This weekend DreamHack will descend on Montreal. With it comes StarCraft II’s final World Championship Series of the year.
The WCS Fall event is a fan favorite. This is where Riccardo “Reynor” Romiti almost challenged Joona “Serral” Sotala during the latter’s record-breaking 2018. the year before, it was Montreal where Alex “Neeb” Sunderhaft cemented his third WVS title of the year. This crowned him the most successful foreigner in the game up to that point.
It’s also likely the last WCS event in the current format. After Activision Blizzard’s dismantling of Heroes of the Storm’s HGC, StarCraft II’s competitive 2019 took a long time to take shape. While viewership numbers since have been strong, ongoing cost-cutting at the company suggests another re-evaluation could be in the game’s future.
Additionally, with the Korean hegemony over the game’s competitive scene broken, the questions have arisen over the merits of the current region-locking rules. While they may not necessarily be waived next year, it does seem like change could be in the air there as well, possibly altering the entire face of the circuit with it.
We’re unlikely to learn anything new on either of these matters until after BlizzCon, however. What we do know is that from Sept. 6 to 8, we have some exciting StarCraft ahead of us. Sixteen players have already qualified for the later group stages, with 64 hopefuls looking to join them through the open bracket. At stake are a $100,000 USD prize pool and the last opportunity to qualify for BlizzCon through WCS points.
Current world champion Serral enters the arena an obvious favorite. Having secured a championship win at WCS Spring, he has already punched his Anaheim ticket regardless of what happens here. Still, with his year less dominant than 2018, the Finnish player will be looking to show he’s still the best in the world.
Prime amongst his challengers is fellow European Zerg, Reynor. during their meeting in last year’s Montreal finals, Reynor suffered a 3-4 defeat at the hands of Serral. He got even during Europe’s WCS Winter, taking the final series 4-3. Since then, both players have been exchanging wins in their encounters. With Serral sweeping him 4-0 in the run-up to this event, it would appear the Italian’s turn.
Neeb leads the rest of the pack. Earlier this year, the American Protoss took his region’s WCS Winter and he has had several good finishes throughout but has not come near his 2017 form. A premier win here could give him a much-needed boost ahead of the Global Finals
A Collection of strong competitors from all three races follow him, each with their own story. Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn has not had a great year, but can never be counted out. Mikolaj “Elazer” Ogonowski is coming fresh off a somewhat surprising GSL vs the World finals appearance, which could create momentum here. And then there are players like GSL veteran Juan Carlos “SpeCial” Tena Lopez and rising Chinese star Li “TIME” Peinan, who have shown that they are more than capable of taking games of anyone. They could even potentially do a lot more than that, depending on their preparation.
Preparation will be key here. Outside of a handful of GSL matches last month’s patch and map changes have not really been battle-tested on the highest stage yet. Especially the new maps have had to weather a lot of criticism, whereas the true impact of the Infestor nerf and Ghost buff still remains to be seen.
All will be made clear in the coming days as we set the stage for the year’s conclusion. Here are the WCS standings as we go into the weekend, with 12,600 points still up for grabs. The schedule for this weekend is here and proceedings can be followed on Twitch.
Credit: Xander Teunissen