The final WCS event of 2017 was won by a familiar name as Neeb from the USA claimed the title in dominant fashion. It was the third victory for the stalwart Protoss in WCS tournaments played this year after his triumphs at both Jonkoping and Austin.
Neeb dropped just two maps throughout the entire competition (one in the Group Stage and one in the Playoffs) and ended the tournament with a staggering record of 17 wins to accompany those two losses.
The road to the Grand Finals
Neeb was drawn in Group A alongside MaNa, Semper and ExpecT. The very first match saw him win 2-1 against home crowd favourite Semper, who inflicted one of his two game losses on him. A dominant 2-0 display against MaNa then followed, earning him top spot in the group.
The Terran souL was the first obstacle in the best-of-five Playoffs, but he did not manage to win a single game against Neeb. Canadian fans’ favourite Scarlett was Neeb’s opponent in the next match and there was a fair bit of hype going into it, but the best that the Canadian Zerg could do was to win a single game as he went down 3-1.
Moving into the semifinals, Neeb perhaps faced his biggest challenge yet – the Korean TRUE, who had lost only a single game prior to their clash. Expectations were not met, however, and Neeb was victorious with a flawless 3-0 scoreline.
The Grand Finals
Snute was the player who stood in the American Protoss’s way in the best-of-seven Grand Finals. The two players seemed evenly matched on paper, with Neeb slightly prevailing in the historic clashes between the two (29-25 wins in games and 8-6 in matches).
Both players therefore knew each other quite well, but Neeb was quite comfortable playing against an opponent who favours the late game and macro-orientated play.
Snute penetrated early with Zerglings after an uncharacteristic mistake by Neeb and damaged his opponent’s base early in the match. The game then saw both players poking at each other throughout the mid game without serious casualties suffered by either side. Eventually, Snute went for a Hydralisks and Banelings combo, while Neeb went for mass Oracles mixed with some Zealots and Adepts. Snute kept attacking, but kept being repelled. The American Protoss then launched several well-timed attacks that destroyed two of Snute’s expansions while his main force was on the offensive, thus forcing the Norwegian to go for an all-in attack that failed.
Score: Neeb 1 – 0 Snute
Map: Ascension to Aiur
Neeb went for a Stargate build in the second game with several Oracles and later an Archon drop, which Snute dealt with, suffering minimal losses. The Archons continued to be a nuisance, however, and managed to delay Snute’s expansion progress. However, this delay was not significant and the Zerg naturally secured an economic advantage, resulting in a bigger army and a scary looking push.
This is where Neeb’s amazing micro skills came into play and while dealing with Snute’s heavy push, he also managed to kill a significant number of Drones in his base with a small force of Zealots. With his economy ruined, Snute yet again had no option but to attack, but his outnumbered forces stood no chance against the wall of Archons, Sentries, Immortals and High Templars.
Score: Neeb 2 – 0 Snute
Map: Abyssal Reef
Game 3 saw Neeb opt for Dark Templars and he made the most of them, taking out Snute’s second expansion and 11 Drones, which left him with a mountain to climb quite early in the game. Neeb kept up the aggression with Archon drops, slowing down Snute’s economy even further. The Norwegian soon realized that he wasn’t going to win the game and launched a desperate attack, but Neeb was flawless and broke the onslaught easily, securing his third game in a row in the process.
Score: Neeb 3 – 0 Snute
Map: Mech Depot
The last game was on a map which favoured the Zerg. However, Neeb blocked the scouting of his opponent early in the game and managed to hide his Dark Templars. Despite being surprised, Snute did manage to defend against the harassment with minimal losses and delayed his opponent’s third expansion in the process. Snute then decided to capitalize on this advantage and went for a mass Hydralisks and Zerglings push. Neeb, however, was well prepared with Archons, Immortals and Sentries and against the odds after another scintillating display of micro control, he dealt a mortal blow to Snute’s forces. The victory march arrived at the doorstep of the Zerg base in less than a minute and soon enough Neeb claimed his third WCS title.
Score: Neeb 4 – 0 Snute
A force to be reckoned with
Neeb has a calm and collected play style and even when the situation looks desperate, his composure often helps him prevail. While not known for his unpredictability – he prefers honing his strategies to perfection – moments of surprise can certainly form part of his game.
Units wise, he sticks to the meta, but likes to bring in his own variation of unit compositions (such as amassing Oracles vs Snute) that can eventually make the difference in the game. The North American uses both aggressive and defensive approaches and is quite comfortable with using both early game and late game strategies (e.g. Dark Templars or going for greedy expansion builds).
Micro control is one of his most impressive skills and there were some strong examples throughout WCS Montreal where, against all the odds, he managed to win battles. The 360 army surround against Snute in game one of the Grand Finals was probably the finest example of his superior skill.
The ability to time attacks is another of his strengths as his sense of killer instinct defines the best time to attack or harass an enemy base. A game-winning tactic sees him utilizing small secondary forces to inflict critical economical damage in the later stages of the game by taking into consideration where and how his opponent has deployed his army, then exploiting that positioning.
On the minus side, he is not immune to blunders as was seen in game one of the Grand Finals vs Snute.
Dreams of BlizzCon
Neeb’s successes over the last two years justify the claims of both fans and analysts that he is one of the best non-Korean players ever to play the game. At the age of 19, this is a staggering achievement.
With WCS Montreal being his third Premier tournament win this season, the expectations for his performance at the WCS Global Finals 2017 are high. Being the only foreigner to win a tournament on Korean soil with his KeSPA Cup victory in 2016, Neeb has already demonstrated that he is more than a good match for the Korean players. The future is looking bright.