SSL Challenge - Group B
What a long, strange ride it was last week. Absolutely tons of games played over a very long day. Why not do it again? And why not do it twice more after this? As mentioned before, SSL has never been afraid to shake things up a bit, and the Challenge event feels more akin to a weekender than a league. Of course, after these four groups are done, we’re moving to a more traditional system.
TY proved to be untouchable, and laid waste to every single one of his opponents. Cure took second place, while a surprisingly in-form Bomber edged out over a flailing soO. They will join the top 4 players from SSL Season 1 for the main event.
For Group B of SSL Challenge event, we have four Protoss players heading into the crucible. One Terran and one Zerg round out the group. Once again, it’s a Round Robin style, only best-of-twos, and the three best players will advance, while the other three will drop out of the tournament for good. Some of them have already dropped out of Code A, which means that will be their last starleague chance for the entirety of 2016. Harsh, a progamer’s life.
Narrowly failing to make it out of the qualifiers in Season 1 of SSL, MVP’s GuMiho is a veteran in the scene. Unfortunately, he also couldn’t get out of Code A last season, but now he’s back, looking to put the experience gained from online cups to good use. And despite the rather lackluster offline results last season, his online performance has been nothing but breathtaking. Over the course of the year so far, he’s been playing in seemingly every single possible online tournament, with an impressive 77.19% win rate. In Proleague, however, his win rate hovers around a much less stellar 50%, making his performance utterly average. It’s not bad, it’s not great, it’s just really middle of the road. Crucially, the group is filled almost to the brim with Protoss players, and in his last 14 offline matches against the race, GuMiho has won nine of them.
It is imperative that the Terran is able to leverage his online experience this June. When push comes to shove, his results haven’t been exactly convincing. Even GuMiho’s potent multitasking won’t save him if his strategies aren’t up to par. So far, they’ve been lacking.
Classic will head once more unto the breach. Code S saw him drop out from the group stage, while SSL Season 1 was better, making a pretty deep run first into the quarterfinals, and then to losers’ round 3. With two starleague titles and an IEM championship to his name, and SK Telecom T1’s full might behind him, the Protoss will certainly be one of the favorites to qualify for the next stage.
This year, Classic’s Protoss and Terran match-ups have been much stronger than his performance against Zerg. In fact, he was beaten by Curious during the qualifiers, giving him ample opportunity to make up for the loss. ProLeague results have been solid, with recent defeats only against Stats and Reality. His competent PvP will come to play here, because even if he tilts against GuMiho and Curious, wins against the other three Protoss players should secure him a spot for the future. Most importantly, that third elusive title must lie somewhere in the back of his mind. Hell, it would mean joining Mvp and NesTea as the third triple starleague champion in Starcraft 2. Three starleague titles in three consecutive years would cement his legacy as one of the greatest Protosses of our time.
Hoo, boy. Jin Air’s sOs is in a very peculiar position (again). He failed to qualify for either SSL or Code S earlier this year, but he nabbed the IEM Taipei title in February. For a player who won arguably the most important tournament of last year (and 2014, and 2013), these past few months must have been full of soul searching and deep reflection. Yet, history seems to repeat itself in mysterious ways. Even despite failing to qualify for the first season of both starleagues in 2015, sOs managed to pull through. Maybe he’s looking at a repeat performance. And he'd better, because this year he won’t have a third season to rely on.
His Proleague performance this year stands at 53.33%. For overall results, his most often played offline match-up is against Protoss, where he stands at 61.76%. Against Terran he’s at 70%, but with only 10 games played, it’s hard to gauge his current true skill. It’s even more skewed when it comes to Zerg, with only 5 games played this year. Considering that traditionally he has had some problems preparing for matches compared to weekenders, his mirror matchup skills better be up to par. His one shining ray of hope is that he managed to qualify for GSL season 2 Code S.
sOs seems to embody the saying “Win some, lose some”. This time it might just be too close to call.
Hurricane’s one and only feat of note this year has been making it to the second losers' round of SSL season 1. He’s been taken down every single time he’s been fielded in Proleague, and he’s failed to get out of Code A twice now. In short, it’s not looking good for Samsung Galaxy’s Protoss. He’s bog standard, and in a group with more experienced and more dangerous players, it just likely won’t be enough.
This has not been a kind year to Curious. Even more specifically, these past couple of months have not been kind to Curious. He did manage to take down both Classic and Leenock to qualify for the Challenge event, but in the other starleague he dropped out of Code A, losing to Impact of all people. After making it to the Ro16 of the previous Code S, he was crushed by Dark and Losira. Before the SSL qualifiers, his previous victory for the year is from March, a Proleague win against DeParture. It’s not that Curious is wholly without results, but maybe he just still hasn’t wholly adapted to the new expansion. Now, were he a gambling man, as the lone Zerg in the group, he could bet everything on refining the ZvP match-up to perfection and advance solely through that. Unfortunately for him, the group also has some of the best and most accomplished Protoss players the game has seen. Maybe the gamble then would be his best chance of advancing.
Trust’s previous SSL run was rather unceremoniously ended by ByuL and Soulkey in quick succession, despite making it to the main event. His previous Code A run ended against soO, and his current Code A run was stopped cold by SpeeD, a former KT Rolster teammate. Besides a few online cup matches, that’s his entire year so far. And precisely that will be the problem for his opponents coming into the Challenge event. He's without any real past results to speak of, but with his PvP virtually an unknown element, he could be a potential wild card for the group. More likely, though, is that he'll be trounced by the more seasoned players, and he’ll be left fighting over scraps to avoid ending up in last place. And then we won’t see him until next year.
The Three to Advance
Unlike last week, the results should be much more straightforward. Experience and results will most likely prevail over everything else. The top spot should be reserved for Classic or sOs, while GuMiho is banking on his online practice finally paying dividends. A potential upset is Curious finding his ZvP form and surprising the four Protoss players, leveraging the lopsided group to his advantage. Hurricane at least made something out of his SSL run, unlike Trust, who has been nigh invisible this year, and that honestly does not reflect well on his performance.