Code S: Ro32 Group A Preview
Whew, we just crowned a champion! However, there's no time to rest, as the must rush to meet their goal of holding the semi-finals and above at IPL5 in Las Vegas.
What better way to start out the final Code S season of 2012 than with one of the groups of death? Yeah, back in the day we used to have only one group of death. Every group would be sprinkled with one or two really good players, a Code A player who somehow cheesed his way into Code S, and a player who could exploit the old system to miraculously stay alive in Code S for multiple seasons. Now with Mr. Chae giving sponsored seeds to KeSPA players instead of fan favorite foreigners, a new format that has weeded out the clingers, and a new generation of players including Life, Creator and Maru realizing their potential, we have a more than one group of death this season.
The man on top of this group is Liquid's own and their ace, TaeJa. He was finally able to break his quarterfinal curse, but then fell right into an ass kicking from an even younger, fifteen-year-old prodigy. After getting over the Ro8 hump, Taeja found out that it wouldn't be so easy to make it to his first finals. Heading into the last season as the odds on favorite and immeasurable hype surrounding him, Taeja came up short. He got beat up by Life and watched his placing in the hierarchy of SC2 fall.
Which, in all honesty, is a good thing. Now instead of people expecting Taeja to win a championship, he can sneak into the background this season with everyone talking about Rain's quest to capture three major titles in a month's time, and Life's quest to become the first back-to-back GSL champion in history. Throw in six new KeSPA players to enjoy, people wanting Mvp to win his G5L trophy, and the storyline of Life vs. Rain to see who is truly the best, and Taeja is old news.
He's still one of the better players in the world, possibly the best Terran, and anything other than a quarterfinal appearance would be a disaster. But the difference now, is that the overwhelming pressure of being the favorite has subsided. Looking at the group in front of him, it's a tough one, but a group most expect him to get out of. One is a newbie to Code S and will face Taeja in the first set of the night, he beat another comfortably 2-0 last season, and the third doesn't get to use his soul push on him. Tajea, like the past few seasons, is the favorite in his Ro32 group and has the best chance of advancing.
The second of the four is the greenest of the group. Going into the Up/Down matches with no hype other than being the kid who eliminated Jaedong from the GSL, MVP.finale stomped his way through his opponents and finished with a 4-0 record. Getting out of the Up/Downs with an unblemished record has been a good omen before for new players advancing to Code S, so finale will be hoping he's not the exception. He was in the easiest Up/Down group of this season, and he is going to have to step it up as he faces three players who have all at least made a Code S semifinal.
Since Genius decided that he did not want to be on MVP any longer after his lost to DRG in the first Code S finals of the season, MVP has been searching for a top Protoss replacement. Tails looked like he might be that player for a while, but couldn't keep his momentum going after qualifying for WCS Korea, and hasn't been able to leave his mark in the GSL. It's up to finale to try and fill the void that Genius left, and he can go a long way into securing that top Protoss spot on his team with a good result in the group. Also, there's an aspect of friendly competition with Vampire, the other unheralded Protoss from MVP who made a surprise qualification for Code S this season. Finale is obviously the underdog in the group and has the least chance to advance, but that sometimes gives the lesser known players less pressure on their shoulders, and they can pull off some big upsets.
TSL_Polt came so close yet ended up so far from making a major impact last season. Tying up Rain on Antiga Shipyard in the winners match in the group of death, he was one map win away from killing Rain's momentum and qualifying for the quarterfinals. He faltered in the last set, ran into an angry Taeja in the last match of the night, and disappointingly fell back into the third stage of Code A. When getting there, he beat up poor Terminator without breaking a sweat, and he must start over once again to make it to his first quarterfinals in over a year.
His secret weapon for this group, especially against Parting and finale, might be his new banshee/hellions build that he has used twice in recent competition. First pulling it out against Creator in the GSTL, he left the WCS Korean champion - and possibly the best PvT defender - bewildered and wide-eyed, rolling over him and taking an important victory for TSL. He then used it again in the IPTL against GSL champion Seed and succeeded for a second time against a player known for his solidity. That bodes well for Polt as he goes up against PartinG in his first match, with the Soul Protoss having been in a PvT funk lately. However, Parting is still an excellent PvT player when he's on his game, and he will be be a tough test Polt's new build. Against Taeja, if the two do meet again, Polt will need to bring all all-around better game if he hopes to beat the strongest TvT player currently in the scene.
Finally, we have the King of Soul. Gaining attention from his immortal/sentry all-in against Zerg, ST_PartinG has become possibly the first player to actually get positive attention for doing an all-in again and again against a single race (PuMa has been crying himself to sleep, we hear). What would usually make people whine and call imbalance, has turned into a storyline with people wondering who will be the first Zerg to actually stop the push. Sadly for those fans, Parting will need to rely on his exceptional PvT and strong PvP in this group.
Coming off an all-kill of LG-IM, what looked to be a three man race between Taeja, Polt and Parting has turned into the majority of people thinking it'll be Taeja and Parting getting out of the group. His PvZ, that used to be the reason why people thought he could never become a GSL champion, has now become his calling card. With all three match-ups rolling for Parting, he is aiming for a championship under the bright lights of Las Vegas.
Overall thoughts and prediction:
TaeJa is the favorite. PartinG and Polt's inconsistency coupled with finale's inexperience make Taeja the easy choice to win the group. He gets the rookie in his first match of the night, and then he gets a winner match against a player who will probably just come off an absolute war with the best PvT player going up against one of the best TvP players. In the round of eight and higher, he might not be a lock to get to the finals, but he's been a monster in the Ro32 for the past three seasons.
It then comes down to who will come in second. Recent results show that Parting should be maybe the favorite to even take the whole group, but his PvT wasn't as stellar as expected in the Up/Down groups. He dropped games to Keen and Byun, and he needed help from his friend Keen to get out of the group without going through tiebreaks. Polt has better TvP than either Keen and Byun, and he has a new build that's already been able to take down Seed and Creator, two of the best Protoss in the world.
It more than likely will come down to Polt and Parting facing off twice. They faced off in the second season of the year in the Ro32, and Parting was able to take it in a close 2-1 series. This time around, both have new builds and tactics up their sleeves, so it's a whole new ball game. Will it be Polt's smarts that help him get out of the group, or will Parting's soul just be too much to handle?
Taeja > finale
Parting > Polt
TaeJa > PartinG
Polt > finale
Polt > Parting
Taeja and Polt advance.