Heading into the round of 16 this season of WCS, the matches are shockingly even. It’s anyone’s season to win as the 16 competitors - including four players from Team Liquid, representatives for 11 different nations and eight Zerg - take the stage in France on Friday. Let’s take a look at the groups.
Group A: Lonely Terran fights the good fight
- Park “ForGG” Ji Soo (Terran)
- Dario “TLO” Wünsch (Zerg)
- Joona “Serral” Sotala (Zerg)
- Lei “XiGua” Wang (Zerg)
Millenium’s ForGG, who came out at the top of his group in the round of 32, faces off against TLO for his first match. Normally, being the only Terran in a group of Zerg might be intimidating. However, ForGG’s DreamHack win over Life during the Champion’s upswing this past November, his nearly 60% win rate in TvZ since and his 2-1 and 2-0 defeats of FireCake and Sen this season should give him the confidence he needs to emerge from Group A.
TLO last met ForGG at the CaseKing X-mas Cup, losing 2-0, with the Team Liquid Zerg struggling against Kelazhur in the round of 32 before beating him in a rematch. In general, TLO’s ZvT win rate is his lowest. However, TLO focuses on preparation, so regardless of his meeting with ForGG, his potential mirror matches here might depend on carefully decided build orders.
Can the lesser-known Serral match that ZvZ preparation as he faces XiGua? It’s possible - the mYinsanity Zerg is undefeated this season, taking out Suppy and NaNiwa 2-0. With far fewer games under his belt than his competitors in Group A, though, Serral has an uphill battle ahead of him, especially if he meets ForGG.
Serral’s first opponent XiGua will need to focus on outsmarting the prep of TLO and the acumen of ForGG if he’s to make it out of this group. The Watermelon Zerg dropped two maps in a row to Snute in the round of 32, and he’s been a Premier League player for the past three seasons in WCS America but never made it out of the round of 16. Will the Invictus player, who last year said he always performs poorly in mirror matches, prove himself wrong?
Group B: ShoWTimE for PvZ
- Tobias “ShoWTimE” Sieber (Protoss)
- Jared “PiG” Krensel (Zerg)
- Jens “Snute” Aasgaard (Zerg)
- Xiang “MacSed” Hu (Protoss)
Two PvZ matches will kick off Group B. First, ShoWTimE, the German Protoss who recently trounced fellow Group B competitor Snute at Fragbite Masters, takes on PiG, the Australian Zerg who has yet to face a Protoss this season. ShoWTime has a clear shot at moving on, especially if he repeats the type of play that snagged him the wins versus Snute. PiG, however, hasn’t faced any of the members of this group since 2013, so preparation is a must for the Zerg, who bested both Happy and TargA in the round of 32.
The second match will see Snute facing off with MacSed. The People’s Champion’s best matchup is ZvP, but MacSed’s PvZ is nothing to sneeze at. In Challenger this season, Snute took out PsiOniC 3-0. He then showed his chops (again) versus Terran and Zerg in the round of 32, beating uThermal and XiGua to top his group. Snute has a fighting chance of making it out his group, but a potential match with ShoWTimE might be cause for added preparation.
MacSed, whose win rates against both Zerg and Protoss are at 55%, hasn’t faced a Zerg in WCS since the American Premier League Season 2 last year, when he lost 1-2 to Courage. His match against Snute may prove a challenge for the Invictus player, who broke many Canadian hearts after taking out HuK in the round of 32.
Group C: Will Liquid wash away the ROOT?
- Choi “Polt” Seong Hun (Terran)
- Sébastien “FireCake” Lebbe (Zerg)
- Grzegorz “MaNa” Komincz (Protoss)
- Shin “Hydra” Dong Won (Zerg)
Variety is the spice of life. Group C is a jalapeno.
First, we’ll see Captain America face off against FireCake in an exciting TvZ. Polt’s always been one to make it to the top 16 in Premier League. In fact, this is his seventh Premier League appearance, including top eight finishes in the last five WCS America Premier Leagues and two first place finishes in 2013. The CM Storm Terran is known for clever drop play and boasts a 62% win rate versus Zerg and 66% versus Protoss, indicating he’ll be a likely favorite in Group C.
His first opponent, FireCake, may experience a struggle in his very first Premier League appearance. The less experienced Zerg has yet to go up against Polt, and fell to ForGG in the round of 32. However, he did show excellent results against puCK, beating the Protoss 2-0 twice, and against MaNa and Rain, who he bested at Fragbite Masters Season 4 this month. Should FireCake bump up against MaNa in this group, the results may be in his favor.
Team Liquid’s MaNa came out of his round of 32 group 4-0, and begins Group C by facing ROOT Gaming’s Hydra, who took it all the way to the finals at this past weekend’s Gfinity Spring Masters 1 before losing to PartinG. Despite MaNa’s 2-0 over viOLet and generally well-executed play, he has yet to make it to a round of eight in Premier League - and PvZ is his worst matchup as far as overall win rate is concerned. He’s also got the added challenge of facing the player many consider to be the favorite in this group and even in this League: Hydra.
Incidentally, Hydra, who did not top his group but did take home two 2-0 wins in the round of 32, also shows his worst results in ZvP. None of the players in Group C have yet to face the ROOT Zerg in standard league play, but that doesn’t mean their preparation won’t pay off. Will we see another one-base Speedling all-in that takes down MaNa - à la PartinG on Deadwing at Gfinity? Or will we watch Hydra remain susceptible to tricky misdirection, allowing MaNa, Polt or FireCake to move forward?
Group D: Vet vs. vet, newcomer vs. newcomer
- Vesa “Welmu” Hovine (Protoss)
- Patrick “Bunny” Brix (Terran)
- Sam “Kane” Morrissette (Zerg)
- Ko “Has” Yu-Feng (Protoss)
With the first match in Group D, we’ll see WCS veteran Welmu, who has made it to the top 16 in the last five Europe Premier Leagues, take on Team Liquid Bunny - also no newcomer. Welmu’s 4-0 results in the round of 32, and his PvT win rate of over 58%, should boost the Finnish player’s confidence to a level that allows him to move out of the group.
But we can’t discount Bunny. Despite his own admission that his TvP is a bit shaky, Bunny has a good shot in this tournament due to excellent TvZ. He also just took ShoWTimE 3-0 at Fragbite Masters, and PitDrogo 3-0 in Challenger League, revealing that his TvP might be more up to par than he thinks. What remains to be seen: how will he play against the intriguingly risky play of Protoss Has should he meet him in this round?
Has, who is probably best known for last year's upset of Jaedong, is looking for a new claim to fame. The yoe Flash Wolves Protoss has a reputation for gambling in game. Will his gambles throw Kane off or be the predictable factor the Canadian Zerg needs to make it through his first ZvP in WCS? Kane’s yet to face a Protoss this season, and both he and Has are making their Premier League round of 16 debuts, though Has made it to the round of 32 in last year’s WCS America Season 1.
Kane, for his part, boasts an incredible win rate in ZvP that makes it his best matchup by far, but the myInsanity player has yet to face a barrage of the best on the big stage. We’ll be interested to see what transpires should he have to face Welmu in this group, who he’s lost to in the past.
Are you ready for the matches to begin? Check out all the WCS action beginning on Friday the 3rd of April right here. Can’t wait? Spend some time getting familiar with the bracket here.