Few against many: IPL 4 preview
Posted by Radoslav "Nydra" Kolev 1 year, 10 weeks ago
Money, casinos, glitter of gold and the very definition of entertainment. This is what welcomes our StarCraft 2 heroes this weekend at their arrival in Nevada for IPL 4. But as the stage is set and everybody takes their allocated places, a shadow of a frown darkens the faces of the foreign audience: so many miles to the West and "Viva Las Vegas" is still chanted loudest in Korean.
We can both go on and on about the "Koreafication" of international events and although this is not the time or place to do it, let's just take a few minutes to mourn, shall we?
A swift glimpse through the IPL 4 groups and brackets reads that the fourth season of the tournament has almost entirely lost its international vibe. The foreigners are but a quarter of the groups stage play (a share that even MLGs have not yet dropped to) and whoever remains is thrown to the merciless pit called "open tournament", home to names such as Mvp, Leenock, Oz, Jjakji, July...
There can be no doubt that by the time of the championship playoffs, the few that stand against the many shall be even fewer, possibly none. Is there anyone who can do it? How can one fight and destroy 90% of the GSL finalists who already have the South Korean flag already planted half-way into Nevada soil?
Group A: Tails, Alive, NesTea
Group A is the layers of sediment which might tell you GSL’s history. You start with TAiLS, a promising young protoss player who once took down MVP and NesTea back to back when IM were at their strongest; continue on to aLive, a Code S semifinalist and veteran tragically held back by a harsh illness; and end at NesTea, arguably the most successful zerg player of Starcraft II’s brief history. We’re set for a battle not of the ages but between the ages and there are a few things we are going to keep an eye out for.
Will NesTea continue his string of lackluster performances or will he snap some necks in the fine tradition of his three GSL trophies? Will TAiLS establish himself as a protoss on the same level as Oz and Parting? Will aLive play like he’s actually in the running for a spot of best terran in the world or will he play the unremarkable game of a mid-tier terran? Anything can happen here but bet on aLive to be the victor.
NesTea's experience stands as opponent to the young blood of Alive and Tails. Strangely enough, this is the hardest path to redemption he can take.
Group B: MarineKing, Stephano, White-Ra
MarineKing’s chances at winning yet another tournament are going to hinge on what terrans he’s going to be up against. He’s shown us his TvZ is merciless and precise, and his TvP is expertly crafted to strike when and where the enemy is weakest. When there is no such opening, MarineKing still slips through a crack only he is able to see, leaving the opposition broken not only in body, but also in spirit. TvT is where MarineKing is weakest, and it’s also where his opponents are strongest. NesTea, Leenock, Stephano, DongRaeGu are great players and able dismantlers of terrans, but recently they have been more than a little vulnerable against the tip top korean performers. Similarly, the recent success protoss players have been encountering has somehow skirted along the jagged edges represented by MarineKing’s particular skills. It’s going to take a fellow terran to threaten the reigning champion, and there are more than plenty in Las Vegas.
Stephano has to be out for blood. His unsatisfactory MLG run would have left any player of his caliber frustrated. Moreover, Stephano is the winner of IPL 3, where he cemented his reputation. This is, as we say in the vernacular, his turf but he’s looking to start the fight against one of the strongest players in the world and the odds are not in his favor. Shuffling behind him is White-Ra, a man of such ubiquitous popularity it can be said fairly that his games might eclipse those of his more decorated peers. The reality, however, is that the beast from the east will have to go hungry another day.
As far as the group stage is concerned, reigning champion Stephano is still foreigners' heaviest hitter.
Photo by: Cameron Carson
Photo by: Cameron Carson
The Clank of Metal
This week on the GSL we have...
Oohh, that's right. It actually is IPL time. Nevertheless, one can understand the logical and not-at-all feigned surprise that befell me upon looking at groups C and D. Although the whole tournament is infested with Korean flags--which paint a picture very reminiscent of past MLGs as my colleague wittily stated--the eastern hegemony is much more blatant in the following two pools. The series of IPL qualifiers to determine the twelve group seeds played a cruel jape to the foreigners, especially poor Idra. And judging by who lurks around this area at this very moment, there is a strong chance that any advancement from the open bracket will reach a stop point here.
Group C: Puma, Polt, MC
Whith Idra painfully out of shape and with DongRaeGu not attending the IPL, there is just one more rivalry for us to look forward to: MC vs Puma.
History is silent about who of the two is the better player. Before Hanover, Puma was ahead in the series and was at the foothills of a third victory when MC turned a timing attack around and demolished him, ultimately leading to his championship and the tie between the two of them: 2-2. Now they meet again and it almost seems like IPL deliberately put them in the same basket for the citizens of ancient Rome--pardon, StarCraft 2 fans--to marvel at the glory of the duel.
Amidst them sits Polt, a terran force of such magnitude that he even steals a bit of attention away from the main theme of the group. However, if we keep ourselves to this three-player microcosmos, Polt's chances are looking grimmer than a Diablo cathedral. Polt has been on a bad TvT streak while Puma is circling around the 70% win rate in mirrors in both Korean and international events. And, on the other hand, all MC does is beat terrans to win championships, indicating that yes, he does in fact possess certain knowledge of the PvT match-up.
Good thing Polt switched away from the Optimus ID, as he is not walking out of Group C as the uncontested leader.
Group C's essence is a single photo.
Photo by: GosuGamers
Photo by: GosuGamers
Group D: Bomber, MMA, Idra
Idra is the big, floating, slime-covered, zerg-infested question mark in the group. Historically speaking, ZvT is his best match-up but a player like MMA spits on statistics or bends it around to serve his devious plans without anyone knowing how. So can Idra beat MMA? No. He might defeat Bomber, though, as StarTale's terran has had wobbling results all across his career. His MLG victory at Raleigh many months back has been covered with disappointing performances in the individual leagues while at the same time coated with excellent play in the GSTL. All in all, Bomber is performing at his best while fighting for his team and although IPL 4 is not a team tournament, the presence of the whole of StarTale in Las Vegas should infuse him with confidence and lift his spirits up.
Finally, drawing conclusions from Idra's run thus far in 2012 makes it incredibly hard to believe in and cheer for him. Greg's fans can only hope that IPL 4 does not end up being another IEM Hanover. Or MLG Winter Arena, MLG Winter Championship and GSL January.
Many eyes are set on Bomber, wondering if the Korean terran can channel his team's powerful presence into an IPL 4 win.
Photo by: Zemotion
Photo by: Zemotion
They came from below: A look at the Open Tournament
By: Nydra and procyolontor
There’s been a steady increase in the number of Koreans participating in foreign tournaments for a while, so much so that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to favor the home team in any situation. Wherever you look, there is the GSL and its hungry cadre barring the way. This has been generally true for a while, but only now has it become possible that the entirety of the Campionship Bracket be denied to foreign players. When someone said Starcraft 2 would be be Brood War reenacted, someone may have been right.
Leenock. Parting. Oz. GanZi. Only a sample of the whole, but already the best there is to go against. These names pepper the bracket, covering it start to finish. Whenever there might be an entrance into the later phase of the competition, a Korean lies ready to trample you as you run. Going against them are NonY, HasHe, Dimaga, KiWiKaKi, Ddoro and HayprO, of whom the most distinguished is Liquid’s zerg, having placed highest (but not high enough) at MLG’s Winter Championship. There is little else to say. The prospect’s grim.
This is where we recognize that HerO and JYP must truly be caught in a bubble of space-time where rivals meet each other over and over at tournaments. Their meeting will probably be the highlight of the bracket, unless underdogs like Ret and Bling can beat the odds by taking out enough Koreans to actually play each other. What else do we look out for?
Qxc, or as I like to call him, the other DeMuslim, has made his return to the tournament scene after a notably extended absence. It remains to be seen whether he’ll accomplish anything, but at least it’s something to be excited about. This branch of the competition isn’t as heavily stacked as the first one, but it’s still no fly through.
The very first look at this lane betrays its winner: Mvp shares a bracket half with many players of note but in his presence they are bust just names with a certain load of fame. ToD, Sase and SeleCT are all doomed and most probably Mvp will meet StarTale's GSTL hero Squirtle for the group seed.
In the lower part, the scales are much more balanced. One of the finalist should be Heart, who will have no difficulties beating everyone, including BboongBboong, and the other should come from the victor between Ace and Creator. Since that's PvP, I will stay my fingers and not type any predictions as I might get better odds at betting on back-alley rabid dog fights.
Lane 4 is a very unforgiving one as it has somehow incorporated more names of high quality than the pool play. The upper half hosts the almighty HuK who is ever the bannerman of the foreign world; the former GSL champion Jjakji and his fellow Korean terran Ryung; Good Guy Sheth and Dignitas' hidden blade Killer. Below we see Liquid'Taeja who recently eliminated DRG from Code S; Complexity's GSL veteran Killer; the child-prodigy MaruPrime, fan favourite TLO and also Zenio, Catz and Illusion.
And in that primal soup of players babble a handful of storylines to follow. There is the big possibility of Liquid team-kill; the ever-present Korea vs The West death-race; and a possible teenage terran quarter-final between Maru and Illusion.
IPL 4 should have charged $5 for this alone.