The OnGameNet StarLeague Finals. The crossroads of destiny. The moment of truth for so many bold souls before, and - hopefully - a lot more to follow. Hopefully, since, with SCII looming above us, who knows how many such tournaments are still to be held? It's hard to predict clearly what the future holds, but consider this: what if this is one of the last OSL Finals ever? What if the predictions are true, and we're witnessing the last few culminations of this Epic Title? What if SCII comes out in about a year from now and takes the place of the Giant? Will this OSL be one of the last three? Last five?
Or will it continue to live on and dominate like it did all the years before? Who knows...
Regardless of what the future brings, the present is a fact. And the fact is, StarCraft: BroodWar is on the PEAK of it's life-run right now. All the previous events on the timeline of BW's existence are included in this one moment. 9 years of cumulative experience are standing behind The Game. The players are meticulous in their training, deadly in their execution, imaginative to the brink of sanity in their development of new strategies. 9 years of play, research, exploration, perfection.
And no podium higher in the history of StarCraft to boil down all the best characteristics of a competitive gamer than the OnGameNet StarLeague Finals...
And here we are once again folks. The Finals. It doesn't get any better than this. Any higher than this. Or more noble, more prestigious than this...
This StarLeague has witnessed it all. The Great Olds. The Dominating Youngs. Who could have possibly predicted this outcome? We know the answer, don't we? Nobody could. Why, with all the grand names in the pool, who would have thought? Reach, NaDa, Casy - seasoned veterans always capable to show form beyond human limits. Stork, Bisu, sAviOr - their domination seemed absolute these days, none would willingly want to stand in their path.
Who would have thought the Finals would boil down to these two? These? Who are they? Where do they come from? How in the world did they get here? Against THOSE odds?
Well, let's see...
IriS - 변형태 - Byun Hyung Tae
20 years of age, the young Byun never had an easy life. Born to the slums of Seoul, Byun's day to day routine was a struggle for his very existence.
Always a bit on the silent side, he endured many ridicules his early years - his complexion often made mockery of. Bitter with his fate, Byun decided to part ways with his parental hell-hole and look for a way to earn a living on the streets. After years of pointless wandering he was picked up by the leader of the street gang CJ Entus, who was famous for lifting up the fallen and downtrodden kids off the street and provide them with shelter and opportunities to prove themselves. For this reason, he was known on the streets as Savior.
However, life was still not an easy givings for the young Byun. Savior demanded from the kid - in exchange for the shelter and food he provided - that he performs in the bloody street-brawl tournament series called BroodWar. These brutal exhibitions provided money to the gang, and a chance of survival for Byun, and so he fought with all he had, and more...
Soon, the real power of the young boy was apparent. The aggression and anger of his early years culminated in powerful rage apparent in his gameplay style earned him the nickname Berserker, replacing the former, affectionate nick IriS, given him by Savior in the early days.
In 2006, as IriS plunged into the depths of the most prestigious tourney of BroodWar - the OSL - he was stopped cold by his mentor, sAviOr, who then proceeded to win the tourney. Defeated and bitter, deafened by the shouts of the crowd and blinded by the lights of the dome, IriS vowed he'd be back once more.
And back he was. Meeting his leader in the cage once again, IriS was not sure if he's confident enough. It was his master. It was his shadow he grew up in. How could he possibly defeat the undefeatable? But something snapped in him just then. It was just an instant, as he realized he was no longer a meek iris... He was a berserker. The bitter rage of the slums broke through, and an instant later, there lay his former master, at his feet... With the newly found power, Berserker tore his way through the next opponent he faced - Stork. "That was an easy prey" - he thought - "I can't lose anymore".
Carrying the fate of his mentor and friend, Byun was now on a killing spree. Standing in The Final Cage he thought - this is it. He was born for this. This is his fate, it can't be a coincidence. His mentor won't forgive him if he fails now. No, Byun wouldn't forgive it himself, either. Feeling as if the weight of the world is on his shoulders, and yet with rock-hard resolution in his heart, Byun was now ready. He'd unleash his rage once again, and beat the opponent into oblivion - regardless of who they are. He'd be the Berserker Champion.
IriS Hype Video (thx to VioleTAK):
GGPlay - 김준영 - Kim Joon Yung
Born into a wealthy family, his parents renowned artists, little Kim never lacked a thing in his life. Like a flower in a greenhouse, he grew up protected from the ugly sides of the world, surrounded by fine arts and luxury. From the earliest of his days, Kim's parents intended for him to become an artist just like them. They envisioned him standing on the Big Stage, to be a master at his game.
Later in his life, young Kim was sent to practice with the best teachers to the prestigious House of Hanbitstars, where he would learn the fine tunes of his art, under the meticulous guidance of his friends and mentors. With the continuous support of his parents and environment, Kim continued to grow into quite a formidable performer, and soon earned himself the nickname GGPlay, as his teachers often used to say "Hum, good, good..." watching him play.
But something was missing. Something was lacking in his game, he felt it. Something to make the leap from "good, good" to truly GREAT. Rumour has it, it was then that he learned, that somewhere in the deep slums of the city, there is a man whose art cannot be matched. Ma Jae Yoon, the True Maestro. Intrigued by this information, GGPlay found a new resolve. "I will overcome this Maestro" - he thought. He would prove that art is something beautiful, something studied your whole life, as piece by piece it grows into a fine-tuned orchestra of art.
Thus began GGPlay's rise to power. Driven by the thought of overcoming the art of his rival - whom he never even met - Kim was fixed on one objective, and one only: he HAD to stand on the big stage of the Grand OSL Concerto Hall. He had to be chosen to perform, and he had to perform so well - the title of Maestro would be his.
Kim's game was on an uprise from that moment on. His play was calculated, precise and perfected. Having outclassed several from his opposition, he finally had it within his grasp - the Grand Hall of OSL was now in front of him. The stage was illuminated, the crowd in silence. GGPlay would prove to them - he is the True Maestro, nobody else can compare.
GGPlay Hype Video (thx to VioleTAK):
And thus here we are. Two unlikely finalists, against all hardships, face each other on the final stage. IriS weighs in at a delicate 50% (33-33) TvZ throughout his carrer. GGPlay is on an upswing with a 55% ZvT (35-29) in his. Yet IriS has just done the impossible - he knocked out sAviOr in a bo3 to get where he is. His overall performance this OSL is even more impressive: 7-2 altogether. GGPlay's record is 8-3 this season, just a tad worse.
Having ploughed through Shark, Bifrost, sAviOr and Stork, only losing a game to Reach and sAviOr, IriS is set to clench the final trophy. GGPlay has been on the brink of elimination on his path of the brackets however - having swept his opposition clean in form of Stork, Sea.Up and Casy in the group stages - he was hard pressed against Hwasin and Flash, 2-1 and 3-2 respectively. And even though GGPlay's opponents for the last 3 matches are all Terrans, it seems to me the brute strength and sheer aggressiveness of the Berserker will have an upper hand in this battle. If IriS doesn't get to force himself on the Zerg early however, the swarming orchestra might play him a tune he'll never forget.
Game 1 - Python
Game 2 - Fantasy
Game 3 - Hitch Hiker
Game 4 - Monty Hall
Game 5 - Python
We can only hope to see these two perform on all 5 of the maps, and I predict it's going to happen. Both will probably have a trick or two prepared for certain situations, but I'd say that generally more drawn-out, power-hungry games are expected. And although I'm inclined to see IriS having an advantage when it comes to evaluation of recent form, there's no reason to count out GGPlay either.
Both players once overshadowed by the giant mountain that is sAviOr, both with an agenda to adhere to. Will IriS prove to be worthy of his team-mate's glory? Will he show that eliminating sAviOr was not a fluke? Or will GGPlay erase all doubt that he is indeed the one and true Maestro?
We will know on Saturday 21st...