Table of Contents
A through D
Illusion, Fenix, PartinG, Socke
VortiX, ViBE, Comm, Suppy
Sen, KiLLeR, HuK, Grubby
State, BabyKnight, MaFia, Rain
Players, brackets, and schedules on Liquipedia
by monk. and Waxangel
Group Previews, Part 1
With the StarCraft II World Championship Series Global Finals coming up in Shanghai this weekend, TeamLiquid reviewed the eight four-man groups that will make up the first day of play. The group formats are not round robin as they may appear, and are instead Korean-style "dual tournament" groups.
Effectively, each group is a miniature, four-man double elimination tournament. Players with two wins advance to the next round, while players with two losses are eliminated. Each individual series between players will be best of three.
Alright, let's get on to the previews. We begin with the first half of the groups, A through D.
By the magic of randomized seeding, two of the four Terrans in the entire tournament have been placed into one group. Not only that, but they're both in danger of dropping out before the round of sixteen. Terrans have always been somewhat underrepresented in international competition, but Korean players have been there to make sure the Terran race won their fair share of tournaments. However, a combination of variance and unfortunate scheduling meant all of the elite Korean Terrans were knocked out of WCS Korea, leaving us in the unfamiliar situation where Terrans must rest their hopes on international players.
The Two Terrans:
The sixteen year old Illusion comes in as one of the American scene's most interesting prospects. He impressed everyone with a great breakout performance at April's IPL4, where he defeated Korean pros Zenio, Ryung, and Oz. That was impressive enough to keep him relevant up to now, but a string of forgettable tournament results ever since is wearing at the patience of fans who expected him to quickly become a top international player. There's reason to believe that Illusion might live up to the hype at Shanghai, as he heads in after nearly two months of training in Korea with team Startale. The mixed results we've seen from foreigners who trained in Korea tell us that merely being in the heartland of StarCraft is not some magic road to enlightenment, but a disciplined stay with one of Korea's top teams makes one hope that Illusion can walk in the footsteps of successful players like SaSe, NaNiwa, and HuK.
Whatever happens, it's unlikely he'll follow a similar path as Fenix, the other New World Terran with Korean experience on his resume. The Peruvian is most known for his stint in Korea where he scored a near-miraculous three-kill over Korean oGs in the GSTL, which still stands out as the most impressive result of his StarCraft II career. After that, it would only be a slight exaggeration to say he disappeared off the face of earth. He left Korea and continued to play the occasional online tournament. When the time came for the WCS South America, he showed up with enough skill to take 2nd place and book a trip to China. The most bizarre detail of Fenix's rather strange SC2 career is his affiliation with the Korean team Incredible Miracle. At some point in time, he was announced as an official member of the team, only to never be mentioned by the team in any official capacity ever since. As far as we can tell, he's still with the team, and seeing as he's made his way to Shanghai, it's not like he's let them down. In any case, the WCS Global Finals will be a rare chance for the rest of the world to check up on Fenix.
Socke and a not-Fenix Peruvian
aTn.Socke: Germany's lone hope
All things considered, Socke's still the best German player around. And no, we're not just saying that because he's heading into Shanghai as the winner of WCS Germany. It's true that Socke has shown erratic short-term form, and his commitment to practice has been questioned. 2012 has been a weird year for Socke, without a single notable championship outside the aforementioned victory at WCS Germany. But if you compare Socke to the rest of his countrymen, no one else has achieved as much on the international scene with the same kind of long term consistency. Socke might be unfortunate to face an elite PvP player like PartinG in his very first match, but his vast body of work in tournaments gives him the advantage over the two Terrans who still have much to prove.
ST_PartinG: Soulful from Seoul
Not surprisingly, Korean players will be the favorites in most groups, and PartinG doesn't look like he's going to have much of a problem in group A. As a famous loudmouth, braggart, and self-promoter (in the most endearing way, we might add), PartinG hasn't always been able to walk the walk as well as he can talk the talk. However, the players to expose him have mostly been top Koreans like MVP, and with all due respect to Illusion, Fenix, and Socke, they're not on that level. There are questions awaiting PartinG further on in the tournament, where he will face tough Zerg opponents in his weak match-up of PvZ. He has talked up his 'soulful' Immortal-Sentry all-in a great deal as a solution, but it might just end up being another case of PartinG's empty bravado. However, PvT is the match-up he became famous for in the first place, and his PvP has recently been proven to be top notch at WCS Asia. It will be a huge surprise if he doesn't easily clear his first hurdle and advance 2 - 0 from group A.
A Korean places first, foreigners fight for second.
If you've watched a lot of international tournaments this year, this pattern should be pretty familiar. The Korean will almost certainly take first, leaving the three others to fight for advancement. It's hard to tell who has the edge between the non-Koreans, as their skill level is a bit shrouded: Illusion skipped recent tournaments to train in Korea, Fenix has been doing god-knows-what in Peru, while Socke is a player who has his ups and downs. It's very hard to choose one player, but forced to make a prediction, it has to be Socke and his experience advantage.
Initial Match 1: Illusion > Fenix
Initial Match 2: PartinG > Socke
Winners Match: PartinG > Illusion
Losers Match: Socke > Fenix
Final Match: Socke > Illusion
PartinG and Socke advance.
K3ǂVortiX: The other Durán
As far as foreigners go, very few have had as momentous and sudden rises as Vortix has shown us in the past few months. At first Vortix was only known as Lucifron's brother, the lesser sibling of an extremely talented ex-WC3 player. But one day in 2012, Vortix grew tired of being overshadowed by his brother, both in WC3 and SC2, and began to make a name for himself. Within months, Vortix grew to be one of the best in Europe, taking 3rd/4th place at IEM Cologne and 2nd at WCS Europe. And more recently, in the online RSL II tournament, Vortix took out big names such as Dimaga, Titan, Taeja, and Leenock for another 3rd place finish.
Vortix isn't just one of Europe's best chances to upset a Korean; he's also a fan favorite because he's one of our best chances to see ZvPs that don't involve Infestor/Broodlord turtling. Vortix has a rather entertaining style of ZvP that often incorporates Banelings and seemingly random lair aggression, but he's made it work well for himself. However, he has to get past an all Zerg group in the Ro32, and you can never really underestimate the upset potential of a mirror match-up.
IG.Comm: The Host's Hope
In the WCS Asia Finals, Comm was the man many looked to as the one who could prevent a full Korean sweep. After all, he was the local hero, the winner of WCS China. But it was not to be. Comm fell quickly and rather easily to two Korean Zergs, Roro and Curious by a 0 - 4 total score. According to some Chinese esports reporters, it was nothing to worry about as ZvZ was considered by far to be his weakest match-up, and he would be sure to do much better at the global finals. In fact, he is supposed to be very capable at ZvP, which is a good skill to have in this Protoss-dominated tournament. The bad news is that the StarCraft gods were not smiling on him during the group drawings, and put him up against three other Zergs. It appears that hope is only hanging on by a sliver.
ROOTViBE and EG.Suppy.RC: A Tale of Two Zergs
Both American Zergs, Vibe and Suppy, have had their own success but also vastly different stories leading up to that success. Suppy is the fun new kid on the street. Not long after he made a splash in the MLG circuit, he was picked up in a surprising move by EG and since then he's proceeded to dance his way to paycheck after paycheck. With the travel support that EG provided, Suppy found himself thrust into as many tournaments as he could handle and he surpassed everyone's expectations, save those of the clever scouts at EG. But one place he did not excel was WCS. As clearly one of the best players in North America, Suppy only managed to finish 9th-16th in WCS USA. Then in WCS NA, he lost the last spot into the grand finals to his teammate, Huk. But in a serendipitous turn of events for Suppy, fellow student and WCS Grand Finals qualified player, Ostojiy, forfeited his spot to focus on his studies, and as Suppy was allowed to take his place as the next highest ranking player.
On the other hand, Vibe's career so far seems to have been much more understated. In the early days of WoL, Vibe saw early success, and along with dde, he formed the core of NrG turned Sixjax, arguably the most successful pure North American team of its time. But after Sixjax disbanded, Vibe seemed to fall off the map and many wondered if he would ever come back to his former glory. He failed to make significant inroads at MLGs, produced only slightly above average results (for a North American) in NASL, and was rarely invited to special events. But WCS seems to have been his calling. Out of nowhere, Vibe took the WCS USA Championship, and then proceeded to place second at WCS NA, losing only to WCS Canadian Champion, Scarlett. By proving that his first victory was no fluke, Vibe suddenly showed up on everyone's radars once again.
v v v
This group is obviously all about whose ZvZ is better. While Vortix has never really been known for his ZvZ, he is, by quite a bit, the best player in this group. Then it comes down to Vibe and Suppy, both of whom have shown much ZvZ prowess lately. Vibe owes his WCS success largely to his ZvZ. In his WCS history, Vibe has beaten top Americans including Idra, Hawk, goswser, and then Idra again. And Suppy, not to be outdone, in the most recent MLG, took out Mafia, Ret, Revival, and jookTo. Between the two American Zergs, it's a real toss up, but Suppy's recent ZvZ victories seem to be just slightly more impressive. Unfortunately, Comm seems to be the odd one out; with a notably weak ZvZ, Comm probably won't be able to show off his fabled legendary ZvP. But then again, it's ZvZ. So who knows?
Initial Match 1: Vortix > Vibe
Initial Match 2: Suppy > Comm
Winners Match: Vortix > Suppy
Losers Match: Vibe > Comm
Final Match: Suppy > Vibe
Vortix and Suppy advance.
Gamania.Sen: Welcome back!
The WCS Global Finals is turning into something of an esports reunion, with familiar faces from the earlier StarCraft landscape showing up again after disappearing from the Western scene. It seems like just weeks ago that Sen was a regular on the international circuit, travelling to tournaments around the world and earning a reputation for always taking third place. We've barely seen him outside of Taiwan since early 2012, but when he did show his face again at WCS Asia last month, it was good to see that he looked as good as ever. He managed to beat the Korean Miya 2 - 1, and looked pretty impressive in losses to CJ_Hero and Creator. Alongside other Zergs like Nerchio, Scarlett, Vortix, and Stephano, Sen's someone foreigners will be putting their hopes on to beat the fearsome Koreans.
d.KiLLeR: The South American champion
KiLLeR comes in with the distinct honor of being the South American champion, though it's an honor that's quickly put in perspective when you notice that he beat players like Capoch and Naxx to get here (hipster points to you if you've heard about either one of them). Looking at Killer's results in international tournaments gives you a clearer picture of his skill level: pretty decent. He plays evenly with the better American players, and struggles against top Europeans and Koreans, a level of play which would probably have seen him through the NA qualifiers if he had competed there. This is one of the softer groups of the tournament, and we might see Killer continue to keep representing into the Ro16 if he's lucky.
EG.HuK.RC: The difference a year makes
2012 has been a year of decline for the once high-flyer HuK, and he is far from the player that was once a Code S regular and capable of giving Korean players a run for their money. He just barely made it to Shanghai at all, narrowly getting past the cutoff lines for elimination at WCS Canada and WCS NA. It's strange to say this of player who was the best foreigner in 2011, but HuK is the least favored player in one of this tournament's softer groups. Of course, you have to take HuK's experience into consideration, and respect the fact that he can still have occasional flashes of brilliance. But overall, he's in the same pot with Killer in being an underdog of the group.
Grubby: Line in the sand
Grubby's been the posterboy of slow and steady improvement, going from a player only known for his WarCraft III reputation to one of the top players in Europe. Even forays into casting (where he showed, in contrast, a rather meteoric ascent) couldn't impede his progress, and he put in a great top six performance at WCS Europe to confirm a trip to China. The next step for Grubby is probably the most important and most difficult one: become a championship contender. Grubby hasn't actually won anything in StarCraft II yet, and his inability to take out championship class Europeans and the occasional Korean invader has a lot to do with it. Winning this group won't prove too much, but it would be an encouraging sign that Grubby's progress hasn't stopped yet.
New World Blues
The lack of a Korean player really does blow this group wide open, but the players hailing from the Americas are still the underdogs. Sen impressed us enough at WCS Asia to pick him as the favorite, and Grubby's steady, no frills performances make him the likely second place finisher. However, HuK could always win a PvP, and KilleR might show he has hidden depths as well.
Initial Match 1: Sen > Killer
Initial Match 2: Grubby > HuK
Winners Match: Sen > Grubby
Losers Match: Killer > HuK
Final Match: Grubby > Killer
Sen and Grubby advance.
Quantic.State: Where'd you go?
At this point, State is a bit of a mystery. State, along with Insur, were the only two relatively unknown players who qualified from North America. And unless you closely follow the North American scene, you'd probably have no idea where State came from. Since qualifying for the BWC, State, along with his teammate, Illusion, has traveled to the Startale house to diligently prepare for the upcoming tournament. And though he was originally stated to attend the most recent MLG, State curiously did not travel to the States and instead decided to stay in Korea. The BWC will be State's re-debut after months of isolation in the harsh wilds of Korea, and we really do hope he'll be in the right state of mind as he ventures back onto the main stage with its big, bright, and often dazzling lights.
FXO.BabyKnight: The Anti-JYP
In interviews, many players who qualified for BWC acknowledge that they will be using other tournaments in late October and early November to gauge their skill and preparedness for the BWC. For most players, this trial tournament was the MLG Fall Championships, but for BabyKnight, it was the Lone Star Clash 2 that occurred last weekend. Unfortunately for him, Lone Star Clash only confirmed what the rest of the world already knows about BabyKnight, that he can beat anyone in PvT/PvP, but still struggles against top Zergs. While he bested top Terrans, theStC and Polt with a 4-0 score, he fell easily to top Zergs, Stephano and Violet, with a 0-4 score. BabyKnight will probably do well in this group, as he stands good chances against the relatively unknown Zerg and the relatively unknown Protoss; he can even potentially take out the favorite of the tournament in Rain. But once BabyKnight makes it into bracket play, with about a 50% chance to hit another Protoss and a 50% chance to hit a Zerg, he will need some bracket-luck to make it far.
iM.MaFia: The Other Guy from Oceania
The best description we can give for Mafia is that he is the second place finisher in the Oceania qualifiers. But if you ask MKP or any of the Startale players sans Life, second place is deeply unfulfilling. After all, it seems that the top Oceania finisher, Moonglade, has outshined him in every way. Even before SC2 was released, Moonglade seemed to have a distinct advantage, with his robust background in WC3 while Mafia had no PC gaming experience. (Though this doesn't include Card Game experience, as Mafia was the 2004 and 2006 Australian champion of Magic: The Gathering.) And at the recent MLG Fall Championships, when all the known Australian players trekked together to compete in their first MLG, it was Moonglade who drew the most attention, beating Huk and MC, while Mafia failed to turn heads, losing to Suppy and Sheth. Mafia may have a good future in front of him, but for now, Mafia plays second fiddle to Moonglade's much larger fiddle.
SKTelecom_Rain: The Public Enemy
Simply put, Rain is the best of all the KeSPA players, and the strong favorite to win this entire tournament. Rain first gained immense fame in the foreign community on Sept 19th when he beat two top Terrans, Taeja and Polt, showing both incredible stability on defense and flair with templar drops. On this day, Rain's fan club was born. He then cemented his PvP skill when he beat herO[jOin], Liquid'Hero, and Parting in the WCS Asia finals. And finally, he topped it off with an OSL championship, when he effortlessly beat DRG, innovating the PvZ match-up a bit while doing so.
But you don't get to the top without making a few enemies along the way. Rain, at some point, has beaten most of the Koreans going to the BWC, and whether for revenge or envy at his position, every Korean interviewed by PlayersCut has noted Rain as the player they'd most like to match-up against. With a target on his head, and 31 arrows pointing towards it, Rain will have an extra challenge heading into this weekend's tournament.
Perhaps a bit to easy to call?
If you looked at this group and only this group, you would think that Blizzard had randomized the seedings much less than they actually did. After all, you have your obvious pick for first place in Rain. You have your European who has the potential to go far, but probably won't win it all in BabyKnight. And then you have two extra players from those other regions.
Initial Match 1: BabyKnight > State
Initial Match 2: Rain > MaFia
Winners Match: Rain > BabyKnight
Losers Match: State > MaFia
Final Match: BabyKnight > State
Rain and BabyKnight advance.