We're halfway through the Code S Ro32 and so far we've seen few surprises. For the most part, the players with the strongest GSL resumes have been the ones to advance. Yet, the efforts of the underdogs must be commended. Elazer and SortOf came within a single map of making us wonder if a "foreigner invasion" had arrived in the GSL, but they were unable to overcome their GSL champion opponents in deciding game threes. Keen—who gave Maru a spirited challenge in the previous season—gave Solar a similar scare before being ultimately eliminated. Headed into the second half of the Ro32, we'll be keeping our eyes peeled to see if the underdogs will be able to disrupt the status quo.
Ro32 seeding generally works out so that the groups are relatively balanced—a typical group might see one heavy favorite alongside three players who have a fighting chance. However, Group E has ended up having two prohibitive favorites and two players who seem to have barely any hope at all. Or do they? Let's unpack the group.
For Stats, 2018 has been a year where he's done an amazing job at redeeming himself. That's both a compliment and indictment, since one must fall before one can earn redemption. Stats was disappointing in all sorts of qualifiers, online events, and sometimes even in big tournaments such as IEM Katowice (though one might consider the IEM open bracket a qualifier). He looked hardly anything like the player who went into the 2017 WCS Global Finals as the #1 overall seed, a right he earned through consistently great performances throughout an entire year.
Despite his failings in qualifiers, Stats continued to climb slowly but steadily in the one tournament he made it into: GSL Code S. Though Stats ultimately fell to Maru in the grand final, his the GSL run restored most of his reputation as a top player. However, Stats was not content to win just silver and managed to fight his way to a first place finish in the following GSL Super Tournament. Fully vindicated, Stats is a force to be reckoned with, and is set to make another deep run in the GSL.
eMotion, unfortunately, doesn’t have many things going for him. The last time the former Samsung Galaxy player won an offline, non-qualifier match was back in 2013, when he defeated Jin Air's Terminator in Proleague to force an ace-match (Samsung won). Afterward, Emotion has only been seen in qualifiers and online competition, and sparsely at that. He certainly deserves credit for qualifying for his very first GSL Code S, but there's not much hope of him making it any further. Given his level of activity, he's probably at peace with that.
This GSL group finds ByuL in mostly the same spot he was in last season: diminished in passion, but still skilled enough to have a Code S spot. ByuL has fallen quite steeply since 2015 when he was a regular in the GSL and SSL finals. Perhaps it was the defeats in those finals that sapped his will—his form has been all over the board in the following years, and he has never returned to the finals. Right now, ByuL is a player who struggles to make it out of the Ro32. The raw talent is still lurking somewhere beneath, but he hasn't done much recently to inspire confidence. He dropped out of the Code S Ro32 last season, and failed to make it through the qualifiers for anything but the present Code S. One redeeming factor is ByuL's victory over Rogue in aforementioned qualifier, but Rogue has had issues of his own lately.
After Rogue conquered the world at BlizzCon 2017, it felt strange to see him crash and burn in the Ro32 of the very next GSL. Going through StarCraft history, it's not too unusual for a champion to drop out in the very first round of their next tournament, but it’s nonetheless a shocking surprising whenever it happens. Of course, Rogue proved he was no fluke champion when he went on to win IEM Katowice defeating a slew of strong opponents including TY, Maru and Classic.
While we now know better than to dismiss Rogue due to a few poor results in the short term, would it be unreasonable to wonder if he's now in the midst of yet another post-championship hangover? INnoVation took Rogue down a peg in the GSL Super Tournament, while Neeb handed Rogue a 2-3 defeat in the semifinals of the HangZhou StarCraft Carnival. Hardly reason for panic, but it's still food for thought. Regardless, he still seems like a lock to make it out of this particular group.
With the way the group is setup it feels like Stats and Rogue are certain to make it out, and they will be battling it out for first place. I’ll give the nod of confidence to Stats as his results are better recently, and he was convincing in his Super Tournament victory over top Zerg player Dark.
Stats 2 – 0 eMotion
ByuL 0 – 2 Rogue
Stats 2 – 1 Rogue
ByuL 2 – 0 eMotion
Rogue 2 – 1 ByuL
Stats and Rogue to advance
One thing stands out for certain in this Ro32 group: a grudge match between two old rivals. In a strange twist of fate, Maru and Dear have once more been dropped into the same group. Maru got the better of Dear in last season's GSL Ro16, but Dear took a series off him during the IEM Katowice group stage. Regardless of their form relative to the rest of the StarCraft II scene, Maru and Dear seem destined to remain evenly matched in their own little universe.
The champ is here, and the rest of the StarCraft II scene would be right to tremble. Maru has been in tremendous form, the strongest he has been in years. Maru has gone on a one-month rampage, placing in the top 4 of Katowice and obtaining gold in both the GSL and WESG. The manner in which he won has also been impressive, defeating some of the strongest Zerg and Protoss players with almost completely re-invented play. A match against rival Dear provides a point of interest, but there's little doubt that Maru will end up advancing from this group.
Zanster must have cursed his luck after being matched up against the reigning champion himself. While Zanster has been a steady presence in the foreign scene for years, he is still chasing that next big result after placing top four during WCS Season 3 in 2015. Alas, GSL Code S isn't the best place for a foreigner to look for a high finish. His recent results also don’t inspire much confidence as he has lost to top Terrans and Protoss such as TY, GuMiho, Dear, Patience and Hurricane. Zanster may impress like the other foreigners have this season, but it seems like a stretch to believe he will actually make it out of the group.
Bunny is one of those players that skirts the outer ring of SC2 success, unable to make a serious impact despite occasional glimpses of excellence. His history reveals an impressive number of Ro32 and 16 appearances across the GSL and SSL, but that wouldn’t entirely be doing him justice. Looking at his online results we can see that he is quite active and boasts good results against strong opponents like TY, aLive, GuMiho, Dear. The one issue is the majority of his strong results come in the mirror match-up. As such we have an interesting group dynamic in that Bunny could struggle in the TvP and TvZ department, however he might be uniquely situated to take out Maru should he get the chance.
Dear also finds himself in a bit of a resurgence as of late, and while still pretty far from his 2014 form it is still nothing to scoff at in 2018. In the GSL he only made it to the Ro16 however he made a deep run at IEM Katowice, surviving a pretty tough group also consisting of Maru, TY and GuMiho and defeating Impact in the bracket only to fall to Classic. Given Classic’s form at the time there is no shame losing to him. He did cool down in April as he wasn’t able to make it into the GSL ST. It’s hard to say if his form is declining slightly or he is just experiencing a bad spell, but he’ll certainly need to work hard to make it. And there can’t be anything much more inspirational to work hard towards than defeating one’s long time rival again.
Going by pure form and momentum alone Maru should take it. His TvZ alone is strong enough to guarantee him a spot in the winners match; it then comes down to who his opponent is as both present some interesting challenges. Bunny’s best MU is TvT and he has displayed great results against top caliber Terrans, while Dear is Maru’s long time rival and faces the Terran Price in his worst MU. Overall I think Maru will still advance, but we’ve seen weirder exits before from reigning champions. Bunny’s overall recent results are good enough that I think he can make out in second place.
Maru 2 – 0 Zanster
Bunny 1 – 2 Dear
Maru 2 – 1 Dear
Zanster 0 – 2 Bunny
Dear 0 – 2 Bunny
Maru and Bunny to advance