Scarlett is the only North American left in the StarCraft 2 WCS finals, this is how to cheer her on
Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn has long been known as the best StarCraft 2 player in North America, and one of the best Zerg players outside of South Korea. Never has that been more obvious than this weekend, as she is now the only North American player still standing in Season 2 of the StarCraft 2 World Championship Series, and one of only four players who aren’t South Korean.
Her trip through the North American WCS regional bracket was wonderful to watch as she took down high-level South Korean players, and nearly defeated the legendary Brood War player Lee “Jaedong” Jae Dong.
This weekend at Gamescom, the champions of all three regions of the WCS (Korea, North America, Europe) will clash in Germany to determine the worldwide champion for Season 2 who will take home $40,000.
Scarlett will face her first test today at 2 PM EST in the group stages as she fights three Terran players for the right to advance into the bracket stage. This is actually a pretty good sign for Scarlett, as she previously trounced one of the players in her group, Han “Alive” Lee Seok, 3:0.
Her play against Terran players looked strong, and Zerg players have had the most trouble with Protoss lately, so a group full of Terrans might be a godsend for her.
Of course, the problem is that one of those Terrans is Cho “Maru” Sung Choo, the champion of the South Korean region, and one of the big favorites to take the entire tournament. Maru has shocked the StarCraft world by emerging from obscurity to take down giants like Lee “Innovation” Shin Hyung and Jung “Rain” Yoon Jong in the past month with incredible planning and unit control that are far beyond his age, just 16 years old.
In a preview of the Season 2 finals, StarCraft 2 caster Dan “Artosis” Stemkoski outlined a key strategic advantage that Scarlett has going into this event that may allow her to advance further than most would expect. She’s in a group full of Terran players and she’s a clear dark horse candidate. Moreover, there are only two Zerg players in the entire tournament.
That might not sound like an advantage, but it means that the other players are least likely to spend their time preparing for a match against Zerg. They’ll prepare most heavily against their Terran and Protoss opponents and spend time studying opponents who are far more favored than Scarlett. It leaves a lot of potential for her to catch them off-guard. She knows who she needs to study, and can prepare styles that are specifically meant to counter high-profile players while they'll be left largely unaware of the specifics of her play style.
But Scarlett isn't the only representative of North America at the tournament. Choi “Polt” Seong Hun is South Korean born, but studies English at the University of Texas at Austin. In a StarCraft world with few American heroes, the American StarCraft community has adopted Polt as one of their own. Polt won the North American WCS regional tournament to chants of “USA! USA! USA!” When he won the MLG Spring Championship in June he stood triumphant in front of a cheering crowd waving a giant American flag.
He's emerged as an unlikely champion for American fans, but has proved up to the task of representing a struggling scene. Polt has been on a tear recently consistently placing high and winning tournaments, and represents perhaps the best chance for a player from outside the Korean region to win the tournament.
The fan-favorite among non-Korean fans must be Manuel “Grubby” Schenkhuisen though, who warmed many a heart with his tear-filled win over the winningest player in SC2 history and then-reigning champion of WCS Europe, Jung “MvP” Jong Hyun.
His unlikely win over a legend perhaps best illustrates the advantage Scarlett and other less-favored players can have against heavy favorites. Grubby is a veteran of competitive strategy games, and cut his teeth in the Warcraft 3 days, but has fallen into a long slump recently. His trip through the WCS so far has been an inspiring comeback.
The StarCraft 2 World Championship Series Season 2 Finals began today around 8 AM (EST), due to the tournament taking place in Germany, and the next two days will begin at a difficult time for North American viewers. The quarter-finals on Saturday begin at 8am EST, and the semi-finals and finals will be on Sunday at 6 AM EST.
If you’re awake for it, you can catch the live streams of the events via the embeds below, or you can check out Blizzard’s WCS website to find the video on-demand if you’d like to watch the tournament at a sane hour. You can do that by going to the “brackets” link on the WCS site, and clicking the video camera icon in the top right of each group, which will take you to the video section for each individual group when they become available.