Last Chances at WCS MontrealBy: Soularion and Wax
What a year it's been on the WCS Circuit. Even as Serral dominated the competition, there was plenty of opportunity for other players to take over our hearts. Whether it was underdog runs from MaNa and Has, or newcomers Clem and Reynor showing us that StarCraft II has a bright future ahead of it, there were plenty of captivating stories at the previous three events. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and WCS Montreal (September 7-9) will be the final Circuit tournament before the Global Finals.
While we already know seven out of eight WCS Korea representatives headed to the Global Finals, but only two players from the WCS Circuit are locked in. This means the remaining six will be decided over the course of just three bloody days at WCS Montreal. Dreams will come true, hopes will be dashed, and epic games will be played at this grand finale for the WCS Circuit.
Anyway, let's take a look at who's playing, divided into some arbitrary categories. [Any player could technically qualify for the Global Finals by winning the WCS Montreal championship, but Serral's ominous presence makes getting in on points the best chance.]
Locked in for Global Finals"Hi, we're just here to crush the dreams of others."
Serral - #1: 11190 points (3x champion seeds)
Serral has qualified three times over by winning every single Circuit tournament so far. He has more points than the next four players combined, guaranteeing himself the #1 seed from the WCS Circuit at the Global Finals. Serral is actually pretty close to having the maximum number of WCS points possible, leaving 1650 points on the table at at IEM Katowice (finished top 4) and another 60 points in the first WCS Europe Challenger of the year (runner-up to Elazer). So, yeah, he'll be at BlizzCon.
The other players at WCS Montreal will be hoping that Serral's success has made him complacent, as it has to many champions before him. However, there's a $20,000 check that basically has Serral's name written on it, so the rest of the field will be hard-pressed to find any mercy from the Finnish phenom.
SpeCial - #2: 3150 points
SpeCial has quietly been one of the best players on the WCS Circuit. While underdogs like Has, Lambo, and MaNa bathed in the spotlight, SpeCial scraped together enough WCS points to guarantee his return to the Global Finals. He did this by dominating his regional scene (he's won every Latin America Challenger event for a total of 800 points) and placing consistently high in WCS events (top four at Leipzig and Austin).
WCS Montreal hasn't been kind to SpeCial historically, as he was eliminated in the Ro32 and Ro16 in the past two years. This time around, he'll look to break that trend and win his first WCS Circuit championship.
All but Confirmed"Better safe than sorry."
Neeb - #3: 2710 points
Neeb faces the bizarre situation of being at a disadvantage from being too successful. If he had lost his GSL Ro8 match to Rogue, he'd have shown up to WCS Montreal without any complications and easily get enough points to cinch his BlizzCon spot. Instead, he's headed to Montreal barely a day after his Code S match against TY. Not only will he be suffering from more jet lag than usual (seeded players are typically flown in couple of days before the tournament), but his practice will have been lopsided due to focusing solely on his PvT against TY.
We've already seen Scarlett get eliminated early in WCS Leipzig despite having the skills to win IEM championship and make a GSL Ro8 run. It's just hard to perform well in both Korea and on the Circuit. Fortunately for Neeb, he barely needs any points to qualify for BlizzCon—theoretically, he could not win a single game and still qualify if everything breaks his way.
ShoWTimE - #4: 2670 points
Barring a total disaster, ShoWTimE will also represent the Circuit at BlizzCon, having earned a bucketload of points from a runner-up finish in Leipzig and top four run in Valencia. Winning enough points to qualify for the Global Finals shouldn't be an issue—he was already considered one of the best players on the Circuit, AND he's entering this tournament after a long regimen of training in Korea. For ShoWTimE, it's more a matter of seeing just how many points he can earn so he has the best possible seed at the Global Finals. Also, there's a potential clash with Serral in the cards, where we'll be able to see how much ground Europe's #2 player has made up on the Circuit King.
In Favorable Position"What could possibly go wrong?"
Has - #5: 2290 points
Yep, we live in an insane world where Has might make it to BlizzCon.
Has definitely had an advantage compared to most other players, only needing to break through the relatively weak Taiwan/Macau/Japan qualifiers to reach the RO32 of Circuit tournaments. However, there's no detracting from his incredible run at WCS Valencia, where he defeated top players from the so-called 'major' regions to earn 1400 points.
Has doesn't need another miracle to get to the Global Finals, but he still needs a decent result. That might end up being tricky for Has—his 0-3 loss to SpeCial at GSL vs. The World reminded us of what usually happens when he runs into an elite opponent. However, barring some incredibly difficult opponent draws in groups and playoffs, Has should be able to seal the deal.
Nerchio - #6: 2220 points
Like SpeCial, Nerchio hasn't drawn much attention, but he's quietly amassed WCS points with consistent play. He reached the top eight of all three WCS events and placed top eight at three out of four Challenger tourneys. He's never looked like a serious title contender (although no one really has in the era of Serral), he's never caused a huge splash, but he's never under-performed either. Presuming that he can continue his consistent form—AND presuming that he gets into the tournament at all—another quarterfinal run should book his flight to Anaheim.
HeRoMaRinE - #7: 2160 points
It's been a career year for the German Terran who originally broke onto the scene at WCS Montreal two years ago. Top 16, top eight, and top four are HeRoMaRinE's WCS Circuit results so far, and a finals appearance is a realistic possibility in Montreal as long as he avoids Serral's half of the bracket.
More than anyone on this list, HeRoMaRinE has had the misfortune of running into Serral at crucial junctures. Hopefully his seeding is now good enough that he can avoid facing Serral until after he has earned enough points to confirm his Global Finals spot.
The Contenders"Ah, so this is StarCraft's Battle Royale mode."
Elazer - #8: 1950 points
If 2016 placed Elazer on the map and 2017 placed him on the throne, 2018 saw him fall back down to earth. It would be fair to say WCS Leipzig Challenger was the high point of Elazer's year, as he beat Serral to briefly claim the European crown. He's put together a string of disappointing performances afterward, flopping out of the Ro32 in Code S and WCS Valencia. He was barely missed when he failed to make the World team at GSL vs. The World, a damning indictment of his fall back into the rest of the pack. Elazer currently has a precarious hold on the #8 spot, and there's a ravenous group of contenders behind him. All the pressure is on him to not lose his grip.
Snute - #9: 1755 points
As one of the most experienced and strategically intelligent foreigners out there, it's quite a surprise to see Snute slump this year. Legacy of the Void seemed to give him a spark as he won WCS Winter in the release season. Two years later, Snute is being swallowed up in a highly competitive European middle-class and is even contemplating retirement. A meek performance at WCS Montreal would be a sad way for Snute's legacy to end, but it's rare that a progamer gets go out on top. Can the old soldier mount one more glorious campaign? It seems unlikely at the moment, but we hope that one of the greatest foreigners of all time gets his storybook ending.
MaNa - #10: 1680 points
While MaNa is barely a hundred WCS points behind Snute, a BlizzCon spot feels like it's an ocean away. Even in the midst of a slump, Snute feels like a player who belongs at BlizzCon, having attended the previous two Global Finals. On the other hand, MaNa earned 1400 of his 1680 points in a single, incredible playoff run at WCS Austin. Since then, he's fallen back to being yet-another-European, getting eliminated in the Ro32 of WCS Valencia. Still, that run in Austin has allowed MaNa one more shot to bring his A-game and complete his career resurrection.
TRUE - #11 (tied): 1630 points
When TRUE switched regions and won his first ever tournament at WCS Montreal 2016, the foreign scene was shell-shocked. He had crushed the best foreigners at the time and even beat Polt in the finals. Was this it? Was this KeSPA-trained Korean just going to dominate the Circuit?
Things didn't quite work out that way. He lost big at BlizzCon 2016 and was merely 'very good' during the 2017 season of WCS. While he's made a number of semifinals and even played at BlizzCon again, he's never looked as dangerous as was in 2016. Any edge gained from years of KeSPA training has long worn away and TRUE is now just one of many WCS Circuit contenders desperate for a spot at the Global Finals.
uThermal - #11 (tied): 1630 points
What a weird 2018 it's been for uThermal. He's looked fantastic in spurts, beating the likes of INnoVation, soO, Scarlett, and ShoWTimE in live tournaments. And yet, the best he has to show for it is a top eight finish at WCS Valencia. It's not really surprising anymore—for all of uThermal's talent, we just haven't see him string those those impressive wins together since his IEM Shanghai championship in 2016. uThermal is certainly a huge threat to ruin anyone else's BlizzCon dream, but can he summon three days of consistency and go on a run of his own?
Lambo - #13: 1495 points
2018 has been a great year for both dreamers and realists: cheery fans got to enjoy tremendous underdog runs, while cynics got to smirk as those underdogs crashed and burned in subsequent tournaments. Lambo might have had the best and worst of it, reaching the top four of WCS Austin before being ejected from group stage two (the Ro48) at WCS Valencia. There's reason to believe that the Lambo we saw in Austin is closer to the real Lambo, as he heads into WCS Montreal with a seeded spot from Europe.
Kelazhur - #14: 1435 points
Kelazhur seems to have made peace with the fact that his Global Finals run in 2017 was the peak of his professional StarCraft II career, officially transitioning to part-time status. That probably puts a nail in the coffin of his BlizzCon hopes, but he's definitely capable of playing spoiler to anyone else looking to rise in the standings.
Scarlett - #15: 1335 points
Scarlett is screwed. Winning IEM PyeongChang gave her a career-defining championship but it failed to spark her on to further success. She lost in the group stages of WCS Leipzig, got eliminated from the IEM Katowice open qualifier, and was eliminated in the Ro16 of both WCS Austin and Valencia. She's been left in a desperate situation where nothing short of finals appearance will earn her a spot at BlizzCon.
However, Scarlett does have one thing going for her compared to the other long shot contenders at Montreal. Low-seeded players are the most likely to get torn up by Serral early in the bracket, but Scarlett very nearly beat him at WCS Valencia. Yet, considering Scarlett's WCS Circuit performances so far this year, an unlikely victory against Serral will probably be followed by a loss to [insert European Zerg here] in the next round.
Everyone Else"So you're telling me there's a chance."
As for everyone else, even a runner-up finish might not be enough to qualify them for the Global Finals. These players will praying that everyone around them melts down and loses in very specific configurations. However, no matter how lucky they get, it's likely their BlizzCon dreams will come down to one final question "Can you beat Serral in the WCS Montreal finals?"