Upon arriving at the StarCraft II Blizzard World Championships, it didn’t take me long to figure out that this was the real deal, finally in Australia. On stage were the commentators: Taylor “PainUser” Parsons and one half of the Casting Archon – Nick “Tasteless” Plott. In one of the player booths was a legend of the Brood War scene making one last hurrah – Peter “Legionnaire” Neate. And on screen was that most unwanted feature of tournament play in the StarCraft II era, the ‘Waiting for Players’ display.
That match was abandoned, but in a great display of ‘manner’ play that set the tone for the weekend, Legionnaire graciously told the referees to award the match to his competitor, Zi Ray “iM.Light” Wang, who in turn, said that it should be a re-game: he wasn’t here for a free pass. One thing about this set was unique, however, in that this was the only Protoss vs Protoss match played all weekend in either the Australian Nationals or the Oceania Finals. The rest of the weekend was proof positive that Australia is indeed the Land of the Zerg.
Thankfully I didn’t see that ‘Waiting for Players’ display again, but there were a few more delays throughout Saturday. With an average of one set played per hour, things didn’t move particularly quickly. These things are easily forgiven when you stop and think that this was the first major tournament of its kind in Australia; that there was only one stream and that there were only sixteen players.
Local Leigh ‘Maynarde’ Mandalov acted as MC, and alongside the international commentators, kept the three hundred strong sell-out crowd happy, excited and loud throughout the rather long twelve hours of competition. In fact, the crowd was in such fine spirits that all the internationals remarked on it, with Alex “HDStarcraft” Do commenting that the Aussies had “the most crowd hype and energy that I’ve ever seen.” The 18+ restriction and the bar definitely contributed here, creating a very mature atmosphere where personalities and players had no issues with moving about the floor of the event.
The play itself was of a high standard, and even with such a high number of Zerg mirror match-ups, the games never disappointed. Highlights on the first day included local Zerg hero Andrew “mOOnGLaDe” Pender’s match against his Terran team-mate Yojun “YoonYJ” Yun in the semi-finals of the Winner’s Bracket. In the first game, YoonYJ’s early hellion harassment caused mOOnGLaDe problems, losing 19 drones. The lead changed when GLaDe’s mutalisks caught two full Medivacs and a Viking out of position, and from there mOOnGLaDe ignored the harassment to dominate with strong baneling play. The second game was more of the same, with a fantastic baneling bust timing from mOOnGLaDe that caught YoonYJ without siege mode completed.
Always the favourite to take out the tournament, mOOnGLaDe was then relegated to the loser’s bracket by another Zerg, Jared “Tt.PiG” Krensel. In the 3 match series, mOOnGLaDe took the first, and tried for a quick win in the second with an early spawning pool, but PiG stabilised and the match turned into an epic with PiG’s Broodlords eventually winning out over GLaDe’s Ultralisks. Game three was essentially a build order win for PiG, with mOOnGLaDe’s mutalisk strategy never paying off.
mOOnGLaDe and PiG eventually met again in the Grand Final. mOOnGLaDe here won the first best of three, but needed to win another to make up for his earlier loss. He was unable to repeat the performance, and PiG, draped in his girlfriend’s lucky scarf, took the series 2-0 to become Australia’s National Champion.
2012 Battle.net Australian Championship
Place Prize ID Team 1st TBA + Seed PiG Tt eSports 2nd TBA + Seed mOOnGLaDe Team Nv 3rd TBA MaFia Immunity 4th TBA Light Immunity
Day two of the event was the Oceania Finals, with the top two players heading to Shanghai to compete in the World Finals. Things didn’t go quite so well for the previous day’s champion, with PiG knocked to the loser’s bracket by mOOnGLaDe in the second round, where he was immediately eliminated by the sole Protoss player, Light.
The biggest game on day 2 was a rather scrappy, one hour and eight minute long Terran versus Zerg match, played out between the New Zealand Terran Knight.Light and, again, mOOnGLaDe. The advantage changed hands across the game, but ultimately mOOnGLaDe was unable to find an answer to Knight.Light’s nuke-heavy attrition-based style. He turned things around in game three, with another baneling bust timing that caught the Kiwi unprepared.
mOOnGLaDe secured his place in Shanghai early, taking the Winner’s Bracket finals, and all attention turned to the Loser’s Bracket, which would produce the other contender. It came down to another Zerg mirror match, between Bradley “GoSu.tgun” Seymour and Lei “iM.MaFia” He. Drawn at one apiece, the competitors went into the final match with the comment “whoever wins sends the other a postcard from Shanghai”. The final game was worthy of a grand final, with some fantastic roach-based play that saw MaFia ahead for most of the match, with stunning defense and some powerful counter-attacks from tgun. Ultimately, MaFia was able to hold his expansions, and his move into Broodlords was too much for tgun. The Grand Final that followed was almost an afterthought, but saw mOOnGLaDe secure the position atop Oceania everyone had expected to see him in all weekend.
2012 Battle.net Oceanic Championship
Place Prize ID Team 1st TBA + Seed mOOnGLaDe Team Nv 2nd TBA + Seed MaFia Immunity 3rd TBA Tgun It’s Gosu 4th TBA Light Immunity
Much effort was made to make this event feel legitimate, to shirk that ever-present Australian cultural cringe. All the casters were quick to tell their audience – in person and online – that this was the real deal, that these players could compete with the best of the best (i.e. Koreans), and that Australia isn’t an eSports backwater. Blizzard worked hard to host a fantastic event, even celebrating Tasteless’ birthday on the Saturday night with a cake and a special message from StarCraft II character Tychus Findlay.
The fans in attendance were passionate, and knew their stuff: Shirts from Korean teams, European events and the big American teams abounded, and the cheers at impressive play were worthy of a much larger audience. The three-hundred strong crowd at the event was complemented by a Barcraft of another five hundred, whose faith was rewarded with an impromptu appearance by Tasteless and his casting partner Dan “Artosis” Stemkoski on the Saturday night.
Despite a few teething problems, hopefully next year Blizzard will have the confidence to choose a bigger venue: fans have clearly shown they want and will support live events with top tier players and international personalities.