Finding the Greatest GamesList compiled by Ej, Elentos, and Durn.
Written by Ej, Elentos, and Wax.
Another year of competitive StarCraft II is in the books and we're excited to share all of the best games with our fellow fans.
There are a lot of elements to consider in what makes a game of StarCraft great. Everyone is going to value these factors differently, whether it's extreme displays of mechanical skill, the narrative that plays out inside a game, or the tension of a high-stakes match. While we tried to account for everything, we ended up favoring gameplay over 'outside' factors. After all, while you don't need us to tell you how significant and emotional Serral's BlizzCon victory was, we can probably point you to a lot of epic matches in online cups that most fans haven't seen.
We hope you enjoy these games as much as we did, and also hope that they get you excited for another year of StarCraft II esports. Feel free to suggest any games we didn't list (just make sure to include a video link) and check out our enormous master-list if you want to watch even more games.
Before we get to the list itself, there's just one more thing we have to take care of...
The elfi "Award" for Really Dumb and Weird GamesThere's plenty of good StarCraft. There's also plenty of bad StarCraft. But the rarest, most unique type of StarCraft is the kind that's just weird. In the name of elfi—the infamous Finn who vexed the world with his 120 APM and twisted mind—we dub these games the dumbest and weirdest of 2018.
Exhibit A: sOs vs HeRoMaRinE
WCS Global Finals, Round of 16 - Blueshift
Losing. Winning. What's the big difference?
No progamer can bring their A-game 100% of the time. Inside the pressure cooker of a high-stakes match, one's own mentality can become a greater obstacle than one's opponent. This brings an element of unpredictability to StarCraft which is a key part of why we find it so entertaining. Well, most of the time. At other times, it just makes games silly... which, we suppose, is 'entertaining' in a different sense.
Exhibit B: Bioice vs MCanning
Cheeseadelphia 7, Round of 16 - Dreamcatcher
(Starts at 01:17:33)
Normally, this is where we'd offer a little tease about what happens during the game, but this contest between Bioice and MCanning is truly best watched without any spoilers. Just dive straight in for the optimal, mind-blowing experience. Trust us! Or don't; it's not like you paid for this article anyway.
Exhibit C: Has vs TIME
WCS Montreal, Round of 16 - Cerulean Fall
(Starts at 37:30)
By next year, this will be called the Has Award.
Has, the mad scientist from Taiwan, had the best year of his career in 2018. He reached the finals of WCS Valencia and even scrapped together enough high finishes to earn a spot at BlizzCon. He didn't even have to sacrifice any of his cheesy principles in order to achieve this, and thus became an even greater folk-hero in the StarCraft fandom.
To be honest, this entire award section could easily have been devoted to Has games, but we decided to go with what we judged to be the single Has-iest game played in 2018. While most Has games reach peak weirdness in the early game, Has found a kindred spirit in TIME who helped expand the vortex of madness until it collapsed in a calamitous finale.
Exhibit D: Scarlett vs MaSa
WCS Austin Challenger, Semifinals - Entire Series
True art is always controversial in its own time.
This series isn't particularly good. It doesn't even pass the threshold of 'so bad it's good.' It's just a straight-up disaster where MaSa decides to proxy-barracks rush in every single game of a best-of-five series.
And yet, amid the carnage and wreckage, some say there's a glimmer of beauty that can just barely be glimpsed in the design of the Terran architect. Others say it's the most despicable, heinous thing they've ever seen. In any case, it's art.
The 50 Best StarCraft II Games of 2018Thanks for indulging our brief plunge into madness. Let's get down to the list of best games!
#50 to #41
50. MaNa vs Serral, WCS Austin - Dreamcatcher - Watch VOD
49. INnoVation vs Dark, ONPOONG Ultimate Battle - Stasis - Watch VOD
48. Dark vs Maru, Code S Season 1 - Ascension to Aiur - Watch VOD
47. Stats vs Maru, GSL vs. The World - Catalyst - Watch VOD
46. TY vs Dark, Code S Season 1 - Ascension to Aiur - Watch VOD
45. SpeCial vs Stats, WCS Global Finals - Lost and Found - Watch VOD
44. Ryung vs Dark, Code S Season 2 - Backwater - Watch VOD
43. Serral vs Neeb, IEM Katowice - Catalyst - Watch VOD
42. Neeb vs MaNa, WCS Austin - Lost and Found - Watch VOD
41. Maru vs Leenock, Code S Season 3 - Lost and Found - Watch VOD
#40 to #31
40. Rogue vs Serral, WCS Global Finals - Lost and Found - Watch VOD
39. Zest vs Dark, ONPOONG Ultimate Battle - Port Aleksander - Watch VOD
38. Classic vs Creator, GSL Super Tournament 2 - Acid Plant - Watch VOD
37. Serral vs Bunny, HomeStory Cup 18 - Lost and Found - Watch VOD
36. SpeCial vs INnoVation, NationWars V - Abiogenesis - Watch VOD
35. Serral vs Lambo, WCS Montreal Challenger - 16-Bit - Watch VOD
34. Rogue vs TY, Olimoleague November - Para Site - Watch VOD
33. TY vs Maru, BJ Destruction Match Season 2 - Blueshift - Watch VOD
32. Serral vs TaeJa, HomeStory Cup 18 - Blueshift - Watch VOD
31. INnoVation vs PartinG, NeXT 2018 Winter: Korean Qualifier - Port Aleksander - Watch VOD
#30 to #21
30. TY vs Solar, Memes and Dreams - Abiogenesis - Watch VOD
29. Trap vs INnoVation, Olimoleague #130 - Catalyst - Watch VOD
28. Zest vs Stats, Code S Season 3 - Blueshift - Watch VOD
27. FanTaSy vs soO, NeXT 2018 Winter: Korean Qualifier - Blueshift - Watch VOD
26. MaNa vs SpeCial, WCS Austin - 16-Bit - Watch VOD
25. Zest vs Rogue, Ballistix Brawl Season 3 Week 7 - Acid Plant - Watch VOD
24. Serral vs Reynor, WCS Montreal - Cerulean Fall - Watch VOD
23. TY vs Neeb, Code S Season 3 - 16-Bit - Watch VOD
22. Creator vs TY, GSL Super Tournament 2 - Lost and Found - Watch VOD
21. Maru vs Rogue, Code S Season 2 - Backwater - Watch VOD
#20 to #11
20. BreakingGG vs Qike, GPL Season 1 - Blackpink - Watch VOD
19. Dear vs TY, IEM Katowice - Acid Plant - Watch VOD
18. Creator vs INnoVation, WardiTV Invitational #4 - Acid Plant - Watch VOD
17. Rogue vs TY, WCS Global Finals - Lost and Found - Watch VOD
16. Rogue vs Dark, Kung Fu Cup Weekly #7 - Catalyst - Watch VOD
15. Dear vs Bunny, Code S Season 2 - Neon Violet Square - Watch VOD
14. TY vs Maru, Code S Season 3 - Lost and Found - Watch VOD
13. INnoVation vs Serral, HomeStory Cup 18 - Lost and Found - Watch VOD
12. TY vs Dark, Kung Fu Cup #14 - Lost and Found - Watch VOD
11. ShoWTimE vs Serral - NationWars 5 - Neon Violet Square - Watch VOD
The Top Ten Best Games of 2018
#10: Classic vs SpeCial
WCS Global Finals, Round of 16 - Lost and Found
(Starts at 19:30)
Is there any better nickname than "Guardian of Guadalajara"?
In the midst of a PvT meta where early-game snowballs tended to decide matches, SpeCial and Classic treated us to a Global Finals game that reminded us of just how good PvT could be.
All year long, Classic had built up a reputation as the best PvT player in the world while SpeCial had looked shaky when facing top-tier Protosses. However, instead of needing to land a knockout punch in the first ten minutes, the Mexican Terran went blow-for-blow with Classic in a thrilling brawl where he looked every bit the equal to one of Korea's best.
#9: Reynor vs Classic
Code S Season 3, Round of 32 - Lost and Found
(Starts at 13:30)
The greatest matches often come from the most unexpected places...
While everyone was excited when sixteen-year-old Reynor qualified for GSL Code S, few expected him to actually be competitive against Korea's elite in the main competition. And indeed, Classic welcomed Reynor to Code S with a straight-up stomp in his first RO32 series.
However, the Italian Zerg proved his mettle by taking out the veteran Ryung and earning a rematch against Classic with a RO16 spot on the line. Classic might have expected to school the youngster once more, but Reynor unleashed his real potential in the rematch. After Reynor took the first game, Classic was forced to take on Reynor with some newfound respect. Reynor battered Classic with constant counter-attacks in game two, ravaging Classic's economy and dragging him down into a costly war. Both players eventually ran out of resources, forcing them into a showdown with the tattered remains of their forces.
#8: Maru vs Stats
IEM Katowice, Round of 76 - Neon Violet Square
(Starts at 29:20)
Seek and destroy.
When Maru brought out his Raven-centric Terran play at IEM Katowice, it was hard to know what to make of it. No one could have predicted that it would be the strategic foundation for one of the greatest runs in StarCraft II history.
One has to wonder what Stats thought when he became one of the first players to face Maru's Ravens during in the RO76 of IEM Katowice. Did he think them a novelty, a creative attempt to solve Terran's woes in the latest balance patch? Or did he instantly realize the threat they might come to pose? Whatever the case, Stats wasn't going to be shaken in his pursuit of a group stage spot. The late game was his specialty, and he'd have to give this faded Terran wunderkind a timely reminder.
#7: GuMiho vs TY
Kung Fu Cup Weekly #12, Finals - Acid Plant
Hearkening back to the glory days of TvT.
There's nothing unusual or quirky about this game. There's no creative build order, jaw-dropping micro sequence, or unbelievable comeback. This isn't a gourmet dinner—instead, it's one of the best meals of meat and potatoes you'll ever have. Just Marine-Medivac-Tank battling Marine-Medivac-Tank for as long as the fighting needs to continue. Bases are pushed, mains are dropped, and the battle lines are constantly redrawn across the map in a desperate search for an advantage. This is old-fashioned, gritty StarCraft in all of its unpretentious splendor.
#6: Maru vs Dark
Code S Season 1, Semifinals - Blackpink
(Starts at 12:20)
For a short time, the most anticipated match of 2018.
2018 will largely be remembered for Serral and Maru's dominance but it would be a shame if we forgot everything else that went on. For instance, Maru and Dark spent the first quarter of the year in a brief but intense rivalry at the very top of the Korean StarCraft II scene.
After losing $120,000 to Maru in a seven-game WESG final, Dark soon earned a chance avenge that costly defeat in a GSL rematch. At the time, Maru's Raven-based turtle TvZ seemed to be nearing perfection but Dark had come the closest to cracking it open. Dark would indeed show he had adapted, seizing an initial advantage with a series of clever tech choices. But not all adaptation happens in the planning phase—much of it happens during the game itself, as Maru would show his rival.
#5: GuMiho vs Dark
Ballistix Brawl Season 3 Week 6, Semifinals - Lost and Found
(Starts at 14:00)
Sometimes, the only way to break the meatgrinder is to charge straight in.
So, in this game, Dark went for Swarm Hosts vs GuMiho's mech... Wait, come back!
Alright, so mech vs Zerg can produce some truly awful and boring games from time to time. But that's because a lot of mech vs Zerg games are played by people who aren't GuMiho and Dark. They are two of the most entertaining players in StarCraft II, creating plenty of action with their proactive styles. There was a bit of turtling against Swarm Hosts in this game, but that's just before GuMiho re-maxed on Hellions and Cyclones while Dark went for Ultralisks. And from there, things just got crazier and more action-packed.
#4: Serral vs Stats
GSL vs the World, Finals - 16-Bit
Who knew that Stats would emerge as Serral's most worthy challenger?
Stats is a more versatile player than most people give him credit for, but he's still at his best when he plays the safe, defensive style that earned him the moniker "Shield of Aiur." Thus, when Stats bloodied Serral with some trickery in the GSL vs. World finals, it wasn't all that exciting—WCS Circuit players had already achieved that much. What the fans really wanted to see from the series was one of Korea's best defensive players challenge Serral's aura of invincibility in straight-up macro games. Thankfully, both Serral and Stats came through in game five of the finals and blessed us with this amazing game.
Most StarCraft fans know GSL vs. The World as the tournament where Serral shut up his doubters and showed that he was worthy of being called the best in the world. But for us, it's the tournament where we witnessed Serral vs. Stats on 16-Bit.
#3: Dark vs TY
Code S Season 1, Round of 16 - Blackpink
(Starts at 49:00)
The finest super-late game of the year.
Let's go back to February 14, 2018. Obviously, you had that day marked on your calendar for weeks: it's the Code S group of death! Who could miss that? You tune in, and you see that the second match of the group is Dark vs TY. 'By god', you think, 'that should have been the Winners' match.' And as you watch the series unfold, you tell yourself that you were right. You watch, speechless as TY brings out his Ghost-mech playstyle on the big stage for the first time. In the first game, Dark stops him in his tracks before it really gets going. But in the second game, TY showcases the true power of the style he's been working on. As game 3 begins, you wonder what greatness you are about to behold. Will it be TY who takes the victory with his new innovative style, or will Dark be able to see weak points and create answers?
You watch in awe for over 40 minutes. And at the end you think 'gonna be hard to top this one!'
#2: Rogue vs INnoVation
WESG Korean Qualifer #2 - Port Aleksander
(Starts at 56:00)
Rogue: "You macro as if you have a hidden base somewhere."
Want to get progamers to go all-out and deliver high quality games? Well, there's no 100% sure method, but throwing obscene sums of money at them seems to have a good success rate. That's why WESG has produced quite a few memorable games in its short history, sometimes even before the actual tournament begins.
During a fierce Korean qualifier #2 for WESG 2018, two behemoths emerged as the top contenders for a spot in the $240,000 main event. Rogue and INnoVation tore through the competition, turning ByuN, TY, Solar, Zest and Dear into mere stepping stones. Whether it was to prove to doubters wrong, to make up for their slumps, or simply out of sheer greed, the two legends returned to prime form in this incredible TvZ match. Ling-Bane-Muta vs Marine-Medivac-Mine tug of war? Check! 50+ supply comebacks? Check! Late game turtling? Get the hell out of here. Without a doubt, this December latecomer is one of the best tournament games played in all of 2018.
#1: Dark vs Solar
IEM Katowice, Round of 24 - Eastwatch
To be fair, you have to have a very high IQ to understand top-tier ZvZ
Back in March, Dark and Solar played a match on the B-stream of IEM Katowice, which was just one of several matches going on during the group stage. By the end, we realized we had to bring back TeamLiquid's best games feature. This game was the impetus for this entire yearlong endeavor, the primary reason we wanted share great StarCraft II games with everyone.
Many fans consider ZvZ the worst match-up, finding most of the games to be similar and one-sided. While there's some validity to that reputation, the Zerg mirror can be magnificent when it shatters the mold.
In a match-up infested with 13-12s, 12-pools, Speedling floods, and Spine Crawler rushes, it seems crazy that anyone would ever go for TWO expansions before a spawning pool. Of course, it would be absolutely ridiculous for both players to open in such an insane manner. Well, 'absolutely ridiculous' turns out to be best way to describe Solar versus Dark. Both players opened with greedy, double-expansion openers, both players followed-up with Roaches, and then both players followed up with Spire tech. That's where the two players' plans diverged. Dark, upon scouting Solar's spire, decided to go into Corruptors. Wait, Corruptors? What followed was a ridiculous tug of war between Roaches, Zerglings, Mutalisks, Corruptors, and Banelings, all while Caustic Spray rained down on the Hatcheries below.
This game doesn't have high stakes, slick production, or interpersonal drama driving it. While all those things contribute to making esports fun, none of them are uniquely StarCraft. This game is about great StarCraft II in its pure, unadulterated form: two of the best progamers in the world going head-to-head.
Check out the master list for ALL of the best games from 2018 - Soon™ to be updated to include January and February
Credits and acknowledgements
Writers: Ej, Elentos, Wax.
List committee: Ej, Elentos, Durn.
Photos: Bark Oerbekke (ESL)
Writers: Ej, Elentos, Wax.
List committee: Ej, Elentos, Durn.
Photos: Bark Oerbekke (ESL)