Team Liquid has written TaeJa several glowing tributes in the past—for his retirement, for his return to StarCraft II after military service, and once simply out of sheer appreciation for how good he was. Each and every one of those were deserved, because TaeJa was one of the greatest pro gamers to ever play for Team Liquid.
Now, it’s time for one last tribute to the Crown Prince.
“This feels like Liquid’s biggest acquisition in history.”
–Liquid`Nazgul (March 28th, 2012)
When TaeJa joined Liquid in March of 2012, Liquid fans couldn’t believe their luck. The seventeen-year-old Terran player hadn’t achieved much major tournament success during his initial time on SlayerS, but his monstrous talent had been clear to see in a variety of smaller competitions. It was a shock that SlayerS would simply let him walk as a free agent, and perhaps just as surprising that Liquid signed him ahead of teams with deeper pockets at the time.
Liquid`TaeJa did not get off to the explosive start fans had hoped for, with his debut in blue ending with a top 24 finish at IPL4. Still, TaeJa went on to perform better in GSL Code S, achieving a couple of top eight finishes to show that his potential couldn’t be contained for long. Then, as the mercury rose and the calendar flipped over to July of 2012, TaeJa had his inevitable breakout moment. Or moments, we should say, as TaeJa won three major championships in the span of two months, achieving a triple crown of MLG, Assembly, and DreamHack victories. It was the first of three legendary ‘Summers of TaeJa,’ where TaeJa would travel the world playing stunning StarCraft II, lifting trophies, and popping champagne.
At that time in 2012, Liquid was already a popular organization, a storied organization, and a respected organization. What TaeJa did was make sure TL continued to be a champion organization. In his nearly seven years with Team Liquid, TaeJa struck gold in eleven premier events—more than the rest of Liquid’s StarCraft II roster combined. TaeJa also gave Liquid its best ever finishes in world championship-class events, battling all the way to the semifinals of IEM Katowice 2014, and later reaching the top four of BlizzCon 2014 as well (he was eliminated by the eventual winner both times). When TaeJa retired for the first time in 2016, Liquid`Nazgul called him “the most successful player Liquid has ever had.”
Not all of TaeJa’s career highlights involved him winning a championship. One of his most heroic feats was lifting Liquid to a second place finish at IPL Team Arena 3, recording a jaw-dropping statline of 23 wins and 3 losses including an all-kill over team Incredible Miracle in the finals (unfortunately for TL, IM won the second leg of the double elimination). It was as significant a testament to TaeJa’s skill as any of his individual tournament runs, and ended up spawning many popular memes about TaeJa’s status as a one man army.
TaeJa also participated in one of the most entertaining StarCraft II games of all time. Certainly, matches like Scarlett vs Bomber at Red Bull Battlegrounds or soO vs Serral at IEM Katowice carry more emotional weight, but in terms of pure gameplay, TaeJa vs INnoVation in the WCS Season 2 Finals of 2013 has a strong case to be called THE single best game ever played (even Blizzard agrees). The two Terran icons clashed at the peak of their powers, battling non-stop for almost forty minutes in an unmatched display of technical prowess. While TaeJa has played in countless memorable matches, this game might be his finest masterpiece.
It’s hard to point at a specific aspect of TaeJa’s game that made him so great as a player, simply because he did everything well. He was a prodigy with unbelievable physical and mental speed, cut from the same cloth as historically great Terrans like NaDa and Maru. That immense talent allowed him to dispose of lesser opponents with alarming ease, and pull off impossible comebacks against the best players in the world. Perhaps, the only fault in his game was that he wasn’t completely suited for the unique format of Korea’s GSL, where meticulous planning played a huge role. But in terms of pure talent and fundamentals, TaeJa stands among the all-time greats of StarCraft II.
Somehow, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if TaeJa could have accomplished even more under different circumstances. Like many other Terran speedsters, TaeJa was ailed by wrist issues which affected his ability to practice. Furthermore, TaeJa didn’t seem to be an esports-lifer like many of his peers, even hinting at the possibility of early retirement in the midst of his prime. While his star shone brightly in 2012-2014, he gradually declined afterward, leading to his decision to finally hang up the mouse and keyboard in 2016. In his retirement statement, TaeJa called his time in StarCraft II “The pro gaming career I unintentionally stumbled into.” Perhaps he felt that he had already received more than his fair share of blessings from the game.
That first retirement had a feeling of finality around it, making it all the more surprising when TaeJa decided to return to StarCraft II in 2018 after completing his mandatory military service. Liquid fans felt an uneasy combination of hope and cynicism—no player had returned from military service to achieve any meaningful success, but TaeJa was more talented than anyone who had returned thus far.
While it was exciting to follow TaeJa once more during his two-year comeback trail, it’s time to say goodbye again. TaeJa’s statement (below) suggests he’s not entirely satisfied with his encore performance, but we think he’s more than deserving of a standing ovation. After all, even if it was only for a few games at a time, we got to see that legendary player we had thought was gone for good. At HomeStory Cup, TaeJa fought the reigning 2018 Global Champion Serral to a near standstill, losing by a narrow 2-3 scoreline. In GSL Code S, TaeJa pushed the 2019 Global Champion Dark to the brink of defeat, once more suffering a narrow defeat. From a player who had done so much for Liquid throughout his career, that’s more than we could have asked for.
Farewell, TaeJa. Thank you for giving us seven amazing years of StarCraft II, and a legacy that will last forever.
“There are few individuals who have been as impactful as TaeJa in the path for Team Liquid to grow to where it is today. We started working together when he was 17 years old. A rising talent, playing under the legendary SlayerS clan. Offering him an opportunity to play for us has turned out to be such a pivotal moment in our history. Together we traveled the world, won countless championships, and I couldn’t be more proud of what you have accomplished in your career nor more grateful for what you have meant to Liquid. Thank you for everything.”
-Victor “Nazgul” Goossens
Hello, this is LiquidTaeJa.
After Season 3 of GSL 2020, I had time to decide the future, And had decided to stop playing SC2 as professional gamer. It wasn’t an easy decision, I can feel I want to play more, but the circumstances aren’t good for me. I’m getting older, and my skill on SC2 wasn’t satisfied as my expectation, so I decided this. I received a lot of love from my fans during my pro gaming period, It is really sad and sorry to my fans, but there is no regret of this decision for me. It’s time to start a new chapter of my life, I’ll get this though with my experience and knowledge which I got it from my pro gaming life. I appreciate so much to my fans whose gave me much love more than i deserve, hopefully we can meet in the future again. Good Bye.