After a lengthy break, the GSL is finally back! It’s time for Code A to return. For many players, this will be their last chance saloon. Four of our six players tonight failed in the SSL qualifiers—Creator, ByuL, Bunny and TRUE—so by the close of play, two players will have played their final starleague match of 2016. The Korean Starcraft scene has always been cutthroat and utterly ruthless, but never before have the stakes been quite so high, or the punishment for failure quite this heavy.
For most of the year, Impact has been invisible. A tight 2-3 loss to Solar in Code A back in January, and a loss to Rogue in Proleague in March were the sum total of his 2016 appearances. However, since May he’s undergone a bit of a resurgence. He’s had a couple decent showings online, especially a run through Leifeng Cup 145, beating Patience, Bomber and Solar before falling to the Samsung zerg in the Grand Finals rematch. More importantly, he’s also qualified for both preliminary starleague stages—beating out ByuL, Blaze and Genius (!) to make Code A, and DRGLing, Forte and RagnaroK to earn his spot in the SSL Challenge.
Still, this is not a position he’s unfamiliar with. He’s often performed strongly in qualifiers—this will be his 7th visit to Code A. Trouble is, he's failed on all six prior occasions. With the obvious exception of his Dreamhack Bucharest run back in 2014, it has to be noted that he simply hasn’t performed well at all in the booth. To make things worse, he’s going up against a true veteran of the circuit. However terrible his form, Curious has always managed to make it work in Code A. It’s true that he’s been awful for much of the year; a 2-12 record during a two month stretch recently across the GSL, Proleague and the WCA Qualifiers was an adequate summation of his fall from grace.
However, again it must be noted that he might be emerging from the other side of the valley; double 2-0s over Classic and Leenock in the SSL qualifiers allowed him easy passage into the Challenge stage. Granted, only one map of his run was broadcast—a very standard Dark-esque ling-bane ZvP before transitioning to brood lords—but it still must have been pretty satisfying to clock up his first wins for two months.
Simply put, it’s hard to look past both players’ respective records in the competition. Time and again, Impact has failed when the pressure’s ramped up; time and again, Curious has delivered the goods.
Curious 3 - 1 Impact
Jin Air Creator
Much like Curious and Impact, we’ve got another couple of players struggling to adapt to Legacy in the second match of the night. Creator’s opportunities have been severely limited in the first half of the year. He can’t have expected to get too many shots at Proleague glory on Jin Air’s top-heavy roster, and a 1-2 record isn’t too bad, but falling out of Code S at the first stage, and failure in the SSL qualifiers in Season 1, means that he’s been anonymous. To make matters worse, he was dumped out of the SSL S2 qualifiers by Scarlett, meaning that in May, this game is essentially make or break for the rest of his year. Succeed here, and he gets further chances to impress. Should he fail, though, the recent success of Trap and Cure could mean that he’s confined to the practice house for the next six months.
It should be noted though that his online form, and his PvZ in particular, has been good recently. In the past month, he’s won all three of his ZvPs played (one against Soulkey, two against Hydra); how you balance that against his aforementioned unstreamed loss to Scarlett is a difficult question to answer. He’s up against a player whose ZvP has been the highlight of his Legacy record so far. In stark contrast to his record in HotS, ByuL has struggled hard in ZvT, while succeeding against protoss. In fact, his 11-4 record in the matchup has been the only thing keeping his season afloat, compared to his 5-11 and 8-10 records in ZvT and ZvZ respectively.
However, it should also be noted that much of that success came in the early season, in a much more zerg-friendly meta. In the last month, ByuL has lost to Patience and Classic in Proleague, while an unstreamed win against TAiLS in the GSL qualifiers is hardly convincing evidence in his favour. His attempt to use swarm hosts against Patience was easily shut down, and he was far too passive against Classic, showing none of the counter-attacking skill or multitasking finesse that characterises Dark’s ZvP, for example (or indeed ByuL’s own play last year in HotS), and allowing the SKT protoss to simply bulldoze him with an immortal heavy army.
This will likely be one of the messiest series in the whole of Code A. Neither player has performed well at all so far this year, but with ByuL’s declining form in all three matchups, I think I’ll opt for Creator here.
Creator 3 - 2 ByuL
So, after his failed attempt at gaining a visa to participate in WCS, it seems that TRUE’s still confined to the Korean system. His sole televised game in 2016 came in last season’s Code A—a 2-3 loss to Symbol in one of the ugliest series of the year so far—and his offline performances in the qualifiers have hardly been inspired. A loss to horror dumped him out of the SSL at the first hurdle, while losing to jjakji and beating the amateur terran IntoTheMoon isn't the most convincing way to qualify for GSL.
His online form has been much better—68% winrate in 2016—although when you narrow it down to Korean opposition it becomes a much less impressive 54%. However, there’s a pattern to all his results—he cashes in against all the low-tier players online, before losing to anyone of Code S standard. For example, aside from trading series against KeeN and GuMiho, TRUE has lost all his ZvTs against notable opposition. It’s a bit sad to see how far he’s fallen—remember, he left Jin Air after his top 4 finish in GSL 2014 S2; it’s fair to say that he’s far from that zerg right now.
His opponent tonight probably can’t believe his luck. TvP is Bunny’s biggest weaknesses—he’s yet to win a match this year, with a 3-10 record overall—while his TvT is clearly a notch below the top tier of Legacy terrans. Up against one of the weakest zergs in the competition, Bunny’s got the best chance possible of a return to Code S. It’s hard to tell where exactly he’s at in the matchup; dual wins in Code S against Symbol and Soulkey back in Feburary were impressive, but somewhat less meaningful now given the many changes in the meta since then. A BitByBit-style SCV pull with hellbats against Dark in Proleague is his sole TvZ played since then, and poor micro there sealed his fate.
As tempting as it is to believe that one of the most delightfully idiosyncratic zergs in Starcraft history has returned to the GSL to make another entertaining run, it’s simply been too long since any notable results from TRUE for us to keep the faith. Should Bunny demonstrate the same TvZ skills that drove him to the Code S Ro.16 last time round, he should have too much for the ex-Jin Air zerg.
Bunny 3 - 1 TRUE