Groups G & F
The final groups for the Ro32 are very interesting to say the least. Day 1 is chock-full of frustrated players looking to reclaim their potential, with two players who will probably make it deep into the tournament. Fan favorite Scarlett is the main attraction of Day 2, followed an eclectic mix of contenders hoping to make their mark.
King for a Day, Royalty Forever?
It's been three weeks into the New Year and ByuN has largely stabilized. The 3.8.0 patch put a dent into a few of his dominant matches, especially his TvZ; without access to his one-dimensional (and masterfully executed) midgame timings, ByuN found himself floundering against the multipronged aggression of ling/bane/muta. Over the last few weeks he's ironed out the obvious flaws and enters the group as the unquestionable favorite. Considering he remains one of the best players in the world, ByuN won't be satisfied with merely winning the group. Maru, INnoVation, and TY have risen during his brief slide to challenge his claim as Lord of all Terrans. ByuN would need to silence any doubts about his supremacy to make this GSL a successful one.
His first opponent this season barely has a reputation, let alone a history. DRGLing, a fringe player with barely 16 matches to his credit after 2015, is an enigma in most aspects. No one knows his playstyle, his matchup strengths, or his tendencies. If he was an “unknown” circa 2012, he could cause some havoc with this advantage. Suffice to say his completely uninspiring record overrides any concerns over imperfect information. With the exception of a win over Ryung 2 years ago, DRGLing has not done a single thing of note in his career. His chances of breaking that trend look bleak.
No Wedding Dress for You, Brah
Perpetual bridesmaid Stats cannot seem to escape his reputation, Results-wise he's having the best run of his career: 3 semifinal finishes at HomeStory Cup, KeSPA Cup, and BlizzCon with an added silver from IEM Gyeonggi. With those results you could make the argument that he's been the best Korean Protoss over the last 3 months. Yet none of those tournaments felt like a turning point in Stats' form. Astute viewers already knew he was swimming in talent, and they expected him to have a championship run at some point. However, Stats has never looked dominant in any of the aforementioned events. Gyeonggi was especially fraught with tension as he edged out every win by the skin of his teeth, culminating in a 0-4 asswhooping at the hands of the T-1000. GSL represents a fresh start as he aims to shed himself of moldering expectations. As long as he avoids Protoss, he ought to see another quarterfinals at least.
Some measure of consistency would be a godsent for Ryung. The only pattern that has defined the dependable utility player over the last couple of years is his tendency to switch teams—since 2015 he has made 4 jumps. Besides that, he has been almost invisible in the scene. His quarterfinals run in GSL Season 2 last year was the sole bright spot in a long period of disappointment; ever since the SSL/GSL system was implemented, Ryung has only qualified twice in 10 attempts. That makes his performance tonight all the more pressing. Confidence is essential for consistent results and Ryung needs to prove to himself that this opportunity was not luck. At this point, playing well is a higher priority than winning games. It's unfortunate that Ryung finds himself in one of the tougher groups to accomplish that. Besides the looming threat of ByuN, Protoss has been his bane for years. It's highly likely that he'll have to beat Stats twice in order to advance and I can't see that happening.
ByuN 2-0 DRGLing
Stats 2-0 Ryung
ByuN 2-0 Stats
DRGLing 0-2 Ryung
Stats 2-1 Ryung
ByuN and Stats advance.
What is Disrespected May Never Be Exposed
It's safe to say aLive is a zombie. Like the corpses of Romero or Kirkman, he stumbles forward with a relentless drive to do...something. Stick around? Eat flesh? Outlast his brethren? Whatever it is, that irrational drive has sustained him over six years of middling results, squandered opportunities, and disregard from the community. Since IPL 4 he hasn't been a tournament contender; hell, since 2014 he hasn't risen above gatekeeper status. Perhaps that's aLive is once again in the GSL, long after more accomplished, beloved players have exited the game altogether. He seems indifferent to the whims of the meta, the disintegration of Korean teams, the bitterness of nostalgia. A sustainable career is the only thing he's concerned with. No matter how unmemorable and unimpressive aLive has looked over the last few years, he has managed to make a living off his craft.
So how should Classic interpret aLive's abrupt leap in form? Normally, the former SKT T1 Protoss could treat this as a walkover. Common sense dictates he should focus on Scarlett as the biggest threat: however, you can't ignore someone who has beaten Dark, InnoVation, HerO, Stats and ByuN (3 times!) in the last week. Technically it could mean nothing. A rising Terran tide lifts all boats and aLive may be the main beneficiary. Yet that's been his craftiest trick over the years—making you believe he's a benign obstacle on the way to the real boss. Furthermore, Classic isn't guaranteed to get out of this group. His easiest opponent should be MyuNgSiK, who has been absent since his commendable VSL performance, but Scarlett and aLive are potential headaches. She will test his faltering PvZ if they meet in the winners match; he is the X factor that could send Classic out of the GSL. Between those two, I foresee Classic barely missing his chance to advance.
A New Challenger Approaches
It's a testament to how much the scene has changed that Scarlett's Code S berth is merely exciting. Three years ago, such an appearance would have been inherently suffused with symbolism. Foreigners in GSL were a rarity, all the more improbable by Korea's impregnability in the tournament scene. Our previews would be crowing over how this was further proof that foreigners could compete with Koreans on their own turf. Publicity would hammer away at how bold she was to test her mettle, how risky it was to uproot her whole life for the hardest tournament in the world.
Today the spot stands solely as recognition of her skill. Korea is no longer the impenetrable scene whose players stand head and shoulders above the rest of the world. Their stars remain intimidating (and win most tournaments), but their recent proclivity for errors and bad judgment leave them quite mortal. As a result, Scarlett no longer carries the weight of the foreign scene on her shoulders. There's no need to prove herself; she's beaten enough Koreans to make the question moot. She can solely focus on local concerns such as “Is this MyuNgSiK's comeback or his vacation?”.
I can't quite tell myself. MyuNgSiK's move to Overwatch wasn't surprising—who wouldn't take a change on an emerging game in his position?—but his determination to participate in both games is a bit puzzling. It is a notoriously grueling endeavor to simply retain a spot at the top of the SC2 scene; splitting time and attention between 2 games sounds like a recipe for disaster. Such audacity is expected from a player who made his name off bold strategies. If MyuNgSiK has a legacy in SC2 it's upending expectations, so it would be folly to expect him to roll over in this group. Yet with his scarce resume over the last two months, it's impossible to know how he has adjusted to the meta. MyuNgSiK enters this group as a fat question mark, although not one that should affect the final outcome.
MyuNgSiK 1-2 Scarlett
aLive 0-2 Classic
Classic 0-2 Scarlett
MyuNgSiK 1-2 aLive
Classic 1-2 aLive
Scarlett and aLive advance.