Game of Champions

THE ALL TIME BEST OF THE BEST IN ESPORTS

I

was once asked why I use the word “god” when describing the feats of certain players or teams. My answer is that there is no more apt term. David Foster Wallace, one-time amateur tennis player and lifelong dilettante, once described watching Roger Federer as a religious experience. His New York Times essay extolled the brilliance and inspiration that Federer had in his game. A top competitor’s game is both like and unlike that no matter the game or player. A true great can invoke in us a paradoxical experience: we see the impossible become possible, dream become reality, the ineffable become graspable. We see God.

When I was young, competition was a mystery. I couldn’t understand why so many people were attracted to sports. When I asked, it was always sold through the lens of local teams, that there was something inherent that made us invest in teams that happened to be close by. It seemed too ridiculous, and so it did nothing for me; perhaps I was too individualistic to understand that sort of mentality. I never got into sports or competition until StarCraft II had come out. I started to watch competitive SC2 in my free time, and Lim "NesTea" Jae Duk vs. Kim "sC" Seung Chul came on. It was 3 a.m. and freezing, but I still remember that series. I still recall sC’s relentless aggression and Nestea’s desperate defense; at the very edge of the cliff, Nestea flipped sC over and took the series. I became addicted and started to watch more and more competitive games.

After watching competition for years, I came to the conclusion that divinity was the most apt term to describe the feats of the greats. In a game of millions, only a fraction ever get good enough to play professionally. Among those, only a fraction ever make it to the top of their game and become champions. An even smaller ratio can reach the top and stay there for a significant amount of time. These players are the best of the best. They are the ones we call bonjwas. They are the ones who create legends, dynasties, empires. Here is a look at the absolute best across various esports, dating all the way back to the start.

QUAKE

The first great Western esport was Quake. In 13 years, many greats rose from a competitive field to outshine the others. This was also a game I had missed in my youth, so I’ll rely on the testimony of Thorin in his take on Quake history

Dennis “Thresh” Fong was the first legend. He dominated the earliest years by pioneering a control style that allowed him to gain the majority of health packs, armor and weapons on the map. He was succeeded by Jonathan “Fatality” Wendel. He took that control style and implemented a system to make it mechanical and routine. His greatest strength was his approach to practice, which allowed him to be at peak form for every competitive event. John “Zero4” Hill followed in their footsteps as he learned from his duels against Fatality. He took the control style and added his own skill and knack for playing against opponents.

Anton “Cooler” Singov had worse aim relative to those above, but he was the best at running the map. He systematically starved opponents of resources and forced them into bad fights. One of his greatest strengths was his decisiveness. If he saw weakness he could exploit, he’d attack instantly to take the game. Johan “toxjk” Quick followed him. He was the ultimate version of what Fatality could have been if he possessed better aim. He took that mechanical style to its very limits.

Rapha. Photo Credit: ESL

The two greatest players arose at the end of the game’s lifespan. Alexey “Cypher” Yanushevsky and Shane “rapha” Hendrixson naturally became rivals, and their strife fueled the game in later years. Cypher emerged first and had the best aim of them all, especially with rockets. He was also one of the most intelligent to ever play the game, but it manifested as highly sensitive intuition so that there was no discernable pattern behind his decisions. He was improvising at the highest level; he was jazz incarnate.

Rapha was the opposite. He took Zero4’s ability to figure out players and Cooler’s map control and merged them to make his own style. Among all of the players listed, he had the worst aim by far, but he compensated with game intelligence and clutch to wrest dominance from Cypher. Cypher fired back by reaching a level never seen before. Every previous player on the list could be beaten every now and then during their peak, but Cypher was untouchable in his prime.

LEAGUE OF LEGENDS

A more modern game that most people are familiar with, League of Legends is more complicated to measure achievements here. There’s a high level of variance in tournament context. All of the teams are sequestered in their own region and play against each other only a few times each year. Game patches also cause massive havoc on potential results, and most lineups rarely last longer than a year. Amid all the uncertainty, five teams continually come up when people talk about the greatest of all time: Moscow 5, World Elite, Samsung Blue, Samsung White and SK Telecom T1.

Moscow 5 was unique in every sense of the word. This team could never be formed in any other time or place in the League of Legends timeline. Had it been created in the League Championship Series era, this team would have torn apart from the clashing personalities. But they arrived during 2012 in the open circuit, before the game had been domesticated, and M5 put on a display of such perfect synchronicity and forward thinking that everyone thought for certain it was planned. And yet, none of it was. Five players simply fit together perfectly to create a team whose influence can still be felt today. It was the perfect storm of luck, circumstance and skill.

World Elite was one of the most heralded Chinese teams to ever take to the Rift. It had legendary AD Carry WeiXiao, who could have rightly been declared the best player in the world at one point. World Elite’s dominance in China carried over into one of the biggest League of Legends wins at IPL 5. The team’s ability to lane swap and farm the map with slow pushes built a juggernaut, and WE is marked as one of the best teams to have ever done it.

By coincidence, two of the greatest teams ever assembled were under the same organization. Samsung Blue and Samsung White both rose during the same year of 2014 prior to the great “Korean Exodus.” Blue was the weaker of the two teams but was still seemingly unstoppable in the late game no matter what happened in the first 20 minutes. At that year’s world championship, White reached a level never before seen (and possibly never reached again) in crushing the entire field. The skill level was so high that some wondered if anyone would ever reach it again. They didn’t have to, as both teams scattered into the wind.

The greatest team is SKT. As for which lineup, it seems to be entirely dependent on one person. As far as I can tell, it goes:

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Faker

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The other four SKT players are always great players or team players. They help create the team identity and facilitate Faker. But Faker is and will always be SKT’s crown jewel. Faker is irreplaceable. He is the alpha and omega, the greatest player to ever touch League of Legends, and no rival comes close to his level of accomplishments. That he stands atop the echelon for years on end despite patches and rotating teammates gives him a legacy no one can challenge.

"Faker is irreplaceable. He is the alpha and omega, the greatest player to ever touch League of Legends, and no rival comes close to his level of accomplishments. That he stands atop the echelon for years on end despite patches and rotating teammates gives him a legacy no one can challenge.”

DOTA 2

Dota 2 is another popular MOBA game that has had multiple patches in recent years. Unlike League, the entire circuit is international and thus it is easier to track a team’s dominance from year to year. The first two great teams were iG and Natus Vincere around The International 2. Both were fueled by superstar mid players in Ferrari_430 and Dendi, respectively. They were the focus of both teams, and through them came to destroy that year. Although iG came out on top at TI, “The Play” immortalized that version of Na’Vi for generations to come.

After them in 2013 was Alliance, a rather surprising case because the team was not a major tournament threat until three months before TI3. The Swedish team had won DreamHack Winter and StarLeadder Season 5 while playing as No Tidehunter, but they only stepped up another level after reforming under EG’s sponsorship. NT showed sparks of its future greatness in its focus on jungle stacking and economic efficiency. Many claim that they were the greatest team to have played Dota 2, and during their reign they were the most dominant, having never lost a single tournament for which they qualified. They were the first team to have a strong identity with s4 as playmaking mid, loda as the aggressive safelaner, AdmiralBulldog playing the offlaner that often transitioned into a second core, and EGM and Akke playing support. The only team that stood up to them during this period was NaVi, and in an incredible five game final at TI3, Alliance clinched it against their EU rivals with a million dollar Dream Coil.

2014 saw the rise of the “super team.” DK was the prototype of this phenomenon, as it was filled top to bottom with superstars. Not only did they have all the individual talent in the world, they were also consummate showmen. They played loose and aggressive with each player winning their lane and somehow making every composition and style work. To this day, DK is often cited as the most beloved Chinese team of all time. Sadly, they didn’t keep up their amazing form during The International.

Team DK. Photo Credit: Valve

Imitators soon followed. Secret was the Western answer to DK, an all-star team full of the best players with a goal to dominate. After trading a few players, they were able to make it happen and for a few months become the most indomitable team in the world. Amid all of this was Evil Geniuses. Forged together under the iron will of ppd, he led one of the most consistent teams to have ever played Dota 2. To this day, they are top contenders in every tournament they enter.

The two best teams to win tournaments in 2016 were OG and Wings. OG had combined veteran savvy with new talent, building an entire team around superstar mid Miracle-. Together they became the strongest Western lineup from 2015-2016. Wings was the natural evolution of what DK pioneered in 2014. Years ago they were just B-teamers watching Burning play, but now they had taken DK’s strategic versatility and ran with it to its logical conclusion. Their hero pool was virtually limitless. Teams could never satisfactorily hamper them in the draft as they could make any combination of heroes work. It almost didn’t seem to matter if they won or lost the laning phase as they could always bring back the game in miraculous fashion. With that style they came to win TI6.

SUPER SMASH BROS MELEE

Melee is one of the most storied games in esports today. Much like Quake or Brood War, it has a long and appreciated history. Similarly, it refused to die as time progressed. SSBM stuck around for years and stayed relevant in North America through grassroots support. Among the greats of that game, seven names stand out.

The first will always be Ken, The King of Smash. From 2003-2007, he defined the game. Ken was the most dominant player Smash had ever seen and someone who embodied Marth play. He became the villain not through any particular action, but because of his attitude. Ken knew he was the top dog and didn’t bother to hide it. He was the type of cocky player who could back up his boasting. Like in most sports, his dominance generated contempt. The fans hated watching him win so much, but no one could stop him. Until his hiatus in 2007, the only thing that mattered to Ken was winning . Even to this day, top players who had witnessed him play during his prime are certain that he could return to the form. The only thing stopping him from being one of the best today is his own lack of motivation.

Ken was toppled from his throne by a pack of newcomers. They were the five gods: Mang0, Mew2King, Armada, Hungrybox and PPMD. They were so named because when they rose to power, the only ones who could beat them were each other. Mang0 was considered the greatest of all time for a long period, as his peak years were defined by large stretches of dominance as well as the most tournament victories in Melee. Armada eventually surpassed him through sheer consistency and top placings.

Hbox and Mang0. Photo Credit: Jonathan Tayag

Mew2King is the oldest veteran, someone who had been playing since 2005 and mapped out the entire game with meticulous care. People compare him to a robot for his incredible knowledge and ability to calculate every option in the game. On his best day he is the best, on his worst he collapses and tilts his way out of the tournament. PPMD is the most reclusive of the Gods but when he does come down from his mountain to play, you might believe he really did meditate for the entire year to create the play he unveils. Among all of the gods, Hungrybox has become known as the most clutch. He is the most composed under pressure and in one-touch-to-death scenarios. He seems to have the most success even among the greatest in the game.

The last name is the player who changed the Five Gods Era into six. Leffen, the Godslayer, might be the most ambitious of them all. After asserting that he could be the best, he went out and proved it by slaying the gods one by one. The community refused to acknowledge his skill as they stretched the goal of how much he needed to do, until everyone was forced to accept that he was one of the greatest. With PPMD returning and Leffen solving his visa issues, 2017 looks to be the most competitive year of Smash ever.

STREET FIGHTER

The history of Street Fighter is hard to grasp as much of it is unrecorded. The two biggest current names are Daigo Umehara and Infiltration. Daigo is a legend of Street Fighter, a veteran who has played since Street Fighter 2. His number of tournament victories is beyond count. He is one of the oldest in the game (an ancient 35!), but is still able to prove that he can beat the best and win tournaments.

Infiltration is often heralded as the “new” Daigo, or at least someone who can potentially build a legacy that rivals him in prestige. He is the most varied Street Fighter 4 player ever, with the most character picks during that period. He had two eras of complete domination, one in AE2012 and the other at the beginning of SFV. Amazingly, he rose up out of Korea, which had an almost nonexistent Street Fighter scene, and trained himself through study and self-practice to become one of the all-time greats.

The most famous Western FGC player has to be Justin Wong. Although he has excelled in multiple games throughout his career, he most deserved the title of God in Marvel vs Capcom. In MvC2, he went three years without dropping a single game before finally being upset by his student, Sanford Kelly. His dominance was so strong that people left the EVO finals when they knew Wong was playing. Much like Ken, he became the unwilling villain of the scene for his sheer dominance. Despite that, he was simultaneously an incredibly exciting player. He often pulled off comebacks and his uncanny ability to patiently exploit openings when behind became known as the Wong Factor.

Yipes put it best when he said, “Justin Wong is a glory thief. I won that EVO (2013), but all anyone remembers is the comeback game from Justin.”

During the latter years of MvC3, Wong had gone from villain to savior. The top tier had been solved, and optimal strategies revolved around not letting the other person play. You either threw so many fireballs that the opponent couldn’t move, or you converted one hit into a guaranteed kill. Wong was one of the remaining few who played an “honest” style (relative to his competition, anyway) and became a fan favorite. Every other person at EVO went up to him and begged him to save Mahvel. He eventually did it by unveiling an oddball strategy he saved for months to deal with ChrisG: he started out with Storm on point instead of second. ChrisG was unable to deal with Storm’s mobility and lost that critical match.

Daigo. Photo Credit: Jonathan Tayag

BROOD WAR

Among all 1-v-1 games, Brood War is one of the longest running and most storied. It is the game that kickstarted esports in Korea; the greatest players of that game became legends who are revered to this day. Like many older games, it had few balance patches to correct perceived gameplay problems (the last balance patch was 1.08 in 2001). Rob Pardo thought about continuing to balance the game through developer intervention, but one player changed his mind.

Boxer was the first bonjwa, nicknamed the Emperor of Terran. It seems strange now, but during the beginning of Brood War, Terran was seen as the weakest race. He proved that not only could Terran compete with the other races, it could dominate. Boxer was famous for his unit control, which was ideal for the early aggression that characterized the era.

Nada defined what greatness was in Brood War. He was one of the few champions to have multiple eras of dominance, which was unheard of during BW’s history; Flash considered him one of the greatest talents he had ever seen in the game. Nada’s longevity remains unmatched, and he was able to play at the top level for years. He is one of the few players for whom there could be an argument that he was superior than Flash.

Iloveoov was the protege of Boxer. He differed from his predecessor in that he specialized in macro games, particularly the multitasking required for efficient unit production. He earned the nickname “Cheater Terran” because of his ability to have more units than anyone else, as if he had input in some secret cheat code that spawned them. His macro was unprecedented, and he was the only great to never lose a final.

He was upended by the most controversial figure in Brood War’s history. SaviOr was the man who turned “bonjwa” from a joke in the Korean forums into a serious term (a player who had complete dominance over his era). SaviOr had mediocre mechanics compared to other top zergs, but his strategies and tactics were the most influential in Zerg history. He reinvented the Z-v-T matchup and won unwinnable games against the strongest opponents on maps heavily biased against Zerg. In Z-v-P, his dominance was so strong that Protoss had all but given up trying to find a way to beat him.

He was taken out by Bisu, who was rightly given the name “The Revolutionist” as a result. Bisu was an incredible mechanical player, and that let him take his strategies to places no one else could even imagine. Before him, Corsair/DT was not considered a viable opening against Zerg because it was so fragile. It took years of waiting for the greatest Protoss player of all time to show it could be pulled off. In the span of one finals, he had rebalanced the game in his image.

Jaedong and Flash are considered the greatest to ever touch Brood War. They were Brood War’s biggest rivals and both pushed the game to its highest limits. Jaedong dominated from 2008-2009 and could be rightly considered a bonjwa, as he had achievements that rivaled or surpassed those of previous eras. He was on track to be the greatest to have ever touched the game, except Flash went insane.

“What really kick started me again was, before the NATE finals against Jaedong, when the head coaches did a separate interview and I was told that the head coach said ‘Flash has never overcome Jaedong.’” Flash said in a stream Q&A (translated here). “That’s when I lost it.”

Flash was not going to let his rival leave him in the dust. With Jaedong up to five titles and Flash sitting at two, he found a new level in his gameplay. He dominated 2010 in a way no one had ever done. He won nearly every tournament he played and only dropped two of them in the finals. His dominance was so insane that the word bonjwa was no longer enough to describe Flash’s prowess. He was nicknamed “God” instead.

Flash. Photo Credit: Helena Kristiansson

STARCRAFT 2

Starcraft 2, the sequel to Brood War, is the game I know best. Only three players have truly transcended the game and accomplished feats that can never be repeated: Mvp, Life and Taeja.

Mvp, The King, is the greatest to ever play the game. He was the best player of 2011 beyond a shadow of a doubt — he won six tournaments and had multiple top placings near the end of the year. Additionally, he established the cornerstones of Terran play during this period, ranging from 3 CC hellion/banshee to T-v-T mech openings. If that was the end of his contributions to StarCraft, he would still be among the best. What elevated him to the highest level was his miracle run in 2012. At the end of 2011 and throughout the rest of his career, Mvp suffered from injuries. He had pinched nerves that caused him extreme pain while playing, and he could no longer feel the clicks of the keyboard or mouse when he played.

MVP. Photo Credit: ESL

At the same time, he had to persevere through one of the most challenging stretches of his career. Mvp was historically so-so versus Protoss and in Global StarCraft League Season 2, he had to play the world’s three best Protoss players in a row. Protoss was also going through a resurgence and had become the defacto strongest race. He prevailed in a stunning display of grit, courage, determination, intelligence and clutch. To this day, no one in SC2 has ever done a proxy all-in in Game 7 of a GSL final, failed and recovered to win. In the latter half of 2012, he fought against BL/Infestor, a composition that top pros to this day still swear was unbeatable. But Mvp found a way to win, broken body and all. He forced victory from the jaws of defeat with ingenuity and some very sick mech timings. The only thing that stopped him from winning GSL Season 4 the second best player of all time, Life.

Life was a bonafide savant, the type of player whose genius defied description. He was a talent never before seen in SC2 and will never be seen again. He could ad-hoc a build and force it to work anyway through sheer intuition and fast-thinking tactics. His mechanics were strong, but his ability to manipulate his opponent’s focus was his secret to victory. He had several peaks over multiple years, and his form was directly correlated to his interest in SC2 at any given time. He could very well have been the greatest except for two factors. Another ascendant prodigy called Taeja stopped him short in multiple key matches over the years -- he was singlehandedly responsible for costing him at least three premier tournaments. If he had overcome Taeja, he’d likely have won said tournaments and surpassed Mvp. Second, his own greed cut him down because he was caught match fixing, and his career came to an abrupt halt at the end of last year; we will never know what he was capable of in Legacy of the Void.

Much like Mvp and Life, Taeja transcended the game of SC2 in a way that cannot be replicated. His play style was a robust mixture of sharp unit control and slow, almost glacial patience. Out of all Terrans in SC2, Taeja possessed the strongest “game sense.” He simply knew when to fight and how to engage in ways that made late-game Terran look imbalanced. Many rightfully knock his career by pointing to his inability to win large prep-style tournaments like GSL and WCS. All of that is valid criticism, but looking at his tournament victories, longevity, and caliber of opponents, no one could replicate what he did. Not even Mvp or Life could match Taeja’s even-keeled results. Among the greatest players in SC2, Taeja has a winning head-to-head record against nearly every great player. Besides that, his golden years lasted from the beginning of 2012 through the end of 2014. He won in multiple eras against the best players at their peaks. He did it with a style that seems standard from a casual perspective, but it was unique because it relied solely on his ability to make correct decisions in every imaginable circumstance. To do that in so many metas (many of them unfavorable for Terran), and to do it against such a wide range of players (many of them at the peak of the careers), makes Taeja one of SC2’s greatest champions.

COUNTER-STRIKE

The final game is the Counter-Strike franchise, for which 1.6 and Global Offensive are included. In 1.6, the five greatest lineups to have ever been fielded are SK.swe, Again (a.k.a. The Golden 5), mTw.Den, Fnatic (2009) and Natus Vincere. There is no clear cut answer to who was the greatest because they all proved themselves in different ways and time periods. SK.swe was dominant at the beginning of 1.6, but its run was brief. mTw.Den’s tournaments had the strongest teams and included in the most difficult finals. Fnatic dominated slightly longer than SK.swe but let go of one of the biggest tournaments ever. The Golden 5 had no era of dominance but possessed longevity and tournament victories that spanned across years exceeding all the other lineups. Na’Vi crushed 2010 and won four Major titles at the tail end of 1.6.

Three players stood out above all others: Potti, f0rest and NEO. Potti was the greatest of all time in the early period. He was a truly complete player and the most dominant force during his era, had the most results and was incredibly clutch. By the latter half of 1.6, he was eclipsed by f0rest and NEO, and the discussion narrowed down to them.

"A true great can invoke in us a paradoxical experience: we see the impossible become possible, dream become reality, the ineffable become graspable. We see God.”

Many consider f0rest the most talented player in 1.6 history. He is the ideal of what people imagine greatness to be, the perfect form while all others were just shadows on Plato’s cave. He was the technician extraordinaire. Meanwhile, NEO was all brutality. He was never as pretty as f0rest, but he got the job done and repeatedly grinded his way to victory. He was clutch in the most important tournaments, the one no one wanted to face in a pressure scenario. In a recent AMA, Tomi “lurppis” Kovanen said f0rest was the most talented player he ever played, while NEO was the most difficult.

CS:GO is the sequel to CS 1.6 and has carried on its legacy into the modern day. Any discussion about the greatest teams inevitably brings up two names: Ninjas in Pyjamas and Fnatic. NiP was the most dominant in its era, winning 18 titles total. The Ninjas were the undisputed best, and many point to Christopher “Get_RiGhT” Alesund as ruining a generation of lurkers when they tried to imitate his style, failed and inadvertently baited their teammates. Their dominance was so strong that no one could imagine a world where another team could challenge them, much less overtake them. Until the Swedish incarnation of Fnatic arrived.

Fnatic possessed one of the most hated and respected lineups of all time. Its dominance made Fnatic an away team in every stadium, even in Sweden, as one of the few teams that fans actively cheered against (while NiP was much more adored). None of that mattered. The only thing Fnatic cared about was winning. In one of the most competitive eras of CS:GO, Fnatic found and created success repeatedly through its players and system. By the time the original lineup split at the end of 2015, none had come close to reaching Fnatic’s level of accomplishments.

Ninjas In Pajamas. Photo Credit: Oskar Uhrboom/DreamHack

Other teams had short eras of domination. VeryGames was able to displace NiP as the world’s No. 1 team for a time; LDLC/EnVyUs showcased a strong lineup of players that played a loose system that shocked the world. Luminosity/SK Gaming briefly inherited the throne last year after the Dennis “dennis” Edman version of Fnatic collapsed. The Brazilians won two Majors and had multiple other top placings by using a large position-based game where everyone understood their roles and how it affected the entire map. Currently CS:GO is in a parity era where no lineup has been able to win more than one event in the last five months of play (except the current iteration of NiP, which then failed to qualify for the upcoming Major. So the point holds).

PUTTING IT INTO PERSPECTIVE

Watching these game and reading their histories, a recognizable pattern emerges. A player or team comes to dominate the game through something unique. Some special skill, knack or special quality that they possess. It can be innovation, adaption or refinements of builds, but it is always something unique to them. They push the boundaries of human potential and then test it against the vast majority of those who have pitted their lives on a game to prove they are the best. God, or the divine, is truly the best term I can use to describe this phenomenon, this ritual that we call competition.

Ask yourself this: Who can make a rock so heavy it cannot be lifted — and then lift it? The champion of course. That is the Game of Champions. Within the set rules of a game, we organize the best players in the world and have them pit themselves against each other many times over. Through this process, they come to do the impossible. They create plays and games that surpass what the imagination can conceive. Their skill is otherworldly and fans can only describe it as Godlike for no one else can do what the champions do. We know this because they died for the champions’ cause. That is the the Game of Champions: to reach a level of excellence that has never been reached, and leave it as a challenge for the next champion to surpass. To make a rock so heavy none can lift it, and then watch the champion lift it.

This is the Game of Champions, and it isn’t just a game played by the best of the best. All competitors are invited. After all, the top level players have a front row seat to this greatness, to this demonstration of divinity. They watch it in awe. They extol the greatness before them and then give it the greatest flattery of all: trying to kill it. After all, the greatest flattery is imitation. For the champions to reach those heights, they must have shattered the dreams of all fellow competitors, who in turn must try to shatter the champion’s.

It is through that lens we can understand the greatness of those champions who become bonjwas, those who create dynasties, legacies and empires. We gain respect and awe of those competitors who fought them every step of the way. Against the unstoppable Virtus.Plow, Fnatic used a miracle pause to stop the clock and pull off a comeback that eventually led to a second Major victory. Through that victory, Fnatic lifted the unliftable rock and became the greatest CS:GO lineup of all time. In more recent times, we saw Astralis break the backs of SK Gaming by ending its 11-0 winning streak on Train. Astralis became the catalyst that ended the SK lineup that was the best in 2016.

"The top-level players have a front row seat to this greatness, to this demonstration of divinity. They watch it in awe. They extol the greatness before them and then give it the greatest flattery of all: trying to kill it.”

Some rocks are too heavy. If Faker quit tomorrow, I doubt any League player could hope to match his achievements. But he isn’t quitting. He is still building his legacy and is excited to fight the all-star teams assembled to kill him. Life, for all of his skill, was never able to surpass the greatness of Mvp and through his own greed never will.

Individual moments can encapsulate what makes a player great. League’s most prominent is the duel between Faker and Ryu that announced Faker to the world as its greatest player. EVO Moment 37, Daigo’s comeback against Justin Wong, inspired a whole new generation of Street Fighter players. Watching Mvp overcome a 30 SCV deficit and debilitating injuries to beat INnoVation, the most mechanically gifted player of all time, embodied his tenacity and intellectual fortitude.

These moments are all moments of divinity, games or series or plays that allow us to view the greatness of human potential through a small prism we call competition. That is the Game of Champions.

Genesis 4 for Melee starts Friday. EVO starts on July 14. GSL Finals will be on Mar. 26. Brood War ASL finals starts Sunday. DotaPit starts Friday. The ELEAGUE Major starts Sunday.

Let the games begin.

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games and ESL. Illustration by Slingshot