After his most impressive tournament victory yet at GSL vs. The World over the weekend, Joona “Serral” Sotala has now taken his championship form to all corners of the StarCraft II-playing world. Inside this championship, there are more interesting tidbits to be found in Serral’s game losses than his victories. In Seoul, it was map rotation that gave Serral’s opponents the smallest sliver of opportunity—and two of the GSL’s best were able to play the role of punisher.
Serral went 1-2 on Catalyst, losing once to Dark in the semifinals and his first game against Stats in the finals. His lone victory on Catalyst was against Kelazhur in the opening round—the decisive win in Serral’s 3-0 sweep of the Brazilian.
|Serral's Map Record at GSL vs. The World|
|on Catalyst||on Other Maps|
Army Upgrade Differential
In their Zerg vs. Zerg match, Dark was able to quickly establish map control on Catalyst in Game 2 of the semifinal series by opting for improved armor for his units and attacking Serral just as the upgrade was coming online. While Serral went for upgraded ranged attacks to counter Dark, it was his decision to go for a sophisticated army of Mutalisks and Lurkers along with his Zerglings and Roaches that ultimately cost him the game. Dark stuck with his upgraded ground army of Roaches and Zerglings and punished Serral for spending resources on research instead of units. This loss came before we got to the 10-minute mark, which was the sweet spot for knocking Serral off his game during WCS Valencia.
Game 1 of the tournament final between Serral and Stats was on Catalyst, and it was an action-packed snapshot of the full seven-game series. This sub 10-minute game was full of momentum swings, with each player just hoping to survive, knowing domination was out of the question. Serral started fast, taking out an Oracle and four of Stats’ Adepts with defensive posturing. Stats was on the back foot around the 5-minute mark, having wasted precious early game resources—a point when Serral usually finished off opponents after having survived their best shot. Against a player like Stats in the championship round of a tournament like GSL vs. The World, however, a plot twist was in order.
Stats decided to be aggressive off a two-base economy right out of the gate. Staying with that strategy, along his ability to control his Protoss units, saw him through. A slugfest between Stats’ half-dead Warp Prism niftily deploying Zealots and Archons and Serral’s Queens and Speed Zerglings brought the game to a sudden end. Serral tapped out when he measured his picked apart economy against Stats’ never-ending stream of Zealots and Archons continuing to warp in.
It seems mechanically gifted opponents guessing correctly on their opening gambit is the most “reliable” strategy against Serral. His level of control and real time decision-making give him the advantage in most matches, and he went undefeated at GSL vs. The World in 10 matches (out of 17 total) across Lost and Found, Acid Plant, and Dreamcatcher. The limited pathways and crowded base locations on Catalyst gave two of the GSL’s best a chance to catch Serral in a pair of high stakes games (where players only get one chance to be right). Those odds ought to carry Serral all the way to the 2018 WCS Global Championship.