After a quick couple of weeks, it's already time for the VSL to wrap up its group stage. It's already been an interesting experience so far—definitely a tournament where players sidelined in the GSL or SSL have come to restore their reputations—and that's again a theme that repeats in our final batch of players here.
When Proleague dissolved, fans mourned a lot of things. The Telecom Wars, crazy best of one antics and weekly battles between top players were some of the most frequently mentioned ones. What was overlooked, however, was the visibility the teamleague offered to lesser players. Trust and Impact only played 9 games between them during the 2016 campaign, but at least their name came up. They attended events and were known entities for those who followed Proleague. That’s all in the past, though. The elite players still draw headlines, but they also get all the attention and coverage in online events. For players like Impact and Trust, it’s never been harder to get noticed.
Impact has been posting positive results all year, but the fact that he failed to qualify for GSL while sitting atop the Korean ladder is his most noteworthy and unenviable achievement. Trust hasn’t even achieved anything that unspectacular. He didn’t participate in a single event in February and a fair number of people probably forgot all about him.
The saying, “the more things change the more things stay the same” has rarely ringed so true. Players like Impact and Trust are overshadowed by their peers more than ever before. All the talk is reserved for players like INnoVation, Maru, ByuN, Stats, and soO. There simply isn’t much more to go around.
It may not be as prestigious as GSL, but for Impact and Trust, VSL is a shot at notoriety. Winning the competition would be the type of thing the community couldn’t ignore. Honestly, does anyone even remember that Trust made the quarterfinals at IEM Gyeonggi? Meanwhile, for all the hype and praise bestowed on him in the past three years, this is Impact's first top 16 appearance in a starleague—shame then that it's come off the back of the easiest qualifying run in Starcraft history.
A legendary flawless run on par with NesTea's GSL and TaeJa's Dreamhack
Past and Future Champions
This time last week there was only one GSL champion in group D. Now there are two. jjakji isn't the first name that comes to mind when you think of champion, but Stats is certainly the freshest after his convincing victory over soO over the weekend. It was a deserved victory for Stats, who has looked every bit an elite player since the launch of LotV. On the other hand, jjakji won his GSL what seems an eternity ago—with champions like Mvp, NesTea, and even MMA and Polt fallen by the wayside, he's now the only GSL champion from WoL still active . He's gotten little respect since then; in fact he's been labeled things far more unkind than washed up since he failed to repeat his title run.
It's curious, though, how a narrative that stretches over many years can change in an instant. But that's exactly what happened to Stats and jjakji will be looking to do the same over the course of this—the only offline tournament he is currently participating in. jjakji never handled the mantle of champion as well as he would have liked and Stats will be hoping not to duplicate that disappointment. His victory over Maru in SSL Premier left doubters with little to quibble over and shows that Stats is not going to let his focus slip even after achieving his ultimate goal.
Success is fickle and a players fortunes are far from set in stone. Stats may be the reigning GSL champion today, but in a few months someone will probably supplant him. The present slips into the past and once great champions often fade into obscurity. Will Stats suffer how jjakji has or will he continue to rise above those he once stood in the shadow of, but now towers over? Stats is a champion, but he won't stop now that he's won a title. VSL may not be GSL, but he appears bent on winning everything he can on the road to Blizzcon. For jjakji a win is a win - it's about putting one foot in front of the other. As he has time and again, he finds himself at the foot of the mountain, staring up at once familiar heights. He's stumbled on the path so many times, but he hopes this time will be different. After all, advancing out of the group is the first step to breaking free of the past and becoming a champion once more.
Stats 2-1 jjakji
Impact 2-1 Trust
Stats 2-1 Impact
jjakji 2-0 Trust
Impact 1-2 jjakji
Stats and jjakji to advance to the Round of 8.
Time until VSL