By Evan Downing
On June 3, MLG Columbus 2011 set the bar for tournaments everywhere. The amount of skill packed into that one weekend was phenomenal, so much so that it should be near impossible to match. MLG Anaheim 2011 has two words to say to that: challenge accepted.
With a heavy helping of Korean pros flying over thanks to the GSL League Exchange program, and the best European StarCraft players in the world coming to America to take on all challengers, we have what can only be called a world-class tournament taking place in just a few days. Pool D is a good representative of the worldwide phenomenon that is MLG Anaheim, showcasing Reign.Kiwikaki, dignitas.Select, FXOMoonan, EG.Machine, and GSL Champion IMMvp.
This Canadian powerhouse from Team Reign is one of the most well-known Protoss players out there because of his consistently solid play and a healthy amount of unique strategies. He has placed highly in nearly every tournament he has entered. He took 1st in the ROOT Challenge North American Invitational, recently came in 2nd to Idra in the IGN ProLeague Season 1 tournament, and brought home 2nd Place in MLG Dallas, losing to Naniwa in the Finals.
He didn't have as much luck in MLG Columbus, but things could be looking up for this Protoss player. Kiwikaki had to best Select during the IGN ProLeague, and 2-0'd Moonan during pool play in MLG Columbus, showing a strong presence in PvT. If Kiwikaki can recreate those wins, he's already halfway through his Pool.
Select's impressive performance throughout 2010 made him the highest ranking Terran player for the that Season and a household name for Terran players everywhere, but it's his 2011 performance that should have his opponents shaking in their boots. Select made Top 3 in the IGN Proleague, losing to both Idra and Kiwiaki, had a Top 3 finish in multiple FXO tournaments this year, and went 7-2 in his division in the NASL, eventually placing in the Top 8 for a $1,500 payout.
MLG Anaheim is one of the most stacked tournaments yet, but taking down big names is hardly new territory for this star player. With a proven TvT track record in high level play, this Terran-infested Pool could be the start of a huge tournament for Select.
Moonan first came into the public consciousness after an incredibly impressive win against Spanishiwa that was cast on YouTube during Spanishiwa's rise to fame, where those not already aware of him was shown that he could hold his own against the top players. His unique and incredibly powerful Raven play put all eyes on him, and his finishing push with Battle Cruisers made every one of them fans. Since then, he's fought hard at MLG Events, having a strong showing in the Open Bracket of MLG Dallas, beating out Naama and losing to Huk, and showing strong resolve against his incredibly difficult Pool at MLG Columbus.
While Moonan may not be as well-known as the others, his Anaheim performance could change all of that. With a plethora of star players ready and waiting for him, it's up to Moonan to be creative and consistent enough to take them on. It'll be a tough road, but he's already showed us that he can overcome the odds.
This Evil Genius has been playing StarCraft competitively since 2004, and has been a face in StarCraft 2 tournaments since the beta. He placed 6th in MLG Dallas 2010, the highest placing EG member for that tournament, and 4th in the SCReddit invitational this year. He has been tackling impressive opponents ever since, climbing up to be the 6th ranked Zerg in the 2011 standings.
This Pool will be incredibly difficult for any player, but there is a silver lining for Machine. In the past, he has shown his ability to study opponents and tailor strategies specifically for them; with all of these high profile players in his Pool, it's almost a certainty that he has a few perfect openings waiting for them. This could easily give him the edge he needs.
Mvp is a GSL Champion. In fact, during the 2011 GSL January Tournament, he became the first Terran GSL champion, winning the entire tournament while dropping only one game. Let’s repeat that; he won the January GSL while dropping only one game. This impressive feat has not been forgotten, despite the other impressive victories he’s racked up since. In this year alone, he has taken 1st Place in the SAGAcity 2011 Invitational, Gainward SC2 Tournament, Sony Ericsson GSL January: Code S event , and the LG Cinema 3D World Championship in Seoul.
In both the LG Cinema 3D and Sony Ericsson tournament, Mvp played in the Finals against MarineKing, winning both events and dropping only two games between both sets. Mvp's TvT record is phenomenal in its severity. He doesn't just win a set against a top Terran; he demolishes his opponent with such convincing aggression that there is little room for doubt as to who the better player was.
With such an impeccable TvT record, it almost seems this Pool was built for Mvp, but he is also in uncharted territory. The players here will be playing a totally different style than he’s used to, so he will have to be more than a solid player to take 1st in this Pool. He'll have to be creative, flexible, and adaptive as well. Whatever happens, expect to see some manner MULEs.
Pool D is incredibly Terran-heavy, but each Terran player here has a style all his own. With such variation between players, we will undoubtedly see some unexpected strategies—and results. This is especially true for Kiwikaki and Machine, who will almost certainly be coming into this Pool with their TvTs down pat. It's important to note that there will be a top seed from the Open Bracket joining this Pool, and he or she will have had no easy road to get here.
MLG Anaheim will stretch the limits of every player's skill. A well-known name that could be considered an easy 1st Place finish in another tournament is just another face in Anaheim, where the world's best players have come to meet. If you aren't able to attend, make sure to watch everything happen online as it unfolds by buying a League Membership to watch ad-free HQ streams and VoD during the tournament.