IM_Mvp is in a deep rut headed into Blizzcon, but the legendary champion's career has taught us that he can never be counted out.
In a game where we glorify players with all sorts of titles, royalty is an all too common theme. MarineKing, GhostKing, Crown Prince, Queen of Blades, King of the North, King of Lings are just a few of the many official and unofficial monikers with regal aspirations. It is quite telling then, that IM_Mvp is simply called "The King." He needs no qualifiers or adornments because he exists on another plane entirely, his record four GSL titles in six finals appearances and numerous international titles far outshining any other player's accomplishments.
The King is in a slump. After winning WCS Europe Season 1 and getting to the semi-finals in the Season 1 grand slam, things went drastically south for the greatest SC2 player of all time. In WCS Europe Season 2 he dropped out the Ro16 against Grubby and HasuObs. He didn't even make it past the Ro32 in Season 3, losing to Showtime twice in an early elimination.
It's not just the poor results that make Mvp's current slump worrisome. It's all about the way he is losing. He's making uncharacteristically poor decisions, choosing builds that make no sense, and showing increasingly poor micro. To make matters worse, all of this is happening as Mvp faces foreigner peasants, not the elite players of Korea. Taking these factors into consideration, one can say that this isn't any ordinary slump, but that Mvp is experiencing the deepest downswing of his legendary career. One might even dare start wondering if he's finished as a championship caliber player.
But of course, we know better. We know better than to say he had an incredible run three-year run, crown him the best of all time, and then respectfully write him off for Blizzcon. We know because we've felt this way about Mvp before, and we've always been incredibly wrong.
Mvp is amused to hear your doubts.
After ruling StarCraft 2 with an iron fist for most of 2011, Mvp's play started to deteriorate after a finals loss to MMA in October of 2011. The pain in his shoulder that prevented him from practicing properly finally started to show up in his gameplay, even though results-wise he finished the year strong. The severity of Mvp's situation was revealed in 2012 when he took a nosedive to start the year, getting eliminated in the Ro16 of the first Code S and then Ro24 of the first MLG. Combined with the ascent of players like MMA, DongRaeGu, MKP, and PartinG, many had already written off Mvp as a venerable but frail veteran when the second Code S of the year came around.
While Mvp managed to surprise by clawing his way past each round, his gameplay was what everyone expected: that of an old fighter getting by using every dirty trick, every bit of veteran savvy, and every last ounce of strength he had left. When Mvp reached the finals, many doubted if he had anything left to show after having thrown in everything and the kitchen sink to get that far. Instead, Mvp shined even brighter in the finals, triumphing 4 - 3 over Squirtle who could not find his footing on such a grand stage. With a daring 2-barracks proxy—a favorite of many great Terrans—Mvp closed out the series to take a hard-earned fourth GSL championship.
However, Mvp wouldn't stay "back" for long and he almost immediately started to show poor play again. With another series of early drop-outs at various tournaments, Mvp's previous GSL run looked more and more like a one-off miracle than a sign of anything permanent. Elimination from HSC 5 at the hands of foreigners Ret and Naama suggested that the grand finals win against Squirtle was only a temporary reprieve before an inevitable demise.
Once more, Mvp put the doubters in their place. He chose IEM Cologne as his stage, coming in with an innovative TvZ banshee-mech build of his own devising, specifically-tailored to crush the rising "patchzerg" class. This time around, Mvp had no need for painstaking efforts or dramatic games—he simply stomped over some of the best players Europe had to offer en route to the championship.
Yet, even Mvp couldn't hold out against the might of brood lord-infestor forever, and he spent the last couple of Code S tournaments of WoL stuck in the Ro32. This poor form alongside a switch to the easier WCS Europe region inevitably led many to question Mvp's abilities yet again, despite all past evidence showing that doubting Mvp is a very foolish thing.
The doubts were very briefly justified in the group stages of WCS Europe as Mvp dropped series to DIMAGA and Lucifron, but championship Mvp showed up in time for the quarter-finals. With a 3 - 0 vs. TLO, 3 - 0 vs. DIMAGA, and 4 - 1 vs. Stephano, Mvp made it three consecutive years with a major championship won. And just for good measure, he went on to the WCS Season 1 Finals, reached the semi-finals, and came within a hair of knocking INnoVation out of the tournament (the series included a 9 vs. 30 SCV comeback game).
It's true that the level of playing Mvp is showing now is even lower than any of those those so-called "slumps" of the past. Conventional logic dictates that if Mvp wants to make an impact at Blizzcon, he will have to make the biggest comeback of his career. But honestly, conventional logic couldn't mean less.
Many say that Mvp is the most like Flash among all the SC2 players, and that comparison is fair if you are just counting championship. But it doesn't take into account Mvp's greatest quality: overcoming adversity. Mvp is Boxer in 2004, Nada in 2006, and July in 2008. He is the old champion who shows that class—an intangible, poorly defined, quasi-mystical quality—truly is a thing, and that it is truly is permanent.
There is no reason to believe in Mvp. His form has fallen, his health has only gotten worse, and his opponents grow more fearsome by the day.
There is every reason to believe in Mvp. Victory at all cost. Victory by all means. Victory against all odds. That is what he stands for.
Hail to the King.
WCS Grand Finals
Brackets and info on Liquipedia
Brackets and info on Liquipedia
1: Soulkey - The Tragic Champion
2: INnoVation - The Man in the Machine
3: Jaedong - In Search of Lost Time
4: Polt - Prince of the Tides
5: HerO - Fire and Ice
6: Dear - The Unending Royal Road
7: Maru - The Prince Who Would be King
8: Bomber - I Fought the Law (And I Won)
9: MMA - Out of Exile
10: MC - Cash Rules Everything Around Me
11: TaeJa - Fire and Ice
12: sOs - On the Cutting Edge
13: aLive - The Iconoclast
14: Mvp - The King
15: duckdeok - Faceless