By Jason Waddell
The StarCraft 2 Pools for MLG Orlando are, to put it bluntly, a bit crazy. While Protoss fans will relish the outrageously high concentrations of Aiur in Pool D(eath), Pool A is much more representative of the recent metagame: all Zergs and Terrans, with nary a Protoss in sight. Headlining Pool A are (Z) Idra, (Z) Haypro, (T) TLO, (T) Boxer and (T) Drewbie; we’re going to be treated to no less than six ZvTs, and if the recent Code S Round of 16 results serve as any indication, there's never been a more exciting time to see the humans square off against the swarm.
1 – (Z) EGIdra
The infamous American Zerg returns for another MLG installment, this time boasting the tournament's top seed. Generally the top seed is a mark of a recent good run, but Idra's Raleigh performance was nothing short of lackluster. In Raleigh, he faced off against a similarly Protoss-less pool, and placed 4th out of six in his group with a modest 2 – 3 record. The overall pool record only tells part of the story, as a closer look reveals that Idra won both of his mirrors (2-1 vs. Machine, 2-0 vs. Haypro), but lost all of his matches against Terran opposition (0-2 vs. Sjow, 0-2 vs. Bomber, 1-2 vs. Noblesse).
Idra's Terran woes continued into the Losers Bracket, where he was immediately dumped out of the tournament by Trimaster. On the whole, Idra logged a 2 – 0 match record against Zerg, and an 0-4 record against Terran. Certainly Idra has looked nearly unbeatable in the Zerg mirror (including wins over fellow Zergs Destiny and Sheth in the MLG Global Invitational), which is likely to earn him another victory over Haypro. The key question surrounding Idra's Orlando campaign is whether he can shore up his Terran matchup. That said, his Orlando Pool opponents aren't quite as fearsome as the Code S caliber Bomber and Noblesse that he faced in Raleigh, giving Idra a much better shot at topping his group this time around.
Idra will of course be coming off of a massive victory, having just taken down his teammate, Puma, to win IEM China (Slasher, if you are reading this, please explain the current presence of hair on your head). Will that triumph be the push Idra needs to shore up his confidence? ZvT notwithstanding, Idra’s worst matchup has always been himself. If he can ride the IEM victory through to Orlando and consistently take his opponents to the lategame, he’s got a shot at winning this whole thing. But as always, the question is: which Idra will we see?
8 – (Z) LiquidHaypro
Haypro's recent MLG results have been less than inspiring. The Swedish Zerg took the shortest possible route out of the MLG Global Invitational with losses to Thorzain and Naniwa, and in Raleigh he lost to Idra, Machine, Bomber, Noblesse and Trimaster. It's been a rough run for Haypro, with a combined 6 – 14 game record and 2 – 7 match record over his last nine MLG matches. Acting as the silver lining for Haypro is the fact that ZvT is statistically far and away his strongest matchup. With the Terran race being represented by three of his four known pool opponents (not taking into account the player who advances from the Open Bracket), Pool A stands as a nearly ideal pool draw for Haypro.
9 – (T) LiquidTLO
TLO gave no indication in Raleigh that he was a contender for the later rounds of MLG competition. He opened the tournament with a disqualification for failing to arrive to his match against Select, and followed that up with losses to (Z) DongRaeGu, (Z) Slush and (P) Hero to finish last in his group. An immediate Losers Bracket sweep by DeMuslim sent TLO home in the earliest round mathematically possible for a pool play competitor.
TLO's recent career has been plagued by a string of breaks from the game because of injury. TLO suffers from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in both hands and has been unable to put in his normal amount of practice over recent months. Unfortunately, this has had a noticeable effect on his tournament results. He played to 1 – 4 records in the Pool stages of every 2011 MLG Event, placing 28th, 17th and 25th in Columbus, Anaheim and Raleigh respectively. Orlando likely represents his best shot at a successful Pool record. With Idra finishing 20th in Raleigh, Haypro 21st and Drewbie 27th, Pool A is certainly not a gauntlet. With any luck, the relaxed and creative playstyle that earned TLO such a strong following in the early StarCraft 2 days will help him to break the 1 – 4 Pool play curse. In recent weeks he’s reported great improvement in both his arms, and said that he is now able to practice properly. Hopefully, we’ll see this reflected in his performance in Orlando.
13 – (T) SlayersBoxer
In stark contrast to the other Pool A competitors, Boxer's most recent Pro Circuit showing was nothing short of spectacular. The Emperor showed himself to be quite fond of the energetic Major League Gaming atmosphere in Anaheim, where he placed 3rd following a pristine 5 – 0 Pool start. There's no doubting that the Brood War legend is an icon in the StarCraft scene, but like his Pool A peers, Boxer simply hasn't been at the top of his game in recent months. He recently joined MC in the ranks of former greats who have taken meteor-like crashes out of the GSL.
Boxer now finds himself in Code B for the second time after being bounced out of Code A by Leenock, and if nothing else MLG Orlando represents a golden opportunity to earn a fast-track ticket to Code S, where his massive fanbase surely feels he belongs. Another Anaheim-caliber showing would certainly do the trick. Fan or not, you can't help but be excited at the possibility of Boxer bringing more of this to the Pro Circuit.
16 – (T) colDrewbie
Rounding out the Pool A Terran trifecta is Complexity's Drewbie. Drewbie has been a consistent competitor at MLG Events, but has yet to earn any notable results. His season opened with a 23rd Place finish in Columbus on the back of a 2-3 Pool Play record. In Anaheim he suffered a 0 – 5 Pool record en route to an eventual 27th Place finish. Drewbie lost his Pool seeding heading into Raleigh, where he was forced to slug it out in the Open Bracket, eventually taking 27th for the second consecutive Event. While Drewbie might not have as notable a reputation as some of his opponents, the lineup of Pool A could allow Drewbie to reach his highest finish of the Season.
Going into Orlando, each of the Pool A opponents will be fighting for their own little piece of redemption. The smart money points to either Idra or Boxer taking the group, with Boxer as the odds-on favorite thanks to his 2 – 0 sweep of Idra in Anaheim. Each player has a vested interest in a Code S ticket, as Boxer languishes in Code B and Idra ponders a return to Korea after voluntarily relinquishing his Code S spot earlier in the year. Tune into majorleaguegaming.com on October 14 – 16 to see how it all goes down.