$25,000 and 3,600 WCS points are on the line at the IEM Tournament at NYC's Comic-Con.
The pro StarCraft season is coming down to the wire, meaning that WCS points are more important than ever for those who find themselves “on the bubble” for a top 16 WCS finish and a ticket to the Global Finals at BlizzCon in November. That makes this week’s Intel Extreme Masters tournament in New York one of the last chances for players like Johan “NaNiwa” Lucchesi and Kim "Revival" Dong Hyun to bag a bundle of WCS points. First place at ICM gets $10,000 and 750 WCS points.
If there is one player who badly needs to make it to the IEM NY final, it is NaNiwa. He stands at 16th in the WCS standings and was eliminated from Europe’s Premier League in the round of 32. But all is not lost: if he can place first or second this weekend, he stands a chance of retaining his spot. Still, with Eo “soO” Yoon Su only 200 points behind and playing in the Korean Season 3 final, NaNiwa is no longer in control of his own WCS destiny. His hopes now rest on soO face-planting in both the WCS Korea final and the Season 3 Finals, and for Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn to get knocked out of WCS America.
NaNiwa and Revival, along with ten other players, start with a huge advantage: they have already qualified for the group stage, bypassing IEM NY’s two dual preliminary brackets. For the players who are already seeded into the groups, all they have to do is win two series to advance to the quarterfinals.
But it won’t be easy. There are some stellar players in these groups, and NaNiwa shares his group with Liquid’s Song “HerO” Hyeon Deok. That’s promises to be a tough Protoss vs. Protoss matchup, a battle at which both players excel. However, HerO has a far more consistent track record over the years.
Team Liquid’s Dario "TLO" Wünsch offers the powerhouse team another shot at the championship, though he has the misfortune of sharing his group with Ko "HyuN" Seok Hyun. HyuN’s Zerg vs. Zerg tends to be extraordinary, but when the two met at Homestory this summer, it was TLO who took the third-place prize with aggressive, Life-style play. He set the tone with a terrific comeback victory in their first game.
Speaking of Lee "Life" Seung Hyun, the gifted young Zerg from StarTale is competing in one of the elimination brackets alongside another Zerg titan: Park "DongRaeGu" Soo Ho, who stormed to the round of 16 in WCS Korea this season with his most impressive play in the last year.
Both players have fallen a bit from the dominance they displayed last year, though Life has been a bit more of a force in WCS Korea and turned in two strong performances at DreamHack Summer and Bucharest. Life’s series against Kim "SuperNova" Young Jin was a thing of beauty.
If he plays like that, Life stands an excellent chance of advancing to the group stage. Both his and DRG’s prospects are improved by strong Zerg vs. Zerg play, which will be desperately needed at this Swarm-dominated tournament. DRG hasn’t missed a GSL Code S appearance in ten seasons, and crushed Lee "INnoVation" Shin Hyung in the round of 32 this season, and he looked like someone who is ready to retake his position at the top of competitive StarCraft.
But this is bound to be a difficult tournament for anyone, because there are a lot of stars packed into the four groups. While Terran might have the longest odds of any race at this tournament, Lee "Flash" Young Ho is a threat to win any tournament he attends. But with so many elite Zerg and Protoss players, skill at Zerg vs Protoss and same race matchups will probably be the deciding factors.
The elimination bracket quarterfinals start today at 12:30 PM Pacific and will be cast live at the IEM website. But the main course starts with the group stages on Friday at 7:30 AM Pacific, and culminates on Sunday with the final at 11:30 AM.