GSL Code S continues with more round of 32 action! This week, it's all about redemption as Zest looks to bounce back from an extremely disappointing 2017 that had everyone calling him washed up, while soO saddles up for yet another quest to end his curse.
While we’ve had a lot of David vs Goliath groups this season, Group D also brings its own twist in the form of an old grudge match. In 2014, soO and Zest fought for the title of best player in a epic year-long rivalry. This fight to be the best would continue, despite both players facing different challenges over the years. Now at the dawn of a new year it seems fated that the two would clash once more.
Our first combatant soO needs little introduction; a venerable paragon of consistency, soO now has as many silvers as Mvp has golds. The sad reality for one of the best zergs in StarCraft history is that despite his tremendous skill and knack for making deep runs, soO has the most trouble with closing out a series. It's been clear for years at this point that soO has the skill to win a tournament; he just needs to believe in himself and conquer his demons. His journey of a thousand miles begins now.
NoRegreT’s journey on the other hand is at risk of being cut short as he faces one of the strongest Korean zergs in his traditionally best match-up. While soO has seen a dip in his recent ZvZ form he can still be considered a powerhouse of the zerg mirror, making NoRegret’s job of preparing for him even harder. In addition NoRegret hasn’t seen much success in the WCS circuit either, usually having his runs cut short in the challenger league. Overall it would be a massive upset if NoRegret could manage a win against soO.
While people give Zest a lot of flak he’s actually been one of the most consistent players to date. Starting with 2014 he has managed to win at least one tournament per year and has also gone deep in most tournaments he has attended. It’s only when comparing his current day form to his 2014 peak that he appears to have lost his luster. Even so, Zest is a dangerous opponent whom all should fear, especially in a Ro32, and the primary danger to him could be the unstable meta. As such, Zest will need to be on the guard for any early game shenanigans which could jeopardize his late game dominance.
Bunny has always been a wild card in Korea. Traditionally used as a precision sniper by CJ Entus in PL, Bunny has been at his best when he is able to get his opponents out of their comfort zones and then bludgeon them with attack after attack. He resembles GuMiho in a lot of ways, however he has never been able to truly harness his inner chaos. As such, his individual league runs usually end in the Ro16 or shortly thereafter. Bunny does however have a good chance to do some damage in this round. Zest’s traditionally strong PvT seems a bit vulnerable now after losses to both ByuN and TY in his IEM WC qualifier run. It is possible that the mighty protoss has not yet fully adapted to the removal of the MSC, but it remains to be seen if this is enough of a weakness for Bunny to exploit.
I think the star power of soO and Zest will be too much for their opponents to handle and they will clash once more in the winners' match. Ultimately though I think soO’s hunger for victory will prevail and he will advance to the Ro16 once more with Zest hot on his heels.
soO 2 – 0 NoRegreT
Zest 2 – 0 Bunny
soO 2 – 1 Zest
NoRegreT 0 – 2 Bunny
Zest 2 – 0 Bunny
While seemingly very one-sided on paper, Group E represents a very balanced and interesting blend of styles and histories; a meeting of the old and the new; of micro and macro. While all players can lean to the side of order and are capable of strong traditional macro and multi-tasking oriented games, they will more often than not resort to some early game shenanigans which will spin the game into a chaotic mess.
First up we have the player which could be described as chaos incarnate. And while we’ve had many wildcard players over the years, none have been as successful or as driven as GuMiho. While it seemed for a while that GuMiho would fade out of existence as the game got more and more figured out, the wily terran has found ways to surprise and confound his opponents time and time again. His lack of a true defining style, coupled with years of experience in hundreds of online tournaments and 3 expansions worth of meta has given GuMiho incredible depth and experience. This experience finally coalesced into a GSL win in the second season of 2017. While he has yet to reach the same heights since, GuMiho has remained a genuine danger in all the tournaments he has attended and he’ll certainly be looking to make an impact here.
While definitely a more standard player just by virtue of comparison Hurricane still plays his own distinct Protoss style. He and GuMiho actually have a pretty long history and are similar in many ways. Both are members of the old guard and played on FXOpen and fOu before their disbandments. Being on the same team has certainly had its benefits as Hurricane developed into a formidable team league sniper, devising insidious timings and cheeses meant to take his opponents out of their comfort zones and wrestle games into a position he can win, much like his Terran opponent. Times have unfortunately not been as kind on Hurricane whose only good results have been a Ro16 in SSL S1 2016 and a Ro16 in GSL S3 2017. Hurricane even hinted at retirement in 2017, but it seems his GSL result was enough for him to consider giving 2018 another shot. With the decks stacked against him he’ll need to come extra prepared if he intends to stay in the game a season longer. He does have a chance in that, while Protoss’ defensive abilities were altered, their offensive potential might still be very strong.
On the other side of the group we have yet another veteran of the game since the beginning of WoL. Unfortunately Losira’s results peaked towards the middle of 2011, having won GSL Code A when it was itself a separate, prestigious tournament, and getting silver at MLG Columbus and GSL Code S July. Since then he’s been chasing his past glories, at times falling off the radar completely before bouncing back to a RO8. It could also be his style which doesn’t allow him to reach the same heights as, while Losira is a strong macro player he truly shines when he can bring the aggression to his opponents. In a way, Losira plays a sort of aggressive macro, where he likes to attack and macro, continuously ramping up the pressure. When it works it can be spectacular but when it fails it can starve the Zerg of resources or leave him defenseless against an impending counter-attack. To succeed, Losira will need to strike the right balance and possibly exploit the still fluctuating meta.
In many ways, TY is the exact opposite of Losira. He showed promise early but had to work hard for years until he finally won his first tournament. After years of training and improvements and living in the shadow of that KT terran, TY’s skill finally blossomed towards the beginning of 2017 with wins at WESG, IEM Katowice, and an impressive GSL vs the World and Global Finals showing. What TY and Losira do have in common is their love for non-standard strategies, clever use of terrain and calculated aggression. A lot of the Terran’s early game arsenal was gutted in the recent patches and thus it will be interesting to see how TY manages to adapt to the times—if he’ll be able to invent new pressures and timings, or if he ends up having to defend against a new tide of Zerg aggression.
I do think the favorites in this group are GuMiho and TY due to their experience and star power respectively, but I can see a lot of the series swinging in different directions. I’m also excited to see how the clash of the strange styles blend together and in particular the potential to have another epic GuMiho vs Losira series.
GuMiho 2 – 0 Hurricane
Losira 0 – 2 TY
GuMiho 1 – 2 TY
Hurricane 1 – 2 Losira
GuMiho 2 – 1 Losira