Table of Contents
Bring Your Own
Check out DreamHack Bucharest on Liquipedia
The Group Stages
Stockholm, Summer, Valencia, Bucharest, and now, Winter. The 2012 season of the DreamHack EIZO Open will end at the Grand Finale at DreamHack Winter in Jönköping, Sweden, where the champion of champions will be crowned.
The format has changed for this final event, with the twenty top players of the season being placed into four groups. In a nod to DreamHack's foundation as a massive LAN party, four competitors will join them from the bring your own computer open tournament. Results from the groups will determine seeding in the final, twelve-man bracket, with the finals taking place on Saturday, Nov 24th at the Komplett.se Arena.
The Group Stages
Group A: Top heavyby Pokebunny
Liquid`TaeJa, EG.Stephano.RC, RoX.KIS.Fraer, Quantic.TheStC, ROG.elfi
BYOC Player #1
While this group may look a bit generic, it has an interesting dynamic that makes it a bit more competitive than it may appear at first glance. Consisting of two international powerhouses, a player vying for the title of the 2012 version of PuMa, and two European Protosses known to upset someone when you least expect it, Group A will perhaps have the most interesting matches of all the groups in terms of entertainment value. While there are clear favorites, the players looking for the upsets are certainly capable of doing so, and I’d honestly be surprised if this group plays out completely straight.
EG.Stephano.RC and Liquid`TaeJa are no strangers to the top flight of international competition. With Stephano cleaning up Bomber for another trophy at Lone Star Clash 2 and TaeJa painfully falling from Code S in GSL, the momentum certainly seems to favor Stephano, but TaeJa probably would be considered to have a higher peak than Stephano this year, being hailed as #1 in the world at one point, if only for a moment. Canl TaeJa come back and prove himself dominator of the lands beyond Korea once again, or will the foreign hero stop him in his tracks early on in the tournament? Whatever happens, their match has potential to be epic. Just look at what happened the last time they faced in the group stages!
Regardless of the result, both players should comfortably advance into the next stage of the tournament as long as they aren’t having an absolutely abysmal day. Stephano and TaeJa are veterans of the scene, and their flexible styles backed up by mechanically solid play leave them perfect contenders for foreign tournament titles. It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see them both face off once again in the grand finals after it’s all said and done.
Quantic’s World Tour
Adopting the EG strategy of “send our Korean Terran to every foreign tournament and watch him clean up” has shown some success for Quantic and TheStC, although he hasn’t quite been dominating as much as they might have hoped. Still, with top four finishes in both DreamHack and MLG, facing tougher player pools than PuMa did in 2011, TheStC can’t be counted out of a group with the aces of Liquid and EG. For better or for worse, TheStC does indeed represent the generic Korean Terran that we’ve come to know and love, and if there’s one thing we know about said Koreans, it’s that they’ll always manage to find their way into the top eight. If he can manage to upset either Stephano or TaeJa, he’ll be well on his way to an excellent tournament showing.
A Friar and an Elf Walk into a LAN...
If you asked people to rank the Protosses of the international scene, there would probably be a crazy amount of variance in where ROG.elfi and RoX.KIS.Fraer showed up on people's lists. They're both players who are relatively of the spotlight, and can use offbeat builds to catch their more well-known opponents off guard. Both are sneakily on the rise, consistently making it into the middle rounds of major tournaments while scoring upsets that might not be upsets anymore. Most recently, Elfi had a great 2nd place performance at the GD invitational, while Fraer had a good Ro8 run at DH Bucharest.
While the duo are trying to make a push into the top echelon of European competition, it's pretty obvious that their three group mates are another kind of challenge altogether. It would be a surprise to see either advance out of the group, but it certainly isn’t impossible. Both have solid PvT, and there's the chance of an upset against TheStC. If the winner of the PvP can upset TheStC, and then beat whoever comes up from the BYOC, a third place finish is not out of the picture entirely. And should either of them score an unlikely victory against Stephano or TaeJa, then the entire group would be throw into chaos.
Group B: Did someone say PvP?by Waxangel
mouz.MaNa, Acer.Bly, Quantic.SaSe, WW.StarNaN, aTn.Socke, BYOC Player #2
While other groups might lay claim to the group of death, Group B is the leading candidate for the title of group of parity. In part, it's because of the overall evenness in skill. But more so than that, this group is about parity through PvP, with the highly unpredictable nature of the match-up meaning just about anyone could get through. All we need now is NightEnD to fight his way out of the BYOC and into this group, for it to become almost perfectly one-note.
Acer.Bly is the exception in an otherwise even group, looking like the early favorite to finish in the top half and make it through. He has the convenience of having to prepare for only ZvP, the match-up that happens to be his best statistically, and the one that helped him to a second place finish back at DH Bucharest (wins vs. MaNa and Fraer in the elimination bracket). Besides MaNa, none of the players in the group are particularly known for their PvZ ability, and overall Bly is in a very good spot as he looks to repeat his great performance from Bucharest.
Yes, Acer has a white jersey that's NOT super ugly.
Yes, Acer has a white jersey that's NOT super ugly.
On a side note, Protoss fans must have mixed feelings about Bly in this group. While they'd love their mortal enemy to lose, the failure of a lone Zerg to clear a Protoss group wouldn't exactly support the popular imba complaints of late.
The Circle of Protoss
There's an extremely relevant precedent we can look back at as we try to figure out how this group might turn out. Back at the IEM Season VI World Championship, Group B ended up with a very similar composition, where five Protoss players and an out-of-place Nerchio fought for three spots in the playoff bracket (the DH winter finale and IEM's Season VII bracket system are almost exactly the same).
However, when you look at the specific scores, you can see that things were decided by razor-thin margins. The top-three all finished 3 – 2 and were only separated by map scores and head to heads. It was one of those groups where every single map mattered, and it's likely to be the same case in Jönköping as well
Now, while things are likely to be very tight, there are a few factors outside of the game that might give us a hint at who might have the best chance of making it through. For instance, mouz.MaNa's a player who seems to be adept at beating long odds, and simply finding ways to win games even when he's not favored. It seemed like an upset when he won ESWC in a pool that contained players like ForGG, Squirtle, and Stephano, but perhaps it wasn't that much of a surprise at all. Contrast that with Quantic.SaSe, a Korea-trained pro who's probably the best player in this group when he's on his game, but one who often has trouble performing up to expectations at tournaments. To paraphrase multiple GSL champion Mvp, "winners gonna win."
Along those lines, aTn.Socke used to be a player you just couldn't count out, but a string of poor performances recently forces one to reconsider. He dropped out early in the WCS Europe Finals, and then went 0 - 4 at the Global Finals to become one of the the first players eliminated. On the other hand, Starnan balances out the feng shui of the group by coming in on an upswing, having surprised many at DH Bucharest by placing top four. Though few fans would pick him or Socke to get through, the doors are deceptively wide open. Even a losing record could be enough for qualification if one player happens to berserk with a 4 -1 or 5 - 0 record, and with the upset potential of PvP, who says they can't be that player?
Group Cby tree.hugger
Acer.Nerchio, mTw.DIMAGA, inFi.TargA, Liquid`TLO, XMG.monchi, BYOC Player #3
Sometimes, in that quiet moment of lucidity that comes right before one falls asleep, I wonder "Where are all the zergs these days?" I remember that one French guy; he was probably good for a while. And there were those two Korean guys. One was named after his neighborhood, and the other a popular beverage.
It's really a shame that Sc2 has become a game where Zergs just can't get by. Especially foreign Zergs. They've always had a hard time, but recently, it's been near impossible for a Zerg to make name for themselves.
That's why I heartily applaud the Dreamhack groups, especially Group C. Having a group of four Zergs guarantees that at least two will make the bracket stage. If a Zerg comes out of the open bracket (highly unlikely; there are no good Zergs signed up for the BYOC) then it'll be two Zergs. I don't mind the affirmative action in this case, the Zergs need it.
Of course, XMG.monchi is virtually guaranteed to advance from this group as the only non-Zerg. The Austrian Protoss usually comes into tournaments as a big underdog, then surprises with a strong showing. In this tournament, he's the obvious favorite to top this group without dropping a game.
The rest of the Zergs in this group are quite undistinguished. The most unremarkable of the bunch is Acer.Nerchio. The Polish player has struggled mightily since switching from Random to Zerg. Frankly, he should probably switch to Terran or something. Liquid`TLO has just returned from a six month vacation in some foreign country, where he was presumably not keeping up with his practice. Expect him to throw together some dull strategies that were relevant this summer and to not get much out of them. inFi.TargA hails from Norway, which means that he is probably a top level cross country skier, who has stumbled upon Dreamhack by accident and bribed his way in. Expect super passive, defensive play from him. Finally, there's mTw.DIMAGA, who actually ought to do well, since it's reported that he has no social life, and has not even made eye contact with a pretty woman in over a year. Gamespot users and Kotaku editors can attest that this is extremely correlated with gaming skill, so if any Zerg is to buck the trend of imbalance, it might be him.
Oh well, it's not like any of the players in this group have any kind of fanbase, so nobody will probably watch this anyway.
Group D: Northern Promisesby Waxangel
EG.ThorZaIN.RC, Mill.ForGG, Liquid`Ret, Liquid`HerO, Mionix.NaNiwa, BYOC Player #4
Photo: DreamHackThe Heroes
There's no doubt as to who the crowd in Sweden will be cheering for. Mionix.NaNiwa and EG.ThorZaIN.RC, the two best Swedes in StarCraft II, have both made it into the final tournament of the year. And somehow, both have been drawn into the same group.
It's a terrible shame that a random draw turned out that way. With the two fan favorites put together into the toughest group of the tournament, it becomes likely that at least one will be eliminated early, if not both. NaNiwa's semi-resurgence at MLG leads one to believe he has a good, fighting chance in this group, but ThorZaIN's recent difficulties fighting against Koreans makes one fearful of a quick exit for the Stockholm champion.
If there's anything to give the Swedes (players and fans) hope, it's that famous victory ThorZaIN won in Stockholm earlier this year. It was the moment that proved to even the most cynical and jaded fans (including this writer), that even if cold reality and colder Koreans are the victors the majority of the time, fairy tale endings do happen. It took a special kind of magic for ThorZaIN to defeat Monster and Polt back then, and if that magic can be conjured again, the Swedish heroes will have a chance.
Not Quite Villains
It would be fun if the players in the heroes' way were at least fun to root against, but even that's been denied to the fans. Liquid`Ret was one of the foreigner fan favorites at last year's DHW, and even in his presently diminished form, he continues to play that role. Mill.ForGG with a smug grin and thousands of hours of streaming, has endeared himself to the international community as a peculiar but oddly likeable Korean. Liquid`HerO, as we all know, was one of the first Koreans to gain wide scale international appeal, using a combination of flamboyant hair and even more flamboyant play to woo viewers. Oh, and they're all really good, which is why this is the group of death and all. At this rate, expect SortOf to be drawn into this group as well, to make it even more deadly, and even more painful for the Swedish fans.
To talk about Liquid`HerO once more, he comes in as the defending champion of DreamHack Winter.
Some players have taken an emotionally detached approach to pro-gaming. To them, a tournament is just a mechanism that takes in skill and spits out an appropriate amount of money. This is not the case for HerO.
It's hard to say whether HerO truly struggled more than others during his Brood War career, or that his personality made it so he felt that he had struggled more. In any case, he began playing StarCraft II as a player who had already retired from pro-gaming once after a long struggle, unable give up a dream that had seemingly given up on him. Yet, after a year of StarCraft II, things seemed to be largely the same for HerO; a frustrating pursuit hampered by an inability to perform once the pressure began to crank up.
For HerO, winning DreamHack Winter 2011 was validation for six years of his life. To him, it's a title that has more meaning than just money and glory. Its defense, is a matter of pride.
In past Dreamhacks, the BYOC has been something of a useless exercise. A couple mediocre Swedes ship in, and a few jilted foreigners usually took whatever slots there were to take. Nobody did anything remotely interesting.
Not the case this year.
While only a couple of the players in the open bracket can honestly be considered true championship dark horses, (with one notable exception) there are a number of players here who could actually do some damage. Dreamhack Winter is no longer a tournament of 100+, it's a tournament of a lucky few. And for everyone else, there's the BYOC.
Disclaimer: This is based on the players listed in the BYOC bracket. Not all players are confirmed to actually show up.
Sign-up list on BinaryBeast
Championship Dark Horses
Last year, when discussing the groups at a LAN cafe in Jönköping, this conversation happened:
TLO: I don’t know SortOf.
HayprO: Yeah, he is a Brood War player.
TLO: Is he... SortOf good?
It was an fair assessment. SortOf made absolutely no impact, going 0-6 in his group. But this year, that guy nobody ever heard of has come back as the strongest favorite in the BYOC. His skill is monstrous. This summer, I asked a top European player who the best new EU zerg would be. Without hesitation he told me that it'd be SortOf. That prediction has been borne out.He took second at the Esports SM and WCS Sweden events, while netting first in the 6th SCAN Invitational with a 7-1 combined record against K3.LucifroN and d.JonnyREcco. He barely missed the WCS Worlds cut with 1-2 losses to K3.VortiX and FXOLoWeLy.
Sort of is not only the favorite for the BYOC, but he also might have a claim to be the top Swede in the tournament. While he's a dark horse to take the whole tournament, he should go far.
RoX.KIS.TitaN (if he plays)
At the beginning of the year, I wrote about how TitaN would emerge in 2012 as one of the foreign scene's premier players. It took a little while, but he seems to finally be secure in that role. He's gone 6-2 in the EG Masters Cup, dominated the Russian WCS, and took third in the first RSL. Still, there's some maddening inconsistency. His WCS performance was a perfect example. In the groups, he tore apart ST_Curious and CJ_herO. In the bracket, he was shockingly swept by d.KiLLeR who has squeaked through a foreigner-only group. Starcraft really isn't fair.
But TitaN holds the fourth highest foreign ELO before this tournament and will be a force in the BYOC (possibly fifth below Sen, once the WCS results are inputed). He should easily dispatch the opponents he meets there and make the groupstage. But what he'll do once he reaches that point—and beyond—is completely up in the air. He should probably make it further into the brackets. He should theoretically be a threat for the title.
But whether he indeed makes it will depend on what group he's dropped in and also probably whatever intangible factor made the difference between the first and second day of WCS.
Another long-developing player, Snute has steadily become more solid and deadly throughout this year. His LAN results have gotten a notable boost. At Campus Party EU, he defeated players like Ret, BabyKnight, ForGG and HasuObs en route to second place. At the Battle at the Ministry of Win, he notched third place. In the recent Acer Starcraft Challenge, he lost only to Sage, taking second place over monchi, ClouD, and HasuObs.
In the BYOC here, Snute ought to have a fairly easy time moving through. In the second half of the year, he seems to have translated his often quirky style into something that can be both safe and unexpected. His success in recent weekly events has indicated that he is more than able to defeat waves of tricky unknowns. Like others, Snute's success should he make groups is also up in the air. But the Norwegian's style has proven to be up to the test against Europe's elite enough that Snute must be considered among the elite in this BYOC and challenger in the main event.
Other BYOC Contenders
NEnD had a great DH Winter last year. But 2012 has been fairly unremarkable. He hasn't gone to as many tournaments as he should, that's one issue. But the other is that the ones he's attended have not resulted in the kind of performances that make it seem like he's a sleeping giant in this year's event. Still, he should be favored to grab the fourth BYOC slot.
Naama also has a history of overperforming at Dreamhacks. So far this year, we've seen nothing to suggest this is anything but the same Naama who notched a top eight finish last year. So is that a good or bad thing? Hard to tell, but weird builds, pristine micro, and SCV trains are surely in the offering from the Finn. Likely to pull an upset in the BYOC and would be a huge inconvenience to the favorites in the main tournament.
Daisy had one moment of real success in the summer, and has since completely dropped off the map. Nice as Daisy is personally, it's hard to say his play lit up European skies, so I didn't mind. But now Daisy is back, and simply by virtue of being an abusive Korean protoss, he makes it on this list. He could screw things up in the BYOC, but his main tournament chances seem slim to none. There are stronger protoss players there.
Well, technically he IS on the sign-up list...
He's better than Stephano by now, right?