The 13 feats of Mvp
Jung "Mvp" Jong Hyun is the best player in StarCraft2's history, whether he wins or loses this Saturday's GSL Code S final vs. Life. The Incredible Miracle Terran already sits atop a staggering record haul of four GSL Code S titles, has played in five finals already in his career and with another win would move two titles clear of his closest challenger, team-mate NesTea.
Since he entered the SC2 world, in October of 2010, Mvp has been a constant presence among Korea's and, by logical extension, the world's elite players. In this article I'll recount the 13 incredible feats Mvp has accomplished in his stellar SC2 career, and put them into order.
1. Won the 2011 GSL Code S January with a 16:1 map record, four months after switching to SC2.
When Mvp came over from BW he was the best ex-BW pro in terms of level while last active in the other game, so fans were naturally curious to see what impact he could have on the early Korean SC2 scene. His first two GSL seasons, the second and third open seasons, saw him eliminated in the Ro32 by Zenio and then in the Ro16 by Choya, respectively. Yet his talent level was clear to see, by that third Open season at the very least, and there was the promise of a bright future for Mvp.
2011's GSL Code S January was the first ever season of GSL to labelled "Code S" and, around four months after his switch to SC2, would be the genesis point of Mvp's rise to the crown of the world's best player. Mvp was utterly dominant as he went a staggering 16:1 in maps en route to claiming his first GSL title, and the first for a Terran. The only player to take a map from him was team-mate NesTea, the champion of two seasons before, in a semi-final which went 3:1 to Mvp. Against TricKster in the quarter-final and MarineKing in the final Mvp swept his opponents out of the server. The latter even came in with finals experience, having lost to the aforementioned NesTea in the finals of Open Season 2, but it helped him little against Mvp's might.
NesTea's run in July of 2011, five months later, is more dominant on paper but Mvp beat the harder lineup of opponents, so one can debate back and forth if this stands as the most impressive accomplishment in SC2 history or not.
2. Won the 2012 GSL S2 Code S Season 2, despite all of his playoff bracket match-ups being Protoss opponents.
By the second season of GSL Code S rolled around in 2012 Mvp was far from the player people had called the world's best most frequently over the last 12 months. Sure, he was a three time GSL Code S champion and winner of numerous other tournaments, but his recent form had not been that of the world's best. MMA had continued to be a bane to him, sweeping him out of the Blizzard cup semi-final, and in the first Code S season of 2012 Mvp went out in the Ro16 after two series losses to GuMiho. Talk in every interview and thread seemed to be more about the effects, and possible limitations, of Mvp's spinal injury, rather than his play.
For the second GSL season of the year Mvp limped through the first two group stages, losing to Ryung in the first and HerO in the second. The latter group stage had seen all three of his series go to a third map, so he could consider himself grateful to have made it at all. Then came the bracket draw for the playoff portion of the tournament, and Mvp found himself in the half of the bracket containing three Protoss players. For a player capable of seeming perfect at times in SC2, his play against Protoss had been the one area in which people could consistently point out significant flaws. Sure, when you're the best player in the world your weakest matchup might not be all that weak in comparison to that of other well known players, but all the same TvP was supposed to be Mvp's achilles heel.
The first part of 2012 had been dominated by discussion from Terran players about how impossible TvP became when the Protoss got it into a late-game macro war. Not only would Mvp be assured Protoss players all the way until at the very least the final, assuming he made it that far, but the Protoss players in question would prove to be quite the lineup. In the first round of the playoffs he squared off against NaNiwa, who had been practicing intensely in Korea and whose PvT was considered his best match-up. NaNiwa had already slain Ryung and Virus 2:0 on his way to the playoffs and now looked primed to take down the injury-ridden Mvp early in the bracket. Instead Mvp punished NaNiwa's style with early aggression and took the series 3:1.
Up next was an even more daunting proposition: PartinG. PartinG was the new star of Korean SC2, and being hailed as the PvT master. The previous Code S season, his debut in the top division, had seen him made a run to the quarter-final before being taken down by eventual champion DongRaeGu. Mvp would once again face an opponent playing their best match-up against his worst. The outcome would be identical on paper: Mvp won 3:1 to reach a record fifth GSL Code S final, breaking his own record. The bracket had done him no favours though, as Terrans SuperNova and TaeJa had both been eliminated by Protoss players in the quarter-finals. Mvp's final opponent would be the Protoss player Squirtle. Surely the Terran master could not pull it off for a third straight time, this time in a Best-of-seven series no less.
The final looked to be a dream unfolding for Mvp, as he won the first three maps as though he had scripted the series. Squirtle fought back and took the final all the way to a seventh, and deciding, map. One map for all the marbles, of course SC2's biggest winner found a way to get it done and took his fourth GSL title, breaking a record in that regard also. Many had doubted, and with good reason, but Mvp had managed to work through physical problems, match-up problems and some of the best PvT players in the tournament to take the crown.
It didn't come close to the dominance and aesthetic beauty of his first GSL title but this one perhaps required more of Mvp than any of his other SC2 titles, and all considered stands as one of the most impressive things anyone has been able to do in the game's still relatively young history.
3. Won the 2011 GSL August Code S, eliminating the reigning champion along the way.
When 2011's GSL August Code S began, at the end of July, Mvp had just emerged from the first significant slump of his career. Having spent April fighting through Code A, losing a three map series to GanZi in the Ro32 of the GSL Super Tournament and being eliminated from GSL July Code S at the hands of Byun and Zenio, Mvp had looked more than shaky in his form in Korea. In July he took his first trip to the West, heading to California for MLG Anaheim. The tournament was the spark he needed and he ran through it without dropping a series.
Reaching the GSL Ro16 for the first time since April's World Championship run Mvp found himself facing NesTea, the reigning champion from the previous season. NesTea had not only matched Mvp's GSL trophy haul by winning the previous season, but had recorded the first ever perfect run, not dropping a single map on the way to the title. For any other player this would make for a daunting first round opponent, for Mvp beating NesTea was a way of life even back then. Beating his team-mate 2:0 he then eliminated the foreign hope by taking down HuK 3:0 in the quarter-final. The semi-final was against July, a Code S finalist from March, but after four maps Mvp was moving on to his third GSL final.
The finalist from the other side of the bracket was TOP, a player who was making his second deep run in the space of a few months, having reached the semi-final of the GSL Super Tournament. Mvp emphatically crushed his Terran opponent, winning 4:1 and becoming the second player to reach three GSL titles. That he had accomplished that much in less ten months of play, and after playing in nine GSLs, meant Mvp was right back at the top of the mountain, the best SC2 player in the world and in history.
4. Won the 2011 GSL World Championship, eliminating the previous season's finalist.After his first GSL title, in January, Mvp had suffered elimination in the next season, GSL March, at the hands of July. Bw's God of War had beaten him in two maps in their Ro32 and sent packing any dreams he might have had of repeating as champion. July then went on to reach the final, losing 1:4 to MC there. March/April's GSL World Championship was the first hybrid GSL season, seeing foreign players injected into the mix and a straight 16 man bracket.
After taking out HuK in his opener Mvp arrived at a rematch with the very same July who had inflicted the previous season's losses. Exacting revenge 3:1 Mvp moved on to face San in the semi-final, beating the Protoss 3:1 also. In the final awaited MarineKing, in his third GSL final and desparately hoping to avenge his loss to Mvp in the final from January. Mvp put MarineKing in his place once more, second, and took his second GSL title in a span of less than four months.
5. Reached back-to-back GSL finals.
When GSL October began Mvp was sat on three GSL titles, with NesTea equalling that total and MC on two. The three had collectively dominated Korea's best tournament, taking 80% of the titles thusfar and reaching all but two of the finals held. One feat still stood untouched though: nobody had won back-to-back GSL titles, or even reached back-to-back GSL finals. MC had come close, reaching the semi-finals of the World Championship and losing 2:3 to MarineKing. As with so many other records, Mvp would be the first to break new ground.
The champion of GSL August Code S Mvp racked up another series win over NesTea, 3:2 in the quarter-final this time, and took care of GanZi 3:1 in the semi-final, avenging his Super Tournament defeat, to face MMA in the final. The two Terran players already had history, dating back as far as MMA knocking him out of the second season of the GOM Classic in BW. In the final of MLG Anaheim Mvp had delivered a 2:1 win, taking the title, and the SlayerS terran had made a GSL final earlier in the year, the Super Tournament, only to be humiliatingly swept by Polt.
Everyone seemed ready to crown Mvp the first ever back-to-back and four time GSL champion. There would be a twist for this season of GSL though: the final would be held at BlizzCon. Instead of being the usual affair in South Korea this GSL final would be played in front of a North American audience at the same event Mvp would compete in as a representative of Korea. MMA stunned the world, handling Mvp 4:1 to snatch away that back-to-back title. Still, Mvp had been the first, and thus far only, player to reach back-to-back GSL finals. When one considers the number of GSL champions who have bombed out of the following season early, sometimes even to Code A, that stands as an accomplishment in its own right.
6. Reached the final of the 2012 GSL Code S Season 4, doubted once more.
Mvp 2012 GSL Code S Season 2 win had been miraculous, practically a movie-script outcome, but his injury remained and his play was not soaring with the kind of consistency it had at other times in his championship career. Since his fourth GSL title Mvp had been ousted from the next season of GSL by viOLet and TaeJa, in the Ro16, and then delivered a woeful performance at HomeStory Cup V in his first outing to Europe, finishing top 16. Losing to the relatively unknown monchi in the first group stage IM's champion Terran had scraped through to reach the second, there losing all of his matches. Losses to golden, Ret and Naama left fans to speculate on all kinds of reasons as to why their champion had faltered against such competition.
Following that Mvp had made amends, once more on German soil, by winning IEM VII Cologne, but he had still to re-establish himself back in his native Korea. The 2012 GSL Code S Season 4 for Mvp with a group containing TaeJa, MMA and MaNa, a veritable group of death for him in many different senses. Still, Mvp grinded and got out after handing MMA took series losses, though losing to TaeJa along the way. The next group featured an opponent of every race for him and he moved through with two straight series wins.
The playoffs were drawn and the first round oppenent would be the Zerg Symbol. The TSL Zerg had finished runnerup in both Iron Squid and the MLG Spring Arena 2 in May and was considered a hot property, having lost 2:3 to the eventual champion Seed in the previous GSL Code S season. Two of TeamLiquid's writers even predicted, after seeing the quarter-final draw, that the Zerg would make it to the final. When it came time for the games though the public had faith in their champion and he came through, defeating Symbol 3:1.
That set-up another dangerous TvP semi-final for Mvp, this time against the next Protoss rising stock: Rain. Also a former BW A-team player, Rain had reached the final of the first SC2 OSL a day earlier, and was widely tipped as a favourite to take the GSL title. TeamLiquid's writer picked Rain to win the series, and 3:1 at that. Instead Mvp defied the odds once more, coming back from 1:2 down in maps to win 3:2.
The final has yet to be played, obviously, but this run already ranks up there with Mvp's best accomplishments, overcoming everything in his path to reach a record sixth GSL final. There have been 16 seasons of GSL and Mvp has reached six finals, despite only competing in 15 of those seasons, which means after Saturday he will have played in 37.5% of the GSL finals. That's a brain-melting statistic and really outlines that despite short-term slumps, or dips in performance, Mvp has been the only true constant force in SC2 history, repeatedly returning to be its best player and truest champion.
7. Won IEM VII Cologne, putting on a ZvT clinic against Europe's Zergs.
After the disasterous second group stage display at HomeStory Cup V Mvp headed to Germany again the next month, for IEM VII Cologne. Having to gain entry into the main tournament by winning one of the open brackets Mvp found himself in a very dangerous group, containing the likes of NesTea, Kas, viOLet and Feast. With three players progressing Mvp found himself topping the group when play had finished, losing only to viOLet. Thanks to the IEM playoff system that top spot ensured Mvp was guaranteed a top eight finish, and would receive a bye in the Ro16.
The first opponent of the playoffs was Russia's sLivko, a Zerg known for causing upsets of bigger names but never going deep in big tournaments. Mvp ensured the latter would continue to be the case, dispatching him 3:1. Looking at the bracket draw prior to the Ro16 being played one could have been forgiven for betting all of their money Mvp would be playing a TvT when he reached the semi-finals, with Korean Terrans ForGG and SuperNova elsewhere in his half of the grid. Instead he found himself facing surprise semi-finalist VortiX, the Spanish Zerg having shockingly swept ForGG 3:0 and then slipped through a five map war with SuperNova.
The young Spaniard had two Korean scalps, but Mvp didn't let him leave with a third, again taking the series 3:1. In the final Mvp would face a third consecutive European Zerg, this time Poland's Nerchio. Nerchio was the hot Zerg of the moment in Europe, having won HomeStoryCup V and defeated viOLet in the other semi-final at this IEM. Nerchio took the opening map of the final but Mvp took over and outmatched the Zerg map for map there on out, winning the final 3:1.
In the era of Zerg Mvp had bested all comers, minus his group stage loss to viOLet, to take the title. Against Zerg Mvp had gone 9:1 in maps in the playoffs, 14:5 across the main tournament and 16:6 across the main tournament and open bracket. His hit list had him beating Nerchio, VortiX, sLivko, PiG and TargA, only viOLet managing to avoid defeat at his hands.
8. Reached three consecutive Code S semi-finals.
While everyone remembers Mvp's 2011 GSL Code S August victory and subsequent loss to MMA in the final of the next season, October, few seem to remember that Mvp made the semi-final of the next GSL Code S season also, in November. There he lost to Leenock, who was fresh off his MLG Providence title, 2:3, narrowly missing out on a third consecutive finals appearance. While he couldn't get the record for consecutive finals he set a new record for consecutive semi-final appearances, with three in a row. In a game where people often criticise the lack of consistency amongst the elite players this is perhaps Mvp's most overlooked accomplishment, but a very impressive one nonetheless.
9. Reached seven GSL semi-finals.
Following on the previous point it's worth highlighting what an accomplishment the sheer number of GSL semi-finals Mvp has reached is. The king of SC2 has reached an untouchable seven semi-finals, contrasted against the four MC, NesTea and MarineKing can each boast. That means Mvp has played in 43.75% of all the GSL semi-final ever held, and 46.67% of the semi-finals of the GSLs he has competed in. Mvp has also won six of those seven semi-finals, an 85.71% win-rate, and the only time he lost was 2:3 vs. Leenock.
10. Amassed a dominant record over NesTea, SC2's second greatest name.
Let's state up front that ZvT is statistically NesTea's worst match-up, and the two players are team-mates, but even so one can only marvel at the incredible record Mvp has been able to put together against the man who is likely SC2 second greatest player. Excluding an early KoTH tournament the two have played 27 maps in total. Mvp leads 19:8 for a 70.37% win-rate against the greatest SC2 Zerg. They have played nine series, with Mvp winning seven for a 77.78% win-rate. NesTea's sole playoff victory over Mvp came in the upper bracket final of BlizzCon 2011, a tournament Mvp won by defeating NesTea in two consecutive Bo3, after returning from the lower bracket.
In Korea NesTea has only managed to beat Mvp in one series, beating him in the winner's match of their Ro32 group in the 2012 GSL Code S Season 1. Mvp set the stage with his dominant 3:0 in the Gainward tournament in January of 2011 and never looked back, knocking NesTea out of three GSL Code S tournaments in 2011. To put that in context: of the nine GSL Code S/equivalent tournaments in 2011 NesTea won two of them and was knocked out of three others by Mvp, who won all but one of those tournaments subsequently. On two of those occasions NesTea was knocked out by Mvp in the quarter-final or better.
NesTea is the second most decorated GSL player of all time, and yet has never managed to beat Mvp in the playoff portion of a GSL tournament. It's one thing to be the greatest SC2 player of all time, and another to also have such a dominant record over the second greatest.
11. Won MLG Anaheim 2011, his American debut, going 16:4 in maps.
Heading to MLG Anaheim Mvp still seemed to be stuck in his slump period, as discussed above, but on American soil that seemed to matter little. The Terran went 5:0 in series in his pool, whose field admittedly doesn't look so hot by today's standards. In the championship bracket he took out DongRaeGu 2:1, slayed BoxeR 2:0 in the upper final and then sealed the deal against MMA 2:1 in the final. For the tournament Mvp went 16:4 in maps, only losing single maps to KiWiKaKi, GanZi, DongRaeGu and MMA.
The structure of MLG back then, with the now very dated looking pool field (GanZi, KiWiKaKi, mOoNan, SeleCT and Machine) and lack of series played, due to the championship bracket, means this accomplishment is not in the echelons of Mvp's Korean successes, but it still played a role in his SC2 career. Considering how many famous players have yet to capture an MLG title it says a lot that for Mvp this doesn't even come close to cracking his top five career accomplishments.
12. Won BlizzCon 2011, coming back from the lower bracket.
While his loss to MMA in the GSL October final stung there was also the not-so-small matter of playing BlizzCon during the same week, with $50,000 awaiting the champion. The nature of the tournament, with all world regions represented, meant the field was not of the strength one would expect from Mvp's GSL runs but he still faced some adversity. TooDming and SeleCT managed to take a map off him each, though he won both series to reach the upper bracket final. Team-mate NesTea handed him an 0:2 loss to send him to the lower bracket. There he 2:0'd SEn to gain a rematch with his team-mate. Winning 2:0 and 2:1 Mvp took the title, and the fifty Gs, from the lower bracket.
13. Won WCG 2011, represented Korea and only lost two maps.
For BW it can't be stressed how important it was for Korea to win the gold at the World Cyber Games, some having even joked that the WCG was invented so Korea could win gold in that game. There were two years (2009 and 2010) where Korea even swept all three medals. The first SC2 WCG event was not at the same level of stature though, for many reasons. The structure of having large groups where each opponent was only played on a single map seemed to add a larger degree of variance to the results, with a number of surprising eliminations and progressions. Mvp had no trouble though, going 6:0 against his group to take one of the two playoffs spots.
His first two playoff series saw him forced to play three maps apiece, against MacSed and BlinG, but he made it through to the semi-final. There was Kas, the Ukrainian destroyer of online play and widely considered one of Europe's very best Terrans. Mvp 2:0'd the destroyer and found himself facing surprise finalist XiGua. While many would have expected SuperNoVa, or even the same TitaN who had upset the former, to reach the final the Chinese player had reached top two status without dropping a map. Mvp beat him in two maps straight to take the title.
What's key about this victory is not only that Mvp won the tournament, but that he won the only medal for Korea and ensured it was the gold. Otherwise the first SC2 WCG held in Korea might have been a little embarrassing for the Korean scene. That he only lost two maps along the way, going 14:2 is pretty good too.
Mvp will take on Life in the 2012 GSL Code S Season 4 final this Saturday at 17:00 KST / 8:00 GMT / 09:00 CET, in his bid to win a record fifth GSL title.
(Photographs all courtesy of their respective owners)