MLG Providence Preview

Written by PhilPhoenix
Nov 18 2011, 10:58 AM EST

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The time has come. The 2011 MLG Pro Circuit is coming to an end, and the final event being held this weekend in Providence promises to end the proceedings with one hell of a bang. MLG Providence will boast the largest prize pool, swanky new aluminum trophies, the greatest number of Korean players yet, and as diverse a team of casters as any we’ve come to expect. In addition to all of the Pro Circuit insanity, MLG Providence will also play host to the finals of the MLG Global Invitational, which will pit EGIdra, coLNaniwa, QIMMvp, and QIMNestea against each other for even more prize money.

With everything riding on this final MLG event, much has already been said about the incredible number of serious contenders who will be going head-to-head for the championship title. Instead of rehashing that discussion, let’s take a look at this season’s champions from each Pro Circuit stop and how they’ve fared since their wins. Each of these players achieved something incredible and deserves to be recognized one again for that. Besides, it’s a fitting way to see how far these SC2 players have come since MLG Dallas back in April.

MLG Dallas: coLNaniwa (then DignitasNaniwa)

Naniwa’s reputation for sacrificing everything in the name of uncompromising perfection is well known by this point in his SC2 career, but for many, MLG Dallas was the first time his incredible motivation and consistency were given center stage. Coming through the open bracket, Naniwa won 26 straight games to make it to the Grand Finals, where he dropped two games against KiWiKaKi before coming back and winning the series.

Dallas was the only stop in the 2011 Pro Circuit that wasn’t included in the MLG-GSL exchange program, so it can be argued that Naniwa had the easiest time of any of the 2011 champions. His 28-2 record, however, is not a fluke. It’s a clear and undisputable example of his tenacity and consistency. His more recent efforts have been mixed, – he wasn’t able to advance very in any of the following MLG events he attended and he was just knocked out of Code A in the GSL – but each defeat only makes Naniwa push himself harder, and Providence is the perfect place for him to demonstrate the fruits of his labor.

MMA

MLG Columbus: SlayerSMMA

At the time of MLG Columbus, MMA was something of an unknown quantity. He came with the reputation of being BoxeR’s protégé, a Terran of incredible skill and even greater potential. He had no big titles under his belt but he did boast a number of victories against impressive opponents. As a GSL invitee, MMA was seeded into the championship bracket automatically, making his undefeated journey to the grand finals less shocking than Naniwa’s marathon through the open bracket. Regardless, only LosirA was able to take any games off of MMA: he won one game in their first match and another in their extended series rematch in the Grand Finals.

Since his victory in Columbus, MMA has continued to make a name for himself both here and overseas. He came in second in the GSL Super Tournament, took second at MLG Anaheim (losing to Mvp), came in third in IPL Season 3, and was the winner of GSL Code S in October, defeating Mvp in the Grand Finals. MMA has definitely proven his formidable skill and is a strong contender to win in Providence, even in the face of a number of Korean rivals. Terrans have been a dominant force in the GSL, and MMA’s skill at TvT is almost without rival, making him one of the players to beat this weekend.

Mvp

MLG Anaheim: QIMMvp

What can be said about Mvp? Without a doubt, he’s one of the best players in the world. He is the winner of two GSL Code S titles, the GSL World Championship, and Blizzcon 2011, in addition to the champion of MLG Anaheim. In Anaheim he went 5-0 in his group and went on to drop one game to DongRaeGu and one to MMA in their Grand Finals match.

He is considered the favorite to win it all in Providence by many, and there’s little reason to dispute that. Of course his path will not be as clear-cut as in Anaheim; he will have to fight through a gauntlet of highly skilled opponents in order to reach the finals. Although he has a history with some of these players (MMA and Nestea in particular) there’s no reason to believe that he can’t overcome them like he has in past events. As a result of his reputation, all bets are on Mvp in any event he competes in, and for good reason. Keep an eye out for him in the later stages of the event.

MLG Raleigh: STBomber

Originally set to compete at MLG Columbus, passport problems delayed Bomber’s North American debut until August. Once he finally made it over, Bomber naturally had no trouble winning the whole event. Going 5-0 in his group (a feat managed by every Korean in MLG until this event) and only dropping one game in the Grand Finals against SlayerSCoCa, Bomber had almost as easy a time winning the event as he boasted he would. His other notable title is his GSL Code A victory against Mvp back in May, so he is no stranger to stiff competition both here and overseas.

Bomber is certainly a contender for first place, but against the other Koreans, especially those with one or more Code S title under their belt, it’s hard to pin him as a clear favorite. That’s not to diminish his abilities in any way though. He’s a big fish in a pond with plenty of other big fish; if he keeps his play strong and gets good matchups in the championship bracket, he could easily go all the way to the Grand Finals.

MLG Orlando: EGHuK

HuK

Likely the most exciting MLG victory of 2011, HuK’s triumph over oGsMC marked the first foreigner victory since the inception of the GSL exchange program. HuK is no stranger to status quo-shifting victories; his win over Moon in Dreamhack Summer 2011 tournament was another watershed moment for foreigners in major tournaments (which he then followed up by winning the Homestory Cup III the following weekend). HuK beat out MC as well as MarineKingPRIME and TheStC on his way to victory, proving his merit beyond doubt and lighting a flame for any fans who believed foreigners had what it took to topple the top Korean players.

Players often have slumps, periods where they fail to perform to their expectations for one reason or another. Not only does HuK rarely have this problem – he has been improving steadily and almost unstoppably throughout his entire SC2 career – but he also has the freshest victory of any of the MLG champions, making his win a very accurate representation of his current skill. Many fans have players like Mvp and Nestea pegged to take Providence, but if any foreigner has a chance to take it all, it’s HuK. Not only has he done it in the past, he did it less than two months ago.

MLG Providence: ???

And that brings us to this weekend. There are plenty of contenders besides these champions – IdrA deserves a mention for being another top foreigner pro, who finished fourth in Orlando and has been consistently improving over the past few months – but by looking at the past winners we can observe the progress of the competitive SC2 scene over the past eight months. The winners of past MLG events have continued to develop their careers in the interim, though none have managed a second win this season for one reason or another (some players, such as Mvp, have only attended one event). Whatever the outcome, expect to see every one of these players giving it their all this weekend, and don’t be surprised if one or more of them ends up in the Grand Finals.

By Phil Fine
(HuK image courtesy of MLG)