MLG's StarCraft 2 Summer Arena starts Friday, July 20th, at 4:30PM, with the first round presenting 16 matches. While I have no doubt that we'll see some epic games, at the end of day there's only a handful of matches I've got my eye on. Here's what we'll be watching closely and why -- remember, if you miss any matches, we'll update you with upsets and turn-arounds that are worth knowing about.
View the full Summer Arena brackets here.
TOP has had a hard time since dropping out of GSL in October last year, losing to the then-unknown PartinG. Since then, he's failed to make it back into GSL or make any other notable appearance in the StarCraft 2 scene. To make things worse, his team (Old Generations) unexpectedly disbanded in May, leaving TOP alone and team-less. But now, after a strong run in the Korean Qualifier, he's back in the public and playing against a Zerg, the race he did best against in the same qualifier that brought him here in the beginning. This is TOP's chance to shine -- if he can endure MLG, he'll hopefully find another team.
Golden, on the other hand, has had an entirely different story. Starting off as a fairly unknown player in FOu and later Slayers, the best he accomplished was a short lived run in GSL Code A. He's since left Slayers and joined LighT eSports and, not unlike a mini-ViOlet, has had great success in foreign events -- he even beat ViOlet himself in the NA qualifier for this Arena. Just like TOP, Golden's got a lot to prove and this is really his chance.
SaSe is arguably one of the strongest foreign pros playing the game right now, so it could be a tough matchup for GoOdy. To make matters worse for the German Terran, PvT is quite easily SaSe's best matchup, and since staying in the StarTale house, he's even gotten to learn build orders from the likes of PartinG and Squirtle. So why should his match versus GoOdy be worth watching? While GoOdy hasn't had great results this year, the only notable one being an all-kill of FXO-CIS in the Incredible Panic Team league, his run that got him here in the European Qualifier (after Nerchio dropped out) was mostly against protoss players. And more than anything, GoOdy is a player who has caused unexpected upsets, like his 2-0 over MMA at the last arena. If nothing else, these two players should provide some fairly engaging games with a few clutch blow-outs.
This year has been interesting for ReaL; although he lacks a single standout result, he has shown up at numerous foreign events and often performs just slightly above expectations. Recently, he made the semi-finals of IEM Sao Paulo and quarter-finals of Homestory Cup IV -- he always seems just out of the range of the spotlight, and as a player who often makes its so close, making the pool play of MLG Raleigh would surely be a huge boost of confidence for this Protoss player and would make for good bottom-up play.
Losira, alternatively, has made the limelight more than once, but despite this still has yet to take first place at a major event. Even after what looked like a slump in the beginning of this year, he seems to be on a comeback-tour after nearly all-killing Team SCV Life in GSTL and has been showing a strong presence in online tournaments. It's been over half a year since he took second at Arena of Legends and more than a year since placing second at MLG Columbus (falling to MMA in the finals); will the relatively-unknown ReaL be able to upset the Zerg or will Losira start a warpath with ReaL? We'll see tomorrow, but I see this match as being one to watch.
I think possibly the most piquing element of this match is that Illusion picked Revival. That alone makes it relevant. While Revival may not be a player on everyone's radar, just in GSTL alone Revival has shown he's not a player to be overlooked. Tack on Revivals impressive online results and things don't look good for the American Terran. In fact, TvZ isn't even Illusion's best matchup (while ZvT is certainly Revival's), so for Illusion to make this pick says to me he definitely has something figured out for TvZ. If nothing else, then surely seeing the American Terran, who has been looking quite strong lately, play against the Korean Zerg - who has similarly been playing very powerfully - should provide at least a couple good games.
You can view our coverage of MLG's Summer Arena throughout the weekend if you miss matches or are curious about game upsets; follow us on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook for rapid updates. We'll also be covering MLG Raleigh 2012 in August, so definitely check in with us if you're there.
-Keegan "HornetSting" Gallick