Serral: the man who defeated a dynasty


Angus Nordlund, Staff Writer

Koreans are well-known to be some of the best when it comes to video games. One of those games that they seem to dominate is in the Starcraft series. For over 20 years the scene was their’s and though a few had shown them a challenge, none had been able to truly overcome their dynasty.

That is, until now.

Joona “Serral” Sotala didn’t grow up like you would expect a professional eSports player to. He did not grow up in a bustling city surrounded by technology, but instead a farming village in Finland, called Pornainen, with a population of only around 5,000.

Little is known on how he came to discover Starcraft, but what is known is that he started participating in tournaments at the young age of 14, where he did not find too much success, besides a respectable 7th-8th place finish at the 2012 WCS Finland Nationals.

However, 2013 was the year that Serral started to show promising results. He joined Ence eSports, a Finnish eSports organization, and on April 23 and at 2013 DreamHack Open: Bucharest, managed to top his group in the 1st group stage.

In the second group stage, Serral faced Korean player SuperNova, in a match that was not originally meant to be shown, but due to delays of another match it was broadcasted. Though Serral could not pull out a win against the veteran, defeated 2-0, he showed promise and was later talked about among the community.

In the third group stage Serral faced off against three more Koreans, one of which happened to be Lee “Jaedong” Jae Dong, one of the best players at the time, which showed early signs of his eventual dominance. Serral managed to best him, though wasn’t able to beat his other opponents, CranK and ForGG which prevented him from advancing any further in the tournament.

Sadly, Ence eSports disbanded their Starcraft team soon after, forcing Serral to join mYinsanity. Two years later in 2016, Serral managed to find notable success at the Assembly Winter 2016, where he won in the finals, with a decisive 4-2 victory over Namshar. Though the tournament was a minor one, what is more impressive is that leading up to the finals Serral hadn’t dropped a single map. Within that year Serral continued to grind more minor tournaments, many of which he won. Soon after Ence eSports proceeded to return to the Starcraft 2 scene, and once again picked up Serral.

2017 was initially rough for Serral, as he placed 5th-8th at IEM Season XI-World Championship, 2nd at 2017 WCS Jönköping and TaKe’s Penthouse Party 3, and wasn’t able to qualify for Blizzcon 2017 due to not making it far enough in 2017 WCS Global Finals. Eventually Serral found success, winning WESG Qualifier in Barcelona, in a clean 4-0 sweep against Nerchio, marking it as his first offline win of the year and his biggest prize pool yet, $18,000.

Serral started 2018 off with a bang, taking 2018 WCS Leipzig, making it his first premier tournament win, and automatically qualified for Blizzcon. His next two tournaments saw Serral place 3rd-4th and 3rd, at IEM Season XII World Championship, and World Electronic Sports Games 2017, respectively. Serral wasn’t deterred however. After those two tournaments he went on an absolute rampage, winning a total of 4 premier tournaments. WCS Austin, WCS Valencia, WCS Montreal and even GSL vs the World, which saw Serral beat some of the best Korean players. In addition to this, Serral became the first ever player to win every WCS tournament of one year, cementing himself as one of the best players in the world. However, Serral still had one obstacle to overcome before truly becoming the best; Blizzcon. No non-Korean player had ever won the WCS Global Finals at Blizzcon, and if Serral were to do so, he would truly become the undisputed greatest. Since Serral had already won several WCS events, he was automatically qualified for the event.

Serral quickly got to work at the event; sweeping all his opponents in the group stages before eventually moving on to the quarterfinals, where he swept Dark, 3-0. After that came the semifinals, where Serral was forced to face the defending Blizzcon champion, Rogue. Though many were doubtful, Serral once again managed to shock everyone by defeating him quite easily, 3-1. Finally Serral had made it to the finals. His opponent was none other than Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob, the same player whom he had defeated in order to win GSL vs the World. With the championship on the line and the momentum of every single one of his victories beforehand, Serral won. It wasn’t, a nail-biting match that went down to the wire, but instead, a convincing victory of 4-2, once again showing his absolute dominance. With that win, Serral took down a two decade old dynasty and became the greatest player in the world.

Now with 2018 behind him and the great promise that 2019 shows, Serral’s job is not done yet. He still has yet one more challenge to face; a GSL title. Again, no non-Korean player has managed such a feat, but then again Serral has made history before, so who’s to say he can’t do it again?