When I started playing the game, the teamgames was still a fairly new phenomenon. The amount of players, who was on a high skill level wasn't anywhere the one we see today. Back then a medium player like me, would have been one of the best, or at least I like to believe so. Back then players like Master and Paars was still only "rising stars" who had not yet shown their full potential - most of all because they needed someone to prove it against! The old "legends" like XuuL and Nelson had quit the game, so only their reputations as almost unbeatable remained (XuuL's record of almost 2 years without a loss told it all.). So when they came back into the game it was fun to watch the settle it - I believe they are still battling on ;-)
The reasons why the skill-level has increased so much, is mainly due to more competitive games (1v1,2v2 and 3v3), but also due to much of the information on how to play the game have been shared in the forums.
In my early conqueror days the games was dominated by players like Golem, Master, Paars, Hmmmm, izzlekizzle, hallali and Rippe. To see what players who dominated through times the following threads could be fun to read - if it has any interested:
"the conqueror ladder system": [www.conquerorgame.com
Btw. In "the conqueror ladder system" thread I found this post from XuuL(dated the 28 september 2007), that I find interesting and relevant in the context of this thread:
i am playing this game since about 5 years now... very much and regulary.. i have more than 2000 games on my shoulder.. i was a also noob once... but i learned a lot from zbp and nelson and developed my own strategies over the years
i was unbeaten for over 2 years (only WOW and Nelson could get a draw vs me).. till TinkyWinky beat me with a smurf account in spring 2006... i even had to take a break cause i was always winning... what was rly extremely boring. that was _before_ i helped the admin in fixing bugs and improving the game.
since i became an admin myself i am far more vulnerable than before... now i am loosing sometimes, even to players not belonging to the best like IceQueen... that was unthinkable before. u can feel very lucky that u havent played the game in the time of speedfarming- or gold-bug... u wouldnt even had the smallest chance to beat me
there are players like Hallali, Nelson, Rippe, Comnenus and Neo, who play on my level.. im rly not "the" best.. all of them play very long time now over years and all of them know the same about AIs as i do... not to forget the US people in a differen timezone.. take hmmmm for example... he was very strong when i played him in ladder and he also beat me
i could retreat from the ladder... i am an admin and you are right, that its a little strange when admins participate in contests they administrate .. but on the other hand, we are a very very small community and maybe u dont want me to retreat? well.. if u do, i can understand it and u can remove me.. i dont need any ranks to represent myself