Although I’ll do my best to stay vague about the competition, the post below contains minor spoilers about the proceedings of the Starcraft MLG Anaheim Spring Championships. At the very least, the results of any given series should remain ambiguous.
Back in March, Lynn and I had never attended an MLG tournament. We were, however, all huge Starcraft fans and players, and because the location was in Columbus (and we had press passes), it was an easy decision to go. It’s a good thing we did, because we had an amazing time. Because we had never attended before, we could not compare it to anything. Therefore, we weren’t sure what to expect from the MLG Spring Championship at Anaheim.
Upon entering, I noticed that the setup in the convention hall looked almost identical to that of Columbus. Many of the same sponsor booths were there (in the same locations), and the stage and seating areas looked completely identical. In fact, on several occasions, I even found myself occasionally forgetting that I wasn’t at the Columbus Convention Center.
There were, however, several major differences between the two events. The first difference was that instead of Halo: Reach, the event featured League of Legends alongside Starcraft 2 and the fighting games. The LoL crowd was positively electric for the entire tournament, and even rivaled the energy of the Starcraft group much of the time. The top-down DoTA-like game lends itself very well to casting, and the game has grown tremendously in popularity due in no small part to Twitch.tv. The Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime came to the event, and seemed to be enjoying himself immensely- you’ll all be pleased to know that he was very nice, despite my awkward compliments (I admire you… and your company… I love all Blizzard games).
Another main difference was the inclusion of Husky as a host (for some reason, Day wasn’t hosting this year; he was there only briefly for some small featurettes). Tasteless was always the comic relief in the past, but Husky stepped it up by bringing the humor from his Youtube casts to the event. One night, the event went later than expected, and, thinking the event was had concluded for the night, the vast majority of the crowd left. The remaining crowd, slap-happy from sleep-deprivation, clapped and cheered at inappropriate times (starting at about 5:40). Husky and Rob did a hilarious job casting and egging the crowd on.
I know, I know. The semi-professional journalist within me was constantly at odds with my other half: the shameless fanboy.
The event was also much bigger, and unlike Columbus, it was split into two events: the American MLG Championship, and the International MLG Championship. I’m not sure what inspired this change; it was perhaps that the Americans had many entrants, and none of them seemed to have much of a chance to win against the best of the South Koreans. The proceedings on the main stage were as they had always been- foreigners vs. Koreans. It may sound a bit blunt that way, but it’s how everyone refers to it. It’s difficult to ignore that almost all of the best players are from the same geographic location; Starcraft is South Korea’s national sport, after all.
In the pro circuit, “foreigner” refers to anyone who is not Korean or American (often from Europe). The distinction is important, because those from the same geographic location tend to train with one another, so Koreans often have different strategies from foreigners. It was really interesting to see foreigners play Koreans, as they often have strategies that the others aren’t familiar with. In particular, Stephano vs. MarineKingPrime was an outstanding series (check it out on Twitch if you haven’t seen it). Socke vs. DongRaeGu was also really interesting, and Sase had several great matches.
The other main difference was the Kespa Invitational. This season, many of the pro Kespa players who have dominated Starcraft: Brood War are moving to Starcraft 2, including Bisu, Jaedong, and Flash (seemingly the fan favorites from Korea). Now, obviously they have only been playing Wings of Liberty for 2 months, so they aren’t at the level of the current pros, but the tournament between them was extremely interesting, probably the highlight of the entire event. It was anybody’s match, as no one knew who was most proficient with the new game. One player defeated an opponent with half of his keyboard keys malfunctioning by rushing with his workers and managing to contain his opponent within his base. It was interesting to see what strategies easily carried over directly from Brood War. Obviously, the Kespa pros weren’t as proficient at the build order, but their micromanagement was incredible. Unlike many of the other pro matches, these games were easily as much (if not more) about the early game than the late game. The map control was unparalleled as well, and there were often 3 skirmishes going on at once at different parts of the map. Hopefully MLG learns from the warm reception the Kespa players received, and continue to feature them at future events.
I had expected the event to be very similar, but it turned out to be pretty different. We were even fortunate enough to see all three races near the top of the event. This was really interesting, as the top is usually dominated by Terran and Zerg. Lynn, Sam, and I had a great time, and I look forward to attending again.