WCS Season Three
Last Season of HotS
Ro16 Group Previews
WCS Points Scramble
Brackets and standings on Liquipedia
The Last Season of
Heart of the Swarm
Season 3 not only marks the final season of the year, it also marks what will likely be the last season to be played in Heart of the Swarm. And what a ride it has been. From Mvp's final championship down to Lilbow's runner up finish last season, WCS has transformed from a regional tournament to an event that brings the world of Starcraft together.
However, one goal remains unfulfilled: the foreign champion. Since the start of Heart of the Swarm, only one foreign player—Sen, who is finally in the Ro16 this season—has ever won a premier tournament. No foreign player has ever won a WCS title. Only Stephano and Lilbow have ever even reached a final, and two and a half years separated those two achievements. Undoubtedly, however, foreigners are finally catching up to the Korean dominion. The Ro8 and the Ro4 are no longer their sole possessions, and even the champions have appeared vulnerable throughout the year. All of the five remaining Korean players have targets on their backs, and none of them are safe.
This is the world's last chance, at least in Heart of the Swarm, to prove that the gap has finally closed. Some players have proven it individually—Snute's double victory of champions Rain and Classic, Neeb's and Bunny's wins over StarDust, and many others—but none of that matters until the WCS crown is finally worn under a different flag. This is the ultimate season of HotS, and it deserves the best possible concluding chapter. It is now up to these players to decide how this story ends.
Group A2015 has been a tough year so far for MaNa. The protoss player wasn’t able to get a higher placement than top 16 in any Premier tournament and his WCS runs have been cut rather short all year long. A player of MaNa’s caliber can’t be happy with finishes in the Ro16 and Ro32. There is only one chance left to prove that he’s still capable of delivering noteworthy results in a foreign league, otherwise the Polish player might have to look back at the most disappointing year of his entire career. Luckily for him he will enjoy great moral support for his Ro16 group, because he’ll have the power of the famous Polish home crowd behind him, a factor that is not to be underestimated. If there’s one place on earth that will reinvigorate MaNa’s spirit and push him to success, then it’s his home country. The Liquid Protoss has been very inconsistent in the past months, but he does have the skills needed to go the distance. MaNa needs to find the right day, the right place and the right state of mind—then he can absolutely survive this group and gain momentum for the playoffs.
Even though Sweden’s power in StarCraft 2 has declined severely compared to the pinnacle of their might, there is hope. By bringing two Swedish championships under his belt and being the sole representative of his country in WCS S3, Zanster has claimed the lead in his home scene, trying to find a path back to old glory—without much success so far. The young Zerg player is doing reasonably well in qualifiers, but most of the time he misses qualification by one or two series, unable to beat the more established players of Europe. Advancing to the Ro16 is already a great achievement for the Swede, as it is his best result in WCS so far. But if he wants to reinstate Swedish leadership over the European scene, he needs to go farther. Yet a hard way lies before him, especially because his best match-up, ZvZ, won’t find any use in this group. However to compete with the big boys of the west means adapting and improving, not only relying on the strength of one single match-up. Zanster is an underdog here, but he has shown that he can triumph at home. Now he has to carry the banner on foreign ground.
The group favourite is heading to Poland from France, Sweden’s successor to the position of the best European StarCraft nation. And contrary to his opponents’, MarineLorD’s 2015 has been the hottest year of his career, getting himself three top 8 finishes in Premier tournaments—HSC XI, DH: Valencia and WCS S2—, even beating Korean players along the way. Undoubtedly the French Terran has become one of the strongest foreigners on the planet and is one of the contenders in WCS, who could very well take home the title with some luck. His TvP has been shaky recently, so his protoss opponents might prove to be a bit of a hassle, but after overcoming Has in the Ro32, MarineLorD should be ready for anything. His other match-up are as good as they can get with his practice environment. And even that may improve soon, as he aims to train in Korea at the end of the year with his colleague Lilbow.
Safety and preparation is something, that should be expected of him though, as he will face none other than elfi in his first match. The protoss from Finland certainly can be compared to Has. He is as cheesy and chaotic, an utterly unpredictable opponent, that has the tendency to take control of the game and dictate the direction it’s going. He is really only predictable in two regards: he probably won’t play one straight up game in this group and he will pray to his cat-god Pekka before his matches. And why should he play any different? The Finnish player himself didn’t even expect to be here (indeed he was lucky enough to be uThermal's replacement for the Ro32, as he originally was eliminated in Challenger League). It already exceeded everyone’s expectations that he even survived the first round of the competition, so he has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
No idea what this means, but it sounds like it’s a prayer to InCa to gain the Dark Lord’s blessing.
MarineLorD > elfi
MaNa > Zanster
MarineLorD > MaNa
elfi < Zanster
MaNa > Zanster
MarineLorD and MaNa to advance to the Ro8.
Group BThe young German player GunGFuBanDa has made a name for himself this year through his successful WCS S2 run, reaching top 12, and doing well in online tournaments, as well as competing in the German scene. He is most famous for his excellent PvP skills, which is not surprising. After all, he and fellow German Protoss ShoWTimE are the heirs to the legacy of HasuObs and Socke and were able to train their mirror match-ups in the fires of the legendary ESL Pro Series (EPS). His flexible PvT isn’t something to be sniffed at either, but unfortunately none of that will be helpful in group B, as he has to face three Zerg opponents. With his PvZ not being his prime match-up, GunGFuBanDa will need to make use of the element of surprise and prepare himself well, otherwise the dreams of advancing into the playoffs will be crushed by the merciless power of the swarm.
GunGFu’s first opponent, the Kiwi Petraeus, is in a similar spot: his beastly ZvT won’t find any use in the Ro16, but he doesn't look bad in the other match-ups either. Truth be told, Petraeus looks very scary right now. He almost beat Jaedong and viOlet at MSI MGA, which proved that he is certainly capable of taking on the other two zergs of the group. Playing part time doesn’t seem to have affected Petraeus negatively yet; indeed he might be in even better form than in WCS S2, in which he finished in the top 12, same as GunGFuBanDa. Playing in the SEA region has exposed Petraeus to a lot of Chinese and Taiwanese protoss shenanigans, so the man from New Zealand should be able to deal with any surprises the German player might have up his sleeve. Petraeus is in a special position right now: he doesn’t have a team anymore and he doesn’t need to fulfill any great expectations. He can play freely now, and that is what makes him most dangerous.
After coming close to qualifying for BlizzCon last year, 2015 has been a bit underwhelming so far for Snute. A good top 8 finish in WCS S1 was followed up by a shocking elimination in the Ro32 in the next season, a disappointing performance at HSC XI and other Premier tournaments. It was at IEM Shenzen where the Norwegian finally showed the games his fans wanted to see, beating the two Korean champions Rain and Classic before falling in the Ro8. It was a much needed success, because the zerg thought about retiring publicly several times after losing important matches. Having won back some confidence, Snute is a formidable opponent for everyone in WCS again, especially because he has practiced hard in the last weeks, not travelling all too much—something that hurt his play a lot in the past. Liquid’s Aasgardian may not be as strong as he was last year, but he is a force to reckoned with: a potential contender to win the title.
Snute didn’t travel all too much in the last weeks, but he did get himself some inspiration.
Completing the Zerg trio is Taiwanese hero Sen, the first and up until now only foreign player to win a Premier tournament in Heart of the Swarm. He also proved himself to be a bane of German players, eliminating both HeRoMaRinE and ShoWTimE in this season’s Ro32, which gives him a moral advantage over GunGFuBanDa, should the two players meet. First on the agenda is Snute though. ZvZ is a match-up Sen very often encounters in the Taiwanese scene, and he won his Premier title last year through the mirror match-up as well, underlining his consistency in the discipline. So after two very disappointing WCS seasons a success for the veteran seems to be in range, if he can get a good start. Otherwise another short run might end this year’s WCS story for him.
Snute > Sen
GunGFuBanDa < Petraeus
Snute < Petraeus
Sen < GunGFuBanDa
Snute > GunGFuBanDa
Petraeus and Snute to advance to the Ro8.
Group CSo far this year, it’s been the same old story for Polt. He’s had a poor year on the weekender circuit, with two disappointing group stage exits at IEM Taipei and MSI MGA the sum total of his efforts, but come WCS time, he’s always upped his game. He’s extended his streak to seven top 8 finishes in a row, including three championships, and you have to look all the way back to early 2013 for the last time he failed to make the playoffs. His recent performances though have made keeping our faith in that dichotomy a little harder. His 1-4 exit in last place from the aforementioned MSI tournament last week at the hands of viOLet and Petraeus was a shock, and may have embedded a seed of doubt in his mind ahead of his zerg showdown in this group. Still, both of his matches were not streamed, and if reports of a 40 minute long epic against Petraeus are to believed, it still may be the case that his defeat was more to do with his opponents elevating their game than a dip in form. In his group stage interview, Polt claimed that he and Hydra were the only players in the entire tournament who could beat each other; he’d do well to emerge here with that belief intact.
While Polt’s lustre seems to have dimmed slightly since his Season 1 title, Hydra’s consistency in the foreign scene just keeps on going. His passion for foreigner bashing is unrivalled, and he maintains a career win rate in series of over 90%. His recent performances against his fellow countrymen are somewhat lacking though—while beatdowns from INnoVation and PartinG at MSI may have been brutal to watch, the calibre of his opponents makes the defeats somewhat excusable. On the other hand, losses to Jaedong and Seed at BaseTrade TV’s HIAT are much more worrying indicators of current form. Still, those quibbles are fairly minor in comparison to the body of evidence he’s accumulated over the year. Much like Polt, the highlight of his year has undoubtedly been the two WCS finals appearances; unlike Polt, he can also claim two further finals appearances at Gfinity earlier in the year as well as his eventual 4th place finish at HIAT. So while arguments about his ability to hang with the best of the best may be eventually settled in November, with his Blizzcon place secured, there’s very little reason to doubt Hydra right now.
The third member of our Korean triplet in Group C is viOLet. All year long we’ve talked about his his excellent performances way back in 2012 and the unfortunate visa issues that plagued him in 2013, and we’ve questioned whether he’ll ever find a way to return to that glorious run of form. Initially, the answer was no; two exits in the first group stage meant that he joined ForGG and StarDust in the discussions for ‘Most Disappointing Korean’. Quietly, though, Season 3 looks to be going better. He’s reached Poland, for a start; despite a poor initial defeat in the Round of 32 to TLO, his subsequent victories over XiGua and in the revenge match were more polished than anything we’ve seen from him in a while. Like Hydra, viOLet also reached the playoff stages of MSI, eventually falling to sOs. While we didn’t see any of the games, his victory over Polt was especially noteworthy, ending a streak of six consecutive series victories for the Terran stretching back to November 2014, and it should mean that viOLet enters this group confident of causing an upset.
The last player completing the group is Elazer. Given a second chance following Hitman’s forfeit, the Polish zerg is stepping up to represent his country. Elazer’s stock has shot up this year—coming into Season 2 Challenger as a complete unknown, he’s made two consecutive appearances in Premier while picking up a reputation for solid ZvP. In fact, he’s got by pretty much wholly off his ZvP, with three of his four wins in WCS coming off that matchup (his 2-1 win over MajOr in Season 2 is the fourth). Statistically, those two are his strongest matchups (both hovering at around the 60% mark), and it’s a shame for him that there aren’t any protosses in this group. His ZvZ is the major worry though at 52%, and in the knowledge that he’ll have to pick up at least one win in the mirror against either Hydra or viOLet to progress, hopefully he’ll have brushed since his participation was confirmed.
Polt < viOLet
Hydra > Elazer
Polt > Elazer
viOLet < Hydra
viOLet < Polt
Hydra and Polt to advance to the Round of 8.
Group DAnother year; another handful of top four finishes for Jaedong. Gfinity Spring Masters II, HomeStory Cup XI and HIAT go on the mindboggling list of top four finishes for the zerg—21 in total. That only five of those were converted to a championship (and, let’s be honest, possibly the easiest five of the set) tells its own tale. Time and time again he’s battled through a bracket, only to spontaneously combust with the finish line in sight. It’s clear that he’s always had the skill to claim a big title; the only question remaining is whether he can hold it all together for a full campaign. Season 2’s started well for him—a pretty straightforward pair of victories over HeRoMaRinE and ShoWTimE—but this is where it starts to get tougher. While Group D’s not nearly the match for Group C’s insanity, there are still three players in it who might even be favoured in a straight up fight with the EG zerg. The mech menace of the two terrans in the group will always be a worry in this map pool, while last season’s finalist will be a tricky ask for a player who’s always had his fair share of woes against protoss.
There’s been no player more disappointing in the WCS circuit than ForGG this year. His Dreamhack Winter title right at the end of 2014 gave us the impression that he’d be first amongst equals in the list of the Koreans gunning for WCS gold; unfortunately, he’s been anything but. It’s telling that top 8 and top 16 finishes, as bad as they sound for a player of his calibre, arguably mask the deficiencies in his play that have come up as he stumbled his way through the early rounds. Perhaps then, that much publicised pick of Dayshi in Challenger earlier this season was a statement of intent. We know now that it’s likely that he’ll be forced back to Korea at the end of the year, possibly into military service and retirement. ForGG is intent on not letting his year go to waste, and as we saw from Dreamhack Winter, he often plays his best with his back to the wall. Prepping against all three races in this group is a challenge though. His TvT is historically dominant, but has let him down at key points this year (e.g. losing to Polt in Season 1) and is actually his worst matchup statistically in 2015, while the mech meta may not be as beneficial as it appears. The current preference for long turtle stalemates is at odds with ForGG’s standard style—as we saw from his games against Life last December, he’s often preferred more of a scrappy counter-attacking style than a 200/200 death push.
The first of our two foreigners in the group is everyone’s favourite sweary Australian terran. iaguz has fully established himself as a consistent WCS Premier competitor this year. Two appearances at the offline playoffs in Toronto and now Poland, in addition to his top 32 finish in Season 1, make this a relatively successful year for iaguz, and it remains to be seen if he can break the Round of 8 barrier. He’s been very public about his love of INnoVation, and much like his hero, he’s often seemed like a great player whenever he can enforce his style on the opposition, while falling to somewhat unexpected strategies. Thus, his success in overcoming the trials and tribulations of the Has Experience was great to watch, with the similarly aggressive Lilbow a major threat in the group. Like ForGG, iaguz too will potentially be tested in all three matchups, and it’ll be interesting to see how his TvZ looks in particular. He’s been very vocal about copying the current Korean meta, and while his old bio style has served him well, it’ll be interesting to see if he opts for mech here.
Wrapping up the group is one of last season’s finalists. Lilbow is one of 2015’s biggest improvers—going from two losses in Challenger and an exit in the first group stage of Premier last year to his recent results is a huge improvement. The only question is whether he can maintain his current momentum. After all, he also failed in Challenger in season 1 of this year, and we’ve seen far too many one hit wonders in Starcraft not to hold back a degree of pessimism. So far this season, it’s all gone as expected—beating Neeb twice in the group stages, while losing to GunGFuBanDa’s favoured PvP, but this group will give us more of an indication of where he stands. He’s gone on record as saying that PvP is wholly luck based, so the lack of other protosses in his group should be a welcome sight for him. His easy 2-0 victory over iaguz at the Season 2 finals should give him plenty of encouragement on that front, while it will be very interesting to see his excellent PvZ matched against Jaedong’s weakness against aggressive protoss play.
ForGG > iaguz
Jaedong < Lilbow
iaguz < Jaedong
ForGG < Lilbow
ForGG < Jaedong
Lilbow and Jaedong advance to the Round of 8.
WCS Points Scramble
This is it. The last chance for WCS players to make up that point deficit and launch themselves towards Anaheim. With both Korean leagues close to their conclusion, the WCS point picture looks fairly clear. Only two spots are even remotely approachable—Dark at 2800 and FanTaSy at 2900—and with only DH: Stockholm left to pad one's numbers, WCS could determine the BlizzCon attendees with 2 months to go. Currently, only two WCS players—Hydra and Polt, the two champions—are in the top 16. If both of them fail to take their second title of the year, we could still conceivably have another WCS player in the grand finals.
Likely Minimum: 2800
* All players have already received their 300 pts for reaching the Ro16
#17 - ForGG - 1825 pts
Points Needed: 975
WCS Predictor Chance: 12.74%
Outlook: Despite ForGG's relatively crummy year, he's still close to making it. A 2nd place this season and a couple hundred points from DH Stockholm would put him over the threshold, but anything less than that will leave him short. Considering how he's done so far in 2015, 2nd place seems very unlikely.
#18 - Lilbow - 1925 pts
Points Needed: 875
WCS Predictor Chance: 12.68%
Outlook: Another 2nd place finish for Lilbow would likely lock his spot for BlizzCon, so everyone in France should pray for a fortunate bracket if he advances from the Ro16. He'd have to knock off a Korean to do so, which would also help his chances in the bracket stages. A semifinal would leave him about 300 pts short, but he could still make that up should he attend and do well in Stockholm.
#21 - Snute - 1700 pts
Points Needed: 1100
WCS Predictor Chance: 8.07%
Outlook: Snute needs to win this season if there is to be any hope of him reaching BlizzCon. That would double his points and push him to absolute safety, and many still believe that Snute has what it takes to do it. It's his ZvT that has been a liability so far in 2015, but if he can play ZvZs and ZvPs up to the finals, it could happen.
#24 - MarineLorD - 1275 pts
Points Needed: 1525
WCS Predictor Chance: 4.72%
Outlook: Mlord is still within a title of getting into BlizzCon, and there's nowhere but up for the young French Terran. last season's Ro8 upon his debut looked natural, and he's going to have to take a few steps up to make his miracle happen.
### - Everyone else - less than 1100 pts
Points Needed: 1700
WCS Predictor Chance: 0.1% each
Outlook: For everyone under 1100 pts (Petraeus, iaguz, viOLet, MaNa), a WCS title and probably a Ro4 in DreamHack (points haven't been announced yet) is the only way to leapfrog the competition. I'm not sure if stranger things have happened, but they're still mathematically in the race.