Up/Down: Group A Preview
The GSL is back! The world's toughest, most prestigious StarCraft II league kicks off the new year with the no-holds barred death match otherwise known as the Up and Downs, where the twelve final Code S spots will be given to the worthy. This is the line between Code S and Code A, stardom and anonymity, heaven and purgatory. We've never seen a player take a game off in the Up/Downs while they still have a Code S spot on the line, and it routinely gives us some of the most nerve-wracking, emotionally charged games in StarCraft II. What a great way to start the season.
Group A: Flash, Jaedong, MC, YoDa, YongHwa, Vampire
Top two advance to Code S, third place goes to wild card group.
The MVP Protoss isn't in this position because he is necessarily bad, but more because this group is stacked from top to bottom. Having taken over the role that Ensnare, Virus and Suhosin passed on of being that guy in Code S that continually makes it into Code S while people think he isn't good enough, Vampire has proven to be a solid, but nothing special Protoss the past couple of months. He got dispatched quite easily in last season's Ro32, and he will need to show a lot of improvement if he has any hope of even taking a wild card spot from this group. However, you have to remember that even Virus put together one great, MC-impeaching, Nestea-slaying Ro16 run that season he where everything was clicking, which goes to show that the skill gap at this level is narrower than you might think.
Putting Jaedong in the second to last spot is sure to anger fangirls and fanboys, but the Brood War legend just hasn't been that great since making his transition to Starcraft 2. The only match-up that he is Code S level in currently, ZvZ, will be of absolutely no help to him in this group, seeing as he'll be facing three Protoss and two Terran. His ZvT is hovering around 40%, which is already pretty bad, but his ZvP is even worse, as he's lost his nine last games against Protoss in Korea and having an abysmal 34% in the match-up.
There is no doubt that Jaedong could turn it on and steamroll this group, but name value alone can't make him one of the favorites in this group. Even before the switch from Brood War to Starcraft 2 occurred, Jaedong was lagging behind players like Soulkey, Zero, and other Zergs who were all showing better play. Jaedong is now in a team house with strong Protoss players and he can try to fix his ZvP with the help of JYP and Hero. But with the quality of players he'll have to face in this group, a crash session with his Protoss housemates might not be enough, especially with Proleague to prepare for as well. We might see a lot of sad Korean girls walking out of the GOM studios before the night is done.
Once called the best player on LG-IM by Mvp, we're still waiting on Yoda's huge breakout season. He made it to the Ro16 a season ago, but couldn't get any farther after being paired up against Hyun and Hack. He is a solid player all around and is particularly strong in TvT, so that should give him an edge over one of the better players of the group, Flash, who has shown the much trouble in the mirror match-up. Yoda has proven through last season's Ro16 appearance that he shouldn't be at the bottom of the pack, but with three straight series losses and not the most consistent track record before last season, we can't say for sure he'll be able to beat the three monsters ahead of him.
Truth be told, MC hasn't been all that great recently. He has been one of the best players in Starcraft 2 since the game released, but his foreign results haven't been very impressive of late, and he hasn't done much in the GSL since getting steamrolled by now Code B player Seed in the third finals of 2012. If we're looking at simply recent results, Yoda should be ahead of MC, but the president-in-exile has a long history of getting it done when people are counting him out. When he seems as his absolute weakest and most figured out, he will put on a performance that makes you feel stupid for betting against a guy who has won the most money in the game's history. At the moment he seems completely figured out, is not in good condition, and should finish outside the top three, but every single time he's been in this position before, he's snapped out of it and destroyed his opposition.
Flash and Jaedong might have been rivals in Brood War, but they've had different starts to their SC2 careers. Jaedong has had a somewhat lackluster beginning, but Flash has done amazingly at the two foreign events he attended, been a rock for KT in Proleague, and has just played better overall than Jaedong. He still has a weak spot in the match-up of TvT, only having a 40% win rate, but that won't be the death of him with only one other Terran in the group. His TvZ and especially his TvP have been great of late, and he'll have three Protoss that he can face off against on the night.
He still isn't one of the best players in the world, but we can confidently say that he is at least a mid-tier Code S player with the results he has shown across the board. His TvT will need to improve a lot for him to be a contender for a Code S championship any time soon, but with the track record Flash has, we wouldn't put it past him to excel in the mirror match-up before too long. Flash might not be the young fifteen year old prodigy he was five years ago, but at the age of 20, The Man Known as God still has lots of years to master this new game.
I'm pretty sure Artosis already has his speech ready when Yonghwa wins the first Code S title of 2013, but he still needs to get through this group first to even make it into the dance. Nobody is going to question Yonghwa's talent, but he still is known as the guy who choked a thousand times in Code B and was never able to make it into Code A. In any other Code A bracket, he more than likely would have made it into Code S directly, but Yonghwa got paired up with Life in the third stage and witnessed how scary he can be when he's at the top of his game (Yonghwa didn't even try to play Life straight-up, cheesing, and losing, two straight games). Now dropped into the Up and Down groups because of his loss to the Startale ace, Yonghwa will get to show us if he can handle the Up and Downs in his first go.
Strong in all three match-ups, Yonghwa will only have to worry about the unpredictably of PvP. His PvZ, besides his match against Life, has been top notch of late, and he has a 65% win rate against Terran that will be tough for Yoda and Flash to handle. There are a lot of factors that could drop Yonghwa out of the top three in this group, but he really should make it into Code S by the time the week is done, barring a huge mental block. There are a lot of big names in this group, but Yonghwa might be the one that ends the night stealing the headlines from the proven stars.