The launch of StarCraft 2 promised to be a new beginning for many Koreans. Brood War became incredibly stratified over its existence, and though it wasn’t impossible to reach the top, it was an incredible grind to get there. Many players conceded the dream of rivaling Lee “Flash” Young Ho or Lee “Jaedong” Jae Dong and staked their fortunes upon the success of the sequel.
With those new players came new teams, unencumbered by the Korean eSports Association or any powerful authoritative body. KeSPA decided not to join the fray until 2012, leaving a window for those teams to rise. The new organizations eventually created the eSports Federation, which was intended to be a loose alliance of sorts between them. Now nearly seven years later, where have they ended up?
One of the first great SC2 teams, they were mostly composed of former Brood War pros and coaches. The team was initially successful with a slew of promising players, led first and foremost by Jang “MC” Min Chul. At the same time, they were the first Korean team to ally themselves with a foreigner team (Team Liquid). But they were never able to secure large sponsorships and never expanded to any other games. Because they weren’t able to get a steady stream of revenue, Old Generations were unable to keep their players, notably MC. That sped up the inevitable death of the team, which disbanded May 16, 2012.
New Star Hoseo
An esports team that was sponsored by a technical college. The details of that partnership were never explained, but it was a team full of niche and unique players. NSHoseo had one or two good runs in GSTL, but the only players who ever amounted to anything on that team were Jung “jjakji” Ji Hoon, Kang “San” Cho Won, and Ju “Sting” Hoon. The team disbanded in July 2013.
This was originally a clan led by Lee “Choya” Hyung Seop known as fOu. It was a group of dedicated players, and Choya tried to keep the team together by paying for things out of pocket. They eventually teamed up with FXOpen, an online platform that offered trading services. They were a fairly successful team league team: at their peak they won back-to-back GSTL championships. They attempt to expand to other games like Dota 2 and League of Legends. Eventually FXOpen dropped sponsorship — the ROI was never there — and the team disbanded Nov. 1, 2013.
Team SCV Life
This was another one of the early SC2 teams. Early on in its tenure, SCV had some big name players such as Kim “FruitDealer” Won Ki and Jung “Rain” Yoon Jong (not the SKT player), and got sponsorship as a result. Beyond that, the team relied on the Korean system of having a bunch of players live in the team house without pay. So when Lee “PuMa” Ho Joon eventually made it big at NASL, he was easily bought out by Evil Geniuses. Their most successful player ended up being Choi “Polt” Seong Hun, who won the Super Tournament and went on to become one of the best Terrans of all time. The team was unable to get any big sponsorships and eventually died off on Jan. 13, 2013.
They were one of the most beloved teams in early SC2, though I personally didn’t think much of them. My best guess is they attracted foreign support due to their “un-Korean” attitudes. They had a bunch of highly individualistic players and all of them were incredibly emotional compared to the stereotypical Korean player. Chief among them was Lee “MarineKing” Jung Hoon. Unlike the other teams on this list so far, they didn’t struggle to find financial support. They were able to secure multiple sponsorships and each time one ran out, they were able to find another one.
In an ironic coincidence, Prime won GSTL off a technical error. Won “PartinG” Lee Sak was about to beat MarineKing in the first game of the finals, but the power went out before the “final” fight. Instead of declaring victory for StarTale, it was officially decided the match would be redone. MarineKing won the rematch and Prime eventually won the title. Gerrard, the manager of the team, famously said he’d retire if they could prove that wasn’t fair. No one brought it up in the future.
They should have because Park “Gerrard” Oi Shik turned out to be a massive dick. He had stolen ByuN “ByuN” Hyun Woo’s computer to sell for money. No one from the team bothered to say anything; they all pretended ByuN was just some hermit who didn’t want to come out and play. In time, he was revealed to be a corrupt asshole too. Gerrard was revealed as a middleman in the match-fixing scandal of SC2. Prime disbanded on Dec. 2, 2015.
Much like fOu, this team was originally a clan. In fact it began as two clans in NEX and Zenith. Both wanted to become esports teams but realized they didn’t have enough resources individually to get things done. So they combined forces. The biggest contribution ZeNEX ever made was their ability to collect talent: ByuN, San, Yun “TaeJa” Young Seo, Kim “Puzzle” Sang Jun, Lee “Life” Seung Hyun and Choi “CoCa” Jong Hwan were on some variation of the roster at the beginning of SC2. When this team realized it couldn’t find any money, it combined again, this time with StarTale.
This was one of the three eSF teams to have survived to the modern day. Like Prime, it was scrappy enough to keep sponsorships over the years. Like Zenex, it tried to combine its assets with other teams to stay alive, the biggest being Red Bull. StarTale also teamed up with Incredible Miracle for a bit. After that partnership ended, it joined SBENU and when that fell apart, StarTale was eventually picked up by Afreeca and is known as the Afreeca Freecs. The SC2 squad disbanded on Nov. 21, 2016. The League of Legends team still exists.
The second of the early teams to survive KeSPA’s entrance into SC2. IM was one of the few teams to get a big sponsorship (LG) early on thanks to Lim “Nestea” Jae-Duk and Jung “Mvp” Jong Hyun’s dominance. Despite that, multiple financial problems within the team persisted until the end of its existence.
During the early days of SC2, IM was the perpetual favorite to win GSTL. It had one of the most stacked rosters in terms of individual skill. Oddly enough, it never relied on Mvp or Nestea to do the heavy lifting. Famously, the head coach loved sending out B-teamers so they had relatively underwhelming results in the team league. These threads are paralleled in the modern day. After the remnants of the SC2 division died around mid-2014, the League of Legends side soldiered on. They were never particularly successful, though many players who left eventually became world-renowned. They eventually got another big sponsor in Longzhu and have again run into financial issues. During the last few years, they’ve somehow gotten strong rosters and have once again somehow continued to underwhelm fans.
While the rest of this list reads like an obituary or a refugee list, MVP ended up being the most impressive team of the bunch. Considering the resources and personnel available, MVP was impressive in terms of sheer tenacity and canniness. They could never assemble rosters comparable to the likes of IM or oGs, yet MVP remained a relevant force in team leagues throughout the years. It never boasted enough success to become an ideal ambassador for companies, but MVP secured several impressive sponsorships, notably the Korean energy drink Hot6ix and the restaurant chain Chickemaru.
Perhaps the characteristic story to sum up MVP’s mentality was Coach Choi’s recruitment of Park “DongRaeGu” Soo Ho. DRG was one of the strongest ladder players in SC2 and was scouted by Lim “BoxeR” Yo-Hwan to join SlayerS. DRG refused as he didn’t want to risk his future on the instability of the scene. Choi went to DRG three times and asked him to join three times. On the third time he said that if it didn’t work out, he’d pay for DRG’s college expenses himself. That convinced DRG to take the risk and he became the crown jewel of MVP.
The team didn’t sit on its laurels and expanded in multiple other games, critically making cost-effective investments into Heroes of the Storm, Dota 2, League of Legends and CS:GO. Even though MVP has a budget roster compared to bigger teams, it continued to make use of limited opportunities. Choi himself was instrumental in getting the two most famous MVP teams together and selling them (and himself) to Samsung. This move stopped SK Telecom T1’s dominance for one year and changed League of Legends forever. The SC2 team dissolved on December 3rd, 2016. Choi has since moved on to Afreeca.