Following a very close Grand Final, we finally have a champion! After defeating Stats this weekend, Serral made StarCraft II history by being the first non-Korean to ever win the top spot in a GSL event. This breaks an almost 20-year span of undisputed Korean dominance in StarCraft and StarCraft II.
Serral’s path to victory
Not only is this a historical moment for the StarCraft II scene, but it’s a very important milestone for Serral as well. On the way to his victory, Serral conquered some of the best players in the world, making a strong case for himself that he is indeed the best StarCraft II player right now.
Serral’s first victim at of the weekend was Kelazhur. To the surprise of nobody, Serral disposed of Kelazhur in quick fashion with a 3-0 victory. Kelazhur is no slouch, but Serral (obviously) is on fire right now. Running into him in the Round of 16 was just straight up unfortunate for Kelazhur, and a good Zerg vs. Terran warmup for Serral.
In the Quarterfinals, Serral matched up against “The Machine” himself, Innovation. Innovation was considered by many to be the “gatekeeper” of Korea. It was widely believed that if Serral could defeat Innovation, he would have a good chance of taking the whole tournament. Serral did just that, eliminating Innovation with an impressive 3-0 victory. This series would be Serral’s last perfect 3-0 sweep of the weekend.
Even though Serral made “The Machine” look obsolete, his climb to victory had only just begun. Before he could claim his spot in the Grand Finals he would have to face Dark, a known foreigner slayer. At this point in the tournament, Dark had won 32 straight matches against non-Korean players. Previously, Dark has even said “I don’t know how Koreans lose to foreigners.”
Serral must have heard this cocky remark because he proceeded to run an absolute clinic on how to dismantle a top Korean Zerg. It felt like he controlled the pace of every game in the match, only dropping one game on Catalyst to Dark. Serral’s loss was mostly due to a build choice, and not poor mechanics or being outplayed by Dark. Serral went for Mutalisks but Dark pounced on him with Roaches and Ravagers before the Mutalisks were ready. It took good game sense from Dark to spot that Serral was playing very greedily and punish him for it. However, Serral would not make that mistake again and defeated Dark 3-1 in the end.
The final boss of the tournament, Stats, awaited Serral in the Grand Finals. Stats is one of the most successful Protoss players in Legacy of the Void, and after demolishing Maru in the Semifinals he looked quite intimidating indeed.
Stats is known as a super defensive player, preferring to stall the game and reach the ideal high-tech Protoss army. Despite this, the first few matches of the Grand Final were over very quickly. Stats even showed us he’s not afraid to be aggressive, opting to cannon rush Serral’s gold base expansion on Redshift. Serral simply took too much damage from this, resulting in a quick 2-0 lead for Stats.
The rest of the Grand Final was much more evenly matched than the beginning. The remaining games progressed deeper into the later game phases and featured impressive mechanical skill from both players. Serral, in particular, showed off some masterful unit control and game decision-making skills. One of his more impressive moments was in Game 4, where Serral used his Mutalisks’ bouncing Glaive Wurm attack to ping the shields on all of Stat’s Immortals. The powerful Barrier ability of Immortals only last two seconds after taking damage, and when the shields fade they are much more vulnerable. By using the Mutalisks to hit all the immortals just before he engaged, Serral guaranteed that the Immortals would be easier targets to work down for the rest of his army. Tactics like this really exemplify how skilled Serral really is, even in high-pressure situations.
Both players treated us to an amazing Grand Final, but Serral would eventually defeat Stats 4-3.
What about Maru?
Maru currently holds the #1 spot on the GSL circuit by points, so obviously, Serral can’t be the best without conquering Maru first. Unfortunately, we did not get the Maru vs. Serral Grand Final that we all wanted. Our prayers were heard though on Sunday though. During the Team Serral vs. Team Maru show match before the Grand Final, we got to see these two titans of StarCraft II butt heads.
In the game, we saw Serral hold off multiple aggression attempts from Maru, such as a Hellion and Banshee push which was quickly followed by a 1/1 Stim Marine attack on Serral’s third. Serral played a very reactive game, playing defensive and counter-attacking when Maru was busy out on the map. Serral’s Creep spread was out of control as well. A large majority of the minimap was purple by the end of the game.
Despite two failed pushes and being denied any semblance of map control, Maru managed to hang on until for quite a long time. Managing to hold on for over twenty minutes in a situation like this is a real testament to how skilled Maru really is. Unfortunately, everyone knows that if you leave a Zerg’s economy untouched for twenty minutes you will eventually be overrun. This rang true even for Maru and eventually he was starved out of the game.
Despite being only one game long, this was one of my favorite matchups of the weekend. It’s too bad that it’s not the best of seven that we all want, but it will suffice as a teaser of what we might get later this year. Personally, I can’t wait to see these two square up in a proper match.
Could Serral be “The Best”?
On his path to victory, Serral has made a convincing argument that he absolutely is the best Zerg on the planet right now. Not only did he win the whole tournament, but he took out top Korean players of every race on the way. Could he be the best player in the world? We will surely see Serral at BlizzCon this year, where we will get a definitive answer to this burning question.