Code S has already begun again! Every Wednesday and Saturday, the storied Korean league will provide us with StarCraft II action, and this week features two of three foreign Zergs that have made it through the grueling qualifiers — SortOf and Scarlett. The former faces off against heavy-hitters of the past in what would once have been a group of death. Scarlett's group appears a lot easier, even though it also contains World Champion Rogue.
If Group B had been played a few years back it could nearly have been considered a group of death with the caliber of players involved. But after a relatively poor 2017 by their standards, every player in this one will be eager to prove themselves once more and start 2018 on a high note.
Our first contender is none other than the million dollar man himself, sOs. Despite his insidious mind games, wily nature and dastardly cheeses, sOs is mercurial in nature, capable of reaching extreme highs as well as deep lows. He came close to a GSL win in 2017, a tournament that has somehow eluded him thus far, but it was still an overall poor year for a two-time BlizzCon champion. There are signs of a potential resurgence, though, as sOs has put in a strong run in the Korean IEM PyeongChang qualifier and a victory over ByuN in the IEM World Championship qualifier. With the meta up in the air after the latest patch, this could be sOs' chance to catch his opponents off guard with something new and keep his momentum going into the later rounds.
SortOf is the odd man out in this group, in the first foreigner to appear in Code S this year. As opposed to everyone else in the group, he doesn’t have a championship or even a strong second place to his name. And while his opponents have all seen better days, they are still frightening to face in any situation. SortOf has been training in Korea for a while however, and qualifying for Code S at least indicates that he's taken to the level required to compete there. Just how well he can keep with former champions or runner-ups up remains a mystery until the games are played.
Despite not having won a tournament in 2015, ByuL, definitely felt like the greatest Zerg of that time, with strong showings in back to back GSLs and an SSL. Unfortunately, ByuL hasn’t adapted particularly well to Legacy of the Void and, try as he might, the closest he has come to replicating his old form was a 3rd place in SSL S1 2017. We are in no position to speculate as to why he hasn't reached his previous heights, but it certainly doesn't bode well for him coming into this group. Unless ByuL turns his form around drastically,
Dear’s strongest results came even further back in time than ByuL's, dating back all the way to 2013 and 2014. Despite not having won a tournament since, Dear has managed to remain quite relevant throughout Legacy. He has consistently been able to climb up the GSL and SSL ladder, reaching several top 4s. Dear appears a lot more adaptable and has had strong results in both IEM qualifiers to prove that his current form isn't half bad either.
I think this group will be dominated by the Protoss as they seem to have adapted the best to the times, but between them I’m going to go with sOs, as he seems in the best form of the four at the moment, with a high ladder ranking that has translated over to IEM qualifier success. However, if it comes to a PvP between him and Dear, I could see Dear taking the group as well.
sOs 2 - 0 SortOf
ByuL 0 - 2 Dear
Dear 0 - 2 sOs
SortOf2 - 0 ByuL
Dear 2 - 0 SortOf
While we do have a clear favorite to make it out of Group C, there is definitely still upset potential due to latest patch. All the players of Group C have their own particularities and the group dynamics are such that we could really see some surprises.
2017 was the best year of Rogue’s career. Back to back championships at IEM Shanghai and The GSL Super Tournament, followed by the biggest title in SCII, the WCS Global Finals, all the while defeating some of the best players of their time was a monumental feat. Those results make Rogue the clear favorite going into this group and, if he can play to that level again, the entire tournament. And while there is potential for the meta to shift drastically due to the patch, it might not affect Rogue as much as other players. Rogue’s story has been one of a steady and consistent rise to the top across multiple games. He's notorious for driving the metagame on himself with new builds and strategies. And while that can be a double edged sword, a player of Rogue's caliber should be able to wield it properly.
While far cheesier than Rogue, Billowy lacks his opponent's results and gravitas. He has had a few good results here and there, but those have occurred mostly in team leagues and a long time ago. In individual tournaments Billowy’s main point of consistency has been simply qualifying for GSL as he has yet to break into the Ro16. He pops up in online tournaments quite regularly, but never really goes past more established players. Billowy has a really hard task ahead of him and will have to pull out some truly amazing stuff to beat Rogue - but Scarlett and aLive might be doable for him on a good day.
Scarlett has, in general, had pretty good results against Koreans, going toe to toe with them several times. Scarlett's overall consistency is also quite good, with her usually making deep runs in all the WCS she attends. A win still eludes her however, with her best recent result being silver at HSC XIII. Scarlett is also more accustomed to fighting in Korea than most other foreign players, having trained there for a long time now and also competing in the GSTL and a few GSLs down the years. She hasn’t been able to show the same level of consistency as in WCS though, as she's yet to break into the Ro16 of Code S. To compound her woes, she's facing off against aLive against whom she is currently on a losing streak. Regardless, Scarlett should fancy her chances in this group a lot more than she could in previous seasons. Billowy and aLive are players she has to be able to beat to deserve a Ro16 spot.
aLive has had quite a rocky career. After his good WoL performances he completely fell off the radar in HotS. Usually such falls from grace resulted in retirements for most players, but to his credit aLive stuck to his guns and made a fantastic resurgence in LotV, even getting a top 4 at IEM WC 2017 and 2nd in the GSL Super Tournament 1. His most recent results, however, haven’t been as good, failing early in both qualifiers for IEM. aLive may need to rekindle that spark to avoid an early exit from Code S.
While the upset potential definitely exists, simply due to who these players are and how they play, I still think Rogue’s newly acquired star powers will see him through this group. I also think aLive will make it through, though his road will probably be a bit more arduous and I wouldn't be surprised at all if it was Scarlett taking second place in his stead.
Rogue 2 - 0 Billowy
Scarlett 1 - 2 aLive
Rogue 2 - 0 aLive
Scarlett 2 - 0 Billowy
aLive 2 - 1 Scarlett