Esports 2018 review: Radoslav Kolev on the year's biggest stories

With 2018 drawing to a close, we've asked some friends to look back on the past year in esports and share their stand-out moments. Here's VPEsports Staff Writer Radoslav Kolev with his thoughts on the past 12 months and hopes for 2019


What was the high point of the year?

Astralis establish themselves as the GOAT of CSGO. Yes, technically that was a long process and not a single moment in time — but then again, it kind of was, culminating in a single night of victory, when the Danes hoisted the ESL Pro League S8 trophy and won the Intel Grand Slam, all in one night.

They banked the biggest payday in CSGO history. They put an end to a 2018 season that would forever remain unparalleled. Device's MVP awards are now almost too many to count and so are the gold medals on their shelves.

How long has it been since one esport has all been about a single team? Not even the SKT era of League of Legends excluded other teams from the conversation of who's the No. 1, but Astralis did so in CSGO ... with ease.

And the low moment of 2018?

This is a tough one, especially because it's so difficult to separate the worse from the worst. We've seen abuse on stream, racist slurs, monumental failures of game launches, cheating and cheap drama. It's difficult for me to pick just one, so here are a two that are in my consideration:

The Galaxy Battles II Dota 2 tournament in the Philippines was supposed to be one of the Majors in the DPC 2018 season — a true gift to one of the most loyal Dota communities ever since the DotA AllStar days. That was until the government got involved and raised concerns about players' privacy, leading to Valve stripping the Major status from the event. What followed was a natural outflow of teams until Galaxy Battles II became this tier 2 tournament, played in front of a half-empty hall. Instead of great storylines and games, what people will now remember will be the heroic attempts by the talent desk to save the sinking ship.

The Kuku drama — this incident is kind of similar to the Galaxy Battles II one, where a governmental involvement raised concerns about the future of an esport. Kuku's "ching chong" slur and follow-up attempt to cover it up were ugly and childish, but an apology and financial and/or sabbatical type of punishment should've been enough. Instead, the local Chinese government stepped in to decide who can play at a private company's own tournaments. The drama developed with Valve drowsed in apathy, as their usual modus operandi, showing just how out of touch that company has also grown throughout the years.

Storyline of the year?

Two storylines take the crown for me, and I can't decide which one I enjoyed more. Both were extraordinary and made the tournaments where they happened historical.

Serral becomes the first non-Korean world champion in StarCraft II — Astralis destroying an entire year of CSGO was pure awe, but it wasn't unbelievable. Danish CS has always been strong so it was about time for such team to rise up. The West being the best at StarCraft II, though — now that's a storyline.

Long live Serral — God knows he was the reason StarCraft II was an esport to follow this year

What's even more impressive is that the young Finn didn't just win a single tournament. He consistently stole trophies underneath the Koreans, even on their own turf. 1998 was the last time a foreigner was the best in the world at StarCraft. That's 20 years ago and many esports fans weren't even born then, let alone remember who Guillaume "Grrrr..." Patry is. Long live Serral — God knows he was the reason StarCraft II was an esport to follow this year.

OG's TI2018 run — One could argue whether Wings' success at TI6 was a better storyline, but to me, there's actually no contest. Two months before TI8, OG lost their captain and co-founder Fly. The friendship between two players who've been together for years was broken. N0tail scrambled to fill the team with whoever he could find, bringing Ana (a player who spent 2017 in hiatus) and Topson, a rookie carry in every sense of the word. They had to go through qualifier to qualify for TI8. There, they defeated both the team Fly left them for and the best Chinese team (twice) in what was perhaps (no, certainly!) the best TI final of all time.

You can't make this stuff up.

What were you playing and watching in 2018?

Not much playing, to be honest, as my work kept me away from gaming quite a bit. The few free minutes I had, I spent learning Civilization 6. As for watching, I watched everything — again for work. I followed CSGO, Dota 2 and League of Legends, while also throwing an odd eye on StarCraft II and Hearthstone.

What would you like to see in 2019?

What interests me the most personally is how the battle on the card game market will develop. Blizzard came out with a $4 million circuit for Hearthstone. Only a week later, this was topped by Wizards' $10 million circuit for Magic the Gathering esports. We also have Artifact, which is currently struggling, but have a $1 million tournament coming in 2019 and Valve's ingenuity behind it.

I've been playing card games for 15 years now, and we're getting into a very exciting 2019, as far as the genre is concerned.

Esports 2018 reviews: