MLG Winter Championship starts tomorrow in Columbus, winter still missing

Rob Zacny at

Columbus Pro Circuit

The MLG isn't about to let a little thing like 84-degree temperatures stop them from having their Winter Season championship in Columbus, OH this weekend. Over one thousand players will compete for $200,000 in prize money from tomorrow through Sunday. As usual, StarCraft is the star of the show for PC gamers, with $76,000 in prize money and $25,000 of that going to the first-place finisher.

In a sign of how quickly the MLG's StarCraft 2 competition is growing, this year's first-prize is five times what it was was in the 2011 Pro Circuit season.

You can still buy tickets if you want to watch in person. For those of us who are unlikely to find ourselves in the Columbus area this weekend, however, there will be six HD streams for the competition, four of them dedicated to StarCraft 2. Two streams will be free, others will come with either a Gold Membership or an HD pass for this event. The casting team looks solid, too: Sean "Day[9]" Plott will be there, as will "Tastosis", the casting duo of Dan "Artosis" Stemkoski and Nicolas "Tasteless" Plott. You'll also be able to catch commentary from Marcus "DJWheat" Graham, Blizzard's Rob Simpson, and the MLG's JP McDaniel.

The competition field itself is very strong, with the top 16 players from the Winter Arena having received invitations and accommodations for the Championship. Some of the big names in attendance are MarineKing (the Winter Arena winner), DongRaeGu (current GSL champion), Huk, NaNiwa, DeMuslim, PuMa, and IdrA, among others.

One storyline worth following is Greg "IdrA" Fields' performance in the open bracket, as he comes into the Winter Championship in the wake of a series of disappointing tournament performances.

"IdrA has been performally absolutely absymally as of late, while all his other zerg counterparts have started to perform very well," said Day[9]. "This tournament will either let IdrA break his losing streak, or will cement his reputation as a mid-tier zerg."

IdrA's team manager, Evil Geniuses' CEO Alex Garfield, is a bit less worried about his performance. In an interview yesterday, Garfield explained that Greg has been doing well in practice matches, and his performance at IEM might not have been as bad as it looked. He pointed out that IdrA beat one of the stronger players in his pool, the Korean Terran "Supernova", and lost to far weaker ones. Garfield thinks the explanation may have more to do with psychology, and how IdrA reacted after losing an early game against Kas, despite having a big lead.

"I'm sure that was a game he felt like he should have won," Garfield said. "I think that for the particular kind of hurdles that Greg has, losing when he feels like he should have won is like the worst thing that can possible happen. Because then you start to fight the game, you start to get frustrated with the game because you feel like... you did a good enough job that you should have won, and it's kind of unfair that the other guy won. And that's a really dangerous place to get into, mentally, and I think that might have happened."

There are a few big names missing from the Winter Championship as well. Leenock, NesTea, and MMA have all had to pass on attending the Championship. Sundance DiGiovanni, MLG CEO, explained that NesTea suffered an injury in an accident, while Leenock and MMA have scheduling conflicts.

The Winter Arena kicks off tomorrow at 5:00 PM Eastern, and you'll want to catch the 5:30 matchup between Winter Arena winner MarineKing and current IEM champion MC. Take a look at the full schedule here.