Cool Things From 2019: Odds and Endsby Wax
So, there's not enough time to write a full-length article on ALL the nifty things from the 2019 season, and there would also be a lot of overlap with our upcoming TL.net awards (soon™). But I didn't want to leave off on 2019 without shouting out a handful of more cool moments everyone enjoyed, and some that might have gotten overlooked otherwise.
soO fans got him a billboard
soO's status as the ultimate folk hero of Korean StarCraft II was etched in stone at IEM Katowice 2019, where he finally won that career-affirming major championship after overcoming years of soul-crushing second-place finishes. The StarCraft II community responded with an enormous outpouring of congratulations, celebration and love, and it was especially pronounced in soO's home country of South Korea.
Korean fans rushed to contribute money to a full-size billboard advertisement in Samseong station (the subway stop closest to the GSL studio), an activity that's typically reserved for the rabid fan-clubs of K-pop fans. It was particularly adorable as this effort was organized via DCInside's SC2 forum—an as toxic and balance-whiny collection of s***-posters as you'll see on any Western site (). But in order to support their glorious leader, their "soO-jang", they united like the most passionate group of K-pop stans.
Serral had a golf tournament
Not that this had much to do with StarCraft II, but it was charming to see Serral leverage his success and fame into a sponsorship deal with his local golf club. He didn't just get a free membership to the club—they held an entire tournament in his honor called the "Serral Open." In a world where the 'star power' of StarCraft II esports has been overshadowed by more high-profile games, it was nice to see Serral recognized in even this modest way.
Maybe I'm being too romantic about small-town values, but I find there's a lot more charm to this kind of local-level recognition than Serral's invitation to the Finnish President's Independence Day reception—an event to which 1,700 people were invited. Think about it this way: Would Reynor like to be sponsored by a local pizzeria in his hometown, or be a global brand ambassador for Papa John's?
The Spirit of Proleague was RekindledThis section guest written by TheOneAboveU
From high profile upsets and ridiculous snipes to high-caliber ace matches and the showcasing of team spirit, the China Team Championship had everything a StarCraft 2 fan could ever desire from a team league these days. It was not quite Proleague, the online portions could drag, but it bore a close enough resemblance to really scratch that particular itch during the offline portion of the tournament.
Losing Proleague was a disaster of epic proportions and shook the StarCraft 2 scene to its very core. However, the CTC was able to somewhat mend this large wound, and show that the soul of Proleague is still very much alive today. No matter what player, race, or team you support, watching hitherto basically unknown P1.Firefly’s hyped declaration of his intention to destroy JAGW.Maru in front of a home crowd and then actually fulfilling that promise via a hilarious combination of canon rush and gateway push just has to make your heart beat a little faster. Likewise, the sight of a notoriously stoic P1.FanTaSy getting infected by happiness from the cheers of his team mates Firefly and P1.PartinG during his impressive all-kill of KaiZi Gaming in the playoffs is not something you’d ever see outside of a team league setting. These were the kind of moments that ingrained Proleague in our hearts, and they certainly make it easy to fall in love with the CTC.
But this isn’t just nostalgia speaking: the CTC brought its own flair with it as well, such as its sometimes confusing, but very exciting match format, in which every map counts, teams with deep line-ups are rewarded, and as many players as possible gain exposure and play time on the stage. Economically speaking, the CTC is the best thing to have happened to the Korean scene in ages, with most Korean players now being under contract with teams again, which eases their situation greatly. We can’t wait to see how this competition can grow and prosper with Season 3 coming in 2020.
Basically everything that happened at HomeStory Cup XX
There's too much stuff to list, but I'll just jot down a few of the things that stuck out to me: Tobi of Shopify randomly decided to double the prize pool of the tournament halfway through. Nearly every public figure/caster involved in the SC2 scene since its beginning sent in a video, or was attending in person like former Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime. There was a water-sliding contest for a $2 prize (leading to the best and worst video of all time). There was a live performance of the hit song "Hey Kappa" by R3Z /ft NASL Sound Guy. INnoVation was good enough to give us false hope. The ZvZ finals didn't suck. Serral gave us a hilariously unenthusiastic 'dive' into the pool to celebrate his championship.
INnoVation's meme theme-song was played in a serious tournamentHomeStory Cup is a tournament that seems to place having fun as the #1 priority, with actual StarCraft II falling somewhere in #2~10. And thus, an air of levity and not-taking-ourselves-too-seriously-ness is not just accepted—it's expected.
However, in the very serious WESG (at least in terms of the organizer's ambitions), you don't expect to see the final moments of the tournament highlighted by a meme. But indeed, somehow the influence of the forum-reading, meme-cracking side of the Chinese community seeped into the production of the SC2 finals, as INnoVation had his trophy moment punctuated by the melody of his very silly, unofficial Chinese theme song. If you didn't know, you didn't notice. But if you DID notice, it was probably pretty damn cool and hilarious.
Less-Than-Cool Things from 2019Also, I wanted to mention a few of the, uhhh... "less pleasant" things we went through in 2019. I didn't want to get into territory that's TOO serious here, so I'll stick to things that most of us can probably laugh off.
Fan-voting is dumb, as usual2018 revealed the potential flaws of fan-voting in tournament invites, like when Avilo got voted into the USA squad for NationWars 5 and promptly went 0-2, or when Kelazhur leveraged CS:GO influencers to get voted into GSL vs. The World before losing to Serral in the first round (he still earned $2500 and a trip to Korea for his social media skills).
So, of course, we decided to just repeat all of that over again in the exact same tournaments in 2019. In the case of NationWars 2019, there was some drama regarding streamer MEDOED winning a spot on the Russian team. In GSL vs. The World, Elazer was the 'culprit,' using the considerable reach of his AGO Gaming teammate 'Gimper' to amass a huge amount of votes from outside the SC2 community (fan voting brought to you by TL.net™ for the 2nd straight year).
Now, normally I wouldn't care that much about this—it's something you have to accept when you allow a 100%, unmodified fan vote. I mean, was it unfair that FanTaSy won the Korea vote ahead of INnoVation and TY, despite being a clearly less skilled and accomplished player? I don't know—where you draw 'the line' seems to be largely arbitrary.
However, I wouldn't have included this story unless it had a happy ending. Well, it had a funny ending, which is enough to make me happy. Elazer, after getting dunked on by the SC2 community for weeks after the vote, proceeded to completely vindicate himself by making it to the grand finals with wins over Dark, TIME, and Neeb. Yeah, he lost to Serral in the end, but it was still quite the retort to anyone who criticized his selection (without actually invalidating their complaints).
Hmmm, maybe I should have included this in the "cool" category.
StarCraft II left out of BlizzCon video wrap-upI like to use a four-quadrant matrix to categorize events in the StarCraft II scene, depending on how they score in the "relevance" and "juiciness" departments. In that regard, SC2 being left out of Blizzard's BlizzCon wrap-up video felt just barely relevant enough to qualify as drama.
Yes, it was a 'slap in the face' to StarCraft II fans, but it really had no significant impact besides really, REALLY hurting our feelings. But if it was reflective of Blizzard's priorities (outside the SC2 team), then we should have realized those priorities years ago from their previous action. Ultimately, it didn't affect anyone's love for the game, and life seems to be rolling on.
That weird WCS Winter seasonFor the mysterious 'behind the scenes' reasons, the first WCS season of 2019 was held in the form of two, stripped-down tournaments called WCS Winter: Americas and WCS Winter: Europe. The fact that no one remembers (or seems to care) that Neeb won the American half tells us all we need to know about this venture's success.
As a fan, I wasn't that bothered that we had a largely forgettable tournament to start the Circuit—IEM Katowice, WESG, and Code S Season 1 were more than good enough to carry the first quarter. No, I'm much more bothered on the nerdy, record-keeping side. I'm tired of not being able to just plainly say Serral and Reynor split the Circuit titles 2-2, and instead having to add parenthetical reminders that WCS: AM existed. I'm also tired thinking of the FUTURE Serral vs Reynor arguments people are going to have on TL.net, where they argue that Reynor's Winter/EU win was only worth 71.7387% of a 'proper' WCS Circuit title (if you've already made this argument, don't tell me). Let's never do this again.
Classic misses IEM KatowiceWhat feels worse than seeing a top progamer forced to retire because of Korean military service? Seeing that military service impede his participation in tournaments before he even has to enlist.
That's what happened to Classic ahead of IEM Katowice 2019. It was well-known that 2019 was likely to be his final year of progaming before military service, and he was playing like someone determined to go out with a bang. Unfortunately, bureaucratic red tape got in the way of his IEM ambitions—his travel to Poland was not permitted. Given the tremendous series planning ability he showed in his subsequent Code S finals run, one has to think IEM Katowice could have concluded differently if Classic had participated (maybe soO would have lost again...).
There was a silver lining from this, however. Having been denied an opportunity at IEM, Classic got to work with Blizzard and KeSPA to sort his visa out ahead of BlizzCon. As it turns out, Classic's experience might help his peers going forward—on stream, he suggested that peers of his age shouldn't have trouble participating at international events, now that everyone knows the proper procedure of applying for a travel exception in that situation.
Serral's nicknamesThis one is particularly self-indulgent: my biggest personal pet peeve of the 2019 season was how hard Maynarde tried to push for "Night King" and "God-King" as Serral's nickname.
Seeing how Game of Thrones the TV series ended in the lamest way possible, even Maynarde seemed to quietly give up on the "Night King" moniker midway through the year. But "God-King" remained one of his favorites, despite it being one of the tackiest nicknames since OnGameNet tried to stick "Shiva" (you know, the Hindu god of destruction) on Jaedong for a couple of weeks.
Look, what's wrong with just going with "The Finnish Phenom?" It's plain, mostly unpretentious, and it's obvious. Kinda like Serral!
Credits and acknowledgements
Written by: Wax and TheOneObveU
Images: soO, TakeTV, Blizzard
Written by: Wax and TheOneObveU
Images: soO, TakeTV, Blizzard