The IPL Team Arena Challenge returns this week for its last season. But that's not a cause for sadness, because this IPL TAC is morphing into the IPTL next season (never mind the teamleague of the same name from Russia) and the top eight from this IPL TAC will be the elite in the future IPTL. It's just another reason to watch this season of the foreign scene's premier tournament.
IPL TAC 3 is bigger, bolder, and better than ever before, with 24 teams from around the world and a live final. The thrills of the past season; from Vile's surprising strength, to TLO's stunner against MKP, to Prime and NSHoSeo's epic final, will be repeated tenfold this time around. The first round, everyone but the top eight seeds, begins today at IPL's new time of 22:00 GMT (+00:00) with European re-broadcasts at 17:30 GMT (+00:00).
Excited? So are we!
Week One Preview
The first matches of a season are always hard to preview, because there are no previous results or games from the league to go on. This is especially true when neither of these teams have any notable team results whatsoever. Thus, the only choice I see is to preview both teams’ individual players and see how their results stack up against one another.
Acer’s main power comes from the one-two punch combination of Nerchio and Elfi. Elfi most recently made it to the round of 16 at Dreamhack Stockholm on the back of his legendary PvP, taking out both Mana and Bischu. Unfortunately, he was easily bested in PvZ by European powerhouses Ret and Morrow. Nerchio, not to be outdone, placed top 8 at Dreamhack in addition to a decent performance at the online portion of the Iron Squid tournament, cementing himself as one of the top foreign zergs in the world.
Eclypsia, on the other hand, is sort of an enigma at the moment. Last week, they could have given us both a very interesting and even match, highlighted by Scarlett's first appearance since her epic run through IPL3’s open bracket. Unfortunately, since then, Eclypsia’s 4 most notable players have left the team, leaving them with an uncertain future, both in this league and as a team. Eclypsia does hold one key player in this matchup and he is known as Welmu. One of Welmu’s most interesting results is that he beat the god of PvP, Elfi, in last year’s finnish WCG qualifiers, proving that he has what it takes to make upsets happen.
But even if Welmu somehow miraclously takes down both Nerchio and Elfi, he’ll have to go through Acer’s supporting cast of Bly, Darkhydra, Mondragon, and Paranoid. Although it’s not the most stacked of lineups, I would still rate it higher than the little known lineup of Dayshi, Elvis, Eeel, and Sarens. I see Acer having a definitive edge in this matchup.
Prediction: Acer 5-1 Eclypsia
On one hand we have Liquid. Just as a reminder, last IPL TAC Liquid’s results were the following: 5-2 coLMvP, 4-5 Prime, 5-0 EG, 5-3 TSL, and 4-5 FXO. To summarize, they lost only to the very very top korean teams in ace matches. And this was before they acquired Taeja, the Ro8 Code S Terran. This was before Hero went from beast mode to extreme beast mode, hitting Ro4 Code S.
In contrast, Dignitas’ last results in IPL TAC2 were a 3-5 loss to NSHoSeo and a 3-5 loss to Vile. Not the best results to say the least, but you could make a strong argument that they underperformed given that their roster of sjow/select/merz/killer/bischu/bling/dream has no weak spots and each and every player could have potentially taken a point from most teams. The same still holds true today.
Dignitas’ secret weapon in this war will be their newly re-signed player, Sjow, notable for being on a very short list of players who have ever beaten Hero in a team league match(Then again, Hero eventually got his revenge, 2-0ing Sjow in their NASL match). Unfortunately for Dignitas, even if someone takes down hero, they still have to go through Taeja, a monster especially in online events and the rest of Liquid, a team whose players are individually known for performing well in team events.
Prediction: Liquid 5-2 Dignitas
Last time we saw compLexity’s face in the IPL TAC, they tried to use a mostly NA based team even though their MvP korean counterparts including DRG were allowed to play. The results were not good. This time, compLexity has a new face, dropping their MvP partnership and acquiring 4 brand spanking new koreans. And as shown in the EG masters cup, complexity is not afraid to use them; their last 4 entries in the league have been the exact same lineup: Heart/Ganzi/Killer/Nada and it seems to be working well as they’ve only lost to Slayers with this lineup.
FXO.CIS is in a similar situation as compLexity with a foreign/korean identity crisis. This team is not the more commonly known FXO.KOR team that we see competing in the GSL, but rather a remnant of the old imba.FXO team. Brat_OK and Strelok have always been good, but Lowely especially has shown amazing results recently in the NASL going 5-0 in a very difficult group with wins over Select, Ret, and Thorzain. In those games he demonstrated both his unpredictability and his standard play, making him a threat for any player.
Looking at the most probable lineups, if one thing is certain, it’s that we can expect a LOT of Terran in this match. 5 out of 6 of compLexity’s top players(Heart, Ganzi, Nada, Trimaster, qxc) are Terran while 2 out of 3 of FXO.CIS’s are Terran. In the battle of the Terrans, I have to give the edge to compLexity, a team with both more experience and more Koreans. I'm going to say the final result might be close though, especially because compLexity might want to give their non-Koreans some experience early in the season.
Prediction: compLexity 5-4 FXO.CIS
Empire is one of the most successful teams in the world in terms of team leagues. Even before they recruited heavyweight Violet, they were dominating team leagues with a lineup that didn’t seem so strong on paper. And if you can accept that Violet isn’t “korean” based on the fact that he trains overseas, then Empire can now easily be considered the best foreigner-only team in the world with Thorzain's recent move. Furthermore, Empire has recently recruited an up-and-comer Protoss, theMista, so they don’t have to send out a predictable lineup of 3-4 terrans and a zerg in every clan war.
GoSu is also one of the most successful teams in its part of the world. The north american based team’s dominance as the premier team in the region is only rivaled by Vile, now Quantic gaming. GoSu’s core lineup of Hwangsin, dde, Vibe, and Ostojiy recently lost Vibe, but gained MLG surprise performer Yata into its ranks.
This will be a battle of Europe's best plus a token Korean versus North America's best plus their own token Korean. And although Its GoSu is able to pull upsets such as 4-0ing Millennium in the EG Masters Cup, I don’t see them upsetting the strongest European team anytime soon.
Prediction: Empire 5-2 It’s GoSu
Meet the Qualifiers!
Key players: CrazymovING — Axslav — JEcho
Rest of the line-up: Sandbox — owmygroin — Pyre
Qualifying path: FXO.CIS (5-3), NrG (5-2), dtG (5-4)
One of the most promising North American squads, Infinity Seven got it's first big break into the mainstream by powering through the first qualifier. iS is a team that many will be at least partly familiar with. CrazymovING is an NASL participant, MLG group player, and one-time Code A qualifier who gave HerO a memorable scare with relentless mutalisk play. Axslav is a former member of EG, another NASL participant, and has made a known for himself with his prolific and informative streaming. JEcho has been a Reddit favorite of late, and currently sits at #4 on the AM ladder.
But have you heard of Insur? Prepare to hear a lot more. In the qualifiers, the American protoss smashed all comers, winning nearly half of iS's total haul with a 7-0 record. He finished off each series, including saving iS from a rampaging BRAT.OK, four killing NrG, and swatting back a dangerous challenge from dtG. Who is Insur, and where the hell did he come from? I have no idea either, but there's no doubt that he'll be the player to watch in this first round.
We shouldn't take anything away from the rest of iS's squad. This is a talented team. CrazyMovING's skill was evident at MLG Winter Championships, Axslav also four killed during the qualifiers, JEcho's ladder exploits are impressive, and Sandbox also pitched in with two wins at one point. While iS might lack the explosive potential of some of the other qualifiers, they also lack the obvious vulnerabilities. iS is a fun team to follow, and have grown slowly and responsibly in their existence. They feel like a team that will stick around the IPL TAC scene for a while.
Key player(s): Mystik
Rest of the line-up: Ver — Perfect — Suppy — Mkengyn
Qualifying path: LighT eSports (5-?), Team Nightmares (5-3), It's GoSu (5-4)
Maybe the most surprising team to qualify for the IPL TAC, x6 merits that description simply because it's so... ordinary. There's a strong AM player in Mystik, a supporting cast of solid AM players, and then your token Korean. But x6 leveraged all that into a qualifier run that say them knock off some good teams. More specifically, Sleep and Mystik both stood up and delivered. That'll need to be the pattern again if x6 is to advance in the main event. While some are solid and decently known, neither Ver, Perfect, Suppy, or Mkengyn have shown the play that they'll need to against Korean squads or most international ones. Without help from the rest of the team, delivering five wins might be too much of a task.
Mystik is key here, as however strong Sleep is, the chance of an all-kill seems unlikely. In the qualifiers, against It's GoSu, Sleep saw his run ended by HwangSin. Mystik stepped up and took home the final win. For the American zerg, who has always been just below the radar; underrated, but not brilliant, this is a huge chance to make a name for himself. He'll need to do the same as he did before, night after night. But the deck is certainly stacked against x6, against teams that have five players of Sleep's calibre. They were on for the qualifier, but don't bet for a repeat performance.
Karont3 e-Sports Club
Key player(s): VortiX
Rest of the line-up: MikOeL — AlaStOr — LoLvsxD
Qualifying path: Team Nightmares (5-?), Alternate-Type (5-?), It's GoSu (5-3)
Karont3 is the latest vehicle for the brothers Moreno Durán, LucifroN and VortiX, who are far and away Spain's top two players. They're joined here by the rest of the Spanish top five, LoLvsxD, as well as MikOeL and AlaStOr, who are on loan from other Spanish squads just for this occasion.
There are many teams in the IPL TAC that rely heavily on a couple of players, but none more so than Karont3. AlaStOr and MikOeL brought a win each in Karont's qualifying match against It's GoSu, and MikOeL's is a former TSL2 qualifier, which deserves at least some mention. But against the calibre of teams in the IPL TAC, it's LucifroN and VortiX or bust. Any wins from the rest of the crew are simply an added bonus that makes the brother's job easier.
That's not as bad as it seems. As of this writing, LucifroN and VortiX are #2 and #7 on the EU ladder respectively, both with over 70% win rates. VortiX is a brilliant zerg who can hold his own at the international level. The spotlight, however, belongs on LucifroN, who may be the most talented player in the foreign scene since Stephano. We've known how good he is for over a year, but this summer he's gotten off to a better start than normal, and without school to take up his time, he will be an incredibly difficult ace to topple. Smart teams will not underestimate Karont3, and have snipes prepared for both of their principles. If either Moreno Durán falls without taking a game, Karont3 is likely doomed, but if their supporting cast takes a series, or LucifroN gets on a roll, watch out.
Key Players: Dayshi — Welmu
Rest of the line-up: ELVIS — Eeel — SarenS
Qualifying path: LighT (5-3), ZeNex (5-3), dtG (5-0)
Eclypsia is a total enigma. An elusive organization that has caused an uproar in the DotA2 community, an actor in terrible April Fools jokes, a maestro of sexist and racist meme competitions, Eclypsia has surely had an eventful few months on the scene. But somewhat quietly, they also put together a shockingly strong Sc2 squad. Looking for and finding value where others seemed to not see it, Eclypsia's sported a fearsome front five... until Saturday, when three of that formidable line-up left the team.
Well, so much for that.
A team I was looking forward to seeing quite a bit is now no more, and Eclypsia will be forced to make do with Welmu, Dayshi, and then a French backbench that, frankly, won't be good enough. Ecylpsia now looks a bit like Karont3, except without the star power at the front. Can Dayshi and Welmu carry the team? Probably not very far. Although extremely impressive in recent Playhem Dailies, Dayshi isn't strong enough yet to be considered among the European elite, let alone the international elite. Same for Welmu. After leaving Empire reportedly due to a lack of motivation, the Finnish protoss delivered for Ecylpsia in the qualifiers, and has also looked solid in weekly cup action. But against the star power in the IPL TAC? Eclypsia simply doesn't have the depth or the strength in response.
Key Players: BRAT.OK — HappyZerg
Rest of the line-up: LoWeLy — Elbegast
Qualifying Path: LighT (5-4), It's GoSu (5-1), ZeNex (5-4)
Nope, not the FXO you know from the GSTL. They've already been invited. Instead, this is FXO's International line-up, formerly imba.FXO or the Guild of Imbalance. Many would've pegged RoX.KIS as the more likely squad to qualify from Eastern Europe, but it was a strong performance from Strelok that brought FXO the goods. Despite not having been so impressive recently in international events, the Ambitious Terran went into beast mode, taking ten of FXO.CIS's wins, and pulling the team back against LighT and ZeNex. Although on paper, FXO.CIS is one of the deeper qualifying teams, their results were more asymmetric than anyone else's!
It seems silly to expect that trend to continue in the future. Strelok will probably not be as unbeatable as he was in the qualifiers, but he should also get way more help from his team than he did as well. FXO.CIS has a very even and adept front five that should be competitive against other foreign teams, and feisty against Korean ones. BRAT.OK especially should do better, after being invisible during the qualifiers. While FXO.CIS will almost certainly not go as far as FXO Korea, they ought to perform competitively, and have some upset potential if someone puts in another brilliant individual performance. They did, after all, beat ZeNex...!
Key Players: Bly — Elfi
Rest of the Line-up: DarkHydra — Mondragon — ParanOid
Qualifying Path: RoX.KIS (5-?), Alternate-Type (5-?)
Acer has always been an odd team from when their line-up was all zergs to the present, slightly more balanced set-up. Elfi and Bly are the key players on a solid but not spectacular supporting cast which features big question marks in DH, Mondi, and ParanOid. This is a team of players who don't always look stellar, yet occasionally put out super results. In all my writing about starcraft, I have yet to understand how Elfi wins, but the moment I do, I'll probably have to retire.
It's much easier to write about Nerchio. That he is one of the best foreign zergs is not in dispute, but where he falls in that elite catagory isn't always sure. At first, he suffered from nerves at big LANs, but his win at the Battle of Berlin seemed to represent the triumph of that. In LAN's since, Nerchio has looked powerful, but he does seem to lack the spark that would allow him to really pull rank and become a thread to win, not just to make the round of eight. He's sort of an anti-elfi. But of course, this isn't a LAN, and Nerchio has been spectacular online. Same should be the case here; when he gets rolling there won't be any stopping him. If he falters, Bly, Elfi, and co. should be good enough to pick up wins as well.
Acer isn't the deepest or the most frightening team at the top, but they do have decent depth and a strong ace(r) (hur hur). If they put the pieces together, they could go deeper than many would expect.
Key Players: Ostojiy — DDE — STX — Kingdom
Rest of the Line-up: YaTa — tgun
Qualifying Path: NewRoSoft (5-2), Team Nightmares (5-0), Alternate (5-3)
After mixed results in the first three qualifiers, GoSu finally got their house in order for the fourth qualifier. GoSu is reliant on HwangSin, especially against top level opponents, but they have an additional option in new pick-up Kingdom, who performed superbly against Alternate in the qualifying match. The non-Koreans are solid, but will be hard pressed against GSTL competition. Still, Ostojiy, DDE, and STX have done quite well for GoSu in other teamleagues and can't be counted out. GoSu can pack a surprisingly potent punch, but their inconsistent play is a liability.
The biggest knock against GoSu is probably that it took them four tries to qualify, losing twice in the qualifying game, and getting flattened once by Strelok. Even if they won a few in each qualifier, they didn't seem as powerful when they played other qualifying teams. That's obviously a problem, because the average strength of the IPL TAC teams is much much higher. For GoSu to win, a strong performance by HwangSin is a must, Kingdom should also help, and the non-Koreans would pick up wins at the margins. It's not so far fetched, GoSu has nothing if not spirit and they've delivered upsets before; quite recently over Fnatic in the EG MC for example. It'll be tough, but doable.
Key Players: SeleCT — BlinG — KiLLeR
Rest of the Line-up: meRz — Bischu — DreAm
Qualifying Path: Virtus Pro (5-2), LighT (5-1), ESC (5-3)
Our last qualifier, but certainly the best known, Dignitas looks out of place here. As one of the largest and most famous teams in the scene, they went through the indignity of having to qualify, but did so on their second try with flying colors. Bischu, SjoW, and BlinG were key players in the qualification run, and figure to be important players for Dignitas's regular tournament hopes as well. Of some concern was SeleCT's non-participation in the qualifiers, however, which may have been because he simply wasn't needed, or perhaps because he wasn't there. Dignitas's awkward exit from the last IPL TAC came in a match the SeleCT did not participate in, which raises some questions. For the moment then, we'll count SeleCT as a key player and not the ace, although how far Dignitas goes will be in large part due to whether he plays or not.
BlinG and KiLLeR are also key players who have the potential to score big wins. Bischu was super during the qualifiers as well, and meRz is also a good option. There's no doubt, Dignitas is deep. With SeleCT, however, it's SjoW who is equally important. Leaving the team for a brief spell in March, SjoW rejoined at the end of the month, and Dignitas is surely happy to have him back. SjoW has proved one of the most reliable players for Dignitas in the past, and earlier in the EG MC he scored some big wins, including an ace match victory over HerO.
Dignitas is a big name, but hasn't shown the results of an elite team recently. A lot will depend on who shows up for Dignitas, and what the very strong back bench can offer. But Dignitas deserves better than they've achieved so far, and perhaps this is the tournament where it'll happen.
Interview with JM Dualan, Manager of Dream Team Gaming
Thanks for speaking with us! Excited for your big teamleague debut?
JM Dualan: Yes, very excited. Actually this is one of the highlights of our career as a team!
Tell us about Dream Team Gaming. It's been a short, but fairly eventful ride so far!
JM: Well I have been with Sickness for the longest time, and I thought of the idea of starting a new team to get sponsored so these unsigned players who has a lot of talent will be able to have the same opportunities as those who are in known teams already. We started the team around December of 2011, and we have been doing well since then.
Your line-up might not be so well known. Who should IPL TAC watchers look out for?
JM: The players who I am looking forward to in the IPLTAC are Sickness, Someday, NalrA, and Peony... if he plays because he's still a student and can't really stay up late for some matches... hahaha.
Your most famous player might be GGanDoL, who made GSL Code A through what anyone would describe as a fluke, but he went on to prove that he belonged. Do you feel like we'll see more dtG in the GSL in the future?
JM: We hope for all of our players to eventually get into the GSL. As long as there are code A qualifiers, we will never give up and keep on trying!
Tell us about the qualification process. You guys reached the semis in an IPL TAC #2 qualifier, and made two semis in the IPL TAC #3 qualifiers. What went wrong?
JM: The number one problem we have is that most of the dtG players are either students or working part time. We are complete on the first day of the qualifiers because that's early Sunday morning for us, but always incomplete on Monday morning because most of the players have work or school the next day so they have to sleep early.
Was it frustrating to constantly fall short because of issues like that?
JM: Of course we felt bad whenever we fell short, but in the end I always congratulate everyone for doing an amazing job even as underdogs.
It's surely still a big deal though to come short. For a team like yours, this means a ton of exposure at the minimum. Like this interview for instance! ^^
JM: Yup :D We take pride in being underdogs or unknown. We've done things that we never expected to do. We've gone head to head with top teams around the world and our team is slowly getting known. I hope that in the future we continue to receive support from the community.
So despite not qualifying through the normal channels, dtG was given a life-line when Vile dropped out, on the basis of your many high finishes. Did you expect to eventually get in?
JM: Well, this season we were already alright with the fact that we didn't qualify. When I received the email all of us were happy with the decision. To be honest, I didn't expect our team to get in because other well known teams also did well in the qualifiers.
Did dtG deserve the spot?
JM: Well, I wouldn't want to say that we are the ones who truly deserve the spot as aTn-Type, Rox.Kis and ZeNEX are also fan favorites to be able to join, and I wouldn't be surprised if the slots were given to them. We were just really lucky that we were ahead in statistics.
How are you feeling about dtG's ability to make the most of it? What will you do to prepare?
JM: Well we will practice hard for the matches. Each dtG member has his own specialty so I want to be able to use that to our advantage. The players we will go against are not strangers to us so I hope that we will know what to do when the games come.
Your first opponent will be oGs, not what many would call an easy task. How do you feel about your chances?
JM: Actually we were talking about this and Sickness told me that are chance to beat oGs is 0.0000000000000001% hahahahaha.
That's what they told the Spartans at Thermopylae and, of course, they were right, but they made a good show of it.... hmm... perhaps 'Rudy' was the better example... or the Mighty Ducks? Never mind.
JM: We will do our best of course. As usual we are the underdogs, but I hope that we can pull through
There's going to be a lot of great teams competing in this event; what's your pitch as to why everyone should watch you guys?
JM: In most movies there are underdogs who are able to succeed in the end. Let's just hope that in IPL TAC these underdogs are us. hahaha
Well, that's great, thanks for talking with TL, and the best of luck! Any shoutouts?
JM: Shoutouts to all dtG players and fans. Shoutout to DUCKVILLELOL our team caster. Thanks to everyone who supported us through the months that we've been active!