Zerg versus Zerg is always an incredibly explosive matchup in StarCraft II. Lightning speed early-game. A careful balance of droning and building up army supply in the midgame. It rarely gets to the late-game, and even then, a minor mistake can win or lose the match. Scarlett is among the few foreigners out there defeating Korean players. Serral has already won two premier SCII tournaments this year, with more to come. Their styles are different — Scarlett prefers her ling-bane-muta more, and Serral mostly goes for a classic roach play.
Game 1: Acid Plant
ZvZ relies heavily on early-game ling-bane skirmishes. Both players try to deny the opponent’s third base while defending their own. Acid Plant is a map with a relatively short rush distance, especially when the middle rocks are destroyed. It doesn’t give players a safe option for a third base and provides plenty of flanking opportunities.
Scarlett decides to skip this stage entirely. After a mirror opening, she cancels the Metabolic Boost upgrade, commonly known as ling speed. Scarlett doesn’t go for a default route and rely on zerglings and banelings for defense; instead, she turtles up on two bases. Faster roach speed is a great advantage, as ZvZ midgame is almost always a roach dance. Serral decides to capitalize on the opportunity, takes a third base at the standard timing, and steadily goes for the midgame tech: hydralisks and lurkers.
Scarlett follows up her safe play with a beautiful attack on the enemy side of the map. A surround that surely could’ve won her the game, but Serral quickly reacts and attacks first, while her army is split. He successfully deflects the aggression, just in time for a Lurker Den to finish. Scarlett knows Serral has already got lurkers, and she doesn’t want to play catch-up. Instead, she goes for a risky move, Tunneling Claws plus Burrow.
The Finnish Zerg is preparing for lurkers, he has detection everywhere — small groups of roaches on defense all over the perimeter. He spots burrowed units collapsing on his base, but it is too late. Roaches burst out of the ground, acid saliva is everywhere, Serral’s drones screaming in agony. There is no way to defend everything at once, and Serral goes for the only possible play: he commits to a base trade.
Scarlett has the surprise factor. Serral is ahead in tech. As he arrives and starts decimating Scarlett’s base, her first lurkers only start morphing. There is no way to fight roach-lurker with pure roach; there’s too much splash damage. The counter attack is a success. While Serral may have lost a significant chunk of his economy, more and more reinforcing roaches pop up in his main and natural. Scarlett can’t win the trade anymore.
Her fourth base is getting destroyed, with drones dying left and right. She is now even in workers with Serral but is left with half the army supply of her opponent. The situation looks dire for the Queen of Blades. It is time for a final blow from Serral.
Instead, he falls back. You can play too safely, but this is not the case. If there is a slight chance of not being able to finish the game, the Finnish Zerg won’t go for it. He regroups his army and denies Scarlett’s fourth base again. He gets another opportunity to end the game, but doesn’t. Instead, Serral techs to hive and gets vipers, the final nail in the coffin. He can’t lose the game anymore. So, naturally, he goes for a final push and wins game one.
Game 2: Redshift
Redshift is a weird map. It requires a unique strategic approach, as normal builds don’t work here. Gold base provides a good early game economy boost but eventually opens a direct path to the enemy base. Many zerg players go for an unusual natural base location, placing the hatchery outside the gold base. It gives access to rich mineral patches and provides an aggressive forward position.
This time, the players swap places. Serral decides to go for fancy plays, and Scarlett plays a regular style, or so it seems at the beginning of the game. Finnish Zerg goes for a fast Lair himself this time and goes straight to fast roaches. His opponent chooses a different, more unconventional strategy. She goes for a spine crawler on the outside of the gold and walks it across to pressure Serral. Combined with a few baneling detonations through mineral patches, it does enough income and psychological damage to her opponent.
As soon as he cleans up the initial aggression, he finds himself knee-deep in zerglings. Scarlett continues her relentless assault and floods Serral with speedlings, shutting down his economy completely. He is down to three workers. The situation looks dire, but he still has an army and a dream. As he pushes across the map with a last desperate attempt to secure the game, Scarlett reacts and pulls her army back. She gets a beautiful surround, shreds his roaches to pieces, and takes game two.
Game 3: Dreamcatcher
A map of opportunities, risky gold bases, and the best siege tank location in the current map pool. It provides multiple attack paths and no choice for a safe third. It’s very exciting to watch Terrans play this map, but ZvZ is also quite entertaining.
Both players choose to go for a fast lair, but their paths are branching in different directions. Serral sticks with a roach timing and Scarlett finally goes for her preferred ling-bane-muta. It’s strength against agility, brute force of a roach push versus zergling counter attacks and immense map control that comes with mutalisks. Overlords pop like balloons and Serral seems to be in a dangerous spot. He does not falter and sticks to his strategy, and soon his roach-hydra with +2 attack living ball of vengeance reaches a critical mass.
Queen of Blades does not give up that easily. She has a chance. If all banelings connect perfectly with Serral’s hydralisks, he will be left with no anti-air. A dozen banes morph at the front line as Centrifugal Hooks finishes researching. Scarlett attacks with everything she has and acid spills all over the battlefield, taking out most of Serral’s hydralisks. Serral taps out and gives up game three to Scarlett.
Game 4: Darkness Sanctuary
It’s a big, four-player map. Rush distance is very long, especially in cross-position. Scarlett will win the match if she takes this game, but there is no way an aggressive opening will work.
Serral knows he cannot lose this game, and he decides to go for a non-standard build. One of the builds in this matchup on the StarCraft II ranked ladder is to go for carapace upgrades early on. This way, a single baneling explosion doesn’t kill zerglings instantly, and early-game skirmishes gain a completely different look.
Serral takes it a step further: he goes for an armor upgrade first, delaying zergling speed. He decides to go for an aggressive timing attack, relying on Scarlet’s possible mistakes to make it work. Ling-bane dances take a different turn since Scarlett has to invest in more banelings. While this is happening, she relies on a strategy from the previous game and goes for mutalisks.
Scarlett successfully holds onto her bases, waiting until the mutas pop out. She gets melee attack upgrades, nullifying Serral’s advantage of +1 armor. He is behind in workers, and he took a later third. Scarlett looks confident as her first mutalisks fly across the map. If she gets there, the game is over.
Serral knows he is behind, so he decides to roll with it. He prepares for a roach ling all-in. Midway across the map, mutalisks find his roaches, but they deal oh so little damage to their hardened carapaces. This time, brute force is enough to defeat a quick and agile opponent. Roaches flood across the map and rip Scarlett’s base apart before mutalisks can clean them up. As more zerglings flood into her main, she cleans up the roaches. The long distance between their bases should act in her favor, but this is not the last ace up Serral’s sleeve.
Serral does the most impressive move in this match. Serral drops a Nydus in Scarlett’s main base. This completely mitigates the long rush distance and snuffs out the last chance for Scarlett to win this game. Queens and roaches pop out in her main and she taps out. Serral wins game four.
Game 5: Catalyst
The most standard map in the current pool. The map that survived three seasons, much like Ascension to Aiur before it. The game might have been standard as well, but this is the match point. Whoever wins this game, wins the series.
Both open with a fast third, but this time Scarlett skips the baneling nest. Early game is uneventful, as much as it can be with banes exploding left and right. Since Serral has banelings, he allows himself to be a bit greedy, while Scarlett floods lings. Each side transitions into roaches, but this time Serral is ahead 10 drones.
Scarlett gets a late baneling nest and decides to go for a big roach-ling-bane push, but she gets supply blocked at a critical point. As a result, her attack isn’t as fast and strong as it could’ve been. Serral deflects her with a perfect target fire, and the tables turn. Suddenly, Scarlett has half the army supply of her opponent, and she desperately needs to fix her economy. Serral pushes towards Scarlett’s third base and has a beautiful surround, but gets deflected. Queen of Blades finally has a chance to drone up. But Serral doesn’t stop. A big pack of zerglings slips into Scarlett’s main base, pulling her army back. At the same time another ling runby at the third deals tons of damage.
Scarlett could win the game if she has enough time to recover, but a spectacular baneling explosion takes a huge chunk out of her economy. Serral doesn’t give her time to rebuild. As roach speed finishes, he dives forward and crushes her army, still extremely ahead in supply. Scarlett leaves the game and Serral wins the match, 3-2.
Match results: Serral wins 3-2
An absolutely extraordinary performance. Zerg vs. Zerg is not Scarlett’s strongest matchup, but she still put up an amazing fight. Sadly, it was not enough. Serral advances to the quarterfinals of WCS Valencia 2018 and moves to win his third tournament of the year.