At the MLG Spring Championship June 8-10, the best players in the United States came together in a 64-man bracket to determine who would earn the right to represent their country and compete in the North American Finals for a chance to win the title of World Champion later this year. Though the competition was tight, and despite a field that included some very established names, three players defied expectations and rose to the top: Sky “Insur” Xu, Peter “Daisuki” Yoo, and Dan “ViBE” Scherlong. In addition to taking home the prize for placing first and earning the right to compete in the North American Finals, ViBE’s win earned himself an automatic spot at the Global Finals.
We got a chance to talk with the top three finishers, and asked them about their journeys as pro-gamers, their preparations for their tournament, and their experiences at the WCS USA Nationals. VoDs of the matches can be found at MLG.tv.
We have our USA champion. Dan “ROOTViBE” Scherlong fought his way through the World Championship Series USA Championship, dropping only three maps the entire weekend, and defeated Daisuki 2-0 in the finals to claim his victory. Earning a spot in the Global Finals and his first major title, ViBE has asserted himself as one of the USA’s strongest players. We talked to him, immediately after his title win, about his journey as a pro-gamer, his road to the finals in this tournament, and his unique method of preparation.
Could you start off by introducing yourself?
I’m ROOTViBE, my real name’s Dan Scherlong, and I live in Colorado. I’ve been playing StarCraft II since the beta.
So, what got you started as a pro gamer, and why StarCraft II?
The thing that got me started as a pro gamer was the fact that a lot of my friends that I played games with – some of them started becoming sponsored, and I was getting kind of jealous of that, and I wanted to get into that scene. So I set out with a goal: in the next RTS game (because it’s an individual game) I wanted to try and go professional, and the next one happened to be StarCraft II.
Going into this tournament, how did you expect to do?
I actually thought I was going to do alright. My main goal was to get Top 16 to get to the next qualifier, and the fact that I had IdrA in round 3 was something I was skeptical about, like “oh, I don’t know if I’m going to win or not, because the last time I played him he 4-0’d me” and the fact that I beat him was just the biggest confidence booster for me. “Well, now that I’m already qualified, I’m just going to see where the tournament goes.” And I ended up happening to win, so it’s pretty sick.
So what kind of preparations did you make going into this tournament?
Honestly, this is probably the first tournament I prepared for more mentally than physically training the game, because I’ve been struggling with stress at every tournament I’ve been playing, especially LAN tournaments, and I feel like it really crippled my performance most of the time, and this time I ended up preparing by taking more of a relaxed approach to training. I practiced a bit on the Korean server and with teammates, but then I played a lot of Diablo 3, and it actually made me play better in my opinion because I was more relaxed and focused on the game, and I wasn’t stressed out while I was playing.
Your road to this win definitely wasn’t easy. What games stand out for you as the most memorable – would that be the series against IdrA?
Definitely the ones with IdrA and the ones with State. Especially State, because that was my second match and I was on the verge of losing – he beat me in the first game and in the second game he did a timing attack on me and he ended up killing my third Hatchery and nearly killed my natural, and I was at the point where I was pulling drones to try and push out his units (he’s protoss) like his stalkers and zealots, and then I ended up barely defending that and then coming back to win that game, and then eventually won game 3, and that was probably the most I felt like I already lost, and then I came back, so it was a pretty cool feeling.
How confident were you when you stepped into the booth to play in front of the crowd for the final, and what was that like?
I wasn’t necessarily stressed or nervous about it, more or less ”I’m going to try and make the best out of it and just have fun and if I win, that’s…awesome.” I had one main stage experience before, which I think helped, because at my last one I was actually really nervous (which was vs. TLO last year), so this one I definitely felt a lot more relaxed and I had high hopes.
Talk us through the games; they seemed to go pretty well for you.
In game 1 – that was Ohana – I remember I started that game off with a non-Hatch first because I wasn’t sure: I’d played Daisuki before and sometimes he does one-base all-ins against me, and sometimes he doesn’t, so I was going to just play it safe, open up one-base, (and) I ended up opening 14 gas 14 pool, and I ended up doing some Speedling harass, because I was actually thinking to myself, “I’m not nervous right now, but if he is, he’s going to crumble under my pressure here,” and then I actually ended up getting some banelings in and knocking out his drones, and then from there I felt like all I have to do is sit back and ride the lead and I’ll win.
In game 2, I decided to take a risk since I was up one game and just go straight-hatch first, and then if he six pools me I might die, but I just took a risk and went for that hatch first and I wanted to just play a standard macro game again, and I had some burrowed infestors. I think those were what won the game for me, because he actually won some engagements. I thought I was going to win and I had to pull back, but then I made up the difference by knocking out his third expansion with my infestors two times in a row, so after that second time I kind of just wanted to sit back and take the defensive end and try to win from there.
So how does it feel to be crowned the best player in the United States?
I know a lot of people say I’m not confident enough, and I don’t know if I deserve “best player in North America” because I didn’t have to beat every single other competitor for that, I just had my bracket, so anyone who thinks I’m the best player: I’ll try my best to fill that role. The fact that I won the tournament, that’s awesome man; I can’t say anything else. It’s really amazing.
Even though you’ve already clinched a spot in the Global Finals, next up is the North American Championship. Will we be seeing a repeat there?
I hope so. I’m definitely not going to stop training just because I won one of the qualifiers. I’m going to still go at it and I’m going to do my best. (At) this event I felt so relaxed and so calm and in the zone, and hopefully if that keeps up, next time I’ll do pretty well.
What percent Diablo 3 going into this one?
Well, I’m not going to lie, this time was probably 60% Diablo III, 40% StarCraft II. I might tone it down a little bit, going back to maybe 60% StarCraft, 40% Diablo III.
Do you have any words for your fans?
Thanks to everyone who supports me. I love all you guys. You guys are what motivate me to keep playing and training. Thanks to everyone who supported me and everyone should go check out my team, ROOT Gaming – making a comeback here. It’s going to be awesome.
The WCS Nationals are an excellent opportunity for the lesser-known players to make a name for themselves, and no one did that better than Peter “Daisuki” Yoo. Sponsored independently by NITRIX Energy, Daisuki went into the tournament under the radar. Though he dropped to the Lower Bracket in the third round, Daisuki fought his way back to the finals and defeated a series of excellent players along the way. Though he was defeated by ViBE 2-0 in the finals, he’s made his point. There are bright things in his future.
Could you start off by introducing yourself?
I’m Peter Yoo, or otherwise known as Daisuki – NitrixDaisuki.
So, how did you get started with StarCraft II and playing competitively?
After watching GSL: I don’t know when, but when GSL was going on, and watching Tastosis…and then pretty much I copied every pro and I got better and better. I used to only cheese…but I got really good after watching them play.
You went into this tournament without as much hype as many of the other players, but you certainly proved you should’ve. Can you talk about your road here, leading up to your invite to this tournament?
I’ve always thought of myself as a decent player, but I didn’t know if I was actually capable of getting to the finals…but I got there. I was actually surprised by it myself.
What kind of preparations did you do going into the tournament?
I’ve played at other MLGs and other tournaments, and I’ve always done kind of bad. I think because it’s a Best-of-3 setting it’s a lot different from just ladder where it’s Bo1, so definitely you should ladder a lot, but you should play Playhems or other tournaments if you can – best of threes.
You won your first matches, but you lost to x6Mystik in Round 3. Did you think after falling to the losers’ bracket that you could come back and make it to the finals?
I thought Mystik was actually gonna knock me out…’cause ZvZ is actually my worst…and I was actually surprised that I knocked out IdrA too. I don’t know…it’s weird, I guess! I can’t really explain it. Sometimes I beat really good players in ZvZ and sometimes I just get owned.
So then, after being knocked into Losers, your road became pretty difficult. What match stood out for you as particularly difficult or memorable along the way?
Playing Mystik again and then beating him…I actually lost the first game against Mystik and then I thought “Oh my god…I’m gonna lose this thing…” Beating Mystik again was a good thing.
How confident were you and how did you feel when you stepped into the booth in front of the huge crowd to face ViBE?
I was actually really nervous. I could tell I was nervous in Game 1…I think I detonated three banelings before I could even hit one of his…Pissed me off, so I was just like ugh…I don’t know, it just made me rage a little…and then I just played poorly throughout the rest of the game. Second game I tried to play a little bit calmer, which I did, but I think he kind of outplayed me that game with the infestors at my third. I think the engagement was horrible too: I think that was because I was nervous – I shouldn’t have done the middle attack. Usually what I do is attack the middle and send half my army to the other side down the ramp so I can flank them too, but it was a poor engagement on my part.
Even though you lost, you took home a bunch of money and got a spot at the North American finals. So how do you feel overall about this event?
I’m feeling good. I mean, I’ve been playing LANs for a while now and I always do really bad. Hopefully I do well at the future LANs.
So after making it all the way to the finals and playing on stage you probably have a lot more fans than you did before. Do you have any words for these new fans?
Thanks for watching, and thanks for the support! I love you guys. Also, my sponsor, Nitrix Energy, it’s a Brazilian energy company, thank you for sending me to MLGs and such and giving me this opportunity.
Sky “Insur” Xu first broke out at MLG Raleigh 2011, where he very nearly reached the championship bracket before finally falling in Lower Bracket Round 7. Since then, he hasn’t had much time in the spotlight outside of online team leagues, where he regularly represents his team Infinity Seven as one of their strongest players. Insur came back into prominence here at WCS, where he reached the Winners’ Bracket finals with only two dropped maps. Things took a turn for the worse for him there, however – losing to both ViBE and daisuki to take third place. We got to chat with him after the tournament, and he told us about his run, his experience playing on the main stage for the first time, and more.
Could you begin by introducing yourself?
Hi, I’m Sky “Insur” Xu, and I’m on the team Infinity Seven, and I play Protoss.
So how did you get started on StarCraft II, and why did you choose to become a progamer?
I originally played WarCraft III at first, and my team all switched over when the WC scene was sorta dying, and I thought the game looked interesting so I thought I would join them as well.
Going into this particular event, how did you expect to place?
I had been practicing pretty hard for this, but my only goal was to make Top 16 and qualify for [the North American finals] – I didn’t expect to make Top 3 and I’m really happy that I did.
What kind of preparations did you do specifically going into this?
I mainly practiced with teammates, and I played a lot of ladder on Korea.
You ran all the way through the Winners’ Bracket to meet ViBE in the WB Finals. What did you anticipate from those games, and what kinda went wrong for you?
Well, that was my first time on the main stage and I was really nervous playing in front of a crowd and being streamed. I thought I had a really good chance to win both games, and I think because of nerve issues I wasn’t able to play my best.
What was that like for you to be up on stage, aside from nervewracking?
Well, before, I would, y’know, see other pros be on there and envision myself up there and now I’m finally one of them…and it’s just…an experience that’s unforgettable.
So after those games, you met another Zerg in the LB Finals – Daisuki. Same question.
Against Daisuki I was pretty confident because I had prepared a lot for him but when I got up my condition wasn’t very good and I had a lot of problems with my control groups and stuff and yeah, I wasn’t able to play as well as I thought.
Even though you didn’t make the finals, you took Top 3, won a bunch of money, and a trip to the North American finals, so how do you feel about your overall performance here?
I feel fantastic. Like, I wasn’t very disappointed when I lost because I was still very happy with my result and I did better than my expectations.
What kind of adjustments do you think you’ll make going into the NA Finals?
Well there’s a lot of zergs, and coming into this tournament PvZ has been my worst matchup so I’m definitely going to be preparing a lot more for that. Other than that, I think I have a good chance to place high in the [NA] finals.
As you said, this was your first time on the stage being streamed in front of a huge audience, so you’ve probably got a lot more fans now – do you have any words for them?
Well, before, people didn’t really know me, but thank you to everyone who supported me before this tournament and now after the tournament…and my team for always being there.