The WCS Circuit is about to continue with another European tournament, this time in Valencia. The Spanish city is no stranger to StarCraft II, having hosted DreamHack tournaments since 2012. This will be the third stop on the Circuit, with the fourth and last stop at DreamHack Montreal in less than two months. Halfway done, the Circuit’s last two events will again provide guaranteed spots to BlizzCon for the winners. Everyone else will have to gain enough points from the various tournaments to make it through. With Neeb’s two WCS Circuit victories so far, there’s going to be an extra spot available, so the competition for those precious points will be even more fierce.
Just like in Jönköping, 16 players made it through the qualifiers, and will be able to skip the first two group stages. And in a true DreamHack fashion, besides all the familiar names, there’s going to be a whole bunch of lesser known European players trying to make their way through the groups. As we head into the lovely seaside city, let’s take a look at the current WCS standings and how the top contenders are likely to fare in Valencia.
The Top 8
WCS Points: 6550
The big story of the year is of course the young American Protoss. With two back-to-back WCS Circuit titles already under his belt, Neeb is unquestionably the top player of the foreign scene. He’s ensured his spot at BlizzCon twice over already, and there’s no doubt he’s hungry for even more. His points tally is so much bigger than anyone else that it’s almost ridiculous, but that’s also entirely because of his two titles. Since his spot at BlizzCon is already secured, there’s no need to gain any more points. Instead, Neeb will be looking to make a name for himself as the undisputed best player of the foreign scene. Three back-to-back WCS titles would certainly make this a year to remember. After famously winning Kespa Cup but severely underperforming at the WCS Global Finals last year, Neeb’s sights also have to be on how to succeed against the eventual Korean opposition.
WCS Points: 3440
Score-wise Serral is way below Neeb, but still has a comfortable lead over everyone else in the standings. The upstart Finnish Zerg player looked very convincing in Jönköping, going toe-to-toe against the Neeblet in the finals after crushing the other opposition. Narrowly losing 4-3 against the American Protoss means that Serral is looking to score a WCS title in Valencia to finally secure his spot at BlizzCon. Of course, a DreamHack title would also be the first much-needed premier title of his career. A good run through IEM Katowice earned Serral a decent 900 WCS points, and with a 1000 point lead over the next player, it’s looking more and more likely that we’ll see the Zerg player at BlizzCon this year. Curiously enough he’s currently ranked at #3 by Aligulac, and his ladder prowess is well-known in the scene. Even so, it’s tournament results he needs, otherwise all the hype about his potential will once again turn out to be just hot air.
WCS Points: 2420
With a crushing 0-3 loss against PtitDrogo in the Jönköping quarterfinals, Nerchio was about as stunned as the rest of the foreign scene. Despite the surprising upset, Nerchio’s points tally still easily gives him the third place, owing to a finals spot at WCS Austin and some extra points from the otherwise disappointing IEM Katowice. The Polish Zerg had a rough time at BlizzCon last year, but he’s still one of the top names of the foreign scene, and there’s no doubt he should be make a run defending his 2016 Valencia title. Knowing Nerchio’s ambition, he’s going to settle for nothing less.
WCS Points: 1930
With a long career already behind him, 2017 is shaping up to be MajOr’s best year yet. He’s qualified for Code S twice in a row, and he’s made it to the playoffs in both Austin and Jönköping. The Mexican Terran has yet to really crack the premier tournaments, but there’s a good chance we’ll see him at BlizzCon this year. After two losses in the quarterfinals, MajOr will be eyeing at a deeper run through the next DreamHack playoff bracket. And let’s not forget, his Code S group will be looming over him, to be played less than a week after Valencia concludes. MajOr has been overshadowed by the more flashy results of others for some time now, so this would be a good time for him to finally conquer the summit.
WCS Points: 1850
Often overlooked, but seldom disappointing, Kelazhur’s WCS Circuit runs almost tie him with MajOr. The Brazilian Terran player doesn’t have quite as storied a career as MajOr, but he’s quickly proven himself to be among the top echelon of the foreign Terran players. Besides dominating his region for a good long while, Kelazhur has really stepped up his game this year. Just like MajOr, he still needs to really crack a premier tournament, and just like MajOr, Valencia is as good an opportunity as ever. Expectations are high, but so far Kelazhur has shown that he has the chops to pull off a great result.
WCS Points: 1490
Somewhat overshadowed by MajOr and Kelazhur, Cham’s standing is as surprising as it is expected. The Mexican player has quickly risen to the top ranks of foreign Zergs, and his career is very much on the upswing. Solid results in Austin and Jönköping pave way for another good run in Valencia, and while it remains to be seen whether or not Cham is championship caliber just yet, there’s no reason to overlook his prowess. There’s potential here, that’s for sure, but just like Serral, the Zerg player needs tournament results to convince the rest of the world about what he knows in his heart: that he’s a player capable of winning.
WCS Points: 1315
Elazer’s story in 2017 was supposed to be set: the apprentice finally surpassing the master. Yet he failed to qualify for Austin and crashed and burned at IEM Katowice, marking disappointing results after his solid BlizzCon run in 2016. Never one to stay down for long, Elazer nevertheless persisted, and both reached the semifinals in Jönköping and qualified for season 3 of Code S. The disappointing Austin result will be a blemish on his record, and unless Elazer is able to make a really deep run in Valencia, it might be prove to be a crucial difference. Other players are breathing down his neck, looking to elbow their way into the top 8 in the standings. It’s time for the Polish Zerg to stand fast and show the world that his BlizzCon run wasn’t just a fluke.
WCS Points: 1230
The winner of DreamHack Montreal 2016 just barely makes it into the top 8 of the standings. TRUE is still coasting on his semifinals spot from Austin earlier in the year, with a handful of points from a frankly disappointing IEM Katowice. Despite predictions to the contrary, he was unable to make it past the third group stage in Jönköping, but being able to bypass the first group stages in Valencia might give him the edge he needs. If TRUE fails here, there are other players more than willing to overtake him in the standings. He might still win DreamHack Montreal, of course, but having all your eggs in one basket is never a good strategy. For TRUE, Valencia is do or die.
All top 8 players in the WCS standings have managed to qualify for Valencia, but there’s a whole slew of other names who will show up as well, some of them likewise qualified, some of them through the open sign-ups.
One of the top European Protoss players, ShoWTimE was unable to make it through the qualifiers for the second time in a row. After a commanding performance at BlizzCon last year, the German Protoss has managed to score barely over a 1000 WCS points this year. If he wants to travel to Anaheim in November, he better step up in Spain. Unlike his countryman, TLO was able to make it through the qualifiers, continuing his kind of resurgence. For a player who’s been considered a has-been a number of times already, TLO continually manages to surprise his critics. Despite not making it to the playoffs in Jönköping or Austin, TLO has shown that he can still be a force to be reckoned with.
Likewise on the European front, VortiX will be making a surprise showing at the venue. After retiring twice and playing Heroes of the Storm for a bit, the Spanish player will be looking to make full use of his home turf. His rise to fame in 2012 was explosive, but it remains to be seen whether he’s able to reach such lofty heights again. Like ShoWTimE, VortiX has to make it through the open sign-ups.
From the other side of the world, Australia will send out a duo of players in iaguz and Probe. After missing Jönköping, Probe is back again, while iaguz has been the undisputed best player of the region for a while now, so his participation shouldn’t be a surprise. North American representatives are MaSa and Scarlett, the latter unfortunately knocked out of Code S in the Ro32 again. And finally, from Taiwan, fan-favorite Has will once again be sowing confusion and excitement in equal measure.
Expect to also see all the usual suspects of the foreign scene flock to Valencia. And why not, the weather is scorching, the city is beautiful, and the games are looking to be as entertaining as ever.
Spanish Food Power Rank
The life of a professional StarCraft 2 player is incredibly taxing. To perform at the top level, the players need mental fortitude and physical fitness in equal measure. They spend their days training, in order to weed out the small mistakes in their play and to gain even the smallest edge over their opponents. Years of practice is required to reach the top, and even then, for some it’s not quite enough. Dreams are shattered, lofty goals are never met. For some, it’s still a way of life, and despite all the hardships they wouldn’t change it for the world.
But that’s nothing compared to how taxing watching those games can be. Avid viewers know full well how important it is to stay focused, and for that you need to keep your energy levels up. What better way than to enjoy some Spanish dishes while following the action in Valencia. As one of the resident foodies, here’s the Spanish Food Power Rank to get you through the weekend. I’ve opted not to include recipes, as you should discover the perfect variety of any given dish yourself.
Paella is ubiquitous in Spain, and for good reason. A good paella is like a late game Zerg army; it has a bit of everything mixed in. Since the tournament is on the coast, you should be looking for seafood variants of the classic Valencian dish. Remember to use a large enough pan, paella is best enjoyed in a group.
#4 Tortilla de patatas
A great choice for breakfasts for the three days of the tournament, tortilla de patatas is a staple that you can find in almost any Spanish restaurant. Pretty much every chef will have their own version of the dish, and there’s a wide variety of different ingredients you can use. Make sure your potatoes and eggs are good enough quality, and you can use an ample amount of fresh herbs to add more flavor.
Found right in the middle of the power rank, gazpacho is perfect for the hot weather of the Spanish summer. It’s also the perfect dish for Terran players, since it’s incredibly simple to prepare. Just gather up your ingredients, mix them together in a blender, and you’re good to go. This classic soup also works well just by itself. Adding more chili and garlic can have quite the kick. Remember to serve cold.
Not quite making it to the first place, the churro is still among the best fried desserts the Iberian peninsula has given to the world at large. If you don’t have a deep fryer, you can still cook churros using a deep enough skillet. Perfect choice with an adept all-in: incredibly sweet but utterly unhealthy in the long term. Serve hot, with a chocolate sauce or whipped cream.
The quintessential Spanish food is the tapa and it rightfully sits at the top of the power rank. Of course, it’s not really a single dish, because nearly anything can be tapas. Rather than debating the finer points of how modern tapas works, you should instead just prepare a nice mix for yourself. In essence, any small dish of something edible can be tapas, usually taken with a drink. For your mix, just like a good set of build orders, you should have enough variety to cover as many different match ups as possible. And just like a good set of build orders, make sure you have some cheese just to be safe. Consume with a drink of your choice.
Here’s some examples to get you started:
Manchego (goat cheese)
Jamón iberico (cured Iberian ham)
Calamares (fried squid rings)
Gambas al ajillo (fried prawns in garlic)
Migas (fried breadcrumbs)
Chorizo (pork sausage)