Last weekend was a time-zone nightmare for those European Starcraft fans who were brave and foolish enough to stay up and catch the action at MLG but this weekend is your reward. Dreamhack Summer promises to be one of the premiere events of the year for the Starcraft 2 community and it’s on a Euro friendly time-zone so if you couldn’t make it for MLG don’t miss out this time. The action kicks off on Saturday with the first of three group stages. These reduce the playing field from 128 down to just 16 at which point the single elimination bracket play takes over. You can find the full schedule here but until then allow us to introduce the key players being brought to you this weekend.
The Koreans are to Starcraft 2 what New Zealand is to rugby. At any international event they’re going to be vying for the top spots, they're bursting with flare as well as the fundamentals to carry them through and they have the uncanny ability to fill their opponents with nervousness and fear whenever they go head to head. Uncharacteristic errors just have a habit of creeping in when the pressure is on against guys like these. The scary thing is that they are more dominant. Of the 11 major international LANs this year 10 have been won by Korean players and only 3 have had a non-Korean in the final. It seems safe to say that at the very least one of the 9 Korean players in attendance at Dreamhack Summer has a very good shot at walking away with the trophy.
The hardest hitters are, as ever, the line-up of Korean Terrans. Keen is the player to have most recently demonstrated strong form having 2-0’ed his Code S Group on Wednesday morning. With wins over last season’s finalist Squirtle it seems safe to say that his vP is in tip top form which is a very good thing considering Dreamhack’s attendance list and at the minute he seems to have no clear weaknesses. EG’s Puma appears to be similarly well rounded having taken maps from both finalists at the MLG Spring Championships this weekend, both world renowned for their vT matchup skill. His sixth place finish flew somewhat under the radar due to his short lived bracket run but he will be coming into Sweden with a lot of confidence and a desire to go one better than his silver last Winter.
However, his teammate JYP seemed considerably less impressive this weekend, crashing out of the Pools 0-5 and then immediately from the bracket in his first match. Despite managing to maintain a Code A spot his games have seemed quite lack lustre of late and he’s been particularly vulnerable against aggressive play. This could lead to some surprise losses to lower tier opponents executing gimmicky strategies if he isnt careful. I’m equally sceptical about the play of the Warcraft 3 legend Moon. Despite running up a 3-kill against TSL in the GSTL this month he has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of understanding and skill when matched up against the elites. A few months ago I believed that Moon would become a top level Starcraft 2 player but his inability to get into Code A and his unsure performances abroad say otherwise. This is one of his last chances to prove to people that he has what it takes but I believe he could easily find himself eclipsed by the brighter stars on show in Stockholm.
Andrei Shevchenko proved to Europe this week that anything can happen when you’re playing on home soil and this time the Swedes will be hoping it plays in their favour. They may have looked distinctly average against Ukraine on Monday but in Starcraft 2’s still brief history they have been anything but. The host nation can currently claim the only two non-Korean Code S players – Naniwa and Thorzain – and the highest finishing non-Korean from the MLG Spring Championships. All three will be in attendance this weekend and by themselves they pose a considerable threat even without the sizable force of second tier players also competing.
Sase and Naniwa come into this event with heaps of expectation. Following his amazing MLG bracket run there has been an excited buzz around Sase that hasn’t been present since he moved to Korea to begin the rigorous local training process that has forged so many of today’s champions. Doubts have been in the minds of the fans for many months now and having been overshadowed repeatedly by his friend and teammate Naniwa many had begun speculating that the accolades given to Sase had little substance to back them up. We now know just how wrong that is. The real question is not is he good enough, but can he do it twice in a row. Finding consistency is the sign of a true champion and Sase’s biggest enemy right now could be his busy travel schedule that denies him the hours of practice that he thrives on.
Joining Sase and Naniwa on the trip from Korea will be Thorzain who comes to Dreamhack with a mixed bag of results. Although he was unable to make it out of his GSL Code S group this week he managed to avoid coming bottom and has shown that he is a match for at least some aspects of the Korean game. He also looked a little disappointing in the later stages of MLG last weekend where he flunked out of his group after a promising start in the Open Bracket. However it can’t be forgotten that Thorzain has a history of success with Dreamhack, having won Gold at the most recent Open in Stockholm this April. There he showed that there’s more to his play than just the slow methodical “spoon terran” play that we’ve grown accustomed to and with his new found unpredictability he should be in contention at the end of the weekend. If he doesn’t make it beyond the three group stages something’s gone very wrong.
The players from the East of Europe often come to events with a sense of mystery surrounding them. Rarely seen outside of European events they can pose quite the enigma to even the most dedicated fans of the game. Are they in form? Will they live up to expectations? Will some diamond in the rough take the whole tournament by storm like Na’Vi’ did in Season 4 of IEM? There always seems like a possibility of something special but delivering it often seems not to be so straight forward.
DIMAGA seems to be the most likely candidate to bring the magic to Dreamhack this weekend but I attach that to a cautionary note. We’ve seen very little of DIMAGA’s play since IPL4 back in April. There he ended the tournament with a very disappointing loss to EG’s Machine in the Open Bracket to finish roughly 60th. If that’s the kind of play DIMAGA is going to bring to Dreamhack then he’s in for trouble because the competition is a damn sight stronger than the US Zerg who eliminated him in April. Nevertheless, sometimes you have to give players the benefit of the doubt. DIMAGA’s taken major podium’s as recently as February so he’s could still be a legitimate threat to any player out there.
The stories are somewhat similar but less optimistic for the two other big Ukrainian names present in Sweden this weekend, White-Ra and Strelok. At IPL 4 White-Ra exited the event having won only one map in four matches and despite the aura that the man possesses I feel that he’s been gradually slipping further down the rungs of competitiveness. He’s always going to have fans but on recent showings that isn’t going to be because he’s challenging for the top spots. He’s still not a player to be taken lightly and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he made it to the brackets, but neither would it be one if he didn’t. Strelok has likewise seemed to veer off course with his results since last year when he was beginning to establish himself one of the premier Terrans outside of Korea. Now though I find it hard to believe that he will be a challenging for the big money, unless his time away from the spotlight has been spent honing himself into the fine-tuned weapon that he used to be.
For the Russian scene it might be better to place faith in the fresher talents of players like LiveZerg, sLivko, Bly and fraer. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that they are a sure thing, that would be stupid, but as a group they have shown more potential and promise than a lot of the old guard who hold the fans’ hearts. The countless weekly and monthly cups might not present the most reliable evidence but competition is competition and apart from their successes it speaks a lot to their dedication and practice when compared with some of the veterans.
Although not as well represented as their Viking brothers from Sweden, the rest of Scandinavia isn’t without hope this weekend. The Norwegian player Snute has moved into the newly formed Polish Gaming House, the Ministry of Win, in an effort to recreate the Korean training regime that has been so successful. Whether or not he will be able to reap the fruits of his labour just yet isn’t clear but taking a few scalps will be a nice reward to his choice to play seriously and ought to boost his motivation over the coming weeks.
Elfi and Welmu also come into the event with an ability to do well should they get the right opponents. Elfi has proved himself to be somewhat of a vP specialist and his countryman Welmu showed at Copenhagen Games earlier this year that he is maybe even better at the matchup. He’s been showing increasingly solid mid and late game play recently which has rewarded him with a number of 3-kills in team leagues such as the IPL Team Arena and the Eclypsia Colosseum and a podium finish at Copenhagen Games. I think he will outperform elfi at this event if he can bring his online form to LAN but the top16 should not be beyond either of them.
Although the French will always be fondly remembered for their ability to retreat from a fight, in the small world of eSports it seems that nothing could be further from the truth. In past years we’ve seen France’s CS:S community blossom into one of the strongest in the world led by dominant sides such as VeryGames and in many other disciplines the country can boast very competitive players and teams. This has never been more true than in Starcraft 2 and a lot of the reason why is Stephano, Millenium’s player-by-day-player-by-night superstar. Despite taking a much more relaxed attitude to competitions than many of the other professionals he consistently finds himself in the top spots come the end of it all and there is a real expectancy for a podium finish whenever and wherever he is playing. Dreamhack represents a real opportunity for Stephano to underscore that he is the best non-Korean in the world as all his closest rivals, and particularly Naniwa, will be looking to upset him. The Swede has hinted in the past that he believes he has the edge over Stephano so if the stars align and we see them pitted against each other we should have an explosive match on our hands. Both can currently claim to be the top foreigner but after this weekend we might be able to say conclusively one way or the other.
This event is also quite important for Stephano’s countryman ToD. Having been located in the fnatic gaming house in Korea for several months ToD has been somewhat unexposed to the community and, fickle as we are, he’s been slipping from our minds. With so few events taking place inside Korea a good showing here is vital for ToD. His play so far has been fairly strong but he is yet to truly shine in Starcraft 2 and much like Moon is living on reputation to a degree, a fact that a few armchair pundits have begun throwing his way. A good finish here would be a great way to silence the critics but anything less will only add ammunition to the belts of those who want to see him fall.
This is the point at which ordering players by their nationalities begins to feel foolish. Huk is the only Canadian competing in the SC2 event, Ret one of only two Dutch players and Nercio one of a very limited number of Polish attendees, but all thee can legitimately be thought of as standing a shot at a podium finish. The hype surrounding Nerchio has subsided considerably since he erupted onto the scene last year with an unprecedented amount of victories in online cups. Although these eventually translated into moderate LAN success in the form of a number of top eight finishes the young player has been unable to capture the audience or the trophies in the way his early flare seemed to promise. Nevertheless he has at least found a modicum of consistency which is a strong base to begin challenging for the big prizes and top three finishes that every player desires.
This upper echelon is territory well known to Huk, the most successful North American to play the game so far. His history screams top three finish and despite a very rocky performance at MLG this weekend he can still be hopeful coming into Dreamhack. Although it’s not the greatest excuse in the world the playing environment at MLG was far from perfect due to the overwhelming amount of games being played thanks to the decision to host the American WCS finals at the same location and this may have factored into Huk’s end result. He’s gone on record in the past to say that he finds it very tough to handle sub-optimal conditions and suffers heavily from jetlag. Assuming his team fly him in with enough time to adjust to the change he should stand a much better chance in Sweden than he did in Anaheim but only time will tell whether the previous Summer champion can regain his crown.
Stay with Cadred for full coverage of Dreamhack Summer over the next few days.
|Graham Kirkup // BigLighthouse|
Posted 1 year ago: Sat, 16 Jun 2012 00:49:45 +0100
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