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Emotional start of WCS season three finals in Kraków

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After a well needed day of rest between games, it was time to kick off the WCS season three finals in Kraków. Many of you were probably having trouble making your picks and predictions going into the finals – with this season being what it has been, with all it’s upsets and surprises, literally any outcome seemed reasonable. This feeling of anything being possible set the tone of the whole event and made the atmosphere in Kraków absolutely sizzle with expectations.

And we were in for a treat of an evening!

GunGFuBanDa vs Zanster

First game of the quarterfinals was played between GunGFuBanDa and Zanster. The two youngsters of the tournament took the stage and exclaimed that none of them was ready to go home, which they then went on to prove. By round two the scoreboard was tied 1-1. But maybe the fact that Zanster regularly competes in big tournaments back home in Sweden played out in the Swede’s favour – the German seemed unable to keep his cool and was time after time finding himself out of position and pushed back by Zanster’s controlled and calculated attacks. After three games played, Zanster had claimed the lead and being only one win away from complete victory, GunGFuBanDa was more or less forced into attempting a counter attack in an attempt to cripple Zanster’s Zerg army before it had grown too heavy. GunGFuBanDa launched the attack that could have been successful had it not been for Zanster’s excellent reading of the play – the retribution was clean and swift and allowed Zanster to advance to round of 4, winning 3-1.

Hydra vs Lilbow

Next up was the rematch everyone had been waiting for since the draw on Thursday: Hydra vs, Lilbow. In the season two final, Hydra beat Lilbow with a convincingly comfortable 4-2 in a best of seven. But Hydra had had a shaky start in Poland - would Lilbow’s wish for revenge help or hinder?

After two rounds of Hydra dominating the game and Lilbow barely keeping up, people started tuning out – it really did look like the games were over. Especially when round three started and Lilbow’s vision was more or less nonexistent which immediately put him in trouble. But with another final on the line, Lilbow wasn’t going to tap out despite holding on by the skin of his teeth. If he had to, he was going to fight until his very last unit.

Somehow, in some magical way, Lilbow then managed to turn a one base defence around. And the opportunity was too good to miss out. After all, it could have been his very last of the season! Carried by the European crowd, Lilbow followed up and followed through – taking round three and keeping his dream alive.

Clearly shaken and confused by this win, Hydra never truly made it back – invigorated by his victory, Lilbow’s momentum grew and his plays became cleaner and more aggressive. So much so that he managed to turn his 2-0 disadvantage into three straight wins, thus winning the series and moving on to round of four. Unbelievable!

ForGG - Polt

Another seemingly impossible series to predict was the one between ForGG and Polt - a Terran vs Terran matchup, but with very different play styles represented.

From game one it looked like it was going to be a close matchup. The game swung back and forth, but as ForGG started playing surprisingly careless, Polt was quick to exploit the weaknesses exposed in ForGG’s lines. He moved in and ended the game.

Motivated by his own mistakes, ForGG went into game two determined to better himself. And so he did! A gear was shifted and the pace was picked up. Polt found himself falling behind and being kept down by ForGG’s constant pushes. It was a game we’ve seen ForGG play so often and so well – keep attack them and wear them thin. By keeping Polt’s focus on dodging the persistent waves of enemy units, ForGG could build up to his final blow in peace and quiet behind the frontline. Game two, game three and even game four all went in the same fashion, with the only difference being ForGG turning his aggression up one notch before every round. Polt had no choice but to watch his bases crumble and fall.

MaNa - Petraeus

The last games of the evening would be played between MaNa and Petraeus. While Petraeus had his cool nerves to fall back on, MaNa had the support of the home crowd on site in Kraków.

At first, it would prove difficult for MaNa to stand against Petraeus calculated plays. The New Zealander always seemed one step ahead and every advance from MaNa was efficiently shut down without causing any other effect than MaNa over and over being forced to retreat. It wasn’t long before Petraeus was able to swoop in and finish the local hero off.

After two rounds, Petraeus had claimed both wins and was giving his usual calm impression moving on to round three. But just like Lilbow had resurrected in round three against Hydra, so would also MaNa rise. Knowing the map inside out, having picked it himself, MaNa gained advantage through some extreme micro plays and was able to catch Petraeus uncharacteristically off guard. The audience suspension grew – would MaNa do what Lilbow did? Could he do what Lilbow did?

Quick answer: YES! Carried by the crowd, MaNa overpowered and outmaneuvered Petraeus in three surprisingly quick rounds. When it was clear that Poland’s MaNa had advanced to the semi-finals on home ground in Kraków, the venue exploded. MaNa literally surfed the audience like the hero he was.

Join us for the finals!

Even though we feel like we could use a good rest after all of that, today is the day we crown our season three champion. Are you ready? Don’t forget to update your ESL Fantasy bracket and don’t, for all that’s holy, miss any of the matches - tune in here at 15:00 CEST and follow @ESLSC2 on Twitter for all the latest updates! For more information about the WCS, visit the tournament series’ official website.