IEM: Preying on the big apple: IEM New York Group Preview

General Radoslav “Nydra” Kolev

We are very close to making it halfway through the sixth season of Intel Extreme Masters. So close that the third stop at New York is just a few hours away. At 18:15 CET, the fight for the $21,000 begins.

I know what you are thinking. I am thinking it. We are all thinking it. Everyone who have glanced the IEM New York groups at least once has risen an eyebrow, unable to resist that baffling feeling that, well, this isn't the best line-up in the history of StarCraft 2 tournaments.

Those who followed the qualifiers closely were aware of what the New York eSports landscape would be like in the next three days. To be honest, before any of the Korean invites were announced, the tournament seemed quite unpredictable. Again, not with the best of the best (of the best), but the groups had one or two clear favourites along with some darkhorses who are always eager to make an upset and throw the community in an uproar.

Then the invites came and the spark of foreign champion faded to almost naught. ESL found one of the most dreaded Korean predators and unleashed them upon the hunting grounds of the "Big Apple". They didn't even ease to that: the first two invites were ST's Killer - the only protoss to make it to the Ro16 this GSL season, and MVP's DongRaeGu - a zerg that needs little introduction of any kind. It was by that time that many of the community's reaction spelled "DRG has this ez" and they probably would not be far from the truth come Saturday.

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The second wave of invites included oGsTOP - Code A winner, Code S finalist and Super Tournament top 3 finisher (and occasional bearer of freakishly big glasses), and ST_FruitDealer - formerly one of the best (if not the best) zergs in the entire world but who is currently struggling to recapture his old days of fame. Things were getting ugly for the qualified foreigners, especially when the IEM NY groups are as follows:

IEM New York Groups
Group AGroup BGroup CGroup D
Sweden SjowUkraine StrelokPoland ManaFinland Elfi
Chile KiLLerUnited States StrifeCroCanada TT1United States Axslav
Canada AtteroUnited States GatoredUnited States PokebunnyUnited States Edge
Korea KillerKorea DongRaeGuKorea TOPKorea FruitDealer

There is a clear trend here and you don't need a looking glass to see it. Well, if you squint a little, you might see a thread of unpredictability in Group A, but with eyes wide open there is little doubt that Killer has this. Sjow is the only person that can prove a tough nut for the Korean but I just don't feel it. He has not been having the best TvP time recently and his appalling NASL 2 performance gives hints of a bit of a slump. However, one should never lose faith in Dignitas players and this will be Sjow's chance to make a major stand.

Group B will be over before it even begins. DongRaeGu will 3-0 this unless covert ops invisible robot ninja spies assassinate him in the middle of a game and I am pretty sure that Strelok will come second. No disrespect to StrifeCro and Gatored but thinking they stand a chance here will be me fooling myself.

In regard to the whole picture, Group C actually is the only one with an actual inner challenge. TOP, of course, is the easy-to-spot favourite but I must say it won't be easy getting past Mana. The Polish hero comes to New York with disgustingly good PvT win ratio, enjoying victories over players like Rain, BratOK, DeMuslim and the ungodly Puma. I can definitely see this being the match that decides who will get the top seed in the group, as neither TT1 nor the local representative Pokebunny have what it takes to actually defeat those two.

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Thus we reach Group D - another pool with an intimidating Korean representative, a foreigner on his way to a personal ascension and two underdogs that will have it immensely hard. Being from the mythical lands of the East (and backed up by the magical science of statistics), FruitDealer is probably the one to put on top, but this time I will have none of it, and the reason for that is called Elfi. There are many factors pointing in Elfi's favour - he owned Nada at Assembly, qualified for WCG '11, came 2nd at Guangzhou after crushing his group so hard that Idra barely made it out, has a relatively easy group and overall has been performing just incredibly solid day after day. This kid is on his way to great stardom and eating FruitDealer's zerg heart out can only be beneficial, no?

In the end of the day, one must ignore the initial waves of pessimism and try to see all the possibilities of IEM NY to grow into a tournament worth watching. After all, if the groups go according to my predictions, we will have the Korean beasts against some of the best foreigners fighting in the tournament bracket and this is always a sight worth enjoying.