For a retired player, Jang “MC” MinChul is sure doing well for himself.
This weekend, MC, the highest earning player in StarCraft 2 history, boosted his career earnings over $500,000 by winning the Red Bull Battlegrounds in Washington DC alongside Archon Mode teammate Chris “HuK” Loranger.
In June, MC decided to hang up his mouse after losing his drive to practice and declining results. But it seems that the Archon Mode tournamen, which featured the as-of-now unreleased StarCraft 2 expansion Legacy of the Void was the perfect thing to invigorate him.
— 장민철 (@CJENTUS_MC) September 19, 2015
StarCraft 2 is normally a one-on-one competition where two players pit their wits and skill against each other. Archon Mode takes that one-on-one competition and adds two more players to the equation. It differs from traditional two-on-two competition in a key way: Instead of each teammate controlling their own units, base, and race, both players control the same set of units. That means the game balance and strategies developed in one-on-one games are still present; there’s just an extra set of hands to properly execute them. Or to take them to the next level.
That’s one thing that makes Archon Mode so interesting; it adds another layer to the same StarCraft 2 gameplay. With two pairs of hands, the game is much more active; one player can focus on microing units while another takes control of macro. Or both players can go on the offensive, executing multi-pronged attacks with more precision than ever before.
It also adds something sometimes sorely lacking from StarCraft competition: the human element. When players interact with teammates, they show an emotional side that usually isn’t present in one-on-one competitions, where keeping your cool at all times is paramount to success.
Red Bull isn’t afraid to innovate at its events. Last year its introduced a last-man-standing tournament format based on lives that successfully builds drama through a weekend event while giving players plenty of chances to show off their talents. This year, it brought in Archon Mode and showed that it’s exciting enough to be used in regular competition. Imagine, for example, Proleague matches incorporating a set of Archon games.
Red Bull introduced the DC event, the finals of this year’s series, with a comic introducing the competitors, similar to last year. They build up the story during the event using player interviews and commentary that keeps things interesting. And it also showcased Legacy of the Void, the next StarCraft 2 expansion set to launch in November.
Legacy of the Void is novel enough to get a player like MC excited about the game again. But this weekend, the discussion mostly centered around a single new unit: the Adept.
A new core Protoss ranged unit built with Gateways, the Adept in some ways is similar to the Terran marine with some key differences, like an inability to attack air units and an ability called Psionic Transfer, which allows the Adept to send out an image of itself that a player can use to safely scout or to teleport to if an opportunity presents.
With the Protoss pair relying heavily on the Adept, some credited the unit with giving them an easy win, including Shin “Hydra” Dongwon, Root Gaming player and a World Championship Series (WCS) Season 2 winner this year.
Making the adepts makes a retired player wins a tournament
— Dongwon Shin 신동원 (@ROOThydra) September 19, 2015
It’s quite possible that Shin’s comment was meant as playful banter, but many took it seriously, including one of the Battleground winners, Loranger.
@ROOThydra It’s ok maybe you should focus on Hots since you never play LOTV yet want to talk a lot.
— Chris Loranger (@LorangerChris) September 19, 2015
While the Adept may need to be toned down, it clearly wasn’t the primary reason MC and HuK won the event. They were simply more prepared than their opponents. For example, utilizing Ghosts is a common answer to Adept pressure used by many of the top Terran player in Legacy of the Void right now. But HuK and MC’s Terran opponents at Battlegrounds didn’t take advantage of them.
That’s in part likely because MC is “retired.” He’s not spending time playing Heart of the Swarm, like many of the other competitors. Choi “Bomber” Ji-Sung and Mun “MMA” Seong-Won, their opponents in the finals, were actively competing in Heart of the Swarm earlier this month.
Whether the win was a well-deserved result of preparation or one powered by an unbalanced unit, the fact remains that MC reached another milestone with the victory. HuK showed that he still has skill and a personality that makes him fun to watch. And Red Bull put on another great and creative production for a game that sometimes takes a back seat to all the other growing esports out there.