BW-2-SC2: Twilight of BW's demigods
BW-2-SC2 is a feature which presents to the SC2 audience a famous BW player who has moved to, or is going to move to, competitive StarCraft 2. Rather than leave modern fans lost in a jungle of stats and thousands of games to wade through this feature will present the major storylines in a coherent thread for the interested fan to follow to the heart of the story.
Tomorrow Korean Brood War's last ever individual league final will be played out. SKT T1's Terran prince, Jung "FanTaSy" Myung Hoon, rematches the very same Samsung KHAN Protoss, Heo "JangBi" Yeong Moo, who snatched last season's OSL gold from his grasp in the thrilling and unforgettable fifth set of their finals meeting.
While the Proleague will carry Korean BW a little beyond tomorrow, this marks the last moment when any of the top BW players will be entirely focused on the game which made them stars. The players they defeated along the way and their team-mates have all journeyed ahead of them to focus more heavily on the sequel but these two champions still have one final best-of-five series awaiting them before they move into their post-BW lives.
The end of the final age
The age of the gods is over and the age of men awaits. Those names which loomed large over the BW realm have fallen and the next age approaches, when they will be have to relinquish their heavenly gifts, forced to fight for a different currency of respect amongst men. Between those two ages though, the one ending and coming, lies the age of the demi-gods, those not quite transcendant and yet more than mere mortals. Two titans remain to write, between themselves, the ending of a rich and epicly told tale.
Once considered flawed gems of the Brood War scene both Fantasy and JangBi have more to gain from Saturday's result than a doubling of their golden haul. Whoever emerges the victory not only wins the final BW OSL, a statement in itsef, but also ensures his name is writ large upon the final act of the OSL.
A win for Fantasy could see the time span covering the last three OSLs dubbed "the Fantasy age", as bolstering his three straight finals appearances with a second gold, along with his Proleague performances, would grant him legitimate status as the best BW player within the closing stanza of the game. For JangBi success would reach beyond the redemption of last season and see him blaze a parting trail of back-to-back titles in the game he seemed destined to remain one of the all-time great also-rans in
In a final unlike all others, swirling around the black hole at the end of BW, both players are faced with a crucible which will decide not only their personal legacies but can adjust those of their teams and their races. One will leave with another haunting memory of what-if and the other will elevate himself closer to the impossibly lofty company of the TaekBangLeeSsang (Bisu-Stork-Flash-Jaedong) and the bonjwas than any other player in history ever managed.
Fantasy's final countdown
Fantasy's desinty has seemingly already been written in stone after last season's crushing loss at JangBi's hands. There was Fantasy's chance to not only add a second gold but also to walk in the footsteps of BoxeR as only the second Terran, and third player overall, to win back-to-back OSL titles. To have done it against a Protoss, flush in the midst of a potential Legend of the Fall run, would have made it only the more sweeter for Fantasy, his team and the man who started the Terran championship lineage.
Three times the Emperor had been a victim of that legend and now Fantasy could have both emulated BoxeR and done what he could not, winning a crucial and career-defining PvT finals series. Instead JangBi closed Fantasy out in the deciding final set, as GARIMTO and AnyTime had done to the SKT T1 patriarch years before. Rather than be lifted up by a second gold to the esteemed company of the greatest Terran OSL players of all time, the four bonjwas who hauled in 10 golds between them, Fantasy found himself denied lasting escape from the kong line, once more set to the fellowship of YellOw and Stork.
As brilliant and overwhelmingly decisive as Fantasy's first golden outcome had been, sweeping Stork in the 2010 Bacchus OSL final, the next season's loss had repeated the persistent theme in Fantasy's career of being right there at the end, the trophy within his grasp, and yet unable to be the one to reach out and seize it. Just as Stork's career, with its own moment of OSL ecstasy, cannot help but be overshadowed by the grinding sorrow of his many finals woes, so Fantasy's return-of-the-favour win over Stork couldn't outpace the shame of his three five set finals losses.
Never outclassed, never dominated and never without his chances, Fantasy was simply unable to maintain composure in the one game that mattered most in three of his four chances at the OSL crown. The significance of that repeating career storyline should not be lost on viewers of the Tving OSL final. If Fantasy loses then he will have once more found himself stopped short of the ultimate goal at the final possible stage, once more made to stand in the background as another raises high the ultimate prize in BW.
Fantasy will also have emulated the negative side of BoxeR's legacy, becoming the second player in BW history, after the Emperor, to finish runnerup in four OSL finals. He will also be tied for overall individual league silvers with Stork and only one behind YellOw. If Stork, with all his brilliance, longevity and heart, could not outshine the shadows of his past can we reasonably say Fantasy did with that solitary gold?
The prize awaiting the prince
Despite the story thusfar penned for Fantasy in the history books, ink still wet on the last and unfinished final sentence, the chance still awaits him to provide some parity for past failures, the opportunity to exceed the rest of the kong line and to fulfill the mantle of the SKT Telecom Terran legacy. The player who has so often been judged as trapped in the shadow of BoxeR and iloveoov has a chance to match their number of OSL golds. That this latter gold would come without the direct guidance of either, having both departed from his team, would help the legitimacy of the accomplishment in its own right shine even brighter.
There is yet more historical significance to consider. Only two other players in the history of the OSL have reached the finals in three consecutive seasons: BoxeR and Flash. The Emperor's run in 2001 saw him win in his first two attempts and then fall in the third, while the Ultimate Weapon bookended his three straight finals appearances with victories.
Fantasy's team has forever tied him to BoxeR's legacy and the era he has played in ensured he is forever compared against Flash's accomplishments. Leaving out the latter's monumental MSL body of work Fantasy has a chance to do what noone other than Flash has done in the modern era, winning two of out three in the space of three seasons. Of course he could also become the first player to ever reach three straight OSL finals and lose two of them, further damning him to kong line status.
Living in the shadow of God
For fantasy the yardstick has been blindingly apparent for the last few years, playing Terran in the era of Flash means the comparisons are inescapable, even for Fantasy himself. That no other Terran has come close to Flash in this era, with the gap between Fantasy and the other Terran hopefuls sizably wide at this point, forces the discussion even further
Back when Fantasy had made his first set of back-to-back OSL finals, as a youngster at the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009, Flash was a Terran prodigy with a single victory under his belt and much to prove. Three and a half years later even the intimidating moniker of "The Ultimate Weapon" or the ever controversial label-above-all-others "bonjwa" is no longer enough for Fantasy's rival, he has become known as God. Fantasy's haul of one gold and three silvers look impressive in comparison to everyone outside of the TBLS but cannot hold much weight against the six golds and two silvers Flash's career boasts.
Nevertheless a moment still remains for Fantasy to put his stamp on BW, and in a way even Flash has not. Fantasy can never be known as the greatest player in the history of BW, TBLS and the bonjwas will always leave no room for him in that conversation, but he can be known as the best BW player at the end of BW. Three straight finals with two golds gleaned from them would be an emphatic end to the era of individual leagues for Fantasy. The finality of such an accomplishment helping ensure the first thing into people's minds when they think back on BW is how Fantasy finished his career, not started and struggled through it until that point.
Thanks to his excellent finals performances in the Proleague, including a key win over Flash to help his team towards the last title, and his decisive Bo5 sweep of God in the semi-final Fantasy has all the other components of a stellar individual career in place, now he needs another title to top it off. Peak era Flash blocked his path to a title in the BigFile MSL but now that obstacle has been overcome and one remains. Best of the rest? Sure. Best of the last year of BW? That's what hangs in the balance for Fantasy
A soothing balm to the aches and pains of finals gone-by, a restoration of the SKT Terran legacy of OSL success, company with Flash and BoxeR as the only players to reach three straight OSL finals and win two titles, final and indefinite escape from the kong line and the opportunity to doom JangBi to it in revenge. Fantasy has everything to play for in Saturday's final and everyone knows it. This is more than just a match for Fantasy, it's his chance to seize the pen and write the last word in his BW history, or have it seized from him and become merely a footnote in JangBi's destiny, cemented permanently to his previous status.
JangBi - Protoss' last hope
When Fantasy took his OSL crown from Stork's battered and beaten hands JangBi was a nothing but a shade walking the BW underworld. No longer a star for his team, but rather a millstone around their neck, he was as irrelevant in the Proleague as in individual leagues. Had his calibre remained near the top end of the scene he would have been the most obvious and striking next candidate for 'greatest player never to win an individual league'. The same broken and disheartened JangBi had one been a meteor blazing through the BW night's sky, yet ultimately burning out too soon to have made any impact upon reaching Earth. JangBi was the man who could have but didn't, would have but wilted, should have but stumbled.
Frequently lauded by team-mate Stork as one of the best players JangBi made good on those recommendations with two finals appearances in 2008. At the beginning of the year he reached the final of the GOMTV Classic Season 2 and at the end of the year he reached the all-Protoss dominated Club Day MSL. In both finals he ran into 'The Revolutionist' Bisu and both times fell prey to the SKT Protoss' PvP talent. In the very next MSL he once more reached the final and this time found himself facing finals virgin Luxury, who cast him, seemingly forever, into the Kong line, with a loss in JangBi's worst matchup: PvZ
This season JangBi has not been able to boast a series win over Flash or a spirited revival from nowhere right up to the biggest stage in StarCraft. what he has managed though is to re-establish himself as one of the best players in the world, and now, in the waning moments of Korean BW's final glory, JangBi can accomplish something he would never have imagined possible for himself, his team and his race.
If JangBi can bring the kind of inspired play which lifted him past ZerO into this final and leave the victor then he will be the only Protoss in BW history to win back-to-back OSLs. He also will join GARIMTO as the only Protoss to win multiple OSLs and the aforementioned, Bisu and Nal_rA as the only agents of Aiur to win more than one of any of the individual leagues.
Speaking of "The Dreamer" Nal_rA provides us with what could be a good reference point for JangBi's career. With Bisu holding the golden badge and clutching Proleague titles it's unlikely JangBi can be considered the greatest Protoss ever, but with a win tomorrow he can put himself up there with the other great Protoss players in his own unique distinction, with back-to-back titles, and in the modern age at that. Should he lose he will find himself in the title range of other Protoss who managed a single run to the top but fell short in their others: Reach, Stork and AnyTime.
Stork's impossible opponents in his finals, his sustained excellence and his unbelievable longevity ensure he is one of the few players whose stature exceeds his trophy haul, but nevertheless Stork's legacy is also stained by his silver sorrows. JangBi will likewise be painted with the same brush as his team-mate, in the negative latter regard, if he loses this OSL final. Comparisons of the two also raise the point that by winning a second OSL gold JangBi can also raise the stature of his team, who have been famously unsuccessful in individual leagues outside of the dinotoss and him. To have a two time OSL champion would help redeem a little of that unrealised potential Samsung KHAN always screamed of.
JangBi's battle is one of ultimate redemption from his waste opportunities of yesteryear, the chance to stake out new ground for his team and his race and finally a happy ending to what had seemed destined to be one of the saddest falls from grace in BW history. From unrealised potential to the first back-to-back success for a Protoss in the OSL, JangBi's story awaits the final line to define it.
The gods made be dead or passed on to the next life but two demigods still remain, each determined to seize the final gleaming victory to his own chest, and in doing so damn the other to an eternity of painful speculation. Let battle commence!
A few caveats
For such an important and epic occasion hype is unnecessary, the moment and the significance of it can stand by itself and be as glorious as it needs to be. As a result it feels appropriate to first outline the circumstances which must temper the outcomes of the final.
It cannot reasonably be denied that the dual game format of the Proleague has had a significant impact on the quality of play in Korean BW since its introduction. In the Proleague itself BW was forced into a backseat, by virtue of the ace match being in SC2 and players themselves being forced to alternate into the other game in the following team match. Add in the fact all of them know their future is likely in SC2 and it means any whose form had dipped in BW or who had been eliminated from the OSL were more than likely to heavily invest their time into SC2 over the original game.
Those remaining in the OSL had reason enough to maintain their BW practice, especially those gifted few with a legitimate shot at the crown, but their team-mates' change in focus also weakened their position as regards practice. Even those team-mates who were available were likely not in their best BW form and thus not the kind of ideal practice one could have expected a year or two ago.
The above bears mentioning because the outcome of tomorrow's final ensures one of these players will walk away from BW with both the last ever OSL title and two titles to his name. Being as nobody in history has ever won more than three OSL titles, and only seven have ever won more than one, they will naturally be thrust into a variety of discussions that can be had around the all-time great players.
A win is a win but one has to keep in mind the context of the surrounding circumstances. Just as victories early on in a game's lifespan, when little has been developed or refined, can be argued to not carry as much weight as during the game's peak era of competition and excellence, so victories at the end of a game, when the talent pool is reduced, or in this case also somewhat compromised by distraction, must be taken with a similar serving of salt.
Likewise one should perhaps not overexaggerate whichever of these two achieves two OSL victories, because all OSL victories are not equal. Where Stork faced the three great players of his time in his first three losses, players who have now accumulated 14 individual league golds across their combined careers, JangBi and Fantasy have, and will have, accomplished all of their success against other members of the kong line, other player who have seemingly been doomed to never take that final step. Two titles will still be a great accomplishment, but all of the above should nevertheless be considered when judging the accomplishment relative to history.
The Tving OSL final is scheduled to begin at 18:00 KST/11:00 CEST/10:00 BST/05:00 EDT on Saturday August the 4th.
(Photographs courtesy of their respective owners, including Dailyesports)