Banner photos: R1CH and Silverfire
Brackets and standings on Liquipedia
All VODs on MLG's Youtube Channel
Brackets and standings on Liquipedia
All VODs on MLG's Youtube Channel
by Pokebunny and Waxangel
Season 1 Finals: Day 1 Preview
The first season of WCS 2013 is drawing to a close, with WCS Korea and WCS America holding their grand finales on the same weekend. While we look over at WCS Korea and wonder "who is the best player in the world?" we can look at WCS America and ask ourselves a different question "Can a foreigner win at least one of the WCS tournaments?"
Yes, it's the last chance for the international contingent in WCS, with all hopes resting with the Zerg duo of Liquid`Snute and Nv.mOOnGLaDe. Both have been granted honorary American status for the weekend, possibly upgraded to permanent American status should they win.
Liquid`HerO vs. AX.Alicia
Through some luck of the draw, two of the most decorated players left in the WCS America tournament will face off against each other in the Ro8. HerO, the two time DreamHack champion and one time NASL champion goes up against Alicia, a silver medalist at an MLG Champion, MLG Arena, and an NASL finals. Without a doubt, both players are big favorites to reach the finals yet again, but only one will be able to make it through this quarter-final round.
On paper, the match-up favors HerO. While HerO recently finished top four at DreamHack: Stockholm, it's been around eleven months since Alicia has made a real impact on a major tournament. Of course that's not really his fault, since it's not like wanted to be stuck teamless for months after SlayerS crumbled around him, or for IPL to go belly-up after he had won the HotS Korean Qualifier. But we can't account for every circumstance, and we gotta give a slight nod to the player with better recent international tournament results.
The other big thing going for HerO is that he plays in the SK Planet Proleague, sometimes called the PvProleague. For whatever reason, Protoss happens to be the all-around strongest KeSPA race, and a disproportionately high number of Proleague matches are PvP. While HerO's record of 6 – 4 isn't incredible, the fact remains that he's been practicing for and playing a lot of tournament PvP. I don't think it's a stretch to say that this has already helped HerO out at a foreign tournament, when he went 3 - 0 in an all Protoss group at DreamHack.While we're sure Alicia gets a lot of all-around practice, it seems safe to assume that HerO is coming into this match with more PvP experience.
But seeing as this is PvP, we can't help but mention it is a volatile match-up, with gambles and surprise tech choices capable of causing some unexpected results. HerO isn't like Rain—a player who plays one of the safest, all possibility-accounting PvP styles—and he likes gambling to get ahead sometimes. Just one critical backfire is the difference between a 3 – 2 win and a 2 – 3 loss. Still, we favor HerO slightly on the whole, by enough to predict a 3 – 2 series win.
Prediction: HerO 3 – 2 Alicia
Nv.mOOnGLaDe vs. AX.Ryung
Considering that Oceania was the region most unequivocally f***ed over by the WCS changes, you have to admit that it's kind of funny to see 2012 WCS Australia champion mOOnGLaDe standing here as one of the last non-Korean players left in WCS America. Alas, it looks like mOOnGLaDe's impressive run through WCS America could come to an end, as he has drawn one of the best players left in the tournament in Ryung,
It's weird to see Ryung cast as the villain here. In the past he's played the quiet, hard worker, overshadowed by the flashier star on his team, or the brave underdog, daring to cry 'IMBA!' in the face of brood lord-infestor. However, now that he threatens to snuff out foreign hope, for once it's hard to have sympathy for the guy.
While Ryung is certainly a more accomplished player (skillwise) than mOOnGLaDe, with a Code S semi-final finish to to his name, this could actually be a surprisingly winnable match-up for the Australian. He has been very straight-forward about saying TvZ is the match-up he favors the most right now, and he has already shown his prowess in the match-up by defeating the Korean Terrans TheStC and Apocalypse in the Ro16. Even more impressively, mOOnGLaDe didn't have to exploit the great equalizer known as roach-bane all-ins, preferring to take his opponents on straight up and beat them in extended macro games. Add some solid performances against Illusion and Maker in the Ro32, and you could start talking yourself into a mOOnGLaDe win.
On the other hand, you also have to think that Ryung is better than all of the guys mOOnGLaDe has faced so far. Not all Koreans are the same, and you must admit that TheStC and Apocalypse are the weaker ones among their numbers. Ryung was in Code S at the height of the BL-Infestor days, and is more than holding his own against against eSF players in the GSTL. "But he's 0 – 3 in his last TvZs, against FOREIGNERS!!!" Okay, so that is true, but if I could make an excuse for the Korean Terran master race: all those losses were the result of cheese, either used against him, or Ryung failing to execute on his end. In a straight up game, Ryung should be able to show the relentless aggression that makes Korean TvZ so scary.
This should be a close series, and Ryung could definitely get hurt if he underestimates mOOnGLaDe. But he must know the importance of winning WCS America more than anyone, and he's almost certainly going to have mOOnGLaDe's strategies analyzed inside and out. As WCS Europe showed us, it's rarely a bad idea to bet on the Korean Terran in the end.
Prediction: Ryung 3 – 1 mOOnGLaDe
AX.CranK vs. EG.aLive.RC
WCS America is fortunate enough to have a nice race balance, and we'll be treated to a high level PvT match between two Korean players with vastly different stories. Crank of Axiom is a hero of the people, building up a large personal following after his self-exile from SlayerS enough to catch the eye of TotalBiscuit and receive a personal sponsorship to MLG Raleigh. He would even become the founding point for an entire team, Axiom, the intriguing foreign-owned all-Korean team. aLive on the other hand has earned his keep entirely through his gameplay, with his notoriously generic gameplay style and personality making it difficult for him to gain any notice. While it's not like people hate him or anything, he's just someone people have trouble remembering - after all, he was overshadowed by the 36th place finisher Scarlett at IPL4, the tournament he actually won.
In terms of gameplay, both players have a bit of team league history to draw on in HotS thus far, but have no major tournament results in the new expansion. Crank's PvT has been very strong in macro games thus far in HotS, with a list of victims that includes YoDa and ByuN in GSTL as well as Apocalypse and TheStC in this tournament. While none of them are the absolute best Terrans out there, they're definitely foes that looked like they were better then Crank on paper, before they stepped in to the booth. Even outside PvT, Crank has been racking up wins in important GSTL games lately, and he may be on his way to becoming much more of a force to be reckoned with.
On the other side, aLive, who was fairly consistent throughout WoL, has struggled a bit despite the Terran renaissance in HotS. His struggles are especially prevalent against Protoss, against which he has not yet won against in HotS aside from a 2 - 1 victory over MacSed in the WCS preliminaries. While going 0 - 4 against PartinG, Stats, and Oz is nothing to be embarrassed of, the lack of a single win against a fellow Korean is worrisome as he goes into this match. Still, he's made it this far with some clutch victories against tough opponents, so he's still definitely got something left of the skills that he silently displayed time and time again.
While both Crank and aLive have mixed HotS performances, it's hard to forget that aLive is a proven champion while Crank is still looking for a major podium finishes. aLive has the mechanics to pull off the dominant styles of the top Terrans, while Crank, despite looking impressive, still feels to be a cut below the best Korean players. This match should give us a better idea of where the two stand in the Korean hierarchy, and it really could go either way. That being said, I'm going to choose Crank to ride his recent momentum to a narrow victory.
Prediction: Crank 3 – 2 aLive
EG.Revival.RC vs. Liquid`Snute
As the other foreigner left in the Ro8, Snute has quite a task to uphold, as he’s the most likely candidate to be adopted as an American (or Canadian, given Norway's disposition toward winter sports) should his success continue. Managing to surprise two Koreans with 2 - 1 victories in the Ro8, Snute is riding high into his match against a silent but perhaps underestimated opponent. RevivaL has been forced to fight through the losers' match in both group stages, so far continuing his career trend of beating opponents he's expected to beat before running into a wall against tougher players.
An interesting thing to note about Revival’s history thus far is that while he doesn’t have a ton of HotS history, his WCS America success has come entirely off the back of his ZvZ. Taking a closer look shows a different story, though – narrow victories over a slew of American players don’t exactly inspire the greatest confidence, but he’s been able to get the job done. Suppy and goswser are by no means embarrassing opponents to lose an odd best of three set to, and after all, Suppy had pulled some major surprises in the Ro32 before falling to Revival in the end. And in any case, Revival beat them when it mattered, in the final match of the groups, which is why he's in the Ro8 and they're waiting for next season. So far, Revival's ZvZ has been 'good enough,' though he may have to step it up a level to take on the challenger from Europe.
Contrary to Revival, Snute has always been a bit inconsistent, with a major title at HomeStoryCup VI on his record but quite a few early losses as well, such as a recent quick exit to Dreamhack Stockholm. His ZvZ performance has historically been impressive, especially in the WoL era, as his surprising 4 - 0 of Symbol capping off his famed HSC run. In HotS, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag – while ZvZ was a large part of his aforementioned struggles at Dreamhack, it’s been a boon for him this tournament, with victories over ViBE and NesTea carrying him through each group stage. Snute interestingly is one of the few players playing out of region that actually has a quite logical explanation aside from “I thought it would be easier”, with his desire to train in Korea for an extended period of time leaving WCS America as the only reasonable option for latency reasons.
Both players have some ZvZ success on their profiles thus far this tournament, but one will have to fall while the other will earn a precious spot in the semi-finals. It will be a big proving ground for the two, as they along with Moonglade represent a surprising contingent of Zerg representatives this deep in the tournament. While the Terran and Protoss contenders are fearsome veterans, all of the Zerg players have a lot to prove and a lot to gain for a top placement. This match could go either way – Revival has shown that he certainly isn’t invincible against foreigners and Snute has taken down his fair share of strong Koreans, but we still know that they both have the skills for either result to be a possibility. I’m going to say that Snute will prove to be a step above the body of American Zergs Revival was able to sneak through, and the European hope will live on to fight for one more day.
Prediction: Snute 3 - 2 Revival