The first group stage consisted of 64 players. Stephano, Harstem, Zanster and more trotted on into the next stage, but MaNa was outpaced by HateMe and RiSky, making him the first notable elimination.
The second phase of groups was a more bloody affair. Namshar failed to advance, as did one of the powerhouses of 2016, ShoWTimE. Meanwhile, Snute and PtitDrogo were among those who moved on.
With only 16 spots available in the elimination rounds, heads really began to roll in the final round of groups. Top players like Nerchio, Serral, SpeCiaL and Elazer made it through, but contenders like Cham, uThermal, Dayshi and Bly were sent home.
With only 16 players remaining, the field gathered on Friday in hopes of keeping their tournament hopes alive. First up was Serral who took out Cloudy 3-1. TRUE matched that score in his victory over PtitDrogo. Nerchio did not drop a game against Stephano, while Elazer required four to take down Has. Kelazhur went to a full five games against MaSa, while Scarlett was only able to pick up one map as she fell to Snute. Neeb survived despite being brought to the brink by the Australian Probe and SpeCial closed out the day with a swift 3-0 over Zanster.
TRUE became the first player to reach the semifinals with a surprise 3-1 victory over Serral. Countrymen Nerchio and Elazer battled to determine who would face off against him, with Elazer coming out on top 3-1. Patience was paramount as Snute swept Kelazhur, while SpeCial finally got the best of Neeb in an excitingly close 3-2 series to lock up the final Ro4 spot.
Elazer took a 2-0 lead against TRUE on the back of ling/bane micro. TRUE got on the scoreboard by shutting down Elazer’s attempted nydus worms, but dropped the match 3-1 as Elazer’s 12 pool expand bought him a lead that only widened as the players went into roaches.
After conquering SpeCial's mech, Snute booked a spot in the finals with expert ling/bane/muta play in games two and three. He weathered SpeCial's aggression long enough to reach hive tech and roll to decisive wins on the back of ultralisks.
The finals started off on Ascension to Aiur. Elazer canceled Snute's third with early pressure, but his mutalisk switch was met by a massive roach push that gave Snute a supply advantage. He added hydralisks as Elazer reverted to roaches, but in the end, it was Snute who took the lead.
Having reached three bases, Elazer cut drones for a roach timing on Snute who was taking Proxima’s gold as his fourth. Elazer crashed in, but Snute had enough to not just repulse Elazer, but drive him back to his third, where he wiped him out to go ahead 2-0.
Elazer got back into the series on Odyssey. Having canceled Snute's third, Elazer continued the attack. Zerglings and ravagers streamed across the map, overwhelming Snute, who had dedicated too many resources to teching to marshall a proper defense.
Elazer went for a blind spine crawler with his hatchery first opening, but Snute took a third rather than attack. Behind on bases, Elazer went for a roach/queen push. Snute's concave and reinforcements overcame Elazer’s +1 attack, putting him within a game of the title.
Both players remained passive while teching into roaches and infestors on Blood Boil. Ultimately, Elazer's decision to research attack and carapace upgrades proved vital. Elazer won the initial fight and, largely due to his upgrades, those that followed, to force a sixth game.
Elazer went for a zergling flood on Sequencer, but Snute held, taking a worker lead. Having scouted Elazer's spire, Snute went for a roach/queen nydus, only for it to be shut down by roaches and ravagers. Elazer barreled into Snute's third with superior numbers, making Defender’s Landing the site at which the finals would be decided.
Having seen his lead evaporate, Snute went for a 13gas/12pool on Defender's Landing. Elazer opened with a gas/pool/hatch and met Snute's zerglings with his own. Snute appeared to have an advantage, but instead of adding a baneling nest, he took an expansion. Back at Elazer's base, Snute was shooed away before he could finish off Elazer's natural, with his second attempt being thwarted by a timely transfusion. Elazer and Snute continued making zerglings, but Elazer sniped Snute's queens before marching across the map with his own. With his zerglings slaughtered and Elazer charging into his main, Snute typed out, yielding Valencia to its newest Zerg champion, Elazer.
Elazer's victory, his first in a Premier Event, earns him $25,000 and the all-important automatic invite to the WCS Global Finals.