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StarCraft II WCS Season 3: The Grand Finals

The WCS crowd illuminated by blue LEDs watch the huge main stage of StarCraft.

This is it. The final match to decide who still has Blizzcon hope, who’s going home in second place and who will grab that $30,000 prize money. After a fierce pair of semi-finals, MaNa and Lilbow emerged as our final two. It couldn’t be more appropriate at a Legacy of the Void event for the final battle to be between two Protoss players and the stories of both players – MaNa in front of his home crowd and Lilbow hoping to be the only foreigner at Blizzcon – just enhance it. Let’s go.

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MaNa vs. Lilbow

Should you watch this series?You know it.

The final began with the players mirroring one another until MaNa decided to take an early Robotics Bay. Lilbow responded by building a huge number of Stalkers and pushing immediately. For what felt like the 400th time this weekend, MaNa held the line against impossible odds when his second Mothership Core popped out to re-cannonise his natural Nexus. With a slight advantage he pushed across the map, but didn’t have the Pylons to reinforce so had to withdraw. The players danced around each other with Blink until Lilbow managed tooutmanoeuvre MaNa into a position where the Polish Stalkers could not escape easily. Destroying a few, he realised his advantage and pushed the main base. Despite two Immortals, MaNa wasn’t able to pull off the 401st miracle. 1-0 Lilbow.

Game 2 didn’t stay a mirror for as long. MaNa was going straight for Blink, while Lilbow rushed a Stargate. Both did impressive work with their early attacks, Lilbow’s Oracle picking off a Sentry while MaNa’s first Stalkers leaped into the main base and grabbed an Immortal before managing to teleport out. Lilbow’s Immortal count was much higher so he began a push, but clever play from MaNa managed to counter it by killing off some rocks and delaying the attack. MaNa continued to use quick units to move around Lilbow’s plays and force him to retreat with attacks into his natural. These constant delays managed to let him catch up so that, by the time Lilbow managed to make a proper attack, MaNa had just enough units to resist, despite losing his Nexus. The initiative of the game switched to MaNa as he pushed into Lilbow’s natural with a large number of Colossi, but a great French flank kept him in it. The next push was too much however, and a hidden Pylon that survived the entire game proved a decisive factor as MaNa could reinforce quickly to finish Lilbow off. One game each, we’re now playing a Best of 5.

In the third game it was time for the Dark Templar to play their part as MaNa still rushed a Templar Archives but this time followed up with a Dark Shrine. Lilbow’s counter-play was perfect as he allowed the DTs to progress up his ramp before he had detection, then trapped them in just as his Observer popped. Because of the quick Robotics Bay and two Observers that needed to be made, MaNa was still ahead on Stalkers but his second push overextended and he lost a few too many. At that point Lilbow decided to go on the offensive and managed to secure a good concave at MaNa’s natural, where not all of the Polish Protoss’ units could return fire due to the placement of buildings. MaNa conceded.

For Game 4, Lilbow decided to go Oracles and succeeded in killing a large number of Probes very quickly. However he failed to tech from there, instead generating a huge number of Gateway units – Zealots and Stalkers – while MaNa moved up to Immortals and Colossi. Meanwhile a large number of Phoenixes kept Lilbow contained as he would lose all his workers if he adventured too far from his base. A straight up fight would be total suicide for the frenchman by the time he had dealt with the Phoenix, so a base trade began. MaNa seemed far ahead with a much stronger army and the minerals to be able to produce a Nexus, particularly once Lilbow went all-in on Dark Templars that failed to do anything. However, Lilbow spread very well throughout the map and sniped all of MaNa’s buildings bar the Nexus he was building by his army. Charging forward he managed to kill it before his forces fell and, as it was MaNa’s final building, he was defeated. WCS Finals 2015 had now played out every theoretical scenario in the book but there was still at least one more to go as Lilbow secured Tournament Point at three games to one.

His tricksier plays having proved ineffectual, MaNa went all out in Game 5 with a rush of Stalkers that caught Lilbow off guard, deep into a Phoenix tech rush. Destroying a key Pylon, MaNa managed to depower some vital buildings leaving Lilbow no choice but to charge with his probes and a few Phoenix. MaNa’s micro and superior force proved too much for the Stalker-less Lilbow and he quickly killed off everything his opponent had. A super-fast game managed to end before I’d even returned to my seat as the crowd exploded.

The weirdest map in the pool, Dash & Terminal, was our home for Game 6. Both competitors played identical for minutes, scouting nearly identically other than Lilbow’s ever-present addiction to never using his Probes to do so. They both went Blink stalkers, but early battles lead to MaNa having the advantage and being able to expand faster. He blocked Lilbow from doing the same with a Pylon and was at least half the build time of a Nexus ahead. This advantage in hand he pushed onwards with his force, but picked a poor engagement point. Lilbow took the better position with a much stronger concave but MaNa did not retreat, having killed off the frenchman’s Mothership Core. It was a poor decision and Lilbow even managed to save his Blink to pursue MaNa’s sudden realisation that it was time to get out of there. Lilbow continued to push until he was in MaNa’s main base and that was all they wrote for WCS 2015.

Best game:Game 4

One of the strangest games I have ever seen and the final cherry on the incredible cake of weird and wonderful matches we have seen this weekend. Until now I have hated base trades with a passion, but this one had more drama than I thought possible from an entire game of StarCraft, nevermind a single decision to right click a Nexus and hope. Lilbow’s play was incredible, MaNa was shocked and from that point – as with the the third game of the second match of the quarter finals – we should have known Lilbow would be the champion.

The best event I have ever been to, and it wasn’t close. Easily in the top three StarCraft events of all time and a testament to the power of a good crowd and a great community. The Polish fans have earned more events in their country, particularly this great city, and I can’t wait to return for all of them.