The last hope of the West: HuK in WCS America S3
As the last Ro16 group of WCS America S3 approaches, HuK readies to defend the honor of his continent and become the only non-Asian to reach the playoffs this season
Photo: Kevin Florenzano / ESL
Hours away from its last Ro16 group, WCS America is nearing the precedent of having just a single non-Korean in the playoffs. There have always been at least a couple of foreigners in the final bracket and although none of them except Scarlett made it particularly far, seeing a 1:3 (or 3:5 in Season 2) ratio was oddly comforting given the nature of the circuit.
Nevertheless, no one should be surprised staring at this potential precedent. From the very start, WCS America has been a battle against the odds for the non-Koreans so it was a matter of time before odds fought back and took what’s rightfully theirs. The second group stage was stacked with so much talent that not even established champions like Taeja and HyuN could make it out. West’s biggest hope Scarlett too fell to the Protoss opposition in Group B and just like that, there was hardly anyone left.
That is why today we are not talking about the reigning champion Polt, who has ironically been the recipient of the “USA USA USA” chants more often than Americans themselves. We’re also not talking about ByuL who managed to top a group that aLive couldn’t survive, or about Apocalypse who was single-handedly responsible for the death of EG’s Suppy and DeMusliM in the Ro32. Today, we talk about the last chance of the western world to be represented at the playoffs this weekend.
It’s an odd burden that has fallen on the shoulders of Chris “HuK” Loranger of year 2013. He hasn’t been in the spotlight for more than a year now even despite the roaring EG logo on his uniform, usually unanimous with media attention. The last time he made it to playoffs was during NASL 3 in mid-2012, he hasn’t won a tournament since late Orlando 2011 and he has certainly forgotten how it’s like to be a continent’s last hope. Naturally, not many expected him to make it to the Ro16 in the first place (let alone ace his group) considering he was paired with Taeja, Major and Top in the Ro32.
HuK holding Life's IEM New York trophy. Photo: Kevin Florenzano / ESL
As HuK now stands as the lone North American, every fan following StarCraft 2 from its early days is experiencing a familiar feeling as he’s taken months and months back. Back to the first half of 2012 when HuK came out of a four-month-long slump and finished high in both MLG Winter competitions, outracing notable Koreans such as Alicia, Ganzi, PartinG, Violet and Polt. Back to the early days of StarCraft 2 when North Americans were not considered cannon fodder and when HuK was among their finest warriors, winning multiple championships and even contesting the Koreans in Code S. Back to when he could still make his playstyle work and when he was one of the faces of western StarCraft.
It’s without a doubt a warming trip down the memory lane and one that I myself choose to indulge because, frankly, the reality is way too harsh. As we established, the Canadian superstar of old is not doing particularly well and with good reason. In a world where Protoss players have to rely as much on secrecy as on brute force, HuK’s predisposition towards gateway timings has been a bad habit which has often pigeonholed him into losses. He admitted in a recent interview that he’s been trying to find a balance between his characteristic chaotic play and the more stable style of the Koreans and while that does sound like the clever thing to do, there’s always the chance that he ends up worse than he currently is.
Nevertheless, there is one thing that’s going well for HuK. Wild as it may sound, he hasn’t lost a BoX PvT since July and we’re not talking about a list of scrub players but one that has TheSTC, Heart and Ryung on it. With Apocalypse being arguably worse than all of them (and TvP being his worst match-up to that), there’s actually a strong chance that HuK opens Group D with a win.
From there, all he has to do is not fuck up. Granted, a potential meeting with Polt is likely to result in a loss but the rest in the group are far from invincible (although HuK’s atrocious PvZ makes ByuL an opponent to not be underestimated). It’s vital for HuK to keep this in mind and make him believe he is on their level and that being outnumbered is not synonymous with certain death. That despite all the pressure on his shoulders for being North America’s last chance, he really doesn’t have anything to lose because nobody is realistically expecting a triumph on his part to begin with.
Fall and nothing will change. Win and bathe in celebratory cheers. And I know HuK hasn’t forgotten the touch of the latter.
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