4 storylines to follow at DreamHack Winter 2013

Posted by Radoslav "Nydra" Kolev 39 weeks, 4 days ago

The fourth DreamHack Winter is upon us. The storylines are in abundance and for our first feature we look at four of the most enticing ones.


1. How far will Naniwa go (and the general question of foreigners' chances)


2013 hasn’t been a very kind year to the Swedish Protoss. It was not a tough time in the sense that Naniwa completely fell off the radar and had his name forgotten but rather that mockery of being allowed to come within hand’s reach of championship and being denied time and time again.

In late November of this year, Naniwa holds two silver medals from premier tournaments, one top four finish from MLG Spring, the honor to call himself the only foreigner to play at BlizzCon and zero premier golds, the latter for a second year in a row now. He still hasn’t won the competition for the best foreigner in the post-Stephano world and the race with Scarlett goes on. Although Naniwa has proven himself on the grounds of three franchises and has slain the best of the Korean and western lot, he remains a King without a crown. Now, as the last 2013 event that Naniwa will attend approaches, questions are naturally being raised as to how well will the Swede do this time.

“Far, but not far enough” seems to be the answer that first springs to mind. Placed in a group with two more foreigners and an Azubu B-Teamer, Naniwa has more than decent chances of getting an upper bracket seed. There is where the easy part ends.

Once in the bracket, Naniwa will face challenges worthy of the world finals. Players that have beaten him before this year like Life, Polt and Leenock are here and it’s more likely than not that they’ll make it out of groups. Then there’s the back-to-back DHW champion HerO whom he’s never beaten in his entire career, his nemesis Jaedong who’s like the king of ZvP now and a whole plethora of Terran players good enough to oppose and destroy Naniwa’s otherwise pristine PvT. Prospects are grim for the King in the North. He will need to get a winners bracket seed or I’m afraid the viciousness of playing in the losers bracket will take its toll quickly.

Photo: ESL

Of course, Naniwa is not the only non-Korean traveling to DreamHack Winter this weekend (it’d be awkwardly familiar had that been the case) but there’s not a lot more that the foreign fans can look up to. Lucifron and TLO won their spots through seeding matches (played because Jaedong and StarDust are apparently very good on DH soil) but their 2013 results do not suggest a deep run in the winter edition. Then there’s Sjow who placed fourth in DreamHack Summer but bar his spectacular victory over Life that was done by beating lower tier Europeans. Here, he’s place in a group with the WCS champion and runner-up Innovation, Liquid’s poster boy Taeja, the TvT monster ForGG and the world champion sOs himself. Sjow needs about seven buckets of miracles if he’s to get out.

Finally we have Goswser who will play in a four-man group since Welmu forfeited the tournament. Which is unfortunate for the American as Welmu would be by far his easiest match-up. Now, Goswser is left to play Leenock (72% ZvZ win rate) and Jaedong (76,56% ZvZ win-rate) as well as the defending back-to-back champion HerO (67,5% PvZ win-rate). Yeah, that’s bad news. 


2. The Kong is dead, long live the Kong


Five silver medals in five months.

This is Jaedong’s record since DreamHack Summer. Five times he was denied the trophy, making him the unofficial King of Kong in StarCraft 2, a sorrowful tale so unfitting for one of the greatest players to ever touch the franchise.

The struggles of the Tyrant have been told and retold a million times by now so another lengthy exposé is unnecessary. We know what is that Jaedong craves and going to the very tournament that gave him his first and second silver medals in StarCraft 2 is a good way for the legendary Zerg to get back at everyone. At the DreamHack brand for kick-starting his Kong legacy, at HyuN, sOs, Polt and StarDust for being the main culprits in that, at Naniwa for being the only foreigner that dared oppose him successfully and at the Terrans and Protosses just for not being a part of the swarm.

The Tyrant doesn’t need to find a way to exact his vengeance. He knows the game all too well already.


3. There and back-to-back, a HerO's tale


Every StarCraft 2 fan – be that old or new – knows that DreamHack Winter and Liquid`Hero are two inseparable entities. Never in the history of the game has such a bond between a tournament and a player existed and it is one of the most personal and intimate stories in our scene.

In November of 2011, Liquid`HerO attended his first DreamHack Winter in an attempt to win his first every premier tournament. Then a worthy of the “very good but not quite the best” label, HerO was someone whose popularity surpassed his results. His blue-shirted fanbase of Team Liquid supporters grew as HerO developed his ornate, micro-oriented playstyle while the tournaments themselves crushed his every hope of becoming champion.

And then it came, the tournament that engineered HerO’s very own rebirth and that molded him into the established champion he is today. From the first matches against TLO, Seiplo and StarNaN to the grand final against Puma, HerO played with unseen before viciousness and grace. He was drastically changed, that much was evident.

DreamHack Winter ’11 opened the valve that kept HerO’s talent locked. Since that November, HerO has taken four first places, one second place and six top fours. He’s made more than $210,000 in earning, all of it thanks to the DHW trampoline.

As the fourth installment of DreamHack’s crown event approaches, the old lovers are ready to renew their game. Lady Winter has grown harder to conquer with every passing year but twice in a row she fell into HerO’s embraces nonetheless.

It’s time for their third tango.

P.S. You're probably wondering where's the J.R.R.T. reference in all of that. Well, there is none. It's just all the "Winter is coming" lines are boring me to death already and Middle Earth beats Westeros any day.


4. On the wings of BlizzCon and the next chapter in sOs' story


sOs’ story is bizarre. From his first steps into recognition (way back in July 2012 when he became the first KeSPA player to take a game off of SC2 “original”), to his WCS Season 1 successes, to becoming a world champion and a Red Bull runner-up, the Woongjin Protoss has been competing from the shadows. Never did he become a poster boy of his team or his race and to the wide public he was known as that Protoss that beats people by doing weird shit. For the most winningest player of this year (and possibly the most entertaining one, too), sOs has been, I feel, underappreciated.

DreamHack Winter is, thus, as important to sOs as BlizzCon, an odd situation but one that beautifully suits everything about the world champion. sOs needs to have a successful next chapter of his story. He needs to repel the ephemeral career curse which has been the downfall of many a Protoss talents before him. He needs to find a way to take his unpredictable playstyle, re-apply it on Swedish soil and make it work against the very best in the business (again).

For better or worse, being a world champion is not enough to make sOs the new ambassador of the Protoss. His victory at BlizzCon gave him a lot but with that came the even bigger demand of subsequent results. The SC2 scene is vicious and unforgiving and will expect all or nothing from the Woongjin ace. 

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