We’re just weeks from watching the best StarCraft 2 players on the planet take up arms at Intel Extreme Masters Season 9’s second stop in Toronto. There’s a $25,000 USD prize pot up for grabs, thousands of Canadian fans foaming at the mouth, and 16 players geared up for the Asian Qualifiers. Only two will take the journey to FAN EXPO Canada™. Read on for our predictions – and then make your own.
The kickoff: favorites, unknowns and infamous upsets
America’s favorite Terran (ok, maybe second, depending on your allegiance to Polt) and the winner of Intel Extreme Masters Shenzhen 2014 will take on a relatively unknown Protoss, Heartz, in his first match. TaeJa has indeed had a summer of StarCraft to be proud of after dominating at HomeStory Cup, DreamHack Open: Summer and Shenzhen. We anticipate no hesitation or struggle against Imperium’s ill-fated Heartz.
But TaeJa could end up facing a formidable enemy in the infamous Pigbaby, who will face TooDming first. Pigbaby, a former underdog who is now holding firm at rank 16, has made hundreds of fans cry before. Can he do it again while facing the much-loved Zerg? Given Pigbaby’s incredible 75% win rate in PvZ, it’s highly likely.
But TooDming isn’t down for the count yet. The Zenith of Origin player, who arrived from the Chinese Qualifiers, has been known to pull out tough wins when on the spot. (Let’s not forget how he knocked out Scarlett in WCS America Season 1 earlier this year.) Despite a solid overall record, TooDming can be inconsistent in tournament play. His best bet for a good run today is a rough start for Pigbaby.
When Life’s on the line, call a Super herO
Life’s tough. The StarTale Zerg who is notably missing from Season 3 of GSL Code S, has quite the rap sheet. He placed top 4 in GSL Code S Season 1, top 12 in Season 2, top 8 at IEM Season VIII World Championship, top 12 at IEM Shenzhen 2014, top 12 at MLG Anaheim 2014, and, oh yeah, first at DreamHack Open Bucharest 2014. The sheer number of games under this young player’s belt (he’s 268-172 in HotS, with a 61% win rate overall) should scare even the best opponents. How will Super handle the pressure?
The team MVP Protoss, who beat Nado, Alicia, Crank and EffOrt (only dropping one map to EffOrt) to qualify, is the certain underdog – but a win for him isn’t impossible – just unlikely.
Meanwhile, CJ Entus’s herO (who had a surprising brush with Super and Reality in GSL Code A this season) will be fighting the good fight against Terran TY. Though TY’s record is decent and his best matchup is his TvP, he’s not the favorite here. We’ve all seen what herO can do – as the first player to ever win two Intel Extreme Masters Championships (back-to-back, to boot), he’s one of the strongest players on any StarCraft fan’s radar. Still, TY is coming off of a win against Classic at the SPL Playoffs last weekend – and confidence goes a long way. Our bets are on herO, but we’re betting with caution.
Beware of unpredictable matchups
Three of the best take on a Terran who hasn’t competed in a major tournament since GSL Season 3 last year. Sorry doesn’t necessarily deserve our sympathy, though – he recently took out Oz, FanTaSy, Bbyong and Cure (who had just beaten Rain) to push through the qualifiers. But does that really make him a fair match for Classic? Our verdict: No.
Classic, who’s currently ranked 12, got his WCS points with a top 12 finish in GSL Code S Season 1, a top eight finish at Intel Extreme Masters Cologne 2014, and of course, a first place finish in Season 2. He’s got an even win rate in his PvT and PvZ matchups, but struggles a bit more in PvP. Fortunately for Classic, he won’t have to face the mirror to move on.
Who could take him down? Could it be Flash, the Terran who’s catching fire? Flash took out titans Dear and Maru in the qualifiers to get here, and just faced Terminator, sOs and PartinG in the SPL Playoffs, winning against all three Protoss despite TvP being his worst matchup statistically. Flash’s best matchup, TvZ, has lacked in recent months – and he’s up against soO first, who’s best matchup is also ZvT.
After taking second place in Seasons 1 and 2 of GSL Code S this year and placing top 4 in the Global Tournament, we predict soO is raring to go. While his record isn’t statistically as hot as Flash’s, soO’s tournament play is nearly always on point. We predict he’ll use the excitement of the tournament to leave Flash in the dark.
Old feuds resurface and Zest gets some Love
When we think of celebrity feuds, Jaedong and Jim aren’t usually top of mind. But after the Chinese Protoss ousted Jaedong from the Round of 32 in the WCS America Premier Season 2, and both finished dead even in the top four at Intel Extreme Masters Shenzhen in July, everyone’s inclined to feel a little loyalty to one or the other. Jim’s ascent to SC2 fame has been rapid and exciting since the HoTs release, and the Invictus Gaming player has an overall win rate of 60%. He’s definitely a fair match for the Dong, who is at a 60.75% win rate overall.
Jaedong, currently ranked 11 in WCS points, could truly capitalize on an opportunity for payback and play smart against Jim. After finishing in the top 4 at IEM Cologne 2014, DreamHack Open: Bucharest, DreamHack Open: Summer and IEM Shenzhen this year, can the EG Zerg bust through the barrier to redeem himself? We predict the answer is yes – but this is absolutely the toughest call of the qualifiers.
One call that isn’t so tough: the winner of DemiLove vs. Zest. An up-and-coming Zerg from India, DemiLove had previously earned an Open Bracket spot at IEM Singapore in 2013, but couldn’t attend. Since then, the DuSt Gaming player hasn’t seen a lot of action. But his opponent, Zest, is a different story completely. Zest sits happily at the top of the top. The KT Rolster Protoss exhibits no matchup record less than 61%. His best play (just barely) is his PvZ, but we all know Zest is extremely consistent in tournaments and can take on any race by just being himself.
Who do you think will push through the Asian Qualifiers and head to Toronto for the August 28 expo? If we have to pick just two players, based on their records and of course, our hearts – Zest and TaeJa are taking it all the way to Canada.
Watch all the action here, and don’t forget to check in on your Fantasy league points in the process.