Behind the Scenes at the WCS Spring Finals

  • Amelia Savery, Blizzard Entertainment

Two minutes before the finals of WCS Spring between Joona “Serral” Sotala and Juan Carlos "SpeCial" Tena Lopez at the StarLadder studio in Kiev, Ukraine, Sue “Smix” Lee sprints out the door of the player lounge. She leaves behind casters, a smattering of players, and Blizzard staff, who are settled in lounge chairs while watching the stream on two large TVs. Most of the players, though, are in the practice room next door, crowded around monitors in gaming chairs to talk about the upcoming games amongst themselves.

After the introductions, Smix runs back upstairs and flops on the couch. As the first map begins, Kevin “Harstem” de Koning is talking passionately with Blizzard staff about the map veto system while Dario "TLO" Wünsch listens in.

When Serral neurals SpeCial’s Battlecruisers, the whole room ooooos loudly. When Leigh “Maynarde” Mandalov exclaims “That was ridiculous!” on broadcast, PiG laughs loudly in the player lounge.

Watching StarCraft II games with StarCraft II pros all around you is like watching StarCraft II with people whose brains move about 200% faster than yours – like APM, only for how often a brain can fire.

Jarod "JonSnow" George looks over my shoulder and sees the headline. “Are you writing about Serral winning?!” he asks. “Yeah, wow, are you writing it already?” Maru "MaSa" Kim chimes in, grinning.

I explain I’m writing it as we go along, but they are both very amused and go back to talking about the game faster than I can keep up.

In game three, when Serral sneaks a Zergling scout into SpeCial’s base early, Lambo turns around and looks over the couch at everyone behind him, saying “Oh, nooooooo.”

As Serral takes game four, one player applauds, and they all stand up and watch the winner’s interview. “Aw, it’s so nice,” Harstem says, turning to grin at me.

The players file out to go back to the hotel, and Rotterdam comes back upstairs. He flops on the couch and says “A god, so sick. No-one should be this good at StarCraft.” He then says something about how maybe Serral was built by the mafia.

I forget what it was exactly because I laughed.

This is how everyone, still, talks about Serral. The players, the talent. They talk about how he had the flu at WESG and how that’s one of the few times he’s shown weakness. There really is no-one like him. Whatever he had all last year, whatever he had that helped him win at BlizzCon, he still has it, and it still inspires awe in all of us.

Congratulations, Joona!

Thanks for joining us at WCS Spring, both in person and online. Follow us on Twitter at @esportstarcraft to stay up to date on everything coming up in StarCraft esports.