With the death of the MSL, the hybrid Proleague so focused on StarCraft II, and the preliminaries already complete for the first StarCraft II OSL, you might make the mistake of pronouncing Brood War “dead,” but it’s not over yet. There’s still a Starleague to be played. JangBi, ZerO, Fantasy, and Flash have one last chance to make eSports history as the final Brood War champion. And whether you’re a fan of Brood War or not, any fan of eSports should bear witness to the conclusion of this legendary era.
No tournament has a history quite like the Ongamenet Starleague. This tournament gave us incredible games, over a decade of unforgettable stories, and the most legendary champions. To be a Starleague champion is to earn one of the highest honors in competitive gaming, and to have one’s name among players like SlayerS_BoxeR, NaDa, iloveoov, Jaedong, and Flash. And though the OSL will remain in the form of a StarCraft II league for years to come, it won’t quite be the same: a new beginning, at the end of an era.
But this is not a time for sadness. This is a time for excitement. The final OSL, the 2012 Tving OSL, could scarcely have a more exciting Round of Four. On one side, we have Heo “JangBi” Yeong Moo – the defending Starleague champion – against Kim “ZerO” Myung Woon, the captain of Woongjin Stars and one of the strongest zergs in the world. On the other, Lee “Flash” Young Ho – the Ultimate Weapon and candidate for the title of “greatest eSports player in history” – goes up against Jung “FanTaSy” Myung Hoon, the player itching to dethrone him. These games are sure to be hard fought, intense, and unforgettable. A victory here will mean something different for each of these players, but they all want it more than anything.
The first match-up will take place next week, and will be between JangBi and ZerO, two players with a lot to prove.
JangBi, who debuted in 2007, started his career with a bang. During the 2008-2009 seasons, he took second place in two MBCGame StarCraft Leagues and served as the de-facto ace for his team – with possibly the best protoss vs. terran in Korea, known for eliciting fan-girl screams with his breathtaking psi-storms, even though he was frequently overshadowed by his teammate Stork. But after he lost the second MSL finals, JangBi entered a massive slump. His record tanked. In 2008, he sat at a 73% PvT ratio, but by 2010 it had fallen to just 35%, and he was marked by a 0-11 streak from July to November. A player who was once called the “Almighty” had become the “Loser King.”
When the Jin Air OSL of 2011 rolled around, JangBi was looking slightly stronger, but nowhere near his prime. In the finals of his qualifier group, he was eliminated 2-0 and failed to qualify. It looked as though the Loser King was doomed to another year of mediocrity. But fate would intervene. One of the qualified players retired, which led to a wild-card tournament to determine his replacement. JangBi rolled through four strong players (including ZerO) to claim the spot, and promptly advanced through the Dual Tournament to the group stage. Two losses and one win forced him to rely on a tiebreaker – which he won once again.
In the Round of 8, he went up against the Ultimate Weapon, Flash himself. Though Flash took the first set, JangBi was able to rally and defeat him in sets 2 and 3. In the Round of 4, he avenged his loss in the qualifiers by defeating n.Die_SoO, the player who defeated him. And then in the finals, JangBi faced FanTaSy – the defending champion, who had taken down Stork to win the previous OSL. After recovering from significant damage in the fifth game of a dead-heat Best of 5, JangBi counter-attacked with his fleet of Carriers and steadily overwhelmed his terran opponent. The Almighty had been redeemed. JangBi was back.
"To be honest when I was caught in the losing-streak swamp, I debated whether to go to Airforce Ace or not, and honestly I also thought about giving up becoming a progamer. But I saw a ray of light (laugh). Suddenly, I thought that I could go back up for some reason. What I felt was that people who always work hard will be rewarded one day, and I'm really satisfied that it happened exactly like that. ... but because I was rewarded for my effort, I've felt a deeper happiness.” -- JangBi"
And he’s here to stay, already back in the quarterfinals of another Starleague. A win here, while his peers Stork and Bisu are out of the running, would give JangBi the chance to leave Brood War as the reigning best protoss player in the world, and give him a strong claim to that title overall.
ZerO, meanwhile, has yet to reach the climax of his own story. Since his debut in 2008, he has been an extremely strong zerg player, a consistent performer for Woongjin Stars, and has improved every year. From 2009-2010, he made the semifinals of an MSL, reached the Round of 8 in four consecutive OSLs, and took 2nd at BlizzCon 2009. He then reached the semifinals in the 2011 PDPoP MSL, his best finish since early 2009 when he did the same.
But ZerO was capable of better. In the 2010-2011 Proleague season, ZerO went 30-19. Then, in the 2011 ABC Mart MSL, the final MBC Game Starleague, ZerO reached the finals, defeating Starleague champions Calm and Jaedong along the way. In the finals, he was faced with the most difficult challenge possible: defeating Flash in a Starleague final. It proved too much for ZerO, who unceremoniously fell 3-0 to the Ultimate Weapon. His run in Proleague after this loss was less than stellar at 8-11.
Now, ZerO still has one more chance to make his mark on the Brood War landscape. In this OSL, ZerO has only dropped one map in his journey from the qualifiers. His performance against protoss in particular has been dominating, including a ruthless hydra bust against Stork. ZerO has come so close to a Starleague championship all throughout his career. He’s always placed highly, but has never been able to finish the job. This is his last chance. Will ZerO switch to StarCraft II a champion? Or will he be forever denied the chance to realize his full potential?
The first match of the OSL Round of 4 will be played on Tuesday, July 10 at 3:30 AM PDT. The official Korean stream, as well as VODs, can be found at www.youtube.com/esportstv. There will be no official English rebroadcast.
Images courtesy of Woongjin Stars and Samsung Khan.