reached the semi finals but was eliminated by Stork.
In the end, PJ took home the silver medal, and Mondragon defeated White-Ra for the bronze, marking the third time non Koreans have taken two medals.
WCG 2008 - Germany
This past year, the non Koreans had some pretty good representation from the foreigners. Mondragon seemed primed to defend his medal, Androide and Draco were back yet again, Strelok was competing at the Grand Final for the first time, and the American hope, NonY was widely regarded as being one of the only foreigners capable of taking on the Koreans. From the Chinese, LX was ready for action.
Sadly however, Draco failed to make the bracket stage, while Androide and Mondragon were both eliminated in the first round by Chinese players. LoveTT who defeated Mondragon, next eliminated NonY in a close three game series. Strelok however, was able to take down LX to advance to the semi-finals for the chance to play a medal game. He lost to Luxury, the eventual champion, but was able to defeat LoveTT in the 3rd/4th place match to take home the bronze medal.
Looking to the Future... 2009 and Beyond
After taking a trip down memory lane and realizing that the foreigners have done pretty well actually in the WCG Grand Finals, what does the future have in store for us? I've recently written an article on The Death of Starcraft, referring to the foreign community. The primary question that comes to mind is, will WCG even host a Starcraft tournament in 2009? Hopefully the answer is yes.
Should there be a WCG Starcraft tournament next year in China, what are the chances of foreigners repeating some of the strong performances of the past? It seems as if every other year, foreigners are able to capture 2/3 of the medals, so the trend would indicate that there is a strong likelihood of two foreigners being able to take home medals in 2009. But then the question is, which two will it be?
First off the question of what countries will send players needs to be answered. It is a complicated issue for sure, mostly political and dealing with money as opposed to countries just not having players. For example, Canada and Sweden two very strong countries were not able to send players last year. If the foreign scene wishes to see some more of its members on the podium next year - there needs to be concentrated efforts to show sponsors, and convince organizations that Starcraft is still worth sponsoring in order to get the maximum amount of countries spots at the Grand Final so that we as a community have the best possible representation.
Mind you, this is only my opinion (and I very well could be wrong), but these are the players I believe most poised to take home medals in 2009 (in no particular order):
- This should go without saying; he is an amazing talent and it is such a shame Canada has such poor sponsorship because he is probably the very best non Korean player.
- This past year he was top 8, narrowly missing out on a chance at a medal, and his time in Korea will only help to make him more dominant. Currently he is a close second behind IefNaij in terms of skill, but he will soon surpass him.
- Here is another insanely strong player, and he's already been in Korea for quite awhile now. I believe that his disappointing performance at WCG USA and in some sense Blizzcon has given him a very valuable lesson and necessary experience. I believe that next year we will see a far more skilled and determined IdrA ready to show that his time in Korea has made him one of the best.
- Many think he is overrated, I believe he is underrated. I believe he has a very good chance at repeating and taking home another medal. His game play is very solid and strategically he's very sound. Also I believe in these situations he has enough strength and dedication to prepare as well as anyone can for this tournament.
- This list wouldn't be complete without Mondragon, and I don't think it needs explaining. He isn't as active as he once was, but he is good enough to beat any foreigner on any given day, and can give some Koreans a scare too.
- I'll probably get flamed most for this - but my opinion stands. I think with another year of training Fenix will be very scary indeed. He's already proven he can compete with the best and even among Korean gamers, so it is highly likely that if he continues his rate of improvement, he will become even more of a force to be reckoned with.
- Despite what he's said I doubt we've seen the last of him. I think he will be back with a vengeance next year and will have the possibility of taking the world by storm.
*Note: I'm not including Chinese players on my list because I don't know much about them.
All of the above is predicated on the fact that I am assuming Starcraft will be included in WCG 2009. But what if it isn't? Then our hope for taking home a gold medal in WCG is officially dead. We will then have to look forward to Starcraft 2. This opens up a whole new avenue of questions that need to be, but can't possibly be, answered just yet.
As Starcraft 2 is poised to be orgasmically huge as an eSport world-wide (there are huge multigaming organizations preparing for the release of Starcraft 2 even now), non Koreans might have a chance to become on par or even better than Koreans, but that remains to be seen.
For now we just have to hope that we'll have another WCG to look forward to next year, and that in the future we will be able to take a handful of gold medals from the Koreans when Starcraft 2 is released.
Interesting Statistics **Not Counting Chinese Gamers**
Most Consecutive WCG Appearances
+ Show Spoiler +
1. Androide - 5
1. Fisheye - 5
3. Grrr - 4
3. Elky - 4
3. Nazgul - 4
3. Testie - 4
3. jamesfoo - 4
3. Lamer - 4
Most WCG Appearances (Total)
+ Show Spoiler +
1. Androide - 6
1. jamesfoo - 6
3. Fisheye - 5
3. Legionnaire - 5
Best Record in Group Stage
+ Show Spoiler +
1. Advokate : 14-2 (87.5%)
2. Elky : 18-3 (85.7%)
3. Mondragon : 13-3 (81.25%)
4. Nazgul : 17-4 (81%)
5. Fisheye : 22-6 (78.75%)
6. Grrr : 18-5 (78.26%)
7. Hellghost : 13-4 (76.5%)
8. Lamer : 15-5 (75%)
8. EX : 15-5 (75%)
10. Testie : 14-5 (73.7%)
11. Draco : 11-4 (73.3%)
12. Suker : 18-7 (72%)
13. Androide : 22-9 (71%)
14. Froz : 11-5 (68.75%)
15. Legionnaire : 18-10 (64.3%)
Most Top 8 Performances
+ Show Spoiler +
1. Elky - 3
1. Fisheye - 3
3. Androide -2
3. Nazgul - 2
3. Grrr - 2
3. Zealotito - 2