Careers ebb and flow like waves on the shore. No matter how dominant the stranglehold on the game, how far willpower and dedication push an individual to greater heights, time and change conspire endlessly to dethrone them. A thousand little cares slowly diminish focus; flights cut down on practice time. Opponents constantly dissect your gameplay and prepare countermeasures. Inter-team conflict tests one’s morale and capacity to resolve tension. For Koreans, the specter of military service constantly looms in the background.
Players respond to these pressures in a variety of ways. Some of them are migrant birds in harmony with the seasons: TaeJa normally plays in a half-baked stupor until the hot winds of June start to blow, while HerO instinctively feels the coming bite of winter and tenses in joyful anticipation. Others are salmon who store all their precious energy and drive for one memorable journey upstream. The Fruitdealers and Seeds give us unforgettable moments to cherish but burn out all their potential in return. A few players take over some forlorn territory and defend it tooth and claw against all invaders; a Curious or YuGiOh only gives up his niche in utter defeat. And then you have competitors like Mvp and MMA who follow the wisdom of lungfish. When the problems of the world became too much to reasonably bear, they burrow underground and wrap themselves in protective cocoons for aestivation. Despite disappearing from competitive relevancy, they eventually come back re-energized and eager to kick some ass.
In this outrageous hierarchy of animal metaphors, CM.Storm_Polt is the leatherback sea turtle. Just as sea turtles repeat the same cycle of migration and nesting every year, Polt’s career is defined by annual spikes of outstanding performance alongside constantly improving play. This odd phenomenon started in 2011 during the early days of May. After 3 unimpressive seasons in Code S, Polt came out of nowhere to snatch the Super Tournament trophy from expected contenders like MMA, MarineKing, Nestea, and MC; shortly afterwards, Polt made his first deep run in Code S with a Ro4 appearance in GSL August. It started early in 2012 when he won Assembly Winter and earned a strong silver medal at Dreamhack Stockholm. 2013 saw him slump during the first few months of HotS before stepping it up to grab three premier titles. Polt walks into the WCS Grand Finals as the current back-to-back WCS America champion, the last MLG champion, and a dark horse to challenge his friendly rivals from back home.
At this point it seems like there are no more goals left to accomplish. A Triple Crown and five premier championships guarantee Polt a spot in the SC2 hall of fame; his winnings certainly reflect the trappings of a future legend. He enjoys admiration around the world just for being a friendly, relatable human being. So far he is in the process of mastering prepositions and basic syntax; soon Polt will speak English better than most Americans. He’s eminently marketable, swimming in money, and looking forward to a bright future (which may or may not involve diagnosing infections in the livers of iguanas). What more can a player ask for?
Well…there’s an itch that Polt has never been able to scratch. The one valid criticism detractors can throw at Polt is that he lacks a convincing tournament win against the absolute best Korean competition. Almost all his live tournament wins involve scattered triumphs over top-tier opponents: Taeja and HerO at Assembly Winter, Hyun and Dear at MLG Spring, Taeja and Jaedong at WCS America Season 2. These players are undoubtedly great and count as major threats in any event. However, they are also mirror images of Polt in that sense. These players find fame and glory in the international scene, making their living through the same rinse-and-repeat formula of jumping from event to event. They know that the GSL and OSL are poor investments if you want to make a comfortable living. The chances of ultimate victory are small, the stress is tremendous, and recognition is hard to come by. No doubt Polt understood this line of thought. He had toiled through many Code S seasons only to climb back up through the hellish pit of Code A, and for what? A few Ro16 appearances? A lingering self-respect that didn’t compensate for money? With TSL disbanding and KeSPA making its presence felt, Polt decided the odds of finding success were too grim. In exchange for the opportunity to earn easier money while pursuing his education, Polt forsook the nightmarish grind that glorifies the winners of WCS Korea.
At the same time, success abroad is inevitably followed by accusations of being a big fish in a small pond. It's an accusation with even more grave stakes for Polt, for what does it say about the rest of the Koreans in EU and America when the only back-to-back champion falls short against his homegrown countrymen? In Polt's case he has been unable to prove he truly belongs with the elite of Korea since his move to the American region. He has played at two season finals so far, and in both he has been halted in the Ro16 by players from WCS Korea. He suffered a brutal 0 - 4 beating at the hands of First in Season Two, and then went out against Soulkey in Season Three.
Yet, with players like Mvp reaching the semis and Jaedong reaching the finals, one wonders if Polt was merely unlucky up to now. Going by all other results alone this year, Polt is surely at least their equal, if not their superior. Few players are like Soulkey, reaching the top quartet of the standings with the reliability of the seasons. Most other players are at the whim of variance, and perhaps Polt was a victim at the past two season finals. Furthermore, at the season three finals he was said to have been exhausted by his continued travels, and weakened by his lack of practice. Now, with proper preparation and full focus, it's time for Polt to show what he is truly capable of at the biggest tournament of the year.
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