Eight players have made it through to the finals of the ESL Legendary Series, leaving a balanced field: four recognisable players who will carry the burden of expectation, and four relative unknowns who have an opportunity to jumpstart a pro career.
With finalists from as far away as Taiwan, Sweden and the UK flying into California to fight for a share of the $20,000, there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of them all. That’s where we come in.
Wei “Weifu” Fu
Not much is known about Wei “Weifu” Fu. The Taiwan native came within one game of qualifying for the World Championship finals in late 2014. A victory in the fourth week of the Legendary Series saw him make it through to the finals, where he was victorious over Sebastian “Forsen” Fors, David “Dog” Caero and Brent “Backspace” Kaskel.
Keaton “Chakki” Gill
Now representing Team Dignitas, Keaton “Chakki” Gill has previously flown the flag for ManaGrind, Clarity Gaming and Team Coast. Though lacking big tournament achievements, Gill did compete in two seasons of the ESGN Fight Night series and made it as far as the final qualification stage for the World Championship last year, where he lost to eventual semi-finalist Daniel “DTwo” Ikuta. He started 2015 in disappointing fashion, crashing out of the Assembly Festival tournament in the first round despite flying across the Atlantic to take part.
John “Darkwonyx” Hansson
Much like Gill, Johan “Darkwonyx” Hansson also has a lengthy Hearthstone pedigree. Teamless after leaving Curse last year, Hansson managed to finish in the prize money at both the World Cyber Arena and World Esports Championship tournaments and ended 2014 with his first tournament victory in the SCAN Invitational. Despite his lack of big wins and a team, Hansson’s deckbuilding skills and calm approach make him a dark horse here.
Kwo-Ping “Pinpingho” Ho
The second of two players travelling from Taiwan, Kwo-Ping “Pinpingho” Ho finished his Legendary Series qualification campaign with a 12-4 record. That run was highlighted with victories over Cong “StrifeCro” Shu and Jason “Amaz” Chan en route to coming second in the seventh weekly match day tournament. Coupled with another second place finish in week one and coming fourth in week two, Ho amassed enough points to secure a place in the finals.
Austin “SilentStorm” Li
At just 17 years old, Canada’s Austin “SilentStorm” Li is the youngest player in the finals (as far as we know). A member of Team MagicAmy, the team Hyerim “MagicAmy” Lee created before leaving to join Tempo Storm, Li also has a second place finish in the second Prismata Cup to his name—a tournament where he beat Aleksander “Kolento” Malsh and Jan “Faramir” Engelmann. With a 6-1 record, Li won the sixth weekly match day to book his place in the finals.
Janne “Savjz” Mikkonen
On paper, Janne “Savjz” Mikkonen is the clear favourite. After winning the final match day tournament to secure his place in the finals, the Team Liquid player finished third at the Assembly Festival tournament in his native Finland and took victory in the first Inven Invitational to cap off a successful start to 2015. The Seat Story Cup 2 winner will be looking to bring his winning form into the most important event of 2015 so far.
Paul “Zalae” Nemeth
With victory in the seventh match day tournament, Paul “Zalae” Nemeth booked himself a spot in the finals. The Ohio native was relatively unknown before taking part in the Legendary Series, though he streams pretty regularly and has put a significant number of hours into preparing for the finals. En route to the LAN, Nemeth defeated Andrew “TidesofTime” Biessener, George “Hyped” Maganzini and the favourite for the finals Janne “Savjz” Mikkonen.
The man simply known as “Max” comes into the finals as a late replacement for Tempo Storm’s Hyerim “MagicAmy” Lee, and hopefully will be able to shake off any last minute jet lag. Coming from nowhere last year to make it to the European final qualifier for the World Championships, Simpson later joined Team Method. He ended last year reasonably well with a good showing at DreamHack Masters Bucharest and in the ESL match day tournaments. He has also qualified for the European side of the CN vs EU Masters in March.