In the continuing debate about whether or not the WCS system should employ a region lock of some sort, there's one argument that pro-lockers constantly fall back on: boring, faceless Koreans going overseas to win easy money.
At first glance, the Liquipedia entry for WCS Europe Season 2 seems like the perfect example. MVP.duckdeok, a mid-tier Korean with no results of note, made his way through a qualifier, then through Challenger League and then won the entire tournament. Along the way he almost exclusively faced and eliminated fan favorites and national heroes, usually with all-ins. It was as if critics of the WCS system had gone to a laboratory and created the perfect player to prove themselves right.
duckdeok started his conquest of Europe in the online Ro32 against three beloved national representatives in HasuObs, DIMAGA and Dayshi. The wall of lag initially seemed to be too much of a hurdle for duckdeok to overcome as he lost his initial series to DIMAGA, but he recovered by 4-gating Dayshi twice and winning the rematch against DIMAGA with an immortal all-in and the 2-2-2 immortal/colossus all-in. The forums burned.
Moving to the live Ro16, duckdeok was put in a group with three more beloved and promising foreigners: Stephano, Welmu and LucifroN. Everyone's eyes were on Stephano, the foreigner great who had declared WCS Europe to be his final tournament. duckdeok ushered him toward retirement with an immortal all-in. Next was Lucifron, a player many fans looked to as the next protector of foreigner hope. With well-executed 3-gate pressure and a miracle hold against the Spaniard's SCV pull, duckdeok snuffed that hope out.
In the Ro8, duckdeok cut the NaNiwa-Stephano debate short by eliminating NaNiwa from the tournament alongside his French rival. In the Ro4, he one-upped himself yet again by eliminating one of the most adored players of all time in two games, the Dutchman Grubby. To cap it all off, duckdeok clinched the title by defeating one of the most popular Koreans and one who worked hard to engage the international audience in SK's MC.
At the end of it all, everyone had to at least acknowledge that duckdeok's PvP was pretty good, and that he had played some entertaining games. But there was no doubt that it was not the ending that anyone had hoped for at the start of WCS Europe.
Then, something happened that made everything alright. duckdeok broke down in tears. After years of hard work, suffering the worst the Korean farm system had to offer, he had finally reached the promised land. Stoic at first, he was unable to stop the waterworks after realizing his achievement, and the tears streamed down his face. In one moment, everyone understood. When duckdeok lifted the trophy, they had witnessed the happiest moment in a young man's life.
In the end, duckdeok ended up being the exact opposite of a faceless Korean, or someone who was ruining the WCS system. Given a chance to compete and show himself in Europe he left the most memorable individual impression of the entire WCS year.
Once upon a time a certain Steven Bonnell stated that there were about 500 players on the Korean ladder who could reach #1 Grandmaster on other servers. This was even before the KeSPA switch introduced yet more talented players, turning the Korean scene into a pit of starved hounds and a few lions fighting for every single scrap. A few months ago, duckdeok was in that pit, another dog battling nonexistence.
duckdeok could have been just another name in your TL news feed, next to a handful of other retiring players you didn't know even existed. Nobody would have witnessed his real love for the game and his moment of joy. But he realized his chance at living the European dream of WCS where anyone can make it as long as they work hard. He stands as a prime example of the system working.
Ironically, for what fans purport to be the world's finest competitive game, it was duckdeok's display of raw, pure emotion that won many foreign fans over, not his skill. But skill is what he needs at Blizzcon, more than a compelling story, more than passion, more than anything else. His opponents are the players whose faces are memorable not for emotional moments, but because they have been photographed next to too many trophies. If duckdeok spent his career fighting against adversity, then they are adversity's personifications.
Duckdeok has only earned himself recognition, not permanence. For now he remains a star outside of Korea, but he is still the product of a single moment, and moments are forgotten with time. It is now time to give everyone something new to remember.
Fly on, little duck.
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