The WCS Season 2 Finals are upon us, and the crafty veterans and aggressive younger players heading to Germany have fans buzzing about their scheduled (and potential) matchups. The storylines are intriguing, twisting all over the globe and taking us one step closer to the WCS Global Finals in November. Can WCS America champion Choi ‘Polt’ Seong Hoon grab enough WCS points to catch overall points leader Lee ‘INnoVation’ Shin Hyung? Is WCS Europe champion Kim ‘duckdeok’ Kyeong Deok a strong contender in this 16-player group stage? Can Cho ‘Maru’ Sung Choo extend his giant-killing dream season through one more intense weekend?
We threw those questions and more at our crew of WCS insiders to get their opinions on the group stage of the WCS Season 2 Finals. The schedule is set and the action begins August 23 at 5:00 a.m. PDT.
Kevin Knocke – Polt can hold court over all Terran and Protoss matchups
In my opinion, Group B is going to be the most competitive. My eye is on Grubby. Representing the Netherlands, Grubby is one of only four foreigners competing in the Season 2 Finals. After a narrow (and emotional) victory over EU Season 1 champion Mvp in the Round of 16, Grubby has shown that he belongs among the world's best players. I'm confident about his ability to handle Terran and Zerg opponents, but the real test will be his Protoss vs. Protoss matches. Grubby's PvP is improving, but fellow Protoss player First in Group B excels at PvP. If Grubby can beat Polt and First and advance from his group, I think he will be satisfied with his performance.
I think the biggest wildcard in the tournament is Jaedong. This legend of Brood War has yet to win a large tournament in StarCraft II, and has many notable second place finishes to his credit. Unfortunately for him, Zerg vs. Zerg is by far Jaedong's best matchup, and there's only one other Zerg player in the entire tournament. His worst matchup is Zerg vs. Protoss, and Jaedong has three Protoss opponents in Group A. However, because Jaedong's ZvT and ZvZ are so solid, I think he has a great opportunity to purely prepare for Protoss players. If he makes it out of the group, I think Jaedong is a favorite to win the tournament right alongside Maru, INnoVation, and Rain.
The man who beat Jaedong 4-0 in the WCS America finals, though, is Polt. Polt has been completely dominant over the past couple of months. Polt excels in all matchups, but his TvP and TvT seem almost unstoppable at the moment. While he has a respectable 68% win percentage against Zerg opponents in Heart of the Swarm, that’s still his weakest matchup. However, there are only two Zerg players in the entire season Grand Finals, so Polt is likely to hit his stride throughout the weekend in his best matchups.
Tim ‘Robin’ Frazier – INnoVation Puts the “Death” in “The Group of Death”
If Jaedong gets out of Group A and isn't matched against Polt early, he will make it to the finals. Although “J” v P is his worst matchup, he is scheduled to play against Rain early on, and a win there should get him out of this group with ease.
Rain is another favorite to make it out of this group after an impressive run through WCS Korea. Jaedong is a huge speedbump, but things could be easy for Rain here.
Welmu is the foreign hope in this group and he has a small chance. He impressed me during WCS Europe, but he has an uphill battle to shake up this group. Of course, MC is the boss Toss, and likes to prove the world wrong.
In Group B, Polt is on form in TvP and TvZ, destroying anyone who crosses his path. The only opponent I can see beating Polt handily in this group is Bomber. You never know, Bomber's Law might decide to kick in early this tournament. I still feel like Polt should walk out of this group unscathed and without a sweat.
For second place, the clear fan favorite is Grubby. You never know where Grubby is going to end up. He has a level of play that many call the "Grubby Line:" just close enough to beat those above him, but still too far away to win anything big.
I consider Group C the Group of Death. INnoVation WCS Season 1 champion, and he has revenge on his mind. With a shocking loss to Maru in the semifinals of WCS Korea, INnoVation will use this weekend as a platform to let the world know he is still the best.
This is a hard group to pick a second place finisher. Can TaeJa retain enough strength this weekend against two serious Protoss contenders? duckdeok and NaNiwa might be considered the weakest players in the group (Crazy right?), but they can both turn on the heat. Additionally, duckdeok has that whole “winning WCS Europe” thing under his belt.
Terran vs. Zerg is Scarlett's specialty and she’s got two ZvT opportunities in Group D. I'm guessing she’ll be 2nd in this group, and I just can't see her beating Maru. Either way, it will be a quick series.
MMA has had moments of brilliance in the past few weeks, but nothing so spectacular that I’m convinced he’s back to being the player he once was. I expect him to take a few games here and there, but finish third or fourth in this group.
aLive is my wildcard in this group. The Ninja Terran can show up at any time and kill everything before anyone notices. However, he lost to Scarlett in the WCS America Premier League Round of 8 and just barely made it into this tournament because of Jim’s last minute scratch. The Ninja will want to make full use of a golden opportunity; I'm just not sure he can.
Andrew ‘Kibblez’ Dunne – Grubby. Scarlett. INnoVation. In that order.
Overall, I think the biggest stories heading into the WCS Season 2 Finals are Jaedong's impending and untimely demise, #1 America vs. #2 Korea, INnoVation's challenges, and Grubby. Even though he probably won't survive his group, people love Grubby.
I agree with Kevin in that Group B will be the most competitive. It doesn't have InnoVation, but I actually think there is a good chance he gets knocked out in group stage.
Welmu gets a chance to redeem himself vs. MC in the first match of Group A. In the Round of 8 in WCS Europe, MC crushed Welmu 3-0. Will MC stomp Welmu again, or will Welmu make the upset?
The Untimely Death of Jaedong
This is JaeDong's worst matchup, and his first match is against Rain. JaeDong is almost certain to go 0-1 right away, and will have to play only other Protoss to escape. Things don’t look good for our boy JaeDong.
Grubby, the only foreigner of Group B, has the most stacked competition in his group. He's been playing very well lately, but I don’t know if he's got what it takes to make it out of this group. If he does, people are going to freak out. Wow. The feels will be overwhelming. Really, people will die of joy. I'm not even kidding.
Bomber vs. Polt
A lot people would like to see this match. Bomber beat INnoVation recently, but could Bomber take down America's #1? I say yes.
Death of INnoVation
In the WCS Korea Season 1 finals, we saw INnoVation slowly collapse against Soulkey after building a 3-0 lead. He later blamed the loss on his mentality once he began to lose games. Since then, with his losses to Bomber and Maru, I'm worried that INnoVation's shaken confidence will affect his ability to play well in this group. TaeJA is used to travelling for foreign tournaments, and duckdeok competed in Germany for WCS Europe. NaNiwa lives in Europe. This is INnoVation's first time competing in Europe. There is actually a possibility that one of the world's best won't make it out of his group.
Her ZvT is excellent, and she could make it out this group. MMA is a wildcard right now, and has been improving. I think he’ll soon be one of the world's best, again. Everything hinges on MMA vs. Scarlett.
With three Terrans in this group, it’s Maru’s for the taking. That leaves Scarlett and MMA, and an overmatched aLive on the outside looking in. Whoever wins between MMA and Scarlett gets a shot at upsetting Maru. Scarlett’s ZvT is really sharp right now, so if she can’t get past MMA initially, she may get another shot at him in the group’s final match.
While we can’t say for sure exactly how each match will play out this weekend, the excitement is riding high heading in to the Season Finals, and we’re certainly in for an epic weekend of StarCraft II. Tune in to the free WCS Season 2 Finals stream each day from August 23 – 25 to find out if these predictions become reality, and feel free to share your predictions with us in the comments section below, or on Twitter. Head here if you’re interested in more tournament and broadcast details, and don’t forget to show your local BarCraft scene some love by checking out the list of gatherings near you.