By Patrick O'Neill

MLG Orlando kicks off tomorrow, and some of the best and most-loved StarCraft 2 players from around the world will be butting heads all weekend in pursuit of $14,000 in prizes as well as ranking and momentum for next month’s National Championship in Providence. When it comes to a cast of characters that can keep you glued to your monitor, StarCraft 2’s pro scene is spoiled for choice. Here are some of the must-watch players to keep an eye on in Orlando.

Kiwikaki
Name – Jonathan Garneau
Age – 22
From – Canada
Game – StarCraft 2
Team – Reign
Fun Fact – Earned $40,000 in the World Series of Poker

Despite his immense talent and spectacular play, Kiwikaki is a player who keeps a relatively low profile. He avoids the standard self-promotion you’ll see from other major StarCraft pros such as talk shows and interviews, but it doesn’t seem to matter much to his fans. Once he showcases his trademark innovative, tense play, the crowd inevitably comes to their feet. Exhibit A: Versus eventual IPL 3 champion Stephano, Kiwikaki’s Mothership issued rapid-fire recalls, transporting his army around the map in an instant, making it seem as though Kiwi had exceeded the 200 supply limit by far. Besides that, he’s more substance than flash: Kiwi has placed in the Top 10 of MLG twice, a rare and exceptional feat. Watch for his results— but, even better, watch for his self-described crazy play.

Idra
Name – Greg Fields
Age – 21
From – USA
Game – StarCraft 2
Team – Evil Geniuses
Fun Fact – One of the greatest non-Korea StarCraft: Brood War players of all time

Once upon a time, Idra was the consensus best non-Korean StarCraft 2 player in the world. He had the bad boy persona, one of the most popular streams in eSports and, with his Top 8 finish in Korea’s Code S, it was obvious that he was one of the best players in the world. However, after leaving Korea, a slumping Greg Fields was left without the results to back up the considerable trash talk. Now, he seems poised for a return to form; it was only two weeks ago that Idra was able to lock up IEM China with impressive wins over teammate Puma, among others. Now, with a relatively weak MLG Orlando group to contend with, Idra could well make a deep run in this tournament. Whether you love him or love to hate him, you’re going to be seeing an awful lot of StarCraft’s most prominent bad boy this weekend in Orlando.

Boxer
Name – Lim Yo Hwan
Age – 31
From – South Korea
Team – SlayerS
Fun Fact – The most popular professional gamer of all time

What can be said about Boxer that hasn’t already been said? As a young man, he became The Terran Emperor at the turn of the millennium by winning multiple Brood War Championships in spectacular, creative style. Boxer is considered an artist as much as a gamer, an icon as much as a player. His fan club numbers are astronomical and he is the go-to answer when professional gamers are asked for their idol or role model. In eSports, Boxer helped hugely in globalizing his game, becoming a transformative figure closer to Jordan or Maradona than to most other gamers. Although he is currently nowhere near his competitive peak, he is a man who is always capable of pulling brilliance out of a hat. Before you dismiss him, remember that it was only MLG Anaheim when the Emperor went on a shocking run to 3rd Place. Never, ever take your eye off of The Emperor.

Stephano
Name – Ilyes Satouri
Age – 18
From – France
Team – Millenium
Fun Fact – Won IPL3

Stephano is a man of many faces. There’s the player who provoked a major uproar with his contract negotiations. There’s also the man who wants to retire in a year, the man who doesn’t care about gold medals, community perception or national pride. The newest face is the man whose IPL 3 Championship has made him more proud than he ever thought it would, who loves the community that now loves him. However, the only face that matters is the one who went 9-1 versus Koreans in IPL 3, who left no doubt as to who the better player was that weekend, who exceeded expectations and beat out a stacked field with overwhelming power. With his first major victory behind him, Stephano will have thousands of eyes on him in Orlando. We will now see if he has a poker face to handle the pressure.

White-Ra
Name – Aleksey Krupnyk
Age – 30
From – Ukraine
Team – Tt eSports
Fun Fact – White-Ra’s first major tournament win was placing first in WCG Ukraine 2003 for Brood War.

Haven’t you heard? Old guys can’t compete. Once you get old, you become slow and stupid. It hurts to stay up past 9pm, nevermind practicing 12 hours per day to keep up with the best StarCraft 2 players in the world. At a relatively old 31 (terrifying, isn’t that?), with tens of thousands of dollars in prize money this year as well as some of the most exciting, fast paced Protoss play in the scene, White-Ra doesn’t seem to care much for the standard rules of gaming. He’s been known as Grandpa Toss since before many of you touched a keyboard and, at the rate he’s going, it seems as though he’ll be winning tournaments long after he’s dubbed Great-Grandpa Toss. Add to all that the fact that he’s known as one of the nicest human beings on the planet and you can guarantee that he’ll have a crowd of hundreds watching every game he plays in Orlando (to say nothing of the thousands that will tune in from home).

Huk
Name – Chris Loranger
Age – 22
From – USA/Canada
Team – Evil Geniuses
Fun Fact – Huk has one of the most lucrative contracts in StarCraft 2

Huk has taken an interesting journey. From the French team Millenium to Liquid to Evil Geniuses, Huk’s notoriety—and paychecks—keep rising. Unlike some of his peers, Huk’s results have not seriously wavered. He is the only foreigner currently competing in Code S, he was the first to win an international event over Koreans and he is consistently looked to as a serious contender at any international event he enters. Despite a relatively quiet couple of months with no major 1st Place finishes, his decision to move to the most successful team in America for a “life changing” salary has not garnered any significant backlash for one simple reason: the world knows that Huk can make good on that money. The question is: will Orlando be his first major win in an Evil Geniuses uniform?

iNcontroL
Name – Geoff Robinson
Age – 26
From – USA
Team – Evil Geniuses
Fun Fact – iNcontroL appeared on reality television when he competed on WCG’s Ultimate Gamer.

iNcontroL is a member of one of the richest, most well known eSports organizations in the world. In his own right, he is one of the most popular and well-spoken figures in the StarCraft 2 community. But does all that matter, in the face of his recent results? MLG Anaheim and Raleigh both ended 0-5 for Geoff as he took advantage of favorable seeding rules to twice land in 22nd Place. Now, with the lucrative MLG Championships in Providence looming (to say nothing of the 2012 Season), iNcontroL is in a position where he must deliver results. If he does not improve, will the famous American Protoss ever be able to claw his way back into pool play? This may be one of the most important events of iNcontroL’s career. You’ll want to keep your eye on him; he knows what’s on the line and he will be pulling out all the stops.

MC
Name – Jang Min Chul
Age – 20
From – South Korea
Team – oGs, SK
Fun Fact – MC aspires to be President of Korea. 

MC is a player who was once at the very top of StarCraft 2. He’s won multiple championships in the Korea and was, for a time, the most feared and revered player in the entire world. That was a long time ago. Now he has been demoted to Code B (the first Champion to ever reach such depths) and is now more of a wild card than the monster he once was. Despite lackluster results as of late, he did destroy his group at IPL 3. Of course, he was then promptly eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. What can we expect from you now, MC? He’s still a former world Champion, and in the Pools he’s going up against a field that plays to his strengths. If you look away from MC this weekend, you might miss a huge comeback.

MarineKing
Name – Lee Jung Hoon
Age – 18
From – South Korea
Team – Prime
Fun Fact – MarineKing is known as the king of 2nd Place.

If there's one way to show the world just how dedicated the fans of StarCraft 2 are to their favorite players, MarineKingPrime might be it. Thanks to a grassroots campaign, /r/StarCraft personally funded MarineKing's trip, prompting genuine gratitude from the popular Korean Terran. Although he is known as the king of 2nd Place in Korea thanks to five silver medals, he does have a gold medal from the recent Arena of Legends tournament under his belt. MarineKing's Arena of Legends record included a 9-1 run versus Code S-caliber competition, not the least of which was a 4-1 victory over DongRaeGu. Despite the nickname, there isn't a player in this tournament counting MarineKing out.

TheStC
Name – Choy Yun Sik
Age – 22
From – South Korea
Team – oGs
Fun Fact – TheStC was recently discharged from the South Korean military.

One of the most interesting idiosyncrasies of South Korea is that every male must serve in the military. Over the years, this has taken away some of the greatest StarCraft players at the height of their abilities. A year and a half ago, during the StarCraft 2 beta, TheStC was one of the most talented players in Korea but was unable to participate in major events in the same way that his peers were. Now, with his service recently complete, TheStC is already posting huge results. During IPL 3, he defeated superstars such as Idra, Select, MMA and White-Ra before falling to the eventual Champion, Stephano. This is yet another proving ground for TheStC and, judging by his already phenomenal results, he is ready to contend for a gold medal.

These are only ten of the players who are likely to make waves this weekend. Get yourself an MLG League Membership to get access to all four of our StarCraft 2 streams and watch in ad-free HQ- because if one thing’s for sure, it’s that MLG Orlando will be nonstop history in the making.