MLG Winter Championship Highlights
What do MKP, DRG, HuK, Socke and Stephano all have in common? They're all in our special feature of the highlights from MLG Columbus. Find out what we think were the main storylines at the event right here.
Some Kind of Royalty
At this point it’s fair to say that if MarineKing changed his handle to OptimusPrime he would be downgrading. He blasted through probably the second toughest tournament on the planet and displayed brilliant play all across the board. He has never played better, and we wonder if anyone this very moment can match his skill. What remains to be seen is whether MKP’s new found power is a blitz everyone is going to catch on to in due time or something more lasting.
For the longest while MarineKing belonged to that cadre of the best who never succeeding in taking the final step over the threshold which separates Code S finalists from three time champions. MarineKing has passed that line. His next challenge is naturally GSL. If he keeps playing the way he did at Columbus, it’ll be a cinch.
Duel of the Acronyms
Back in the day DongRaeGu was often cited together with TheSTC as the two future representatives of their respective races. As TheSTC lagged further behind, DongRaeGu rose in reputation, and was soon counterpart to MMA, even establishing a sort of rivalry which saw its apex at the finals of the Blizzard Cup, where MMA narrowly overcame DRG. Now it seems MMA has been supplanted by MKP, who has twice stolen the gold from DRG’s grasp but met and defeated DRG three times, twice in Columbus.
Rival players in Starcraft have a way of meeting in tournaments. If this assertion remains true, then we can expect to see MKP and DRG duke it out until the rivalry is settled or simply runs out of gas and comes quietly to a halt.
Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien
It is unknown what Stephano was expecting going into Columbus but I’m sure it wasn’t that loss to Inori. For a while it seemed there would be a tragic standoff between the frenchman and Idra that would decide who advanced and who fell quietly off the branch. It always happens at MLG that while everyone is focusing on the main stage, the potential new champion is wrestling his way through the Open Bracket. That is what may have happened with Stephano, and that would have meant a very different Championship Bracket had the results swung differently.
Stephano is a serious contender for any title short of Code S. Outside that one big trophy in the South Korean sky there is one tournament which beats all others in prestige, and that is MLG. It was not necessarily important for Stephano to offer everyone a good showing at Columbus, but it was disappointing that he didn’t, and his absence was very much a conspicuous one.
What Doesn’t Kill You...
Socke is the survivor of a long line of major tournaments which have never accepted him in the very late stages, a trend which has designated him as one of the best in Germany, but which has also come to make him known as a solid player always showing up in groups but never really achieving anything on a grand scale.
Given his performance in pool play, the trend seemed to continue, but on day three of the event, Socke produced unexpected resources, taking out a long line of heavily favored players until he finally lost to HuK in an extended series. Short of MarineKing’s domination, it was probably the best storyline of the event. The stalwart German hero, Socke, unleashing some furor teutonicus against the hapless foreigners. I cannot speak for anyone else, but Socke has suddenly become a very exciting player, and I cannot wait to see him play again.
The Truest Round Eyed Devil
It was a moment of sadness when the tournament’s top two remaining foreigners, NaNiWa and HuK, were forced to play against each other for the dubious honor of going alone against the strongest Koreans still in the running. When HuK emerged victorious from a series that could have truly gone both ways, it was no one’s surprise. MLG is HuK’s stomping ground, and it could be thought of as only right that it was the Canadian who pressed on.
HuK lost, as we know, to Heart, achieving a top four finish and remaining to date the strongest foreigner at MLG and everywhere else. Whatever you might say of HuK’s weird brand of charisma, his antics or even the semi-provocative statements he sometimes makes, you have to recognize this at least: he gets the job done - always has.
Burden Not Columbus With Your Chaff
As if with every MLG event, Columbus’ Open Bracket was filled with contenders looking to try their hand on the big stage, and sprinkled with famous names who didn’t make the cut, and who, like latter day heretics, must survive another trial by fire in order to return to the good graces of the Starcraft gods. Sometimes they make it, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes they’re just placeholders or valets, holding open the doors of victory for those chosen few who every MLG seem to fly effortlessly into the pools.
Sometimes it can be a progress bar on the players still getting back on their feet. Such was the case for Liquid’s Nony and TLO, who were stopped just short of entering the championship bracket. Other times it can pose unexpected obstacles in the paths of much hyped up players, as Stephano discovered to his cost, having fallen to Inori, who went on to lose to Idra. And as with any large bracket, there is also an element of luck. Players are not arbitrarily distributed according to perceived strength, but receive random seeds, and sometimes a player like Polt may outwit Stephano, but then fall to Sheth, who in turn loses to the unexpected challenger.
The Open Bracket incarnates a basic of truth of all competition: there can be only one winner. If 256 NesTeas opened a tournament, 255 of them would lose. That is not lack of skill, but simple mathematics, and when so many strong players compete for a few empty seats, many favorites are necessarily left standing. What else is there to do when there is simply no more room - even for the best.