Just like last year, Yoon "TaeJa" Young Seo looked untouchable. He carved through the field at DreamHack Winter, taking down players like Lee "INnoVation" Shin Hyung and WCS champion Kim "sOs" Yoo Jin on his championship run. He was simply on a different level.
But unlike in 2012, TaeJa didn't stumble at the finish line. The Team Liquid Terran devastated StarTale's Lee "Life" Seung Hyun not once, but twice, sending the elite Zerg down to the loser's bracket before beating him again 4-2 in the grand finals. The $30,490 victory gave TaeJa his biggest purse ever and eighth major tournament victory.
He could not have asked for a more perfect finish to his year than DreamHack Winter. He dominated the group stage and then defeated his teammate Song "HerO" Hyeon Deok, who had annihilated him in the DreamHack Winter final last year with a 4-0 sweep. This time TaeJa knocked him out in the first round of the winner's bracket. Then he moved on to face Mun "MMA" Seong Won. The Terran vs. Terran matchup has been inconsistent for TaeJa this year, and gave him some major trouble toward the end of WCS Season 2, but this time he was not to be denied against the Acer veteran.
Finally TaeJa's two meetings with Life showed just how unbeatable he was at this tournament. Life was having an incredible run of his own, having just dominated INnoVation in the winner's semifinals. But against TaeJa, his favored Zerg vs. Terran style was completely ineffective. Life's gameplans usually rely on his ability to out-micro and overwhelm his opponents with masses of Banelings and Zerglings, but TaeJa was somehow able to take the worst hits Life could deal out and keep moving forward.
TaeJa had full command of the entire Terran bag of tricks through his battles with Life. His macro let him sustain nonstop combat against the Zerg, denying Life any chance to take an advantage in army supply even after getting good exchanges. His perfectly-timed drops meant that Life could never keep his economy up and running, nor let his army stray too far from home. His masses of Widow Mines made his army almost unassailable when it had time to get into position. It was a classic TaeJa victory: so clean and methodical he made his opponents look outclassed
Though, TaeJa emerged the weekend's biggest winner, nobody may have stunned the DreamHack crowd as much as Jo "Patience" Ji Hyun, who came from nowhere to get within a series of the final. The Azubu back-bencher came out on top of a tough group, lost his first match against MMA in the winner's bracket and then went on to defeat sOs 2-0, Polt 2-1, MMA 2-0, and INnoVation 2-0. It was an out-of-nowhere attack from a relative unknown, and it may put the rest of the StarCraft world on notice that there is another strong challenger on the scene. If Patience can follow this up next year with some strong results, DreamHack Winter will be remembered as the place he first knocked on the door of greatness.