16 of the world’s best StarCraft II players will compete today for $150,000 at Blizzard's World Championship Series 2013 Season 2 Finals at Gamescom.
"It's unlike any StarCraft II stage I've seen before," Michal "Carmac" Blicharz, director of programming for the Electronic Sports League (ESL) told GameSpot. They are producing Blizzard's World Championship Series in Europe, including the live stream and stage. "It's the tallest stage we have ever put up at Gamescom and it was built specifically with 1on1 SC2 in mind. The players will be walking down to the arena from upstairs. You will see in some of their faces that the view and the walk will have a strong impression on them. It promises to be a really cool show."
StarCraft players have qualified from across the globe in the regions of North America, Europe, and South Korea. Competitors include 2013 Season 1 Champion Shin Hyung "Innovation" Lee, Protoss powerhouse Yoon Jong "Rain" Jung, lone North American representative Sasha "Scarlett" Hostyn, Swedish hopeful Johan "Naniwa" Lucchesi, and StarCraft: Brood War legend Lee "Jaedong" Jae Dong.
"After his defeat at the WCS Korea finals, I believe Yoon Jong [Rain] has a very decent shot at doing extremely well here and potentially taking the whole tournament," said ESL caster James "Kaelaris" Carrol.
Aside from losses in the Korean finals, Jung has gone 14-5 in maps this season, with most of his wins coming against Terran and Protoss.
"The favorites have to be Yoon Jong and Shin Hyung," said Geoff "Incontrol" Robinson of Evil Geniuses. "Shin Hyung will be facing the Artosis curse, and I like Yoon Jong to prevail in this format with his strong standard play. If anything, Shin Hyung will do that thing again where he doesn't win the Korean finals, but wins the big tourney anyways."
"Yoon Jong is the best Protoss in the world, and Protoss is incredibly strong," said Greg "Idra" Fields, former Zerg player for Evil Geniuses. "Even if he isn't the most creative, I think he learned from the WCS Korea Finals and won't let the same thing happen again. Skill wise I'd say Yoon Jong and Shin Hyung are pretty equal, I just like feel that Protoss has an advantage right now."
StarCraft caster Dan "Artosis" Stemkoski, who's seemingly doom-inducing match predictions as of late have prompted a cry of a "curse" from fans, believes Lee is still the man to beat. Lee is 7-3 head-to-head against Jung in Heart of The Swarm, winning both of their best of 5 face-offs.
"He's the best player in the world," said Stemkoski. "His mechanics are like too good to lose. His style matches up very well against Yoon Jang's."
Canada's Hostyn is the first and only North American player to qualify for the WCS Season Finals in two seasons. As last year's WCS North American Champion, Hostyn has had to sit out several tournaments this year due to a wrist injury. She has returned to competition with big wins over South Korean players.
"Hostyn [Scarlett] with an all Terran group is poised to turn heads and really establish herself as a candidate for the greatest Western player we have," said Robinson. "WCS offers that stage and success here could mean she becomes that player for us all."
"Scarlett's going to get out of her group, she's the only foreigner I see having any success unless Luchessi build-orders a few people," added Fields.
Hostyn and Jae Dong make up the only two Zerg players at the finals, with the other 14 representing Terran and Protoss.
"Zergs with low representation is disheartening," said Robinson. "I definitely think they as a race are struggling at the moment. Protoss have started to find their swing and really are utilizing a mix of timing builds with standard macro play inspired by successful Protoss like Yoon Jong. I think one of the big culprits right now though is I feel like Terran vs Zerg has hit a point where Zerg’s seem to either win in early to mid game or die absolutely."
The live broadcast begins at 8 a.m. EDT/5 a.m. PDT, with a full schedule on the official WCS website. The live broadcast can be watched on Twitch TV, with casters Stemkoski, Carrol, Shaun "Apollo" Clark and more calling the action all weekend long.
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