2 – 3 vs. Stardust.
0 – 4 vs. Polt.
1 – 3 vs. HyuN.
0 – 4 vs. Bomber.
Four second place finishes in four finals appearances.
And now, Jaedong is back for one more shot at claiming the ultimate prize at the end of a year that has been full of almost's, what if's, and should have's. After four close calls, there's a sense of desperation for Jaedong. What makes it all the more urgent is that it isn't just 2013 that has passed without cigars or trophies.
Let's go back to 2010. It is late January in Korea, and the finals of the NATE MSL (MBCGame Starcraft League) are shaping up to be the grandest Brood War event ever. The stars have aligned like they might in a dream, and the two best players of their generation have made their way through to the tournament to finally set up their very first grand finals clash.
Jaedong is the Tyrant of Brood War. Since 2007, he has won four major titles, led his team to a Proleague title, and is already one of the greatest to ever play the game. His style is that of fury personified—few can stand against his relentless aggression.
Flash is a prodigy. He is the youngest OSL winner in history, the undisputed ace of KT Rolster, and the best Terran player in the world. His macro style is so solid and so efficient that many compare him to a machine. He is expected to lead the Terran race for years to come.
It is an epic clash of the titans that will surely result in unbelievable games, heart-pounding drama, and moments to remember forever.
Unfortunately, all of those expectations come true.
After the first two maps see the series tied up 1 - 1, the series moves to Odd-Eye, a map on which Jaedong does not enjoy playing ZvT. As it turns out, Jaedong successfully executes a very risky 3-hatch-before-pool-build, setting himself up for a sure win if he can survive to the late game. What ensues is one of the most exhilarating ZvT's in history, with Flash launching an all-out attack to end Jaedong before it is too late, and Jaedong somehow holding off each wave by the skin of his teeth.
Then, the unimaginable. In the middle of a decisive battle, the power goes out. It is an unprecedented accident, all due to poor preparation, an overloaded cable, and a rogue space heater.
With no way to resume from replay (the technology isn't there), the referees must decide on the outcome of the game. Re-game, or victory by decision? In one of the most controversial moments in the history of Korean StarCraft, the referees decide in favor of Jaedong, deeming Flash is nearly out of steam and that Jaedong will soon crush him in the late game.
Jaedong closes out series in game four, winning 3 –1 to claim his fifth major championship. Fifth and last.
After the NATE MSL, Jaedong participates in eight more major tournaments, reaching the finals in three before the age of Brood War ends in Korea. He loses in all three finals. To whom? Who else: a vengeful Flash.
Back to the present. Jaedong is now closing in on four years without a major title, and has runner-up'd in his last seven finals appearances. His last title is marred by controversy. He wasted nearly a year mired in mediocrity after KeSPA's official SC2 switch as he struggled to adapt to an entirely new game. At some points in time, retirement looked closer than a return to championship contention.
But slowly, he has improved his skills and become a player who sometimes resembles the Jaedong of old. Unbelievable mutalisk-micro against MC in the WCS Season 2 finals. Ruthless retribution against StarDust in the semi-finals of DreamHack Valencia. These are moments that let you know the fire still burns. As the final generation of Brood War greats lies ailing—Bisu and JangBi retired, Stork, Fantasy, and Flash unable to find their old form—Jaedong has survived to carry their banner to the WCS Finals.
There is a fundamental difference between Jaedong and everyone else in the tournament. He's not like Bomber or MC, who erased their pasts and reinvented themselves as champions. He's not like MMA or Maru, who barely got started in Brood War before an opportunity called SC2 came along. He's not like INnoVation or Soulkey, for whom Brood War died too quickly for them to realize their potential. He's not like TaeJa or Polt, who face no shadows of the past as they began their professional careers with StarCraft 2.
Unlike the sixteen other players, Jaedong has already stood on top of the world. He is the only player who is competing for the title of the best, past and present. For Jaedong, the WCS Finals are not about rebirth or the realization of a lifelong dream. It's about the continuation of a reign that was interrupted in 2010.
At Blizzcon, Jaedong seeks to make up for lost time.