IEM Katowice: StarCraft 2 Winter Circuit Championship invitee highlights
The Intel Extreme Masters Season 10 is set to be hosted from the 4th – 6th of March in Katowice, Poland and will set the stage for the StarCraft 2 2016 WCS Winter Circuit Championship. The WCS Winter Circuit is the first major tournament of Blizzard's Annual World Championship Series and will see players from all over the world compete for Championship points that will contribute towards their placement at the WCS Global Playoffs later in the year.
32 players from around the world will compete in a single-elimination, Bo5 tournament through to the finals which will be played in a Bo7 format. The winning player will take home $35,000 USD and a WCS Global Playoffs seed.
One of the most interesting elements of the IEM Katowice tournament is the regional makeup of the players that will be competing. Split into two separate championships, the WCS series separates the Korean players from the ‘foreign’ players and into two streams in order to ensure a more evenly balanced coverage of the various regions. This is to avoid the historic prevalence of Korean dominated StarCraft that has been the dominant scenario since the days of Brood War. However, IEM Katowice is a primarily ‘foreign’ tournament with only three of the thirty-two players hailing from Korea and only two of those making their way into the tournament from the Korean pro-StarCraft scene.
However, the tournament does definitely have favourites. Part of the player make-up for the tournament includes WCS Standing Invitees. These players are dominant figures in the WCS tournament space and are the favourites coming into the Winter Circuit Championships.
WCS Standing Invite highlights:
Lilbow is a French Protoss player playing for team Millenium. First entering the professional scene in 2013, Lilbow began to make a name for himself in WCS seasons two and three. Lilbow was the first foreigner to advance to the WCS Global Finals at BlizzCon since NaNiwa in 2013.
MaNa is a Polish Protoss player hailing from Team Liquid. He has been involved in professional starcraft since the days of BroodWar, first appearing in a professional event at TSL2. MaNa originally played with other notable European StarCraft pro’s such as White-Ra, Strelok, Ret, and LefNaij. MaNa has had great success in both GSL and major foreign tournaments and is a force to be reckoned with at IEM Katowice.
Polt is a Korean Terran player on the roster of CM Storm. He is one of the most well know StarCraft pros and has been at the peak of competitive StarCraft 2 since the early days of GSL Code S. Polt is known for being the creator of many cutting edge Terran Strategies over the years and will no doubt be bringing something fresh to IEM Katowice.
Bunny is a Terran player on Team Liquid. The Danish talent first entered the pro scene in 2013 at the World Championship Series 2012 Denmark. Bunny went on to become a fairly major force in Heart of the Swarm, Qualifying for WCS Europe Season 1. He went on to take out 3-4th place in WCS 2015, seasons 1 and 2 and should be in a good position to contest the Winter Circuit Championship.
Another player from Tean Millenium; the young French Terran player, MarineLorD, is a relatively recent addition to the WCS level scene. A regular winner of the ZOTAC cup all through 2014-15, it will be interesting to see how far MarineLorD is able to fight through the mountains of experience that he will come up against at the Winter Circuit Championship.
Hydra is the second of our Korean players to make the WCS Standing Invites list. He is a Zerg player and has been involved in competitive StarCraft since the days of Brood War in 2011. Competing in many major tournaments since 2013, Hydra is on the upswing coming into the Winter Circuit Championship and is ranked in the top 5 of all players based on WCS points.
Team Liquid’s Snute is another long running name in competitive SC2. First entering the professional scene in 2012 at HomeStory Cup VI; the Norwegian Zerg player has been a consistent performer in European StarCraft since the early days of SC2. Snute is known for his unconventional early-game play’s and his skill at bypassing attempts by his opponents to delay him early in the match.
Possibly one of the most well-known SC2 pros on this list, TLO has been a dominant name in competitive SC2 since the original WOL beta. Known for his unconventional tactics and diversionary strategies, the German Zerg has one of the largest fan followings in professional SC2 outside Korea. It remains to be seen though whether TLO will be able to carry this long found success into premier level LOTV.
So what do you guys think? Who are your favourites to take the tournament? With Legacy of the Void so fresh we’re bound to see some interesting new developments in the meta and some cool new strats develop over the course of the tournament.
Player images sourced from Liquipedia.