Most players never get the happy ending. In many ways, it is inevitable. Millions play the game. Only the top .01 percent ever reach a professional level. Among those hundreds of players, only dozens are good enough to get onto a team. Only a handful ever win a significant championship.
For “ByuN” Hyun Woo, this weekend’s victory in the Global StarCraft League was six years in the making. Like many, he had aspirations to become a champion. He is one of the few players I dub as “The First Class,” those few players who played in the inaugural GSL Open in 2010. Back then, he was known as Bleach and played Protoss. Back then, he was part of an online clan called Nex that teamed up with Zenith and had aspirations to become a big team in Korea and became known as Zenex.
ByuN then named himself Zenexcrement. For the first year, he was a mediocre Code A/S player who stuck around the fringes of the top level of competition. There were some initial flashes of brilliance, particularly in his patient late-game play. That was apparent in his run through the Code A gauntlet at the beginning of 2011, as he got to the finals of that tournament. His real breakout performance was in GSL July when he got to the semifinals but lost to Hwang “Losira” Kang Ho. Losira was another member of the first class and makes for a curious parallel five years down the road when ByuN made his run to the GSL Finals.
Near the end of 2011, ByuN joined Prime, which became one of the stronger teams in Korea, primarily known for their Terran talents. For ByuN, 2012 was the first peak of his powers. He reached the semifinals of Code S again, but it was different. In the first run, it was clear the competition outmatched him, and it was a foregone conclusion he’d lose to Losira. This time, he was the favorite. He was playing the best games of his life up to that point and was arguably the favorite against Ahn “Seed” Sang Won in the finals.
His play during that time was standard, aggressive and clean. And it was effective as he went up 2-1 against Seed. He then threw the biggest game of his life, which doubled as one of the biggest throws in StarCraft 2 history. In that game, he did massive early economic damage. He then had a choice to either attack or defend against the DTs to increase his lead. He chose neither and wavered on the map, neither attacking nor defending for 10 minutes. Seed made a big comeback and won the game.
That game changed ByuN’s career. It was soul shattering, as he quickly fell out of Code S, then Code A, and finally challenger. The final straw came when the Prime’s coach, Park “Gerrard” Oi Shik, stole ByuN’s custom-made computer when he went home for a visit and sold it online. Betrayed by his team, broken by Seed, ByuN refused to leave home or play in anything but the ladder. For two and a half years, he lived in exile.
That slowly changed, as he started to participate more and more in online leagues in the run-up to the release of Legacy of the Void. He officially rejoined the professional world after Gerrard was arrested on match-fixing charges.
Fans hyped ByuN as one of the great players in early LotV off of his online results. Because of that, he was invited to IEM X Taipei. He proved his worth as he got to the finals but eventually lost to Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin.
For the first half of this year, he joined X-team, which he eventually left after disputes about his stream and contract. His initial hype burned away quickly as he lost in Code A in GSL and dropped out early in both seasons of SSL.
This GSL run was different. In the round of 32, ByuN landed in a group with both Losira and Seed. Losira defeated ByuN once again, but the important match was against Seed. ByuN defeated Seed, finally exorcising his demons from four years ago. Seed soon after retired from SC2, as if he had hung on just long enough for ByuN to earn redemption.
In the quarterfinals, ByuN played Kim “Ryung” Dong Won. In many ways their paths were parallel to each other. Ryung has played SC2 since early 2011 and still has yet to win a championship. Both players have refused to give up their dreams, and both understood that this was a fight for everything. They laid it all on the line and by the end, ByuN barely beat Ryung 3-2.
The finals pitted ByuN against sOs, the player who defeated him at IEM X Taipei and was known as one of the most clutch big-game players in SC2’s history. ByuN was the better player in the matchup, but finals are sometimes more psychological than mechanical.
But none of the mattered. sOs had no answer for ByuN’s standard approach and was crushed underfoot. The script had flipped. ByuN was the unflappable juggernaut and sOs choked away mistake after mistake, though none of that mattered. Even if his plans had played out perfectly, they were no match for ByuN’s execution. It was a triumphant march as ByuN became the first teamless player to win a Korean league.
Six years ago, ByuN set out on a journey to become the best player in the world. After failing multiple times, being betrayed by Prime, going into exile, returning from exile, exorcising Seed, crushing Ryung’s dreams and defeating sOs, ByuN has finally done it.
Six years of struggle and hard work for this one moment. One moment that made it all worth it.