Battle.Net World Championship Preview

A year of competition, featuring a huge number of national and regional tournaments all with their own storylines, set the stage for this weekend's Battle.net World Championship in Shanghai, China. Players from eighteen different countries will engage each other for national pride and a $250,000 prize pool, with $100,000 going to the first place finisher.

The event has a very diverse player pool, which is to be expected from this style of competition, and as a result there are fewer elite players but a huge number of sleeper picks who could make an impact in the group stage. There are some weaker groups, and also an obvious group of death, and I will be going through all of them, sizing up the players and predicting who will advance; two players will make it out of each group. Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

Group A: PartinG’s to Lose

  • PartinG (P), South Korea, StarTale
  • Illusion (T), United States, Quantic Gaming
  • Socke (P), Germany, Team ALTERNATE
  • Fenix (T), Peru, LG-Incredible Miracle

It should go without saying that PartinG should be favored to destroy this group. He did recently fall quite hard in his GSL Round of 16 group, losing 0-2 to Polt and Sniper, but this only means that PartinG has had a little more time to practice for the BWC. The competition is just not up to his level in this group, and PartinG should expect to advance pretty far in the bracket stage as well.

image Illusion is one of many Americans looking to make a splash (Image Source: us.battle.net)

As for the other three fellows in this group, two of them are Terran players: Illusion and Fenix. Normally, this wouldn’t be such a huge deal, but there are only four Terrans in the entire tournament. I think Illusion stands a pretty good chance of advancing here, as he has always been a solid American player and taken series against Code S players in the past. He has been practicing in Korea as of late, and it will be interesting to see what that has done for his game.

Fenix hasn’t shown a whole lot recently, and qualified through the very weak South American regional final where his only competition was KiLLeR, who he lost to twice. He is on LG-IM, so he probably has good practice partners, but he really remains a mystery. When I do not know much about a player’s ability at any point in time, I don’t expect a lot from them until they prove themselves. Fenix will certainly have to do that to have a chance of advancing.

Socke, if he plays at his best, should advance along with PartinG. Socke is a strong player both mechanically and mentally, and when he plays at his best can defeat even the most elite Korean players; not many foreigners can say they have defeated DongRaeGu, whether he is in a slump or not. PvP against PartinG will be tough for him, but Socke should be favored against the two Terrans.

Prediction: PartinG and Socke advance

PartinG is the no-brainer call here, but the second advancing player could really be any of the other three. I’ll put my trust in Socke; he should be able to focus on PvT practice and assume his match against PartinG will be a wash.

Group B: Zerg City

  • Suppy (Z), United States, Evil Geniuses
  • ViBE (Z), United States, ROOT Gaming
  • Comm (Z), China, Wayi Spider
  • VortiX (Z), Spain, Karont3

If you like a more-than-healthy dose of ZvZ, then have I found the group for you! The volatility of the matchup makes this group very difficult to diagnose, and I think that might be bad news for VortiX and good news for the other three, particularly the essentially unknown Chinese player, Comm. I know literally nothing about him other than that he won the China National final in a ZvZ over TooDming. Other than that, I have no idea what he is capable of, and that does make him dangerous in an all Zerg group.

image I expect VortiX's play to be as cool as he looks in this picture (Image Source: fragster.de)

VortiX is the best all-around player in this group, but he finds himself grouped with two of America’s greatest Zergs in Suppy and ViBE. Suppy probably would have a better chance of edging out a win or two in the brackets, but ViBE is a ZvZ beast, having won the United States National Championship on the back of his ZvZ alone. If one of these two Americans does not make it out of this group, I will be very surprised.

All of these things aside, VortiX is very, very good at Starcraft 2. Despite the nature of this group, I think he will find his way out of it and could very well make a strong run in the bracket. Deep down, doesn’t everybody want a VortiX/LucifroN grand final? Maybe not, but I think the tournament would suffer if one of the Spaniards falls short of our high expectations.

Prediction: ViBE and VortiX advance

ViBE is just so good at ZvZ, and I don’t see him losing more than one series. VortiX might have some close calls, but he should be able to will his way out of the group; the later games go, the better chances he has, so look for him to try and prolong maps when he can.

Group C: It’s Anyone’s Game

  • HuK (P), Canada, Evil Geniuses
  • Grubby (P), Netherlands
  • KiLLeR (Z), Chile, Dignitas
  • Sen (Z), Taiwan, Gama Bears

This group is tremendously tough to call. Out of all the groups, I think this is the one where every player has a good chance of advancing, and in a situation like that, every map will matter.

On one hand, you have two of the foreign scene’s most consistent Protoss players. HuK has been around forever, and for good reason, and his micro is some of the best in the business. The era of one-base play that suited him has passed, but the Canadian Protoss is still a force to be reckoned with. Grubby has been better as of late, beating some strong Koreans, but his recent performance at MLG was lackluster, and Grubby will need to show his best to ensure a group victory.

image HuK will come to Shanghai looking to show that he can still win (Image Source: gamezone.com)

KiLLeR could be an interesting sleeper pick here. Unfortunately, his ZvT is his strongest match up, and there are no Terrans here, but he did win the South American Regional without dropping a single game. Even against weaker competition, that is quite a feat. Without a top-tier Korean in the group, KiLLeR stands a good chance of taking a couple of series off of these other foreign players and advancing.

It is never easy to predict just how well Sen will play at an event. With his own Taiwanese leagues to play in, we do not really see much of him expect for in the NASL, where he has a 6-2 record and victories against MMA and Stephano. Judging by that, Sen is still a very talented player capable of doing quite well in this somewhat weaker group.

Prediction: Grubby and KiLLeR advance

I would call Grubby the best player in this group, if not by a lot, but I think he will have to win a couple of series 2-1 to advance by the skin of his teeth. KiLLeR is my underdog pick here; I’m not sure HuK has the mental strength to play his best right now, but Sen should be favored against KiLLeR. However, I think the Chilean Zerg will be out to prove that the South American scene is not as weak as we think.

Group D: Rain-ing on the Parade

  • Rain (P), South Korea, SK Telecom T1
  • BabyKnight (P), Denmark, FXOpen
  • State (P), United States, Quantic Gaming
  • MaFia (Z), Australia, Team Immunity

Much like with Group A, a world-class Korean Protoss should dominate this group. Rain is apparently all about these foreign tournaments, having forfeited Code S matches to attend the recent MLG Dallas, and he will likely have his eyes on that $100,000 first place prize in Shanghai. He should be a favorite to win that huge chunk of change, and this group is merely a stepping stone to the hardcore competition he will face later on.

image Nothing less than a championship will satisfy Rain (Image Source: thisisgame.com)

The young Danish Protoss BabyKnight is looking better and better with every event he attends, and I expect this to be no exception. PvP against Rain will be very tough for him, and the other two opponents are no walk in the park either, but BabyKnight is getting more and more used to the tournament scene, and as he gains experience, his natural talent will be able to shine through.

The Australian Zerg MaFia could also do quite well here; the fate of the group’s second advancing spot will likely come down to his match with BabyKnight. I do respect State as a player, and would love for him to prove me wrong, but he I don’t think he quite stacks up with the opposition. Australian players like MaFia keep showing that the SEA scene is worth keeping track of, and he will be looking to put another notch in Australia’s belt with a good show here.

Prediction: Rain and MaFia advance

As I said before, Rain is almost a shoo-in to win this group, and it will come down to the other players’ results against each other for the second spot. As much as I have touted BabyKnight’s development, I think the Aussie MaFia will prevail, as he only has one matchup to prepare for.

Group E: The Group of Death

  • IdrA (Z), United States, Evil Geniuses
  • Stephano (Z), France, Evil Geniuses
  • RorO (Z), South Korea, Samsung Khan
  • HerO (P), South Korea, Team Liquid

When he saw his group, IdrA tweeted, and I quote, “guess i shouldntve talked so much shit about blizzard.” Honestly, looking at the group, I do not blame him for that sentiment. He seems to be the odd man out in a group with two strong Koreans and a Frenchman who, for all intents and purposes in Starcraft 2, could be considered a Korean.

Stephano, fresh off of his suspension and some time in Korea, should be out for blood in this tournament. He has made it very clear that money is his motivation, and he should be drooling all over himself even thinking about the $100,000 grand prize here. We all know what Stephano is capable of in ZvP, but his ZvZ could make the difference between advancing first in his group and not advancing at all.

image Expect big things from Stephano at this event (Image Source: gosugamers.net)

For HerO, this event is all about getting past his nerve issues and putting his best play to work. He was once believed to have the best PvZ in Korea, and if he can bring back some of that magic, he will do very well in this group, and I think that makes him the favorite even with Stephano hanging around. A good finish at this event will show that the Liquid Protoss is back in shape, whereas a poor showing might do the exact opposite.

Both IdrA and RorO will have to pull off a bit of a surprise to have a chance here. IdrA, unfortunately, doesn’t have much of a shot here, but RorO might do a touch better. He didn’t lose a single map of ZvZ at WCS Asia, and took a series 2-0 off of Seed in ZvP. If the KeSPA player can maintain that level of performance, and either Stephano or HerO have an off day, we could see RorO sneak into the next round.

Prediction: Stephano and RorO

I see Stephano dominating here; when he is at his best, no one else really stands a chance, and the money involved at this tournament should make him even more difficult to deal with. I also think HerO will disappoint here after falling to Stephano, losing his calm and opening the door for RorO.

Group F: A Curious Cadre

  • Curious (Z), South Korea, StarTale
  • herO (P), South Korea, CJ Entus
  • MajOr (T), Mexico, ROOT Gaming
  • TitaN (P), Russia, ROX KIS

This is one of the more interesting groups in this first stage. One of the four Terrans, MajOr finds himself with a decent shot at making his way to the bracket. When he plays well, MajOr seems to be capable of being the best foreign Terran, and could prove it here. If he can beat TitaN, he just needs to squeak by one of the two Koreans to get out of the group; call me crazy, but I can see him pulling that off.

Curious is probably the strongest player in the group, having been a consistent face in the GSL for quite some time now, despite his inability to get to the Code S round of eight no matter what. Hopefully for him, that group stage curse will not follow him here, as he only needs to escape one group to make it to the bracket.

image I'm curious to see how well Curious plays (Image Source: thisisgame.com)

herO is an interesting figure here, and not only because he shares a name with Liquid`HerO. He is a strong Protoss in his own right, defeating Squirtle, Sen, and RorO on the way to qualifying for this event through WCS Asia. I have seen very little of his play, but with results like that over such strong players, I would be foolish to count him out in a group with two foreign players.

TitaNis the clear dark horse here, but is not a player you can just ignore. While his path to qualification in the WCS Russian national tournament is not particularly inspiring, TitaN has played some good games against high level competition before, albeit quite some time ago. Now that I’ve given him a little bit of consideration, I can feel safe in saying that TitaN should have a very hard time here.

Prediction: Curious and herO advance

I want very much to say MajOr can get out of this group, but he has never been able to show his top level play consistently, and if he cannot bring that to bear, the two Koreans in the group should advance with ease.

Group G: The Group of Anti-Death

  • Insur (P), United States, Infinity Seven
  • Levin (P), Brazil
  • LucifroN (T), Spain, Karont3
  • LoWeLy (Z), Belarus, FXOpen

I would like to think that IdrA might have liked this group a bit more than the one he found himself in. I can only imagine the smirk that must have come on to LucifroN’s face when he saw his draw; as one of the world’s most consistent foreign Terrans, he should have no problem disposing of a teamless Brazilian and a couple of other middling foreigners. Expect to see him advance with ease.

image LucifroN got quite lucky with his group draw, expect to see him in the brackets (Image Source: eclypsia.com)

I’m going to go ahead and assume Levin will not be quite up to snuff, so the second player to make it out will be one of two up-and-comers: the American Protoss Insur, or LoWeLy, the Zerg from Belarus. I’ll give LoWeLy the edge based on the competition he had to face at WCS Europe on his way to a third place finish. He defeated players like MaNa, SortOf, ThorZaIN, and BabyKnight; in other words, top European players of every race except maybe Zerg, and there is no Zerg in the group here.

Prediction: LucifroN and LoWeLy advance

It really does hurt seeing this group occur when so many other great players who could easily advance here will find themselves left out… In any case, LucifroN should get out swiftly, and if he plays like he did at the European event, LoWeLy should follow right behind.

Group H: Creator vs. the (Zerg) World

  • Creator (P), South Korea, PRIME
  • Scarlett (Z), Canada, Team Acer
  • Nerchio (Z), Poland, Team Acer
  • mOOnGLaDe (Z), Australia, Team Nv

This group hurts me even more than the last one, but for the complete opposite reason; I love every player here.

Creator will have an advantage here, needing to only conquer one match up to make it out of the group, not to mention him being one of the strongest Protoss players in the world. He will not have an easy road out, as the three Zergs here are all fantastic talents, but the PRIME stud should put his world-class macro play to work and take care of business.

Between the three Zergs, it is almost impossible to say which one will follow Creator out of the group; they are all great all-around players, and are all masters of ZvZ. The two Acer Zergs, Scarlett and Nerchio, are both tremendous, and have shown they possess the ability to dominate almost any other foreign player. Scarlett in particular demonstrated magnificent ZvZ on her way to victory in both WCS events she played in, and this could help her significantly in the group.

image I expect big things from mOOnGLaDe in Shanghai (Image Source: playerattack.com)

Also, do not forget about mOOnGLaDe. Much like Scarlett, he had to ZvZ his way to qualification for this event, but we do not often see him face off against players not from his own region. This makes him somewhat of an unknown quantity, and what we have seen of him looks quite good.

Prediction: Creator and mOOnGLaDe advance

Creator is a pretty easy call here, but the second spot is very difficult to decide on. My mind told me to pick Scarlett, but my gut said mOOnGLade, and I’m going with the Aussie. I think having an Aussie make it through the groups will greatly improve the tournament, and I think mOOnGLaDe has the stuff to pull it off.

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