There's little time for rest in the hectic world of competitive StarCraft II. After a short break for IEM PyeongChang, GSL Code S is back with the first of its round of sixteen group. In fact, two of the competitors from IEM will be playing in Group A, having had limited time to prepare for their GSL trial. Will Scarlett's experience at IEM help her reach the quarterfinals, or will she face a harsh reality check? Will Zest's woes continues, or will he prove he is indeed the best?
The GSL returns with it's most racially balanced group, the result of a wild and nonsensical group nomination. The Machine has done his best to craft an optimal group, but recent events threaten to throw a wrench in his perfectly laid cogs.
In terms of first opponents, INnoVation really couldn’t have picked better than Leenock. Not only has INnoVation's TvZ been traditionally stellar, he has a frightening 69.44% win-rate in recent months. To compound it, INnoVation has been Leenock’s nemesis for what seems like forever. The last series Leenock took against INnoVation was back in 2012, while he won his last game against him in 2014. One potential threat to INnoVation is his former KT rival Zest. However, INnoVation has been able to get the better of him on occasion, and could still beat him with some carefully prepared strategies. Moreover, Zest's recent form has been quite erratic—so much so that INnoVation may not mind playing his hated TvP match-up. Overall INnoVation must feel really happy.
On the other hand Leenock is probably cursing his luck, as he's trapped against two juggernaut Korean opponents and the hottest foreigner of the moment. The most likely scenario for Leenock to advance is to miraculously beat one of his countrymen, and hope he lands in a ZvZ against Scarlett (a match-up in which his form is quite good at the moment). Even Leenock seemed resigned to defeat against INnoVation during group nominations, but his chance of beating Zest seems much better. Zest's recent PvZ win-rate is quite terrible at 43% over the last two months. Still, when considering the caliber of players Zest has faced, Leenock still has a mountain to climb if he wants to see the GSL RO8 for the first time in over five years.
While Zest looked to be going into 2018 with guns blazing, his most recent result have cast a shadow on his form once more. As impressive as his wins against sOs, Classic, herO and TY were in the IEM PyeongChang qualifier, they contrasted strikingly against his complete collapse against soO in the GSL, his inglorious losses to Cham and Dear in the IEM Katowice qualifier, and elimination at the hands of Elazer in the IEM PyeongChang RO8. While his PvT form is impressive on paper, it's inflated by victories against the likes of Bunny, Buster and Semper. His PvZ has was already been suspect—enough to the point where if he doesn't study his opponents carefully, he might be in real danger of going out in the Ro16.
Initially Scarlett looked like an "insurance" match for INno and Zest. However, her IEM PyeongChang championship has completely shifted the power dynamics of the group. Her ZvT form is still quite bad, with her losing and struggling against aLive, Maru and Kelazhur in recent matches. On the other hand, her ZvZ is excellent, with notable victories against Serral and Elazer and even the reigning BlizzCon champion Rogue. Her ZvP win rate in the last two months is 57.89%. However, her only major victory against a notable Korean Protoss in recent times was against sOs, a very mercurial player. Scarlett has struggled against the likes of Neeb and she even dropped a set to Dear in the Katowice qualifier. Still, with her recent championship, NoRegret by her side, and Bly on speed-dial, the other players in Group A must respect Scarlett or risk elimination.
Overall, the recent happenings shouldn’t have affected INnoVation’s plans too much. He should still be a favorite to advance. The second player to make it out is a lot more complicated and difficult prediction. Given everyone's recent form, they're all capable of scoring an 'upset' against each other. After weighing all the variables, I like Scarlett's chances the most. Her ZvZ and ZvP are good enough, and Zest’s PvZ has been bad enough that I give her a narrow edge. No matter who wins, though, tears will flow.
INnoVation 2 – 0 Leenock
Zest 2 – 1 Scarlett
INnoVation 2 – 0 Zest
Leenock 1 – 2 Scarlett
Zest 1 – 2 Scarlett
INnoVation and Scarlett advance