For the second year running (yes, admittedly out of three), the World Electronic Sports Games will be featuring StarCraft 2, pumping a large enough prize pool into the event to grab the attention of quite a few world-class players through Alisport, Alibaba’s eSport department, a well-known supporter of the scene.
Fighting for their share of a whopping $240 000 prize pool, StarCraft players from all around the world had a chance to qualify, making this truly a global event. While it lacks the prestige and glamour of an IEM Katowice, the money on the line and the scale of it all makes it an interesting proposition to follow.
What Is The World Electronic Sports Games (WESG) Tournament?
It’s no secret that WESG is a bit of an odd duck of competition, but this is especially true when it comes to its StarCraft 2 offering. Having been featured twice over the course of its three-year history, it is not sanctioned by Blizzard – even though half of the games featured in the event are developed by them. The official StarCraft 2 eSports roadmap for the year makes no mention of this particular tournament, meaning it does not award any WCS (World Championship Series) points.
In a way, WESG positions itself as the Olympic Games of eSports. The concept is to “[follow] the Olympic standard, emphasizing on national pride, and encouraging fans to partake in the competition”, requiring teams to use rosters with members from the same nation – which we’ve written about previously in more detail – but unlike most other WESG titles, StarCraft 2 is a single-player experience, therefore the nationality-based restrictions won’t cause the same sort of chaos we’ve seen at the other games they’ve featured.
WESG Format & Key Players
The seeding system is just ludicrous. This shines through both in terms of slots allotted to the different countries – anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the game will know that giving two slots both to Poland and South Korea is ludicrous – and the way the groupings shook out with this one. Group A is clearly the designated “group of death” with Joona “Serral” Sotala, Alex “Neeb” Sunderhaft, Tobias “ShoWTimE” Sieber, Maru “MaSa” Kim and Kevin “Harstem” de Koning all duking it out alongside Bulgarian qualifier “msrm” for the same two playoff spots.
While the early portions of the English broadcast were marred by technical difficulties, this red-headed stepchild of a StarCraft 2 tournament nevertheless warrants following if you’re interested in the game – after all, the prize pool was indeed big enough to attract top talent like Serral, Lee “INnoVation” Shin Hyung (AKA “Bogus”) and Park “Dark” Ryung Woo alongside the returning champion.
WESG StarCraft 2 Tournament Odds
Keep in mind that not all games – and therefore not all the competitors – will be appearing on the official broadcast. If you’re not intimately familiar with the StarCraft 2 scene, this might not be the best first event to bet on, even if it does give you a good opportunity to familiarize yourself with some of these names.
Serral (-200) and defending champion Cho “Maru” Seong Ju (-143) are considered to be the runaway favorites to win the title alongside the usual suspects listed above – beyond those, perhaps Riccardo “Reynor” Romiti and Juan Carlos “SpeCial” Tena Lopez (AKA “Major”) warrant mentioning as outsiders, at least according to the betting markets. However, the lack of a lower bracket in the playoffs could increase the variance compared to something like the recently concluded IEM Katowice event, which is definitely worth keeping in mind going forward.
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Player Storylines To Follow And WESG Starcraft 2 Important Changes
The Returning Champion: Maru
It remains to be seen whether the second iteration of WESG’s StarCraft 2 tournament will see a new champion crowned or if Maru can defend his title. The Korean wunderkind known for being the youngest GSL player of all time and the winner of all three GLS seasons in 2018 was in stellar form at last year’s event, not even dropping a game until the grand finals of the tournament.
He had a disappointing showing at IEM Katowice and crashed out in the quarterfinals of the Global Finals – it remains to be seen whether this WESG event can be a turning point for him.
The Group Of Death
It’s a testament to the strength of Group A that it receives this contentious billing even without Maru’s presence. Meanwhile, Showtime and Neeb are two top-tier “foreign” Protoss players who would likely have a good chance making out of any other group but could very well struggle here. Though Serral has surprisingly dropped his opening game, it’s still all to play for at the time of writing.
Much like the other WESG titles, the StarCraft2 tournament also saw its format changed from the last time around, and many would argue that the modifications were not for the better. 2018’s four-team double group stage format was replaced by a single six-team group with the top two teams directly progressing to a sixteen-player playoff bracket. The six-team groups at least helped to avoid the odd scenarios from two of last year’s groupings where every game turned out to be a Zerg mirror match.
However, this doesn’t quite make up for the fact that the combination of awful seeding (typical of WESG events, much like the inevitably forfeited player spots) and a sixteen-player playoff cutoff will lead to early meetings between the eventual favorites – making bets on the outright winners an even shakier proposition.
Map Pool Overhaul
The map pool has also seen a complete overhaul, mirroring the current ladder 1v1 environment with the inclusion of Automaton LE, Cyber Forest LE, Kairos Junction LE, King’s Cove LE, New Repugnancy LE, Port Aleksander LE, and Year Zero LE. This makes for an exciting change bringing new opportunities to the eSports scene.
Decreased Prize Pool
On a less impressive note, the prize pool has also shrunk by $160 000 compared to last year’s event, perhaps an understandable not to StarCraft 2’s stature in the wider eSport scene. Still, the extremely steep payout structure doesn’t mesh well with the single-elimination playoff: the top four players will get almost 90% of the overall winnings. If you ever needed the motivation to do your best in the quarter-finals, this should do, shouldn’t it?
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