The regional phase of DreamHack Masters Summer concluded with Clem winning his second straight European title while Neeb reclaimed the throne in North America.
Clem picked up right where he left off in 2020, a year where his consistent growth allowed him to overcome the power duo of Reynor and Serral in the Fall season. In the first competition of 2021, Clem took down Reynor two more times to retain his European title, while also extending his winning streak against Reynor to eight consecutive matches.
The first duel between the budding rivals was a nail-biting, wire-to-wire thriller in the upper bracket final, with the deciding brawl on Romanticide standing out as one of the best games (if not THE best) of the tournament (VOD). Unfortunately for Reynor, he was not able to put up the same kind of fight in the grand finals, with Clem coming out on top with a 4-1 victory (including a one map winners' bracket advantage). In keeping with many of their past battles, Widow Mines played a key part in Clem's victories. Though Reynor has shown he can be one of the most alert and responsive Zergs in the world—nowhere more notably than during his World Championship run in March—Clem's sheer speed and unrelenting aggression was enough to cause deadly lapses in Reynor's concentration. Some of Clem's games should have come with a graphic content warning for Zerg players, as he attained absurd resources lost ratios of two-to-one. Still, with some time to process the loss, Reynor was able to joke at his—and his Banelings'—own expense.
With such a convincing victory against Reynor in the finals, and a 10-1 overall record for the tournament, one has to wonder if the Zerg duopoly era in Europe is over, and it's going to be a one-man-show from here on out.
Clem's dominance in Europe makes his upcoming Season Finals (July 1-4) campaign all the more intriguing. His TvZ looks unrivalled throughout the entire world (standing at a ludicrous 3480 Aligulac rating at the time of writing)—even Code S champion Rogue might be considered an underdog, especially when playing outside of his favored environment. However, Clem's TvP and TvT have been shown to be 'merely' top-tier in comparison (GunGFuBanDa handed him his only loss of the season during the group stages), and the reason why he hasn't enjoyed any international success so far. A reserved Clem didn't give any guarantees, merely saying he is "definitely going to try to be as prepared as I can" for the tough opponents ahead. Will Clem finally overcome that final obstacle at the DH Summer Season Finals?
Speaking of obstacles, Clem didn't get a chance to take down Serral again in DH Europe—but only because Serral couldn't make it that far into the playoff bracket. Instead, the Finnish Phenom was relegated to playing the part of co-star in Lambo's story, as the German Zerg made a stunning run into the top three.
After losing to HeroMarine in the upper bracket, Lambo seemed doomed to go out in the top six, with Serral looming as his lower bracket opponent (Lambo had a 1-13 record against Serral headed into that match). Instead, Lambo brilliantly strategized his way to a 3-2 victory against his Zerg nemesis, clinching a game five victory with a fast gold mineral expansion on Blackburn. Lambo then continued to defeat HeroMarine in a lower bracket rematch, securing his top three finish—his best regional result in the EPT era.
The only reason it wasn't a top two finish (or higher) was due to a heartbreaking series against Reynor in the lower bracket finals. Lambo fought Reynor all the way to the fifth and final map, where he took an early lead with a clever Roach-Baneling all-in (masking his fast Roach Warren with a fake, normal-timing Roach Warren at his wall). However, Lambo committed too hard to trying to end the game with his initial advantage, which led to Reynor pulling off a series of improbable holds and eventually winning the game. As Reynor put it: "Damn, I'm dead. But then I wasn't dead."
Considering Lambo's strong performances for Shopify Rebellion in the World Team League, his best may be yet to come in July's Season Finals.
In North America, Neeb reclaimed his place as the region's top player with victories over his two primary challengers, first taking out Astrea in the winners bracket final before going on to topple Scarlett in the grand finals. The three players had established themselves as the region's power trio in 2020, finishing in the top three of all three seasons and each winning a championship a piece.
Overall, it was an extremely dominant run from Neeb, who went 10-0 in matches and 23-3 in maps. The typically staid Neeb was far more candid than usual about his motivation after winning the title, saying "I was really disappointed when I lost to Astrea last season… ...From then on, I was just determined to win back my [championship], just me being on top."
Unlike many had feared/anticipated, the grand finals between Neeb and Scarlett didn't involve any marathon turtle games. While Scarlett was able to take two maps with incisive all-ins, on the whole, Neeb looked like the stronger player who was able to win handily in the mid-game. Still, the tournament was Scarlett's best all-around showing in months, with her triumph over Astrea in the losers final staying fan concerns that North America might have become a two-player contest.
Fourth place went to NA stalwart Nina, who seems on track to displace Future as the potential interloper in the top three. The American Terran took a step back after an inspired 2020 campaign, failing to make it out of the group stages.
Clem, Reynor, Lambo, HeroMarine, Neeb and Scarlett will move on to represent their regions at the Summer Season Finals, where the final player roster will be as follows: