Power Rank: MLG Summer Edition
Ah, it's that time of year again. The Power Rank is back with our MLG Summer Championship edition. This time, the cut-off line was thirty, more or less completely arbitrarily. There's not much need for an intro, so we'll put down the usual disclaimers and dive right in.
- The Power Rank only takes players competing at MLG Summer Championship into account.
- The official MLG player list was used as a reference - some players may cancel or be absent from the tournament.
- The power rank is a compromise between the opinions of several writers, ensuring that not even the writers are happy with the end result.
- TeamLiquid is not responsible for rage or rage related injuries suffered as a result of not reading the criteria beforehand.
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The Power Rank
Forgive the schizophrenia, each section was written by a different writer.
#30: FnaticRC Rain
It's nearing two years since Rain reached his peak, placing second at GSL Open Season III. Though he has declined precipitously since then, there's something about cheesing your way to a GSL final that still scares us 19 months later.
It's taken about two years, but IdrA has finally crossed the line from overrated to underrated. An absolutely dreadful first half 2012 gave his haters plenty of fuel, but his most recent results at HSC V (Ro16) and ASUS ROG Summer (Ro16) suggest that they should at least stop shoveling dirt on his grave. IdrA is 14 - 8 at those two tournaments, which is his best sustained stretch in a long time. That's not to say he's going to make any big waves at this MLG, but we can say the patient has stabilized, and is on his way to recovery.
Since joining the Razer house in the USA, Beastyqt seems to have improved drastically from a middle-of-the-pack European to one we should watch out for in tournaments. Though he's been a bit up and down, Beastyqt has put together some impressive stretches including an all kill over FXO.CIS and a TSL4 qualification run inside a couple of weeks.
But while qualifying for TSL is impressive, getting far in the prestigious tournament brings you more fame and hype. Unfortunately, it was not to be for Beastyqt, as he quickly fell to Sting in the very first round. Similarly, at the last MLG he attended, we were all hyped for the top foreigner to make a big splash, but he lost in the first few rounds yet again to both SaSe and Byul. Yes, all of these players were favored against him, but you have to actually win some big upsets to make your mark. Players like Illusion, Suppy, Scarlett, Vortix, and SortOf have all made to break into the scene. Beastyqt still does not possess that spark, although he is awfully close.
All of the writers this time around were American, thus bound by blood to overrate Illusion until he finally gets that result that will allow us to say "we told you so!" Sorry, Europe.
While they're still living in Idra's shadow, Suppy and Sheth have been quietly posting wins and helping make the American Zerg lineup a respectable international force, unlike their Protoss or Terran counterparts. With Zerg increasingly being the foreigner race of hope, any true American patriot will be cheering for this pair.
Sheth sports a highly aggressive ZvZ that routinely catches his opponents off guard with deception and tricky timings. His ling/bane micro is excellent and reliable. However, he still feels comfortable when he needs to play defensive and is happy holding off overaggression. Suppy, however, is more of a timing attack based player who excels in roach/hydra/infestor engagements and understands the lategame well.
While formerly his biggest weakness, Sheth has dramatically improved his creep spread ZvT over the summer. Suppy, on the other hand, has always excelled at creep spread. At live events his creep is superior than many big name players, even koreans. Other than creep, his most defining attribute is his patience and excellent handling of the lategame. Sheth is more of an all-around player and shows more of a discerning eye for weakness and is one of the best players in the world at backstabbing.
Without question, ZvP is the strong point for both players. Like in ZvT, Suppy plays a style where you have a good idea what he may do, but you still can't stop it anyway. At MLG Anaheim he proved completely resilient to the all-ins of players like Bling, Killer, and Tails. Sheth also understands the strength of the broodlord rush, but will occasionally mix things up with a more aggressive midgame.
Both of them made champ bracket at MLG Anaheim, while Sheth also qualified for Summer Arena and Suppy Asus ROG. Yet despite these achievements, these two still have yet to really break into the limelight. In this current era of foreigner Zerg dominance, now is the best chance for both to ascend to lasting glory.
Honestly, we could have placed HuK anywhere between #30 and #20, and it would have made sense. Most people are confused as to how good HuK is now, and we're among them. The last good series win he posted against a quality opponent was his dramatic 3 - 2 reverse sweep against Ganzi to qualify for the live NASL S3 grand finals, but after that he's been disappointing. In a very poor stretch of games, he was eliminated from NASL by Alicia, barely qualified for WCS NA, and was quickly eliminated from ASUS ROG Summer by Naama and Seiplo. HuK has been on a general downward trend since placing third at MLG in early 2012, but this most recent streak was a particularly sharp swing.
This is the least Korean MLG we've seen in a very long time. Inevitably, a Korean player 90% of the audience at MLG has never heard of will burn through the open brackets, incinerate foreigner hopes, and proceed to die to a better Korean in a Tie-8th finish. Of course, it will probably be a Korean Terran that does it, making us wonder if we're actually still living in 2011.
While this is a welcome back tournament for a lot of players, it seems like an especially long time since we've seen Grubby. Yes, he competed in the last MLG Summer Arena, but other than that, we haven't heard much from the Ex-WC3 player. In the first half of the year, we heard Grubby's name everywhere. He attended every single tournament, both offline and online, playing so frequently that he became the subject of a running joke that he would lose to Stephano in every tournament. (This joke holds a lot of truth, btw) But since then, Grubby has made himself more scarce as a player, taking on a few more casting gigs, practicing quietly, and growing tulips or whatever Dutch people do. Last week, Grubby started his comeback tour at IEM Cologne, where he impressed by beating Koreans Oz and AcE to make it through the open bracket before being eliminated in the group stages.
We've kept his spot in the rankings warm for him. Once again, Grubby marks the line that separates "foreigners" from "Koreans."
Two thing to notice this time around. First, the line is much higher than previous renditions of the power ranking. This particular championship is not as stacked as some others, moving the Grubby Line from #29 to #21. Second, there are very few foreigners left above the line. Sure, you have a few players who spill over like Thorzain, asd, or the anomaly that is Stephano, but overall, it's fairly accurate. What does this say about the foreigners contingent at MLG Raleigh? That's for you to decide.
Revival is a TSL Zerg and this alone gives him some points. After all, when you think of TSL Zergs, you imagine a pretty tough bunch with players like Symbol, Shine, and Hyun. Revival does happen to blend in with the crowd, and we wouldn't blame you if you couldn't name any of his foreign tournament results (Tie-8th, IEM Guangzhou). The fact that he gets any GSTL playing time at all with those three Zergs on his team is a credit to his ability, but the fact that those opportunities don't come all that often gives you a decent idea about his current level.
Imagine if Elfi had once been good enough to be in Code S. That's the kind of confusion Killer causes for us. Just when we thought we had the 2012 version of Killer pegged down as a solid Code A player, who couldn't really threaten the true title contenders, he went off on an absolutely insane run. Imagine what TaeJa did for Liquid at IPL TAC. Then imagine if Liquid had actually won in the end. That's what Killer did for Complexity in MCSL.
Killer's results in the months leading up to the MCSL playoffs were fairly unremarkable, so there's a possibility that the MCSL games were an incredible one-off, where he played the best games of his life. In fact, it's pretty much 99.99% assured he won't replicate that form at MLG. However, considering we've hyped up foreigners far more for doing far less, it's only fair that we give Killer an optimistic appraisal for the time being.
You'd think that ThorZaIN's power rank position would have improved (down two from #16) after spending time training in with SlayerS in Korea. However, even though ThorZaIN did continue to build on his credentials by winning WCS Sweden, he just hasn't had any recent results that say he can touch any of the Koreans at Raleigh, except a 2 - 1 win over Gumiho back in June's Code S. Seeing as he couldn't make the ten man roster for any of SlayerS-EG's GSTL games, it works out all too conveniently to place him just behind his SlayerS-EG teammates.
Puma has just been the opposite of being on fire lately. (He's on water?) While he was once the king of international tournaments, recent results have just been terrible to say the least. Puma still attends almost every international tournament that exists, but he's fallen to the level of an average foreigner. His recent loses over the last four tournaments include 0-3 to NightEnD, 0-2 to First, 0-2 to Welmu, 0-3 to MC, 1-2 to Cytoplasm, 0-2 to Fraer, and 0-2 to Stephano. With results like these, one may question if it's Puma that's the problem or just his PvT, his once most exalted match-up.
On the other hand, the other EG Korean JYP, is on the upswing. While both players were eligible to play for SlayerS-EG in the GSTL, Puma was only chosen once with an end record of 0-1 while JYP was used 3 times to finish with a 5-2 record (even coming out as the team's ace). JYP also seems to have gotten over his PvT jinx, defeating Thorzain and Hack to secure himself a Code S spot next season. Two series wins in a row don't mean he's completely figured out PvT or even that his PvT is on the level of the average Korean Protoss, but it's a huge step up for a player who used to have a sub-25% win rate in the match-up.
Ranking purely based on results, you might say that JYP's recent performances outweigh however much prize money PuMa has won in the past. However, we're human, and we can't get the idea out of our heads that Puma is, was, and always should be better than his teammate. After all, JYP is still more known for failure at PvT than anything else (something he could rectify at MLG or the upcoming Code S), while Puma is most known for gaining superpowers when he's not on his native soil. So for now, we'll put PuMa ahead by a thin margin, until one of them decides to make a big move.
Who would have thought Heart would overtake Ganzi as Complexity's Terran ace when he joined the team? Somehow, Heart's high risk style has seen him rise above GanZi's steady text-book play. In GanZi's defense, he's been struggling with some health issues (some sort of shoulder pain or similar occupational ailment from what we can tell) and he's still put up steady, though not remarkable, results. A Tie-13th finish at Spring Championship and top 16 finish at Summer Arena further confirmed his position as a player who's always headed for a mid-table finish at worst. If his condition has improved back to where he was earlier this year, he'll probably move up the table, closer to his personal best 4th place finish.
Above all else, Heart is known for his MLG performances. His first three MLG appearances resulted in 3rd, 3rd, and 5-6th places, although at the most recent MLG arena, he went an extremely disappointing 0-5(2-10) in his group stage. Heart probably didn't feel bad for long, however, because soon after MLG he directly qualified to Code S for the first time. Now, after a long hiatus, Heart returns to his old stomping grounds at MLG. If MLG gave him the confidence to succeed in GSL, maybe now his GSL success will help him get back on his feet in MLG. Playing a varied, unpredictable, aggressive style that's perfect for a tournament like MLG, Heart might yet again make a deep run.
TheStC's first few months with Quantic weren't all that great, but he quickly proved to be a worthy signing at ASUS ROG Summer. He channeled the spirit of the crippled PuMa, putting on a 'foreigners don't concern me' performance by destroying Kas, TiTaN, Seiplo, and Naama before suffering a narrow 2 - 3 defeat at the hands of fOrGG. Off that performance, Quantic should consider following EG's strategy for PuMa in 2011, and send TheStC to every possible tournament. He probably won't be able to match PuMa's haul in 2011, but you'd expect him to win at least a few trophies at the events with thinner player pools.
KeSPA pros have been scoring upset after upset in WCS Korea (to the degree where they're not always upsets anymore), but viewers of MLG Summer Arena will know that there was a harbinger to the stampede. The former KeSPA pro First came into the Arena as a mostly unknown, but he ended up making a serious impact. Tearing through TOP, PuMa, GanZi, and aLive and Losira, First earned himself a Tie-4th place finish in his international tournament debut. Not long after, he eliminated TaeJa from TSL4 by a 3 - 2 scoreline, further cementing his reputation as an elite PvT player.
While we have no reservations about First's PvT ability, it's hard to place him higher without seeing what he can do against the other races. With recent wins against Zenio, Ret, and Daisy, we get the feeling that First will end up doing pretty well against Zerg and Protoss in this tournament, but we'd rather wait until we see it live at MLG before pushing him up the rankings.
Halfway through a recovery after a long slump, Losira finds himself in a strange spot. He's redeemed himself for his poor form earlier this year, where he was dumped out of the GSL entirely and collected dust on the LG-IM bench during team leagues. Now he's popping up again at foreign tournaments, and playing an major role in LG-IM's team tournament efforts. However, when you look at a player who once stood on grand final stages and was hailed as the paragon of Zerg mechanics, you have to ask yourself 'is that it?' There hasn't been any more forward progress for Losira, as he bombed out of the Code A Ro48 last season, and an opportunity to impress at Spring Arena was squandered. If Losira is content to merely be relevant again, then #11 is too generous. But if he can show us any of the Losira that was once a championship contender, then there's much to look forward to.
While Ryung has spent most of his career being overshadowed by his teammate MMA, their positions have been swapped in 2012. Ryung has taken on the mantle of SlayerS Ace, and though he hasn't lived up to MMA's lofty standards in 2011, he's acquitted himself fairly well. While he hasn't been able to string together enough good games in a row to achieve anything better than a mid-table finish in the GSL or other tournaments, his single game performances have been right up there with MMA's best. In games against DongRaeGu and Mvp, Ryung has made it look like he's the actual GSL champion for thirty minute stretches. However, Ryung can't reproduce that kind of play at will, which relegates him to the good-but-inconsistent category.
It can be hard to escape reputations that stick to you early on. Every time TLO does something mildly unorthodox, it's because of his crazy creativity. Every time IdrA GG's out a little bit early, it's because he's weak mentally. And every time HerO loses in a big tournament, it's because he choked. Honestly, after the Dreamhack championship and the GSL semi-final run, we thought people would have gotten past that.
What if we just say that when HerO loses in tournaments, it's because his opponents were better? And the fact that he hasn't won a major tournament since DreamHack is because while he's good, he's not exactly MKP/DRG/MC good? As we saw at IPL Hot Imports, HerO can hang with GSL winning players for stretches, but just not long enough to win tournaments in 2012. Having received his first direct seed into group stage, this could be HerO's best chance yet to win MLG.
#8: FnaticRC Oz
Oz, along with Losira, Leenock, and HerO represent four very talented but inconsistent Koreans coming to this event. Actually, no, Oz is in another class. He's THE most inconsistent player at this event. Let's look at his past MLG performances
MLG Anahiem: 29th, did not make it into bracket play after losing to Rain and wbc
MLG Providence: Did not make it into bracket play after losing to Leenock and Keen
MLG Winter Arena: 4th, after beating Idra, Demuslim, Leenock, and vioLet
MLG Winter Championship: 17th-20th, lost to Polt after an average run
MLG Spring Arena 2: Dead last, after losing 0-2 to both Grubby and Alicia
MLG Spring Championship: 10th place, lost to Polt again after another average run
MLG Summer Arena: 3rd/4th place after defeating vioLet and Stephano twice
Yes, Oz figured something out against Stephano last MLG. Make sure to read more about that here. But this in no way is an indicator of how well he'll do in this tournament. As an arbitrary power rank number, eight seemed just about right.
Leenock hit a big bump on his road to recovery in WCS Korea, getting flattened by SAMSUNG_Roro and SKT_Rain in an early exit from the tournament. The KeSPA players were certainly better than most gave them credit for at the start, but watching recent Proleague games or matches between KeSPA players in the WCS make us scratch our head as to how the KeSPA players pulled off a 10+ game winning stream against the GSL pros. Nervousness is what everyone is using as a convenient excuse, and in Leenock's case, we're willing to buy it. That's just how much respect we have for Leenock's talent, and what he could yet become.
Back in 2011, one of the most underrated stories of the GSL was the rise of Leenock. Almost every single season, Leenock would place a little bit higher, inching his way out of Code A and into Code S, and up the Code S ladder into the finals. He went from being a more-than-meets-the-eye all-in player to an all-around monster who looked like the best Zerg in the world at one point. 2012 brought a lot of disappointment, and oddly enough, even the queen-patch midway through the year failed to give Leenock big boost. However, by July, he finally started to make what looked like a recovery, re-qualifying for Code S while pulling his team to the GSTL finals.
Leenock disappointed at his last MLG, but he's looked like a different player since then. WCS was an unfortunate hiccup, but we don't think it will kill his momentum going into this tournament.
If you hadn't heard, Alicia pulled off the amazing feat of playing second place in three consecutive tournaments (MLG Spring Championship, NASL S3, MLG Summer Arena) within the span of 6 weeks. Even Yellow, the legendary silver-surfer of the Brood War scene, would be jealous of that achievement.
Behind TaeJa's double wins at ASUS ROG and MLG Summer Arena, this makes Alicia the second hottest player coming into Raleigh. Sadly enough, we couldn't find a way to force the new inheritor of the Kong Line into the #2 spot. The way he got DESTROYED in all three finals, and the way his brackets worked out to include several PvPs and matches against foreigners made us second-guess his statistically improbable achievement. It's like that time Heart got third place in consecutive MLGs, but we still had to ask ourselves "well if he's so good, what's he doing in Code A?", except Alicia isn't even in Code A. At the same time, there's a certain Elfi/Killer mystique to Alicia that makes us fear putting him any lower. Some guys just know how to win, for the lack of a better way to put it. Or in Alicia's case, know how to almost win.
#5: FnaticRC aLive
One year ago in Raleigh, we saw Bomber receive the MLG treatment and rise as a superstar. Maybe this time around, we'll see the same happen to another stoic Terran.
Despite being a great player, aLive is so unnoticeable that he can't even get his own nickname. Instead, Korean fans have resorted to calling him the "Invisible Terran," a nickname originally belonging to the similarly skilled yet featureless KeSPA pro, Light.
We can vouch that aLive is quite the entertaining guy in person, but he doesn't seem to have any interest in making that known to the public. On top of that, he had the 'misfortune' of winning IPL4, the major tournament with the least hyped finals since the 2011 IEM World Championship (don't lie, we know you had to Liquipedia the winner). Even so, it's mind boggling how a guy who made the GSL semis and won IPL4 by defeating Ganzi, PartinG, Polt, MKP, Nestea, and Squirtle can't get any more credit. aLive is weaker than his IPL4 run as the queen patch hit his TvZ particularly hard, but if he can get the right match-ups, the championship is within his grasp.
With KeSPA executing a double pull-out from GSL and MLG, something just feels right about the fact that the two top Zergs in this tournament come from environments that could not be more different from the regimented team house system of KeSPA teams. viOLet, in particular, is a player who makes you feel alright even if KeSPA players won't be playing in the GSL or international tournaments any time soon.
If a Korean can leave a team in his own country for a less fettered life in America, and actually get (much) better in the process, then it says that maybe we don't need KeSPA and their decades of Brood War experience to produce excellent players. Who knows what the picture will be a year down the line, perhaps KeSPA will prove their way was the best after all. But for now, it's good to know we aren't missing out on anything. Hopefully, more players like viOLet emerge in the scene, showing us that as long as there's talent and determination, champions can grow anywhere,
#3: Still MǂStephano
Sitting at number three, not-yet-EG.Stephano is the closest to the top of the rankings as a foreigner has ever been since we started our power rankings (the previous high was #6, achieved by... Stephano). Not only is Stephano THE most consistent top foreigner, but he's one of the most consistent players bar none. While players like Leenock and Oz both have the potential to win tournaments, they also have the potential to flop out in the first few rounds. Stephano, on the other hand, always seems to place in the top eight, no matter what his competition is like. This characteristic mirrors that of GSL finalists such as MKP, DRG, and MC, two of whom are not attending this tournament, and one of whom is "slumping".
A lot has changed about Stephano's surroundings since he last competed in major tournament at MLG Summer Arena over a month ago. Since then, he's been shrouded in Korea while he trained with TSL and his best buddy, Polt, and now it seems all but certain that he'll be wearing an Evil Geniuses shirt come September. However, Stephano's contract with Millenium does not end for another week, so the French-based team will still be able to lay claim to Stephano's results this weekend. You could say that the TSL trip was Millenium's parting gift to Stephano, and it will be interesting to see if Stephano can repay it in kind by giving his team of two years a final title. (This also means that all you haters out there will not be able to claim an EG curse if Stephano happens to falter and only places in the 4th-8th range.)
More than any other player in the world, MKP seems to have been devastated by the queen and overlord patch. While he seemed unstoppable in the first few months of this year, since the patch hit, MKP has been just average. While he previously provided us with epic MLG finals versus DRG, in the last MLG, which was played directly after the patch, MKP's matches versus his rival were extremely one-sided in favor of the Zerg. Since then, he's suffered huge loses to Moon and CoCa in the GSTL, Symbol in GSL, and CoCa again in IPL Fight Club. There's definitely a trend going on here.
Because he has failed to qualify for WCS, after losing to abysmal horror, we haven't seen much from him lately at all. MLG will be the first major tournament where MKP shows his face after a long break, so his current shape is rather questionable.
As we considered the final rankings, one of the toughest placements was Stephano or MKP at #2. Stephano's current streak of results certainly gives him a strong case to be #2 over a player who has been lying low over the same period. However, in the end we decided that MKP deserves this spot, because even though he might not have been at the top of his game for a month or two now, we have no reason to believe he hasn't figured it all out during his hiatus. At the end of the day, you're looking at a player who was the best Terran for half of 2012, is one of the most consistent players in all of SC2, and maybe the most successful MLG Starcraft player of all time. For this, we believe in
Is it really a surprise that TaeJa is perched on top of these rankings? After getting tired of all the online tournaments in Korea, TaeJa moved on to richer pastures to win the last MLG Arena and ASUS ROG Summer 2012, after which he almost single-handedly took out the entire team of IM twice. There is very little doubt that TaeJa currently holds a very strong claim to being the best player in the world. Only his loss to Seed in IPL TAC, his early exit from TSL4, and Mvp's not-so-subtle reminder at IEM Cologne block TaeJa from unequivocally holding that position.
A fellow writer once called Taeja unquestionably solid. I have to respectfully disagree. TaeJa has no real weak match-ups nor a particular weakness to any style. He's unpredictable and can execute any of the myriad of strategies available to him at the absolute highest level. But in my humble opinion, TaeJa makes too many unforced errors to to truly be called "solid". From running all his marines into a siege line, to losing 20+ scvs to either a single zealot or dt, to forgetting key upgrades, Taeja worst enemy is often himself
So if Taeja often makes these grievous mistakes, how does he end up with his insane win rates and tournament wins?
That's easy; he is just simply better than everyone else. With unparalleled micro, control and mechanics, in addition to a unique approach to the game, TaeJa stands tall above everyone else and often times, even with these otherwise blunderous game-ending mistakes, TaeJa can still eke out a win against anyone. I'd say that being better than everyone else in the tournament is deserving of the #1 spot.