Who are the fastest improving players in the history of SC2? Here's what numbers have to say.

Published on 10/01/2018 13:49 PDT by ROOT Gaming

Recently in the WCS Circuit we’ve seen the rise of a number of young players in the likes of Reynor and Clem. But these two young upstarts have been competing for years in online tournaments and regional events. Both players actually started competing in events the same month back in 2013. While this is the year they have broken onto the WCS stage, they’ve been a mainstay on Wardi’s or Gauntlet’s channel for online cups.


But this got me thinking: What player saw the most improvement in the first year of their career? Now this isn’t a look at the breakout year of a player, so Neeb in 2016 for example doesn’t count since he’d been competing as a pro for year. To accomplish my goal I will be looking at the first 12 months of the career of each player from their first record game on Aligulac to the nearest appropriate period on Aligulac (the one closest to the 12 month mark).

Now after finding the beginning and end marks I look at the Aligulac ranking difference. A key point to note here is how Aligulac works. Aligulac is based on an Elo (Glicko based specifically) system. This is similar system similar to the ladder MMR that Starcraft 2 uses. Here is Wikipedia summarizing an Elo system:

“A player's Elo rating is represented by a number which increases or decreases depending on the outcome of games between rated players. After every game, the winning player takes points from the losing one. The difference between the ratings of the winner and loser determines the total number of points gained or lost after a game. In a series of games between a high-rated player and a low-rated player, the high-rated player is expected to score more wins. If the high-rated player wins, then only a few rating points will be taken from the low-rated player. However, if the lower-rated player scores an upset win, many rating points will be transferred. The lower-rated player will also gain a few points from the higher rated player in the event of a draw. This means that this rating system is self-correcting. A player whose rating is too low should, in the long run, do better than the rating system predicts, and thus gain rating points until the rating reflects their true playing strength.”

Aligulac builds on this. As they explain it:

“Now let's say a player has played a bunch of games during a period and we want to find his new rating. First, we form a likelihood function, which describes how likely a set of outcomes is, given the player's rating. This likelihood function will be a product of such probabilities of the player beating opponent A, B, C... and so on. Now we want to find out which rating maximises this function. That is, which rating maximizes the likelihood that the outcomes that happened actually would happen. We also calculate the certainty of the likelihood function at this point. This is a measure of how consistent the results of the given player were in the last period. A high consistency gives a high certainty, and vice versa.”

With the foundation of Aligulac explained I do understand there are a few things I want to note a few caveats about Aligulac:

  • Aligulac can overestimate players who play heavily in online tournaments since you can “farm” points. That is why we see some foreigners ranked in the top 20 players in the world who struggle at offline events against strong competition. This also has an impact on Koreans who don’t play in online events often. So for example Elazer is ranked higher than herO right now but keep in mind Elazer has played in 72 series in August compared to the 33 of herO. That isn’t a knock on Elazer or herO, just something to note.
  • Aligulac, like all Elo systems, gives a starting score. For Aligulac that is 1000 to all non-Koreans and 1200 to Koreans. But the system, also like all Elo systems, can suffer from inflation as players are added to the system so are points. The average player now has more points than the average player in 2013 and a top 20 player has a higher ranking than they would have had in 2013. This inflation means that a new player now will gain points faster than they did years ago. A hypothetical, if a new foreigner starts at the standard 1000 points in 2013 beats a top 10 player right off the bat they would gain 50 points. If that same player started playing 2018 and beat a top 10 player they would gain 100 points. There is an argument to be made this inflation is good or bad, I just wanted to note it.
  • Aligulac answers a number of other questions at the FAQ.

With that out of the way I think we can get started. I’ll be examining the change, or delta (Δ), the Aligulac score of the player goes through in their first 12 months. Secondly, we will look at how many series a player played in during that first year. We do this because while measuring the raw increase in points is nice, how many series you play in matters as well. So if two players gain 500 points and player A accomplishes this in 50 series while player B does this in 100 series, that is an important factor to point out. Thirdly, I have included their overall win rate during that period so we can see how they did. Lastly, I also threw in their total number of offline matches in their first year and their win rate during those offline matches.


Having covered our bases, let us dive into the data. Here is an example of how to read the table: INnoVation’s first game was on May 20th, 2012. He had a starting Aligulac score of 1200 and at the end of the 12 month period his Aligulac score was 2053. The difference, or delta, between those two numbers is 853 Aligulac points. He played in 105 series meaning if you take the 853 and divide it by 105 you get 8.12 Aligulac points per series. He played 104 offline matches,  had an overall win rate of 65.71% and an offline win rate of 65.38%.


One last note, I was unable to manipulate the entire database so I may have missed a player in this analysis but I did hundreds of players hoping to not miss any.


Our first table will be looking at the top 10 fastest risers overall in relation to total points earned:

Player
Start
End
Change
Series
Points/Series
Offline Series
Win %
Offline Win %
INnoVation
1200
2053
853
105
8.12
104
65.7%
65.4%
Scarlett
1000
1693
693
123
5.63
39
73.2%
66.7%
Stephano
1000
1682
682
245
2.78
65
72.2%
67.7%
DRG
1200
1881
681
175
3.89
130
73.7%
74.6%
HyuN
1200
1875
675
522
1.29
74
72.6%
63.5%
Mvp
1200
1863
663
113
5.87
77
76.9%
77.9%
Flash
1200
1852
652
142
4.59
122
69.7%
66.4%
Rain
1200
1839
639
158
4.04
135
72.8%
70.4%
sOs
1200
1834
634
112
5.66
88
71.6%
69.3%
Petraeus
1000
1634
634
187
3.39
26
70.1%
61.5%

INnoVation earning 160 more points than the next player is kind of a testament to how quickly he grew into the machine he is today. Scarlett may be a surprise to some but it didn’t take her long to get caught up to the game and rise to being a top foreigner. Combined with a 73% win rate and you have one scary player. Stephano is up there as well though he had to play nearly double the games of Scarlett to earn those points. DRG and HyuN came onto the scene and while HyuN came, saw and crushed the foreign scene in his first year, DRG had a solid year in Korea. Mvp’s 76.99% win rate and 77.92% offline win rate stand near the pinnacle while Flash, Rain and sOs cemented their legacy’s early on. The odd duck to many may be the New Zealand enigma Petraeus. The kid could retire and still crush WCS or beat a Korean or two at global events. While not nearly as well known now as the big foreign dogs those who do remember him know he could compete with the best of them, when he wanted to that is.


Oh and a final note, HyuN's first year was heroic for entirely different reasons. He played in over 500 series his first year. 500 series, not games. I couldn't find a player with over 350 games played their first year, HyuN was a machine.


Second I think we should look at the points per series table to see if we can build on this first table.

Player
Start
End
Change
Series
Points/Series
Offline Series
Win %
Offline Win %
INnoVation
1200
2053
853
105
8.12
104
65.7%
65.4%
NesTea
1200
1664
464
64
7.25
50
65.6%
74.0%
Mvp
1200
1863
663
113
5.87
77
76.9%
77.9%
sOs
1200
1834
634
112
5.66
88
71.6%
69.3%
Scarlett
1000
1693
693
123
5.63
39
73.2%
66.7%
Classic
1200
1493
293
53
5.53
41
62.3%
53.7%
Jim
1000
1480
480
89
5.39
24
61.8%
41.7%
MMA
1200
1764
564
107
5.27
74
71.0%
72.9%
Has
1000
1477
477
91
5.24
47
53.9%
55.3%
Soulkey
1200
1791
591
115
5.14
97
66.9%
62.9%

The obvious two players here are INno and NesTea. While they started in different eras (in terms of when Koreans started competing in Starcraft 2) they both are head and shoulders above the rest. While INno has nearly a 400 point difference between himself and NesTea but NesTea played in 41 fewer series. To me this goes to show the power of this metric. While total points earned show overall growth I think points per series shows who the player was beating to climb that ladder. INnoVation and NesTea were clearing beating the best in the world from a fairly early stage in their careers. Mvp and Scarlett made the other list and shouldn’t shock anyone. The next batch of players should though. Classic leads this team of Jim, MMA, Has and Soulkey. Now Soulkey isn’t too shocking since he obviously was a professional before Starcraft 2 as one of the best Starcraft 1 players but the likes of Jim and Has surprised me. Classic has been a monster for years and this proves it while MMA is one of two players to have won a Premier tournament in all three expansions so him getting off to this kind of start may not surprise some.


After that let’s take a look at the table for the foreign scene in relation to points per series:

Player
Start
End
Change
Series
Points/Series
Offline Series
Win %
Offline Win %
Scarlett
1000
1693
693
123
5.63
39
73.2%
66.7%
Jim
1000
1480
480
89
5.39
24
61.8%
41.7%
Has
1000
1477
477
91
5.24
47
53.9%
55.3%
VortiX
1000
1228
228
46
4.96
9
60.9%
44.4%
IdrA
1000
1478
478
106
4.51
37
71.7%
72.9%
Sen
1000
1311
311
82
3.79
11
68.3%
54.6%
ShoWTimE
1000
1413
413
111
3.72
0
64.9%
-
Petraeus
1000
1634
634
187
3.39
26
70.1%
61.5%
TLO
1000
1431
431
138
3.12
33
61.6%
63.6%
Stephano
1000
1682
682
245
2.78
65
72.2%
67.7%

We’ve discussed Scarlett on these tables before so I want to look more at the standouts here. Jim has long been known as one of, if not the, greatest Chinese player ever but to have risen so quickly caught me off guard. Has, our Lord and Savior, has a low win rate but high points per series which means he was generally playing people much better than him which lead to losses not meaning much and wins impacting him a lot and his match history for that year backs it up. VortiX, IdrA and Sen rank among the gods of Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm in the foreign scene while ShoWTimE has been very good in his own right. That leaves the always creative TLO and the master himself, Stephano, round out the list.


I’ve include another table of a few fan favorites who may have not made the list from the Korean and foreign scene:

Player
Start
End
Change
Series
Points/Series
Offline Series
Win %
Offline Win %
Polt
1200
1482
282
85
3.32
47
62.4%
53.2%
Jaedong
1200
1673
473
143
3.31
98
60.1%
53.1%
HerO
1200
1531
331
104
3.18
46
66.4%
65.2%
MC
1200
1669
469
153
3.07
113
73.0%
72.6%
TaeJa
1200
1420
220
72
3.06
35
67.1%
74.3%
Zest
1200
1369
169
56
3.02
56
62.5%
62.5%
Life
1200
1676
476
203
2.34
30
66.0%
66.7%
White-Ra
1000
1458
458
203
2.26
27
66.5%
62.9%
NaNiwa
1000
1473
473
226
2.09
22
66.4%
50.0%
HuK
1000
1369
369
209
1.77
57
68.4%
66.7%

Overall while many may view as "who had the best first year" I instead want to focus up on that this is a measure of improvement, not accomplishment. I may look at that in a future article by examining tournament wins, prize earnings and so on but rather an examination of the progress a player made.