Monday, December 4, 2017

2017: Starcraft 2 Year in Review

I had other plans this evening, but after reading Liquidpedia’s 2017 Starcraft 2 awards, I was called to action.  

Generally speaking, Liquidpedia got the year right.  In the past I have found myself sometimes blinking in surprise reading a mizenhauer write up, but given he was consolidating award input from Liquidpedia staff, the results are more balanced.  But not without some oversights I believe, hence the call to action.

The first award was to Special as ‘Breakout Player’.  My first instinct was that it didn’t feel right, but slowly came around to agree.  First, Special didn’t win anything.  His best showing was a top-4 at Blizzcon, which, to be fair, is a major accomplishment and indeed the best showing of his career.  Otherwise, he failed to get out of all the GSL round of 32s he qualified for and did not win any other Premier tournaments—Dreamhacks, IEMs, etc.  At the same time, none of the other options feels right either, for example Elazer, Gumiho, Stats, and Rogue.  An argument could be made for each in comparison to their past performances.  But in the end, I think the greatest distance covered was indeed by Special.  A new id for a new mindset, we now call him Special instead of Major.  And for sure he put in a huge effort this year, so good to recognize him.

'Strategy of the Year’, meh, whatever.  Better to give one per race, not one overall (if at all), but what do I know?  ‘Biggest News Event of the Year’ was awarded to Starcraft 2 being free to play.  Sure, why not?  It’s as good a pick as any—and beats “KESPA offices raided by police on suspicion of corruption”  

‘Most Entertaining Player’ went to Alive.  Without PartinG playing SC2 anymore, I think Alive is a good choice, not to mention good to recognize him for a solid year—at least the first half when he seemed the only one who could beat Innovation.  His matches at the first GSL Super Tournament were insane (and perhaps only nerves prevented him from taking down herO in the final?).  The other contender for this award would have to be Soo.  Getting into three premier finals, all with the question ‘Will this be the one?’ hanging over them, is nail-biting stuff.  Hanging in the shadows as minor contenders are SoS and Rogue.  A place at Blizzcon anything but certain, watching the two fight for the final spot toward the end of the year was also nail-biting, entertaining stuff.   Dark was Liquidpedia’s pick for runner-up for this award, and while I understand the reason (he never seems to lose big), the consistency of his dynamism is, well, too consistent, ironically.

‘Best Terran: WCS Circuit’ went to Special, and I don’t think anyone can disagree. Kelazhur had a good year, but Special just always beat him.  Uthermal simply didn’t live up to the hype he built in 2016.  A year ago I thought MaSa might improve in 2017, but he proved to be a non-entity.  Best Terran: Korea’ went to Innovation, and I don’t think I can disagree (more later).  TY also had a very strong year winning more than $200k, but simply not as good as Innovation’s.

‘Best Zerg: WCS Circuit’ went to Elazer.  The voting was unanimous, so no runner-up was listed, which is a shame as I thought Snute and Serral actually had pretty good years (Snute reached two WCS finals, one more than Elazer, in fact.).  But indeed, Elazer was the best, beating Snute at one of the premiere WCS event finals, not to mention his total points were higher, meaning he was the more consistent player.  ‘Best Zerg: Korea’ went to Rogue, with no runner-up.  This is the award I disagree with the most as it ignores what Soo accomplished in 2017: two GSL finals and a Blizzon final.  Rogue was scary only at the tail end of the season, while Soo was relevant at both ends.  Rogue came within sniffing distance of a GSL final (and was taken out by Soo—one of Soo’s lings, in fact), and was non-existent in Starleague.  Rogue did win two premiere tournaments, which is obviously the reason why he was named the best of the year.  But not to have Soo as runner-up is to overlook the great year he had.

‘Best Protoss: WCS Circuit’ went to Neeb, and there is nobody’s grandmother who could disagree with that.  There isn’t even a close second place.  ‘Best Protoss: Korea’ is also not very close.  Winning GSL and Starleague trophies, not to mention being consistent enough to dominate the season’s point standings, Stats was far and above the best in a year when Protoss (not named Neeb or Stats) sometimes seemed to struggle.  

‘Series of the Year’ and ‘Game of the Year’ are things that I wish I kept better notes on, so I could agree or disagree.  Overall, Legacy of the Void is the best iteration of Starcraft 2, and there were a shit-ton of games that proved why.  From TY and Maru’s seven-game epic WESG final at the beginning of the year to SoS and Innovation’s thrilling seven-game set to close the third and final GSL season of the year, I saw so many good series and matches that I don’t know I could choose just one…  (See below for a brief overview of some of the great series this year…)

‘Player of the Year: WCS Circuit’ was Neeb, and again, it’s impossible to disagree.  There was only one premiere WCS event he didn’t win.  In Korea, things were a little more interesting.  ‘Player of the Year: Korea’ was awarded to Innovation, and as much as I avoid the Innovation hype train, with four titles, it’s true: he had the best year of any Korean player.  (And I do think there are strong arguments for him being GOAT.)   But I think a case  could be made for Stats as runner-up for Korean player of the year.  The reason is, Stats was the most consistent player, getting higher in the tournaments he played in even if he didn’t win, and as a result leading the points standing at the end of the year.  And there’s something to be said for consistency.  For sure Innovation deserves the award, but Stats should likewise be recognized for a year almost as good.  (Liquipedia writers do not, apparently, feel the same about consistency as their choice for runner-up was Rogue, a player who peaked at the tail end of the year and had just enough points to get into the big daddy—Blizzcon, which he did go on to win.  It will be very interesting to see whether Rogue will be the same monster in 2018.)

What I’m curious is, why didn’t Liquidpedia include categories for ‘Best Major Tournament of the Year’, ‘Best Minor Tournament of the Year’, ‘Best non-Professional Tournament of the Year’, ‘Team of the Year’, or ‘Sponsor of the Year’?  The Tournament categories are a way of recognizing great games that occurred online as well as the many people and channels which support SC2, just not in a primetime way.  (Rifkin makes terrible jokes, but he’s great at organizing tournaments, just as HomeStory Cup is perhaps the most amazing tournament to watch in terms of getting to know the players and atmosphere.)   In signing Stats, Solar, and TY, Splyce should be recognized for their support of SC2, and JinAir Greenwings should be recognized for not only sponsoring a team but the whole year’s worth of Starleague tournament action.  (Good on them!!)  Starcraft 2 will not be around forever (we may be in its swan song now), so any chance to recognize those who keep it afloat should be taken.

Now, going into 2018, what to expect?  Maybe that is a call to action to write more…

As mentioned, here is a further list of great matches from 2017:

GSL Season 1: Stats vs. Innovation, Soo vs. TY
IEM World Championship Katowice: Alive vs. Innovation, TY vs. Stats.
WCS Jonxoping:  Neeb vs. Serral
WCS Valencia: Snute vs. Elazer, Special vs. Neeb
GSL vs. the World: Neeb vs. TY, Stats vs. Special
GSL Season 3: SoS vs. Innovation, Innovation vs. Dark, Solar vs. SoS
Starleague Season 2: Dark vs. Stats
WCS Montreal: Showtime vs. Kelazhur
GSL Super Tournament #2: Rogue vs. Innovation
Blizzcon: Soo vs. Gumiho, TY vs. Innovation, Rogue vs. TY

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