The 2018 season of the World Championship Series (WCS) is officially underway, and the first event of the year is about to begin in Leipzig, Germany. With large balance updates and a new map pool since the Global Finals, there’s plenty of opportunity for surprises and metagame shifts from last year’s season. Let’s look at some of the biggest stories to watch as we head into this first stop for the WCS Circuit.
Of all the Circuit players last year, none made quite the splash as Alex “Neeb” Sunderhaft. With his flawless control and mechanical skill, it’s no wonder he took three of the four championship titles in 2017’s Circuit run. This year, he’s coming out swinging. He qualified through the WCS Challenger tournament, where he took the finals without losing a single game in the bracket stages. If he’s only gotten stronger since last year, it’s anyone’s guess who will be able to step up to challenge him.
The most obvious challenger to the champion’s title is Juan Carlos “SpeCial” Tena Lopez. SpeCial gave us an incredible start and finish to 2017 as he seemed unbeatable by anyone other than Neeb. In Austin, Jönköping, and Valencia, SpeCial barreled his way to the top of the pack only to be eliminated by Neeb. While he had a misstep in Montreal and didn’t make it past the group stages, he came back stronger than ever for the WCS Global Finals at BlizzCon and made it all the way to the semifinals, an incredible feat. The question that lingers is what form we’ll see SpeCial take here at the beginning of 2018. Will this year finally give him the Circuit championship win he’s been striving for?
One of the most thrilling stories from 2017 is of Diego “Kelazhur” Schwimer. While he’s been competing since 2013, last year saw a vast increase in his skills. He was a constant presence at all four Circuit events last year, making it to the bracket stages each time. While he didn’t perform as well as he’d like at the Global Finals Opening Week, he looks to bring an even greater level of talent to the 2018 season. While he may not have been ready to take a championship in 2017, he could very well take one in 2018. With confidence and an upward trend of ability on his side, watch out for him to make waves this year.
The first Circuit event of 2018 marks an exciting time for StarCraft II. Strong players, new maps, and a new meta will make for new surprises and tense competition. WCS Leipzig begins Friday, January 26, at 6:30 a.m. PST.