Red Bull eSports looks at the second half of the groups at this week's season finale of StarCraft.
If you’re looking for the potential StarCraft WCS Season 2 Finals champion, there’s a good chance it will come from Group C or D. They skew a bit younger than the first pair of groups, comprised of players whose greatest achievements likely still lie ahead of them.
ABANDON ALL HOPE
There is likely not a worse group to be in than Group C - every single player in the group is currently in good form, and at least two of them are renowned as some of the very best in the game right now.
Start with Lee “INnoVation” Shin Hyung, who is having an astonishingly successful year. The Terran from the STX Seoul team was strongly favored as the world’s best StarCraft player going into Season 2, and probably could have secured his claim to that title if he’d managed to win the Korean division this year, instead of getting knocked out by Maru in the semifinals. That setback aside, this is a player who has basically been in the Korean top four since last year, and he won the Season 1 title. This is the last person anyone wants to meet in group play.
There is another major Terran threat in this group: Yoon “TaeJa” Young Suh. Like INnoVation, TaeJa is riding a hot streak, and he’s been especially good in the last couple months. He put on a dominant performance at Assembly Summer and earned a victory at the most recent Homestory Cup, and then made it to the semifinals in WCS America before getting knocked out by Polt. In terms of consistency, TaeJa is simply in another class.
Consistency is what troubles the other two members of this group, European champion Kim “duckdeok” Kyeong Deok and Johan “NaNiwa” Lucchesi. Duckdeok may have won a major title, but it’s his first, and he didn’t show the kind of terrifying dominance that builds a reputation. He struggled against Grubby and against MC, and his record prior to that was not particularly distinguished. On the other hand, sometimes a tournament breakthrough unlocks a player’s potential and lets him reach a new level. Duckdeok better hope so.
NaNiwa is consistent, but not in the way that wins a lot of championships. He runs hot and cold, though his temperament outside the booth probably adds to that reputation. Nevertheless, he’s been playing very well lately after a deeply troubled 2012, and if he gets into a zone, it might be more than TaeJa or INnoVation can handle.
What to make of Cho “Maru” Sung Choo? He’s so young he’s scarcely compiled a track record, yet what he did this season in Korea is undeniable. He beat INnoVation like a drum, sweeping him out of the bracket, and then took down Rain 4-2. Before they played, Rain even admitted that he’d known eventually they’d play each other in a final, that Maru’s quality has been evident for some time. It’s still possible that he’s in the midst of a Jeremy Lin-like hot streak, a good player momentarily blessed with the ability to perform incredible feats, but who will eventually return to earth. But if he can build on what he achieved in Korea this season, Maru could be on his way to being the kind of dominant force in Heart of the Swarm that Mvp was in Wings of Liberty.
An accomplished veteran like Mun “MMA” Seong Won will likely find it difficult to match Maru. MMA has years of experience, but unlike the younger Terran, he is not at the top of his game right now. The MMA of 2011 and early 2012 would have been a clear title contender at this tournament, but since then he’s been fairly quiet. He’s in very real danger in this group.
Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn is impossible to read for this tournament. She’s struggling with wrist issues and is about to go on hiatus to deal with that, which means she’s probably not playing anything like her full potential. Still, she is one of two Zerg in this tournament, and that is no mean feat. A lot of Zerg players saw their reputation and earnings shoot through the roof in the dying days of Wings of Liberty, and Heart of the Swarm has rather brutally put most of them back in their place. Scarlett his thrived, however, and that could mean she’s even stronger than she gets credit for being.
Han “aLive” Lee Seok is another question mark. He currently stands at 9th in the WCS rankings, but much of his career has been spent in team leagues, where the challenges are very different from a tournament like this one. He’s done well at some major tournaments, most notably winning IPL 4 last year, and he has been to a GSL semifinal, but overall he’s a bit of an unknown in Heart of the Swarm.
The action live at Gamescom begins Friday morning at 5 a.m. PDT with Groups A and B. The next two groups start at 9 a.m. PDT. Check the schedule at Blizzard's WCS page here.
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