WCS Fall Preview: Who Will Join the Final Eight?By: Soularion and Wax
The final WCS Circuit event of the year will soon be held at WCS Fall/Montreal, which means it's time to look into the Circuit standings and see who's in contention for those precious WCS Global Finals spots. As the winner of the tournament gets an automatic seed, it is theoretically possible for anyone to qualify. However, if last year's event is anything to go by, it's more likely that we'll have our eyes glued to a bloody battle for the #8 seed.
WCS Fall will awards WCS points as follows:
- 1st: Seed & 3000 points.
- 2nd: 1400 points
- 3rd-4th: 900 points
- 5th-8th: 600 points
- 9th-16th: 300 points
- 17th-32nd: 100 points
The LocksThese players have already secured their Global Finals spots, either by winning seed-giving tournaments throughout the season or having earned enough points to be mathematically confirmed.
Serral (#1): 7200 Circuit points - WCS Spring champion.
As expected, Serral is on top of the mountain as the current #1 player in the WCS Circuit. Yet, Serral's Circuit dominance hasn't been nearly as extreme as in 2018, where he finished with 10,000 more points than second place ShoWTimE. In WCS 2019, Serral might actually cede the #1 seed from the Circuit to Reynor, should the upstart Italian win the championship at WCS Fall. That's a real possibility, considering Reynor's triumph over Serral at the previous WCS Summer tournament (if Reynor didn't falter at mixed-region events such as IEM Katowice and Assembly Summer, this would be an even tighter race for the #1 seed). So while the brawl for the #8 seed might be the headline attraction at WCS Fall due to the heightened stakes and sense of desperation, don't be surprised if the Reynor vs Serral rivalry ends up stealing the show once more.
Reynor (#2): 5965 WCS points - WCS Summer champion
It was extremely impressive to see Reynor live up to the hype from WCS 2018 and be so successful in his first FULL year as a WCS Circuit player. It was reasonable to think he would be good, but few would have expected him to become a legitimate threat to Serral on the Circuit.
Yet, Reynor still trails Serral by a significant number of points, despite having actually won more Circuit events this year. While the aforementioned international tournaments played a significant role, the extremely top-heavy WCS points system also led to this result. Serral ousting Reynor in the semifinals of WCS Spring and going on to win the championship opened up a massive 2100 point chasm. Reynor couldn't have caught up even if Serral straight-up forfeited both WCS Summer and Fall events while Reynor placed top four at each. One has to wonder if this is the right way to structure a point format. It certainly seems to favor unexpected, miracle runs over sheer consistency. Has fans might find nothing wrong with this, but perhaps it's something for pro-players and Blizzard to mull over after the season.
Neeb (#3) : 4650 WCS points
The Liquipedia wizards have determined Neeb to be a mathematical lock to qualify for the WCS Global Finals, regardless of the outcome of WCS Fall.
There's some validity to saying Neeb accomplished this by being the king of a weak region. He started the year by picking up 1600 points for winning WCS Winter: Americas, and then won a combined 600 points by sweeping all three NA Challenger final after. However, it must also be noted that Neeb also picked up 950 points at international events, second only to Serral among Circuit players. Furthermore, his top four and top eight finishes at WCS Spring and Summer still rate as some of the better results on the Circuit, matched or surpassed by only by Serral, Reynor, SpeCial, and ShoWTimE. Even if one quibbles with some of the specifics in the process of Neeb's qualification, it's hard to argue with the end result.
In a SpeCial-tier of His Own
SpeCial (#4): 2925 WCS points
While the Liquipedia cabal hasn't given Global Finals certification to SpeCial yet, it seems like he's virtually assured a spot. Even if he didn't win a single map at WCS Fall, it would take a highly unlikely sequence of events for him to drop out of the top eight in the final Circuit standings. All of the TIME, HeRoMaRinE, ShoWTimE, Elazer, Scarlett pack would have to make deep runs, finish the tournament in a specific order, and also magically play in a bracket where they didn't eliminate each other too early.
Of course, SpeCial's tidy sum of points was built on his runner-up finish at WCS Spring, combined with a steady stream of points from winning Copa America (Latin American Challenger/qualifiers). While SpeCial is already close to being qualified for the Global Finals, it doesn't seem like he'll be taking it easy. He recently had a great showing at GSL vs. The World (finally defeating Reynor and losing a close series against Classic), and he could very well end up being the player who dashes the BlizzCon dreams of others.
Not Entirely Out of the Woods
TIME(#5) : 2565 WCS points.
With just a top sixteen finish, TIME might confirm his spot at the Global Finals.
The fact that TIME has risen to become a player of such stature is one of the most unexpected Circuit happenings of the year. Yes, he did make one hell of a run to the semifinals of WCS Montreal last year, but we've seen plenty of one-time-only runs from Circuit players. TIME has actually become more skilled and more consistent over the course of 2019, and he's legitimately in the conversation for top foreign Terran. While he hasn't replicated his top four run on the Circuit yet, he's consistently earning top eight finishes and using his regional Challenger tournament as a points ATM (not quite Serral tier, but getting there). In the end, visa issues might be the scariest obstacle for TIME and his quest to play at the Global Finals.
HeRoMaRinE (#6): 2380 WCS points.
Another consistently strong player is HeRoMaRinE, who recovered from a slow start to the year by finishing top four at WCS Summer. It could very well have been top two, as he just barely lost 2-3 to Reynor in the semifinals. Similar to TIME, even a top sixteen finish could secure HeRoMaRinE a Global Finals spot, though he'd be a lot more comfortable with top eight. Often a doormat for Korean players in the past, HeRoMaRinE's improved showings at Assembly Summer and GSL vs. The World show that he might be more than group-stage fodder should he earn a Global Finals return.
The Battle RoyaleOkay, this is where things get interesting.
ShoWTimE (#7): 2285 WCS points
It's a shame to see ShoWTimE, one of the early stars of LotV and symbols for the success of the region-lock system, to get swallowed up in the merciless competition of the European scene. He's no longer a half-tier above his peers—he's clawing and scratching for a chance to play in his third career Global Finals.
This year, he was hurt by having a weak WCS Winter: Europe tournament where the EU-Zerg collective prevented him from making the playoffs. Now he stands in an uncomfortable position where Elazer, Scarlett, and even PtitDrogo are nipping at his heels. Top eight would make ShoWTimE relatively safe, but it's not outlandish to think both Elazer and PtitDrogo could make very deep runs and overtake him given their good tournament performances as of late.
Elazer (#8): 2060 WCS points
Currently sitting on the bubble is Elazer, who doesn't look entirely secure in eighth place despite his run to the finals of GSL vs. The World (alas, that tournament awards no points). Outside the aforementioned result, Elazer's 2019 has been the epitome of good-but-not-great, making top eight runs at every Circuit event—exactly what you'd expect from the #8 ranked Circuit player.
Interestingly enough, Elazer was eliminated in the group stage of EU Challenger just a week before going on to place runner-up at GSL vs. The World. One must wonder: Which one is the real Elazer? Challenger Elazer would lose out on BlizzCon for a third straight year, but GSL vs. The World Elazer could actually enter the Global Finals as a top four seed.
Scarlett (#9): 1830 WCS points
While Scarlett's own inconsistency prevented her from reaching the Global Finals in 2018, it might be inconsistent rules that she rues most in 2019. An experimental ruling was implemented by Blizzard for exactly one tournament cycle this year, forcing Scarlett to pick between Code S Season 1 or WCS Spring Challenger. Scarlett picked GSL Code S, and subsequently declined to compete in WCS Spring at all. Would it have been reasonable for Scarlett's team to have flown her to compete in the open bracket at WCS Spring (which she was still eligible), or for her to pay her own way as a self-investment (akin to Koreans going to the IEM Katowice open)? It's useless to ponder the answer now, because the points are already gone.
Last year, many fans thought Scarlett performed below her skill-level at WCS events, choking away her shot at the Global Finals. This time around, she has a chance to do the reverse: put in a clutch performance, defy expectations, and prove that class is eternal by securing her first Global Finals spot.
Dark Horses and Long Shots
PtitDrogo (#10): 1635 WCS points
After finishing 35th in the 2018 Circuit standings, PtitDrogo has emerged as a sneaky Global Finals dark horse in WCS 2019. Most of his points came from his fourth place at WCS Winter EU—after that he's failed to get past the top sixteen at WCS Spring and Summer.
PtitDrogo isn't in a position where he can hope people above him fail, because that would be hoping for the complete collapse of the existing WCS order. What he needs is to go on an run of individual brilliance like in WCS Winter, once again reaching the top four. Unlikely? Of course. But it's still more likely than the #1 to #9 ranked players getting food poisoning at the same time (well, unless you knew someone in catering...). There is some cause for optimism—PtitDrogo played well to defeat HeRoMaRinE and ShoWTimE in the latest EU Challenger, and pushed Reynor to five maps as well. Perhaps there's a Rogue-like run left in the roguish Protoss.
MaSa (#11): 1445 WCS points
MaSa needs to thank Blizzard for the creation of WCS Winter AM, where he earned over half his points with a top three finish (he defeated a still-growing TIME in the playoffs). After that, he's only picked up 300 points from actual WCS Circuit championships and 270 from WCS NA Challenger. Those 300 points? He acquired them by defeating JonSnow (#42), Kas (#62), and SKillous (#58) to finish top sixteen at WCS Spring. Oof...
MaSa must now reach the top four at least, combined with a number of people above him failing to perform well. Unfortunately, the last time he reached the top four of an EU+NA Circuit tournament was in 2016. Maru Kim better load up on the cheeses and hope he can execute them as well as the other Maru, because he now needs to pull off the biggest underdog run in WCS Circuit history.
Lambo (#12): 1375 WCS points
Lambo's WCS Summer doomed him. His top sixteen finish at WCS Spring wasn't great, but getting shockingly 3-0'd by Harstem after an early upset against DnS put him out in the top 32 in the Summer, earning him only 100 points.
Despite not having as many points as PtitDrogo or MaSa, Lambo does have two advantages in trying to make an miracle happen. First off, he's an EU Zerg, able to wield the double-edged sword of European ZvZ against some of the toughest players in the tournament including Serral, Reynor, and Elazer.
Furthermore, the dude's just lucky. Lambo actually managed to qualify for the 2018 Global Finals out of an eerily similar position, where he was #13 in the rankings headed into WCS Montreal 2018. While he reached the top four through his own skill, a ridiculous sequence of events had to ensue for uThermal, Reynor, and Scarlett to be eliminated ahead of him. If Lambo somehow manages to squeeze through again, we're declaring luck to be his literal superpower and picking him to win BlizzCon.