The Story of 2018
How a year is viewed or defined is often based on the storylines throughout. When that year was 2018 and we are reviewing WCS and GSL the storylines are obviously centered on Maru and Serral's domination of their respective regions and then the expections for the WCS Global Finals at Blizzcon. But underneath those narratives existed so many more threads to examine and today I hope to bring a few of those strands to the surface.
With GSL and the IEM Championship just heating up I figured now would be a good as time as any to reflect on 2018.
To accomplish this I enlisted the always talented Mina who did amazing work putting together these visualizations. Together we created interactive graphs that allow us to dive into WCS and GSL in a new way, through their point system. She built two different graphs for each region:
- A graph that tracks the rank of each player throughout the year. This is a good way to show how the results of a player can ebb and flow throughout the year. A player could start the year near the top but struggle in the middle of the year then finish strong. That is the story of HeRoMaRinE who started the year tied for 3rd but fell as low as 11th and 13th at different points in the year before finishing 5th. Or we can see if a player started the year on fire but slowly fell off. This would be Rogue who won the IEM Championship and was in 1st place but his struggles throughout the year led him to finish in 6th place.
- The second graph looks at points earned as the year goes on. More than anything this is meant to show a measure of magnitude for how far or how close the next closest player was. For 2018 this mostly just makes Serral and Maru look silly good but it also shows how close some players were to qualifying, some clearing the bar easily while others getting in by the skin of their teeth.
For both graphs the top 10 players will be highlighed. We decided on this because I think it shows the important trials of the players in 9th and 10th who failed to qualified but at certain points of the year were in the top 8. In the rank graph we do also include more players, some who were in the top 8 at different points and others who had unique lines of their own.
I think we should begin our journey in Korea.
In the Land of Maru
In our first graph we can view how each player ranked throughout the year, hover over a player for more information or click on them to isolate them.
The GSL is generally a more predictable series of tournaments because it is rare when a player can burst onto the scene, most events feature the same players in the top 16 over and over again. This holds true for 2018. After the end of GSL Season 1 we saw only two players who was in the top 8 fail to make the WCS Finals at Blizzcon, soO and Trap. They were eventually beaten out by TY and Zest who had slow starts to the season.
Overall the top changed little once the GSL seasons started rolling, Maru was 3rd after the IEM Championship but after winning the first season of GSL he never let go of that #1 spot. Classic's road to 2nd was a bit up and down, he actually started and ended the year in the same position but fell as low as 5th after a weak GSL Season 3 but climbed back up by winning the second GSL Super Tournament. Stats took a different route, getting knocked out early from the IEM Championship but a second place finish in the first season of GSL along with winning the first Super Tournament launched him firmly into the top 3 and he never fell from that spot.
Once we leave the top 3 though things get a bit messy. Zest started the year slowly but slowly climbed up the rungs with good finishes in the second half of the year. Rogue may have been the opposite, winning the IEM Championship but slowly sinking all year where he never broke out of the round of 8. TY was incredibly inconsistent, good results at the IEM Championship and the second and third seasons of GSL were nearly undone by poor showings in the first season and no results at the Super Tournaments. While Dark on the other had was very consistent, though never a champion. He had a second place finish at the first Super Tournament and two top four finishes as well. He had no truly bad showings all year but had no trophys of his own to claim. The fight for the final spot was brutal for sOs, GuMiho and Trap. Trap seemed like a lock in the first half of the year but was unable to secure the spot. This lead to GuMiho and sOs to have a furious race in the final two events to try and overtake Trap and secure that final spot but sOs's finishing second in Super Tournament 2 while Trap lost in the first round and GuMiho failing to qualifying ended the race once and for all.
For our next graph we can see how many points a player earned as the year went on, this can show us where a player seperated themselves from the pack or maybe let his competitors close in on him.
As we knew the big takeaway would be Maru's massive lead over the pack but even Classic's lead over Stats is quite large, around 800 points. Compare this to the 125 points that seperate Zest in 4th place and Rogue in 6th. Dark also had quite a strangle hold on 7th with over 1,000 points between him and 8th place.
Crowning a King in the West
Unlike GSL the WCS saw far more shake up as the year went on, with three players in the top 8 failing to make the WCS Global Finals with Elazer, TRUE and Snute. We also saw players like MaNa and Scarlett spend time in the hunt but not even finish in the top 10. Things get even more insane when you look at the rank tracking of Has and Reynor who had one strong tournament which boosted them into contention. We can also notice the imact of regional challengers which helped players like Kelazhur, Nice, "caster" JimRising, XY and MaSa who may have struggled at offline events but did well in their own regions.
While the bottom of the top 8 players may have shifted all year, the top 4 was remarkably consistent with Serral, ShoWTimE, SpeCial and Neeb holding a top spot most of the year but if we look at the points graph we can see how those four seperated themselves from those below them.
While Serral's lead is massive and makes the duel in the lower 9 spots seems minor the difference between the #4 spot in Neeb and HeRoMaRinE was just shy of 300 points.
One of my favorite things when doing projects like this is seeing the stories players create as they march onward through the year. Seeing Reynor's furious attempt to qualify once he came of age. Has destroying expections to secure a platform of unprecedented. size to show his style. Trap doing all he can to stop his slide while he saw challengers grow in his rearview mirror. And obviously the two monsters in Serral and Maru as they blew their competition away to set new heights.
Each year there are so many stories we can appreciate. Some of the despertate struggles of a player to grasp that final spot, others as they whimperly flail to not drop out. From the consistent player who just couldn't break through that round of 8 wall to the one hit wonders who made their mark in a single tournament. There are so many memorable times each year, let us take some time to remember them as this year's WCS starts taking off.
What can happen in this early events can shape the landscape of both GSL and WCS, for better or worse, looking back on 2018 shows that the story of a players year often takes form early and also shows all hope is not lost yet.