Welcome Back, GSL!
It seems like an eternity has passed since ByuN’s triumph at BlizzCon. Online tournaments and other events have somewhat sated the community’s appetite, but have, in reality, mostly served as appetizer for the main course. The GSL is finally back.
The Resurgence of Keen
To loosely quote the infamous rant of former American football coach Denny Green, “KeeN is who we thought he is!”
The community has seen a lot of Keen in 2016. In December alone he played 50 matches in a variety of tournaments, beating groupmates Zest and Bunny along the way. At the same time, he has also lost to top tier players like Classic, herO, Solar, soO and INnoVation.
So, what is one to make of these muddled results? The simple truth is this, KeeN plays a lot of games. He is capable of going toe to toe with anyone, but historically he has not been the most successful player in offline events. In fact he failed to reach Code S during either season of the GSL last year.
KeeN’s last televised match against Protoss was against the player he will start his GSL campaign against – Zest.
And even though, at first glance, you would count him out against one of the all-time Protoss greats, KeeN stands a chance here. He's been on and off the radar for years now, but rarely has he been on it as strongly as he is now.
The Thing With Terrans
Like all of the Koreans recently freed into the wild, Zest has played a lot of games in online events during the latter portion of 2016. His first match is against a Terran, a matchup he played 12 times in December, posting a 4-8 record, a far cry from his dominance in the matchup during earlier parts of the year. His matches against Keen, GuMiho and also Bunny, who he could very well also face in Group A, show a number of things. He still appears to feel comfortable in the lategame, regardless of whether or not his results indicate that he should.
It wasn’t so long ago that Zest reached the finals of Homestory Cup, defeating aLive, TY and Rogue along the way, but some of the luster has come off as of late. He’s often looked bad even in victory, giving his fans a reason to doubt if he can live up to his deified reputation.
His PvT matchup tells the story of his perceived struggle. After the first GSL Season of last year, Zest's winrate against Terrans was absurdly high. Now, at 4-8 against arguably weaker opposition compared to then, he's far from the dominant player he used to be. But that's the thing with Terrans—you either dominate them, or keep losing to them. Zest needs to find his rhythm again, and a staple matchup, as his PvT used to be, would be a good start.
A New Era
Bunny is someone who has always existed at the periphery. He posted a 5-12 record with CJ Entus during the final season of Proleague and, despite making it to Code S for the first time during Season 1 of 2016, he bowed out quickly.
But things appear to be turning around for him. The second Still Making Korea Great Again qualifier and the subsequent main events were a big sign that after a year riddled with struggle, Bunny may have gotten a grasp on the new patch quite fast. In those events, he faced off against two Zerg titans, soO and Solar, both of whom he dispatched with flawless macro play and effective use of aggressive reaper builds on Echo. Against Zest he was able to capitalize on Zest’s negligence to score a quick win with widow mines as well as winning a prolonged affair against Zest’s colossus based army. Both these matches point towards favorable results for Bunny who faces a Zerg in his opening match, with the possibility of a rematch against Zest looming.
When CJ Entus disbanded their StarCraft II division, all signs pointed towards Bunny being one of the next players to retire. He had neither fame, nor the flair to appeal to a foreign team—or so you would have thought. Instead, he became one of the first to be signed by a new team, DuSt Gaming. But to stay a sustainable investment for his team, he now needs to come up with results and show that he is indeed worth the money. So far he seems to be on the right path.
Predictions: Group A
Zest 2 - 1 Keen
Bunny 2 - 0 Rogue
Zest 2 - 1 Bunny
Keen 0 - 2 Rogue
Bunny 2 - 1 Rogue
The New Kid on the Block
And here we thought we were running out of new blood in the scene. Group B features a player who has never appeared in the GSL before. NightMare, a Protoss newcomer, defeated Hurricane twice to qualify for Code S. And even though Hurricane has not been a world beater in recent times, there are absolutely worse players than him.
For a new face to come in now is quite exciting. NightMare was a B-teamer on CJ Entus before the team shut its doors. Whatever madness made NightMare decide to continue on with StarCraft II, it has paid off for him. In the form of 2520$, to be exact. For all the talk of an unstable and declining scene in Korea, the retirement of many of the game's best players does open up new avenues for young talent to succeed, and NightMare's existence alone is proof of that, and is excited.
Now, what are his chances of going even further? Wins vs Bunny, Trust and Hurricane can only be considered encouraging, but losses to GuMiho (who he may face in the group), Stats, Classic and Dream show that NightMare still has a long way to go.
But nobody will be expecting him to dominate right away. Reaching Code S is a first, important step on his potential journey towards the top. And who knows? Maybe years from now we'll look back on this moment as the start of something great.
The Old Kids on the Block
Maru, herO and GuMiho have been staple players of Code S for years. Maru is the only one of them currently on a team, as Jin Air have stood firm as the only KeSPA team not to disband their StarCraft II division. While NightMare is the obvious underdog in this group, every one of these three might be favored to advance in one of the other groups. But, unfortunately for them, they're pitted against one another and only two can advance.
GuMiho has been the most active of them, participating in online tournaments as always. The other two have kept quiet for a while, but that might prove to be an advantage for them.
Predictions: Group B
herO 2 - 0 NightMare
Maru 2 - 1 GuMiho
herO 2 - 0 Maru
Nightmare 1 - 2 GuMiho
Maru 2 - 1 GuMiho