By Galen Andress

MLG Columbus 2011 lived up to the hype and then some; it has since been called one of the best StarCraft 2 tournaments to date. With the groundbreaking GSL League Exchange program bringing some of the best Korean talent over to duke it out with the best players from the Americas and Europe, we saw some of the best SC2 competition ever to take place over the course of three days. And as hard as it may be to believe, the SC2 lineup for Anaheim looks even better. Let’s take a look at the first of four deadly Pools, Pool A, featuring Dallas Champion Naniwa, a trio of Liquid teammates (Huk, TLO and Haypro), and the Korean GSL invite DongRaeGu.


Dignitas.Naniwa

While Naniwa’s defense of his Dallas title in Columbus may be best remembered for his Dance of Death” against oGsMC, taking home 6th Place in such a stacked tournament was no small feat. Naniwa came out on top of his Pool with a 4-1 record, with his only loss coming at the hands of the red-hot Slush. He was knocked into the Losers Bracket by Losira, and soon after was eliminated by MC.

Since Columbus, Naniwa has continued to prove himself to be one of the best Protoss players in the world. He took 1st Place in the Black Dragon League, a premier online tournament in Europe, and 2nd Place at the prestigious Homestory Cup III. Will Naniwa have what it takes to navigate an even tougher player field and win his second MLG title? We won’t have long to wait to see what form he’s in; Naniwa is playing one of the two opening matches of the Tournament, at 5:30pm on the Red stream. He’ll be playing against Huk in a rematch of the HSC III Finals; expect to see some major sparks fly there.

LiquidHaypro

Haypro has been very consistent on the Pro Circuit since his debut in Dallas last Season, taking his best finish in Columbus at 10th. After finishing 3-2 in his Pool, with wins over TLO, Major, and Machine and a close 2-1 loss to Losira, Haypro was knocked out in his first round of Losers Bracket play by Ret. Haypro had disappointing showings at his two major tournament appearances since Columbus, as he was unable to make it out of the group stage at both Dreamhack and Homestory Cup III. Will he be able to bounce back in Anaheim?

LiquidTLO

TLO has been battling injury over the last few months, and took home his worst finish on the Pro Circuit to date at 28th in Columbus. His injury has kept him on the sideline for the most part in the tournament scene, but he will be coming back to MLG looking to make an impact. He said recently that he’s feeling like his old self and playing better than he has in ages; will this prove true in Anaheim? You won’t have to wait long to find out; TLO is playing the second of the two opening matches of the Tournament, facing none other than DongRaeGu on the Blue Stream at 5:30pm on Friday.

LiquidHuk

After the National Championships in Dallas last Season, Huk decided to move to Korea and become a full-time pro gamer. While his start was a bit shaky, it’s become clear over the last month that his training in Korea has paid off. Huk has established himself as one of the best Protoss players in the world, and his list of achievements is above and beyond the rest of the foreigner community.

In the July GSL, Huk made it to the Code S Round of 16, where he would be eliminated by his teammate MC. He also came in as the closer in his GSTL debut, and defeated Check and MarineKing to earn his team the win. Since Columbus, there have been two major offline tournaments outside of Korea, and Huk has won them both. He took down Moon in an epic five-game series at Dreamhuk—excuse us, DreamHACK—in the Finals, and crippled Naniwa with one of the best Dark Templar plays in StarCraft 2 so far at HSCIII. A few months ago, we may not have called Huk the favorite in a Pool featuring a Korean player, but that might not be the case now.

MVP.DongRaeGu

For the few of you that haven’t heard of this Korean Zerg powerhouse: get ready. Although he has failed to qualify for Code A and hasn’t made it into Code S, DRG is one of the most feared Zerg players in Korea. Seriously, just ask LiquidTyler.

DRG burst on to the scene in the GSTL, where he has taken down the likes of Boxer, MMA, MarineKing, Nada, Supernova and MC. He also took out sC and won the LG Cinema 3D Special Tournament, with the Finals being played in front of the crowd at the GSL Super Tournament Finals. DongRaeGu has shown that he can compete with the best, and that he can play his best under pressure in front of a large crowd. He’s known as somewhat of a ZvT specialist, so he’ll definitely be a favorite to navigate a field stacked with great Terrans and win it all in Anaheim.

Pool A is going to be tough from top to bottom, with great players from all over the globe looking to earn a spot in the Winners Bracket Semifinals. And don’t forget, the top-seeded player from the ridiculously talented Open Bracket will be joining these five.

Pool A is sure to be one of the most competitive and entertaining ones to watch as the action kicks off in Anaheim on July 29th. If you aren’t coming out in person, make sure to get yourself a League Membership so you can watch all the action in ad-free HQ and get access to VoD while the tournament’s still going on.

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