The WCS Circuit welcomed a new king as Reynor defeated Serral 4-2 in the grand finals of WCS Summer to end the Finnish Phenom's streak of major WCS Circuit championships at five. In lifting the trophy, the seventeen-year-old Italian Zerg avenged his 3-4 loss to Serral at 2018's WCS Montreal—a tournament where he could have won his first major title if he had not erred and allowed Serral to pull off an impossible comeback in game six. It seemed like Reynor would eventually get his due when he defeated Serral 4-3 in the finals of the trimmed-down 2019 WCS Winter: Europe tournament, but Serral's decisive 3-0 sweep of Reynor in the semis of last month's WCS Spring suggested that the Finn still reigned supreme in full-scale WCS Circuit events.
Indeed, the first three-and-a-half games made it look like Serral would easily put the upstart in his place. Having shown composure far beyond his age in the past, Reynor made the uncharacteristic error of forgetting Roach speed in both games one and three, which Serral ruthlessly punished for two easy victories (Reynor managed to take game two after fending off a two-base all-in from Serral). Serral looked like he was well on his way to a 3-1 series lead midway through game four, building a daunting late-game advantage with cunning counter-attacks and Nydus tactics. However, it only ended up setting the table for Reynor to repay Serral's incredible comeback from WCS Montreal with one of his own. With just one thing on his side—a larger 200/200 army due to having his Drones whittled away by Serral—Reynor gathered his forces and took Serral down with a desperation haymaker. "I tried the YOLO move, F2 A-move, and it worked." said a laughing Reynor in his post-finals interview.
The comeback seemed to swing all of the momentum in Reynor's favor, with Serral being the one looking uncharacteristically sloppy afterward. Game five went Reynor's way after Serral forced a disastrous Roach-Ravager vs Roach-Ravager fight into his opponent's awaiting army. Then, Reynor closed out the series in game six, with his handful of mid-game Mutalisks giving him just enough of an advantage to overwhelm Serral with a follow-up Roach-Ravager attack.
With his first WCS Circuit title (two, if including the ambiguously stationed WCS Winter: Europe), Reynor won $20,000 in prize money and a direct seed to the WCS Global Finals for his first place finish ([view WCS standings]). And, if anyone had previous balked at such an inexperienced youngster being dubbed the rival of the most dominant player in WCS Circuit history, then Reynor now seems to have fully earned that designation.
Serral's Streak Broken
For Serral, the loss marked the end of an unprecedented run of success that began in January of 2018 at WCS Leipzig. After defeating ShoWTimE to win his first WCS Circuit title, Serral went on to win four more for a consecutive total of five, blowing past Neeb's previous best of 3-of-4 titles in WCS 2017. Starting in WCS Leipzig 2018 and up until his loss to Reynor, Serral had won thirty-five consecutive matches in offline, combined-region WCS Circuit championships (excluding WCS Winter: Europe) with a total map record of 98-25.
In hindsight, the end of Serral's reign was portended at WCS Montreal 2018, and not just by his close call against Reynor in the finals. Lambo and Scarlett also took Serral to full-length series in the playoffs (Bo5's), and even the North American underdog JonSnow managed to steal a map. Although Protoss and Terran pros seemed resigned to losing against Serral, the top Zergs of the Circuit seemed to have a puncher's chance—something Reynor proved correct at WCS Europe: Winter.
Outside the few minutes after winning the 2018 WCS Global finals, Serral had always been understated and restrained in victory. In defeat, he was very much the same. After scratching his head and offering Reynor a congratulatory handshake, Serral left the stage. His subsequent Tweet suggested he was not especially perturbed: "Not this time, a bit sad about game 4 and 5 which I pucked up but otherwise a fine series."
With top Protoss players such as ShoWTimE and Neeb drawn into Serral's side of the bracket, WCS Summer became an opportunity for Reynor to reaffirm his ZvT chops. After taking out MarineLorD and uThermal in the group stage, Reynor took an impressive 3-1 victory over WCS Spring runner-up SpeCial in the quarterfinals. His come-from-behind victory on King's Cove was particularly notable, where he withstood constant pressure from SpeCial before finally assembling a late-game composition that could deal with the Terran's mech army. In the semis, Reynor defeated top EU Terran HeRoMaRinE, making up for an 0-3 loss at HomeStory Cup 19. Oddly enough, the tightest margin of victory for Reynor was a 3-2 against Nerchio in the round-of-sixteen, a point that the acerbic Polish Zerg was quick to point out after the grand finals.
The next offline event on the WCS Circuit will be ASUS ROG 2019 (August 1-3), with Reynor, Serral, and many of the top Circuit players competing alongside a handful of WCS Korea players. After that, GSL vs. The World is set to follow on August 15-18. The final WCS Circuit championship of the year will take place in Montreal during September 6-8 at WCS Fall.