After the trials and tribulations of the qualifying round, StarCraft fans converged in Sydney’s ESL Studios on Saturday for the live finals of WCS ANZ Season 3.
With $10,000 AUD, a tonne of WCS points and two paid trips to WCS Valencia to represent the region on the line, the air was electric and the contest was hotly anticipated.
The first round opened with some eyebrow-raising results. While clean 2 – 0 victories for Ethan ‘iaguz’ Zugai and Sean ‘Probe’ Kempen surprised nobody, Tran ‘Meomaika’ Hong Phuc produced an upset over Ryan ‘NXZ’ Jones and exacted revenge for his qualifying round loss.
The other upset played out on-stage between Sheldon ‘Seither’ Barrow and David ‘MightyKiwi’ Gore. Seither is one of the reigning champions from Season 2 and was arguably a huge favourite to win the match.
Unperturbed by the odds, MightyKiwi played Seither like a fiddle using a tailored, defensive style. He countered most of Seither’s trademark aggression with ease and accumulated a huge army of Ultralisks. Seither was immediately escorted to the Lower Bracket.
As a player, the Lower Bracket is a most unpleasant position. The pressure of knowing each series could be your last, after all your efforts to qualify, is hard to bear at the best of times.
Throw in an unfamiliar studio environment, a crowd, cameras and lights, and the pressure is liable to ruin players. The rare few who thrive and produce their best performances on-stage are envied by many.
Seither overcame Ashley ‘Frustration’ Cox and some Lower Bracket jitters in a tense best-of-three to keep his tournament life on the line, then handled Meomaika’s constant aggression to advance to the top four.
On the other side of the Lower Bracket, Ben ‘Crimson’ MacDonald played against NXZ. The player’s warmed up on-stage and the commentators began introductions. Ever the showman, NXZ donned three pairs of sunglasses and a gold chain to great fanfare from the crowd.
Unfortunately for NXZ, Crimson absolutely shone in the series and achieved one of his life-goals – a competitive on-stage victory. His mechanics were tight and his attacks timed beautifully.
Although Crimson and Meomaika’s tournament dreams then ended in 5th – 6th place, they outperformed expectations and proved their ability. Meomaika’s bubbly personality warmed hearts and the adoration of viewers. I have no doubt they’ll both be back better than ever next season.
Iaguz, Probe, Seither and MightyKiwi were the final four remaining.
Stay tuned for the recap of the remainder of the event and the epic, two-hour-long Grand Finals.