Jussi Jääskeläinen
blizzard-entertainment-starcraft-ii-tychus-findlay-391442-background-wallpapers.jpg

Road to BlizzCon: Solar

This piece was posted on the TeamLiquid site in preparation for BlizzCon 2016. It covers the journey of the Zerg player Solar to the WCS Playoffs.

Road to BlizzCon: Solar

Every single professional player will have a year that stands above the rest. The year that is more memorable, more important, more profoundly moving than any other year in their lives. Usually this is not because of the entire year itself, but rather because of something that happened over the course of the year, probably on just a single day. Even that single day consists of smaller moments in time, and one of those moments will stand out as more significant than the others. That one moment has in it the opportunity that they’ve been working for. The delicate, fragile chance to make it or break it. They will remember that one moment for the rest of their lives, no matter what happens. That fleeting moment in time will have a profound impact on their life, and they better hope they’re going to make the right call. For Solar, that year is of course 2016. That day is the 11th of September. That moment is the seventh and final game against Dark in the grand finals of the second season of SSL. In essence, that moment is Solar’s decision to lay his very soul bare against his nemesis, against the entire world.

 

But let’s take a step back before we become too mired in the tiny Planck units. Let’s travel back in time for just a bit. Our destination is the fall of 2015. Solar has just won a DreamHack Open tournament in Stockholm. Tragically, even with the WCS points awarded for the victory, he’s in the end just 325 points short of qualifying for BlizzCon in 2015. Not deterred by missing the biggest tournament of the year, Solar throws himself headlong into the new expansion. Once BlizzCon is finished and Legacy of the Void is released, for a brief period of time, Solar can be considered to be among the best players in the world. He wins the first major tournament of the new expansion. He wins the first premier tournament of the new expansion. Come 2016, he’s tearing through the SSL upper bracket, right until he meets Dark in the winners’ finals. In six maps, his fearsome ZvZ record is broken, and he falls to the losers’ bracket, unable to reach the finals.

 

And something breaks. Solar seems devastated, and over the spring and summer, he’s like a hollow shell of what he used to be. His performance in ProLeague varies wildly. Sometimes he’s on point, sometimes he crashes hard. He spends lots of time online, often with good results. He successfully qualifies for the second season of GSL Code S, but doesn’t make it out of the round of 32. He’s just unable to transfer his solid online results elsewhere. He keeps training, for his one saving grace of the year is still left: he has been seeded directly into the main event of the second season of SSL. He gets to bypass the grueling challenge event. It’s his shining beacon of hope, the only one he has left.

Before we finish our excursion, we must briefly take another step back. This time we’ll move to 2013. He’s starting to make a name for himself, traveling to events across the world, but not quite performing well enough to reach the top. With 2014 well under way, he’s finally improving. With two quarterfinal finishes in GSL, and a second place from IEM Shenzen, things are turning around. Then in September he hits the jackpot. Solar wins the trophy at DreamHack Stockholm. He’s shown that he can go toe-to-toe with the best of them.

 

With our tour concluded, we can finally return to 2016, but we’re not heading into the present just yet. Instead, we’ll make a brief stop at the season 2 SSL finals, where Dark and Solar are facing off against each other once again, this time in the seventh and final map. It’s right here where he has to make the most important choice of his life. He’s been going against Dark for six maps. He’s watched replays, studied SKT’s star player’s styles extensively with his teammates. He doesn’t lack belief. He knows that with the right call he’s going to achieve everything he’s dreamed about ever since winning DreamHack Stockholm back in 2014. On the flip side of the coin, he knows that with one single mistake he’s going to undo everything he’s worked for. Dark will take the trophy, and claim the throne as the undisputed champion of the entire year, winning back-to-back StarLeague titles. Solar grits his teeth, calms his nerves, clears his head for the task ahead. There’s one thought on the forefront of his mind: Dark has not used his drones to scout in the early game in any of the maps.

The game starts, and Solar makes the most important decision he’s ever made. He starts building a spawning pool. He’s committed, and he knows it.

Solar’s army streams across the map, almost completely unscouted. Dark tries valiantly to stand against Solar’s relentless onslaught of zerglings, but there’s just no hope. Dark’s queens meet a dismal fate at the hands of Solar’s ravenous units. Banelings desperately try to stave off the inevitable, but it’s already far too late. In less than five minutes, Dark bows out. Solar takes the seventh map. Solar takes his first Korean premier title. 

After the series has finished, Solar stands on the stage, tears in his eyes, all the pent-up pressure pouring out of him. He’s virtually naked in front of the world. His hard work has paid off. He’s achieved the elusive trophy that he’s been working towards for years. He’s overcome hard times, only to bounce back even stronger. The day just happens to be the happiest day in the life of Kang Min Soo. And as his teammates join him on stage, he finally smiles.

Solar’s victory secured him a spot to BlizzCon. More importantly, it restored confidence in his skills and abilities. His reign during the early months of the expansion was not a fluke. Others managed to catch up to his level, and eventually surpass it, but Solar in turn was able to dedicate his time to improving beyond what he once was. He’s known for being one of the most passionate players in the scene. He trains relentlessly, and sheer determination has let him overcome even the greatest challenges.

Five premier titles under his belt, Solar has all the makings of a BlizzCon champion. And no matter what happens, nothing can take that one magical moment away from him. That one moment where Solar decided to risk it all for a chance to gain everything.

There's a fire burning inside him, and why should we want to extinguish it, because that fire has led him this far. And if he's to succeed, he has to fan the flames, even at the risk of them consuming him wholly.