Australians have always been a talented lot, but our geography has an awful habit of getting in the way. Flights and internet cables are just a little too long for our liking, making it difficult to fly the Southern Cross and show our true colours on the big stage where we belong. Fortunately — in the world of pro-gaming, at least — America got a little reminder that we exist, ignoring that time where some people wanted to migrate because of our male, Christian President or something.
Let’s start from the bottom up, by going to France.
With eight players already booked in to go to Dallas last weekend, the EB Expo StarCraft 2 qualifiers were always going to be a little anti-climactic. The tickets to Paris were going to be handed down a few times, and it wasn’t until they reached the hands of third-placed Mack Smith that they found their home. It wouldn’t be the teenager’s first foreign outing – he’d already put in a good showing at the Tokyo Game Show by finishing third behind Australia’s Tim “MaFia” He and the cheerful Taiwanese Zerg Yang “Sen” Chia Cheng.
Unfortunately, when he got thrown in a group with probably the best foreigner on the planet – Frenchman Ilyes “Stephano” Satouri, who had the advantage of the home crowd — and another highly talented Zerg from Europe, life was looking difficult. But things turned out better than expected for the Frenetic Array player with a 2-1 victory against the resident ragdoll of the group, and a narrow loss in the 3rd game to SortOf, the Swedish Zerg who ended up qualifying behind Stephano in the group. People on the ground, from what I’ve heard, were quite taken aback by the New Zealander’s performance — and on another day he could have quite easily advanced to the next stage.
At the same time, a strong contingent of Australians were making waves in Dallas where the final leg of the Major League Gaming’s 2012 pro circuit was taking place. Four Australians made the trip under the banner of Team Nv for the StarCraft 2 tournament: David “Rossi” Rossi, Daniel “deth” Haynes, Andrew “mOOnGlaDe” Pender and Yojun “YoonYJ” Yun. Joining the fight was Team Immunity, which sent along their Halo and StarCraft 2 teams, including Tim “Mafia” He, Ray “Light” Zi, Bradley “tgun” Seymour, Matt ‘Voltage’ Barker, Aaron ‘Benno’ Bennett, Dan ‘Ogre 1′ Ryan and Matt ‘Heff’ Hefren.
Light and Tgun had a difficult run, with the former falling in the second round and the latter dropping quickly in the lower bracket. Even though he was only a couple of rounds away from the Championship Bracket, Tgun would have been bitterly disappointment not to qualify, having done so a few times before. Light got a couple of walkovers and made it as far as the 5th round before hitting one of the many Koreans in the bracket – Stardust – that would later qualify for the Championship Bracket.
Deth and YoonYJ got paired in the same bracket and were scheduled to meet each other in the fourth round. YYJ ended up hitting QXC, a member of Team Complexity and a popular regular on the State of the Game podcast. I was talking to my housemate, a fellow eSports advocate, before the match and I predicted that YYJ had a strong chance of winning 2-1, thanks to his goofy, reckless style that can pay off big.
I didn’t get every call right, but YYJ did end up in the fourth round. Deth had a harder time against Insur, who qualified for Blizzard’s World Championship Series grand finals next week (more on that later). Insur ended up knocking both Deth and YYJ to the lower bracket, and neither of them progressed much further afterwards; Deth ended up hitting QXC,
Like every other Australian, Rossi and Mafia were paired in the same bracket. They met in the fourth round, which must be a horrible feeling — it’s annoying flying interstate to play a nationals, only to get drawn against a team or a player in your own state. Mafia and Rossi few a couple of thousand kilometres and got the same result.
In an excellent series, Mafia won the right to play against Suppy in the 5th round, with the winner progressing to the group stages of the Championship bracket. Sadly, Suppy dropped Mafia down, where Team Liquid’s Sheth later sent the former poker player packing with a 2-0 score. Rossi had a similar fate, losing 2-1 in the round prior.
mOOnGlaDe had a much better run; his performances in the online qualifiers saw him automatically seeded to the 5th round of the upper bracket, avoiding many of the shenanigans the rest of the Australians went through. Unfortunately, that meant the Queenslander was also drawn up against MC, who has won almost US$350,000 in StarCraft 2 since its launch two years ago. So naturally, the “Prince of Zerg” just casually dropped MC down to the loser’s bracket. And then did the same to Huk from Evil Geniuses, the first player in the United States to receive a six-figure contract for a PC game (with the exception of Fatal1ty).
Our Australian Zerg fought his way through groups and ended up dropping down to the fourth round of the Championship lower bracket. Only one foreigner made it further – Naniwa from Sweden, who has been living in Korea and playing in Code S for several months now — although a couple of Americans, Suppy and Insur, made it to the same round as mOOnGlaDe.
Unfortunately, the Queenslander was one round from making the money — but Team Immunity’s Halo division, competing in the Halo 4 pre-release tournament, got past the bubble quite comfortably. After showing off their skills in a showmatch on the first day, things got down to business with a 256-team double elimination bracket. They made it as far as the third round before losing 2-1 to Status Quo, who would end up finishing third.
Then, not satisfied, they went and tore the living hell out of the lower bracket. The Australians won the next four matches without dropping a set, including a 2-0 thumping of Virtue, who defeated European powerhouse Fnatic by the same score. Immunity ended up finishing 9th after losing 2-0 (2-3 in the final set) to Reality Check, which isn’t a bad result considering the incredible number of sign-ups from around the world. By my count, at least 220 teams showed up, meaning that almost 900 players attended MLG to play in the Halo 4 tournament alone.
It’s an astonishing effort that deserves praise, and hopefully it’ll be followed up next weekend in Shanghai, where Mafia and mOOnGlaDe will take part in the Battle.net Starcraft 2 World Championship Series. A strong run could change the boys’ lives permanently, giving them the reputation and support necessary to move to Europe or South Korea (Pender has already indicated his desire to do so next year).
I’ll cover the WCS finals in-depth next week. But the strong performances of Australians over in Dallas will not be forgotten. We’re no longer in an age where people were sitting at home, glued to HLTV, praying for a favourable bracket draw so that we might make it past the first stage.
That time has passed.
Moonglade pics thanks to Team Liquid Coverage!