2019 WCS Global FinalsSixteen players entered the group stages in Seoul, South Korea, but only eight have survived to continue their WCS Global Finals journey at BlizzCon. Now, there will be no more second chances as we enter the single elimination phase of the tournament.
Playoff Bracket Predictions
The entire competitive year has boiled down to this. Who will emerge victorious on November 1st and claim StarCraft II's grandest prize? TL.net's writers offered their predictions. Let us know what you think in the comments!
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasyby TheOneAboveU
Man, this bracket is redder than the eastern front in 1945, and just like back then, it looks very much like the red flood will continue its surge until unconditional surrender is given. Let's be honest, the chances of a Zerg—one Zerg in particular—winning this tournament are incredibly high. And while it's going to be a deserved victory, it's going to be a bit of a tainted one, in my opinion. Whoever wins this BlizzCon won't exactly be Sniper, but they may perhaps be a RorO: not someone carried by imbalance alone, but a genuinely great player using the full strength of their race.
Having mused a bit on that, let's take a look at my bracket, which is partly realistic, partly stuff of my dreams.
An all-Zerg top four seems like a real possibility here, although the Ro8 are hardly locks for the buggy boys. Looking at how much Trap struggled in his narrow win against Elazer in the Ro16, I don't like his chances. I think Classic vs. Rogue might actually be the closer match, even if Rogue looked dominant in his Ro16 ZvP matches. We'll be looking to Dark vs. Maru to deliver ZvT greatness, and it's going to be incredibly interesting which styles Dark brings to the table. It feels like he's tried to use literally every single Zerg comp in his recent GSL runs—only one of the thousand reasons I love him so much. But yeah, Dark at his core is a smasher of dreams, and I really want him to smash the particularly stupid dream of a Serral vs. Maru match. Because while it might have been good in 2018, I really don't see the appeal anymore: Serral would roll over Maru in his current form. So yeah, it would be great if we could get over that finally.
Now, in the ensuing ZvZ extravaganza, which may have a lot of people tuning out (which would be pretty sad but inevitable), I think Serral easily dispatches of Reynor. While the Italian was able to compete with the Finnish Phenom from time to time this year, their last few clashes were rather one-sided.
So, here's kind of where I want to depart from reality, and go into the land of my dreams: Dark takes revenge on Rogue and goes to the final, where he will stun every European Zerg/Lambo and his extended family/expert/fan with a completely new brand of Korean ZvZ he's developed and kept in reserve for this very moment....
Serral is clearly the favourite in every ZvZ, but I want Dark to take the title, so there you have it. Obviously, him being the smasher of dreams could also mean that he'll just smash my dream of him winning. That would be a weird bit of prioritization from Dark, but it seems to happen quite often; it's kind of an abusive relationship, honestly.
100% Accurate Prediction Guaranteedby Olli
I find this bracket very hard to predict. But after my profound prognostic performances last year and during this year's group stage (admittedly much easier), I am confident in my crystal ball abilities. Now that I've got my gloating out of the way, on to predictions!
Right from the start, though, I find myself doubting my own picks. Make no mistake, Serral is a much better player than soO. Easy, right? But there's a case to make for soO here. Playing BO5+ ZvZ series with some preparation time is the one thing soO has always been excellent at, no matter his form. Up until a couple of years ago soO was regarded as the clear, undisputed best ZvZer of all time, and that class came through when he defeated Serral at IEM Katowice. But as much as I hate conformity I can't in good conscience predict a soO victory. Serral is the new master of ZvZ and should prove to be too good for soO in a longer series. This was, however, the hardest and most important series for me to predict — if Serral wins it I see him taking BlizzCon again.
Reynor and Trap make for another close pairing, but after seeing Trap's play against Rogue and Elazer, I believe Reynor will edge him out. Trap's weakness, if I had to pick one, is a slight lack of killer instinct and some degree of predictability. In some ways he has taken on the mantle of previous Protoss players like Rain and HotS-Zest. Beautifully crisp transitions and excellent decision-making make Trap one of the most elegant players in the world. But much like Rain and Zest did, he still has to add a certain cutting edge to his game to go from contender to champion. A cutthroat approach to PvZ is absolutely necessary in this current metagame, especially against Reynor who is even better at getting to the later stages of the match-up than Elazer. Unfortunately, I can't see Trap finding enough ways to end Reynor before he hits critical mass, which is why I see the Italian winning the series.
Perhaps the biggest upset I see happening is Classic defeating Rogue. While not exactly convincing in the group stage, Classic is one of the best preparation format players we have left. The meticulous analysis of opponents and planning of series has become a bit of a lost art, but Classic still has that ability. That should help him tremendously against a player like Rogue who, while himself is often volatile, is an excellent late-game player. Classic already showed keen killer instinct to defeat Rogue 3-2 during their Code S duel earlier this year. I expect we'll see a frantic series with both players trying to trick each other—a game that Classic should be happy to play as it keeps Rogue away from Brood Lord-Infestor.
And finally, I've got Dark beating Maru. Both are excellent players, but Maru is a notorious slouch in weekend tournaments, which he proved last BlizzCon and yet again with a surprising loss to TIME last weekend. The current state of balance also does him no favors, while Dark has proven very capable of playing a variety of styles. He's especially competent in weird, early-game scenarios, which means that even cheeses and timing-attacks can only help Maru so much. Ironically I see Maru as the better lategame player, but that in itself shows that this series might be a bit of a mismatch.
The bracket I see as rather straight forward from there. Serral and Reynor regularly do battle in WCS, with the Finn holding the better record recently—I don't expect that to change. Classic will give his absolute all against Dark before the military assimilates him and turns him into just another brick in the wall, but this too is a mismatch in Dark's favor, for much the same reasons as Dark's previous series. Classic will dig up the Protoss bulls*** bible and pull out even the dustiest builds if necessary, but Dark is more solid than Rogue is. He won't fall for that sort of game (at least not three times), and will see himself through to the finals.
Finally, I see the tournament ending in another mismatch, with Dark on the receiving end this time. Serral is the much better ZvZer between the two in my opinion, and ultimately the best player in the world by some distance. I can see Dark taking a map or two off him, but not an entire best-of-seven. And thus Serral wins back-to-back BlizzCon titles.
Hope + Reality = ???by Orlok
Funnily enough, while Serral should and probably will dominate soO in the first match of the day, a tiny voice in my mind keeps screaming about the potential for an upset. soO fans will know by now his one continuing saving grace through all the good years and bad was the Zerg mirror. No matter where he stood in terms of form or meta-adaptability, ZvZ has been the rock upon which his legacy was built. While reality screams that Serral will pummel soO, I wouldn't be totally surprised if soO repeats his Katowice miracle.
Reynor vs Trap should be close, if only because Reynor has been rather iffy against Korean opposition all year. While Trap himself said he hasn't found an answer for the rampant powers of Zerg, he's still a tenacious and strong enough all-around player to make this even. If I have one quibble with Trap, it's his inability to close out. I don't doubt he could get past the first round, but if he does beat Reynor I don't see him making much headway against Serral.
If you asked me just one GSL season ago, I would have said this one was a toss-up. Classic had shown his ability to destabilize his opponents with carefully crafted builds, and had even taken out Rogue and Dark in Code S. However, Rogue has waxed while Classic has waned. While I don't want to keep harping about Zerg being a tad stronger than normal, I can't see Classic, within the confines of a best of five, actually manage to cheese his way through against Rogue. At the peak of his powers, Rogue can just about play or counter any style, so I see him winning easily.
I'm picking Maru to defeat Dark purely on heart. My head says Dark should take it—Maru was shaky in his groups, he's got a lot of history going against him when it comes to weekenders. Ironically, it's not Maru's fabled mid-game micro which wins him games against top opponents—it's his smothering late-game that shines through against championship contenders. Dark has smothered Maru's mid-game pushes since all the way back in Heart of the Swarm days, and the late-game seems to go to whoever the meta favors. Because I'm a biased Terran player and I can't handle an all-Zerg semis, I'm begging Maru to play at his absolute peak level and prove this prediction correct.
From there, it's actually relatively simple to predict the rest of the matches. Serral has had Reynor's number recently, recovering from the year's early losses to the Italian. Reynor could put up a tough fight, but I see the end result of Serral winning as inevitable. Rogue and Maru for me falls into the same logic as Dark and Maru. Rogue should win since he's peaking and Maru even in his prime runs was always challenged the hardest by his teammates, but for the sake of having a non-mirror final, I'm betting all my chips on Maru winning and inadvertently giving us the Serral-Maru match we all asked for last year. The end result is probably a blowout by Serral, who just has no weakness I can reasonably point to and say that his reign will win. After picking Maru with my heart in the past two rounds, this is one line I can't cross.
A Terran Can Dreamby Ziggy
We've got to a point where even Zerg players themselves (or at least the sensible among them) are budging, admitting the game's balance is clearly skewed in their favor. The foreign scene has lived under the yoke of Zerg for nearly two years, with eight of the nine WCS Circuit championships in 2018 and 2019 having been snatched right from under the noses of the two remaining races of the Koprulu sector. The Land of the Morning Calm, however, has only recently come to relive the horror of Wings of Liberty-esque Broodlord-Infestor, as two Code S titles and a Super Tournament were claimed by the swarm.
Balance complaining is at a fever pitch, with progamers and fans alike taking to social media and community sites to make both legitimate complaints and sarcastic wisecracks. And, while I do share the concerns expressed by the angry mob, I've found myself able to look on the bright side. All of this HAS to be coming together for an epic BlizzCon storyline and a universally-accepted ascension to Bonjwahood. Yes, I'm talking about Maru.
There are only so many things one can achieve in competitive SC2. Some are happy just getting the chance to compete on TV. For most, winning a tournament feels like a rite of passage and a realistic end-goal to crown their career. What could someone like Maru realistically have left to cross off his bucket list? He's an OSL Royal Roader, got that at the tender age of 16. He's matched Mvp's record of four GSL Code S titles, even going a step further and making sure they were back to back titles. He's the highest earning player in terms of winnings, just $15k shy of $800k. He has a WESG title under his belt, an SSL; add to that his record-breaking Proleague statistics and the 2014 Rookie of the Year award and one could claim Maru has virtually completed multiplayer.
Well, except for that BlizzCon title.
Dream Match: Confirmedby Destructicon
Starting at the top of the bracket we’ll have a veritable ZvZ clash of the titans. In years past I’d have undoubtedly banked on soO's legendary ZvZ to prevail. But this match-up promises to be a lot closer now. Serral has had to clash a lot with Reynor and adapt to his weird antics, which seems to only have made him stronger as an all-around ZvZ player. soO has also suffered a few more defeats lately in ZvZ, and it seems like that hunger for winning might have been sated just enough to dull his edge. However a part of me still can't shake the feeling soO still has that spark of brilliance in him and, if he could summon it once more, he could pose a serious threat to Serral.
Both Reynor and Trap have grown a lot as players this year and have posted some of the best results of their careers. Reynor split the WCS circuit with Serral, winning Winter and Summer while even downing the head honcho himself. Trap, while having not won Code S, still posted his best results in Korea with back to back Code S finals. Thus it feels only fitting that they’d clash here. And while Reynor could be argued to have overcome some of his poor vs. Korean performances in the group stage (3-1 vs herO), I still think Trap is overall the better series planner. Trap can do cheeses, mid-game timings, and macro and he has the execution to back it up, so I just don't see him losing to Reynor.
Quarterfinal #3 is the toughest one to predict for a number of reasons. While Classic only has one championship to his name this year in the first GSL Super Tournament, he has placed high in all other events. Rogue, on the other hand simply exploded back to prominence late this year after lying dormant. Both Classic and Rogue have proven that they can be deadly in BO5 series. While I’d give Classic the edge in preparation, I think Rogue does an overall better job at noticing his opponent's weaknesses and just trying to abuse that mid-series. But I don't think this will phase Classic—having just barely obtained permission to travel abroad one last time, he'll do everything in his power to not waste this shot. As usual, his best bet will be to mind-game Rogue and get him off balance, striking before Rogue can execute his gameplan.
In more recent times Dark and Maru have usually produced long, drawn out series, going blow for blow in macro with the occasional cheese mixed in. Their clash at Blizzcon has the potential to be epic. The two opponents are very closely matched, with Maru having dominated most of 2018, but the pendulum seems to have swung more towards Dark now, especially if you go by their Super Tournament result. Maru has had the unfortunate tendency to cool down towards the end of the year. However, I think Maru will bring his A-game for this series and will just edge out Dark.
Moving onto the semifinals, I think Trap may just not have enough strategies left for his match against Serral after taking on Reynor. Serral is just on another level—he's already great against 'normal' harassment and all-in's, so what could Trap hope to do without a Serral-specific gameplan? In the other match, I think if Maru can get past Dark, he'll have a good shot at making he finals. Even though he suffered a devastating defeat against Trap in the semis of the last Code S, Maru has had time to shore up his TvP. Maru has also got the better of Classic earlier this year, and that was before the EMP buff.
If we end up with a Serral vs Maru finals like I'm predicting, I think they will be very closely matched. Both players are used to early game shenanigans, both have extremely strong macro, are both used to playing the late-game and have multi-tasking to run circles around almost everyone else. The two will probably trade blows across the early and late game but I think Maru has a small lead here. I feel like Serral just doesn't face many high caliber Terrans often enough, and of the few Terrans he faces, none are really like Maru. If Maru plays like someone who's willing to pay the price of having his wrists explode, he can bring a level of multi-tasking and aggression that could grind even Serral down at the end of a seven-game series.
Going Chalkby Wax
Who are all these kids predicting with their hearts? We all know what's gonna happen.