Table of Contents
E through H
Stephano, HerO, IdrA, RorO
Curious, TitaN, MajOr, herO
Insur, Lowely, Levin, Lucifron
mOOnGLaDe, Scarlett, Nerchio, Creator
Players, brackets, and schedules on Liquipedia
by monk. and Waxangel
Group Previews, Part 2
We continue with the second half of our WCS Global Finals preview, containing the two groups that are vying for the title of 'group of death.'
As explained in part one, the groups are played out in Korean "dual-tournament" style, a miniature double elimination bracket. Two wins mean advancement and two losses mean elimination, with no meaningless games.
EG.Stephano.RC: Leader of the resistance
At the beginning of Starcraft II, if you told people that two years into its run as an e-sport, that a foreigner would have a real shot at winning a world championship, most people would have laughed in your face. Koreans have always owned Starcraft, and the notion that the WORLD champion could be someone from a country outside the mecca of esports was farcical. Now, with the finals upon us, there is one foreigner with a complete disdain for old ideas who knows he can become world champion and take home the largest prize in Starcraft history.
Stephano's probably not the hero foreigners imagined they'd be cheering for at the beginning of Starcraft II. Not even a relationship with IdrA could really prepare them for a player who's been through a high profile contract row, a very public run in with the police, and a suspension by his own team. But altogether, it's become a large part of his appeal, alongside his prodigious StarCraft skill. Some people might hate his aloof attitude that's far from that of a model professional, but most others love him for his confidence and straight-forwardness, never pretending that glory is worth more than making lots of money.
Maybe giving a little plot twist before the big show, Stephano, after having a lackluster performance at ESWC in his home country of France, decided that he needed to focus a bit more for his next tournament at Lone Star Clash 2. When asked if he was staying with the rest of the players at the TeSPA house, having a good time with everyone else, he surprisingly said he wasn't. He would go on to win the tournament, beating Bomber in the finals and putting more money into his bank account. Stephano might not always be the most serious or focused pro, but you know that with $100,000 on the line, he will be at his best.
Liquid`HerO: The tragic Korean
It always seems like when things are finally going well for Hero, something bad happens and it ends with him sadly tweeting something vague and melancholy. Since his championship win at Dreamhack Winter last year, Hero has experienced a mix of good and bad times in 2012. He made it to the Code S quarterfinals and semifinals, losing both times in romps to Squirtle and Rain respectively. He placed highly in a number of foreign tournaments, but wasn't able to win another title. With the emergence of TaeJa, who took on the role as the Liquid ace and won multiple titles, Hero got pushed to the wayside.
He's been on a poor run lately, and things only got worse when he was thrown into a first round match-up with Stephano. Ever since the NASL3 finals, HerO just hasn't been able to beat Stephano, whether it's online or in a live setting. Making matters worse, ZvP has tilted over to the Zerg's side since then, and Hero has struggled in what used to be his signature match-up. Becoming the world champion would give HerO his fairytale ending, but in a tough group with two great Zergs, and his nemesis Rain likely waiting in the Ro16, he will need to play the best he has in his life to earn it.
Samsung_RorO: The wrench in the works
RorO, while being a very decent player in Brood War, is in a group with three huge fan favorites, and the vast majority of viewers wouldn't really care if he went 0 - 2 and straight out of the tournament. Sadly for them, Roro has shown Code S caliber play, and has looked improved with every game he plays. A one in a hundred mistake was all that kept him from making a deep run in Code S this season, and he is sneakily one of the favorites to win the entire tournament.
The thing you need to understand about RorO is his famous reputation from the Brood War days as a liquibet and fantasy league destroyer. Whenever people thought he would do poorly, he suddenly flipped a switch and played like a top class player. When people saw his good play and predicted him to win, he'd fall back into a slump. It's like everything he does is tuned to maximize the tears of the fans. Since he's flying under the radar right now in a group full of popular players, the outcome here seems inevitable.
EG.IdrA.RC: The American Gracken
Idra fans will scream bloody murder that this was David Kim's revenge for Idra bashing him and Blizzard for the last - well, ever since the game was released - but it's not all bad. How I see it, it's a no lose situation for arguably the most popular player in the foreign world. If he's eliminated, then it's no big deal. He got put into a group with an elephant, a Code S semi-finalist, and the best foreigner in the world, and wasn't able to make it out. Any player in the tournament would have a hard time qualifying out of this group. If he wins, then there will be a tidal wave of 'GRACK IS BACK!', and it won't even matter if he gets slaughtered in the Ro16. Idra making it out of this group will be a sign that he's still a top player when he's on his game, something that his fans have believed for years, and it will make up entirely for a poor 2012. This group is insanely difficult for Idra to get out of, but not impossible. He gets a lot of hate for not being as good as he was in 2011, but it's not like he isn't capable of taking the occasional game off top Koreans and foreigners.
All eyes on E
This is the group, along with Group H, that everyone will be tuning into see. Will Stephano start off the world championships looking like a contender, or will he look like the weak player that lost to Lucifron badly in the Stim to Win tournament and Mana at the ESWC? Can Hero swallow his nerves, get over the gut punch losses to Zergs in recent weeks in the GSL, and make it out against a player who has terrorized him in the past? Will Roro get out of this group and seriously piss off at least two fan bases in the process? And can Idra, the foreigner that at the beginning of Starcraft 2, most people thought would have the best chance of conquering the Koreans, finally come back to being one of the best foreigners in the world?
Stephano gave us a scare, but reaffirmed the universal belief in him after he took no prisoners at Lone Star and won convincingly. Hero, while extremely talented, still has problems closing out long games against Zerg, and Stephano isn't the best cure for his nightmares. Looking at the ZvZ between Roro and Idra, on paper you would have to give the edge to Roro, but the KeSPA star didn't look too hot in the match-up in his most recent GSL games. Idra getting out of this group would probably start some sort of World War 3 fight between fanboys, and while we'd love to see it, it's still a long shot. For the fans who are hoping to see a non-Korean be named the first SC2 world champion, the best bet is the controversial French Zerg from Evil Geniuses, and not the controversial American Zerg from Evil Geniuses.
Initial Match 1: Stephano > HerO
Initial Match 2: Roro > IdrA
Winners Match: Stephano > RorO
Losers Match: HerO > IdrA
Final Match: Roro > HerO
Stephano and RorO advance.
ST_Curious: His own worst enemy
It was no surprise to fans of the Korean scene that Curious made the final cut into the WCS grand finals. Playing one of the safest, no-frills Zerg styles out there, Curious has been solid enough to make it into the past six Code S tournaments. In fact, many would say he plays the recent hive-turtle style so well that he should be a title contender at any tournament... if not for the fact that he performs terribly under pressure. In low-stakes games in the lower rounds of tournaments, Curious looks like a world beater, but he starts to crack as he advances further, making errors and poor decisions that cost him dearly. For his six Code S appearances, he's never made it past the Ro16. Considering all that, Curious should easily make it out of this first round group. The real problems for him lie in the elimination stages where Curious will need to hold down his emotions and find his usual form.
RoX.KIS.TitaN: The Russian Champion
One year ago, TitaN showed up at WCG 2011 and surprised everyone with a top-four finish. You could say he lived up to his potential and hype to some degree by becoming a regular on the tournament scene, and also by taking first place at the tough WCS Russia nationals. While that's all fine and dandy, the problem for TitaN, like it is for many foreigners at the WCS finals, is that it's just not enough to be one of the best players in your national, or even continental scenes. To succeed in Shanghai you have to be world-class (in a world where Koreans live), something TitaN hasn't proved himself to be yet. His showings in 2012 live tournaments besides WCS Russia have been disappointing, but online he's shown he can take on elite Europeans and steal games off Koreans with all-ins. WCS will be the test to see if TitaN has truly grown since one year ago.
ROOTMajOr: The hero Mexico needs...
MajOr is an endangered species in the StarCraft world: a good, North American Terran. Everyone in the NA scene is fond of pointing him out as a top player, and even Koreans have mentioned him in a positive light. However, while MajOr has dominated Latin American competition and done well in North American tournaments, he's yet to get a good result in a tournament on the international level. While his overall tournament placements haven't been great, individual victories such as his 3 - 2 win over online beast HyuN in TSL4 suggest that the final rankings don't always do him justice. If MajOr truly has better games to show or more skill to reveal, now would be a good time to do it.
MajOr and his associates confer on how bulls*** his group is.
CJ_herO: ...the hero Mexico will probably get
It's always a headache when players share ID's, and even more of a headache when both of them are good, high-profile players. Like most of the leaders of the KeSPA transition to StarCraft II, CJ Entus' herO wasn't a star in Brood War or someone people expected to be at the head of the pack (a blow to elephant theorists). Regardless of expectations, herO quickly made a name for himself by tearing through the WCS tournaments in Korea and Asia on the back of excellent PvP and PvZ skills. With the indifferent form of Liquid`HerO at the moment, you could say that CJ_HerO is actually the better hero going into this tournament - quite an impressive achievement for a player who's only been playing StarCraft II full time for half a year. Depending on how their tournaments turn out, we might end up calling CJ_HerO plain old "herO," while the one from Liquid becomes the one who needs the distinction.
Too Cruel Koreans
Let's look at the two ways the groups could have turned out:
A) Koreans spread evenly around eight groups so more foreigners have a chance to make it through to the Ro16 in second place. High possibility all the Koreans get through, resulting in an all-Korean round of eight and beyond.
B) Some groups stacked with Koreans while others with none at all. A few foreigners fall to tough two-Korean groups, but overall the brackets work out so that there's at least a few non-Koreans in the later stages.
I could have lived with option B as a way of serving the greater good, IF Blizzard hadn't made it so that Nerchio, Scarlett, and Stephano are all in danger of dropping out in the Ro32 right now. Now, we might see fan favorites go out in the first round, AND end up with an all-Korean semi-final anyway. Alas, MajOr and TitaN, your sacrifice here may be for naught.
Initial Match 1: Curious > TitaN
Initial Match 2: herO > MajOr
Winners Match: Curious > herO
Losers Match: TitaN > MajOr
Final Match: herO > TitaN
Curious and herO advance.
Surprises from the Americas: iS.Insur and CNB.Levin
While there's no WCS equivalent to the mysterious central Asian player at every WCG, a tournament with the aspiration to be 'global' will inevitably have some participants who are not as well-known as the rest. It's also inevitable that a tournament with a group of death with have a group of not-death. Thus, group G.
Insur was one of the big surprises that came out of the WCS North American region. Beneath a thin upper crust, NA is known to have a lot of mid-tier depth, and it was impossible to predict who would be able to take the global final spots that were up for grabs. In the end, Insur managed to follow up his strong WCS USA performance with another good showing at WCS North America, placing tie-6th to ensure a trip to Shanghai.
Levin was a similar surprise from the South American region. The former WarCraft III pro edged out his more famous countrymen Tunico and Potiguar, as well as other South American players to take the third and final seed into the WCS Global finals.
We have to be honest: this is about as far as these two are likely to go. It's great that they made it here, and perhaps some will see it as a success of the WCS system. But as far as determining a world champion goes, neither of the two have proven they can be competitive at the international level.
North Americans have a
FXO.LoWeLy: Not so Lowely
Lowely called us out for placing him 23rd of 32 in our pre-WCS Europe power rankings, the tournament he would eventually take fourth place in. It would make sense to re-evaluate our opinion of him and give him some more credit this time around. However, it would make even more sense to continue to downplay his ability and get yet even more cheap attention when he calls us out again, and just pretend we were right all along if he doesn't do well.
In all seriousness, Lowely's WCS Europe run was very impressive, with the Belarusian taking series wins over JonnyRecco, ThorZaIN, Happy, BabyKnight, and SortOf, while only losing to Stephano and Lucifron. In our defense, it was hard to tell he would do so well from his past tournament results (to those who predicted a strong Lowely performance, we tip our hipster hats to you). Lowely hasn't done so well in online tournaments thereafter, but perhaps he's the kind of player who does better when the stakes are higher. We're eager to see if he can bring a repeat performance.
K3ǂLucifron: Overnight Sensation
Alongside his brother VortiX, Lucifron experienced an incredible rise to fame in a short period. Though he had a reputation for being a skilled Terran player, he barely attracted any mainstream attention until his breakout performance at the WCS Europe finals where he showed impressive play to earn a third place finish.
What made Lucifron an instant star, compared to his three group mates who also did well at WCS? Part of it must be that Lucifron just did better than the other three, as third place in Europe is better than third in the USA, South America, or even fourth in Europe. But half of it just seems to be dumb luck, as all of the circumstances worked out so that Lucifron got a chance to show himself at his very best in front of the largest audience possible. He faced Stephano, the most popular player in the world, in WCS Europe, the best produced tournament in the world, and Stephano just happened to want to play some seriously epic games. It was a perfect storm of circumstances.
Lucifron should take care now. He used a more established star to make a name for himself, and his opponents in the group will be quite eager to do the same to him.
Initial Match 1: Lowely > Insur
Initial Match 2: Lucifron > Levin
Winners Match: Lucifron > Lowely
Losers Match: Insur > Levin
Final Match: Lowely > Insur
Lucifron and Lowely advance.
Acer.Scarlett: The hope
Back in April, Scarlett shocked the world by coming out of seemingly nowhere to defeat TeriusPrime and Demuslim at IPL4. After that strong debut where she even gave Oz a run for his money, Scarlett has continued to improve drastically, and is now the undisputed best North American player with tournament wins at both WCS Canada and WCS North America. Unlike many other North Americans, if Scarlett makes it to the bracket stage, she'll actually be favored over most Europeans and she even stands a fighting chance against the Koreans. She's beaten plenty of them online, and recently proved she could handle them in a live environment at MLG Dallas. Alas, this is a group of death, and favorites to win other groups face a very real chance of elimination. Like her first opponent mOOnGLaDe, Scarlett is a promising player who could have shone brightly this tournament, but may have her light snuffed out quickly instead.
Nv.mOOnGLaDe: Wonder from down under
mOOnGLaDe, the WCS Oceania champion, must be face-palming on the level of Idra at the sight of his group. He might be raking his memory, trying to think of something he might have done to gravely offend Blizzard.
A few weeks ago, mOOnGLaDe was not on anyone’s radar. After all, players from the SEA region seldom participate in international events, and it's hard to know their current shape, even of their best player by reputation. So no one could have predicted his impressive run at the MLG Fall Championship, where he took out both Huk and MC. As Grubby calls it, this is the “The Australia Effect”. The isolation provided from living on his own separate continent provides certain advantages for a player. On one hand, his playstyle lies hidden and unexposed to those who would want to research him. But on the other, he may not have access to the top tier practice partners or viable connections to the best servers. mOOnGLaDe's unique set of advantages and disadvantages, combined with his obvious skill, puts him in a unique position going into this tournament. Unfortunately, that's probably not going to be enough to see him through this group.
Acer.Nerchio: Catching up
It was over a year ago when Nerchio and Stephano were both known as the two "pretty good", wonky European Zergs who preferred heavy Infestor player to the much more established Mutalisk styles. But in October of 2011, Stephano made his first breakthrough after winning IPL3; since then, he has not never looked back. Nerchio, was left to look on from the shadows of battle.net, apparently not interested in the fame and fortune Stephano was reaping in bushels. Nerchio took things at his own pace, and in July of 2012, he finally accomplished what many fans knew he was capable of, winning a major tournament in HomeStoryCup V. Since that victory, Nerchio has kept up his reputation as Europe's second best Zerg, showing that he is one of the only foreigners who is able to consistently take games off of Korean players. Now, it's time to look to the next frontier: overtaking Stephano.
CreatorPrime: The Korean Champion
GSL has taken to calling Creator the 'Hephaestoss,' named after the mythical god of the forge. It's very apt for the player who codified the the colossus-double forge in PvT, but even without much Terran competition at the WCS finals, it's a fitting nickname. Alongside his outstanding defense, Creator's greatest strength might be his ability to temper, harden and hone some of the most efficient and widely copied builds Protoss has. The reason infestors and brood lords aren't as big a problem for Creator is because he is extremely good at killing Zergs before they get there. Creator's arsenal of three-base, pre-hive timing attacks are some of the best out there, whether he goes for one based on immortals and blink stalkers, colossi, or chargelots and archons.
Creator did show some weakness at WCS Asia when he was goaded into playing longer PvZs, where his finesse and decision making were not always optimal. If his opponents can convince him to play longer games or hold out against his timing attacks, they do have a chance. However, Creator's execution is excellent, and merely knowing his builds, strengths, and weaknesses won't mean anything to the three foreign Zergs if they can't execute on his level.
Even though this group is very stacked with brilliant players, at the end of the day, Creator should be the favorite of the group. Perceived PvZ imbalance irregardless, he is the Korean champion. Just think on that for a second, the KOREAN champion. And mOOnGlade, while showing great results lately, is not nearly as consistent or proven as other players in this group. So it seems as if the second advancing spot will come down to a team-kill between the twin Zergs (though, you hardly need to make a race distinction for this team) from Acer.
So, how to decide between the two? Well, in the recent, not much publicized RSL tournament, the two teammates met in combat in the winners bracket semifinals and Scarlett took the win in a 3-1 victory. Not only that, Scarlett then proceeded to stomp on another Zerg in Vortix, proving that first victory was no fluke and that she may possess an understanding of ZvZ no other foreigner has yet to grasp. Oh, and she was undefeated in ZvZ at WCS North America and Canada, for what that's worth. We're going to call for Scarlett to make it through.
Initial Match 1: Scarlett > mOOnGLaDe
Initial Match 2: Creator > Nerchio
Winners Match: Creator > Scarlett
Losers Match: Nerchio > mOOnGLaDe
Final Match: Scarlett > Nerchio
Creator and Scarlett advance.