Establishing the Eight

  • Blizzard Entertainment

To become a professional gamer . . .

Many make this decision lightly at first. For those who excel, however, it quickly becomes a life-altering path of personal and professional development. The quest to be one of, if not the greatest professional competitor in the world for any sport is a truly massive undertaking, and doing so for StarCraft II is one of the most arduous and rewarding achievements in esports.

Mastering StarCraft II requires a unique blend of persistence and resilience. The community surrounding StarCraft II often references their appreciation for the fact that, “in StarCraft II, the only person one has to blame for defeat is their self.” The road to become a StarCraft II pro, then, (let alone become a Champion!) is a truly incredible feat requiring an iron resolve where the most impactful improvements lie in internally challenging oneself.

Throughout 2017, eight competitors will show how they have worked to develop themselves into players who are faster, better, and strategically superior to all others in the world. These eight players will be discovered periodically at eight WCS Championships scattered throughout the year and around the world.

In recognition of their immense achievements, these eight WCS Champions will be awarded with a guaranteed seat at the WCS Global Finals, held at the end of the year. There, they will join another eight of the most highly-ranked players in the WCS Tournament Standings to battle for the greatest title of all: the StarCraft II Global Champion.

We are continuing to update this blog as these eight Champions are found, and are including short descriptions of the tales of their victories here as well. Below are their stories:

Champion #1 - IEM Katowice

Name: Jun “TY” Tae Yang

Race: Terran

On March 5, 2017, Jun ‘TY’ Tae Yang defeated Kim ‘Stats’ Dae Yeob in a narrow 4-3 victory to become the IEM Season XI World Champion, thereby securing the first guaranteed seat at the 2017 WCS Global Finals.

TY’s journey to become this year’s IEM World Champion was filled with resilience and unexpected surprises. After narrowly escaping his group, TY found himself matched against Koh ‘GuMiho’ Byung Jae, who had absolutely crushed the group stage. TY came out on top, but the series was taken all the way to a remarkably close fifth game.

TY then moved on to face Han ‘aLive’ Lee Seok, who was the only undefeated player left in the tournament. aLive was at the absolute top of his game throughout the event and seemed to be unstoppable as he headed into the semifinals. TY had also lost to aLive in the group stage of the tournament without taking a single game. In the end, TY prevailed with top-tier trades and counter-aggression in an intense fifth game.

TY arrived in the finals despite all the unfavorable matches he had to surmount. Stats was another player many assumed to be favored against TY, as he had also beaten him in the tournament’s earlier stages. However, TY’s strategic aptitude was brought full-force in the finals, and his aggressive strategies proved too much for Stats to overcome. For the last time, in the final ace match, TY overcame his opponent and earn the unexpected but entirely deserved title of IEM World Champion. 

Champion #2 - GSL Season 1

Name: Kim ‘Stats’ Dae Yeob

Race: Protoss

On March 26, 2017, Kim ‘Stats’ Dae Yeob defeated Eo ‘soO’ Yoon Su with a score of 4-2 to become the 2017 GSL Season 1 Code S Champion, thereby securing the second guaranteed seat at the 2017 WCS Global Finals.

Stats’ journey to become the GSL Season 1 Champion was one characterized by incredible perseverance. Throughout 2015 and 2016, Stats watched as those who defeated him moved on to victory in tournament after tournament. Maru, Dark, and Classic, eliminated Stats from SSL and became the champions; Neeb defeated him in the KeSPA cup (a monumental victory for foreigners); while ByuN took out Stats at the Global Finals. Going into the 2017 season, things continued as Stats was eliminated by INnoVation at IEM Gyeonggi, and then TY at IEM Katowice. What would have happened if Stats had eliminated any of these tournament champions to-be? Whatever the answer, there is little to question about a player’s skill when they are consistently defeated only by event champions.

In his match against soO, Stats brought these very skills to bear once again. This time however, he brought something new as well: a rehearsed determination to win. As the series against soO progressed, Stats unleashed a carefully practiced strategy involving a “one-two punch” of Oracle Stasis Ward harass, into timing attacks which capitalized on his opponent’s faltered economy.

While Stat’s skills may have carried him without this added surprise, soO was wholly unprepared for this totally unorthodox strategy. After several games, soO did acclimate to the harassment, but numerous games had passed, and Stats secured his 4:2 victory and his seat at BlizzCon via his newly earned title of GSL Code S Champion. 

Champion #3 – WCS Austin

Name: Alex 'Neeb' Sunderhaft

Race: Protoss

On April 30, 2017, Alex “Neeb” Sunderhaft defeated Artur 'Nerchio' Bloch in a 4-2 series to become the 2017 WCS Austin Champion, and therein became the third confirmed attendee of the WCS Global Finals.

Neeb has long been considered one of the most capable players in the world. Last year, he made headlines around the world when he took a jaw-dropping victory in KeSPA Cup (just search “Neeb beats Korea”), becoming the first foreigner to win a premier Korean StarCraft II event. Yet despite besting the world’s best players time and time again, victory at a WCS championship event had eluded him until now.

At WCS Austin, the event began rather rough for this American Protoss as he narrowly made it out of the group stage and into the Playoffs. However, once there he found his stride and took out two of the tournament favorites in ShoWTimE and MajOr. In the Grand Finals he faced off against the Polish Zerg Nerchio and showed the world that his form is as strong as ever, taking a convincing 4-2 victory.

One of the most important things about this victory for Neeb was seeing his growth as a player. In earlier days, Neeb was known primarily for his Adept control and strong Disruptor-Stalker. In Austin however, we saw that Neeb has progressed into a more well-rounded player who utilizes a variety of strategies and compositions. He is clearly still in fantastic form, and this WCS Austin Champion will surely prove to be a serious contender at the WCS Global Finals.

Champion #4 – WCS Jönköping

Name: Alex 'Neeb' Sunderhaft

Race: Protoss

On June 19, 2017, Alex “Neeb” Sunderhaft took his second WCS Circuit victory at WCS Jönköping, becoming the first player to achieve such a feat in the WCS Circuit.

The journey to victory for Neeb at Jönköping was filled with both great expectations, and incredible adversity. After struggling to overcome TLO in the final group stage of the event, Neeb eventually arrived at the Quarter Finals to face off against Juan Carlos 'SpeCial' Tena Lopez. Their match at WCS Austin had been nothing short of jaw-dropping, as Neeb narrowly escaped with a victory and went on to win the event. In Jönköping, Neeb once again found a narrow victory vs. his rival, and proceeded cleanly from there on to the finals.

There he faced perhaps his greatest challenge of the year in Serral, a Finnish Zerg player who many expected to win the event. However, leveraging his exceptional micro and adept decision-making, Neeb found the victory many had been waiting for; the WCS Jönköping​ Champion had already secured a seat at the Global Finals, but with his victory here he also took home another $25,000.

Champion #5 – GSL Season 2

Name: Koh 'GuMiho' Byung Jae

Race: Terran

When GuMiho defeated Zest and aLive without dropping a map, eyebrows were raised. In the following round, when he defeated ByuL and Trap without losing a game, people turned their heads. But when he defeated TY and Maru to kick off the GSL Season 2 Playoffs, fans were in total shock and awe. Who could stop such a player... surely no one!

Indeed, on June 24, Koh 'GuMiho' Byung Jae defeated Eo 'soO' Yoon Su with a score of 4-2 to become the 2017 GSL Season 2 Champion, earning himself a seat at the table at the WCS Global Finals.

GuMiho has always been an incredibly strong player, but his performance in the GSL this season was amongst the best we've ever seen from him. TY was strongly heralded as a potential candidate for the GSL season, and when GuMiho faced him many expected it to be a straightforward match: TY was one of the fiercest and TvT his absolute best matchup.

Perhaps his clean-sweeps in the group stages and his victory over TY spurred him on to victory throughout the tournament, or perhaps GuMiho is becoming one of the new greats. We'll have to keep a close on him, but for now, we know that your GSL Season 2 Champion will be one of the attendees at the WCS Global Finals

Champion #6 – WCS Valencia

Name: Mikolaj 'Elazer' Ogonowski

Race: Zerg

On July 15th, Mikolaj 'Elazer' Ogonowski defeated Jens 'Snute' Aasgaard in a 4-3 series to become the 2017 WCS Valencia Champion, earning the fifth slot at the table at the WCS Global Finals.

Elazer's road to victory was truly a surprise at the time; although he had experienced a strong breakout performance at last year's Global Finals, Elazer had fallen to the wayside in his performance at recent events, until Valencia,

During the qualifying events, Elazer managed to take down his Polish counter-part Nerchio to be seeded into the Round of 32 alongside Serral, so it was perhaps not too great a surprise when Elazer defeated Nerchio once again after reaching the quarter finals.

However, Elazer didn't stop there. After defeating Nerchio he went on to best the Korean Zerg 'TRUE' in the semi-finals with a convincing 3-1 score. This seated him in the Grand Finals vs. the Norweigan Zerg 'Snute', where he found victory in an extremely close 4-3 series that was a nail-biter to the finish. Elazer has no earned a seat at BlizzCon and will have the chance to make it even further this year after becoming the WCS Valencia Champion.