StarCraft Proleague is StarCraft’s most storied competition. And in the 2014 season, two of the game’s most storied teams met in the final, writing the latest chapter of a SK Telecom T1 and KT Rolster rivalry that’s spanned half a decade.
SK Telecom T1 entered as a heavy favorites, a juggernaut whose crowning as the best team in the world seemed only a formality. They topped the standings at the end of each of the last two proleague rounds, reaching the final in three of the four round playoffs. In the most recent Global StarCraft League (GSL) final, SKT Protoss Kim “Classic” Doh Woo beat his teammate Eo “soO” Yoon Su. That’s just one of many accomplishment of a star-studded lineup that’s earned dozens of individual championships.
KT Rolster, on the other hand, weren’t even supposed to be here. The team won the first round of proleague but steadily declined through the season, most recently failing to qualify for the round playoffs by playing fifth in the fourth round of the regular season. Few expected them to even survive the semifinals against Jin Air Green Wings. KT Rolster star player, Protoss prodigy Joo “Zest” Sung Wook, managed to take home two GSL tournaments by beating SKT players in the finals early this year. But the rest of his teammates have struggled in individual competitions.
SKT’s lineup features six players from GSL Code S, the world’s top individual StarCraft competition, while KT Rolster’s core four players only featured one.
None of that mattered last night.
KT Rolster managed to upset SK Telecom T1 to take the final 4-2, showing that superior preparation can overcome a more talented titan. KT also took advantage of a secret weapon: their Terran players.
Recently the Terran race has suffered in StarCraft competition, failing to make an impact at many individual tournaments around the world. The SKT lineup didn’t even feature the downtrodden race. But KT used two of them in the series, and their victories were the most important games of the final.
Lee “Flash” Young Ho, the best StarCraft: Brood War player in history, has struggled to have the same impact in StarCraft 2. But he took home the Most Valuable Player award at the finals by giving KT Rolster a 2-0 lead, beating StarCraft 2 veteran Won “PartinG” Lee Sak, who cockily told the crowd, “I will beat him.”
Flash’s response after winning the game was much more poignant.
SKT would fight back to avoid an insurmountable three-game deficit by beating KT’s only real star, Zest. The teams would then trade the next two games, leading to an all-important sixth match.
With the series at 3-2 in favor of KT Rolster, a win by GSL champion Classic would push the battle into a decisive ace match. KT answered with little known Terran player Jun “TY” Tae Young. The Terran pulled off a huge gamble: a two-barracks rush. Unscouted by Classic, it crushed the Protoss player’s nexus first build. KT Rolster secured the championship.
The victory mimics the 2009-2010 Shinhan Bank Proleague final, where KT Rolster beat SK Telecom T1 by a score of 4-2. Protoss player Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob and Flash, who combined to give KT a 2-0 lead against SKT last night, both won games in the 2010 series. Stats may not be a star, but the pair of players have stuck together on KT over the years, playing through thick and thin, and that seemed to be the theme of this finals: a team who trusts in each other’s abilities besting a squad of individual superstars.
It was a match between storied rivals. A battle between the most decorated team in StarCraft and a rag-tag group who banded together for their best performances at just the right time. The perfect culmination to a year’s worth of epic StarCraft competition.