Groups C & D
GSL Code S returns this week with two stacked groups and some possible surprises—at least anything seems possible after Zest and Rogue bombed straight out of Group A last week, with the Terran duo of Bunny and KeeN advancing. An explosive mix of players awaits us, as we celebrate the comeback of Tricksters, Kongs and Machines!
sOs will surprise us again
In this new era many of the best players have decided to fully commit to online tournaments and regular streams to not only fill their coffers, but also to strengthen their popularity and standing in the community. We find a very notable exception in Jin Air Green Wings’ sOs, who only played the bare minimum of matches in the last weeks and months, meaning qualifiers for offline events as well as HomeStory Cup in Germany. Otherwise, sOs is absent from entry lists.
Of course there is one easy way of explaining that: Since he still has a team supporting him, sOs isn’t dependant on cash prizes from smaller cups or any income from streaming. He also has a bit of inhouse practice left, whereas most Koreans after the great cataclysm of 2016 must rely on other methods of training even more so than during the KeSPA days. So sOs’ absence from the online tournament ecosystem is easily explainable.
Instead, however, he must be putting his entire energy and practice effort into preparation for this GSL group, experimenting with all kinds of crazy styles and builds in a secluded area of the Jin Air team house, which he will reveal on the grand stage of GSL when the time is right—a maniacal laughter included. To get a bit more serious again: It’s truly a mystery how sOs’ shape is looking at the moment, and it’ll be extremely interesting to see how well he fares against players, who do not have the same infrastructure behind them anymore. It certainly didn’t work out well for Rogue last week, while Maru advanced without breaking a sweat, so there are definitely no foregone conclusions about this.
When we last saw him in 2016, sOs had some problematic encounters with Zerg players, such as in the GSL qualifiers and at HSC XIV. With two excellent representatives of this race present in his group, sOs might run into some issues, should these problems not have been fixed over the course of the last weeks. Against ever surprising Billowy the Jin Air Protoss should have an easier time, however. The return of the Trickster will be an interesting event to witness—should his comeback fail, he might need to overthink his approach to online competitions.
The Kongs Resurgent
With four Zerg players attempting a GSL run this week, all eyes will be on the swarm’s performance, because Rogue certainly didn’t show any magic last week. Leading the charge are soO and ByuL, two players with intimate familiarity of Grand Final series and the feeling of falling short in said matches. The other side of the coin is that they also have a high grade of experience in reaching such a late stage of the tournament, and with how strong the Terran players looked in the first week, we’ll take any Zergs we can get to avoid an AfreevaTvT scenario in the advanced rounds.
Both soO and ByuL have had some truly excellent performances in the last weeks and are a steady presence in online competitions. While this is more or less expected from such a continuously great player as soO, ByuL’s swift resurgence to power has been a delightful surprise for his fans. 2016 hasn’t been great for the former CJ Zerg, but in the last weeks alone he was able to reach a Top 4 placement at IEM Gyeonggi, and get several first and second places in the various Korean onliners, such as events from BaseTradeTV and Olimoleague.
Interesting is also the divergence of match-up strength, when looking at ByuL’s and soO’s recent stats respectively: While ByuL boasts a sheer ridiculous win rate in the seventies against Terran and Zerg, and “only” close to 60% against Protoss, soO has been raking in victory after victory against Protoss players, with a win rate of over 80%, while staying in the fifties for the other two match-ups. The best thing for fans of both players is this: soO faces two Protoss players in his group with sOs and Billowy, ByuL meets Forte, INnoVation and Losira—fortune truly seems to favour those two… for now.
INnoVation's Quest for Glory
NationWars IV has been a rather bumpy affair for the South Korean squad so far, with INnoVation being one of the stuttering engines: He was caught in Scarlett’s stampede and gave away a map against Kelazhur and the Brazilians. Team Korea did reach the offline stage after a rocky start, but INnoVation hasn't covered himself in glory in doing so.
Not only have pesky foreigners damaged his reputation, certain Koreans, whom he will face in his group, have also sunk their claws into his back while he was preoccupied with foreign affairs: Losira narrowly won a Best of 5 against him in the OSC Championship on January 6, ByuL defeated him three days earlier by a more comfortable margin. And then there is Forte, this hit-or-miss Terran, who had already performed well against INnoVation in the past and must certainly be looking for another chance to prove himself—and retake the victory he threw away against him once in VSL.
If INnoVation thought honour and glory would await him as one of the three chosen to represent his country, he’s been deceived. Instead, he'll have to do it the old fashioned way: in Korea.
Of Gatekeepers and Vultures
Next to these four titans—sOs, soO, ByuL and INnoVation—stand four players, who may not be favoured to advance, but who will utilize any chance whatsoever to throw a wrench into their gears. Veteran Curious is always one such candidate, as he can pull miraculous performances out of nowhere and kick any favorite out—he’s still the Gatekeeper after all.
Then there is Billowy, who is almost equal to sOs when it comes to deadly and precisely timed builds with some psychological background text. He could certainly make something happen against the Jin Air player in PvP, and maybe even surprise such a well-rounded opponent as soO.
In Group D, it’s another veteran in Losira, who’s done very well in the last few weeks and could make an upset happen. He beat INnoVation recently, making a claim to one of the two Round of 16 tickets being given out in this group. And never forget Forte, who occasionally felled some true giants last year and will probably focus all his effort into repeating such a feat—after all, legend killers oftentimes happen to become legends in their own right.
sOs > Billowy
Curious < soO
sOs < soO
Billowy < Curious
sOs > Curious
soO and sOs to advance!
Losira < INnoVation
ByuL > Forte
ByuL > INnoVation
Losira > Forte
INnoVation > Losira
ByuL and INnoVation to advance!