DreamHack Masters Winter: Season FinalsJust one more group remains before the DHM Winter Finals heads to the quarterfinal round. Serral and Maru look like heavy favorites to clinch the final two playoff tickets, but perhaps ShoWTimE and Nice can throw a wrench (a type of tOoL, by the way) into the proceedings?
RO16 - Group D Preview: Serral, Maru, Nice, ShoWTimEby Wax
Start time: Thursday, Nov 11 1:00pm GMT (GMT+00:00)
For the first time ever, Serral comes into the DHM Season Finals as the champion of Europe. Though the Finnish Phenom has won the most Season Finals of any player with three, he had somehow never claimed the title in his own region until this last season.
The easy way to explain this juxtaposition is simply "Clem." Out of the four previous Season Finals that Serral played in, the only one he didn't win was the one where he drew Clem in the quarterfinals. Not only that, but Clem also helped 'pre-eliminate' Serral from another Season Finals by contributing to his 5th-6th place finish in DHM Europe Summer (with the assist from Lambo). Even if Serral has never admitted that Clem had that big of an advantage over him, it's still a huge symbolic victory for him to finally defeat Clem and win the European title.
In any case, having those kinds of good vibes can't hurt him as he comes into a tournament where he's always been dominant. If Clem was the only player who could stop Serral before, then who has a chance of stopping him now? [*Shoves Serral's two losses to Clem at Stay AtHomeStory Cup under the rug*]]
Maru wouldn't be a bad candidate. In September's ASUS ROG Fall tournament, the Team NV ace scored a convincing 3-0 sweep against Serral en route to the title. In an amusing quirk of timing, that championship run from Maru came just days after he was eliminated from the RO8 of GSL Code S, losing to his former teammate Trap.
It was just another sequence of events that show us how much parity there is in StarCraft II right now, and how chaotic that can make the results seem: One second, you're only top eight in your region, the next second, you're beating arguably the #1 international player on your way to a title. Funny enough, Maru might be the only player in this era who actually does have a dominant, unbeatable match-up in the form of his TvT (at least now that Clem's TvZ is showing a few small cracks). But, with Cure going out early in this event—another victim of that parity I was talking about—he's not going to have a chance to flex it in this tournament.
Like Serral, ShoWTimE is also celebrating a surprising milestone—it's his first time playing in a DHM Season Finals event! Somehow, Die Mauer never found a way to get his hands on that #4 seed out of Europe, ceding it to players like MarineLorD, HeroMarine, and Lambo in previous events. Granted, he did get a bit lucky with his DHM Europe bracket this season, benefiting immensely from MarineLorD's remarkable upset over Reynor. However, he's also been playing great StarCraft II lately, so it's hard to begrudge him Europe's #3 spot.
Finally, there's Nice, who returns to the Season Finals after reclaiming the Taiwanese crown from Has. While Nice can be a most capable macro player, he might end up channeling his regional rival's cheesey side given the composition of this group. If Has's cheese has a kind of funky flavor, Nice's brand is more restrained and precise—artisanal, some may say. Getting Maru first is definitely a cruel draw, but hey, at least it couldn't go worse than the Asian Game Finals, right?
I predict this group to play out similarly to the last one, with the two favorites advancing without that much trouble.
Though ShoWTimE could certainly be a deadly third player in a different group, this draw is brutal for him as he has absolutely dismal head-to-head records against both Maru and Serral. The situation is even more grim for Nice, who I like as a one-map sniper in WTL, but not as a player who can take a full two maps off of a championship in DHM.
The one potential upset I do have my eye on is ShoWTimE vs Serral. Even though Serral has been making late-game ZvP looks like it's back to 2019 balance levels, he's actually shown some weakness in the mid-late game when Protoss moves out with a powerful ground-based army. Both MaxPax and ShoWTimE have beaten him in that fashion, and it's what helped ShoWTimE go to a full five games against Serral in the DHM Europe playoffs. Still, even if ShoWTimE can take a single series, I just can't see him taking the brace he needs to advance.
As for that Serral vs Maru 'dreammatch,' it's been a while since the match-up has lost its hype. Every time they meet it seems to be a one-sided beatdown—in a group stage environment where Maru might feel like he can afford to scoot by in second place, I'll give the hyper-consistent Serral the edge.
Serral > ShoWTimE
Maru > Nice
Serral > Maru
ShoWTimE > Nice
Maru > ShoWTimE
Serral and Maru to advance.