Honorable Mention: Rookie - League of Legends
By: Ibriz Daya | LoL Expert
Could it be anyone other than our World Champion midlaner? After joining Invictus Gaming in 2014 as part of the initial wave of the Korean Exodus, Rookie came into 2018 newly reinvigorated thanks to the addition of some outstanding supporting stars around him. Making good on his team’s investments, Rookie put all the resources available to him to good use. Ill content with putting out highlight play after highlight play, Rookie famously carried his team’s owner to a victory in the regular season. 2014 was the last time the now-face of Invictus Gaming secured any meaningful title. A victory in the Korean OGN (now LCK) that didn’t result in a World Championship berth.
While it did take him a further three years to secure another Worlds appearance after a disappointing exit from the 2015 Championship, Rookie was unshaken as he proceeded to stake a near-uncontested claim for the throne this year. 2018 was the year of Invictus Gaming; the year a non-Korean team won worlds; the year Rookie cemented himself as the best midlaner in the World - if only for a few-months-long stretch. All eyes are on the IG midlaner as we head into 2019 as he looks to maintain the form he demonstrated in front of the biggest audience imaginable.
Honorable MEntion: JJoNak - Overwatch
By: Michael 'mykL' Padilla | Overwatch Expert
It’s almost undeniable that JJoNak is the best esports player of the year. The achievements he accomplished in 2018 are unmatched. Throughout all of Season 1 of the Overwatch League, JJoNak dominated the competition earning himself MVP. After the Overwatch League finished the next big event was the World Cup. JJoNak was selected to compete for South Korea where he took home gold and another MVP. At a certain point, you wonder what can’t JJoNak accomplish.
Runner-Up: s1mple - CS:GO
By: Max Mellit | CS:GO Expert
The magnitude of s1mple in 2018 cannot, unfortunately, be measured in the unit of trophies. Unlike most other transients, all-time great competitors his skill hasn’t been leveraged directly into the mountain of silverware it should (yet). But his work-rate in-game isn’t unaccounted for altogether. Statistically, he is an outlier among outliers. And in-lieu of being able to paint the impossible ‘feel’ of watching s1mple play, and also why he is the CS:GO player of 2018 with words, maybe the numbers can instead.
At the most significant events in 2018, in over 55% of rounds, s1mple killed more than one person. He has the highest kill/death and +/- of players at these events. S1mple had 300 more kills then the second highest player despite playing five fewer maps. He won his opening duel the most at 65% of the time. Despite this though, he threw more flashbangs than Xizt and STYKO. He also won the second most amount of clutches in the world at 75 (one behind Xyp9x in number one). Of the 21 different categories HLTV has in their ‘leaderboard’ section, s1mple is number one in 11 of them and top five in a further 5.
He’s had the most dominant year of any player and in the most competitive time to be playing Counter-Strike. These numbers were earned under the ever-looming shadow of Astralis - the best team in CS:GO history and in spite of his team consistently failing to make significant headway into playoff brackets. There is no doubting the awesome scope and impact of what s1mple achieved this year, not just for CS:GO, but esports.
Winner: Serral - Starcraft 2
By: Scott Abrams | Starcraft Expert
When you take a look at the results, there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that Serral, the Finnish Zerg, is the best player in the StarCraft world and the absolute, most dominant player of the year. If you don't believe me, let's go through his achievements. Serral is currently the first and only Grand-Slam champion as he won all four WCS Circuit Tournaments in 2018. He won GSL vs. the World. He, a foreign non-Korean pro, was declared World Champion in the WCS Global Finals during Blizzcon – something that's never been done before in the 20-year history of StarCraft. Then almost immediately after that, he won the HomeStory Cup XVIII – and that was only days after a major balance change. In fact, if not for his second-place finish in the 2018 WCS Leipzig Challenger, he would've won all the WCS Challengers and Main Events of 2018.
2018 was his year, it was Serral's year, and it was the year he left his mark in history.