Gratulations, you found the second page. Let’s move on. Testie’s game against ForU wasn’t posted, because I really hate the swarm and want all Zerg to suffer, but because it leads us to the next event – the Mystery Map Invitational (MMI), hosted by none other than Blizzard in late 2004 and early 2005. Back in November 2004 everyone loved Blizzard, unconditionally, they weren’t fighting with KeSPA, but cared for the community, their events were a thing you looked forward to. The MMI was prime example for the awesomeness Blizzard used to be.
Their idea was to create three teams: One for Europe, one for America and one for Asia. They invited a number of the best players of each region to form a team, which could compete for small prizes (bits of hardware and goody bags). The first two teams to play each other at the end of November 2004 were Europe and North America, the winner would later play the Asians. However, it wasn’t that simple, Blizzard used to give every community member (especially the casuals) the opportunity to participate in one way or another. This time Blizzard featured maps made by community members, which they only announced a few days before each war. This gave the foreigners a notable advantage (or took it from the Koreans), because everyone had to prepare in the same time span. No silly glitches to discover, or at least less time. It was more about natural talent, than hours of preparation. Moreover, nobody knew who he would play, until a few days before start. Every fan could vote for his favourite match ups in the Blizz Forums. To make it short, the Europeans defeated the Americans in a tight war with a 3-2. Hence, Europe would face Asia in late February 2005.
The match we’ll be looking at was Mondragon vs. ZeuS. ZeuS was a seasoned veteran of Proleague, has a lot of bronze medals and one silver medal in OSLs attached to his nick. Granted, he was already in a slump, but nonethelss, a very good professional. Mondragon on the other hand did defeat FiSheYe and was about to become the foreign king of kings. It was his match up, he only had to deliver proof he could take down a star from Korea. And so he did. In the first two sets Mondragon basically dominated his opponent with ease, building masses of Zerglings, followed by Lurker Contains and starved the Korean to death. It wasn’t any different from what the German showed in ordinary clan leagues or tournaments. Theoretically speaking, the match was over, it was just a best of three. However, Blizzard demanded that every set should be played if possible, the single sets could make a difference. Hence, both entered a third game on Umbra Locus.
Umbra Locus is another four player map, with starting positions on the 2, 5, 8 and 11 o’clock spots. However, the main base plateaus are not in the corners, but closer to the middle than usual. The naturals are relatively open, as they got two different entrances. The third bases, the mineral onlys, are placed in the corners of the map. As a result, rushes were a lot more attractive, the walking distances were short, a Zerg Fast Expansion would be open to a lot of harass. In theory, at least.
Mondragon started as blue Zerg on the 11 o’clock and ZeuS as white Protoss on the 2 o’clock position. Mondragon went for an ordinary Fast Expansion, while ZeuS went for the 2 Gate rush. He didn’t stop or hesitate, he went straight for the attack, the first Zealot was supported by a massive amount of Probes – he wanted to avoid the White Wash at any cost.
He had relative success – he killed the first sunken and forced the Zerg to morph some drones into buildings. At the same time, his Probes weren’t mining either. Not much won, not much lost. However, since the German won the first battle, he was now in a position to drive the Zealots back into his opponent’s base. And we all know how good Mondragon’s Zerglings can be. ZeuS did his best to get rid of the Zerglings, shortly stopped, engaged in smaller fights, but the Zerg was on top of him the whole time. He did not only run away, but also managed to get an entire control group up the Protoss choke and started to take down the Pylon powering both Gateways. It almost went down, but Mondragon lost tons of Lings in the process. Once he was down to three Zerglings against five Zealots, he turned and targeted the Probes instead – with relative success. Due to really good micro ZeuS was able to safe most of them, but was busy to shield both his Gateways at his choke and his Economy against more and more Zerglings. He eventually lost his first Pylon, but was also able to tech up. Mondragon on the other hand only had three Hatcheries, a couple of Zerglings, little Drones mining and only a Hydra Den in the making. In the next six minutes ZeuS drove the Zerglings back bit by bit, microing his Dragoons very hard, not losing one of them. Instead, he was able to gather a control group, which he used to target down Mondragon’s natrual expansion, exploiting the fact, that his opponent’s sunken were out of range. This sounded easy, but wasn’t, Mondragon danced with his Lings back and forth, stalling the incoming army for almost three minutes.
It wasn’t over, if you watch the picture above, you see Mondragon was about to sneak into the Protoss base with a handful of Lings again – and had a few Mutaliks on the way as well. Three more minutes were left for the Korean. He once more threw back the Zerglings, defended against the Mutalisks, but eventually lost to incoming lurkers. GG, it was out. According to Liquipedia ZeuS retired as active player after this match and rather spend his days working as coach for KOR (later Hite SPARKYZ).
The WCG 2005
The WCG 2005 was a wonderful event, splendid even. It allows me to introduce a new player, while the second is already known. We’re talking about the Grand Finals, a second time a foreigner made it there – and he wasn’t unknown. I just wrote, that Mondragon was seen as competitor for the international throne in early 2005, but that was before the European Cyber Games 2005 happened. The German already won the throne against FiSheYe, at least on European level, but he first had to defend it against a competitor. The guy a lot of fans saw as legit king of the foreigners came from Russia: Andrey ‘Androide‘ Kukhianidze. His name is legend. The young Terran was seen as some sort of vampire, or ‘money whore’ as less friendly people expressed it. In 2004 he came out of nowhere and placed fourth in the WCG 2004 grand finals, this year he advanced even further. He beat SEn, a Taiwanese on the rise and former Round of 8 player of 2004, as well as SilentControl on the way. Now he had to face a Protoss – ForU in the WCG 2005 Grand Finals. $10.000 were on the line, a battle for everything. The Russian had outsider chances, but he wasn’t seen as loser straight away. ForU was a PvT specialist, Androide was a TvP specialist. His APM was often compared to the ones of Korean professionals, now he finally had the chance to proof this wasn’t just boasting or fanboyism. Now, you have the chance to either watch the offical VOD (which I link directly) or the National Geographic 5-Minute
summary documentary with explosions and special effects – both are worth watching, the latter is amusing from a fan’s perspective.
The BlizzCon 2005
In October 2005 Blizzard was back and announced the second ‘community’ event of the year: The BlizzCon Invitational 2005. At this convention the publisher announced a few more games, which were not so interesting for the Brood War fans. One of them was World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, the other one was more interesting: The Ego Shooter StarCraft: Ghost. Today we know that the latter was never finished sadly. Even the Offspring concert in Anaheim doesn’t make up for it. But regardless, the tournament also made sure a few foreigners would be able to compete with KeSPA professionals again. Blizzard did invite Testie and Mondragon, as well as Assem (American Terran) and Legionnaire, the former Australian Protoss professional. For the Korean side Yellow, NaDa, Reach and Nal_rA were invited. Now it was on. Another venue for Testie and Mondragon to shine. I might make enemies here, but I dare say that both Assem and Legionnaire (back at this specific period) were seen as outsiders, their games were not ‘that’ interesting anymore. They were a bit out of form.
Mondragon and Testie on the other hand were dominating. The two of them plus Androide and SEn were on the rise, this four players dominated most international tournaments. Both, Mondragon and Testie, displayed great skill and had enough experience to now meet the strongest the KeSPA had to offer. The fans, especially me, were drooling. Again, Blizzard introduced fan made maps, the Koreans could only little prepare for. However, since I want to only show the matches I enjoyed most, we’ll ignore the Canadian for this event. He did play well, but not well enough, Mondragon, in this tournament, did better.
Or not. His first opponent was the greatest Protoss to ever walk the earth, Kang Min, the Dreamer, Nal_rA. The Dreamer was known to play a bit exotic at times, back then and in 2010, when he aired the Oldboy show. I was really looking forward to this game, just to get disappointed. But not exactly. The game showed why I like Nal_rA so much, he simply is a class of his own. His game on Nightlight against Mondragon made me facepalm, giggle and frown at the same time.
So, after a few minutes Mondragon went down to the loser’s bracket where he defeated Legionnaire. Reach, the Mantoss, the second best Protoss of all time (yes, this is a very objective ranking), met the German legend Mondragon. And this match did not disappoint at all. Some people (not saying any names, just so you know, the guy I’m talking about was banned from TL for “stupidity”) argued in the German forums, that Dissy would have only won Zeus, because Zeus was in a slump and because he didn’t care. There was a point to it, Zeus was definitely not that great anymore. Reach on the other hand was. He just won a silver medal in MSL before joining the BlizzCon, where he only lost to the-one-that-shall-not-be-named. Seriously, he wasn’t a walk over, a sloppy player or anything, but a monster.
The next tournament we’ll have a look at will be the World Cyber Games 2006, hosted in Monza, Italy. The player we’ll be focussing on is Krzysztof “Draco” Nalepka – another legend of foreign Brood War history. Back in the days, around late 2003, FiSheYe already mentioned Draco’s huge talent for the game, even though most casual fans didn’t really know more than just his name. The Polish Protoss was already more than just only well established, he had dreams, the will and the raw potential to replace Mondragon as the foreign king. And so he did, eventually. It did take a few months, but he eventually threw off the Zerg and took the crown. But that’s stuff for yet another article.
Theoretically speaking and not to be a hypocrite, I shouldn’t mention Draco here. Because the Polish went to Korea in Summer 2006, trying to gain a KeSPA license and reach for the stars. It did take him a few months before he could join OGN Sparkyz, that happened in early August 2006, if my sources are correct. He was granted a professional license. However, the World Cyber Games 2006 were in October. So that doesn’t really count, he was a foreigner, still and the context is interesting enough. First off, the few people who tried to go to Korea and really did manage to get into a team seemed to get worse. I remember reading an interview of one of them, not sure who, might even be Draco (or not, it’s hearsay), who stated that the coaches make the player use different hotkey systems. Consequently they drop a bit of skill before powering up. For Draco it seemed to me a bit like this – he went over and the first games he sent back were not as good as they used to be, at least slightly different. Then again, he now played the world’s finest amateurs and professionals, as well as facing a whole new world. A lesser player would have probably dropped a lot more.
During the WCG 2006 all that was forgotten, his skill went up and he performed really, really well. But before I present you the VODs, another few words on Koreans and the WCGs. Koreans were infamous for losing against scrubs in group stage. They did it because they wanted to dodge a bullet later on. If they knew who they would play against if they were the group winner, they would simply lose, just to make sure all three Koreans would be able to reach the semi finals. However, Draco was in the group of death, together with Korean Terran Midas and Mondragon from Germany. You can’t just drop games against one of the two and expect you survive as second. People always argued that Draco’s game against Midas was such a case, when it really wasn’t. It was simply a really good game.
Draco made it out of his group as first, faced the Terran Overdrive next, a relatively unknown Terran. He beat him with a 2-0 and was now up against Iloveoov, another Bonjwa. Midas was one thing, but the Bus Driver a totally different opponent. Strong, unbeatable and dominant.
Continue on Page 3: The Rest