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MLG June 3rd: Idra vs. MC, 1st Series

When I first stepped into the convention center for MLG this past Friday, I was feeling a little drained. The overnight bus ride from Philly left me sleepy, and standing in line for two hours before we could even enter the main room didn't help. I remember waiting out there after checking in, listening to my “State of the Game” podcast. The Dr. Pepper girls came along suggestively eating bananas and handing out promotional materials. I was a little too tired to be titillated.

It's not to say that there weren't highlights from my trip to Columbus. I met FXOSheth as I walking down a hallway to the food court. He gave me an autograph in silver sharpie on my SC2 box. I was so excited to meet him, and had so many things that I wanted to say, that I ended up saying nothing. Even if I acted like a goon, he was expressly cordial and I appreciated that. I also managed to get an autograph from oGsMC while the rest of the Korean guests were sitting at the front table. MC was a very respectful guy and it was a pleasure to shake his hand.

But the experience I really want to share is that of watching the first series of games between EGIdra and oGsMC. Around 2pm that Friday, I had been seated one of the rows of chairs in front of the leftmost stage along with a few other people. Intuition told me that something awesome would eventually occur there, but I was damned if I could find anyone who knew when. There was a little promotional card featuring a schedule of MLG events they handed me when I checked in. I guess it would have wiser to replace the appointed times with a tentative TBA, as nothing seemed to be happening when it should be. So I started to doze off where I sat, only stirring when something disturbed me. I remember I heard them playing Bonecrusher's “I Ain't Never Scared” on the main speakers and thinking, “What the crap?”

Eventually I was compelled to get up and take a bio break. I had to eat something, even if I was sure there was nowhere nearby that was affordable. After grabbing a burger from the food court, I returned to find the presentation at the leftmost stage in full swing. DJ wheat and Day9 appeared on the screen making the crowd instantly roar with recognition. Of course, all the good seats were taken, but I found that I could get a good view of the offstage monitor if I went to the far left side of the stage. As I was walking over, I squinted at the person seated in the left Alienware soundproof booth and realized, “Holy shit, it's Idra!” The real flesh and blood Gracken had appeared to lay waste his contenders. Then I saw MC seated in the right booth, and thought, “This is the first match? Is this really happening?”

As the match began on Metalopolis, there was a little skirmish at Idra's natural as MC's probe threatened to lay a pylon to block the hatch. When Idra's drone gave the probe a shove before dropping the hatch, the crowd immediately cheered. A couple of zerglings began chasing the fleeing probe across the screen, and as soon as metabolic boost kicked in and picked off the probe, the crowd went over the top with excitement. It was a little silly, because picking off a probe is far from a game-ending injury, but it didn't matter. That crowd belonged mostly to Idra. They wanted him to make an impression on MC, as not only was he a Korean player, but also a Protoss. Greg (Idra) had always been outspoken about his feelings of imbalance between his race and others. So it made the stakes even higher.

All I can say was that Idra's play that day evoked feelings of awe, demonstrating the same scale of talent and refinement you'd expect from a modern Mozart. His strategy and planning were executed with the same balance and grace you see from gold metal figure skaters, whipping out the Triple Axel. I was so impressed with everything I saw that every other match I watched felt to pale in comparison.

A cluster of roaches gathered beside the ledge to MC's main before a group of Overlords swooped over to pick them up, and drop them over the edge. MC caught the little maneuver and his stalkers started blasting away. Idra dropped his roaches back down as MC threw suffocating force fields, keeping the units insecurely pinned. It didn't matter. Idra roaches spat back in retaliation, and mowed down the rest of the stalker supply. Idra's management of drops and retreats reminded me of the same action Terrans execute with Metavacs: cunning, double-pronged attacks targeting fissures in the opponent's defense.

When MC's “gg” was posted on the screen, the crowd lost it, bursting at the seams with enthusiasm. Nothing could compare with the passion I saw from the people seated there at that moment. A chant of “USA! USA!” started to erupt from some of them, and I was a little bewildered by the nationalistic sentiment. After all, the Koreans were our guests, and we all were excited to have them there. It was as though the crowd was creating a new rationalization as to why they had sided with Idra. I thought it was because he was supposed to be the underdog. But this kid from Jersey was giving Korea's top Protoss player a run for his money, even if MC came from a culture of integrity, exuding tireless discipline and constant practice.

It's interesting, because when I listen to the casters discuss Korea's relationship to the rest of the competitive gaming world, they seem to refer to anyone of non-Korean national origin as “foreigners.” In the case of MLG, I thought the Koreans should have been referred to as “the foreigners,” as they were our guests in the US. But because Korea has established itself as the premier gaming nation, we seem forced to think of ourselves and everyone else in second-tier terms.

When the second game ensued on Xel Naga Caverns, MC tried something a little more sneaky. He rallied a handful of zealots to a bottom map position where the scouting drone wouldn't see them. He then ran them up to Idra's natural and started hacking away at the hatch. To respond, Idra sent his queen over to batter the attack off. This is where something interesting happened. MC decided to take some of his zealots off to deal with the queen, instead of flattening the hatch, which I believe he could have achieved. It made me wonder if MC wasn't struggling with some kind of self-defeating psychology at that moment, as the conflict and resolution didn't seem to make sense to me. Later on in the match, MC had an army of stalkers and sentries gathered to Idra's natural. Some kids seated next to me cried out, “Target the hatch! Target the hatch!” Which again MC chose not to do. Destroying that hatch would have crippled Idra's economy, and his choice to engage the roach army instead still confuses me.

In conclusion, that first series on Friday between Idra and MC will be something I will always remember. That day, Idra set the benchmark for the way I feel that zerg play should be executed, and left a remarkable example for us as players to strive for. I understand that there were some disappointing events in the days to come at MLG, but that's not what this post is about. I was bummed that I had to leave early on Saturday afternoon, and I was bummed I didn't get a chance to get Idra's autograph, or meet Day9. But there are new events to look forward to on the e-sports horizon, so I suppose I'll take the best from the experiences I had at Columbus, and look to the future.

Thanks for reading.

-PanDMonium (先混乱)

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