It's a little surprising that we're already in the semi-finals of the 2020 Winter Tournament. Whereas previous ESOC tournaments seeded such that the top players would not play a game until the third or fourth round, the division system meant that we were thrown almost immediately into clashes between the best. And the clashes have been furious. With best-of-seven matches starting with the Ro16, we've seen many close 4-3 series, some upsets, and others brought to the brink of collapse. But with the dust beginning to settle, it's time to take a look at who in the community made the top four spots.
It's also time to review the power rankings from the beginning of the tournament. Before the Pro Division started, we asked Pro Division players, qualifier hopefuls, and community experts to rank all of the players who had a chance at the gold. The experts can be satisfied in knowing that they went 3 for 4 - Kaiserklein, Hazza54321, and Mitoe were all ranked in the top 4 players and have met expectations by making it into the semi-finals. Better yet, 7 of the quarterfinals players were in the top 8 of the power rankings (and at most 7 of the top 8 in power rankings could have made the top 8 due to how the brackets shook out). Only LordRaphael ended up short with a surprisingly early (but extremely close) exit against snowww in the Ro16.
Who was the 8th player to make the quarterfinals? None other than Lukas_L99, seeded 9th in the power rankings, who's made his mark on the scene in a big way and now stands just two matches from a historic tournament win. Regardless of what outcome we'll see unfold over the next couple of weeks, the margins between these four players are thin, and you can expect close matches, big plays, and just a little bit of tilt.
Kaiserklein vs. Hazza54321 - Sunday at 17:00 GMT on ESOCTV
Kaiserklein and Hazza54321 have had similar roads to the semis this tournament. Both players received early seeds into the Ro16, both players had quick 4-0 stomps against the players unfortunate enough to make it out of the qualifiers and meet them, and both players showed continued strength with 4-1 victories over their opponents in the Ro8.
For Kaiserklein, winning the Winter 2020 cup would mean two things. For one, it would be an indication that his utter dominance of 2019 will continue into the new year. For another, it would fill the most - perhaps the only - glaring absence in Kaiser's trophy case. Kaiser, despite winning a number of tournaments in the past year, hasn't yet taken the gold in a no-frills seasonal major. For a player who's in contention for GOAT status, resolving this oversight will be of paramount importance.
Hazza's results over the last year have been a little lackluster compared to Kaiser's, but he nonetheless has found himself consistently at the top of everyone's list and deep inside major tournaments. Realistically, he's probably not the favorite coming into this match, as Kaiser has looked almost unstoppable in recent history. Hazza, however, with his meming personality and playstyle, is not one to be intimidated, and is the first person I'd pick to bring Kaiser back down to the mortal plane.
Lukas_L99 vs. Mitoe - Sunday at 20:00 GMT on ESOCTV
Although I originally marked Lukas as an up-and-coming player who had a real shot at winning the tournament, it's safe to say that I was still unprepared for how well he'd do. Once known as "that treaty player who's also pretty good at supremacy", there now can be no doubt that Lukas is worthy of mention alongside other top players in any tournament that he enters. A previously-hidden bit of knowledge from Mandarin Duck Squad team planning: Mitoe and I noted Lukas as being a player to pick up early in the EPL draft who might be undervalued by the other managers. In some pre-draft conversations, Mitoe found that Lukas was interesting in joining our team to train under Mitoe-senpai. But if Lukas left Mandarin Duck Squad but a learner, he is eager to now prove that he is the master.
I won't pretend to be impartial and claim that I'm not on the Mitoe train, but I'll also admit my suspicion that Mitoe is employing the "NA at Worlds" strategy of winning a few matches early in the tournament to give fans false hope. But false or not, hope remains, and on Sunday we will see if Mitoe will have a chance at another tournament win or if he'll be hanging out in the bronze match (maybe he'll do a three-peat of bronze matches with Kaiser).
Although it's a random civ allocation tournament it might play a psychological part in the upcoming contest.
Can Hazza shape his own fate with outstanding strats ?
Will the almighty Iron Kaiser (aka emperor in german) prevail again ?
Answer is tonigh ! Upset or logical win ?