Trap Wins DreamHack Masters: Last Chanceby Wax
Winter has brought the winds of change to the realm of StarCraft II, forcing us to rethink what we know of factional balance and competitive parity inside the professional scene. Reputations, too, are being altered. Trap was once a symbol of failure in the finals, with his six consecutive finals defeats all but anointing him as the heir apparent soO's legacy (Trap's championship at MLG Anaheim 2014 was unfairly forgotten). In the span of just two months, Trap has transformed his infamy into glory, winning three championships at NeXT Winter, Super Tournament 2, and most recently, DreamHack: Last Chance. That last triumph affirmed Trap's position as not only a champion, but as a killer in the clutch. Trailing 1-3 in the finals against Serral—a foe he had never defeated in eight prior meetings—Trap pulled off a dramatic comeback to clinch the 4-3 victory.
While the shifting SC2 landscape had seen Serral struck down several times toward the end of 2020, he looked well on his way to restoring his imperious reputation in the lead-up to the DreamHack: Last Chance finals. A group stage loss to Solar reinforced recent doubts about his ZvZ ability, but he utterly dominated his Protoss and Terran opponents. Serral took 2-0 victories against ShoWTimE and Stats in the group stage, and then scored 3-0 sweeps over ByuN and TY in the lead up to the finals. Meanwhile, Trap entered the tournament as the top Protoss player in the scene, but not someone who appeared to be heads and shoulders above his peers. He escaped a tough RO16 group with ByuN, Rogue, and PartinG in 2nd place (with a 5-4 map record), and then squeezed by Solar with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals. Trap got a minor reprieve in the semifinals, taking a 3-1 victory over Clem—his only series of the tournament that didn't go the distance. Given Trap's record in grand finals and his head-to-head record against Serral, it seemed like the Finnish Phenom would wash off the stain of his recent defeats with another championship.
Serral set an ominous tone for Trap in game one on Pillars of Gold, using a Drop-Overlord assisted Queen-Ravager attack to raze Trap's third and then snowball his lead into an easy win. Game two was even more demoralizing for Trap, who lost despite scouting and parrying Serral's 12 pool-opener on Jagannatha. It was a situation Trap said a progamer "should not lose" from, but Serral seemed unperturbed as he transitioned into a macro game and crushed Trap with a combination of Swarm Hosts, Ravagers, and Queens.
Trap grabbed onto a small sliver of hope in game three on Romanticide, where he decided to pull out the 2-Stargate Void Ray opener for the first time. For a moment, it seemed like both players were planning for a more protracted game, but the game ended abruptly when Trap struck with a moderately-sized force of Zealots, Archons, and Void Rays. Trap caught Serral at a vulnerable moment after a Spire transition, and hastily produced Corruptors and Roaches weren't enough to stop the Protoss force.
Just as it seemed like Trap had opened the series up, the wind got knocked out of his sails in a hectic game on Lightshade. The game got out of hand quickly for Trap after he lost one of his early-game Oracles, and he was eventually left with no choice but to go for an all-or-nothing Zealot-Archon attack. Serral was more than prepared, playing defensively with Roaches to seize the 3-1 lead. At that point, you could have hardly blamed any fans who turned the stream off. But the majority of them stayed, and they were rewarded by being able to witness one of the great finals comebacks in StarCraft II history.
The rally started on Deathaura, where Trap went back to the 2-Stargate Void Ray opener that had won him his only map up to that point. Serral responded by winding up for a huge mid-game Hydra-Ling-Bane strike, which he had used to knock out many Protosses in tournaments prior. However, Trap's defenses proved to be more resolute than that of any opponent Serral had faced thus far (even Stats, the famed 'Shield of Aiur'), and the waves of Zerg units broke upon Trap's Archons, Storms, and Shield Batteries. Trap was able to complete the Protoss death-army of Carriers, Archons, Templars, and Zealots, which melted Serral's Hydra-centric swarm and forced a GG.
Serral brought out a 12-Pool build once more on Submarine, but this time, Trap was ready with an adjustment. In a post-match interview with interview with Crank on the Korean stream, Trap revealed that Armani, DRG, and Solar had advised him not to follow-up a 12-pool defense with Stargate as he had on Jagannatha, but to instead pressure the Zerg with Twilight Council tech. The Korean brain-trust turned out to be correct, as Trap was able to keep Serral in check with Glaive-Adepts followed by his signature Disruptor drops. This flowed neatly into a mid-game attack with a motley but deadly assortment of Protoss units, and Serral was made to pay a fatal price for daring to pump out an extra round of Drones.
Just like that, in the span of two games, a series that had seemed all but over had become anyone's to take. The finals headed to Oxide for the deciding duel, with Trap choosing to go for the 2-Stargate Void Ray opener once more. Later, in the post-match interviews, Trap would say that the ineffectiveness of Oracle play (in part due to latency) had left Void Ray openers as his only option, which he intended to ride or die with until the end. And, once again, Serral opted to try and land a killing blow with Hydra-Ling-Bane, having no intent of letting his opponent assemble an invincible Carrier fleet.
Unfortunately for Serral, this was exactly what Trap wanted. The Korean PvZ meta had laid bare the weaknesses of Void Ray openers, but it was in earlier Hydra-Ling timings or Queen-centric all-ins—not in the delayed Hydra-Ling-Bane attacks Serral was going for. Those kinds of attacks, Trap was confident in holding off with an abundance of static defense structures. Serral, after being on the cutting edge of Zerg play for so long, had no choice but to learn the hard way that Korean PvZ was ahead of the curve on this particular matter. Trap matched Serral's deluge of Hydras, Banelings, and Queens with an even fiercer torrent of Psionic Storms, clearing the way for him to assemble the ultimate late-game Protoss force. After a failed last-ditch attack, Serral knew it was all over. He surrendered his fourth and final GG, crowning Trap as the DreamHack: Last Chance champion.
As I mentioned after Dark won TSL6, the tournament results of the last four months show that the pro-StarCraft II scene is returning to its old normal: an intensely competitive scene where any number of title contenders could win a given tournament. While Trap spoke to how important luck is to winning a tournament under such circumstances (or any circumstance), the fact that he's the only player to cut through the chaos and win three major titles speaks volumes to his quality.
Still, Trap isn't satisfied. Regardless of the criteria a TL.net writer uses to call a tournament a "major" or Liquipedia editors use to bestow "Premier" status, fans and progamers know there's a more meaningful, implicitly acknowledged tier of tournaments that lies above. In his conversations with Crank, Trap admitted that to feel like a true champion, he'd have to win a tournament with 30,000,000 Won or more on the line in the finals—effectively meaning only GSL Code S or IEM Katowice. While I admire Trap's candor and hunger, I'd still implore him to take a second to appreciate this moment. Sure, he may not be the undisputed best player in the world, or even a true champion in his own eyes. But, at least for the moment, he sure as hell is StarCraft II's biggest winner.