Introducing Liquid`uThermal

September 04 2016

After over a week of speculation, we're finally ready to announce the newest addition to our StarCraft II squad: IEM Shanghai Champion, uThermal.

Marc "uThermal" Schlappi has been one of the better Terrans in EU over the past few years, but he took a big step forward in 2016. He attended IEM as a last minute substitute and proceeded to set fire to the bracket, taking out now-teammate Snute, Elazer, viOLet, and Neeb in the grand finals. A trophy at IEM Shanghai is the culmination of his career so far, but we know that this is only the beginning for uThermal. We're happy to have uThermal on the team, and we'll work hard with him to reach even greater heights.

With only one known WCS tournament left in 2016, uThermal still has a chance to qualify for BlizzCon. He will be attending WCS Copa Intercontinental in Mexico City along with Snute, and he only needs a few more points to secure his spot at the WCS Global Finals.

We had a chat with uThermal ahead of his trip to Mexico to talk about his successful year and his thoughts heading into what could be the most important tournament of his career so far.

There was a lot of speculation about what team you would join. At first, people thought you'd go to Team Expert, but you decided to join Team Liquid. What made you choose the team?

Haha, I've been reading the forums a bit and I think I've seen every team guessed at some point . I just collected offers from all the interested teams and in the end it came down to Team Liquid or one other team, but just like for probably any other foreign player, TL had the advantage. Ever since I started watching/playing SC2, TL has felt like the center of the foreign scene and I also get along with the players very well so the choice wasn't that hard in the end.

You visited the team house in Utrecht recently. How was it? Any memorable stories for us?

Haha, it was just another day. Tested some gear, met the Team Liquid rat, did a proper model photoshoot and stole people's dinner. Just the usual :D

Did Brittany's rat try to poop on you? I am totally not asking this because it pooped on me.

I made sure to stay as far away as possible while still trying to make it look like I was interested. It was hard to find the proper balance

Speaking of balance, let's talk some StarCraft. How do you like the state of the game right now? What do you think is your best and worst matchup?

Uhh, I think it's pretty much just the same as always. There's always been at least some balance issues for as long as I can remember. Currently, everyone seems to have the same vision that Protoss is too strong against Terran, and Terran is strong against Zerg (even though this one seems to be fading a bit). As for ZvP, it looks imbalanced for either race at times so I really have no idea.

My strongest matchup is clearly TvZ, pretty much all my recent success has come from TvZ, while I'm not too strong in either TvT or TvP. I think I could be better at TvT if I would practice it but I don't think its necessary while playing in only WCS tournaments. I've been trying to work on my TvP but I'm still pretty bad

You're right that there aren't a lot of Terrans in WCS, it's basically you, Polt, and MaSa. Do you come up with your builds on your own, or is there a player who you watch for ideas? Are there any players, past or present, that you particularly admire or try to imitate?

Nowadays, I watch basically every high level Terran match, both foreigners and Koreans and steal most of the builds. I used to never pay attention to other builds that much and just practice micro and mechanics, but ever since I started paying more attention to strategy and less attention to pure practice I've been doing much better. Back in 2013/2014 I used to copy Bomber and Maru the most, nowadays my favorites to copy are ByuN and TY.

I think most people can agree that this year has been your best year for results. What do you think has been the big difference (aside from revamped WCS) that led to your success?

The biggest thing I changed was preparation. I used to not really prepare for matches at all, I'd just play a lot of games and try to get my mechanics on point, and usually I would end up getting flustered by my opponent's builds and lose momentum. I would lose lots of games like that. Since IEM, I've been watching way more VODs and taking notes and it's been going really well. Also, even though I didn't reach another finals after IEM, my confidence has been way higher. Before IEM I didn't realize I was actually good at StarCraft, always going into matches as an underdog. I'm a player that likes to be considered the favorite so ever since IEM I feel way more confident, and going into matches feels much better nowadays

You were a last minute replacement for IEM Shanghai and you ended up winning the tournament. How did it feel like to become an IEM champion? It was your first major title in SC2 after years of bracket finishes.

It was truly an amazing moment. I had been tryharding on SC2 for a really long time already—about 5 years—and I was always the guy that was extremely frustrated every day but I had such a hard time giving up on my SC2 dream that I kept on playing. I was so close to giving up on SC2 entirely at times and then to still end up winning a championship and in such an unexpected way as well was just unbelievable.

I've started to think I might have a thing for playing Chinese tournaments under poor conditions. Last year my best run was the IEM Shenzhen run which I played off of being sick and barely any sleep, and in IEM Shanghai I flew in the evening before the tournament and slept about 3 hours each night. Maybe I should handicap myself more often haha

That's a good way to stay positive. Not a lot of players get to feel that kind of joy from years of hard work. During your most difficult times as a player, what kept you going the most?

I guess fans and friends as well as my own determination were the 2 biggest factors, especially early on in 2011-2013. Even though I didn't have any pro-level results I always felt like I would end up being a champion one day. Funnily enough when I did start producing pro level results in late 2013-2014, I stopped feeling like I would end up as a champion. Feeling how good the top foreigners and Koreans actually were and losing to them over and over was really rough. Luckily, I had met a lot of cool people in SC2 that always managed to cheer me up after rough losses, and the support I get on twitter from my fans sometimes can really warm my heart. It's a combination of multiple things.

Now that you've finally tasted success, I am sure you're still hungry for more. You've probably seen the WCS rankings right now. You need 230 points in order to leap frog over PtitDrogo and viOLet into 8th place in the WCS rankings and a spot at BlizzCon. That means you need at least 2nd at Copa in order to seal the deal (assuming there aren't any other tournaments with WCS points). How do you feel about your chances?

In all honesty I haven't been preparing too much. I've had a lot to deal with recently. I also really wanted to take a small break to rest after DreamHack Valencia, and I haven't had the time after that all the way until after the Copa qualifiers, so I'm finally enjoying some time to chill out. That said though I'm still pretty confident in my ability to reach the finals. I think I've shown high level play in every tournament I've played since IEM, and I do really think I can make it. My opponents this tournament seem particularly difficult though so we'll just have to see.

You face Hydra in the first round. The last time you two met, Hydra won convincingly, a 3-1 set in DreamHack Valencia Ro32. Do you have anything special planned to knock him off his perch?

DreamHack Valencia was my personal worst event of the year, and I think both me and Hydra know that series was way different than what our rematch will look like. Even in the group stages I struggled pretty hard back then and I have improved a lot. I do think Hydra is a really difficult Zerg to face as Terran and it will be a real challenge. I don't have anything special planned but I have a feeling my standard play will be enough :D

That's great to hear. Now for a really tough question. If your family were kidnapped by pirates, which 3 progamers would you bring with you to rescue them and why?

I'm trying to think of 3 roles to fill. I'd probably bring Nerchio as our mastermind and Harstem for the intimidation factor. I guess the third would either be DeMusliM to bait people and put them on tilt or Guru to confuse them haha

Every rescue team needs a meatshield, I guess xD

Thanks for taking this time to share your thoughts. Good luck at Copa! Any last words for your fans?

I've received an incredible amount of support since IEM and it means the world to me. I have a feeling great times are ahead for both me and Team Liquid and I hope you guys will cheer us on to many more championships! I'm sure lots of people would like to see me at BlizzCon so please help me reach the grand finals in WCS Mexico! Thanks for everything!


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