Banner by pachi, photos by Empyrean
TL had MLG fever this weekend, and when the lights went off at Raleigh, our users posted over 8,500 times in half a dozen different threads. Intrigue and I were there live along with many TL users, and we all watched Huk defeat Kiwikaki in the finals with hundreds of cheering fans. For those that missed the action, here are the essential threads:
casters Day, JP, HD, and Husky, or about the event overall. Additionally, JoshSuth did some great independent coverage – check out his not-so-live blog part 1 and his photo gallery. You will be able to watch the VODs in a few days and replays when MLG chooses to release them. Replays will be released, do not worry.
MLG and StarCraft 2
If you ever had any lingering doubts about StarCraft 2’s success as a first time game at MLG, you can dismiss them now. The SC2 portion of MLG Raleigh was a tremendous success. There was a large crowd watching the matches live, much larger than MLG anticipated, judging from the complaints about lack of proper seating. The MLG staff were happy about the stream numbers, which at the time supposedly exceeded Halo’s (though the Halo finals had not happened yet). The event ran on time and there were no large scale tech, lag, or player issues.
The atmosphere was amazing, and I’d recommend to everyone to attend one of these live, because watching on stream does not do it justice. Even in a mirror match PvP finals dominated by identical 4-5 warpgate builds, the spectator experience and crowd reaction was great. "It's like War of the Worlds," exclaimed Husky as Huk and Kiwikaki engaged with eight Colossi each.
Day (nice shirt!) interviews Huk after his win in the grand finals.
The logistics of operating a large-scale tournament while broadcasting are quite complex, especially if you haven't run one before. As much as we (and TL’s “magical lag-free touch”) would like to take credit for the event operating smoothly, Intrigue and I helping referee was obviously only a tiny part of what made this event great. The bulk of the credit goes to MLG’s production and administration staff, including the tech lead Devin, the TD Ryan, the two twin refs Brendan and Matt, the producer and camera guys, and Lee Chen. MLG was always open to feedback and suggestions from the SC2 community, and they even assigned MLG Shrew to watch our IRC and forums all day. Hopefully MLG will have a bigger stage and better spectator seating at the MLG event in DC -- there's certainly enough fan interest.
Since you can read all that great coverage I linked above, I am not going to bore you with a detailed summary of the games. You can watch the VODs or replays when they go up, or read the TL threads and Liquipedia for coverage. I will try to highlight each round briefly and describe some behind the scenes stuff that we did not write in the MLG Raleigh TL Blog.
Incontrol warming up before his matches.
The opening rounds were mostly a one sided affair, as the invites rolled the open signup guys. There were two notable upsets: Select losing to Lastshadow (ajtls) who would eventually finish fourth, and Machine losing to a player seeded in the 50’s, his EG teammate Incontrol. This was probably the only administrative error MLG made all weekend, and it cost Machine dearly as Inc was probably the last player he wanted to face since EG practiced hard with each other before the event. As for the other matches, the skill disparities were quite high. For example, Masq played against a Zerg player who had only practiced against the computer, for the commendable reason of being away on US army service. Everyone watched the Nadagast vs damaddar games on stream which were very one-sided.
Lastshadow (ajtls), Nadagast, and Kiwikaki playing their winner's bracket games.
Round two had a few “surprises” like Nadagast beating Incontrol and Lastshadow over TT1, but the big story was agh taking out TLAF-Liquid`Tyler. Fast Colossus and a misplaced probe rally cost Tyler two games, and he was eventually eliminated by Incontrol in a close 2-1 series (photo). A disappointing finish for our sole TL representative in North America, but I am sure he will bounce back strong in DC.
The great thing about a live event is our ability to observe how the players react and play in person. If you watched on stream only, you would not know that Lastshadow is super excitable, fist pumping after his wins and visibly bouncing off his chair during each battle. Silver has the same expression on his face regardless of what’s happening, often behind but calmly working his way back into games. Select has unbelievable screen speed. Painuser uses a huge mousepad and low sensitivity so his arm flails around. Gretorp sighs or nods depending on how the game is going.
Three of Root's Ro8 players: Slush with Kiwikaki behind him. Drewbie practices in the background.
The two Root players Kiwikaki and Slush are cool as ice, smoothly handling anything their opponents throw at them regardless of game score. They give measured, comically brief answers – Kiwikaki: “He will try fast Colossus. It will not work.” Despite some difficult sets versus Nadagast and the Swedish player Sjow, #1 seeded Kiwikaki passed through the upper portion of the bracket with almost casual indifference. A Root teammate swore he saw Kiwi fist-pump after a win, an accusation Kiwikaki vehemently denied.
On the other side of the draw, Team Root and a kid named Huk rolled through the brackets. Intrigue on Huk: “his in-battle micro is sick, he’s constantly making traps and baiting throughout.” Huk’s improvement from his first nervous LAN event at IEM Cologne is clear in his play and his demeanor. It’s hard to play live, with dozens watching over your shoulder and the crowd reacting to your every move. Look for many players to perform better at their second or third live events.
Five Root players made the winner’s Top 8. The highlight of the streamed matches was clearly Drewbie’s win over the Socke, which included plenty of Psi storm, Carriers, and one amazing Mothership. But Root found no answer to Huk, who went through four of their players to win MLG Raleigh. The lone Zerg representative Slush held on admirably, showing amazing game sense against Masq’s reapers but falling to Lastshadow’s infantry rushes. Over drinks I’d ask Slush, a former XDs old school Brood war player, if he’d ever consider switching from Zerg. Slush: “Never.”
Nadagast was a fan favorite, always accompanied by an entourage of WoW players. His skill was obvious in his wins over Incontrol and his close loss to Kiwikaki 1-2. He was also inexperienced, but willing to learn, often consulting with Painuser between games and asking Socke for tips after losing 0-2 to the German Protoss. Most players agreed that the EU server had more high level players than US. “But,” said Huk, “North America has better Protoss.” Kiwikaki nods his agreement.
Socke traveled from Germany and finished third at MLG Raleigh.
One semifinal Kiwikaki vs Lastshadow was highlighted by Lastshadow’s reputation of “always cheesing.” The first game saw Kiwi’s early probe scout make a beeline to Lastshadow’s proxy barracks, and suddenly all of Team Root (standing behind Kiwi) started high fiving, clapping, and cheering when the game was barely two minutes old. “What are you cheering about?” Root: “Kiwikat found the proxy.” The other semi saw Cauthonluck against Huk, which had several close moments. In Game 2, down 0-1, Huk’s storm research finished just seconds before Cauthonluck’s marine attack.
Nobody expected only one non-invited Terran to make the Top 4, and nobody expected a PvP final, except perhaps the two finalists, who were not short on confidence. “What place finish would have satisfied you?” I asked Huk. “Finals. I’m here to win. Why else would I show up?” Kiwikaki, on whether he’d win the tournament: “Of course.” At the bar after the finals, I asked him about his loss to Huk. Kiwi admitted he hated PvP and was not well practiced in it. “Next time,” Kiwikaki said, making a #1 gesture with his right hand and pointing at Huk. He’ll get his chance at DC, and ealier as well. IEM groups were drawn this weekend, Group B: Huk, Kiwikaki, Lastshadow, Machine.
Huk, wearing lucky hoodie and sitting on HukPillow™ (not pictured) .
Huk was also interviewed by djWHEAT and Slasher on Live On Three, where he reiterated the importance of nerves and experience. MLG Raleigh was Huk’s second big LAN event, and the experience showed. This time, Huk had his hoodie, his pillow, and his mouse and game settings. Huk, Machine, Inka all swear by their chair pillows. DjWHEAT: “Forget about sponsored mouse pads, we need an official Huk pillow.”
Huk, on his goals after the tournament: “I want to go to Korea.” Not a surprising goal for someone whose idol is Boxer. Huk received some flak on TL for saying he wanted to be the next Lim Yo Hwan for SC2. "I was just trying to say I'm his fan," Huk explained. But for now, the GOM’s SC2 League in Seoul can wait. MLG DC is scheduled for October 15-17, and Huk has a title to defend.