WCS Europe Season 1 - Premier League
Ro32: Group F, G, H Previews
Nerchio, Stephano, Grubby, MMA, and more!
Brackets and standings on Liquipedia
by kollin and Waxangel
Premier League Ro32:
Premier League Ro32:
Group F, G, H Previews
It's time to wrap up the Ro32 and see who gets to move onto the live rounds of WCS Europe. It's time for national heroes and some of the most popular players in the world to put it all on the line. Watch out: with groups this stacked, some heartbreak is inevitable.
In the first group of the week, we have two well established top dogs in the European scene facing off against two up and comers who have things to prove still. The first match of the night is between Polish powerhouse Nerchio, and the WCS France runner up Dayshi. On the other side of the group, 2012's surprise Protoss of the year monchi goes up against the Zerg half of the Durán brothers in VortiX.
Vortix has received less of the limelight than his brother Lucifron despite arguably having better results, due to Lucifron having the rare quality of being a very good foreign Terran. WCS Europe will be Vortix's opportunity to show the world that he should not be written off as 'just another Patchzerg,' and that for all of his brother's flash and style, he is still the better brother. Vortix was once crowned the second best player in Europe, and he has the skills to reach that level again, if not go even higher. Vortix has been on the warpath in the Acer TeamStory Cup, and if he keeps up that level of online play, getting past this group shouldn't be a problem.
Nerchio, much like Vortix, has his very own rival that he is in a constant battle with. The Protoss player Mana has always been in close competition with Nerchio to see who can obtain, and hold, the title of best Polish player. WCS EU will be the staging ground for their next bout, and based on this group Nerchio should be able to reach the Ro16 to await MaNa (should there be GSL style group selection ceremonies, don't rule out a country-kill selection). While Nerchio isn't performing as well as he did in his prime, he's still looking strong as he's traded games against an assortment of skilled players. While Vortix may prove to be a challenge in ZvZ should they face each other, neither monchi nor Dayshi should be able to stop Nerchio if he brings his A game.
Monchi is an oddity. He used to be a player no one had really heard about, who then won a not-so-minor live tournament, beating at least one top level Korean in the process. The tournament in question was IeSF 2012, and the Korean was Squirtle. Apart from Squirtle, there weren't many other GSL caliber players attending the tournament, so it was easy to write the championship off as a fluke, or point to volatility of PvP. However, monchi surprised everyone again by placing in the top 4 of Dreamhack Winter, beating Naniwa, DIMAGA and groupmate Nerchio, among others, before falling to eventual champion HerO. Monchi has shown he can turn on the heat when it's most important, however his HotS results so far have been rather unimpressive. Then again, given monchi's knack for surprising, anything is possible.
The sole Terran of the group, Dayshi, is another obscure underdog in a tournament with a number of of obscure underdogs looking to make a name for themselves. The WCS France 2012 runner up fought his way into this group through the grueling and treacherous qualifiers, beating out players such as Feast, Goody, and even Chinese Zerg Xigua. On the whole, Dayshi has been racking up great online results over the last half year, but he stumbled when he had to face the music at DreamHack Stockholm. This is Dayshi's chance to prove he is an underdog to take seriously, not another EU ladder warrior who is punching above his weight.
Nerchio > Dayshi
Vortix > monchi
Vortix > Nerchio
monchi > Dayshi
Nerchio > monchi
Vortix and Nerchio advance
Wow, things change fast. Just a few months ago we'd have predicted Stephano to make it out this group without breaking a sweat. Yet, somewhere along the way, Stephano slowly started to lose that spark that made him special, his luster began to dull, and now he's right on the verge of becoming just another foreigner. The slow decline began during a muted, slightly disappointing stay in Korea, and continued on after the release of HotS. Stephano was crushed by Koreans at the IEM World Championship, by the nondescript Last at MLG Dallas, and finally he was sent out of DreamHack Stockholm Ro16 by CoCa, who had only recently returned to SC2 from LoL (to add insult to injury, he lost to Grubby - a player he used to have trouble losing to even if he tried - in the 8th~16th place ranking matches).
There's no doubt that Stephano is still among the top foreigners in the world, but he no longer looks like he's on another plane of existence entirely. In the past, other foreigners were lesser beings whose world it amused Stephano to live in. Now, they are his peers.
Whatever the reason (some suspect he contracted a serious case of the emo's from HuK in Korea), that means Group G is wide open for the taking.
You have to point to Grubby as Stephano's primary competition in this group. While his top 16 finish at DreamHack Stockholm was below his personal best 2nd place at IEM Singapore, he beat a number of quality players in Stephano, Polt, and Ret. After that kind of performance, you couldn't blame Grubby if he thinks that this group will be easier in comparison. Slow and steady improvement has been the story of Grubby's StarCraft II career, and advancement into the championship picture in Europe seems like the next natural step.
The massive star power of Stephano and Grubby inevitably overshadows the other two players in the group, but they've worth keeping an eye on nonetheless. BabyKnight was one of the few breakout, non-Korean Protoss stars of 2012, and he had a great run of wins over Koreans to end the year, taking out Rain, Polt, and TheStC in live tournaments. HotS has been a mixed bag for him so far. Fourth place the ESET UK Masters was a decent result, but not that exciting considering the hopes we had for him at the end of 2012. Add a rough elimination from DreamHack Stockholm at the hands of ForGG, Fuzer, and Oz, and you have to wonder if BabyKnight can get back to top form in time for WCS Europe.
The other dark horse is KrasS, Group G's resident Open Qualifier player. So far the players who came up from the qualifiers are 2 – 5 in terms of Ro16 advancement, with Strelok and Happy making it through while Bunny, Siw, and Shuttle have been cast down to the Challenger League.
Where will KrasS fall? While he did do well in the qualifiers, the level of competition is higher still in this group. The main strike against KrasS here is that his record against players on this level – let's arbitrarily say that means players who reached the WCS Europe Finals last year – is historically poor. KrasS is surely better now than he was when dropped out of the WCS Europe Ro32 last year, but it's hard to think he'll be so improved that he can cause an upset in this group.
Stephano > KrasS
BabyKnight > Grubby
Stephano > BabyKnight
Grubby > Krass
Grubby > BabyKnight
Stephano and Grubby to advance.
MMA's story is worth of an epic poem or a Hollywood feature film. The Emperor's heir had the world and more, but was brought down in a tangle of dark intrigues, accusations and plots. While MMA's situation looked dire at the end of WoL, the arrival of HotS seems to have revitalized him somewhat. The new Turbovacs™, which suit his drop heavy playstyle, as well as settling in a friendly environment at the Axiom house, have probably contributed a lot to his recovery.
Now MMA is heading to Europe, to stay in a different team house located in Germany. This will be the first GSL-style tournament he has attended in a long time, and if the Code S and Blizzard Cup champion wants to prove that he is still relevant outside of team leagues, this is his biggest shot. He has been performing decently in the ATC recently, picking up victories against Hyun, Sage and Yugioh which shows he definitely has the potential to make it through this group. If MMA gives it his all, there may be another chapter in the Prince's story yet.
Since he'll be playing from Europe, MMA seems like the favorite to go through. Which of the other three players is likely to go through with him? All three look fairly evenly matched on paper, being statistically solid in HotS so far. The lone Zerg of the group SortOf has spent time in Korea training with NSH, and based on his Dreamhack Stockholm run it looks to have paid off. While he wasn't able to take out any big name Koreans, he did show that he is one of the stronger foreigners at the moment by making it to the Ro8 with wins over Strelok, Center, and Kas. There's also the Belgian Protoss Feast, who was one of the most notable players to make it out of the open qualifiers. While he was unluckily eliminated from DH: Stockholm due to map score tiebreakers, he still left his mark by defeating Stephano and monchi in series. Finally, we have the Protoss half of the Polish power duo, MaNa. While he was working up a storm around a month ago in the Acer TeamStory Cup, his results there have slightly dropped off. While DreamHack was a good way to check-up on everyone else's skill levels heading into WCS Europe, MaNa's quick elimination from an all-Protoss group leaves us with very little to say. MaNa comes into the group looking just a little bit more mysterious than the others, but his talent for performing well in tough situations can't be understated.
In the end, we have to favor SortOf slightly. The advantage of having practiced on the Korean server in a focused team house environment tips the scales, and his Dreamhack run shows the benefits (he was only eliminated by another Korea-trained player in NaNiwa). It sucks to have to predict MaNa and Feast to go out, but this is one of the toughest groups in the tournament, and not everyone can have a happy ending.
MMA > Feast
SortOf > Mana
MMA > SortOf
Feast > Mana
SortOf > Feast
MMA and SortOf advance.