Serral’s victory at IEM Katowice means he has finally claimed victory at the one major tournament that escaped his grasp.

Joona “Serral” Sotala has defeated Riccardo “Reynor” Romiti to become the Intel Extreme Masters 2022 StarCraft II World Champion. The victory marks the first time the Finnish player has won at Katowice, becoming World Champion for just the second time in his incredible career.

The victory came against fellow Zerg player Reynor, the reigning World Champion. In a best-of-seven series that went all the way, Serral hung on after losing three straight games to win the series. 

In a momentous event that saw the return of StarCraft II to the international stage, Serral’s victory was the pinnacle of an incredible tournament. Advancing through the 24-man group stage into the Playoffs, Serral had a tough trip to the finals, matching up against Koreans Maru and Rogue. Ultimately though, Serral would advance in dominant fashion, and go on to face Reynor.

Serral Quick to Capitalize

Game one was curiously standard, with both players seemingly unwilling to make the first mistake. Building quickly into the typical Zerg Roach/Ravager composition, it was Serral’s positioning that scored him the first win. Squatting on the high ground, the red Zerg squashed his opponent’s attack to claim Game One victory.

It would have been expected that down 0-1, Reynor would strike with something unorthodox—after all, it’s one of his signature strategies. But instead, it was Serral who broke out the crazy plays. An incredible early drone pull by saw him try and build three Spinecrawlers in Reynor’s main base. And even though Reynor could hold initially, the pure aggression allowed the Finn to go up 2-0

Three Strikes Back by Reynor 

After holding against Serral, Reynor's confidence grew (Image via ESL)
After holding against Serral, Reynor's confidence grew (Image via ESL)

With overwhelming aggression on his mind, Serral went with a super-fast Roach/Baneling rush Reynor. But Reynor made a fantastic decision to abandon his Third, giving him enough time to wall and defend with a line of Spinecrawlers. Because this was an all-in, Reynor’s hold spelled defeat. And for the first time, the Italian player’s trademark confidence started to shine.

Game four saw a misstep from Serral. His decision to go into Corrupters and Roaches was crushed by Reynor’s Muta/Ling combo. Unable to win either the air or land battle, Serral fell deeper into the hole, evening the score at 2-2.

Another low-variety and unorthodox army composition from Reynor in Game Five again caught Serral off guard. With Reynor rushing the Zergling upgrades, then straight into Hive and Lurkers, Serral was left with a Roach/Ravager composition again that just wasn’t up to the task. It looked like the World Championship was slipping away from Serral. Reynor led 3-2

Serral’s Incredible Timing and Poise

Serral's victory came right down to the wire (Image via ESL)
Serral's victory came right down to the wire (Image via ESL)

But you can never count out the Finnish Phenom, and Serral wouldn’t let his dreams of Katowice victory slip away so easily. In Game Six, he forced Reynor into a more conventional build with his solid mechanics. Then, with solid timing, he executed the perfect attack, crushing Reynor’s army and sending it to match point for both players. This series would go the distance.

The final game saw both players walk a razor’s edge. There were literal seconds between the upgrades and build timings, with a mirror three base expansion and Zergling speed finishing almost simultaneously. However, it seemed Reynor had the slight speed edge. But While Reynor pushed with scouting and run-bys, Serral concentrated on building. Moving into Lurkers and looking to build up a vast army, Serral wanted to use his perfect execution once again to claim victory. 

But after dancing in the middle of the map for a few minutes, a momentary disaster struck. One of the referees DC’d, causing a pause during one of the game’s most tense moments. And this seemed to give Reynor an edge, who could equalize his drone and upgrade count. But when it mattered most, Serral was able to time an attack perfectly before Reynor could get his own Lurkers on the battlefield. Serral claimed the final victory, winning the series 4-3

Final Thoughts

For an esport that Korea has often dominated, this international event saw four countries represented in the semi-finals, with the German, HeRoMaRinE joining the Italian Reynor, Finn Serral, and Rogue. A truly international return to StarCraft 2 LANs. While many eyes are deservedly on the other big event happening in Katowice, this Intel Extreme Masters was something special in its own right.

Serral joins an exclusive club with his victory—Only one other SC2 player has ever won the World Championship at IEM Katowice and Blizzcon. That was Rogue, who Serral defeated in the Semi-finals. Entering his reign as world champion Serral