The Power of Rivalries

Published on 06/09/2017 10:56 PDT by ROOT Gaming

Recently the finals of the second season of the Copa America tournament took place between MajOr/Special and Kelazhur. Now for most fans this was kind of meaningless but for those who know the Latin American Starcraft 2 scene this was the clash of the greatest rivalry in their history of Starcraft 2. For two entire expansions the scene was ruled by one man but in recent years a young rival rose to challenge him and he succeeded. These two titans have battled across this region for over two years, trading blow for blow, and faced again in another regional championship. The MajOr and Kelazhur rivalry had defined the Latin American scene in recent years. But watching this series, I starting thinking about other rivalries currently in the Starcraft 2 scene, but first a word or two on rivalries as an idea.

In almost any form of competitive entertainment the formation of rivalries is one of the driving discussion topics for fans. This is true for both traditional sports as well as esports. Today I want to discuss rivalries, how they are formed, the good they do and the different forms they take. All entertainment aims for story lines and really among the best story lines are around rivalries.

Rivalries have existed in competitions for as long as competition has existed (as long as the winner didn't have to kill the loser, kind of a missed opportunity there) because it's so personal, either for the competitor or for their fans. This is one interesting thing about rivalries, fans can view two competing players or teams as a rivalry even if the teams don't and the opposite can be true, fans may not view two players as rivals but the two players view each other that way. This can be for a few reasons, the largest is fans not having the communication the competitors do. Two players may view each other as rivals due to communication or smack talk between them but the fans could never know that and as such not know such a rivalry exists. The opposite could be true, two players could be great friends and not feel any rivalry but fans see how often they play and say they are rivals. Having said that most of today's discussion will focus on the second kind of rivalry because while there are outspoken rivalries in Starcraft 2, it's harder to discuss without interviewing many players and getting all the information, which is largely impossible to do.

But today I want to look at some of the best rivalries in the game currently. Now they may not be the best players but since the launch of Legacy of the Void we've seen a number of great region specific rivalries that are defined by close series. To start this off, let us take a look at the two players who inspired this article, SpeciaL and Kelazhur. 

(Tables are for games and series from 1/1/2016 to 6/8/2017)

The Old God and the Young King(SpeciaL and Kelazhur)

The Latin American region has produced a number great players in Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm such as CatZ, KiLLeR/HalfBreed and Fenix but the region was dominated for five years under the Terran might that is MajOr. In Latin America there is a tournament series known as Copa América, of the first 10 events MajOr competed in, he won all 10. The only reason KiLLeR, JonSnow and Kelazhur managed to win a Copa América event is because MajOr didn't qualify or didn't attempt to qualify. It wasn't until February in 2016 that he was met with a challenger of equal skill and determination. In the first Copa América of Legacy of the Void Kelazhur and MajOr blew through their side of the bracket, neither dropping a game and meeting in the finals. This young Brazilian player had been around in the WCS circuit for some time but now he was challenging the king on his home turf, where he was undefeated. But within the hour Kelazhur had proven himself worthy of the nickname Kelagod by slaying the old god of Copa América in a 4-1 win to take the Copa América crown from the seemingly mortal MajOr. Since then MajOr and Kelazhur have met twice in the Copa América finals, splitting the titles. They also each have another Copa América title that was taken against rising Mexican Zerg Cham. This clash of these regional kings hasn't let up since that fateful February and hopeful neither lets up the aggression against each other.


Kelazhur
SpeciaL
Series Score
16
16
Map Score
50
53
LAN Series Score
2
1

Dark and ByuN, Rising to the Apogee of Greatness

There have many titanic rivalries over the years in Korea but since the lauch of Legacy of the Void none has matched the clash of Dark and ByuN. Both players came from success, ByuN prior to his break had success in the GSL in 2011 and 2012 while Dark rose up in 2015 in the shadow of Life to take his spot among the greats with Life's fall. But in 2016 both players went from "almost champions" to the best players in the world. In 2016 both players claimed a Korean league title, ByuN taking a GSL and Dark winning a season of SSL. Each experienced great success in Korea and in the wake of KeSPA's collapse both players kept their rivalry alive. While they don't have years of history against each other since the start of 2016 these two players have competed for the best player in the world with each meeting and haven't disappointed, culminating in a clash on the largest stage in Starcraft 2, the Global Finals at Blizzcon.


Dark
ByuN
Series Score
4
5
Map Score
14
19
LAN Series Score
3
2

Former Terran Against Part Time Protoss (Neeb and Scarlett)

Scarlett's off-racing as Protoss is the stuff of legend, especially her win against DRG in 2014, but that continues today. Her place is cemented in history as one of the greatest foreigners of all time and while she took a break from competing for a year her return has shown her skills haven't dimished but a young man from North America who swapped races full time who stands in her way. Neeb was a Premier level Terran in 2011 and 2012 regularly competing at a high level but never managed to climb into the top levels of foreign play. This all changed in 2016 when he returned to the top of the scene with a new and improved Protoss skin. Since then these two have been connected, from meeting in 19 series to living together while training in Korea, they have set themselves apart as the best North American Canadian-American duo since HuK and idra. Neeb now ranks among the top foreigners and Scarlett's training in Korea has yielded dividends as she has qualified for GSL. These friends represent the best rivalry North America has had in years. While Neeb may have the championships, within their rivalry Scarlett is not bowing down to the king.


Neeb
Scarlett
Series Score
8
11
Map Score
35
36
LAN Series Score
2
2

China's Rising Tide and its Ageless Son (iAsonu and TooDming)

I wrote a short time ago about the changing of the guard in the Chinese scene as the old dogs slide while new players take their spot at the top. Now two players show this rivalry of generations than iAsonu and TooDming. Among active players TooDming ranks among the oldest competing at the age of 28 and stands with players like Jim who have ruled over the Chinese region for years. But like the Latin American scene a new generation of players is fighting back and since early 2015 one player has rising above the rest to challenge the old guard, iAsonu. While we've seen the fall of players like Jim one of the original top Chinese players has stood the test of the time, TooDming. Since the start of 2016 these two players have been the best players in the region and are regulars in the WCS Circuit. In the region's WCS tournaments, know as GPL of the Gold Series Pro-League, each has two wins with no other player from the region claiming a title. These two men, one the ageless son and the other part of a new generation of talent, represent the most competitive rivalry in China.


iAsonu
TooDming
Series Score
7
6
Map Score
18
17
LAN Series Score
3
1

The European Super Powers (Nerchio and ShoWTimE)

Europe has yielded some of the best rivalries in Starcraft 2 history and that hasn't stopped in Legacy of the Void. Since the launch of the new expansion we've seen players rise from just being good to great but for Nerchio and ShoWTimE being great was always in their blood and they just took that skill and added in consistency to reach the top of the foreign scene in 2016. In 2016 no foreigner had the consistent success of these two, each claimed a WCS title, both reached the top 4 four times, both even had success against some of the best Koreans in the Global Finals where ShoWTimE beat Dear and ByuN and Nerchio took out recent SSL champ Solar. These were the two best foreigners in 2016 by a wide margin. While neither managed to keep their dominance up in 2017 their still rank among the best foreigners and their clashes have produced some of the best series of Legacy of the Void, possible the best being their finals series in the WCS Circuit: Spring Championship when it went to game 7 in a slugfest.


Nerchio
ShoWTimE
Series Score
8
6
Map Score
26
26
LAN Series Score
2
1

What are some of your favorite current rivalries?

So I've listed a few of my favorite current rivalries, so what are a few of your favorites? Rivalries make all competitions better and I'm glad Starcraft 2 is no exception.

About the Author

Topher is an American football and eSports writer with a focus on statistical metadata research. You can follow Topher on Twitter

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