Brackets and standings on
Heart of Winter
It's not often the case that you can pinpoint the exact moment when a legend was born, but in the case of Liquid`HerO, his claim to fame is very specific: Dreamhack Winter 2011.
HerO went into the tournament still half a mystery. The new Liquid recruit's strengths seemed to lie in creating chaos, which he achieved through dazzling multi-tasking, superb control, and brilliant decision-making in small scale engagements. But looking at the dominant players of the time, Mvp, MMA, or Nestea, they were all masters of playing the game at the macro scale as well as the micro. Moreover, they were fazed by nothing and they could not have their will broken. The nervousness issues that HerO's housemates HuK and MC spoke of made themselves apparent in tournaments, as he failed to bring the same play he showed in practice to the big stage as well.
With a spot on Liquid, striking good looks, and an unmatched ability to run circles around well-known westerners, HerO's popularity was still assured. However, he was not a player expected to go on and win tournaments. It was one thing for HerO to make audiences gape and wonder "Did he really just do that?!" It was another thing for Mvp to make viewers nod and say "Yeah, he just did that." HerO seemed to be in danger of suffering the same fate as many other talented Koreans - leaving his potential unfulfilled.
One winter changed everything. At DreamHack Winter 2011, HerO showcased all of the flamboyant play he was known for, microing with unmatched precision and leaving his opponents panting for air with his multi-pronged attacks. At the same time, one aspect of his play could no longer be seen: the feeling that he might shatter at any moment. HerO didn't play with precision so much out of flair but out of necessity, with his hyper-aggressive style liable to cost him games for making just one small mistake. But at DreamHack, HerO didn't make any.
During his run to the finals HerO seemed composed and in control of every game as he teamkilled Sheth and Ret with superb PvZ, leaving the audience and the analysts in awe. Artosis even dropped the ominous statement that HerO "has to be the best Protoss in the world," but even that hex didn't stick as HerO continued to play the tournament of his life. In the finals he faced his close friend Puma, the NASL S1 champion who was armed with a 1/1/1 rush that made his TvP the most fearsome in the world. HerO swallowed his nerves and emerged victorious in a nail-biting seven game finals to take his first championship.
HerO had to make himself as cold as a Swedish winter to bring his best play for three days of a grueling tournament, but when the pressure came off his shoulders, he let that icy shell melt away. Stepping out of his booth in front of a an ecstatic crowd, he was immediately overwhelmed by emotion and could only respond by reflexively cover his mouth. That couldn't cover his smile, which written all over his face.
DreamHack Winter 2011 seemed to arm Hero with the deadly on/off switch he needed. Able to control his confidence and his emotions, he put on his game face again as he traveled to California to destroy nearly everyone at NASL Season 2, except for Puma who took his revenge in the final. But it was not a case of HerO defeating himself like other times in the past - he was just bested by another excellent player after giving it his best shot. He continued to go on and break through another long standing barrier by finally reaching Code S, upon which he immediately went on to reach the semifinals. HerO established himself as a Code S regular in 2012, and was a constant threat to win any tournament he entered. However, to get over that final hurdle, to find the strength to be the last one standing, he needed to go back to the place where he first earned his powers.
For a non-HerO fan, it might be hard to understand why DreamHack and Jönköping have almost religious meaning. But we will tell you now, that from the moment HerO played his first game at Dreamhack Winter 2012, there was never any doubt in our minds that he would win the tournament. There was no need to doubt. HerO played the way we knew he would: unpredictable, aggressive, precise, and perfect. If his sometimes risky play had failed him in other tournaments, every move he made ended up working in his favor at DreamHack. The Summer of TaeJa ended, frozen by the chill of winter.
His victory had the same kind of effect as it did in 2011. HerO became super-charged, with all three of his match-ups rising to championship level. The NASL Season 4 title fell into his hands after he dominated TaeJa, Polt, and viOLet in consecutive series. He was overflowing with confidence, and that alone seemed to be enough to make the game bend to his will.
Here we are again. Dreamhack Winter 2013. The competition has grown stronger every year, and this tournament boasts by far the scariest roster yet. HerO has been good but not excellent in 2013, and he has been overshadowed by StarCraft 2's new powers.
Though this will certainly be HerO's most difficult DreamHack ever, it has always been the tournament that has given him the spark needed to rise to the occasion. HerO's strengths and style remain unchanged, and he shows up the same aggressive, risk-taking, perfection-seeking player as always. Some say he needs to change, that he needs become more solid. We ask, why should he? This is DreamHack Winter. This is where all that skill, all that talent, and all that potential align perfectly.
Winter is Coming.