Masters of the Universe by Riptide Team Liquid: Final Edits
But I am constant as the northern star, Of whose true-fix'd and resting quality There is no fellow in the firmament. The skies are painted with unnumber'd sparks, They are all fire and every one doth shine, But there's but one in all doth hold his place: So in the world; 'tis furnish'd well with men, And men are flesh and blood, and apprehensive; Yet in the number I do know but one That unassailable holds on his rank, Unshaked of motion: and that I am he - Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene I
Long ago, when Broodwar had just been birthed, a boy named Lim looked out through a computer screen and saw a universe. Where others saw wasted hours and childish games, Lim saw potential. Lim saw a dream. Now, a decade later, we know him not as a boy but as The Emperor, the brightest star in the Starcraft universe and a man whose name is synonymous with the game itself. Above all, however, we remember Lim Yo Hwan as the creator of a dynasty of destruction, and the leader of a group of legends we today call SK Telecom T1, the most successful franchise in all of Broodwar.
Looking at these titans now, and indeed, looking at them this August weekend in the Proleague Grand Finals in Pusan, it is quite difficult to remember their roots. Indeed, as Boxer and Iloveoov sat on the SKT bench and watched their proteges sweep through the season's biggest event with a ruthlessness that sent shivers of fear through progaming circles, perhaps their minds would have wandered back to the days when they first took their team to the big leagues.
The year was 2003, and a newly founded Orion coached by Joo Hoon or as Boxer called him Hoon-hyung was trying hard to find a sponsor, and thereby become a real team. Months before, Boxer had met future Coach Hoon just a little while before departing his then team IS, and thereby inadvertently formed one of progaming's most important friendships. Ironically, the team which Boxer left is also the team SKT faced this weekend in Pusan. That's right, IS became K-TEC Plus, which in turn went on to become Plus, Lecaf OZ and now, as we know them Hwaseung OZ.
It is said that Boxer's father had a major influence in his son's move from the team. Arguing that the team he was on was mismanaged, and that the players didn't even have adequate quarters, he convinced a young Lim Yo Hwan to cut contract with IS and start his own outfit. Lim did not leave alone however, he took with him a young Protoss player who would soon be know for his amazing reaver control. Yes, Boxer's first recruit was none other than InToTheRainbow.
Over the next few years the Hwan-Hoon partnership would not only form a progaming team, but would go on to find a high profile sponsor and lay the foundation of one of Starcraft's most vibrant dynasties. It was a partnership that would continue until Boxer left for the air force in October 2006.
When Boxer and Hoon first met each other, they'd have scarcely thought that they'd be leading a sponsored pro team in a little over two years.
Slowly but surely Orion came together. From Kingdom, to Zerglee and [z-zone]kOs, many of SKT's most well known names were recruited by the Hwan-Hoon partnership during the months following Boxer's departure from IS. The biggest news however was the recruitment of the three young rookies, including Sigamari and [Blaze]Hiroko, two promising young Zerg players.
It was also during this time that the emperor to be made one of his most important decisions - playing against and recruiting a Terran that would later become his pupil, friend and confidante. Orion's final member for the time being, and indeed, its most important addition to date, was none other than the monster we now call Iloveoov. In retrospect, the name they chose for their outfit was perfect for a team that would soon be one of the brightest constellations in the Broodwar universe.
Finally, a sponsor was found for Orion in the form of Tongyang, snack food makers and owners of OGN at the time, and Boxer's dream was officially under way. He was leading his first progaming team. Unlike IS, this was his team, a factor which played a major part in how they worked, and indeed, played.
As Lim Yo Hwan and Choi Yun Sung sat on the bench and watched Fantasy struggle with Jaedong, maybe they remembered for a moment their first Proleague finals, when they, just like Fantasy, walked on stage on an August evening to represent their team at the 2003 OnGameNet KTF EVERCup ProLeague. Unlike this most recent Proleague finals though, Boxer's team was not the favourite to win. No, SKT T1 was only a glimmer in The Emperor's eye, and any hope of future domination still remained a distant dream.
They were facing Hanbit Stars, which sported a lineup that included H.O.T-Forever, [Oops]Reach, Sync and Junwi_[saM]. Though they had dispatched a KTF magicNs led by YellOw and Nada, they were not expected to win against a team like Hanbit, not by a long shot.
The rain come down hard in Olympic Park Peace Square in Seoul as fans gathered for the first team league finals in Professional Starcaft. It was a historic occasion, and the fans knew it. Wearing raincoats, they sat there for hours in what was perhaps one of Broodwar's earliest and most rabid displays of fanboyism. Maybe they just loved Starcraft, but maybe, just maybe they sensed a touch of magic in the air and knew instinctively that if they braved the clouds they would get to see history being made.
Don't tell my mother I'm at Olympic Park.
It was in such a setting that Boxer led his men out against Hanbit, and it was in such a setting that Orion showed their opponents that when it rains, it pours. Boxer, Kingdom and sigamari dispatched Sync, Silent_Control and Reach respectively, and did in style. The score was 3-0, and the young men of Orion had tasted victory for the first time.
In August 2003, Orion took the first team league title Starcraft history, and Hwan-Hoon were there, leading from the front.
"It was for this victory cup that we spent our time at the quarters eating, sleeping, and sweating while we practiced. Others only saw our outward appearance and did not see our true appearances. The secret to our team’s victory was that our players had the endless potential and the hope that our dream would come true, as long as we never gave up. We will shine brighter tomorrow than today, and even brighter the day after." - Lim Yo Hwan, Crazy as Me.
There is a magic in those words, because as we all know, they are not just words. History tells us that 2003 was only the beginning for Orion. Although the KTF EVERCup Proleague was the team's last title as Orion, it was an important one, for it was for all intents and purposes the first step they took on a walk to glory that illuminated progaming for the better part of the next few years. Although Tongyang dropped their sponsorship of Boxer's boys in late 2003, the kids fought on, coming together as 4U or 4Union to fight it out and stay competitive. Funded by Boxer and other individuals, this was SKT's troubled era in which they funded themselves while looking for a sponsors and trying to stay competitive at the same time.
Their days of want were short lived though. On the 4th of March 2004, they were signed by South Korea Telecom, and received the name by which we now know them. SK Telecom T1, aka living legends, aka Masters of the Universe. To say that SK Telecom T1 is the Manchester United or the Yankees of progaming completely undermines their role in its history. SK Telecom is not simply the most successful progaming franchise. No, they are also its most influential, in every sphere from ones as trivial as merchandising to the far more influential metagame and strategy arenas. Fielding half of the Bonjwas to have graced the Starcraft scene, they destroyed Broodwar for much of its existence, leaving in their wake crushed hopes and broken teams.
4U, having been signed by SK Telecom, celebrate the fact that their Ramen eating days are over.
By 2006, Professional Starcraft had seen 16 team league finals. Boxer's team had won seven of them. Their nearest competitor was GO, who had won four, leaving two to Hanbit and single titles to the likes of Pantech EX and a few other teams. There was no question, these were the times of SKT, and they were glorious. Five days after their late August victory against Hanbit, Iloveoov set out to win the 2nd TGSambo (TriGem) MBCGame Starleague, something which he managed with ease, going 2-0 against YellOw, his master's nemesis. Over the next few years, he would be at the helm of SKT's dominance, and bag 3 MSL and 2 OSL titles respectively in the individual leagues. For those three years, if T1 was not at the very top of progaming, they were at all times at least in very close proximity to its summit, and made sure that anyone who tried to surpass them was given a good run for their money. In fact, SKT's last Proleague victory was not at a Grand Finals. It was a R1 finals win over a MBC who would soon come back to avenge it. On July 29th 2006 SK Telecom T1 dispatched them 4 - 1 and secured the last victory of their era of dominance. On that summer evening, Orion's deep glow, the glow that had given light to the galaxy for years, was strong, and bright, and fans would remember it with fondness as they stepped into an era of uncertainty with their team.
The old SKT bring it in for the last time at SKY 2006.
2007 was a year of change for Starcraft. On the third of March, a young Protoss Revolutionist was to destroy a Zerg king using a technique that would completely change the way PvZ would be played in the years to come. Although perhaps less significant to the casual surveyor of Broodwar history, something far greater happened just a few months prior to this event. On the 20th of January of that year, SK Telecom T1 appeared at SKY 2006 in a Proleague Grand Finals for the last time for many years. Meeting a MBC in final in which our good friend Sea took out GoRush, and Pusan and July dispatched Midas and Iloveoov respectively, SK Telecom T1 lost on the grandest of stages, and thereby failed to retain the Proleague title. Boxer had left for the air force the previous October, and although it's difficult to peg the entire team's performance on this issue, the psychological effect of seeing their leader leave would no doubt have influenced them at least a little. Orion's brightest star was on a hiatus, and the constellation dimmed considerably for the first time since the dawn of the Broodwar universe.
This was the beginning of the end for Joo Hoon, who struggled valiantly to keep his team going. It was only a matter of time, however, and SKT's terrible Proleague performance over the next few seasons prompted a complete change in management. A little over a year later, on the 27th of February 2008, all SKT coaching staff were let go, and MBC's Coach Park was hired, with Iloveoov and Kingdom retiring to take on coaching roles as well. This proved to be a turning point in the history of T1.
What is most ironic about SKY 2006 however is that it was Coach Park was responsible at least in part for the fall of SKT. Leading MBC against them and defeating them convincingly, he had ridden the momentum of a R2 win against CJ Entus to seal the deal for MBC. Upon winning Proleague that year, his team's first title after their name change from POS or Pirates of Space to MBC HERO, Head Coach Coach Hae Tae Gi remarked
"meeting coach park was the luckiest thing that happened in my life". - Naver Interview.
MBC had lost to SKT in R1, and come back a few months later to take the Grand Finals away from them, and although Park was not head coach, he was certainly an up and coming star in Starcraft coaching circles.
Coach Park, living by his personal motto - I pwn you ezpz.
It was only fitting, therefore, that he would eventually gravitate towards Broodwar's most famous constellation when the time was right. Coach Park and SKT were made for each other, a fact which this last final proved beyond a shadow of a doubt. Under a year and a half after his arrival at SKT as Head Coach, Park has taken them to a title, something which the team could not manage for many seasons before that. In congratulating him though, one must not forget that when Park does something, he does it in style.
One of these men is a trained assassin. The other likes hotdogs.
At the opening ceremony of the 2008-09 Grand Final, he delivered some serious trash talk, and politely challenged the Coach Cho of Hwaseung to a bet, saying that the losing coach would shave their head. Cho declined, and SKT was already up in terms of mind games. On day two, he good naturedly urged Hwaseung fans to cross over to SKT if their team lost before saying he was joking, and saying he thought that all teams needed hardcore fans. Indeed, Park's behaviour at both pre-game interviews clearly demonstrates his style of coaching. This is a coach who believes in himself, and above all, believes in his team. Both Park and Cho came to Pusan with a Proleague title each, but from the moment they were interviewed on day one, it was obvious who was walking away with another one.
The irony of SKY 2006 doesn't stop at Park, however. There was another player on that MBC team in 2007, a young Protoss who played against them here, and though by losing to InToTheRainbow did not actually actively help in their defeat, was without a doubt involved at least by proxy. Yes, fans of Broodwar, Kim Taek Yong was there when SKT fell, and he was there this weekend when they rose again. In many ways, it was this Protoss who steered Boxer's team through this season of Proleague. From a less than stellar performance in the opening rounds of this season, Bisu played strong, consistent Starcraft, bagging wins throughout the season and eventually falling just one short of MVP. Netting the most personal wins however would have been the farthest thing on his mind as he stood with his team mates on that stage in Pusan. Although he missed his day one game due to SKT going 4-0, he played his day two opener with panache, and danced circles around Perfectman to give SKT a great start by delivering yet another win.
Having enjoyed the pomp of a Proleague victory many moons ago as a rookie with MBC, he was now here, leading Boxer's team back to stardom. Kim Taek Yong may be out of the OSL this year, and that no doubt pains him. In the long run though, he has no doubt realised that his role at SK Telecom T1 is far bigger than all his individual league wins put together. He is the modern SKT's boxer, their tireless workhorse and their unwavering ace who goes out there time and time again to net them wins. He is young, experienced, and is to modern SKT what Boxer was to Orion - a man who leads from the front, delivering not speeches, but cold, calculated wins.
SKT frontmen of two eras share some lulz after looking at the Grand Finals' lineups.
Coach Park and Bisu were acquired by SKT T1 in 2008 in separate deals, but combined they are probably the most important decision made by the team's management in the last quarter decade. Park is a winner, there's no denying that. While Joo Hoon may have netted Orion their first win, and then moved on to crush everything in his path for early part of SKT's history, after SKY 2006 he fell, and there was no coming back. While he will always remain a vital part of the team's legacy, the important thing is that the legacy of SKT continues, and if there is a man who can make sure that happens it's Park.
The mantle has passed, and Orion's three original stars have all but faded away. Coach Hoon is gone, and Boxer and oov may never play again. In the very least, they most likely will never play the way they did back then. What they have done this past season however outweighs the sum of any of their personal accomplishments, or medals, or trophies. Over the course of Proleague R5, and indeed, in these finals played out over two days in sunny Pusan, they have shown that they are not just kings, but kingmakers. Lim Yo Hwan and Choi Yun Sung did what they had to do for the team. They played hard, they played long, and SKT prospered. Now, many years later, they're still batting on, not from the booth but from the bench, a bench from where they looked on expectantly as their newest protege took the stage against the current overmind.
When Fantasy stepped out on Friday to lead his team into battle, he didn't carry with him dual starleague titles, or a thousand B word threads. All he had was two silver medals, and the backing of two of Broodwar's greatest Terrans. Indeed, as the countdown threw him into what was perhaps the most important game of his life, and as the first minutes of the said game unfolded, SKT fans everywhere closed their eyes, unable to look on. Jung Myung Hoon was being schooled, nay crushed by a master of the game. Or was he?
We don't know what was ringing in Fantasy's ears under the SPL soundblock he was wearing. We don't know how hard his heart was beating, or how fast his hands were moving. We don't know what we was thinking, but we know this - as his mentors looked on from the bench, they looked at him with a confidence, a confidence that they had gained on a similar August evening many years ago when they first tasted glory.
As he stuck it out, getting flanked, and dropped in what can only be described as a Jaedong horror house, he displayed an unquenchable spirit that we saw many years ago in EVER04 as Boxer and Iloveoov took the series to five games in what has been called the greatest OSL finals to date. In weathering the Zerg hurricane, and sticking it out, Fantasy showed a maturity far beyond his years. This was not some individual title he was fighting for. This was Proleague, the biggest gaming tournament in the world, and he was representing his team, and in doing so stepping out to honour a dynasty that he had grown up with. Now, he was here, living the dream, and yet getting massacred by the greatest player in the world.
He held. He held, he held, he held. He lost vessels, people laughed, his bionic army got slaughtered and there were calls for him to gg. Yet he held, and with one defiler snipe and a quick siege of tanks, a hatchery went down, and marines marched in to raze the swarm. It was over.
The series continued, however, and his biggest test awaited him on day two. With SKT going 3-3 with OZ and the game being taken to ace, Coach Park decided to send him out again, against the same opponent, on the same map where had had lost Game 5 of the OSL finals. As he 8raxed and took the fight to Jaedong, and as an ovie died, and a bunker was built, in every aspect of his game the young Terran showed complete and utter control. Although people screamed starsense when Jaedong 9pooled without seeing Fantasy's 8rax, the real sense of star was displayed by the Terran himself, who executed what can only be described as the perfect counter to Jaedong's two hatch muta.
As sunkens went down, and lings popped like zits, a control group of marines and SCVs walked into the Zerg main and for a moment we were back in time and watching Boxer serve up a perfect build to some hapless son of the swarm. Some may call it cheese, and get angry about it, but in those intense minutes of battle, in those moments of conflict, Fantasy stepped up and showed that medals, titles and prize money aside, he was, is and always will be a Terran to contend with. SKT needed a win, and their Terran lineage delivered once again.
A home grown T1 destroyer, Jung Myung Hoon has been called a hybrid of Hwan-Sung, a perfect mix of creative micro based play and intense, mechanical, mind blowing macro. Here at Team Liquid, we named him the Terran Revolutionist for his amazing vulture valkyrie build that has become the bane of Zerg players on every known Starcraft ladder.
A few months ago, when speaking of the SKT T1 Terran dynasty, I said the following.
If Boxer and Iloveoov invest in this new breed of Terran, and spend the hours, days and weeks needed to truly develop him into a player of their calibre, the world of Starcraft just may see another titan emerge in the seasons to come. The future of this dynasty of death, then, lies in the dexterous hands of a Terran, who having been robbed of the honour twice, is now battle hardened, and ready to reach for the stars with a firmer resolve than ever before. - A Deadly Dynasty
This weekend, Fantasy did not just reach for the stars, he became one. In defeating Jaedong on day one, and beginning the momentum that would lead his team to 4-0 their opponents on Day 1, Jung Myung Hoon established himself as a player capable of putting away one for the team. What he did on day two, however, was unthinkable. Playing in what was perhaps the biggest of his young career, and carrying his entire team on his shoulders as he did so, Fantasy stepped up and executed a micro intensive tactic that was reminiscent of none other than Lim Yo Hwan himself. He not only delivered a perfect 8rax build, but did so with a cold, calm determination that should be feared by anyone who plays him from now on. Lee Jaedong may have taken the last OSL from him, but this weekend, on a starry night in Pusan, Fantasy crushed his opponent on a far grander stage. While Jung Myung Hoon was always a star in the SKT constellation, tonight he was its brightest, and rightly so. Along with Bisu, he is the hope of T1, and a vital weapon in their arsenal as they look to the future.
Of course, Boxer and Iloveoov had also done their part, and this showed clearly as they sat on the bench, looking on like proud parents as their protege took down the gas and spawning pool of the world's most feared Zerg. As Jaedong typed out and Fantasy exited his booth, their smiles said it all - this kid would do just fine. He was like them. Just like them.
Angered easily by TvT trash talk, Iloveoov spent much of this Proleague season losing money games to his young protege.
These past few months have been hard for the old Terrans. They've played very few televised games, and Iloveoov had medical problems to boot. In the end though, this weekend, and in retrospect, the whole of R5 showed just where their time was going. From Orion, through 4U and the early days of SKT, Boxer and Iloveoov were not just players, but strategists. This was not something they were taught, or schooled in, it was something they were born with, and something they brought to their team. Indeed, this weekend in Pusan it was their years of experience that shone brighter than the spotlights or fireworks, as players they had taught and trained walked all over their opposition.
As a team, T1 has really developed in the past year. With the Bisu/Best powerhouse chugging along fine, albeit with some lacklustre performance by the latter Protoss in recent months, and Canata coming back from a nap that spanned many seasons to get to the Ro8 in both individual leagues this season, it's no surprise that SKT T1 went all the way this year. In fact, one can even say that the Boxer/oov/Kingdom triple crown team of 2005 has been revived in the form of Fantasy/Canata/Bisu, with Best taking InToTheRainbow's spot as Protoss number two. While the team's Zerg lineup badly needs a boost, this is an issue that the coaching staff are no doubt aware of, and are fully capable of handling. If this weekend's games are any indication though, Hyuk may be redeemable. Although we can't say that he wasn't handed his day two game by Jaedong, he did what was needed on both days by securing wins for his team.
We live in a time of turmoil, the post-Bonjwa era even, where dominance is hard to come by, and competition is at the toughest it has ever been. Therefore, it is with hope that we looked to Pusan this week, and it is with hope that we were rewarded, as one of the original constellations in the Broodwar universe shone brighter than it had in a long time. Orion, though we no longer refer to them by that name, has always had three main stars. In its early years, Joo Hoon, Lim Yo Hwan and Choi Yun Sung were at the heart of the constellation and devoured with fire anything that dared come close.
Now, many years later, those luminous orbs of deadly plasma have begun to fade, and yet from within them, a new breed of stars have emerged. Drawing energy from the past, and powered by the vibrancy of the years gone by, multiple young stars went nova this weekend in Korea, and as people stood on the beach and looked up at a beautiful night sky in Pusan, three shone brighter than the rest.
As the shadows fell, and fans went crazy, Park Young Woon, Kim Taek Yong and Jung Myung Hoon glowed with the light of an era long lost, an era that they rekindled with careful strategy, diligent practice, and an unquenchable desire to achieve excellence. They are the new stars of Orion, and as the team heads into another incarnation of Proleague, they will be shining brighter than ever before.
This week, many months after SKY 2006, this banner now holds true once again.
We don't know what next season will hold. We don't know what the next year will be like. When we look back on this season of Proleague however, we will be able to say that in August 2009, Orion shone as bright as they did six years prior, and that though the same stars were not emitting energy, the ones that glowed were as bright and glorious as their predecessors, and that the constellation is as much alive today as it was all those years ago. Many seasons ago, when Broodwar was young, Lim Yo Hwan left IS to form Orion. Today, Orion left IS in the dust to take to the skies like before, and establish themselves once again as the true masters of the universe. After many years of cloud cover, the Broodwar canvas is now clear and dark, and in its very center shines the belt of a hunter who, having once ruled the very sky itself has now returned to seek vengeance for a time when he became the hunted.
Thanks to Silversky for the banner images, GTR and Waxangel for the history lessons, LosingID8, Infinity21 and Konadora for help with translations and finding pics, and Fomos and Fighter Forum for the pictures.