WCS Winter 2019:By: Soularion and Wax
RO32 Player Spotlight, Part 2
The first week of WCS Winter saw sixteen players from WCS Americas and Europe secure their spots in the second group stage. While the favorites prevailed for the most part, we also saw a handful of surprises as MCanning and Rail revealed themselves as potential darkhorses.
We continue to spotlight some of the more intriguing players in action this week. They include reigning WCS Global Champion Serral, who looks to reassert his dominance over Europe before taking on the world at IEM Katowice. Meanwhile, this week's WCS 'Americas' features an especially diverse collection of players from around the world, including the Madman from Taiwan, Has.
WCS Europe RO32: Groups E to HBroadcast: 15:00 GMT (+00:00) @ Twitch.tv/starcraft
Nerchio - 2018 Final Circuit Ranking: #7
Where does Nerchio go from here? 2018 felt like a repeat of his 2017 performance, except without the single runner-up finish to give his Liquipedia page a boost. He was pretty good for most of the year but it didn't seem like a big deal when he performed poorly. When turned in an uninspiring performance at the Global Finals to exit in groups for the third year in a row, we mostly shrugged. Is this where our expectations for the ironman of Europe have settled?
Early on in Legacy of the Void, Nerchio was the foreign hope. He was a dominant player in the foreign scene who played with an intelligence and flair which we just hadn't seen from him before. Since then his thunder has been absolutely stolen by Neeb and Serral, and we've all been okay with it (seemingly, Nerchio included). Perhaps he's destined to be a bottom seed at the Global Finals for the rest of the WCS' existence. Or maybe 2019 will be the year where something breaks, for better or worse.
Reynor - 2018 Final Circuit Ranking: #10
Reynor's finals run at WCS Montreal 2018 left us all in shock at how he damn near beat Serral in a best-of-7 at his second ever WCS event. Not only that, but he made a Code S RO16 run that could very well have been a RO8 run if a few things had swung his way. He was unlucky to miss out on the Global Finals at BlizzCon as it was very likely that he would have made the points cutoff if he had been allowed to play the entire year (he was hampered by the 16-year-old minimum age for WCS).
We've been left intrigued by Reynor's potential, and his WCS Europe and IEM Katowice matches couldn't come sooner. Is he one of the best players in Europe? Is he one of the best players in the world? Is he really worthy of rivaling Serral, or did he just play out of his mind for seven games? Early indicators in 2019 say we might have to curtail the hype just a bit as he was chastised by Neeb and ShoWTimE in the IEM Katowice qualifiers. Regardless, Reynor is one of the must-watch players in WCS Winter.
Serral - 2018 Final Circuit Ranking: #1
Serral returns to compete with the rest of us mortals after ascending to mythic status at BlizzCon 2018. After recording the best WCS Circuit year in history, he went on to BlizzCon to topple the Koreans become the first non-Korean Global Champion. Any player competing on the WCS Circuit could say they had a successful year by winning just one championship—Serral won six titles in 2018 (seven including HomeStory Cup).
Where does he go from here? The expectations is that he'll dominate WCS Europe like he dominated WCS Challenger last year (save one early-season loss to Elazer), proving that WCS Circuit events have long since stopped being a challenge to him. Yet, close calls against Lambo, Scarlett, and Reynor at WCS Montreal proved that he is not invulnerable. So let's not look ahead to WESG and IEM Katowice just yet—Serral still has a bit of housekeeping to do.
ShoWTimE - 2018 Final Circuit Ranking: #2
ShoWTimE's second place finish in the 2018 Circuit rankings is somewhat amusing in hindsight, considering his year was a roller-coaster ride after finishing runner-up at January's WCS Leipzig. He went back and forth between atrocious and Korean-good, before settling at a "you're good but you're not gonna beat the eight best Koreans" level at the end of the year. He failed to earn a direct finals rematch against Serral on the WCS Circuit, but sneakily accumulated enough points to conclude the circuit as the #2 foreigner in the rankings. At WCS Europe, ShoWTimE can prove that his ranking does not flatter him and that he's truly the best of the rest in the kingdom of Serral.
WCS Americas RO32: Groups E to HBroadcasy 19:00 GMT (+00:00) @ Twitch.tv/starcraft
TIME - 2018 Final Circuit Ranking: #16
After a period of turmoil where China could not put forth a player to succeed Jim and iAsonu, TIME has emerged as a new hero in international competition. He's displayed glimpses potential in WCS for a couple years, but he had his first real breakout performance in WCS Montreal 2018. There, TIME eliminated HeRoMaRinE, Has, and Kelazhur on the road to a semifinal finish. Admittedly, he got slammed quite hard by Reynor, but it may not be a serious blemish considering that only Serral was up to the task of stopping the red-hot Italian at that tournament.
TIME's first group in WCS Americas features tricky opponents in Probe and Future, who will test the Chinese Terran and tell us if he can carry on as China's hope on the Circuit.
MaSa - 2018 Final Circuit Ranking: #20
MaSa didn't get any highlight moments at WCS 2018's Circuit stops (his best finish was top 16) but his prowess in North American Challenger tournaments suggests he could be a dangerous sleeper in WCS Americas. Infamously, he sent Scarlett spiraling out of Challenger (for WCS Austin) with his five-game proxy-bunker rush combo, and very nearly won the NA Challenger finals against Neeb with even more proxies. Even with the addition of players from assorted international regions, this could be the perfect environment for MaSa to thrive in.
Seither - 2018 Final Circuit Ranking: #21
The Australia/New Zealand scene has produced a steady string of WCS regulars such as Petraeus, PiG, iaguz and Probe. Now, Seither has been passed the baton, triumphing in two of the last four regional Challenger tournaments. With a return to regular WCS Circuit stops announced for the rest of the year, WCS Americas might be a rare one-off chance for Seither. He was eliminated in the RO32 in both of his Circuit appearances in 2018 but now he has a chance to distinguish himself without having to face the hardened veterans of Europe in his very first group... Hey, what's TLO doing here???
Has - 2018 Final Circuit Ranking: #7
Has is all flash and style with absolutely no substance.. or, at least, that's what we believed until he made the finals of WCS Valencia. It's potentially the most unexpected result of all time, and it's a result that makes even less sense in hindsight. It's not as though he made significant progress afterwards. He got an easy group in WCS Montreal before being knocked down to earth against TIME in a very messy series. His farewell to WCS 2018 came in a match against Dark at the Global Finals, where he cheesed his way to a massive advantage and then blew it in typical Has fashion.
Joke character, misunderstood genius, or sentient cheese elemental—call Has whatever you like, but his unique style makes him a must-watch player in StarCraft II.