Code A RO48: Week One Preview
By: Fionn and Waxangel*
Ah, Code A. That place where bright eyed newcomers risk their hopeful hearts, gatekeepers tell themselves 'this is the day I rise out of mediocrity!' and fallen stars try to find that cruelly scarce commodity called redemption. Code S means the world to Korean pro-gamers, and while the players who make it there sometimes show hints of contention, everyone in Code A is starved for victory. With a GSL champion and an MLG champion headlining the card, we begin the second Code A season of 2012.
*Ace vs Jookto, Bboongbboong vs Ggandol, SC vs Symbol, JYP vs Seal by Fionn, Bumblebee vs Heart, DRG vs Revival, aLive vs Ven, HuK vs Hack by Waxangel.
ST_AcE vs. oGs.JookTo
Looking at this match for the very first time, a gigantic wave of deja vu hit over me. 'Wait, didn't I preview this series last season in the first round of Code A?' In fact, it isn't a rematch from last season, but a very similar situation with Startale's #1 cheerleader and third best Protoss (sorry, but Parting and Squirtle are really good) going up against another one of oGs' not really known Zerg players in Jookto, after going up against oGsLuvsic last season. Amazingly, if you haven't already forgot, Jookto was in the first season of Code S and fell right out, losing to MVP, FruitDealer and Zenio in three straight sets. Since then, he has been here and there, popping up in a few Code A seasons, but getting knocked right out in the first round by more established players.
For Ace, this is an extremely important match. After beating Luvsic last season and giving a challenge to Keen in the second round before dropping out, things were looking bright for him in 2012 after a rough 2011. Then, in the Up and Downs, he got completely crushed and was made to look like a player who was lucky to still be in the GSL. Now, with Parting – now known as the King of Storms and best PvT player on the planet – and Squirtle – now known for his amazing run at IPL4 and getting a second place finish in a hard fought series against Alive – both in the round of sixteen in Code S, Ace needs to do better this time around or he will be forgotten behind his two Protoss teammates. Ace isn't as bad as he showed in the Up and Downs, and against a player who is known to do better in practice than actual tournament play, he should be able to make it into the second round.
Prediction: Ace 2 – 1 Jookto
coL.Heart vs BumblebeePrime
Ah, Bumblebee. To us elitist, hipster, Code A watching SC2 fans, he was already "the guy who went 0 – 5 in the Up/Downs" long before he became "the guy who lost to Scarlett" in the eyes of the greater public, and that early exit from IPL4 was no huge surprise. He really could have used an easier opponent to begin his comeback, but instead he's likely to suffer yet another first round defeat – but this time there's no losers' bracket.
His opponent is Heart, another player who was underwhelming in Code A and the Up/Downs last season. However, unlike Bumblebee (formerly known as Terious), Heart was able to use his foreign tournament shot to show that he could be a much better player as he went undefeated to everyone but ZvT expert DongRaeGu at MLG Columbus.
To be honest, you have to say that Heart's tournament run was at least a smidgen lucky, in terms of being able to draw decent brackets and groups without too much Code S level opposition. It's not like he got a cakewalk, but it wasn't the hardest run in the world. To further illuminate the point, Squirtle probably deserves a memorial plaque in a local Las Vegas park for his IPL4 run, while Heart could probably do with a moderately sized trophy to put on his shelf. On a similar note, Bumblebee's terrible recent record is a bit exaggerated, and his 0 – 7 GSL streak is just one of those freaky strings of results like Inca's once 0 – 10 PvZ.
Yet, even though it's a bit closer than their enormously differing results might suggest, I'm still picking Heart to win easily. Beyond just pure Starcraft II skill, Heart's MLG run showed he's someone who can get it done in tournaments, staying fairly calm under pressure, and having the nerve to throw in cheeses when all the chips are in. In short, Heart is a winner, Bumblebee so far, is not.
Prediction: Heart 2 – 0 Bumblebee
BBoongBBoongPrime vs. dtG_GGanDoL
I can come in here and talk all about B4 and how good of a player he is, but how can I when he is facing the most mysterious player TO EVER, and let me emphasize this, EVER make it into the GSL? If you weren't around for this amazing story, let me give you the short version to catch you up:
1. GGandol shows up at the Code A qualifiers to try his hand at qualifying. As a mid-masters Korean player, hopes aren't very high he'll make it through, to put it lightly.
2. In a stroke of massive luck, no one in his bracket showed up to play. Players like Core and Kyrix simply vanished from the face of the earth. GGanDoL actually made it to the final round without playing a single match.
3. On the other side of the bracket, Jinro and Cella played their semi-final match. In a bit of an upset, Cella, more known for being a coach than a player nowadays, defeated Jinro and got to the finals of his Code A qualification bracket. Even being a coach and all, beating a random masters player didn't seem like the hardest task for Cella to complete for his Code A seed.
4. Cella loses 1 – 2 to GGanDoL.
5. The GGandol has arrived to lay the smack down on all who oppose him.
Signing with Dream Team Gaming, GGandol will make his debut with his new foreign team and try to keep this miracle story running. If GGandol has not leveled up ten fold since the Code A qualifiers, he should lose 0 – 2 to B4 and fall back into Code B, probably for the rest of all time. With B4's recent play and ability to compete with the very best Protosses like MC in ZvP, all signs are pointing to an easy victory for the Prime Zerg.
But, if you want to play devil's advocate, you can look back at iS.Crazymoving, another mysterious Korean who made it to Code A with his foreign team and almost upset Hero in the first round. Then again, CrazyMoving actually had to win multiple games to make it into Code A, while GGandol won one series 2 – 1 against Cella.
In all honesty, I have no idea what to expect. I'm leaning towards B4 winning an easy 2 – 0 victory and this Cinderella story finally reaching its end, but who really knows? The GGandol might have a debut that no one will ever forget, and this will be a series that no one wants to miss.
Prediction: BBoongBBoong 2 – 0 GGanDoL
TSLSymbol vs. MvPsC
This will be a series between a rising Zerg star against a young Terran player who once had all the promise in the world, who is now declining due to his poor physical health. Symbol has been on fire recently, qualifying for the semifinals in the Iron Squid tournament by 3-0'ing MarineKing in the quarterfinals. Yes, Symbol cheesed, and yes, MarineKing should have handled the situations better, but any time you can 3 – 0 the player that everyone is saying to be the best in the world, you have a reason to gloat. With a ticket to France in his back pocket, his focus is now on advancing out of the first round and making his ascension into Code S for the very first time.
sC, on the other hand, isn't doing so well lately. When a player is in his booth and repeatedly banging on his chest, looking like a bed and some rest would do his lungs much better than the pressure of the GSL booth, you can't help but feel bad. sC, who was once one of the best Terrans in the world, and a player a lot of people believed would win a Code S title before too long. He's now in a situation where he is one loss away from falling out of the GSL entirely. We all know that he has the skills to win a high level TvZ, as seen in his epic series against Nestea in the semifinals of GSL May, but his poor health has seen him stagnate since then. Against a player who has only been improving, it does not bode well.
Prediction: Symbol 2 – 1 sC
MvPDongRaeGu vs TSL_RevivaL
Having spent so much time under Mvp and Nestea's iron-fisted, two man reign, it's a real jarring change to be in an era where the seat of 'best player in the world' is so perilous. DRG briefly took the title from MMA, only to have it pried from his bloodied hands by the late-blooming MarineKingPrime.
It's hard to tell exactly what went wrong with DongRaeGu. He absolutely destroyed MKP in Code S Season One, but received an equally brutal beating at the hands of MKP in MLG just a month later. A few weeks after that, he was defeated by less notable names in TheStC and TaeJa in Code S Season Two, dropping straight into Code A.
This might be the first documented case of the winner's curse in the GSL. While the legendary Bonjwas of Brood War strung together consecutive championships or finals appearances, dozens of OSLs and MSLs were also won by players who were immediately eliminated in the next league, as if they had spent everything they had on one, fantastic run. The story has never been clear, as players are loathe to speak of such negative experiences, but one could speculate that it was due to a combination of relaxed practice after the win (after all, only marginally crazy people win a championship and immediately start thinking about how to top it) and heavy exposure of one's play style.
Whatever the cause, DRG's last place finish in his RO32 group will have been the swift kick in the butt he needed to get back in gear. Does DongRaeGu really want to be the guy who won a championship, completely let go, and got knocked straight into Code B? I think not. Sorry, Revival, for only giving you a single mention – but you're going down.
Prediction: DongRaeGu 2 – 1 Revival
EG.JYP vs. NSH.Seal
In a series pitting one of the better foreign team Koreans against one of the best players in the world to never make it into Code S, this is already looking to be one of the better matches of the first round. JYP must be thanking his lucky stars that he wasn't matched up against a Korean Terran in the first stage of Code A and instead getting his strongest match-up. Despite this fact, taking on HoSeo's Seal will be a tough task for JYP.
Seal has been one of the better GSTL players for quite a while, and like Squirtle last season in Code A, this might finally be his tournament to break out. Last season, he was finally able to qualify for the GSL after numerous tries, but was matched up against the aforementioned Squirtle and lost in a close 1 – 2 series that would have looked right at home in Code S. The series really could have went either way, and with Squirtle now in the round of sixteen of Code S alongside his impressive 2nd place finish at IPL4, falling out of Code A last season to such a player doesn't look so bad on Seal's record. This should be a close series between two evenly matched opponents, but like his teammate Jjakji before him, I think it's time for Seal to step out of the shadows and make a name for himself.
Prediction: Seal 2 - 1 JYP
FnaticRC aLive vs SlayerS_Ven
The fact that aLive is in Code A at all is a mystery. After his championship at IPL4, there's no doubt that he's a top three player in the world. His win rate in 2012 is over 65%, with most of his games against Code S class opposition in a couple hundred games. The last player to achieve that kind of statistical feat was IMMvp in the very midst of his prime.
Yet, unlike Mvp, aLive will pick random series to seemingly completely fall apart, looking more like the middling Code S RO32 player he once was, than one of the world's best. aLive had precisely one of those days in this season's RO32, where he was outclassed by July and Zenio in succession to be relegated to Code A.
Maybe it's just statistics, since everyone has to lose now and then. Even so, players who are normally as great as aLive rarely look so off on their bad days. This is a largely subjective measure, but when players like MMA, Nestea or Mvp lost series in their primes, I typically thought "well, you can't win 'em all." With aLive, I get the strange feeling of "this makes no goddamn sense."
With his great record against Code S players, enormous foreign tournament win, and his ability to randomly fall apart, Bomber might be a better comparison for aLive than Mvp. When he was at his peak, no one doubted that Bomber was one of the best players in the world, capable of beating any of Mvp, MC, or Nestea. But with one notable exception at MLG Raleigh (where he won 1st place), he kept finding ways to inexplicably lose important series.
Luckily for aLive, he probably won't continue down that path, at least not this week, and maybe not for all of Code A. He goes up against the entirely unremarkable Ven (formerly known as Soccer), who hasn't played an official game in months. Seeing as he's capable of beating the Code A qualifier but can't find a place into the GSTL rotation for SlayerS, I just decided to assume Ven was about as good as SlayerS_Brown at best for the sake of the prediction.
Conclusion? aLive crush Ven easily. aLive is a player who's rightful place is in Code S, and this is a routine check-up at best.
Prediction: aLive 2 – 0 Ven
EG.HuK vs ST_Hack
Hack is one of those players you just don't get to see often, unless you're a talent scout scouring the various weekly cups for skilled Code B Koreans. His EWM and ESV games only tell us that he's a nondescript Code A level player, and it's actually slightly more interesting to note that he was rated well enough internally to get at least get one GSTL appearance this season. With Sound, Bomber, and Virus as his Startale Terran teammates, that's no mean feat, even if it was just once. Still, on the overall, we're left with only a fairly vague idea of how Hack will fare in Code A.
Meanwhile, we've seen plenty of HuK in the last few months, but it's almost as hard to say how he'll do in this match. His record is pretty much in line with his recent high Code A/low Code S GSL performances, dropping games to monsters like MKP and Jjakji while taking down players like Ryung. His losses against the formerly unknown Heart at MLG Columbus seemed like a point against him at first, but then Heart's deep run and slightly lucky third place finish made the implications of all his matches somewhat murky. HuK's most recent GSL games weren't particularly telling either, as he lost to a two-base all-in from Virus, and then lost with a failed one base DT strategy against ForGG.
Though there's a plenty of uncertainty to go around, HuK is still the favorite here. Strip everything else away, and we still have a first time Code A player going up against a Code S veteran. In the end, that should be all we need to know.
Prediction: HuK 2 – 1 Hack