StarCraft II

Reflections on a Decade: The Best Games of Competitive StarCraft II, Part I: Wings of Liberty

Reflections on a Decade: The Best Games of Competitive StarCraft II, Part I: Wings of Liberty

Part I: Wings of Liberty | Part II: Heart of the Swarm | Part III: Legacy of the Void

Everyone remembers the first time they saw the StarCraft II announcement trailer. For some of us at Blizzard, it was during an internal Show & Tell session when the cinematics team revealed what they were working on. For others, it was May 19, 2007, when the cinematic debuted onstage at a StarCraft tournament in South Korea. Either way, we all saw the same thing. Tychus Findlay stepped into that now-famous gunmetal chamber and was outfitted with complex mechanical armor. The cigar moved around in his mouth.

“Hell, it’s about time,” he said (in Korean, for those of us watching the tournament).

From that primordial moment, StarCraft II would go on to hold a position of prominence within the storied arc of Blizzard esports. The competitive scene took off when the game entered beta in 2010; ten years later, it’s still going strong.

As StarCraft II’s tenth anniversary approached and we began brainstorming ways to celebrate, we thought: What better way to celebrate a legendary esports scene than to reflect on the best matches of its first decade?

With the last ten years of our journey in mind, we’ll be taking you through our personal picks for the best game of each year, adding some historical context along the way. For some, it’ll be a stroll through fond memories. For others, we hope it can be a gateway to epic moments of StarCraft II history that took place before they started playing. And hey, if nothing else, it’s a playlist of awesome esports videos to kill a weekend with.

Without further ado, here are our picks for the best games of competitive StarCraft II.

2010

BoxeR vs Kyrix

  • GSL 2010 Season 2 Quarterfinals, Game 1 (November 1, 2010)

  • Played on Shakuras Plateau

  • Commentated by Artosis & Tasteless

The first year of StarCraft II was an untamed landscape of experimentation and discovery. Standardized build orders, which indicate when a player should build their units and structures, had not yet been solidified, and players were innovating on a weekly basis. We were all unsure where this game would take us, but in one of the best and most influential games of 2010, we saw a glimpse of the true potential of StarCraft II.

In one corner was Han “Kyrix” Joon, a pugnacious Zerg who was known for bursts of unpredictable aggression. His opponent was Lee Jung Hoon, a hopeful youngster playing Terran under the tag “BoxeR,” the name of a legendary StarCraft: Brood War veteran. The borrowed tag mirrored Lee’s lofty aspirations—he wanted to become the greatest player of his generation.

In the opening game of the best-of-5 series, “BoxeR" was caught with his powerful but unwieldy Siege Tanks out of position against an aggressive assault of explosive green Banelings. Common knowledge suggested that Siege Tanks were the only way to defeat Banelings, which would otherwise decimate a Terran player’s vulnerable Marine force. So, what was this poor Terran supposed to do with his Siege Tanks destroyed?

The answer was a novel concept at the time: He “split” his Marines, spreading them in tiny clumps to prevent the area-of-effect Baneling detonations from hitting more than a few at a time. With this marvelous micro, “BoxeR” fended off the attack and mounted a counteroffensive. Though low on Siege Tanks, he took a skirmish against mass Banelings and came out ahead. And then he did so again. And then a third time. By the fourth or fifth engagement, it was clear that what we were watching was not a fluke. We were witnessing the birth of the Marine split.

As a nod to this signature skill, “Boxer” would later change his ID to MarineKing, a name we now associate with one of the best players of the Wings of Liberty era.

2011

MMA vs DongRaeGu

  • Blizzard Cup 2011 Grand Finals Game 7 (December 17, 2011)

  • Played on Shakuras Plateau

  • Commentated by Artosis & Tasteless

Though South Korean tournaments are often regarded as the highest level of StarCraft II competition, one thing they were not known for in 2011 was high-quality finals. At the time, it was common for one finalist to have a much better understanding of the matchup than the other, creating lopsided results. This unfortunate streak was broken when Mun “MMA” Seong-won played Park “DongRaeGu” Soo-ho in the last major tournament of 2011.

When MMA began the best-of-7 series with a 3-0 lead, it seemed all but assured that he would close it out, leaving the series just another underwhelming 2011 finals. Then DongRaeGu somehow took the next three games in a row.

Though the final game started quietly, it transitioned into a late-game marathon, something unheard of at a time when most games did not venture past three bases. Across the full breadth of Shakuras Plateau, an all-out brawl ensued. Both players engaged in large, sudden “tech switches”—changing their army compositions to surprise each other—but each switch was anticipated and countered, with action all over the map. The game represented a new pinnacle of late-game Terran versus Zerg. In a tense, almost phantasmagoric finish, the winner (in case you haven’t watched, we won’t spoil anything!) prevailed by a microscopic margin, and with that concluded one of the best finals in StarCraft II history.

2011 Honorable Mention

Jonathan “Kiwikaki” Garneau vs Ilyes “Stephano” Satouri

  • IPL Season 3 Round of 32, Game 2 (October 8th, 2011)

  • Played on Shattered Temple

  • Commentated by Doa & KevinKnocke

2012

Gumiho vs MMA

  • GSTL 2012 Season 2 Grand Finals, Game 1 (July 28, 2012)

  • Played on Antiga Shipyard

  • Commentated by Khaldor & Wolf

Mun “MMA” Seong-won reappears in our pick for 2012’s best game. Well known at this point for his aggressive multitask-oriented play, MMA ran into Koh “Gumiho” Byung-jae in the Global StarCraft II Team League (GSTL) 2012 Season 2 grand finals. Though not as decorated as MMA, Gumiho was an offbeat Terran player known for inciting chaos with unconventional tactics. (Speaking of unconventional tactics, the match took place in Busan Haeundae, the beachfront location of an infamous StarCraft: Brood War celebration wherein Lee “firebathero” Sung Eun stripped down to his boxers and jumped in the freezing ocean.) 

The match began as a standard Terran vs. Terran, with MMA opting for “Bio” units from the Barracks, while Gumiho built a “Mech” army of Siege Tanks, Hellions, and other mechanical units. Though Mech is typically played slowly and methodically, Gumiho refused to abide by those conventions. He harassed his Bio opponent just as much as he was harassed himself. As a result, we saw large swings in army value, fringe bases taken down as quickly as they went up, and at least one premature celebration that demonstrated not even the players themselves knew who was in the lead. All-in-all, it made for arguably the most entertaining game ever played in a StarCraft II team-league finals.

2012 Honorable Mention

Jung “Mvp” Jon Hyun vs Park “Squirtle” Hyun-woo

  • GSL 2012 Season 2 Grand Finals, Game 5 (May 19, 2012)

  • Played on Metropolis

  • Commentated by Artosis & Tasteless

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