WCS Season Two
The New World Order
What's new in Challenger?
Day 1 Preview: EU
Europeans at it first...
Day 1 Preview: NA
... North Americans second.
Brackets and standings on Liquipedia
The New World Order
The new WCS system, set in place for 2015, has changed the way players are seeded into the Premier League and how Challenger League operates. Contrary to 2014 rules, where the top 8 players from previous season retained their Premier League spots, only the champion is directly seeded. Other 31 competitors have to face off in the Challenger League against the players from regional qualifiers. Premier League players have the advantage of deciding which player they want to battle for a Premier League spot. Due to this new twist, we may see some hot showdowns be called out and, possibly, some new rivalries emerge.
Day 1 Preview: Europe
by Shtanjel and Destructicon
Snute vs Bly
With the new WCS system in place, Snute managed to repeat his best performance by reaching the Ro8, where he eventually fell victim to his teammate Bunny. However impressive this achievement might be, many still expected a deeper run from a contender for the title of best foreigner, Snute himself among them. For his Challenger match, Snute elected himself a ZvZ, a matchup in which the Norwegian is very comfortable and holds a pretty decent record of 80 – 33 since January. These statistics reflect his very confident play. He normally likes to prolong the games, opting to reach infestors to add into his roach composition and crush his opponent with a tech advantage. It is in these late-game situations that Snute really appears unbreakable. However, during the recent DingIt Invitational, Snute showed some vulnerability to aggressive play; although he held his own against players like Jaedong and Hydra in longer games, he dropped maps when faced with early-game aggression.
On the other hand, Bly's aggressive style is almost diametrically opposed to Snute's macro-based play. His inclination for early pool shenanigans is only surpassed by his love for his incessant speedling aggression. Even though we have not seen him much at the offline events, he has been quite successful in online cups, where he is known to instill fear into anyone he faces. He confirmed this by getting through the qualifiers on his first try by dropping only 2 maps, one to elfi and one to JonnyREcco. Bly is quite a dangerous opponent to face in a ZvZ, which he proved recently by beating players like Nerchio and TLO. Unfortunately for Bly, his current opponent seems to be an exception to this rule, as Snute holds an impressive record of 12 – 3 in matches against the Ukrainian. However, if Bly plays to his strengths and tries to apply pressure before the match progresses into the later stages, he may have a chance.
As already mentioned, Bly can boast a solid ZvZ and could certainly surprise Snute with some early aggression. However, if Snute prepares and scouts accordingly, he should be able to add yet another Premier League appearance to his already rich resume.
Snute 3 – 1 Bly
Welmu vs Ret
In 2013, Welmu entered his first WCS Premier League with low expectations and a lovely assortment of yellow shirts that inspired the nickname Bumblebee Toss. If his Ro16 appearance impressed Europe, imagine the awe sparkled by his subsequent advance to the Ro8 in 1st place over Stephano, LucifroN and duckdeok before being taken down by the BossToss. That result put Welmu in the spotlight but it was only a sign of things to come: he reached two additional WCS quarterfinals while never falling out of Premier League prior to the Ro16. Even though the fans put their faith in other potential foreign hopes, it was usually Welmu that surpassed everyone's expectations with his consistent performances.
Waiting in the other corner of the ring with one IEM and two DreamHack semifinals, we have Liquid's Zerg Ret. Unfortunately for him, these results date way back to the WoL era. The transition to HotS was not a kind one for Ret, as he slumped hard and was never able to return to the path of his days of glory. After two WCS Ro32s in 2013, he never managed to claw his way back into the Premier League. Although he reached Challenger in the last two WCS seasons, his run was cut short both times by 3-1 losses against Dayshi and TLO respectively. Even so, Ret's fighting spirit is not yet crushed. With his third chance in Challenger in sight, Ret looks as motivated as ever to become one of the 32 top players in the foreign division again.
Welmu's choice of a zerg opponent is interesting, as his vT and vP matchups look more solid on paper. In practice however, we have seen the Finn holding his own against a number of reputable zergs in high stakes situations. Though his recent WCS run didn't feature any PvZ, he definitely made up for it in Season 4 of Fragbite Masters, where he took down viOLet, ended the run of the young Serral, and put up a fierce fight against Soulkey. During the tournament, Welmu liked to (ab)use different forms of protoss timing attacks against the Swarm and he had been especially keen on using different immortal all ins. He will no doubt try to pull off something similar against the King of Drones in their Challenger match, yet he may find Ret to be more than prepared for him: their last online showmatch ended with Ret getting the upper hand and beating the Bumblebee Toss 4 -1.
Despite Ret taking their last match, I still believe Welmu will emerge victorious in the end, especially since a bigger prize is on the line this time. Unfortunately for the Liquid player, I think he is looking at a third 3 – 1 elimination in a row.
Welmu 3 – 1 Ret
TLO vs Nerchio
Intriguing, unpredictable, creative. These are the three adjectives that first come to mind when describing TLO's play. It is these qualities as well as his pleasant personality that has made this German player a fan favorite. Though not always living up to his fans' (and no doubt his own) expectations, he has been putting out consistent results; he has reached the group stages of every single Premier League so far. However, his achievements are not tied exclusively to WCS, as TLO is a familiar face at other premier foreign tournaments and can boast some high-place finishes from DreamHacks and IEMs as well.
Similarly to Snute, TLO chose a zerg as his Challenger League opponent, confirming that ZvZ is a very comfortable matchup for the Liquid boys. The German himself openly states it is in fact one of his favorite matchups, he put his money where his mouth was recently, as he reached the Ro8 on the back of his ZvZ, repeating his best WCS result from two years ago. TLO shows good understanding of the matchup as he is able to make good decisions on the fly. Although he, like Snute, prefers to prolong games, he will occasionally spice the games up with some early aggression or nydus play.
Even so, one might ask himself if, by challenging Nerchio, TLO has not bitten off more than he can chew. Of all the players that have advanced from the qualifiers to reach Challenger, Nerchio has to be one of the most accomplished. First place at HomeStory Cup, IEM runner-up, DreamHack champion—these are only some of the impressive titles he earned. It wasn't easy either as he had to overcome monsters like Mvp and TaeJa. Even though he has not been able to repeat his successful tournament runs in HotS, he is a standard face in the Premier League roster and remains a dangerous opponent to face to this day.
The Acer player definitely wants to improve his result from last season's WCS, where he was knocked out in Challenger League by Naniwa with a 3 – 1 score. Even though his current opponent’s ability in ZvZ is remarkable, Nerchio has an incredible record against TLO with only 4 matches lost to 15 won. But since TLO challenged Nerchio over other zergs, he may have some #creative play in store that will give him an edge in this back-and-forth matchup.
This will probably be the closest series of the night. Both players have professed and proven that they are comfortable in ZvZ, and both players have the pedigree to reach Premier League against any opponent. Unfortunately, only one of them will reach the main event, and I am giving Nerchio a slight edge due to their match history.
Nerchio 3 – 2 TLO
uThermal vs Lilbow
Despite sporting a respectable 63% win rate in TvT, uThermal had this to say about the matchup.
On January 17 2015 21:40 uThermal wrote:
After 5 seasons of WCS TL still thinks TvT is my best matchup, even though it has been by far my worst since start of 2014 cool thread though
After 5 seasons of WCS TL still thinks TvT is my best matchup, even though it has been by far my worst since start of 2014 cool thread though
It is curious why he thinks so little of the matchup, despite losing a lot in practice he clearly is doing something right when it matters. Regardless uThermal has managed to not only dodge his "worst" matchup, but his actual worst matchup of TvZ that hovers at around 58%. However he has been matched against Lilbow, one of the rising stars of the EU scene. On paper uThermal, his style is standard and reliable, mixing in the occasional widow mine drops but not overly abusing them. His TvP also hovers at 62% and he has recently defeated CPU and Harstem by a convincing 2-0 score, and while the sample size is a for the last month is a bit small it still looks promising. If uThermal can just stick to his guns and do what he does best he can take this series.
Ever since Millenium picked him up Lilbow's stock has been on the rise, he has taken the French scene by storm, clashing numerous times with his compatriots, MarineLorD and Firecake. Lilbow is also capable of going toe to toe with the best of Europe, having played in numerous online cups and dozens of BO3 series over the past months, and even scoring victories in the occasional BO1 against Korean Terrans like SuperNova, Heart and jjakji. It probably has something to do with his style. Lilbow is crafty and devious, he likes to be aggressive and employ mind games that, while devastating in BO1s aren't nearly as frightening in a prepared BO5 setting. And still, while sitting at a impressive 62%, his PvT is still his worst matchup. And it shows as he isn't consistently winning, but rather trading matchups back and forth with most EU Terrans. Still, if Lilbow can take his craftiness and expand it into a BO5, he is a dangerous opponent that has a clear shot in WCS.
I'm going with uThermal, I think he overall has good TvP and enough experience in BO5's to take this.
uThermal 3-1 Lilbow
by XXTN, lichter and Destructicon
Day 1 Preview: NA
HuK vs StarDust
The opening night of WCS America S2 CL kicks off with a heavy-weight matchup between EG.HuK and StarDust. These two Protoss fan-favorites have squared off several times in HotS and are very evenly matched. Overall, StarDust has won 2 of their 3 meetings in HotS, and the total map scores are neck-and-neck at 4-4. Having been on hiatus for some time, both HuK and StarDust may not know what to expect from one another. Whether it’d be proxy oracle or hidden dark shrine, anything goes between two unorthodoxed and aggressive players, Only one thing’s certain: there will be mounds of zealot dust and stalker scraps by the end of this series.
The EG veteran, HuK has been been dormant for the past several weeks since his early exit in WCS S1. Eliminated by a Welmu and MacSed combo last season, HuK once again finds himself in another PvP match, this time against one of the strongest Protosses from 2014. The Evil Genius has managed to reach Premier League every season since the WCS’s inception way back in 2013. Now he places that streak on the line against a former WCS Europe champion. One has to wonder, how has he been preparing? Well, HuK has participated in a few online tournaments over the past few weeks, going 13-4 score in the SEA Masters Cup and 2-0 in the SHOUTcraft Clan Wars. However, most of those matches were against foreigners, and it has been quite a while since HuK has had to face a household Korean name in a ranked setting. As a player who sometimes lets his emotions get the better of him, HuK must keep his composure if things don’t go his way early on. He has a tendency to panic under pressure and will attempt to end the game prematurely. However, if HuK can get into his comfort zone, he can multi-task well in the late game with precise army control and simultaneous warp prism harassment. Thus far in 2015, Canadian players like MaSa and Kane (a WCS quarterfinalist) have elevated their play, and here is HuK’s chance to show exactly what he can do.
Last year’s WCS Europe S2 champion, StarDust makes his return to the World Championship Series - this time in a new region. Here is a man who stood his ground against the likes of MMA, MC, and San to become one of the most feared players in all of Europe. Now can he do the same against Polt, Hydra, ForGG, and Jaedong? As of now, the answer to that question is unclear. StarDust has been absent from December till just a few weeks ago, when he returned to lose 0-2 to SalvationN in the Gfinity qualifiers. He then proceeded straight to the WCS AM qualifiers and appeared to be quite rusty to say the least. Having lost to Drunkenboi in qualifier #1 and WArcheif in qualifier #2, StarDust finally qualified on his third try by defeating MaSa in the semifinal match. Now can the former mYi Protoss put his new visa to good use, or will HuK send him straight back to square one? Stardust must rely on his creativity and knack for preparing builds if he hopes to secure a PL seed. Notorious for being an aggressive and cheesy player, Stardust will almost certainly have a few new tricks in store for his opponent. He went to Blizzcon as the the 8th seed last year, but he is way behind in the current race. StarDust must reach Premier League here and now if he wants any hope of catching up to the leaders.
StarDust 3 - 2 HuK
Kane vs PiLiPiLi
One of the hardest things about being a foreign pro is the constant naysaying by the community. Many so-called fans revel in being negative towards their favorite players, and it's difficult juggling fan perception with popularity. During Season 1 of WCS 2015, Kane was counted out at every turn. A toss up against qxc at best, inexperienced versus Happy, TargA and PiG, a nobody against Bunny, Has and Welmu. Yet he prevailed at every step and silenced his boo-boys, only to fall against ShoWTimE in the quarter finals. The naysayers tried to bounce their negativity back into the picture, but it was too late. Kane had proven himself a capable North American hero at a time when the continent sorely needed one.
For his work in season 1, Kane earned the choice of opponent for Challenger League season 2. He's chosen PiLiPiLi, one of the most inexperienced players available. The American-by-way-of-Kazakhstan is a Challenger League debutante, but his name should be familiar to anyone that enjoys watching streams. His educational protoss commentary is enjoyed by many, and it's nice to see that all his work has finally propelled him to the big stage. This is an enormous first step for PiLiPiLi, and all eyes will be on him. His ability to handle the pressure and prepare for Kane will be paramount to his chances, but a shock move up to Premier League seems unlikey.
One of the main problems with trying to rate players that barely compete in tournaments is the inequality of win percentages. While PiLiPiLi holds a respectable 58.41% in PvZ, he has only faced and beaten well known zergs over the past 2 months. His hit list is full of unknowns and also rans, with the occasional close set against a foreign scene staple. Many of these games go un-streamed, and mystery should surround the player. However, he streams enough that his opponent should have some material to study. PiLiPiLi has shown in his few streamed tournament games that he is adept at attacking with clever timings, but this could just be one facet of his play. Kane should keep an eye out for any wayward pylon and sacrifice overlords without worry, as Kane should have enough to deal with PiLiPiLi as long as he isn't surprised. Has' brand of protoss was not enough to topple the Canadian zerg, and it took ShoWTimE's flair for macro to displace the rising star. PiLiPiLi may take a page from the German's playbook, but it's Kane's turn to be branded as the favorite.
Kane 3 - 1 PiLiPiLi
Hydra vs Zeal
This series is unfortunately heading for a brutal beatdown. Ever since joining ROOT, Hydra has been on an absolute tear, destroying foreigners left and right in every qualifier and online cup he's stumbled upon, amassing a ridiculous record against them. These results also translated well into WCS, where his rampage continued and aside from a small hiccup at the hands of Morrow, Hydra was able to reach the final. It was only through the incredible intelligence and resilience of Captain America that Hydra was finally defeated. Now he is back, just as hungry as last season and Zeal is his unfortunate first victim.
There isn't much to be said about ZeaL, he doesn't have many notable results, a local NA ladder hero that plays in a lot of online cups and qualifiers but whose breakout performances are (hopefully) yet to come. While he did manage to qualify for the NA Challenger, he did it by defeating mostly NA players and an out of form Scarlett. Despite his PvZ sitting at 60%, it is most certainly inflated from herding the local livestock. His luck ran out as soon as Hydra chose him as the stepping stone of his second attempt to conquer the whole of WCS.
If InCa and the other protoss gods are merciful, they will grant Zeal a quick, painless death. We would very much like to believe in his chances here, but unless he shows something amazing today, we have to assume a landslide victory for Hydra.
Hydra 3-0 Zeal