5 player storylines for HSC V
|Author: Thorin||Like aceresport.com:||05.07.2012, 15:23 PM|
With all eyes on Krefeld for the next few days, as HomeStory Cup V gets underway, a smattering of Europe's top players will battle each other, and a select few Koreans and North Americans, for a five figure first prize and another chance to jump up the international rankings. Here are five player storylines to keep in mind and follow as the fun unfolds in Germany.
Where now for MaNa?
MaNa has always fit the stereotype of the streaky top tier European Protoss, catching fire at an event and making a deep run only to fizzle out before closing the deal. His resume is littered with second and third place finishes where he impresses with some key wins over bigger names, makes it deep and then always has to step aside for someone else to seize the glory. With that resume spanning well over a year's worth of tournaments nobody had any reason to believe the pattern would not continue, that is until Dreamhack Open Summer, last month.
MaNa looked to be set for another such run, making it to the semi-finals before running into Stephano there. After downing the man who was pretty much the favourite for the tournament at that stage MaNa found himself facing DIMAGA, another player with an aptitude for deep runs and no gold medals. Taking aside the Fantasy vs. Stork/JangBi vs. Fantasy nature of that final being two players infamous for rarely winning events battling each other, and thus one of them having to emerge an event winner, simply getting a win at a large European event under his belt provides MaNa with an opportunity to turn around his career storyline.
Now the moment stands before MaNa where he can prove himself a legitimate contender amongst the top tier of more than just Europe. If we are not to write off Dreamhack as a nice run and not indicative of a jump up in quality then MaNa has a number of hurdles to jump. Firstly he must, incredibly unlucky draws withstanding, make it to the top eight of this event at the very least. Once there a run to top four would help legitimise him as more than just a top European Protoss but also one of the very best European players.
Regardless of his placing the final hurdle would be to face one of the big name Koreans, MC and Mvp being the obvious choices, in a BoX in the playoffs. There, win or lose, he has the opportunity to show the quality of his game beyond merely where he finished in the tournament. Will MaNa followup his Dreamhack success with a deep run here? Will Krefeld be the graveyard of his dreams of being a top contender, as he faces wave after wave of dangerous European opposition? MaNa's moment is now, it's up to him what he'll make of it.
SC2's king makes a royal visit to the European continent
Mvp is the closest thing to a dominant player or reigning king StarCraft2 has ever seen. NesTea and MC have had their runs and the trio of MMA, DRG and MKP have excelled abroad and charted their own deep runs through GSL territory, yet none have consistently established themselves as in the elite tier of players in the world as often or as emphatically as Mvp. Four times he has made it to the top of the GSL mountain, with runs spanning his whole career in SC2. Internationally Mvp has also made deep and successful runs at two MLG events, BlizzCon and WCG. What he hasn't done though is ventured into Europe before.
Despite some of the aforementioned tournaments featuring European players Mvp has quite rarely faced top tier European competition, especially in comparison to the likes of his peers. How prepared is he for the onslaught of varied playing styles he'll come up against in Germany? Will his opponents be intimidated by the Mvp mystique or will they all be riding high on the idea of scoring an upset on a player who should have no reason to expect 90% of the field could beat him in a BoX?
Against the top tier players Mvp has always shined and in fields such as the GSL, where one can prepare for a specific opponent, he is the best of all time. What about facing a field of players who may be largely unknown for him, in terms of experience playing them or watching them? Will the donkstrike effect known to poker players, where enough unknown players of inferior quality making unpredictable plays eventually takes down a top tier competitior, apply in this instance?
The lack of other elite level Koreans, outside of MC, really puts the pressure on Mvp to take the event and cruise through to at worst a top 4 finish. Anything else would be a huge shock for the players in question and the spectating world at large. Whether Mvp really has anything to lose from placing anywhere but top two is fairly debatable, being as his repeated excellence in GSL means he will always be considered one of the world's very best players as long as he continues to perform there, but this is a huge opportunity for everyone else in the field to score a moment in the spotlight by either beating him or at least playing him closely, as BlinG could tell you.
Roll out the red carpet because the king is here, long live the king.
Ret poised to make a deep run?
Ret is one of those players who is frequently name-checked by his peers as a player who is capable of much, his style being a natural fit to impress fans and build the belief that he is destined to be one of the elite Europeans who can consistently compete with the Korean waves. Until about eight months ago Ret had been far from delivering on that promise. His Assembly Winter win in early 2011 had been a nice breakout tournament but that win has not aged as well as others, with a lot of that field looking far less impressive over a year later. Struggling after that he managed to find success again in August as he won the European Battle.net Invitational. That proved only to be a blip on the timeline of disappointing results though.
At the end of the year Ret made it to the semi-finals of Dreamhack Winter and there began a legitimate run of tournament placings which is still alive today. At IEM VI Sao Paolo he finished third, losing only to the champion. At the Red Bull LAN he ousted PartinG, NaNiwa and SaSe to take the title. Finally at Dreamhack Open Stockholm (not to be confused with Dreamhack Summer) he once more graced the top four, with a run to the semi-finals, ended by Polt.
Looking at his best matches and results against top tier players, as fans so often like to, we can see a solid backlog of evidence to suggest Ret has the ability to compete with the top tier players and to be a significant player in the international tournaments go from the European side of things. The key factor though is whether Ret can continue cashing that talent and ability in as far as placings go. It's all well and good to cite a win over an opponent or showcase talent in a big match but closing the deal and getting a deep finish is more important for a player's overall rankings and legitimacy as a top tier player. Ret's problem in the past has been both inconsistency in placings and losing earlier than expected to names who should have been pushed aside by the same Ret who was challenging the top tier players in other matches.
If Ret can make it to at least the top eight here, if not the top four, then he'll have put together a very solid eight or nine months worth of play, for the first time in his SC2 career, and can reasonably be counted amongst Europe's best. If he loses out to some lesser known players, especially some of the smaller named European players, then it will feel like the same broken record is being played again.
SaSe rides a wave of momentum and expectation
SaSe is a player who seemed almost like an urban legend of the SC2 pro scene, peers and friends (such as NaNiwa) mentioning how much he practiced and how impressive he was and yet no actual results manifesting in real world international competition. With so much time spent grinding away in the Korean scene SaSe seemed to be lagging far behind his purported level, made even worse by his contrast to NaNiwa, who was making noticable improvements and shaping himself into a foreigner capable of making a name in GSL.
In 2012 SaSe has delivered on some of that hype and praise with two strong finishes at Red Bull LAN and the MLG Spring Championship. At the former he beat solid names like PuMa and JYP on his way before falling to Ret in the final. At the latter the Swede followed up an unremarkable two win pool play performance in his Protoss dominated group with a phenomenal lower bracket run to fourth overall. With six straight series wins the Swedish Protoss took out names like viOlet, Leenock, Polt and Stephano, before finally being downed by Alicia in a three map PvP series.
Going into Dreamhack Summer the Swede had arrived in terms of international competition and on home soil had high expectations following him around. Going 3-0 in his third group stage containing TaeJa, Welmu and White-Ra SaSe then got through a three map Ro16 series against Ret to reach the final eight. At this point things looked very favourable for the Swede to make at least top four, with a semi-final against either DIMAGA or NaNiwa for a shot at the final. Instead fraer, a Ukrainian Protoss entirely lacking in international LAN experience, made SaSe a victim of his cindarella run to the semi-finals.
With that Dreamhack result at the forefront of our minds this HSC marks the proving ground where SaSe will either impress with a Ro8 or better finish, and help put the fraer loss down as a momentary lapse in concentration, an unexpected upset or a PvP casualty, or it will be the stage upon which he falls to lesser players and leaves us all questioning where he stacks up as a player. His practice background in Korea means more must be expected from this Swedish Protoss, who is going all out to be the best he can be as a StarCraft2 competitor, than normal European players.
Was his MLG run a nice heater by another European Protoss who will be shown to be a streak player? Will this be the event SaSe shows himself to be cut from the same cloth as a NaNiwa and capable of going toe-to-toe with the world's best players, perhaps facing off against MC or Mvp? SaSe has a lot to gain and lose from the outcome of his HSC campaign.
IdrA's last chance saloon
IdrA has now moved well out of the territory of being a necessary mention when people ask which foreigners are capable of competing with the best of the Koreans. Seemingly paralysed beneath a mountain of intense scrutiny from fans and wave after wave of opponent, of any and all levels of quality, who now believe they can beat him and earn a little shine in the process, IdrA finds himself at the last chance saloon of relevance.
A poor performance here and IdrA can not only write off the entire first six months of the year, which accounts for a quarter of his StarCraft2 career, but also will only be considered relevant by virtue of his name, his team backing and his legion of fans. Even in the dark days of 2011 IdrA would still have a big series or an impressive game against a big name to keep his fans's hopes and dreams alive. In 2012 it has been one crushing campaign of grinding defeat after another. The only BoX victory IdrA has managed over a name anywhere approaching the top tier in 2012 would be his group stage win over SuperNoVa at the IEM VI World Championship, after everyone else in the group had beaten the American and eliminated him entirely. That's it for the entire year so far.
If IdrA cannot mount a run of significance in Krefeld that will leave him with sob stories from three continents and one of the worst streaks of tournament placings by a huge name ever witnessed in SC2. Other players get to fade into the background and either build themselves back up or disappear without too much fanfare. IdrA is always in the spotlight, both in terms of fan scrutiny and the impact of his persona, so that there will be no time to recouperate in private and regain momentum. The European players smell blood in the water and either Idra will begin his fight back to the surface now or sink further into the depths competitive irrelevancy here.
(Photographs all courtesy of their respective owners, including SK Gaming and TeamLiquid)