WCS Austin: Showdown in the Heart of Texas

  • Blizzard Entertainment

The next big WCS Circuit event is upon us, and WCS Austin promises to be the showcase event in North America as star players like Neeb, SpeCial, uThermalSerral, and Scarlett are already locked in and ready to compete. With that kind of proven talent on hand, there will surely be some hungry competitors sneaking in through the open signups portion of the tournament and looking to make their names against the bigger fish.

While scrapping together a stunning takedown against long odds may work in inspiring movies about gritty underdogs, there’s a reason why the ruling class in WCS stays the ruling class. Here’s why WCS Austin will still be decided by the Circuit’s best.

Neeb Looks In-Form

Alex “Neeb” Sunderhaft is the defending champion, having won WCS Austin in 2017 by defeating Nerchio in the finals. Since that victory last spring, he’s been outstanding, winning two more Circuit events, tying for third in another, and racking up a ridiculous amount of WCS points.

By winning the most recent WCS Challenger tournament, Neeb has already bested many of the players who might pose the biggest threat to him in Austin. He had to squeak by MaSa in the final to win Challenger, and puCK was the only player in that tournament to take a map off him before the championship game; both of those players will be in Austin to make things as difficult as possible.

A look at Neeb’s performance at IEM Katowice might be telling heading into Austin. He struggled in the six-player group stage, where he couldn’t get past world-class Zerg player Impact and reigning WCS Global Champion Rogue. However, his Protoss vs. Protoss game was strong enough to knock off a powerhouse player like Zest in the same tournament. With some two dozen Zerg players in the field for WCS Austin, Neeb will likely have to find an approach to Protoss vs. Zerg if he wants to come out on top in Texas.

Serral Brings Heat

If there’s a more in-form player than Neeb, it’s the Finnish Zerg, Joona “Serral” Sotala. He finished in the top four at IEM Katowice and won WCS Leipzig to start 2018 with a bang. That win in Germany means Serral is playing with “house money” from here on out, because his ticket to the WCS Global Finals is booked. With that bit of pressure removed, he’ll likely be looking to sharpen his craft, work on the finer points of his game, and come out of Austin with some positive growth in his pocket. Or, he might be looking to send a message to Neeb and every other WCS Circuit player.

Serral romped through the group stage at IEM Katowice, where he knocked off Rogue, Zest, and Neeb himself, going a perfect 5-0 on his way to the semifinals. In Austin, Serral will face a field of familiar faces from Katowice, and they’ll surely remember what he did at that last high-profile event. In Poland, Serral went undefeated in four games on Catalyst, so it’ll be worth watching when that map is early in the rotation for his matches.

As the champion of Europe in WCS Challenger, Serral must be one of the tournament favorites, but a ferocious animal backed into a corner is supposed to be at its most vicious. What are the players in Austin going to do against a proven champion in dominant form with nothing to lose?

Tune into to WCS Austin on June 1 beginning at 4 p.m. CDT for opening-round action. Neeb, Serral, and the WCS Circuit’s best will battle all weekend with a spot at the WCS Global Finals on the line.