WCS Season One
uThermal vs Bly
ShoWTimE vs Lilbow
BlinG vs MorroW
TLO vs Ret
Brackets and standings on Liquipedia
WCS EU Challenger League D2
Friday, Jan 23 5:00pm GMT (GMT+00:00)
Every competitive sport has its new generation of rising stars, eager to make a splash in the scene, and uThermal is of this ambitious lot. The young Dutch Terran made quite an impression in 2014 with two consecutive appearances in PL but unfortunately lost in the first round both times. After a brief SC2 offseason, uThermal immediately resumed his trek for glory by qualifying for WCS on just his second try. Enroute to qualification, uThermal took out three consecutive Zergs - Prospect, Lambo, and Serral - for a combined 6-0 map score - a sure confidence boost as he prepares for Bly. Expect to see an aggressive style in which he tries to take the fight to the zerg early on. While online cups have been the bread and butter of uThermal’s career thus far, the stage is now set for him to make his mark on the European scene.
The long time Acer Zerg, Bly flew under the radar for most of 2014. Although he participated in all three WCS EU seasons, Bly only attended one weekender event in Dreamhack Moscow. Similar to uThermal, he mainly competed in online cups and made occasional appearances for Acer in the ATC. Bly was hardly considered a major player last year, but it could be a big mistake to underestimate him considering his unconventional style. A player who’s been around since Wings, Bly can occasionally bust out anachronistic builds and roach-heavy styles that can catch unsuspecting opponents off guard. Having played against just one terran in the entire qualifiers, Bly may not be entirely confident going up against someone who defeated him in both of their meetings in 2014. The Bly from two years ago would be my pick to win, but that time has come and gone.
Prediction: uThermal 3 - 0 Bly
When ShoWTimE booted Mvp from the Ro32 of WCS EU S3 2013, everyone took notice. Who was this Eurotoss knocking out the King of Wings in such a pedestrian way? In fact, the games weren't quite standard as ShoWTimE played with absolute greed: colossus double forge in an era when it had become too easy to punish. There was nothing Mvp could do to stop him, and he earned a hard fought victory that many of the Game Genie Terran's fans probably still remember today. Since then, ShoWTimE has had trouble living up to that early promise. He's flitted in and out of Premier League with alternating stints in Challenger, though he has never fallen out completely. He came very close to finally succumbing to qualifier hell this season, but he succeeded in the last chance bracket to make it this far. ShoWTimE mentioned in an interview with escene.de that his favorite matchup was PvP, so he should be pleased with his draw despite losing to First 0-3 the last time he had to play a PvP in Challenger.
His opponent, Lilbow, is one of the fastest rising stars in Europe. He placed second in the appropriately named Who's The Best European?, beating Bly, Dayshi, PiG and Welmu before falling in a close 3-4 series against MaNa in the finals. He was signed by Millenium not long after, and their assessment of Lilbow in their press release sums him up perfectly: " At the European level, Lilbow has been very successful in online competitions... At this precise moment of his career, Lilbow only lacks a great offline result." In WCS, he's found times difficult in Challenger League: 3-2 against Tefel, 0-3 against DeMusliM, 2-3 against KrasS. While all three are fine players, only DeMusliM was close to reaching Challenger this time around. It isn't an indictment of Lilbow's ability to win a best of 5 as he maintains a respectable 55% series winrate in Bo5s, but his history at this stage of the tournament could use a rewrite. He did acquit himself well in the qualifiers by breezing through the first day, beating players like Krr, MaNa, MarineLorD and Bunny, so this should be a close match between two young protoss.
As with all PvPs, the series will be decided by their choice of builds. While ShoWTimE continues to show a tendency for greed in other matchups, he is much more modest in the mirror. Many of his results are either clean sweeps in his favor or close defeats, and he and Lilbow have only played 1 competitive match so far. That tells us very little, but I feel like Lilbow's upwards trajectory won't not be stopped at this stage.
Prediction: ShoWTimE 2 - 3 Lilbow
As LotV draws nearer, old names have started to come out of the shadows. Gretorp, Destiny, Naniwa, 10 pools. Among them is one of the original “foreign hopes,” prOp.MorroW. While Morrow never left Starcraft, he’s drifted in and out of the public eye a few times now. Morrow is as OG as it gets in SCII, having taken home the first LAN title in the game, all the way back in August of 2010. Since then… well, since then he’s never won a LAN event. He did post strong finishes through 2011, even experimenting with a stint in GSL in early 2012. As Wings’ metagame fleshed out, Morrow’s quirky playstyles became less successful. However, Morrow always remained a strong backbone of the foreign terran scene, with innovative builds and a deep understanding of theory.
This perseverance seems to have paid off for the Swede. Towards the end of 2014, he began to reach further in online brackets, as well as rediscovering his groove in LANs. Morrow found himself narrowly edged out of the Ro16 in WCS S3 last year, and he joins the cast of Swedes hoping to put their country back atop the European rankings. It's been a while since we've seen him play regularly, but an in-shape Morrow should have something prepared for his Challenger League opponent.
Once again, BlinG has emerged as the sole UK representative in WCS. As 2013 ended and 2014 started, the trend of the solo Brit slowly came to the forefront. DeMusliM retreated to Sweden and the caster’s desk, while JohnnyRecco… well, we aren’t quite sure what happened to him. He’s somewhere in the aether of the internet. While BlinG has never made a very deep run at an event, he makes up for it with reliably decent placings. The Dignitas Protoss lives comfortably in the Ro16, with the occasional slipup in the Ro32.
Despite his handle, BlinG plays a relatively tame style. Focusing on his strong micro, BlinG favors either early game pressure or waiting for late game. His SkyToss compositions are excellent at baiting out poor engagements, along with a strong understanding of map control. Overall, BlinG is a by-the-book protoss who relies on his strong fundamentals to safely and steadily gain advantages in game. He also has, by far, top 5 hair in SC2.
Bling, teach me your ways.
Prediction: BlinG 3 - 1 MorroW
The final Challenger match of Day 2 will conclude with a heart wrenching team-kill between two long time Liquid teammates. Both zergs have been on Liquid from the very start, and now here they are 5 years later, still household names in European Starcraft. When the volatile ZvZ matchup is combined with the mind games that arise when teammates clash, the end result is a match where anything and everything can happen.
Liquid.TLO has been part of SC2 since the beta days and has grown into one of the game’s biggest personalities and greatest ambassadors. TheLittleOne had a solid 2014, in which he remained in PL for all three seasons and broke top 16 in multiple LANs. When he was not traveling to every offline event in Europe, TLO could usually be found grinding away game after game. He is a tireless worker who loves to win but sometimes allows his emotions to get the better of him after a loss. When he’s on his game though, the German superstar can be one of the most dangerous players in Europe and can take series off almost anyone. TLO’s strength lies in his understanding of the game and his ability to read his opponents—a skill which can come in handy in a mirror matchup. He’s been quite comfortable with the recent state of ZvZ, and has gone 12-3 in ranked matches just this month alone. That being said, TLO did drop a series to his teammate and current opponent, Ret, in one of the WCS European qualifiers.
A few years ago, Liquid.Ret could have been considered one of the best Zergs in Europe, but he has been relatively quiet in recent times. Last year, the only WCS season he participated in was S3 where he lost his Challenger match 1-3 to Dayshi. Now after defeating hOpe, DnS, elfi, and Miniraser in qualifier #6, Ret finds himself with a chance at redeeming his CL loss from a season ago. A win here would be Ret’s first taste of PL since 2013. The Dutch Zerg has been playing in quite a few online tournaments and traveling to offline events as well but just couldn’t manage a big result last year. We caught a glimpse of his best play at Dreamhack Stockholm, where he defeated MaNa, HerO, and Welmu. If that Ret were to show up today, I would be seriously concerned for TLO.
Prediction: TLO 3 - 2 Ret