WCS Season II Finals
Countdown to Start
Brackets and Information on Liquipedia
Banner photo: Silverfire
CMStorm Polt at the WCS Season 2 Finals
American Pride, Korean Ingenuity
We are the Generation of Irony. And by irony I don’t mean the relatively harmless, absurd attitude of the hipster subculture. Rather, I’m referring the deep cynicism and distrust that comes from too much knowledge and too little control. We have more access to more information than at any other time in human history; it tells us that disillusionment abounds in an absurd world and there’s little we can do about it. Lies, half-truths, broken promises, and ignorance are prevalent at all levels of society. Sarcasm in this case is self-defense. It protects us from judgment, commitment and the pain of ruined expectations. This attitude leaks into everything, even our little beloved microcosm called the SC2 scene.
Take for example Polt’s games at the WCS America Finals. Pay the slightest bit of attention and you’ll hear the loud “USAUSAUSA” chants in the background. Usually that mantra is saved for all the good foreigners, the ones that aren’t from the U.S. After all, that’s the joke. Real enthusiasm for our local players would require us to acknowledge the serious hurdles for them to be good: paltry competition, meager resources for cultivating up-and-coming recruits, a lack of a strong tournament scene, poor internet infrastructure to cover the entire country, etc. Even as new players like Scarlett and Suppy are proving themselves, the overall strength of the North America scene has been falling behind Korean and Europe for a while. The depressing reality would be enough to make any non-Korean player palatable if only he/she could break their monolithic hegemony. Of course such enthusiasm would be a clear acknowledgement of the sad desperation in the first place…unless it was delivered with a wink.
Yet here we are, the chants drowning out everything except the commentators. They aren’t limited to victory cheers after Polt walks out the booth. They start randomly when his name is announced at the beginning of the game, after he wins a decisive engagement, as he is preparing for the next series. Roars of real enthusiasm accompany him after every win.
Even the cheerfuls and memes are coming out in full force.
It’s another strange twist in the life of Choi Sung Hun. Few players have transitioned into so many roles or resisted the change that normally comes with such change. He started out as a former WC3 semi-pro, a micro Terran with some innovative builds and a mysterious ability to demolish MC at every turn. He was the arrogant fool who badmouthed Jinro, the mediocre terran who existed to test the new blood along with Ensnare, and then the Super Tournament winner who beat all odds. When he transferred to The SCV Life, Polt became “that guy who doesn’t play zerg”. He’s been the wandering world warrior, Stephano’s mirror and nemesis, the short Korean with comprehensible English, and the fourth Triple Crown winner in history. Today he is a Korean pro player who is also America’s great hope in this upcoming tournament. The claim is ridiculous and hyperbolic and completely appropriate all at the same time.
Polt has remained mostly the same. He is still a LensCrafters model, although not as statuesque as your classic Anglo-Saxon man. Just like at the TSL house, he practices rigorously every day lest his skills start to decline. His growing mastery of English has come with a swelling confidence in his stage demeanor. Today he doesn’t need a translator to express his excitement in somewhat stilted yet coherent English; he doesn’t really care about occasionally missing an article or preposition. As always he is generous to a fault and open to casual conversation. When he’s not wearing a hoodie he returns to his greatest weakness, high-collar jackets. He is smiling the great majority of the time.
Perhaps that is why unconditional support for Polt is so easy. In a world where Koreans are overly protective of their emotions and foreigners are largely bad at conveying them, Polt makes us feel like we know him. He smiles and laughs, moves his hands around, celebrates with fist pumps i.e. he acts like a human being who happens to play StarCraft as a profession instead of a StarCraft player that tries to be a human being in his spare time. Add that he is a champion without the arrogance, detachment, or sacrifice of personality that often comes with the profession and you have a true winner in the PR department. Instead of cheering for someone we admire, it can feel like cheering for someone we know.
This is the most intriguing narrative of the whole tournament. Koreans have been classically judged in two ways: are they playing for us or are they playing against us? Even those who choose foreigner teams are regarded as fish out of water, pursuing opportunities that we simply unavailable back home. So what about a guy who lives here, enjoys living here, and enjoys interacting with people who live here? Does being Korean really make a difference when our investment starts to become something more than nationality? Sure we’re repeating the USA chat with a measure of ironic detachment, but it’s becoming awfully enjoyable to do so.
WCS Season II Finals: Ro16 Group B PreviewPolt, First, Bomber, Grubby
With no Zergs in this group, spectators can avoid the question of TvZ imbalance for at least a couple hours. Instead, enjoy the inevitable complaints that will come with lategame TvP. Grubby and IM_First like to push it to the lategame so we’ll probably see the power of colossus + HT compositions at least once.
Most eyes will be fixated on CMStorm_Polt in this group. Coming off his dominant victory in the North America finals, he is a clear favorite to go deep in the Season 2 finals. He has looked nearly invincible in TvZ and TvP, so it is a matter of fortune that he is initially paired against First. This matchup only works for Polt as a matter of principle though. First is notorious for his very different approach to PvT and it’s possible that Polt will be caught off guard as he is preparing for a standard game. Polt’s style of forcing a succession of attacks ought to match up well against First’s ability to scatter his opponent with multipronged aggression, and this could possibly be the best series of the night.
Speaking of First, what happened to the hype for this guy? Buzz was quite strong when he was making a fool out of Fantasy and ruling the GSTL with an iron fist, but things have substantially quieted down after his unimpressive loss in the Ro8. For many people that loss signified the end of an abnormal run that could explained by a combination of great play and bad play from the opposition. For the most part, First has not entered the conversation as a threat to the title. While I don’t believe he will make top 4 at this time, he should be favored over Grubby in the mirror matchup and a Bomber without preparation. I expect First to be eager for a rematch against the man who knocked him out of the OSL.
Meanwhile ST_Bomber will be looking to get out this group as quickly as possible. After an OSL run that confirmed everything we loved and hated about his career, StarTale’s most consistent-yet-inconsistent player is looking forward to a bit of redemption. Fortunately he has a strong chance of advancing through as long as he avoids too many TvPs, a matchup that he says makes him uncomfortable, despite his stellar record. Bomber should be favored against Grubby (perhaps with a bit of hesitation) just on the virtue of accomplishments alone, while he may not have to face First at all. He ought to be also slightly favored against Polt due to his general TvT record and the enormous threats he has taken out lately. However this is assuming that Bomber will display the same level of skill that he demonstrated in the OSL. With no way to know whether he will deal with Polt or First at all, Bomber lacks the preparation to demonstrate the same savvy builds.
Finally, we come to Grubby. Let’s not understate it: this is quite the momentous occasion for him. For most of WoL Grubby was defined as the quintessential mean of tournament play: beating him was a rite of passage necessary to cement oneself in the ranks of the European elite. But after a great run in WCS Europe and an underrated performance in the IEM Shanghai qualifier, our lovable EU representative is getting dangerously close to exceeding his own reputation. His PvP has been like shooting crows in the dark but his PvT is looking the best it has ever been in HotS. If he gets out of this stacked group, the ‘Grubby line’ might need to be passed off to someone more worthy of the moniker.
Bomber’s mind will be the defining factor of this group. His performance is largely dependent on mindset and when he doubts himself, it can lead to some very ugly results. Out of the three Koreans here he can be the worst as well as the best (sometimes on the same day). His latest failures in the TvP matchup make me feel that he might resort to more wacky strategies that will fail him in the end. And while Grubby may be earning his way out of a personal meme, is surpassing Grubby’s line good enough to beat two OSL Ro8 players and a WCS champion? …Nah.
Polt > First
Bomber > Grubby
Polt > Bomber
Grubby < First
Bomber < First
Polt and First advance.