One of a handful of Korean progaming heavyweights is likely to take the crown this weekend.
In the space of one year, DreamHack Bucharest has gone from being the baby of the DreamHack Open family to being the equivalent of an entire GSL season over the space of two days. This weekend’s tournament is a can’t-miss for StarCraft 2 fans, and features an all-star lineup of Korean legends. This is probably the most impressive tournament we’re going to see until the Season 3 Finals, so it’s time to set those alarm clocks.
Top of the Heap
There are six particularly scary names on this list, players you might pick for the semifinals going into this tournament. First, you have the reliably excellent Protoss play of Song “HerO” Hyeon Deok, last year’s DreamHack Winter champion, this year’s Stockholm champ, and winner of WCS Season 1. He’s very good at winning tournaments, and at winning DreamHacks in particular. And with Protoss starting to rack up much stronger tournament results of late, in part thanks to the mighty Mothership Core, HerO has a lot of things going for him.
Trouble is, there are three absolutely deadly Terrans in this lineup, including the legendary Lee “Flash” Young Ho. Flash has had a frustrating year in Korea, never making it out of the round of 16 in either the GSL or Proleague, but the fact that he’s always there is a testament to his ability and consistency.
Lee “INnoVation” Shin Hyun and Yoon “TaeJa” Young Suh are probably better positioned to excel here, judging by recent results. INnoVation has had a brilliant 2013, winning the first season of WCS as well as this year’s first Korean WCS season. He stumbled a bit in Season 2, losing to Maru in Proleague and then getting knocked out of the Season 2 Finals by TaeJa and NaNiwa. But there’s no shame in either of those defeats, and his performance still leaves him firmly ensconced as one of the world’s greatest Terran players.
But it’s a bit of a toss-up between him and TaeJa as to who will prove the stronger. TaeJa beat him in an amazing series at the Season 2 Finals, and he crushed everyone at Assembly Summer. He looked like the best player at the Season 2 Finals, until Bomber took him out in a bruising semifinal series, and Bomber isn’t at this tournament. If TaeJa plays like he did a few weeks ago at Gamescom, there might not be anyone in this field who can stop him.
The Zerg, meanwhile, are showing up with Lee Jae Dong and Ko Seok Hyun. Jaedong may not be winning tournaments, but he’s always almost winning them. In fact, he’s performing so poorly in finals compared to his other series that it’s starting to seem like more of a mental issue than a mechanics or strategy problem.
HyuN has no such trouble. He finished second in last year’s final GSL tournament, did well at Homestory, finished second behind Polt at MLG Spring, and won Valencia over… Jaedong. HyuN has basically been on a roll for the last year, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t continue this weekend.
The Best of the Rest
The entire Axiom eSports squad is on hand to contest at Bucharest this weekend, and to compete in the SC2L Final against their former GSTL ally, Acer. If you had to characterize Axiom in a single phrase, it would be “punching above their weight”. From the team’s careful expansion and player selection to their reliably strong performance in WCS America, Axiom have a ton of experience and talent at their disposal. Look for great games from Yang “Alicia” Joon Sik and Kim “Ryung” Dong Won, who have both had good years.
Axiom will also be able to use Manuel “Grubby” Schenkhuizen against Acer in the SC2L final, which means that Acer might be outgunned in Bucharest, even with the newly-signed INnoVation filling out their roster alongside Mun “MMA” Seong Won. It’s also worth keeping an eye on Son “StarDust” Seok Hee, who won DreamHack Summer and made it to the semis at Valencia. His non-DreamHack career has not been nearly as impressive, but he’s still a strong candidate to go far in this tournament.
Last but not least is Lee “Life” Seung Hyun from StarTale. After a strong showing in 2012, this year has not been as favorable. Will this be the tournament where he turns his luck around? Perhaps he will take some inspiration from his teammate, StarTale Bomber, fresh off his WCS Season 2 victory, but only time will tell.
This still only scratches the surface of the 96-player field, which commences play at 12AM PST on Friday night / Saturday morning. Streams will be available at http://dreamhack.tv/
For the latest news follow Red Bull eSports on Twitter.