Heya fellow nerd-ballers. Get your hotkeys ready, because you're about to drop into the first edition of What to Watch: The Week in eSports, a new column bringing you the latest news on tournaments, players, personalities, and apocalyptic balance patches for the world's premiere competitive PC games. This week, we highlight the big events to look for in 2013, where to start in building your own game knowledge to gosu levels, and what happens when the worlds of eSports and journalism collide. gl hf.
2013 is about to kick into high gear for Blizzard's star-faring RTS, and the current undisputed king of real-time strategy eSports. With the Heart of the Swarm expansion (which you'll hear some more of my impressions on soon) less than two months away, the competitive scene is set to change in ways that only happen... well, once an expansion. At the same time, the community has been shaken up a bit by an dispute between journalist Rod "Slasher" Breslau and leading North American team Evil Geniuses that begs the question: Does eSports understand journalism?
The GSL (Global StarCraft II league) is in the middle of its first season of 2012. For the newcomers, eSports seasons typically aren't a once-a-calendar-year thing: the GSL alone has previously hosted as many as seven full seasons in one year. Organized by South Korea's GOMTV, it is widely considered the very apex of competition in StarCraft II. They have a somewhat Byzantine system of qualifications, but as a rule of thumb, someone who has qualified for a coveted "Code S" slot is an eSports god among men, and the Code S champion (who will be decided on March 28) is usually regarded as one of (if not the) best StarCraft II player in the world.
Watch it: GomTV.net
The seventh season of the Intel Extreme Masters league, sponsored by (you guessed it!) Intel, will be holding its championship in Katowice, Poland starting tonight, and running through the weekend. Some of the major players in attendance will be SK Telecom T1's PartinG of South Korea, who recently left team StarTale. LucifroN and VortiX of Spain, the real-life brothers who wound up facing off at last year's Blizzard World Championship might end up in a rematch. Australian champion mOOnGLaDe, former WarCraft III master Grubby from the Netherlands, Germany's Socke, and Norwegian Team Liquid newcomer, Snute, will also be fighting for the top spot
Watch it: ESL-World.net
Caster (and fellow Johson County, Kansas escapee) Sean "Day" Plott continues to produce quality StarCraft content every week in his long-running Day Daily series. This week marked the return of the fan favorite Funday Monday segment, in which he imposes a restriction on viewers (such as only being able to build certain units) and commentates replays they send in working under these constraints. Outright madness has been known to ensue.
MLG's new programming schedule includes nightly Monday-Friday content for the SC2 addicts among us. Rules of Engagement with caster/pro Nick "Axslav" Ranish is a fine place to start if you're looking to tighten up your ladder play. Each day of the week has a different theme, from specific tactics to fundamentals. My personal favorite is Wednesdays, which breaks down pro-level "cheesing"- using risky, unorthodox strategies that diverge wildly from the current metagame. This week's developing fundamentals show has some good tips for economy management, and deciding what your units should be doing at any given time.
If you're looking for more Heart of the Swarm action but your favorite streamers are asleep, eating, or have otherwise vanished from public view, MLG has also been running nightly show matches in the expansion beta. Tonight at 2 p.m. PST, Axslav and Total Biscuit will be hosting a King of the Hill event.
League of Legends
League of Legends had an exciting and somewhat controversy-heavy 2012, shattering records for eSports viewership and shifting the balance of power from European and North American dominance to Asian primacy. 2013 is set to get rolling, and it's poised to be a very influential year for Riot's MOBA.
League will also have a presence at IEM Katowice this weekend, with eight teams competing for a $15,500 top prize. South Korean all-stars Azubu are sending both their teams—Frost and Blaze—to compete with the likes of Europe's SK Gaming and North American staple, Curse. The winning team will also automatically qualify for the IEM World Championship later this year.
Watch it: ESL-World.net
The Riot-sponsored Season 3 Championship Series is also set to kick off on the 25th, with the North American Offline Qualifiers. Curse Gaming EU, Fnatic, and some up-and-comers including Team Acer will compete for a spot in the European championship series. Sixteen teams will enter, but only five will move on.
Read More: The Path to Pro
The latest patch notes include some more changes to jungling, which has seen a major overhaul since Season 2. Also of note is a change to the way turrets prioritize targets.
MLG's new programming is also showing LoL newbies (or just those looking to learn new champs) some love. Thursdays and Fridays starting next week, League of Legends Champion Training will offer analysis of pro-level gameplay with different champs, with analysts and the players themselves pointing out useful tips and tactics.
As 2013 dawns, we're still all asking the question, "So, is the game, like... out yet?" Thankfully, we don't have to ask whether or not there are exciting competitions to watch. While Dota hasn't really reached the volume or publicity of live tournaments of its main competitors, the red-headed step-child of premiere eSports continues to bring us high-stakes online action like The Defense. They also keep sending me beta keys in batches of around a bajillion. So chances are, you know someone who can get you in at this point if you're at all interested.
The Defense 3 online tournament is ongoing, with only two teams—Germay's Mousesports and Fnatic EU—remaining undefeated. They lead their respective groups, along with Sweden's No Tidehunter in Group C and a tie between Russian Team Empire and North American Team Dignitas in Group B.
Watch it: The-Defense.com
Are you bad at Dota 2? Do you want someone to validate your hatred of the totally overpowered, BS heroes your enemies crush you with in solo cue? Using MSPaint? YouTuber Pyrion Flax has you covered. He's put out a general guide to Dota 2 as well as videos for specific heroes (most recently Magnus and Faceless Void.)
That's it for this week, eSports faithful. Let us know in the comments where you go to get your weekly eSports fix, and we might throw you a shout-out in a future installment.