Code A RO48: Week Three Preview
"Why is this premium only?" Match of the Night: Empire|Vines vs ZeNEXLife
It's a shame that this match is only for premium customers, because it has the potential to be the best of the night. As a GSL late bloomer, VINES just barely missed out on qualifying for Code S in Up/Down tie-breaks last season. Even before that, he was having a very good 2012, carrying the now-defunct oGs in team leagues before moving on to play a key role for Empire as well.
His opponent is Life, an online terror who has finally figured out how to perform well in the GomTV studio. Early career highlights from Life include moments such as losing to carriers and having a few dozen supply evaporate as both ends of his nydus network were destroyed, but his 9 – 2 record this GSTL season suggests he's left that dark period far behind. However, the pressure of playing for your team has been said to be quite different from that of playing for yourself, and we'll have to see if Life can play up to his potential once more.
First Time Peril: FnaticRC Oz vs FXO.jks, ST_Virus vs TSL_Shine, FnaticRC aLive vs LG-IMFirst
Last week we saw MvP.Vampire and TSL_HyuN prove that class mobility isn't a myth as they came out of Code B to knock Liquid`Zenio and BBoongBBoongPrime straight down. While that gives all Code B players reason to be hopeful, you have to keep in mind that both Hyun and Vampire had previous experience playing in Code A. JKS, Shine, and First are going into this tournament as first time solo GSL'ers, and history says first timers typically lose to veterans. It seems especially tough for this trio as they're going up a very grizzled group of veterans with Virus, Oz, and aLive having a few dozen Code A + S appearances between them.
LG-IM's First seems to have the best chance, even though he's facing the toughest opponent in Code S semi-finalist and IPL4 champion aLive. He has one big mitigating factor going his way: While he doesn't have experience in the GomTV studio, he already got his broadcast game experience elsewhere, playing as a Brood War pro-gamer for KT Rolster. Having switched to Starcraft II early this year, he's already looking like a good pick up for LG-IM, defeating many strong players in a variety of online preliminaries. If GSL booth jitters aren't an issue for First, we could really see aLive heading to Code B.
Shine is coming in off a really impressive GSTL performance against FXO and a near qualification for the OSL, but I don't like his chances as much as First's. On paper, Virus isn't as tough an opponent as aLive, but there's an uncanny aura around the ultimate survivalist that makes you doubt he'll ever get dropped to Code B. Also, while Shine's good GSTL showing can't be ignored, we've seen players crumble when they have to play for themselves after doing well for their teams. The GSL has been afflicted by Virus since March of 2011, and I don't think Shine is the vaccine.
And then we have JKS who sadly, is a player we can write off safely. He has barely any games recorded in TLPD, and beating TSL's Center to qualify for this Code A might actually be his most notable achievement so far. Oz should pull through easily here, barring self-defeat or an incredible breakout performance from JKS.
Going old School: LG-IMYoDa vs ST_July, FXOLeenock vs MvPTAiLS, TSL_Polt vs ZeNExtreme
Another portion of the matches features several of the GSL's more experienced players going up against each other. In Starcraft II time, Leenock, Polt and July are as old as dirt, having been around since 2010's GSL Opens. Compared to that, Tails, Extreme, and Yoda are newer to the scene, but they're still old enough to have experienced the Great Terran Summer of 2011.
July had a brief flare-up in '12 Code S Season Two when he showed MKP and aLive that 200/200 lair armies are actually pretty strong, and that taking three bases isn't Terran's god given right. However, he followed that with some very disappointing Code A & Up/Down performances, and has been entirely absent in ST's team league outings as well. Yoda hasn't done much in solo competition since getting kicked out of the GSL alongside many other Terrans in the Autumn of 2011, but he's retained the skills to be a reliable Terran card for LG-IM in team competitions. With July showing signs of severe decline, Yoda should triumph here.
TAiLS is similar to Yoda in that he fell out of the GSL but managed to avoid falling into obscurity by making good contributions in team based competitions. Also like Yoda, TAiLS's opponent is a famously aggressive Zerg who appears to be in decline. Two consecutive seasons of worsening GSL finishes is a worrisome development for Leenock, whose first year in the GSL was characterized by impressively consistent improvement, going from Code A filler to Code S finalist. However, unlike July, who's already been a pro-gamer for nearly a decade, at the age where military service/retirement will be constantly on his mind, and is a legend who has absolutely nothing left to prove, there's a much higher chance that the seventeen year old Leenock will make a roaring comeback.
In the final battle of old vs older, Extreme goes up against Polt. Like the other two super-veterans, Polt is in a bit of funk lately – at least when you look at the stats. However, I'm not convinced that there's anything to worry about long term. All Polt did was lose a few matches to Code S class players – if he won one more game against Ganzi in Code A Ro24 or one more set in his Up/Down group, he would still be in Code S. That doesn't mean I think he deserves to be in Code S – I just don't think his present Code A status is indicative of an overall decline. Extreme – like TAiLS and Yoda – has been active in team competitions, but Polt will probably be too tough for him to handle (it's sad by true: betting against ZeNEX is a proven strategy).
Ode to SangHo: FXOTree vs coL.Killer
Two weeks ago we would have said Killer was in danger of dropping into Code B at the hands of just about anyone – Tree included – but consecutive wins over Puzzle, CoCa, Byul, Oz, and aLive changed all that. Ever the enigma, Killer was absolutely spectacular in the last week's MCSL playoffs, going 10 – 2 as he led Complexity to a championship over SlayerS and FnaticRC.
It was a mind-boggling result as Killer had spent most of his time on Complexity being, well, bad. Of course, it could just have been one extremely improbable run from a player known for destroying Liquibets, but it could also be a sign of a more permanent change for Killer. A lot of things can happen behind the scenes, and sometimes things just click, or a personal issue gets sorted out, and a player starts performing differently.
At the very least, the MCSL performance says Killer could at least recover his past form of being a Code S regular. As much as we like to see new blood do well, Tree just seems outmatched here.