After their trial teamleague run late last year, VSL are back with an all-new tournament! For anyone disappointed at the rather empty schedule of the first few months of the year, it’s time to brace yourselves for the arrival of triple starleagues. The VSL adheres to the familiarity of the GSL format in a cut-down 16 player format, although perhaps the SSL helped in suggesting the batshit crazy qualification process. After this season is complete, VSL are promising a teamleague featuring these same 16 players at the end of April, but for now though, it’s time to meet your first batch of players in groups A and B.
All four players in the Group of Redemption have disappointed in the past few months (albeit to varying amounts), but Creator stands out as one of the most unexpected qualifiers for this entire tournament. It’s been hard at times to even remember that he’s still on Jin Air. Minimal exposure in online tournaments combined with a failure to qualify for any offline tournaments so far this year have left his stream as our only reminder of a protoss once heralded as the future of his race at the end of WoL. His qualifying run over Hush, Kelazhur, and Trust wasn’t the hardest set of opponents possible, let alone the fact that they were all Bo1s, and it’ll take some markedly better play to get him out of this group.
From one extreme to the other; ByuN’s been tearing up the online leagues as usual. Creator’s ex-teammate has absolutely dominated him over the past few years; since ByuN’s return in 2015, he holds a 28-13 map record over Creator, with only two of the twelve series going in the protoss’ favour. While ByuN’s been as reliable as ever online, with 78% / 64% / 76% winrates against protoss / terran / zerg respectively, offline play has been a whole different story. Knocked out of the GSL by Ryung and Stats; knocked out of IEM Katowice by Stats again (as well as losing to Ryung in groups); knocked down to SSL Challenge by INnoVation and Stats once again. It’s becoming inarguable that he has two clear weaknesses—strong terrans and Stats. The only question is whether those weaknesses extend down the pyramid.
His TvT won’t be tested here, but given herO’s absurd aggression in PvT currently, ByuN will still have to be wary. It’s been strange to see herO’s transition from HotS to LotV. While he was always an aggressive protoss, famed especially for his use of blink as an aggressive tool, he was also balanced enough to comfortably play towards the late game. He was the best in the world at the patient, careful playstyle required in the SH era of PvZ, and yet in Legacy he seems to have converted into some Korean cousin of Has. While that gives him plenty of highlight moments against lesser players, it also doesn’t provide him consistency against those of a higher tier. That showed itself in Katowice, where his strange performances led to group stage elimination, and following his loss against sOs in the GSL quarterfinals, he’ll be looking to bounce back here.
The Prime pair aren’t the only potential team-killers here; ByuL enters as the second of CJ’s old twin-aces. He actually beat herO in the VSL Qualifiers, although again the Bo1 qualifier remains. The one-sided results of his spars with ByuN have been pretty depressing for a player once famed for his world class HotS ZvT—ByuN has taken the win from their last six meetings at a 16-3 map record. Still, his hard-fought 2-1 win over aLive in the GSL showed that he clearly hasn’t forgotten all of his tricks, before he too lost to Stats (possibly the one figure uniting all of the KR scene at this point). His ZvP has looked functional, if not entirely solid, and his showdown with herO should be messily / confusingly entertaining.
herO > Creator
ByuL < ByuN
herO < ByuN
Creator < ByuL
herO > ByuL
ByuN and herO to advance to the Round of 8.
Speaking of Jin Air players who we haven’t seen in forever, Rogue’s here for his first offline appearance since January. His match history in 2017 reads: knocked out of GSL, failure in IEM Katowice Qualifiers, failure in SSL Qualifiers, wins over HerO and Slander to qualify here. As such, he’s been practically invisible. He looked awful in the GSL, knocked out by Bunny and KeeN, and judging the ease of Keen’s repeat victory in the IEM Qualifiers, he still hasn’t fixed those flaws.
He shares the group with one of his tormentors from that GSL group in Bunny. The third ex-CJ player of the week was one of the stars of the online scene earlier in the year, with formidable TvZ and TvP masking a weakness in the mirror matchup. His TvT winrate in 2017 is an awful 42%, although he quite hilariously managed to beat INnoVation to qualify here. Instead, it’s his previously golden TvZ that has collapsed in the past month or so. An 0-2 loss to Impact denied him a chance at a pure TvZ run to the IEM Katowice group stages, instead dumping him into the lower bracket and a loss against jjakji, while losses to soO, ByuL, and Losira led to elimination from SSL Premier. A single loss abroad can be blamed on multiple factors; a triplet of losses on home soil points to more of a pattern.
Bunny will have to beat at least one zerg to advance from this group, and if a win over Rogue might seem likely, a win over Solar will be more of a challenge. IEM Katowice was a bit of a wake-up call for Solar. Three tight 2-1 wins over lower calibre opposition were matched with 0-2 losses to ByuN (understandable) and HeRoMaRinE (less so), as well as being completely outclassed by Dark. Flawless qualifying runs in SSL (8-0 over Losira, Trap, aLive, and Ryung) and VSL (2-0 over Stats and MajOr) followed, and it will be interesting to see if that qualifier form will reflect his play here.
From being one of the most consistent players throughout HotS, Classic’s form has oscillated wildly throughout LotV. He created the blueprint for aggression in PvT that herO’s copied freely from (most hilariously in a fifteen minute 3-0 win over INnoVation back in December, featuring two proxy SGs sandwiching a void ray bust), and much like herO Classic too has struggled against terran in recent times. Classic has been helping soO practice extensively for his GSL semifinal over sOs, and given the likelihood of a Stats win over Ryung, it’s likely that he’ll be continuing with that prep work for at least another week yet. His PvZ then should at least be well-practiced, and if he actually plays modern PvZ in addition to mirroring sOs, he should do well here.
Rogue < Bunny
Classic < Solar
Bunny < Solar
Rogue < Classic
Bunny < Classic
Solar and Classic to advance to the Round of 8.
Time until VSL