After a launch well below expectations, there was at least some small glimmer of hope for the aging RTS's competitive scene. But the first major tournament for Reforged post-launch has finished under a cloud, with the tournament beset with regular disconnects that forced matches to be restarted. And the problems only got worse as the tournament went on, with a potential upset win in the quarter finals against one of the world's best Warcraft 3 players denied - twice - thanks to desync bugs.
The worst disconnects happened to Swedish RTS gamer Marcus "ThorZain" Eklöf in his best-of-three against South Korean Jang "Moon" Jae-ho. Moon has been one of the world's best WC3 players and was, at one point, the most well paid esports player in the world after signing a $US500,000 contract back in 2008.
Moon had a famous rivalry against Dutch WC3 gamer Manuel "Grubby" Schenkhuizen, who has since transitioned into a full-time career as a commentator. ThorZain and Moon have faced off in professional competition before, but in the early days of StarCraft 2 where ThorZain was one of the best non-Korean Terran players. The Swede has a background in Warcraft 3, but the South Korean is the heavy, heavy favourite, partially for his longer time with the game and longer record of achievement.
So being 1-1 in the quarter finals against what is probably the best Warcraft 3 player ever seen is a big deal. The Swede was on the verge of victory as well, being an expansion ahead, and launching an attack on Moon's left flank with 20 more supply. Coupled with an upgrade advantage, ThorZain began whittling down Moon's army, only to drop out.
The match wasn't on the verge of ending immediately; Moon did an excellent job of holding a difficult fight. But ThorZain had a strong advantage in items, levels and better capacity to reinforce.
But tournament rules dictate that the match be restarted, rather than resumed from a replay (as Blizzard has done in some instances with the Overwatch League). So they resumed on Terenas Stand, and ThorZain again established an advantage by using drops to kill Moon's entangled gold mine.
With a massive gold advantage - literally 1000+ gold - and a lead in upgrading and far better versatility for the end game, the game dropped again:
To resolve the issues, the organisers reverted the game back to classic Warcraft 3 graphics, in a bid to eliminate the desync problems. The fifth match in the series ended up panning out much like the first game in the series: Moon, having learnt from the previous two games, quickly established an advantage and refused to let go all game, eventually closing out the series 2-1.
It wasn't just Moon and ThorZain that had suffered from desyncs, though. Apart from the two drops on the main stage, six separate matches across the group stages and playoffs also had to be restarted, some of which was captured on the main WC3 stream.
The match against ThorZain would be the only loss - disconnects not included - against Moon for the rest of the playoffs. The South Korean went on to clean sweep the semi-finals and grand finals 2-0 and 3-0 respectively, losing just the one map the entire tournament.
As for ThorZain, the community made sure to commemorate his performance. The US-based team DuSt Gaming started a GoFundMe for the Swede, pledging to pay ThorZain $US750 from the extra $US1500 he would have won by qualifying for the semi-finals. So far, the WC3 community has donated an extra $US400 to the target.
"While it won't give him the accolade he should have deserved, maybe it can raise awareness that the community is behind him; that we support him, and stop this from happening to anyone in the future. Especially at an offline major event, this seems like the least we can do as a community," the GoFundMe page says.