NationWars 2019: The Grand Finaleby TheOneAboveU
Many countries have been left devastated and shamed—now only four remain to fight it out the for the NationWars championship in France. Italy and Finland have both been carried this far by their ace players, and remain full of confidence that it will be enough to take them over the finish line. On the other side of the bracket, France looks forward to fighting with a home advantage, and a chance to redeem themselves for an early exit in the last NW tournament. But they will be hard pressed to overcome defending title-holders South Korea, unless they can repeat the miracle of the NW3 finals where MarineLorD scored a legendary all-kill to crown France as champions.
Two semifinals full of tension and history await us, as new and old rivals clash. But there can only be two teams in the Grand Finals, and eventually we must have a single nation taking the championship. It’s perhaps StarCraft 2’s most defining rivalry, Europe versus Korea. The Koreans reconquered the World Championship at BlizzCon this year, so it will be up to Europe to strike back. Only one region can triumph.
There’s only one way to find out: watching the stream at O'Gaming.
Catch the Final Four live on Sunday, 8. December at 12:00 GMT (+00:00)!
Semifinal #1: Italy vs. FinlandItaly: Reynor (17-1, 2 All-kills) | Ryosis (2-3) | Ryu (1-4)
Finland: Serral (17-1, 2 All-kills) | ZhuGeLiang (2-3) | TheMusZero (1-5)
NW Match History: None
How apt it is that we've arrived here again: only one of Reynor and Serral can make it to the Nation Wars 2019 Grand Finals. And so, they will write the next chapter in the greatest rivalry of our times. This time, not merely is their personal pride on the line, but that of their countries as well. It’s quite fitting that Serral will be showing up late after attending the Finnish President’s Independence Day reception, making him as 'official' a representative of his country as any esports competitor will ever be. That's pretty damn cool—but it would be pretty damn embarrassing if Finland were to lose immediately after.
Obviously, this match-up is going to be decided by a several matches between Reynor and Serral (I guess there’s like a 0.5% chance that someone else takes a map from any of the two). But let’s put that on the shelf for a minute and talk about those other team members. For Italy, Ryosis and Ryu actually did some work in the early rounds, but since then they’ve been well outclassed, leaving all the carrying to Reynor. The Italian ace added another all-kill to his record against Mexico in the Ro8, finally punishing SpeCial for his crimes against Italian food culture (rightly and deserving so, I might add). For the Finns, things looked very similar so far, only that ZhuGeLiang actually won the battle of the mascots against the US, shutting down MCanning both in and outside of the game. TheMusZero on the other hand should perhaps stick to cannon rushing, instead of doing whatever he tried against Future, because it certainly didn’t work out very well. Overall I’d give Finland a slight advantage for their combined line-up, since ZhuGeLiang is a player with some offline experience under his belt—probably considerably more than Ryosis and Ryu—and has shown that he can keep a cool head in a playoff situation.
But, let’s be honest, what the other four players do will be more or less a side show to the main event (and we certainly can talk about this still being the case perhaps being a failure of the format after all is said and done), which is going to be the next iteration of Reynor versus Serral, this year’s defining rivalry in the foreign scene. Their last heated clash—heated not only due to the tropical location—at HomeStory Cup XX turned out to be another fantastic ZvZ duel which made even the most unenthusiastic viewers of the match-up glue to their screens. Serral, for the first time, had been somewhat eclipsed by the performance of his younger rival, who had just looked a bit better overall at the tournament, which was reflected in Serral coming into the Grand Finals from the losers’ bracket—a very rare sight indeed. One could not help but think that Serral, despite, naturally, dodging talking about it afterwards, was a bit agitated by the situation and had an angrier look on his face than usual as he went into the matches against Reynor. He was on the brink of losing the series a few times, but the Finnish Phenom proved he is still the top dog by winning first the Bo5, then the deciding Bo3 (his disadvantage for coming from the losers’ bracket was the requirement of having to win an additional Bo3 series to claim the title), which made his triumph all the more greater. This win not only avenged his defeat by Reynor’s hands at the BlizzCon semi-finals, but also gave him a 4-3 edge in their offline duels this year. Now, Reynor has the chance to once again equalize the statistics and carry the rivalry into 2020 on even scores.
Looking at the stats for this tournament alone, it’s a bit eerie exactly how close they are to each other: both of them have amassed a 17-1 record and two all-kills. Both of them also unexpectedly lost to a Protoss player in the Ro16, with Reynor being taken out by Nice, and Serral dropping a map to goblin. Interestingly, everyone’s favorite SC2 rating tool Aligulac gives Serral a rather high 62% chance of taking a Best of 1 against Reynor (growing to 68% for a Bo3). Meanwhile, the extremely scientific metric of "the community's gut feeling" tells us this is as close to 50/50 as possible.
Did I just write all that, simply to say it’s going to be very close? Yes. Yes, I did. It’s going to be close, guys—what else could it be with these two? Since you expect a prediction at the end of this, I’ll go with Finland solely because the numbers ever so slightly favor Serral and it might thus be the more objective prediction. I will say, however, that Reynor winning this round would spice the rivalry up even more, because the Italian seems to be living rent free in Serral's head, and we'd love to see this rivalry stay close and heated going forward.
Prediction: Finland to advance.
Semifinal #2: France vs. South KoreaFrance: Clem (13-3) | MarineLorD (6-4)| PtitDrogo (5-6)
South Korea: INnoVation (8-1) | soO (7-4) | Stats (5-4)
NW Match History: South Korea 0-5 France (NW3, Grand Finals)
Three years ago, almost to the day, the world of StarCraft 2 was shaken by one of the greatest upsets in the history of the game: MarineLorD all-killed the South Korean line-up in the Nation Wars 3 Grand Finals, bringing the title home to France for the first time, and in a fashion absolutely no one could have foreseen. It was the greatest triumph for the French community since the foreign scene’s domination by Stephano. But times have changed since then. In the last edition of Nation Wars, France couldn’t even qualify, while South Korea had a stranglehold over the tournament ever since their loss to the French. Once more lead by MarineLorD, come out of retirement just for this purpose, France looks to repeat the great miracle of 2016, this time playing live in their home country. As for the Koreans, they have the chance to clean up a black smear mark on their historical record, in a time when many doubt their status as the undisputed number-one StarCraft 2 nation on the planet.
And boy, looking back at that quarterfinal against Canada sure makes you see why. Sure, we knew this roster was more of a "B-team" before the tournament even started, but some of their performances have made them look like a group of third-stringers. Losing not one, but two maps to NoRegreT—a player whose aggressive style the Koreans should know all about since he's living in Korea and has played in Code S—could be called questionable and negligent, at best. Sure, they did eventually close the series out in what was very much a real team effort, with everyone contributing at least one win, but that's the bare minimum expectation from team Korea. It sure did not inspire any confidence headed into the upcoming semi-final. Had Scarlett had just a slightly better day, we might have already witnessed the upset of the tournament.
We can say the very opposite for France. A very close and hard fought series against a slightly favored German side was expected from them—instead they delivered a masterful performance that just fell short of entirely sweeping the German dream line-up. MarineLorD, though much diminished from his NW3 form, still made a massive contribution by winning his set against HeRoMaRinE. Then, Clem played right into his reputation as an aggressive whirlwind of a Terran and wrought a lane of devastation right through Lambo and ShoWTimE. As for PtitDrogo, he's been unremarkable so far, but he's bound to be preparing sniping builds for the Koreans (thus giving him a chance to empty his meme-bank). The French team now certainly has all the hype and momentum they could wish for after such a fantastic result. The home setting may improve morale, but it could also add some extra pressure to the equation as well.
Lest one read too deeply into Korea's near-loss to the Canadians, they've historically been prone to f***ing up in the online stage of the tournament. They lost to Mexico in the group stages before winning the NW5 title, and suffered a similar online loss to Canada before winning NW4. Korea's NW3 finals loss to France was also entirely online. The Koreans will have had ample time to adjust to jetlag and new locale, so the French will face a full-strength Korean side with no excuses to make. INnoVation, who contributed most to the team’s efforts so far, is the only player who was also present at the great French victory in 2016, having himself fallen to MarineLorD in that Grand Final. Although there is a chance he may not even remember that series, I’d like to believe he’ll do everything in his power to mend this wound on the nations’—and his own—pride. And, though I may have painted a rather pessimistic picture of the Korean team so far, I think their chances here are actually pretty good. Their entire trio performed pretty well at HomeStory Cup XX, with INnoVation taking third place, but perhaps more importantly with soO and Stats both running all over Clem in the group stage.
The French hope did reach the bracket stage at Tropical Island, but the only Korean to be defeated by him on the way there was Bunny, who was also the only Korean to not make it out of the groups. Stats, soO, Zest, and Trap all decisively beat Clem. So although the hype about his great games against the Germans does give him a lot of élan, he really hasn’t proven himself against the South Koreans. Yet. This may, of course, be his grand break out moment. He may well be the MarineLorD of 2016 reincarnated and lead France to another triumph—but one shouldn’t count on it. The Frenchmen remain very much the underdogs here, as well as in a potential Grand Final. Which, in a way, makes the story perfect, because everyone loves a scrappy underdog—especially when it’s the home team, two of the other teams are lead by overpowering superstars, and the third team comes from the most successful country in competitive SC2 history. If this was a Hollywood sports movie, they’d absolutely win in the most dramatic and tear-inducing manner possible (well, probably not, because Hollywood would never let the French win. In a [whatever the French version of Hollywood is] movie, I mean).
However, StarCraft II isn't a movie, and the storybook protagonists usually just get their faces caved in. So, despite appreciating the feel-good story of the French, I predict the Koreans will take this one and march into another NationWars finals. You won’t find more experienced offline players than them, and in a way they have something to prove here as well: they have to mend a somewhat cracked reputation, they have to win for all the fans that voted for them to represent their country—the undeniably greatest StarCraft 2 country in history. Sometimes, the world just needs to be reminded of that fact.
Prediction: South Korea to advance.
The Grand Finals: Which is greater, man or nation?Of course, there is no way to be absolutely certain how this Grand Final is going to shape up exactly. The stories between the two bracket sides are quite different, though, and one can’t help but perhaps root for the winner of France and South Korea to take the title. The match between Finland and Italy, which essentially are one-man teams, carried this far by their lone star players, boils down to a personal rivalry, which is exciting and indeed desirable in a 1v1 competition. Isn’t, though, the spirit of Nation Wars much better encapsulated in the team efforts of France and South Korea, who all made it so far on the backs of collective performances?
Not to take anything away from Finnish or Italian fans reading this and watching the tournament, but does anyone really believe Finland or Italy to be the best countries at StarCraft 2, simply because they each have produced a single great player? It’s the age old question we have asked since the very first edition of Nation Wars, and it’s probably a question we will continue to debate in the future, hinging on many other factors, like what our definition of ‘the best’ is, or if NationWars’ goal even is to find the best StarCraft 2-playing nation in the world.
What is clear, is that in the current format one-man nations continue to be a bit favored over countries with deeper line-ups, which may not have as high a peak—again, whether this is good or bad is up to everyone to decide for themselves. As such, this Grand Final will very much a battle between these two ideologies, and I’d give the advantage to the winner of Italy and Finland to take the tournament over France or South Korea based on this. But perhaps StarCraft 2's big competitions in 2019 will end with juggernaut Serral being taken down by the combined strength of the Korean players who have taken him out in international tournaments this year? Or perhaps the other players of Finland and Italy will indeed prove that this is a team tournament, and tip the scales in a major way.
Credits and acknowledgements
Written by: TheOneAboveU
Written by: TheOneAboveU