StarCraft II was initially released on July 27, 2010. Since then, it has become one of the most prolific eSports games there is; it’s counted among the Big 4 along with League of Legends, Dota 2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. It’s a real-time strategy game developed by Blizzard Entertainment, so only the most skilled tacticians rise to the top like the members of this list. These are the players who could out-smart, out-plan, and out-execute their opponents in the nearly decade-long history of the game.
Jung “Mvp” Jong Hyun
Mvp was born on February 12, 1991, and is a very decorated Terran player. He’s a four-time GSL champion, the first of his kind, and the winner of a WCG, BlizzCon, MLG, and IEM. Before he came to StarCraft II, Mvp was a professional Brood War player. At seventeen years old, he committed himself to become a Brood War pro gamer, yet later switched to StarCraft II because the larger prize pools would be more beneficial to his poor family.
When Mvp entered the 2011 GSL January Code S, he didn’t lose a single match until he faced NesTea—the former GSL champion—in the semifinals and won 3-1. His impressive 92% win percentage in Terran-versus-Terran matches made him the favorite, and he swept his opponent MarineKing in the finals 4-0. Mvp ended the tournament with a 16-1 record. Mvp was the third player to achieve Triple Crown after MMA and MC, and he, with Life, was one of the only players who qualified for two separate Triple Crowns.
Nicknames include: The King, King of Wings, and Jürgen.
|Team History||2010-10-01 – 2014-07-23 Incredible Miracle|
|Total Prize Money Earned||$402,867.55|
Lee “Life” Seung Hyun
Life is the second most decorated player in Premier Tournaments and originally went by NEXLife. He was born on January 11, 1997, and began to receive recognition when he joined team ZeNEX in March 2011. He was the youngest professional player on any South Korean team at the time and was a valuable asset to ZeNEX.
Later, he would become StarCraft’s first Zerg Triple Crown recipient. Being the youngest in the league put him at some disadvantages, such as the inability to participate in interviews due to school attendance. However, it made victories such as his GSL Season 4 victory all the sweeter as he became the first royal roader of the StarCraft II era and the youngest GSL champion at just eighty-two days short of sixteen.
The highest point in Life’s domination in Korea was his 2012 GSL Blizzard Cup championship. He faced off against his former teammate, PartinG, who was known for an exceptionally strong Immortal/Sentry push. The first two maps were taken by this strategy, but Life was able to adapt and pull through, winning 4-2 and earning $37,200.
Nicknames include: The Ling Kin, King of Zerglings, L’Enfant Terrible, and Kami Zerg.
|Team History||2011-03 – 2012-07 ZeNEX|
2012-08 – 2015-02-11 StarTale
2015-02-11 – 2016-01-28 KT Rolster
2016-01-28 – 2016 Afreeca Freecs
|Total Prize Money Earned||$475,744.38|
Yun “TaeJa” Young Seo
TaeJa was born on January 1, 1995. His career began without any competitive background in eSports, and he was relatively unnoticed for the early months. A very prominent part of this player’s career came from when he carried Team Liquid to the playoffs of Acer TeamSTory Cup Season 2, with four wins in the 5-4 victory against Axiom. Then, TaeJa blazed through a Zerg-centric lineup, defeating HyuN again twice, and scored the 5-0 all-kill against Quantic Gaming that Team Liquid needed to participate in the playoffs.
In 2013 DreamHack Open: Winter, TaeJa was pitted against other Terrans in a formidable string of opponents. One of the most notable of those TvT series was against MMA, ending in a 2-1 win for TaeJa, which guaranteed a place on the podium.
When Team Liquid picked TaeJa in 2012, the team’s CEO Nazgul claimed the transfer to be “Liquid’s biggest acquisition in history.”
|Team History||2010 - 2010-10 NEX|
2010-10 – 2011-05-01 ZeNEX
2011-05-01 – 2012-03-13 SlayerS
2012-03-29 – 2016-06-02 Team Liquid
2018-09-24 – Present Team Liquid
|Total Prize Money Earned||$292,097.73|
Jang “MC” Min Chul
MC was born on June 17, 1991. His strengths are in his mechanics, particularly his Stalker control and use of the Blink ability. He likes to apply pressure constantly, harass his opponents and tear away at them throughout the match. Those that can endure his initial aggression are not much closer to beating him, as his playstyle also includes macro for a deadly late-game performance.
He has retired twice in his career. After the first time, MC returned for the 2015 Red Bull Battle Grounds: Santa Monica. He and his OGS-TL Teammate, HuK from Evil Geniuses, achieved a joint first place along with DOngRaeGu and TRUE, who only lost a match to the Protoss archon Team. MC is famous for his expertise in Protoss play. Not long after, MC and Huk united again for the 2015 Red Bull Battle Grounds: Washington, where MC said in an interview, “I am Obamatoss, I can’t lose in Washington.”
Nicknames include: Boss Toss and Suicide Toss.
|Team History||2009-03-25 - 2010-08-24 MBCGame HERO|
2010-08 - 2012-01-13 Old Generations
2012-01-13 - 2013-12-30 SK Gaming
2015-02-11 - 2015-06-18 Trig Esports
2016-05-23 - 2016-10-18 CJ Entus
2019-02-04 - Present ROOT Gaming
|Total Prize Money Earned||$511,049.54|
Choi “Polt” Seong Hun
Polt was born on July 2, 1988. Before StarCraft, he played Warcraft III; The Frozen Throne at a semi-pro level as part of the South Korean team Lof. His fame in StarCraft came mostly after his GSL 3 victory against BoxeR with a score of 2-1 in Round 32. Almost 80% of polled South Koreans favored BoxeR to win, so Polt’s victory was a major upset. He surprised critics again when he won the 2011 GSL Super Tournament, where he swept MMA 4-0 in the finals. This championship victory earned Polt the “Optimus” ID from his team because it was the first championship for Prime.
In the WCS America 2013 Season 3 Premier League, after being disqualified from the first best-of-three against HyuN due to connection problems, Polt defeated Revival 2-1 in a macro-oriented best-of-three and then advanced to Round 16 after defeating Sage 2-1. Eventually, he beat ByuL 4-1 and took home the win.
Nicknames include: Captain America, Sir Polt of Terran, and The Nexus Sniper.
|Team History||2010 - 2011-09-14 Prime|
2011-09-23 - 2012-12-22 Team SCV Life
2013-03-12 - 2016-03-05 CM Storm
2016-05-04 - 2016-10-12 Team EnVyUs
|Total Prize Money Earned||$455,560.09|
Lee “INnoVation” Shin Hyung
INnoVation was born on July 25, 1993. His first official StarCraft II match was played during the hybrid 2011-2012 Proleague Season 2. On July 19, 2012, INnoVation participated in the 2012 OSL KeSPA Preliminaries. He beat Sang and herO, then faced Crazy-Hydra in the finals. After sweeping Crazy-Hydra with a score of 2:0, INnoVation advanced into the 2012 OSL KeSPA Dual Tournament.
After some close wins in both the WCS 2013 Season 1 Korea semifinals and WCS 2013 Season 1 semifinal, INnoVation found some extra difficulty contending with sOs and his unusual Tempest/Templar composition. INnoVation held firm and pushed through to close the series 4-0 against sOs who “looked visibly nervous,” and at last was himself a champion on one of the biggest stages in StarCraft 2 history. His accomplishment earned him the #1 rank on TL.net’s Power Rank for July 2013. He is a Terran player.
Nicknames include: The Machine and RoBogus.
|Team History||2008-08-13 - 2013-08-31 STX SouL|
2013-09-01 - 2014-09-03 Team Acer
2014-09-25 - 2016-10-18 SK Telecom T1
2018-05-24 - 2018-12-07 O'Gaming TV
2018-12-18 - Present Team Reciprocity
|Total Prize Money Earned||$677,864.89|
Joo “Zest” Sung Wook
Zest, born on July 11, 1992, first came into the StarCraft II arena during Wings of Liberty. Like INnoVation, he played his first official match during the 2011-2012 Proleague Season 2, ending with a total of five wins and four losses. In the 2012-2013 Proleague Season 1, Zest finished with a record of 29-17. After a very disappointing loss to Life in the 2014 WCS Global Finals, which featured a gripping fifth match where Zest almost pulled through after several early-game missteps, 2015 came around with new promises.
Zest participated in the IEM Season IX World Championship in Katowice. He was set to play against ROOT Gaming’s Hydra, whom he beat 3-2 after a reverse sweep that included a lengthy defense in Game 5 against a Roach/Hydra composition. Next, he narrowly beat INnoVation, who had recently beaten Life (the BlizzCon champion). For the finals, Zest was set against Trap in the only Protoss-versus-Protoss series of the tournament. It was full of macro-oriented games and Stargate-based strategies, most notably Game 4 on Deadwing, where each player made a Mothership and air-based armies. Zest won the title with a score of 4-1.
Nicknames include: The Kingslayer.
|Team History||Unknown - 2010-10 eSTRO|
2010-10 - 2011-11-04 WeMade FOX
2011-11-04 - 2016-10-18 KT Rolster
2018-08-22 - 2019-01-04 Scythe Esports
2019-01-20 - Present Ocean Gaming
|Total Prize Money Earned||$436,592.82|
Lim “NesTea” Jae Duk
NesTea was born on December 12, 1982. This Zerg player had his start with Wings of Liberty, climbing to the top of the Korean ladder shortly after launch and qualifying for the very first GSL. Unfortunately, he was eliminated early on by LiveForever. In late September 2010, NesTea, with former Brood Wars players Mvp, TT, ChRh, and LosirA founded the team IM “Incredible Miracle”.
NesTea was the first player to win three GSL championships and the first and only player to win a GSL Code S without dropping a single game—on July, 2011. The only players to have even come close to achieving such a feat were his teammates Mvp, who lost only a single game in GSL January 2011 to NesTea himself, and Curious, who win a GSL Code A without dropping a game. This feat solidifies Zest’s spot among the best StarCraft 2 players of all time.
|Team History||2006 - 2010-10-01 KT Rolster|
2010-10-01 – 2014-03-31 Incredible Miracle
|Total Prize Money Earned||$285,672.34|
Mun “MMA” Seong Won
MMA was born on October 29, 1988. He was first introduced to StarCraft, the original, in elementary school. It would go on to become his passion and lead him to become a pro gamer. Initially, he wanted to be a soldier, but due to a knee injury, he was discharged from the army. He was the first of the new recruits for BoxeR’s SlayerS team, and he later evolved into SlayerS’ ace player, earning him a new and prestigious nickname.
One of his best plays occurred during the Acer TeamStory Cup Season 1 group stage. There, MMA went 22-11, which included both an all-kill and a four-kill of ROOT Gaming. Not long after, at the playoffs, MMA went 9-3 with an all-kill of team Liquid and a four-kill of Millenium. These lethal plays were very common for MMA, making him a player of deadly efficiency. Today, MMA is retired.
Nicknames include: Son of Boxer and Military Terran.
|Team History||2008-10 – 2009-10 SK Telecom T1|
2010-11-30 – 2012-11-03 SlayerS
2015-05-05 - 2015-12-01 SBENU
2012-11-20 – 2015-12-21 Team Acer
2017-11-02 – 2018-07-31 Team expert
|Total Prize Money Earned||$406,562.06|
Jung “Rain” Yoon Jong
Rain stated that his intention was never to become a pro gamer; he played the game casually, instead of studying, and participated in some tournaments till he was recruited as a professional player by MBCGame HERO. He was born on August 14, 1992. For that team, he didn’t manage to qualify for either the OnGameNet Starleague or the MBCGame StarCraft League, but his time was not ignored. In fact, he finished the Proleague with a great record of 15-9 in the 2010-2011 Shinhan Bank Proleague for team SK Telecom T1. Not very long after that, what became one of his crowning achievements took place at the STX Masters 2011: he scored an all-kill against Hwaseung OZ in the finals.
Rain was the most successful player affiliated to the KeSPA during the first individual leagues in which KeSPA players participated in StarCraft. His Protoss plays were excellent across the board, and although, like MMA, he’s retired, Rain remains one of the greatest StarCraft II players of all time.
|Team History||2010-10-01 - 2014-09-30 SK Telecom T1|
2014-11-09 - 2015-12-15 mYinsanity
|Total Prize Money Earned||$241,605.22|
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