The Cauldron #2 – Bridesmaids No More

“The Cauldron” ponders the culimination of Wemade FOX’s arduous journey to an international championship which today ended with them atop the pile at WEM 2010.

“The Cauldron” is a weekly column which addresses topical concerns, expresses opinions not represented elsewhere or holds court on matters which have been bubbling away inside me for seven days.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me

Respect comes in many forms in the world of Counter-Strike. An elite team respects a dark horse team because they know if they overlook them then they can and may be on the receiving end of an upset at their hands. Fans respect players who delight and excite them with innovative plays and heroic performances or entertain and amuse them with interesting personality quirks.

Still there is one type of respect that every competitor craves, on some level, but which can only be acquired one way: by being a champion.

A champion is one who has overcome hurdles placed before him, who has endured the toils and obstacles of his journey to the top but who more than anything can be defined by just that: having made it there to the top regardless. Those who fall short are never afforded this kind of pure respect. Perhaps their efforts were immense, sometimes even greater relative to their own skill level than those of their successful opponent, and yet something is always held back. Second place is fleeting; a good performance is not a great performance.

Always a bridesmaid…

Sometimes runnersup are heroic, falling despite valient efforts at the hands of relentless and unmoving foes. Other times they have a tragic quality as great talent and potential is never truly realised for reasons fans and players can spend a life time pondering and regretting. But to achieve success, finally, changes everything. If second place can seem like heartbreak then first place is a rekindling of the fires of even the most downtrodden competitor’s heart.

To place second at 10 events would be an impressive accomplishment, perhaps even incredible depending on the quality of the opponents and the time frame, yet even a single first place in a tournament of comparable quality and prestige is worth more than all of those combined. Gold shines brightest of all in the world of Esports and Wemade FOX just got their golden wings and joined the list of champions.

A champion requires many qualities and while he may not require them all present in the same moment, and some may get away without one or the other, at some point he will have to show he is made of the right stuff. One important quality a champion must possess is to be lucky. He must face the right opponents at the right times and in the right circumstances. Anyone who saw Wemade FOX’s route through the tournament can attest that this quality is finally one they can claim.

Better to be lucky and good

It’s not just that they got to play inferno, their best map, three times in the tournament. They crucially got to play it twice against Frag eXecutors, who openly acknowledge their difficulties on inferno, and after FX had eliminated a Na`Vi side who have been known to be dangerous on inferno. The same FX who had sent fnatic out of the upper bracket in the first round. The Swedes had then been polished off by an underdog EG in an incredibly close game. Just like that the two pre-event favourites were eliminated before ever facing Wemade FOX.

Even losing to SK Gaming in the upper bracket final on dust2 had its benefits as the South Koreans took note of Delpan’s performance and focused in to scout his positions for the final and ensure they knew where he would be and what he would be doing. Facing SK in the final was also a boon as the Swedes had been on their own cinderella-like run through the upper bracket where nothing could seemingly go wrong or stop them.

When the clock struck 12 and the carraige turned back into a pumpkin Wemade FOX found themselves facing the best possible matchup they could have hoped for in the Grand Final: a team with a stand-in, little practice and a highly variable degree of teamplay due to the aforementioned factors.

On the surface when all of these factors are considered there will be those who will write their own storylines: perhaps they’ll say the South Koreans had their share of luck with the map draw. Perhaps they’ll say Wemade FOX benefited from stronger teams being upset, or facing bad matchups, earlier in the tournament to eliminate them as threats. Perhaps they’ll say something different entirely but what they can never again say is that Wemade FOX are not champions.

A cursed past

If Wemade FOX experienced luck today then it was long overdue and thoroughly deserved, for in their careers it was not only not always so but seemingly very rarely that they received any luck at all. In 2008 the core of this Wemade FOX team, under the name eSTRO, experienced two heartbreaks the likes of which some never recover from. They reached the IEM II finals from the upper bracket only to suffer two losses to a Mouz lineup whose time had come and on a deciding map matchup of cbble.

Due to being located in South Korea eSTRO not only didn’t practice maps like cbble but essentially couldn’t. Since other teams from the region didn’t attend major events there was nobody who would accept practice games on such a map. The same circumstances would torture solo and the gang again the same year as they reached the final of ESWC 2008, having defeated fnatic in the semi-finals, only to find reigning champions in their way and tuscan as the deciding map.

The South Koreans knew the map so little that Alternate AttaX mooN tried to get them up to speed on it to give them a chance. As it was even an incredible comeback couldn’t prevent them from going down and finishing runnerup again. Wrong map at the wrong time against the wrong opponent again.

Everything in its right place

So now we arrive back where we started: Wemade FOX are champions and have acquired that special respect only a champion receives. The luck a champion needs Wemade FOX had in this tournament. The tenacity a champion needs Wemade FOX showed in this tournament also. From holding off an FX who looked set to break their curse on inferno with only a handful of cheap weapons to immediately springing back up from early knockdowns against SK to control the game’s flow the South Koreans never lacked for that continuous drive a champion must have. Fire and determination forged a championship for solo, termi and bail where five years of heartache and a heavily favoured opponent, across all community websites, said they would be receiving another runnersup cheque.

This tournament Wemade FOX had it all. They were lucky, they were good and they were unstoppable in all right moments. Everything which went against them, put them down for a moment and held them back was transformed into something which they bounced right off, they charged right at and they assimilated until it became a point of strength for themselves. solo was previously a great player who had never won an international title. Now he’s a great player with an international title and an impressive resume of other placings to boast of. That’s the difference in perspective winning brings.

Whether it’s Ray Bourque’s 21 season quest for Lord Stanley’s cup or the tears of ‘The Silver Surfer’ which christened Song “Stork” Byung Goo’s first and only OSL trophy after a career of silvers there’s something almost ineffable about witnessing genuine triumph after an extended period of defeat. Something glorious about those who never gave up finally getting theirs. Something unforgettable about the sweet sweet taste of success after a lifetime of the sour bitter flavour of defeat.

In the past this team fought monsters but fell when it mattered most. Built only the legends of others with their heroic performances. Set the stage for the crowning of numerous teams of the age. This time though the stage was all theirs. This time history will remember Wemade FOX as the champions.

Welcome to the winner’s circle Wemade FOX, we didn’t always know if you’d make it in the end but we saved you a place regardless. Nevermind the times you almost made it, the times you could have made it and the times perhaps you should have made it. You’re here now and you’re in good company.

The moment the dam finally broke.