The Favourites – Koreans
One of the more memorable quotes to sum up the expectations of foreigners was presented in the WCG 05 National Geographic documentary: „I’m kinda the favourite, but the Koreans are more favourite than me“ – wise words by FiSheYe. Each year the question what the eSports Mecca would throw at the international champions was important. So far their participants were anything but bad, especially Boxer wrote history when he did not only win the Grand Finals twice, but was able to defend his title. The only exception for the Koreans, their only „black year“ was in 2003 when the relatively unknown ogogo almost missed to win the WCG gold against FiSheYe. In 2006 three real heavy weights qualified, trying to win all medals for their country.
The first one was non other than Boxer’s legendary protégé IloveOov, a winner of multiple MSLs and OSLs, forged in the hell fires of SK Telecom T1. He was known as ‘slow’ player with a great talent to invent strategies. He introduced a new way of macromanagement to many match ups, most importantly to Terran vs. Zerg. His reign seemed to be a never ending one, he could „take people for a ride“, anyone actually, so that people referred to him as „bus driver“. Oov earned himself the title „Bonjwa“, reserved for the best of the best. Even after his career he had a lot of impact on the scene, strategy and the meta game, as he coached the next S-Class generation, the succcess of players like Fantasy was his work. However, in 2006 Oov’s era of dominance was already more or less over. He was still not to be underestimated, yet the new generation players, like the one who shall not be named, was already taking over in South Korea.
The second Korean to make it to Monza was JulyZerg, Oov’s direct rival. Both had a long history of clashes, with July being the first Zerg ever to win two OSL gold medals, taking over the KeSPA ranking for a longer period of time and being mechanically so good to fight Oov in his argueably best match up. His Mutalisk micro was so impressive that it was labelled as „Wings of Fury“ in one of the many highlight movies; JulyZerg was called Tushin – the God of War. Even though he technically wasn’t one, he was also called „Bonjwa“ in many articles covering the upcoming WCG Grand Finals. These two names alone gave fans goose bumps, another version of Boxer vs. Yellow, but with access for the foreign fans.
The third name consequently meant a little less and is quite similar to Dashwriter. The Korean Terran Midas wasn’t new to the WCG, more like the opposite. He was a WCG veteran. In 2000 he had won his first silver medal in the WCG Challenge, playing the Real Strategy Game Three Kingdoms II, in 2004 a second silver medal followed, this time in the Brood War finals against the dominating Terran XelloS. Midas used to be one of those players who had decent Pro League records, but the break through missed. He was always a danger to the best, but not stable enough to win big like Oov. However, Liquipedia describes 2006 as the Terran’ peak year. In this time his Terran vs. Zerg was so good, he could take on monsters like Mr. Ma – in the matchfixer’s prime. Not many people could claim they could do something similar. Aside from that, he was popular by his fans due to his charming interviews. He never bothered to answer with long words, he just said yes and no. A really unique character.
The Favourites – Foreigners
The introduction of the World Cyber Games already listed it – the foreign tournament scene isn’t exactly easy to summarize. Tons of events enabled the avid fan to make personal power ranks, ladders like the World Gaming Tour or the GosuGamers ranking gave an idea of who the strongest players in international waters were, yet all of them only listed few games or displayed results of training / preparation games. Nonetheless, no page could dare to not hand out predictions. My summary follows the page I have the biggest connections to – broodwar.de
The first in line is obviously Mondragon. The German Zerg broke all previous records in the German Brood War Clan league and the nation wars overall scores (90% for 1on1 in both, with an almost perfect 100% ratio in 2on2), lead his team to the international top and crushed the competition in 2005. However, in the same year more and more international events were hosted and the question remained if Mondragon could defend his title regularly against the best North Americans, East Europeans and Asians, as the tournaments before were more or less restricted to Europe only. In 2004 Mondragon was defeated in the knock out stages of the World Cyber games, but that was two years ago, now he was considered to be a cold killer.
The first guy to rival him is a Russian super star: Androide. The Terran is a myth, even now, as he had almost no appearances in any kind of tournament, league or ladder outside of Russia, unless prizes were involved, earning him the reputation of being a money sucking vampire. There were also rumors stating Androide was bad mannered – nobody really knew who he was, except the Russians. And they were scared to face him, righteously so. Until today he remains the most successful WCG foreigner, after finishing 4th in 2004 and 2nd in 2005; in the year previous to the seventh edition he even took out the Korean professional Silent_Control in a Terran mirror. People knew him. Androide was definitely one of the people to match Mondragon’s skill, especially since both player’s weakness was Terran vs. Zerg. If one of them could lose, it would be in this match up. In 2005 they met for the first time in a major tournament, the European Cyber Games with a lot of money on the line. Androide lost in the first round, but made a comeback in the lower bracket, just to meet Mondragon in the finals.
To complete the profile, most English (non-Russian) speaking fan pages wondered a lot of how Androide would do in 2006. He vanished, again, and nobody knew what was up with him – in an interview after the WCG 2005 the Russian stated he’d focus on his studies from now on. The big question mark remained – would he succeed or do badly?
Theoretically speaking, another Zerg was seen as top class foreigner in 2005 and 2006 – the Taiwanese Sen. He had his break through in World Cyber Games 2004, when he advanced from group stage and won against the foreign KeSPA professionals Legionnaire and Elky, only to lose 1-2 in the Quarter Finals to the eventual third place winner, the Bulgarian Beast. A year later he repeated his good performance, was the only player to take a game off Androide in the group stages and advanced to the knock out stage again – this time losing 1-2 to eventual gold medallist ForU. However, in 2006 Taiwan did not send a player to Monza and Sen had to stay at home, unless he would pay the fees on his own, which he did not.
Sen was picked up by Mondragon to join the Templars of Twilight, just like the fourth competitor of the foreigners – the Canadian Testie. Testie is one of the players with a questionable background. In his early career he was caught map hacking and was notorious for flaming and bad manners. However, unlike Selector Testie continued to actually play without hacks. He was seen as one of the strongest players of Northern America, regardless of what people like Rekrul reported about him. At one point of time the Canadian apparently was offered a position in a Korean professional team, which he declined. What made Testie outstanding was his experience with all races – he was the last of a kind: the race pickers and random players. He was incredibly strong with every race, thus gaining a lot of advantages, as he could pick any race on any map. The American abused this fact a lot, which impressively showed on the Pro Gaming Tour online ladder. Testie picked Protoss vs. Terran on the map Forbidden Zone and went on a 107- 0 streak on his second attempt, only to prove that the map was imbalanced. In early 2006 Blizzard hosted a community event called „The Sandlot“, in which the community could vote which player was the most valueable. Testie was voted as second best Protoss by the entire community.
And this offers me a good transition to the remaining challenger – Draco. The Polish Protoss is legendary by now and caused a lot of discussions back in 2006. Not because he was bad mannered, but because he was a beast with his race. In his early days Draco wasn’t really known, even though he joined the old and prestigeous clan pro Gaming relatively soon. FiSheYe recognized his skill back in 2003 and predicted that Draco would turn into a dominating player in the following years. It took him until 2005, but eventually FiSheYe’s prophecy was correct. Draco won small tournaments and offline events en masse and started to get to the last stages of big tournaments like the AmeriCup Season 2 – where he met the other champions Mondragon, Sen and Testie. Especially his rivarly with Mondragon was rather intense and made the fans root for one or the other. The Eastern Europeans at GosuGamers were much in favour of the Protoss, the rest cheered for Mondragon. Mondragon was particularly well known for being unbeatable in Protoss vs. Zerg, but Draco really tried as hard as he possibly could. It wasn’t enough though, in the overall scores Mondragon defended – closely, but he did. Then the game changed only weeks before the WCG Grand Finals, another uproar in the foreign BW history book. Draco created the „second generation foreigner“ status, once he decided to try to get into a Korean professional team. Consequently, he took off and went for it in South Korea. With only limited success in the eyes of many haters, as he was ‘only’ granted a professional license for a B-Team, as he did not win a courage tournament. Leaving out the hate, he did improve greatly in the few weeks and made his way, the ‘blue eyed pro gamer’ was born. Most definitely the player most international fans had their highest hopes in.