HomeStory Cup XX - The Start of a New Seasonby Wax
While there's no official news about WCS or GSL in 2020 a new season of StarCraft II esports is set to begin, with or without Blizzard's christening. HomeStory Cup XX, the biggest and most extravagant version of the rambunctious tournament according to TakeTV, will be also be the first major tournament to be held with the new balance patch applied. No, the game won't be officially patched to version 4.11 .0 until November 26th, but HomeStory Cup is charging forward with the balance changes activated.
As such, the tournament will be an important preview for the entire 2020 season to come. While everyone will be intrigued to see whether or not Zerg was sufficiently nerfed (or nerfed at all), the larger focus should be on a more important question: does the patch make the game more fun? While the first tournament under a major patch will never be fully indicative of the future, it will at least give us some sense of the game's direction going forward.
As the first major, offline tournament since the 2019 Global Finals, HomeStory Cup XX will also reveal how the competitive scene is shaping up in the post-BlizzCon 2019 world. Dark's absence makes it impossible to answer the most pressing questions (namely: who's really the best player in the world?), but there are plenty of other intriguing angles in play. Can Reynor show his BlizzCon finals run was no fluke? Will Serral get off to a strong start on his year-long redemption tour? Will the Korean visitors make this tournament a repeat of Assembly Summer, revealing that the gap hasn't closed as much as everyone thinks? Or will the 'foreigners' pull off a repeat of GSL vs. The World, and show that they've made huge strides toward achieving international StarCraft parity?
Given that we're playing under a new patch where players have effectively had no practice, and with many players just coming back from the 'off-season' break, making predictions here is fraught with uncertainty. It seems like a situation where the players with the best baseline mechanics could thrive—perhaps we're headed to rematch of WESG 2018 with Serral and INnoVation facing off in the finals.
But new situations have often given creative-minded and inventive players a brief boost, at least before their strategies are co-opted and refined by those with superior mechanics and all-around skill sets. TLO is the most memed player when it comes to creativity, but I'd look carefully at Solar and PartinG's games to see what the popular strategies might be in the first few weeks of the patch (what a shame GuMiho won't be making this his final tournament before retirement!).
Yes, HomeStory Cup XX is set to be a fascinating tournament for competitive reasons. But I haven't forgotten what many consider the most important part of the HSC series: having a ton of fun. I mean, it's being hosted at a goddamn indoor water park, after all. Some players will be more serious (and sober) than others, while some will be a bit more... relaxed. And that's okay! We've all gathered around HSC—be it in-person or online—to have a good time. And a good time, if anything, is the one thing that's guaranteed.
In the spirit of HSC, here's our off-the-beaten-path preview to the group stage of the tournament.
HomeStory Cup XX – Ro32 – Survivors Royaleby TheOneAboveU
32 StarCraft II players gathered in Germany for what they thought would be an esports tournament. Little did they know that they had been invited to a sadistic game of death. On the night of the welcoming party, the last thing anyone could remember was a strange gas coming in through the hotel air vents before everyone blacked out. When they came to, they found themselves stranded on a tropical island built inside a huge, doomed enclosure (it's said it was originally built to give Big Gabe a place to sleep when visiting Berlin).
Now, the 32 players must fight for survival. The heat, humidity, and wild beasts (commonly known as ‘Berliners’) roaming the island are just part of the challenge—their fellow mankind will be the most difficult threat to overcome. Forget the virtual battles of eGaming! TakeTV is taking sports back to its roots, as we watch competitors fight for their lives just like in the coliseums of ancient Rome
A good mix of experienced adventurers and new fighters await us in Group A. TaeJa, for example, has been the sole survivor of many previous battle royales, but became addicted to the adrenaline and has come back for more after his supposed retirement. He's been markedly less dangerous ever since he took an arrow to the wrist during one of his tournaments. TaeJa is an old man now, scarred and beaten up. But we've seen him take countless lives in previous battles, and he may not be the easy prey he seems.
Hailing from Poland are souL and Elazer. While the latter has the reputation of being a bit of an aggressive mad man, a danger to everyone around him and himself, souL is a composed, dedicated individual, religiously watching Bear Grylls on TV and mastering every survival simulation game known to man—unfortunately, he can’t stomach the sight of real blood, so he’ll likely black out a few minuted after cutting himself on a palm leaf. This might be especially true when he meets Cure, an absolute killing machine against his fellow Terran species, but rather vulnerable against the flora and fauna of the wilderness. The same goes for TIME, who’s always been severely wounded when he met Cure on the road, his quick, wild fighting style often leaving himself more battered than his opponent.
Another interesting duel in this group of survivors might be the battle between the mad, MacGyver-esque genius TLO, a brilliant engineer of fantastic killing devices (who’d probably like to burn down the entire island and replace it with a train station), and the methodical Trap. He’s good at setting traps, as his name suggests, but he’s also pretty adept at avoiding them. Speaking about telling names, Solar… hasn’t actually got one, because he cannot eat sunlight, even though he sometimes is green of envy about the great survival strategies of certain European zurgvivors. This will be his big chance of persuading everyone that he has the one true understanding of his craft.
There certainly is one favorite to survive in Group B: Serral, the king of the Finnish jungle(?). Growing up in the eternal darkness of Finland, he had to wade through meter high masses of snow and kill hordes of wild moose just to get to school every day. Nowadays he’s so rich and successful, he got his own plot of land to do these exact things just for fun!
Another good candidate for the betting people out there would be ShoWTimE. He will likely build a strong shelter at his landing point and defend it against anyone or anything coming too close to it, until he realizes he’s the only one left. His complete opposite is Bly, an absolute mad man whose aggressive fighting style just works year in, year out. He’s truly timeless and remains dangerous in any environment. The same could be said for PtitDrogo, who has mastered the art of turning his raw emotions into straight-up punching power, making him a difficult enemy to face. SpeCial has snuck onto the island as a replacement for his friend and mentor TY, who was ambushed by men from the shadowy org known as the 'Korean military.' If SpeCial runs into any Koreans, he may not bother to differentiate them in his quest for vengeance.
The three non-Korean human competitors are in a somewhat difficult spot: Kelazhur has been a bit bookish lately, obsessed with reading survival guides, but he didn’t necessarily get a lot of practice at actually using the tips in there. MarineLorD has already been sabotaged by cursed commentator Artosis, but perhaps this will be the hour and minute when the broken clock turns out to be correct. Dutch candidate uThermal has been feeling rather down lately, but what's new? He's quick to be invigorated with some success, and he could jet-pack his way to victory.
A strong Korean expeditionary corps is hunting prey in Group C. There is soO, a man who’s won so many second places in survival competitions that most of his body is now composed of silver replacement parts—not the best metal to build durable parts out of, but useful should any of the competitors be secret werewolves (looking at you, SortOf). There is Zest, a known resource hoarder, who will just gather whatever he finds, bring it into his shelter, but might die before he gets to put any of it to use. Bunny is always very excited to be anywhere, but hasn’t seen much success for many months now, being a bit of a dark horse coming into this (as is usually the case). Stats had the honor of winning a survival game in the woods of Finland this year, even bringing down the apex predator Serral, but since then he’s seemingly gone a bit soft.
Heading up the foreign contingent is Lambo, the leading European expert on zurgvivalcraft and arch nemesis of Solar, and he, too, is out to prove his own theories on zurgvival strategies right. Other zurgvivors at the event should be careful, as his rabid gang of followers, the Lambros, may beat up and sabotage any of his intellectual rivals. Young Clem from France may not be able to drink hard alcohol yet, but he sure is old enough to spill blood and guts, and this could well amount to become his breakthrough battle. He’s young, energetic, incredibly quick, and even adept at innovative stealth strategies.
The underdogs here are clearly Zanster and Hellraiser. The Swede traditionally has problems with navigation and time, so he might be showing up too late, to an island that has already succumbed to the merciless effects of climate change and rising sea levels, and Hellraiser isn’t really a proven survivor yet, having much less experience and street cred than most of his competitors.
The young and dashing Italian superstar Reynor is highlighting Group D, in which he is a big favorite to be the number one survivor. His biggest obstacle will be finding food with appropriate quality for his refined taste buds (a great challenge in Berlin, the city that regards dunking sausage in curry sauce as an amazing culinary achievement), as well as keeping his designer clothes clean. That last part is going to be especially difficult against PartinG, the South Korean high IQ gentleman with the super dirty fighting style—gentleman, because he is very mindful of his manners, and expects the same from his opponents. If you don’t congratulate him after he honorably kicked you in the balls, he’ll just do it again until you learn some manners.
The group is also featuring the biggest monster ever seen in a battle royale, the mighty HeRoMaRinE, for whom the Tropical Island enclosure was originally built (no expenses were spared). His thick hide and solid hunting strategies make him a fearsome predator indeed, and wherever he goes birds fling to the skies at his approach, his footsteps shaking the ground, his pool dives unleashing tsunamis. Hunting him amongst the others is an eccentric, rich, cybernatically enhanced man from South Korea: INnoVation. He’s won so much money, he doesn’t even really care about surviving anymore, as he’s already saved his consciousness on a satellite in orbit. These four adventurers are surely the favorites to survive this particular island and advance to the next.
The other half of the group is not as exciting or illustrious, but shouldn’t be underestimated: MaNa has already defeated a literal Terminator this year, so someone like INnoVation, who still clings to the weakness of his flesh, is certainly killable. SortOf may have a rude awakening, as the rules of this battle royale have been newly updated, forbidding certain zurgvival tactics that made him dangerous in the first place. Harstem is traditionally a strong competitor at HSCs, and the aquatic environment will certainly suit the Captain (even if his flagship, the HNLMS Warp Prism, was damaged in a blizzard). Then there is Denver, who got his ticket from some drunk dude, and is still assuming this to be a pleasant all-inclusive holiday trip—it's going to be a rude awakening for him.
Credits and acknowledgements
Written by: TheOneAboveU, Wax
Written by: TheOneAboveU, Wax