DH Winter Preview
A Swedish Perspective
A Thrones Analogy
Brackets and standings on Liquipedia
How the Pieces Fit
by TeamLiquid ESPORTS
Five tournaments, one ending. 9 players from BlizzCon, including its winner. 7 former Dreamhack champions, including all 5 from this year. 13 premier tournament champions, and close to a million dollars between them.
Once again, a year of Dreamhack ends in Jönköping.
The Group Stage
Dreamhack Winter groups is always a strange thing. Last ear, only one person was eliminated from the group stage, making it a weightless appetizer as players merely avoid being the embarrassing guy that get eliminated first. Sure, you get an advantage for topping your group, but brackets often matter less than form. This year, however, Dreamhack have cut the winners' bracket in half, meaning 4 more players will be eliminated in the group stages. There's less room for error, and we will definitely see a few good players fall on the first day.
Group A: Balance of the races, strength of the acesThe young guns
The heavyweights of this group are TaeJa and Life. The two share many similarities, beyond their legendary successes across continents. They began their rise to fame around the same time period, they have displayed a mastery of many different strategies and tactics, comfortable both in short cheesy games as well as long macro games, utilizing either fast and active strategies or slow and methodical ones. They also have shown a mastery of army control, but in radically different ways. Taeja is famed for his late game army control, his willingness to go head to head against some of the scariest deathballs in existence and triumph. Only Taeja would willingly fight soO on the latter's own terms and come out ahead, and only Taeja would take the engagements that have served to make him one of the game's most distinguished players. To do this Taeja displays extreme patience and incredible cool under pressure. His counterpart Life truly does embody the swarm, not only in his adaptability but his unrelenting reliance on throwaway units - the lings that make of the bulk of his armies.
However, as Blizzcon shwoed us, what makes Life a true force to be reckoned with is his ability to crawl into someone's head and wreak havoc. It was this ability that allowed Life to not only get the better of Taeja but of many others whom he held a losing record against. I am fully expecting Life and Taeja to carve a trail of devastation on their way to the finals, however who will come out first is harder to determine. Life did barely edge out Taeja, but I can't help but feel that the Liquid Terran will have studied those games and found ways to make himself even more airtight in order to prevent Life from winning in that same way again. Recent results would indicate Life should go trough in first place, but given the record of these two players making a definite call would be nearly pointless.
The old wolves
Despite being veterans of the scene, Leenock and San could not have had more different career trajectories. In Wings of Liberty Leenock was the champion and at 15 years of age at the time a very young one, having conquered many foreign tournaments and parted many white men of their prize money. And then as soon as HoTS rolled out, Leenock started to fade away, the crazy tactics and wild strategies he used to be comfortable with no longer viable. On the flip side, San had a mostly abysmal Wings career where his online results would never translate to offline success. Apart from his brief flash of brilliance in the GSL in 2011, most of his career was defined by unfulfilled potential, always qualifying for tournaments but never making it far in them.
But with the new expansion, whatever it was that held San back disappeared as he manufactured his own gateway-based style. He became more solid overall, capable of both cheese and macro until finally capturing a gold of his own at ASUS ROG. Now the two have found themselves on the same team, in the same tournament and in the same group, fighting for the third and final spot in a group where two spots seem all but locked down. I don't really expect either of the yoe Flash Wolves to be able to defeat Life or Taeja, given the level of skill both displayed at Blizzcon. Thus, whoever is to come out in 3rd place will likely be decided by the match between these two. This could be a golden opportunity for Leenock, his chance to make a weekend run similar to the IPLs and MLGs of old and recapture some of the old glory that has now escaped him. The reverse might also be possible, San might absorb the last of the Leenocktopus' essence and finally unlock all of his hidden power, making it deep into the kind of high-stakes tournament that seems to so often unnerve him. No matter the outcome, they both will certainly need all the help they can get to advance out of this group.
Caught between a rock and a hard place
Bunny is one of the only two foreigners that managed to make it far enough through the DH circuit to qualify (albeit with a little help from three KeSPA forfeits) for Winter. And like his fellow team mate Snute, his group is hard enough that we'll be scratching our heads wondering who got the worst end of the deal here. Bunny has to face not only each match up, but different flavors of them and wildly differing approaches to the game. Life and Leenock could prove to be particularly burdensome, as both are fond of the non-standard play that can easily catch you off-guard and wreck your brain, so if Bunny is to have any chance his scouting and reactions have to be completely on point. Otherwise, everything from hidden hatches and nyduses to roach busts to the standard avalanche of ling/bling/muta can and will show up to haunt him. Against Taeja he goes up against a veritable juggernaut that poses many different challenges. Taeja can hit him with any number of attacks and timings, cloak banshee, drops, elevator play in the early game, as well as ferocious bio play and steady mech attrition wars. Many foreigner terrans might be tempted to play mech against a Korean, hoping to rely on positioning and and stability to weather the storm of multi-tasking. But against Taeja, whose mech cracking skills are nearly unmatched, this would be a grave error of judgment. If anything, meching against Taeja is akin to inviting death to your doorstep. San seems more manageable in comparison with the other players in the group, if only slightly. However, much to Bunny's woe, San has an uncanny knack of never losing to foreigners.
The odds are definitely stacked against Bunny here, but all hope is not lost. Historically DH is the place where dreams come true, even in the darkest times against the most towering of giants. Last they faced, Bunny suffered a narrow and unfortunate 2-3 loss to San, so it isn't completely out of the realm of possibility he might eke out a win. And from one might come another... Is it unlikely? Certainly. Is it possible? With the fall of the Swedish SC2 empire the Nordic countries have recreated the Kalmar union, sending the best Danish and Norwegian representatives to fight the Swedes' battles. With no Swede attending, perhaps Bunny will channel some of what let Sjow make a miracle last summer?
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Group B: The ObscuritiesIt’s been a long time since we’ve seen a group as difficult to predict as this one. It may not be stacked with champions, but they are all coming into this tournament with a good deal of mystery around them. Is First finally going to make that breakout EU performance that was supposed to happen in WCS? Is TRUE going to build even MORE proxy hatches than before? Is Jaedong’s slight performance boost from HomeStoryCup going to last? Will Sacsri make another splash after his seemingly forgotten Dreamhack Valencia win? Is HerO over his PvZ slump? There’s an abundance of questions surrounding this group that make it one of the most interesting, even if it doesn’t have the highest caliber players.
The Zerg Trifecta
A large portion of what this group will come down to is how the ZvZs play out. All three zergs in this group have excellent ZvZ records with the lowest being TRUE's 56%. However, many of their recent games have been vs obviously lesser opponents. This could lead to some inflation of their win percentages. There are also some instances where players like TRUE and Sacsri have faced previously in other Dreamhacks with mixed results. All of these zergs will certainly know each other's styles due to previous experience or at least from practice leading up to the event. The amount of mind games will surely be through the roof and with ZvZ as volatile as it can be, these matches will be extremely important in determining who will take the top three spots. I wish I could at least name a favorite out of the three, but with everyone taking and losing games to both high and low caliber players recently, it's difficult to say with any certainty what will become of the swarm in this group.
Remember during WCS EU Season 2 when First made the shortest of work out of his Ro32 and Ro16 groups? Remember him 2-0ing StarDust and going 8-1 through both of those rounds? Remember when he got matched vs StarDust again in the Ro8? “This is the season of First!” everybody said as the Ro8 drawings were made. With his PvP on fire he was surely going to continue his hot streak all the way to the finals and win it all. 3-1 to StarDust. Since that defeat he has struggled to even stay even in results. With only a 48% winrate since the loss, First stumbled into a period of mediocrity. He lost in the Ro32 of the next WCS season and continued to get average Korean results from then on. He reached the Ro8 twice more after that: at IEM Toronto losing 0-3 to Life, and at MSI Beat IT after beating Blysk and Sen and then losing to Solar. Something happened to First after his WCS EU Season 2 loss and nobody is exactly sure what. At one point he seemed to be a few steps away from being the next best Korean protoss in Europe, only to be stopped by StarDust. Now he’s just another EU regular who barely makes it into the Ro16. Dreamhack Winter 2014 is his chance for new hope. Can he make one more splash in the EU scene before having to head back to Korea for next year's WCS? If he doesn’t I’m not sure how many times we’ll hear of the player named First in the coming future.
The HerO we want back
Two years ago this group would have been bliss for the Liquid protoss. But long gone are the days of the godlike PvZ that HerO wielded with amazing force. PvZ just is not the same anymore ever since HerO started to drop off in skill, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying that we would like to see that HerO back this weekend. It’s been over a month since we’ve seen him play in any tournament. Preferring to stay in Korea and practice as much as possible for Dreamhack, the Handsome Toss is also entering this tournament as a bit of a mystery. The last time he came out from a long break in tournament play he nearly shocked the whole world with a 3-0 vs Polt in a match that almost no one expected him to win. It may have still been the end result most people expected but the games were far from one sided. For a moment the HerO we always knew and loved was back and better than ever, only to be stopped just barely before he could make the finishing blow.
Once again he has gone into hibernation and once again he emerges for an important tournament. The passion is there, the practice is there, we just have to hope everything lines up the way he wants it to and just maybe we’ll be in for some sparks of brilliance. HerO’s PvP has looked on point for a few months now and with First having lost series to MaNa and Lilbow recently, it’s safe to say that he’s at least favored in that match. So once again it will come down to the zergs. Jaedong’s ZvP can be hit or miss. It really depends on which Jaedong shows up and if HerO brings something unexpected. They trade games constantly and consistently enough for each player to know the others strengths and weaknesses. It will be up to HerO to make the plays and throw Jaedong off. TRUE and Sacsri are both aggressive in their ZvP which can lead to some fairly odd games. HerO should have done his homework and be aware that TRUE has been known for his proxy hatch shenanigans recently. Luckily for HerO, he has been playing Toodming on stream enough to get his fair share of practice in vs those types of strategies. Sacsri is also aggressive but in a slightly different way, usually cutting drones after three bases and attempting to cancel the third of the protoss. As long as HerO makes sure he can get to that phase where the warp prisms begin to fly and the storms come from every direction, he should be able to take these PvZ series.
In his series against Polt, the Liquid protoss brought back feelings that HerO fans have long missed and anticipated. It was a short lived remembrance of old times. Old times that are worth reliving and worth bringing back. This stage has made magic happen before, who’s to say it can’t happen again? Winter has arrived, and HerO is greeting it with open arms.
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Group C: The Sun and Stars3 protoss and a terran with mediocre TvZ. Basically, Solar has this. The now undisputed Samsung ace (RIP RorO) started the year brightly, with a double victory on the very first day of Proleague (yes, we count that as 2014). He has slowly built an impressive resume through the course of the year, with results that slope sharply upward. Since his loss in the Ro32 in GSL Season 1, his tournament runs have gone further and further. 9-12 at DH Winter, Ro8 in GSL S2, Ro8 in GSL S3, 2nd at Shenzhen, 1st in Stockholm, and 1st in Taiwan. The ZvP wunderkind is consistently in the top 10 of aligulac despite his limited number of events.
During his rise to fame, his tournament wins have somehow become outshined by his personality. Unlike most Koreans, Solar is actually enthusiastic about speaking in English, and he'll do so with just about anyone that will listen. He'll even reply to your tweets in English. Though he isn't quite an established name like Polt, TaeJa, jjakji, or Life, Solar has that special recipe that's bound to make him everyone's favorite zerg sooner rather than later. All it take's is a few trophies and a lovable personality.
Two players that blazed that trail before him, MC and StarDust are in similar boats. We've written about these guys at international tournaments more than we've accidentally published typos. You know the drill: they are good protoss players that play with pressure and always have the potential to make a good run. They are former champions of international tournaments as well as WCS EU. Basically, you could just read our BlizzCon previews for MC and StarDust, while noting they both lost in the first round—results that really don't reveal anything new to us. I suppose we could add that it's unfortunate that they have to return to Korea next year, but I'm sure there are a lot of Europeans that aren't going to shed any tears for this pair.
The one man the continent did save was ForGG. As the original KeSPA turned eSF turned Foreigner, Europe collectively staged a protest to get the honorary Frenchman to stay. After some communication issues, ForGG updated his VISA to the wrong type because of love, and it looked like his 2-year tenure was destined to end. Fortunately, Blizzard introduced the ForGG Clause, allowing him to stay in Europe for love and competition. Early predictions have him becoming a millionairre next year, as he will likely romp through most local tournaments with its reduced Korean skill base. Dreamhack Winter could be the tournament where he announces his intentions for 2015, but it's unlikely he'll be able to dominate this group. He won't have his legendary TvT to call upon, and his win rates against Korean protoss and zergs is a depressing 50% and 41% respectively. In a day when TvZ and TvP look more like neurosurgery than butchery, ForGG's blunt force battle plan just doesn't work against more stable opponents. He should be able to take advantage of StarDust's abyssmal streak of 1 PvT win in 11 tries, but another 3rd/4th place in Dreamhack Winter seems unlikely.
In last year's event, Patience pulled off on of the most uncanny feats of strength from an unknown player that we had ever seen. After topping his foreigner-ful group, he lost to MMA in the Ro16. Then, from the lower bracket, he defeated sOs, Polt, MMA and INnoVation before narrowly losing to Life. That tournament hit list looked like one for the ages, and it only took him as high as third. It was supposed to be the moment when he announced his arrival as a European power. Instead, he became just another Korean flag filling brackets in tournaments. A 3rd group stage finish here, a Ro8 there; he was no longer the surprise package that played protoss with a punch. Compounded by his struggles in WCS EU—he has never made it past the Ro32—Patience enters this year's iteration with only a slightly higher profile. His game vs Jaedong at IEM Cologne remains his only recommended game, and not even the most avid Euro-fan has much to say about his play. We could say that it's just how he likes it entering Dreamhack Winter, but who wouldn't want to be a star? This is another chance, but with WCS 2015 looming, it could be his last.
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Group D: The Group of Not DeathThe final group of DH: Winter consists of only Terran and Zerg players, 3 of which are coming from Blizzcon. This group features a wide variety of playstyles, from jjakji’s relentless trading, to Snute’s undying resilience. These factors can lead this group into having both the shortest, and longest games of the group stages should the circumstances be right.
The decorated veterans
Both Polt and MMA have been around since the early days of Wings, meeting in the GSL Super Tournament finals with the former taking the gold. Since then, they have consistently won premier tournaments every year with a combined total of 14 between them. Though both successful, their means are very different. Polt’s style revolves around near perfect decision making with solid macro behind it, taking the best possible fights, and rolls into a base trade situation where he always seems to have the upper hand. Over the years he continues to find new timings and strategies, abuses them to the fullest and achieves great results. MMA on the other hand, tends to try to outplay his opponent at every chance, always going for drops, always going for multi-pronged attacks. Though he hit a bit of a slump for a year, he made a marvellous return winning WCS EU Season 3 in both 2013 and 2014. Currently riding a 2nd place finish at Blizzcon, he will be looking to prove that this wasn’t a fluke, that he is one of the big dogs in this seemingly chaotic professional scene. Overall, these 2 players have very different styles but are able to achieve similar amounts of success, and are the favorites to make it out of the group, and if either of them get eliminated straight out then it will be a big upset.
Impact and jjakji are both entering this tournament with less than stellar results. Impact made his debut in the scene rather late compared to the rest of his group, originating on the WJS, and being picked up by Axiom as his current team. We really haven’t seen much of Impact compared to the rest of the players so he is kind of a mystery, and this could work to his advantage. If he can prepare specialty builds to snipe the Terran players, and cheese his way through Snute there is potential for him to advance through, but nevertheless he is still not favored to win and could easily drop out in last place. jjakji however, is a much more recognizable player. After peaking in his victory against Leenock in the GSL finals, he has been tapering on and off in his skill level and never earned another gold medal in a premier/major tournament. Perhaps his overly aggressive play is his weakness, but he has shown moments of genius to win series. He’ll be needing these moments to happen against Polt/MMA if he wants any chance of making it out of this group. TvT is still somewhat of a volatile matchup in the early game, and this is where he will need to either outright win the game or gain a substantial lead to achieve victory. The story is the same for his TvZ, Impact probably has a bunch of surprises ready and Snute has a solid safe style that will eventually win out, so early timings will be key for jjakji. Overall, expect to see either of these players drop out in last place, and if they do advance they probably won’t make it that far into the tournament.
The foreign hope
On paper, Snute is the heavy underdog in this group, with the Terrans all attending Blizzcon and Impact is no slouch. Each Terran has a very unique style vs. Zerg, with Polt dishing out sporadic devastating timings, jjkakji’s necessity to continuously trade, and MMA’s pure multitasking skills. Snute has shown elasticity in his opening builds, but nevertheless his kryptonite remains the dreaded 2 rax. MMA and jjakji will likely utilize this at least once when they play, while Polt while opt for a standard macro game. To make it out of this group Snute will have had to work on his 2 rax defense; if he can make it into the mid-game on at least even footing against any of these korean Terrans, his chances are solid. In recent times his standard muta/ling/bling into a swarmhost transition has worked out for him very well, but is a delicate playstyle and any slipups could cost him the game immediately. Historically, his ZvZ has been rock solid, only losing to the best of the best. It could even be argued that he is favored to win against Impact in this matchup, and if this is the case than he will only have to worry about his ZvT being refined against the Terran titans in this group.
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A Swedish Perspective
As autumn slowly turns into winter, eSports fans turn towards the Elmia Arena in Jönköping as our tradition mandates. With the Dreamhack 2014 circuit coming to its end the community can reminisce about the great year that has passed. We can remember the screams of fans during finals, recall the packed arenas or think about the new ground that has been broken with an event in Russia. However, one fact should draw the attention of the astute and spoil the comfortable feeling of coming full circle after another year of Starcraft 2. Like a host missing from his own party, calling our attention with his conspicuous absence, we are forced to investigate one thing: where are the Swedes?
The Swedish story of Dreamhack has persisted since the early days of the tournament but is examplified most recently by an unlikely protagonist: SjoW.
Watch the video of Sjow toppling the last of Life’s mutas after an insane comeback. Hear the roar of the crowd. See the looks of sheer joy on Sjow’s teammates' faces from Team Property as they pile into the booth. It didn't matter if the 4M-push wasn’t figured out yet and it didn't matter that Sjow went on to lose to StarDust moments later. Sjow was, then and there, the David against the Korean Goliath.
Once upon a time a caster-personality-coach-player said, after another unlikely Swedish success, ”It’s just Swedes at Dreamhack I guess!” Even relatively obscure characters like StarNaN or SortOf, considered part of something of a national B-team, had moments of success at Dreamhack. But there were also others who didn’t just give us the sense of ”Hey, SortOf’s pretty good!” but who were true contenders for titles.
ThorZaIN and NaNiwa are as different as night and day in their playstyles and in their personalities. Their clashes of personality mirrored their clashes over the title of best Swede but both of them went beyond just local fame and became giants. They were, at different times, some of the greatest foreigner players to touch the game.
NaNiwa stated several times that his personal goal was to win a Dreamhack in Sweden and to hear the crowd chant his name. He had the chance during the height of his strength in 2013 as he fought in the finals against Leenock but ultimately failed. The devastation on his face afterwards was so clear and so raw and real. The crowds didn’t care if he had failed; everything was forgiven. Robert Ohlen’s fatherly hug right afterwards to comfort the broken-hearted Naniwa is now part of eSports history.
ThorZain, unfairly in the shadow of his rival's history, is the sole Swede to have won a Dreamhack. In the finals, as he inched closer and closer to victory against Polt, the crowd rose to give him a standing ovation-
After ThorZain stumbled out to greet iNcontroL he looked relieved but also dazzled and dazed. He had done it. He had fulfilled the ultimate fantasy of every Swedish pro: to win before your home crowd against the odds, against the Koreans, against everyone who said that it was impossible.
Those days are long since gone.
Of the five top Swedes on aligulac three of those are the old a-teamers of Sweden: NaNiwa, Thorzain and SaSe. They have hung up their mouse for a year or more and have still not been surpassed in points by any other Swede. The two still active are MorroW and Zanster; they, along with Miniraser, are the foremost Swedish players still active. While competent, they are no serious threats to Koreans or even considered favored against other top foreigners. Zanster's crushing defeat at Zest’s hands at the IeSF finals more than adequately proves that point.
Instead of Swedes, the two foreigners who have qualified for Dreamhack both come from Sweden’s neighbours, Denmark and Norway. Sweden is now stuck in a sort of Kalmar Union where it has completely lost it’s own sovereignty and has to passively watch it’s Nordic neighbors write history for it.
The Dreamhack 2014 circuit has shown how far the mighty have fallen and the sorry state that Swedish Starcraft 2 is in. Zanster is the only Swede to have even reached the playoffs during 2014 and he was beaten 2-0 immediately in the Ro16. For a country that is still doing very well in other eSports and which sees continuous influx of money and interest from national media giants and sponsors, things are looking very grim indeed. Yet, with the catastrophe of nearly 2014 behind us, we can look towards the future. The 2015 circuit lies ahead and who knows which unlikely Swedish heroes will rise from the ashes of a once mighty empire? Until then, fans of Swedish eSports will just have to bite the bullet.
DH Winter is Coming
When you play the game of Starcraft, you win or you go home and practice some more. A year’s worth of battles around Europe have left just 20 potential contenders contesting for the DH Winter throne. Who could forget when the young warriors Life and Solar won the wars of Bucharest and Stockholm, or when the Prince of Summer crushed every opponent to take home yet another DH Summer trophy. The stage is now set, and these champions and other hopefuls gather in Jönköping for the final battle to decide who will sit at the DH Winter throne. Tales of the winner’s victory shall be forever inscribed in the annals of Liquipedia while the rest will be lost to history. Players like Jaedong, Taeja, and MMA—who seem to have been born to rule—may see their crown stolen by younger, more ambitious rivals. Meanwhile, the people’s champions, Polt and Snute, will look to prevent yet another boy king from seizing the DH throne. Winter is coming, and the world eagerly awaits to see who shall be crowned king.
*Warning: possible Game of Thrones spoilers
Prince Jaedong the Red MutaliskEG.Jaedong left Korea in early 2013 to participate in international tournaments and has since won the hearts of numerous supporters all around the globe. He won renown last year by placing highly in various premiere tournaments but has experienced an overall drop in form for the majority of 2014. He barely held on to his 16th seed for Blizzcon, only to lose a close series to Bomber in the first round.
Surely a trip to a very relaxed HSC and a few drinks would cure these blues? Well, a 0-3 knockout at the hands of the Big Boy won’t exactly boost the EG Zerg’s confidence heading into DH Winter. He will most likely need an IEM Shenzhen-esque performance if he wants to go far in Sweden. Yet still handsome and adored by fans everywhere, Jaedong remains a formidable foe and many will back his claim to the throne. With his EG contract expiring at the end of this year, this tournament could be Jaedong’s final chance to claim sweet vengeance for all those times he was denied his rightful throne. When he closes his eyes, Jaedong must still see the image of StarDust raising last year’s DH Summer trophy. As long as he can adapt to his opponent and defend against the inevitable cheddar, JD will have a good shot of getting a rematch against StarDust… provided that he avoids TaeJa. The Tyrant is one of those rare players who is not only born to rule but also adored by his subjects. He is a proven, capable fighter who has a chance to really push his claim. However, Jaedong will most likely be on pace to win it all, until he inexplicably falls at the last hurdle and breaks thousands of hearts.
Sir Polt the BoldThe people’s champion, CMStorm.Polt is among some of the noblest, most honorable men in the realm of SC2. One of the oldest and most accomplished progamers, Polt the Bold has bathed himself in glory in his many years of service to the game. Yet despite his many years of service in Korea, Polt switched allegiances in 2013 and chose to fight for the American cause. Supported by his new legion of adoring fans, Captain America scored decisive victories in his second and third WCS AM campaigns. Polt soon became the pride of American fans as tales of his conquests and charm spread throughout the lands. The American hero’s 2014 campaign produced several high finishes at various premier tournaments as well as a title run at the Battlegrounds of Detroit. Considering these results, it would seem that old age has done little to dull his edge.
What he lacks in macro and mechanics, Polt compensates with brilliant foresight and clutch decision making. This is what allows him to outdo younger and faster opponents. Over the years, many challengers have fallen to Polt’s cunning counterattacks and pristine army movements. Also a brilliant tactician and problem solver, this Terran veteran has gotten himself out of countless tight situations. He will certainly need to lean on these deep-rooted skills if he wants to have a shot at claiming the DH throne. His pride was wounded in that disappointing first round loss at Blizzcon, but Sweden is Polt’s chance to bounce back and reestablish his dominance. Entering this foray, Sir Polt the Bold carries not just his own burdens but also the weight of an entire nation on his back.
MMA the Lightning LordWhen the infamous Slayers Drama struck in 2012, Acer.MMA’s career was hanging on by a thread, and many assumed an early retirement was imminent. Most thought MMA was finished, yet he managed to cheat death and revive his career on Acer. A year after changing teams and scenery, the Slayers exile conquered Europe by winning WCS EU S3 2013. Throughout his rocky career, MMA has shown an uncanny ability to return from the brink of death. When he went through a small slump mid-2014, people hastily dismissed him as yet another Korean who had lost his edge from moving abroad. In response, MMA stormed back to win yet another WCS EU title and “Dramhack Moscow”. He then proceeded to win over the BlizzCon crowd with his unabashed exuberance and determination. There, the Acer Terran shattered any doubt about his skills by defeating StarDust, Bomber, and Classic to finish 2nd at the Global Finals.
Following the inspiring performance in Anaheim, this once outlawed lord now sets his eyes on yet another vacant Dreamhack throne. The Lightning Lord has won numerous battles throughout the year by simultaneously striking multiple locations. He is notorious for using hit-and-run tactics with medivacs, oftentimes doing critical damage and disappearing before his opponents can even react. That style has carried him for his entire career and could potentially carry him to the winter throne. A man who fights for his fans, MMA has attracted supporters with his genial attitude and impeccable work ethic. Though he once fell from grace, this Slayers exile has shown the people exactly what can be accomplished through sheer willpower and perseverance. MMA gives his fans hope by constantly reminding them to never give up. After all, he is the man who announced his retirement before Blizzcon, only to change his mind an hour after the event. So can we truly ever count MMA out?
StarDust: Chaos is a LadderWhile some rulers are bound by honor and justice, others prefer to use shrewd, underhanded tactics to win by any means necessary. mYi.StarDust, dubbed “CheeseDust” by his rivals, has long been a strong advocate for the latter. This clever, unscrupulous Protoss has a variety of tricks and all-ins in his arsenal and will not hesitate to use them in his ascension to the throne. From the cannon rush to the proxy oracle to the gateway all-in, StarDust’s shenanigans are the stuff of nightmares for macro-loving players. Because of this style, the mYi Protoss is often disregarded as a serious threat, but he has proven to be dangerous when underestimated. Earlier this year, StarDust shocked the world by walking away with the WCS EU S2 title. While people were enthralled by the battle between Snute, Jaedong, and INnoVation for the 16th Blizzcon seed, Stardust had long since secured his spot and quietly entered the global finals as the humble 8th seed.
StarDust is a man who knows and plays by his strengths, and can adapt to an opponent's weaknesses. Despite his accomplishments, he remains one of the more overlooked and overshadowed players here. However, StarDust has shown championship caliber play on numerous occasions, so underestimating him could prove to be a huge folly. Whether it be a knife in the back, a shove off a building, or a drop of poison, StarDust will do anything and everything to get what he wants.
You know nothin’, Liquid.HerOSomewhere far off in the icy, frigid reaches of South Korea, Liquid.HerO hones his skills in anticipation of Dreamhack Winter, the stage of his first championship performance. The King of Winter has appeared in every single DH Winter since 2011 and has claimed first place twice. However, he has been notably absent in recent times, so it remains unclear how he will fare this time around. The Handsome Toss did not participate in the Red Bull circuit or any of the Korean tier one events, and he also missed out on BlizzCon and the recent HSC. His last result was a surprisingly early knockout in the second group stage of DH Stockholm. Given so much time to rest and practice, can HerO return to prominence at his favorite event?
HerO has been cut off from the spotlight for quite some time, but this is still his tournament and he will not be so easily dismissed. Just because he has been away, doesn’t mean he is an irrelevant player. Here is a talented, hard working kid who constantly pushes himself to be the best in the business. Sometimes though, the pressure piles on too high and leads to his own demise. With his creative strategies and dazzling micro, HerO could easily be considered one of the world’s best players on a good day. He just needs to believe it himself. It’s time to show us what you know HerO, and it had better not be nothing.
Snute: The Chosen OneIn the early days of Wings, IdrA and HuK fought for the foreigner crown. In 2012-13, this title was hotly contested between Stephano and NaNiwa. These kings rose and fell as the seasons changed, and now Liquid.Snute is the next heir-apparent in the line of “best foreigners”. The highest ranked non-Korean through 2014 (at least in terms of WCS points), Snute has experienced the most productive year of his career. At rank 17, Snute was seven spots ahead of the next highest ranking foreigner, and he was just one spot away from attending Blizzcon. He also cracked the top 8 at two stacked IEMs in Shenzhen and Toronto and qualified for DH Winter via a top 4 finish in Moscow. The Norwegian Zerg has been kept waiting long enough, and now here is the perfect chance to cement his claim. With so many talented Koreans entering the lists, this is Snute’s chance to show why he is the foreign hope. This will most certainly be a tall order, but Snute is not one to give up easily. His work ethic rivals that of the KeSPA Koreans’, and he won’t shy away from prolonged games. In fact, he gravitates towards those. A great general and strategist, Snute is notorious for starving out opponents with a very defensive and meticulous SH style. With such a resolute playstyle, Snute will choose to break before he bends. There is much riding on this tournament for Snute, who could seize both the foreigner and Winter crowns in one fell swoop. Snute has the talent, desire, and support to do so, and he won’t even need to rely on any fiery magic.
Liquid.TaeJa: The Kingslayer was once one of the greatest knights in the realm, but can he maintain that legacy with injuries to his mouse-hand?
yFW.San: Witty little Tyrion has always had a special bond with his brother, even though the two have a funny way of showing it.
ST.Life: While the rest of his family (SuHoSin, Cutter, and Pet) withered away when ZeNEX disbanded, Life aka. Arya Stark, managed to escape and was adopted by Startale. There, the young kid was raised as a deadly assassin who would wreak havoc upon the SC2 world.
TCM.First: The stable boy mercilessly stabbed by Life (0-7 vs Life in HotS).
MC: Ramsay Bolton because…
yFW.Leenock: Robb Stark because he showed so much promise at a very young age but then suddenly fell off the map.
Mill.ForGG: like Daenerys Targaryen, ForGG has made a new home in a foreign land but hasn’t quite conquered it yet.
mYi.jjakji: This White Walker was thought to be dead after winning GSL, but it seems he has been revived in 2014.
Bonus: A very stuchiu EpilogueAfter HerO wins DH Winter.
Gemini will run out of his house and do a Qibla in the direction of Dreamhack Stockholm. During the prayer he gets a vision of what he must do to ensure another good year for HerO. Gemini gets on a plane to Stockholm and invites Olli to meet him at the Sony Ericcson Globe. There he ties up Olli, and sacrificies him so that HerO will have another good year of Starcraft. Olli's last words are, "It was worth it."
Gemini then gets on a plane to Korea. Not to visit HerO, but his mere visage would taint the radiance of HerO's presence but to find Puma. He then sacrifices Paralyze or Has or both so that Puma can become good again so that he can recreate the Puma vs HerO DHW Finals.
His work done, he shaves the words TL HerO into his head, gets on a plane to Taiwan and punches Has for existing.