SKT_soO fights for more than just himself at the Code S Finals.
Not all legacies are glorious.
Some are like that of the New York Yankees, and others more like the Chicago Cubs'. It's the legacy of Russian chess players compared to that of Russian Dota players.
Imagine inheriting such a reputation for disappointment and failure. Through no fault of your own, except perhaps being unable to overachieve, you become completely overshadowed by it. Alone, you might have become known for something else, or at least mercifully ignored. As a part of the group, you are just continuing a long history of mediocrity.
That's what it was to be an SKT Zerg.
As one of the oldest and most storied teams in Korean esports history, SK Telecom T1 has enjoyed great success in both individual and team tournaments. Boxer, the icon of Korean StarCraft himself, was the founding member of the team. Players like iloveoov, Midas, and Fantasy ensured that SKT would remain a Terran powerhouse. As for Protoss, SKT's acquisition of Bisu from MBCgame allowed them to enjoy the later half of the revolutionists' magnificent prime, while Best and Rain provided them with homegrown strength.
In the case of the Zergs... Where do we even begin?
First there were Zerglee and MuMyung who played during the "2v2 is still a thing" era of Proleague, where they selflessly gave up the glory of 1v1's to play the 2v2 portions of matches (some would say they were being hidden). Their lack of results in individual tournaments should come as no surprise, with a significant portion of their time practicing for team games.
Then came GoRush, a championship winning player from team GO (Greatest Ones) whose stint with SKT could be described as "disappointingly just-alright." Not long after that came the signing of another proven champion Zerg in July who proved to be yet another flop for SKT. July even managed to give SKT a stinging parting gift when he left for STX Soul a couple of years later, making an unexpected run to the EVER OSL finals and defeating SKT's Best.
But wait! There's more!
HyuK and soO at MLG Dallas
With the removal of 2v2 from Proleague in 2008, the infamous Hyuk - s2 - soO - Thezerg era began. They proved to be adequate, but no more than that. It did not help them that in two consecutive Proleague finals against bitter rivals KT Rolster, the Zergs collectively failed to win even a single map as SKT took home double silvers.
As a result of a collision between this quartet's stark mediocrity and SKT's tragic Zerg history, the idea of the "T1 Zerg" was finally codified as one of the community's most popular jokes, eSports media's favorite storylines, and go-to scapegoat of the frustrated SKT fan.*
To be honest, it was all a bit unfair. Fans love a good story, and if there's some exaggeration in the telling, then so be it. Fantasy played nothing like Boxer when he began to distinguish himself, but as a product of SKT he received immense amounts of hype as the Emperor's heir. soO and his class of T1 Zergs also had their reputations embellished – just not in a positive direction.
*This is a very condensed version of the story.
SKT_soO had it the worst. In Brood War, he was the SKT Zerg who came the closest to dispelling that legacy of disrepute after spending years as an understudy to HyuK and S2. He seemed to finally put all the pieces together in mid 2011, becoming that reliable – and some may dare to even say dominant – Zerg that SKT had always wanted in Proleague. He even attained some individual competition glory by reaching the semi-finals of the Jin Air OSL.
Just as soO was hitting his stride, KeSPA announced their official switch to StarCraft 2. With that one, fell swoop, Blizzard and KeSPA hit the rewind button on soO's career, sending him right back to being a middle-of-the-pack, Ro16 ceiling-ed, Proleague rotation player. Oh, and then he had to relearn the game again one year later when HotS came out.
But soO kept at it – what's another year of perseverance when you've already put in four? Even with his KeSPA compatriots beginning to retire around him and rumors circulating about soO's unhappiness with the game, he continued to put in the effort, improved his play, and patiently took on each new opportunity; Code B, Code A, Code S Ro16, top 12 MLG, Code S Ro16 again. Now, after almost a year and a half of StarCraft 2, soO has finally reached a place he has never been in his career: The grand finals.
With the switch to StarCraft 2, HyuK becoming a coach, S2 and TheZerg retiring, and soO looking to have become quite a good player (again), the SKT Zerg storyline has somewhat pattered out. Much of the buzz surrounding the Code S finals has been about unexpectedness of the card, Dear and soO's playful trash talk, and iloveoov appointment as acting SK Telecom head coach. But with the prospect of SK Telecom T1 having their first Zerg champion, the old narrative couldn't help but come out again. When Korean website Inven.co.kr asked him about the situation, soO replied:
"We were all a little bit lacking in skill. It's not that we were overshadowed by the Terrans and Protosses... ...I know [I could be the first Zerg champion for SKT]. I can't believe it myself. All the Zergs who went through T1 up to now have had it rough, I'll wash away their pain."
soO's story is still primarily a personal one. It's about never having a chance to shine for years but finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel. It's about an individual's struggle to attain a lifelong dream. But that's what everyone else is fighting for, too. Those stakes are the same for Dear as well.
If there's one thing that could make this mean more to soO, makes him want it more than his equally championship starved opponent, it's that he's just doing this for all the SKT Zergs. For all those who came before him, he can wash away a dark legacy. For all those who come after him, soO can make sure they have the start he didn't, one unhindered with the weight of the past.
Also read: Dear: The Soul Survivor
Code S Finals Begin in:
Code S Finals Begin in: