SHOUTcraft: The Wool Pulled Over Our Eyes
SHOUTcraft Kings has been one of the more compelling events since its inception in July of 2016. It’s a romantic concept: a Bo1, King of the Hill competition where the order and names of combatants are unknown. It’s as even a playing field as you can get for foreigners and Koreans alike. And that dynamic has not failed to disappoint fans hungering for entertainment and unexpected results. In the very first edition Nerchio beat Dear, who was only a few days away from kicking off a GSL campaign that would see him reach the semifinals for the third consecutive season. At the very same event Stephano beat ByuN, at the height of his power, and herO. Suddenly a realization began to take shape. SHOUTcraft Kings was becoming more than an event that brought international competition together. It was proof that foreigners were indeed closing the gap on Koreans.
Next month it was two foreigners, Neeb and Scarlett and INnoVation who reigned as King for the longest, ByuN lost once more, continuing for the third straight month in September, this time to Nerchio who also beat Maru and Rogue on the way to eight straight victories. Solar was the lone representative from the Korean region to notch wins at the Blizzcon edition and, although Koreans ruled the final SHOUTcraft Kings of 2016, the event had played a significant part in defining the foreigner vs Korean landscape. Foreign fans used these results along with Neeb’s KeSPA cup victories and promising results at Blizzcon to assert that foreigners had made significant strides. Korean loyalists countered by citing the circumstances of those results and, that, in the end, it was Dark and ByuN who reached the finals at the WCS Global Finals. Less than a month after that, it was foreign fans who were left scrambling for mitigating circumstances, as Koreans posted a 24-1 record in matches against foreigners at HomeStory Cup 14. Was it a return to the old days or an aberration caused by excessive partying? One event does not a trend make, but even the most diehard foreign fan could not totally discount the display of dominance.
Despite the disappointing results at HomeStory Cup, there was great hope going into 2017 among many that foreigners would continue the supposed trend. Foreigners like Nerchio, Scarlett and Neeb had posted impressive results during SHOUTcraft Kings, looking at least the equal of even the most vaunted Koreans. Neeb’s victory at KeSPA Cup was a sign that they could duplicate those results in offline events as well. The WCS system remained largely unchanged and the opportunities for foreigners to push one another were still available.
The first two SHOUTcraft Kings of the year featured hardly any foreigners. But, by the time the third edition had rolled around, fans had already seen another offline event featuring both foreigners and Koreans. The results at IEM Katowice were far less encouraging than those seen in TotalBiscuit’s brain child. Thirteen Koreans (TRUE is counted as a foreigner due to his WCS affiliation) reached the group stages. They posted a 27-8 record against foreigners in bo3, putting the cherry on top with a pair of 3-0’s in the elimination stages. Nerchio got another five win streak in the June edition of SHOUTcraft, while Neeb got a win over Solar, but by this point that landscape was already starting to shift as the old paradigms took hold.
Foreigners did little to support their cause at HomeStory Cup 15, but looked competitive during the bracket stages of WCS vs The World. ShoWTimE lost to soO in typical foreigner fashion, but MajOr and Serral represented themselves well, as did Neeb, the lone foreigner to win a series against a Korean. Buoyed by the results, the murmuring began once again. It would take less than 24 hours for them to be quashed. The team portion of GSL vs The World was either catastrophe or affirmation depending on which camp one belonged to. Foreigner after foreigner looked impotent before their Korean counterparts. Even Kelazhur’s victory was far from convincing. The looks of bewilderment on Stephano’s face, as well as those of the players, told the story. Things had come full circle. If only on this day, the foreigners were helpless before the Koreans.
Though not done maliciously, SHOUTcraft Kings played an enormous part in crafting the false storyline that the gap between foreigners and Koreans was closing. With WCS region locked, it served as the main battlefield upon which the two factions did battle. One would be completely foolish to discount the success seen by foreigners like Nerchio in the event as hogwash, but those results lacked proper context. Offline events clarified things, painting an indisputable picture that Koreans are still a cut above. Blizzcon will be the next opportunity for foreigners to buck the trend and bring new credence to the claims that they are an equal for the Koreans. Will they seize the opportunity or suffer the same fate that has befallen them for years?