The best StarCraft II player in the world is not a Korean. If not an undeniable reality, it has at least become a fiercely debatable point following Serral's 4-3 victory over Stats in the finals of GSL vs. The World. The victory capped off an incredible tournament run that saw the Finnish phenom go 3-0 vs Kelazhur, 3-0 vs INnoVation, 3-1 vs Dark, and even 1-0 vs Maru in a not-quite showmatch.
Serral's utter domination over the WCS Circuit—combined with a smattering of wins versus notable Korean pros in international competitions—left many fans and players to wonder how he would fare in the GSL. While the answer turned out to be 'pretty damn well' in RO8 and RO4 drubbings of INnoVation and Dark, Korea lived up to its reputation as StarCraft's adopted homeland with an impressive showing from Stats in the grand finals.
Stats had reached the finals stage by winning a shocking upset versus back-to-back Code S champion Maru but was considered the underdog yet again. Serral had already crushed INnoVation and Dark—surely he would inflict even greater humiliation in his best match-up of ZvP? Yet, Stats was able to show the resourcefulness and intelligence that made him one of the most consistent players of Legacy of the Void. An Archon-Chargelot attack caught Serral by surprise in game one, while a clever Redshift Cannon-rush vexed Serral in game two. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, Serral was down 0-2.
However, Serral was not one to be shaken by giving up an early lead, as he had already shown when he came back from a 1-2 deficit versus MaNa in the WCS Austin finals. Serral put on macro-management masterclasses in games three and four, tying the series back up at 2-2.
The balance of the series tilted back in in Stats' favor after an exhilarating game five (an instant, best-game-of-the-year candidate). Stats proved that the series wasn't as simple as Protoss trickery versus Zerg macro, as he matched Serral's strength and then overpowered him in an all-out, full-map war.
Despite being one game away from elimination, Serral refused to crack. He ceded a macro advantage to Stats in game six, but was able to focus on attacking relentlessly with Hydralisks and Banelings to extract the series-tying GG from his opponent. Then, with everything on the line in game seven, Serral fell behind once more after a clever Adept mix-up from Stats took out a number of Drones. There was no indecision in Serral's response: a massive Roach-Queen-Ravager all-in lurched across the map to decide the series once and for all. Stats scrambled to prepare his defenses and microed with all his ability, but it was to no avail. The Zerg Swarm could not be stopped, leaving Stats with no choice but the surrender a historic GG to Serral.
The best StarCraft II player in the world is not a Korean. If not an undeniable reality, Korea's progamers must act as if it is, if they are to bring the WCS Global Championship home again.