Last season's vaguely accurate predictions encouraged me to do better this time.
Do you believe in signs? My Warcraft III journey in China started in May 2016 when Foggy came to Shanghai for the first time to compete in the GCS. He made it through the group stage, eliminating Lucifer and Lyn.
Now that I am going to leave China and probably live through my last GCS tournament, I want to believe that it will end on Foggy finally being crowned champion.
First World Championship in 1.29
After the release of the patch I was hoping for a lot of changes in the meta. We saw more Far Seers that is true, and mostly more laming strategy from Orcs, a few SH first, and serpent wards. Then it went back to full Blademaster mode once they realized that was not really effective.
Infi moving on to play Orc was maybe the biggest consequence of the patch, with TH000 using Orc more regularly as well. Are they sending a sign that Humans are too weak now? I do not think they are, the new clap is just ridiculously strong and the Alchemist provides all their fragile units with constant healing. SoK and Chaemiko did way better than usual in this qualification session and Romantic should have qualified if he did not... Well more on that later.
Alchemist is probably the one big change in the meta. We are not witnessing a big shift in the balance between the races yet. Are some of those players saving surprises for the main event? I do hope so!
New qualification system
The usual Asian Qualifiers were now replaced with a point system and monthly races. This had the advantage to keep everyone focused on laddering and having steady results for four months. Unless you would win a monthly race, you had to stay sharp. It also avoided being qualified early, and then having nothing major to play for a couple of weeks. Early qualified players often under-performed afterwards during the main events.
The negative outcome is that when we reach the last monthly race, most of the players know they are already qualified and very few are really fighting for their lives. Little is at stake then and it raises the risks of "game throwing", or just players not doing their best. More on that later.
I have yet to make up my mind on which system is the "best". Feel free to give your opinion in the comment section.
Whatever the system, eleven of those players were there last season. Should have been twelve without Romantic being banned for a year. Funny enough, my whole "tourist" list from last season has been wiped out... Ah finally, I was right! Just not at the right time, ha!
Players attending GCS Summer 2018 Grand Finals
The favorites :
- Lyn: Since he got married and is no longer suffering from his hand injury, Lyn is just walking on water. He won OTOMADS, Douyu Super League, and AWL. He won the last monthly race easily. That is just sick!
He was eliminated in the group stage last season by Romantic but obviously, that will not be a thing this time.
- TH000: He was the king, the emperor of 2017, winning GCS, and NSL back to back. He just got married very recently and had less impressive results in 2018. His mind was probably elsewhere.
He was also playing Orc a lot, April race infamously ending in a BO12 Orc mirror between 120, Focus and TH000. 120 ended winning, I don't get Warcraft III anymore.
I hope to see him go back to his magnificent Human play for the main event at last.
- 120: Very unsteady in 2018 after unexpectedly winning Super GCS in January. He had maybe 2 points after two monthly races! Thankfully after losing 0-3 to Focus playing Undead, he came back from the LB and won the April race final 4-1 playing Orc, hence proving Orc is imbalanced against Undead (that is a joke! Right?).
He is 120, and as Romantic is not there to tank his base out, he should get out of the group stage and kill many elves along the way.
- Foggy: 2018 started with a sad news when his Super GCS invitation was suddenly withdrawn... All this because of an Ukrainian Hearthstone player not honoring his own Super GCS invitation, Netease decided to stick to a full Chinese roster. Irony right?
He announced transitioning to Dota and future was bleak. More blablabla later, he came off in 2nd place to Lyn during OTOMADS Cup in an awesome performance that saw him eliminating players qualified for this main event (tbcbm, Chaemiko, Focus and TH000).
He is still has a weakness against UD though. WFZ and tbcbm are not too scary for him but 120 would definitely be an issue.
- Focus: 3rd last season, he suffered from the same disappointment with his Super GCS invitation being withdrawn. After that he had steady results but no major win online which is usually his strong point. His current difficulties winning Orc mirrors might cost him this time, with Lyn back on top and 120/Infi/TH000 capable of challenging him with his own race.
- Life: 2 months ago I might have ranked him higher. The young elf is full of talent and managed to win the March Race in a BO7 against Moon!
Since then, nothing more positive things happened. After getting caught account aliasing for TH000 - both players losing their February points - he was at the origin of another controversy when he refused to finish his BO5 for 3rd place in Douyu Star League Cup. This was in early April. He forfeited AWL, or was removed from it right after this. Just not the best preparation.
- Moon: The legend played really well in 2018. Finalist of GCS March race, he won the first major online Cup for a NE in a while defeating TH000 [3-1] during Color Cup.
After being eliminated twice in a row in the group stages, it's time to reach the playoffs.
- /? Infi: After winning the February race (playing HU) and pretty much securing his place in the main event, Infi turned green and played Orc the remaining 3 months. He played well assuredly, he can play any race at the highest level. I was just not too much of a fan of watching the games heavily relying on towers and harassment strategies. And I do not think he can win GCS playing Orc.
As a matter of fact, he was also getting married and maybe had his attention elsewhere. Being qualified already, maybe he was also experimenting a bit. Rumor has it that he will play Human in Shanghai. Anything is possible with Infi this season.
- HawK: He registered for the qualifier after we asked him to, being in a semi retired state at the time. Natural born talent, he ended winning the Qualifier and giving Foggy some sweat. He will try to show good games and enjoy the experience.
- Colorful: He was once the hope of Chinese elves. This title belongs to Life for a while now. Colorful qualified only because Romantic was disqualified. A solid player, still hard to see a configuration where he would get out of the group stage though.
- Tbcbm: Last time he qualified was for GCS 2015, the first edition. Known for playing awkward strategies with UD casters, he now plays closer to the meta and gets better results. Not enough to go far but still enough to give us a good time.
- Hunter: A true tourist that could not enjoy his last visit like he should have. This time, visa shall be issued on time, plane will land before the tournament starts and he will able to show what he is capable of. Prooving that America can still play WC3 would be enough of an achievement.
And now a new category...!
I've noticed with the incoming FIFA World Cup that we have a tendency to talk more about the players not coming than about those actually qualified to compete.
- Happy: Please send anyone asking "why isn't Happy playing?" here so I can get 20,000 views on an article for once. The exact reason is mysterious, it is something about not willing to travel, or at least not in China or not wanting to compete and just being a streamer.
- Romantic: The controversy of the week. He was actually qualified but was banned by Netease for a year for "negative play". It infers not playing for the win. It implies something worse as Razzorman received the same one year ban for messing with GCS America.
Chinese fans claim that it is about illegal betting on his games. Romantic apologized and accepted this decision, without commenting those rumors. He is also getting married, what is it with those Archmages all getting married?
- Soin: He was not in a position to qualify entering the last monthly race, unless winning it all of course. He played really bad against Romantic before his opponent got banned. He should have taken his spot in the playoffs but organizers decided to give the slot to Free instead.
Losing a game that Romantic did not seem to want to win looked shady enough maybe, it is all speculation since no formal explanation was given for So.in taking the boot and losing all his points except for the "negative play" mention.
A negative play that did not end with a ban unlike Romantic. So.in's integrity is not in question, it's just unfortunate that his sanction gets mixed up with Romantic's mysterious one in people's mind.
He defended his honor in a statement and is now focused on organizing the first So.in Cup.
- OrcWorker : always qualified once Europe had its own qualifier. Not this time as he apparently spends more time on playing other video games, or poker, on his stream.
- Check and Remind: They are both semi retired. Check is busy taking care of his daughter after his surprising 4th place last season. Remind is working on a friend's business.
The composition of the four groups should be known Wednesday.
GCS kicks off June 4th live on Back2Warcraft with Neo and Remo commentating from Shanghai. I will be there as well, reporting from twitter as usual.