The Code S RO32 is coming to a close this week with the final two groups, and some might think GSL saved the best for last. After all, who's not excited for a week of games featuring soO, TY, INnoVation and Dark? They're heavily favored to advance in their groups, but you never know what might happen when the countdown reaches zero and the game begins. So make sure to tune in and catch the matches!
Group G looks like one of the most lopsided groups on paper, with the two underdogs having nary a chance against the favorites. Yet, all four players are united in having much to prove in the GSL.
Unfortunately, soO started the year in a fashion we have tragically come to expect of him, as he made another deep run in the GSL before being stopped short of the finish line. While he, in uncharacteristic fashion, was eliminated in the semifinal of the GSL, one must wonder if it wasn’t a sort of mercy. Had soO gone to the finals he would have faced an on-fire Maru in his best match-up of TvZ. A cruel GSL Super Tournament bracket draw let us see what that alternate universe finals would have been like, and it wasn't pretty for Zerg fans (or anyone, for that matter). Is soO's earlier-than-usual GSL exit a sign that soO’s willpower is beginning to fade? We probably won't find the answer to that question in the RO32. With plenty of downtime between the Super Tournament and his GSL group, soO should have had all the time he needs to recharge his batteries. In any case, even a struggling soO would be a favorite to advance to the RO16.
Once upon a time, when Proleague was still a central fixture of StarCraft II, Cure was a much more recognizable name. During that time, Cure was a reliable member of the Jin Air rotation, backing up its star players with solid performances. Unlike many Proleague rotation players, he even enjoyed a decent amount of individual league success, placing second in Red Bull Battlegrounds and reaching the GSL semifinals on two occasions. Alas, all of that seems like ancient history now, with Cure having long since lapsed into mediocrity. Now, he returns to GSL Code S for the first time in over a year. He's been put in a brutally difficult group, but that means an upset here would instantly put him back on the map.
Impact might be the player who has the most to prove in this group. He has come to symbolize individual league mediocrity as he is almost completely incapable of performing above expectations. With each passing Code S RO32 exit, his second place run at DreamHack Bucharest 2014 becomes an even more baffling mystery. Why did everything click that one time? However, 2018 is shaping up to be a bit better than years past. While his RO32 exit in the first GSL wasn't very convincing, Impact made a good run at IEM Katowice where he finished in the top 12. Just to get to Poland, Impact had to beat aLive, Scarlett, soO, sOs and herO in the qualifiers. In the main event, he advanced from the group stage before narrowly losing to Dear in the playoffs. By Impact's career standards, that run might have constituted a breakthrough. He's still a huge underdog to advance in this particular group, but perhaps we'll see him put up a better fight than ever before.
After years of being elite in Proleague only, TY had a breakout year in 2017 when he won WESG and IEM Katowice. Besides the big paydays, he was just an awesome player year-round, enjoying championship contender status in every tournament he entered. 2018, however, hasn’t been as kind to him, and he's underperformed compared to the standards he set last year. It started with a quick exit in the RO16 of GSL Code S, when he was placed in a tough group with Dark, soO and aLive. TY seemed to be shaking off that disappointment at IEM Katowice, where he tore through the open bracket and proceeded to dominate his RO24 group which included Maru, GuMiho and Dear. However, he was crushed in the quarterfinals after drawing eventual champion Rogue. TY's struggle vs Zergs is most peculiar as the match-up feels like it should play into his hands. TY has always been a meticulous and precise player who was comfortable going to the late game. Terran's Ghost-Raven compositions seem tailor made for TY, but instead it's been Maru who has unlocked the true potential of late-game Terran. The RO32 has been of huge upsets so far, but TY's TvZ might just change that.
Just due to his sheer consistency, I’m going to go with soO advancing once more. The second place race is a bit more ambiguous. If TY has managed to fix his TvZ woes he should be a lock. But if he's still struggling, then I could see Impact overcoming his GSL jinx and making it to the RO16.
soO 2 – 1 Cure
Impact 1 – 2 TY
soO 2 – 0 TY
Impact 2 – 1 Cure
TY 2 – 1 Impact
soO and TY to advance.
In similar vein to Group G, the players of Group H are accomplished veterans who are still looking to bounce back from recent woes.
While we keep praising soO for his remarkable consistency across the years his fellow Zerg brethren Dark has displayed similar levels of determination in Legacy of the Void. Dark has accrued seven silver medals, two of which he added this year with runner-up finishes WESG 2017 and the GSL Super Tournament. It hasn’t helped Dark that he developed a sudden allergy to Trap and his particular brand of Jin Air trickery, which ended his IEM Katowice run early. Dark at least had his ZvT to fall back on, but he's had the misfortune of running into the reborn Maru at crucial junctures. But Dark has suffered before, and he's always managed to adapt and come out stronger. He's always been the premier late-game Zerg player of LotV, and it will be interesting to see what he will show us this season.
Rejoining us this season comes one of the oldest and most veteran players in the GSL circuit, Ryung. Through his long and storied career Ryung has seen several eras unfold and dozens of players join and leave the SC2 scene. Ryung has always been more consistent than marvelous, capable of reaching the RO16 or higher but rarely making a truly remarkable run. His career did have some dry spells in the HotS era, but to his credit, Ryung managed to make at least a RO4 appearance in the GSL S1 2017. To see this degree of endurance is admirable, but how Ryung will do this season still remains a mystery—will he make another deep run in the GSL or finish in the Ro32?
Billowy is another old veteran of the scene (aren't they all?), with his career spanning from 2011 till the present. But unlike Ryung, he has never really tasted individual league success. Billowy became more well known in team leagues being occasionally fielded by MVP in the GSTL, Acer TeamStory Cup and Proleague, with some mixed but overall good results. To this day however Billowy has yet to break out of Ro32 of a GSL and has never qualified for any other premier tournament. With such a track record its hard seeing Billowy do well this season, especially given the caliber of all the players in the group.
INnoVation is by far the most successful player in this group, and to the current generation of fans, his name might be the most synonymous with StarCraft II excellence. In 2017 alone, INnoVation added another four gold medals to his trophy case from IEM Gyeonggi, GSL Code S, SSL and GSL vs the world, while also placing high in several tournaments. However, his 2018 results contrast heavily with the previous year, with RO16 and RO8 exits in the Code S and the Super Tournament respectively. His IEM Katowice was the most disappointing and most worrying, as he failed to advance from even the group stage. Could 2018 be more like 2016, when INnoVation effectively took a sabbatical from competitive StarCraft II? Perhaps it's more an issue of balance than mindset. The Machine’s struggles run parallel with the latest 4.0.0 balance patch. INnoVation has never been the most adaptable player, and it takes time for him to settle into a new meta. Now that Maru has shown the way for Terran, it's time to see how INnoVation fares.
I’m going to give the nod of confidence this time to Dark and INnoVation. I think Dark has done well enough that he can pretty much make it through the RO32 without any issue and can even beat INnoVation. Speaking of INnoVation, while he should have had time by now to calibrate his play to the new meta, I think it probably won’t be enough yet to take on Dark.
Dark 2 – 0 Ryung
Billowy 0 – 2 INnoVation
Dark 2 – 1 INnoVation
Ryung 2 – 1 Billowy
INnoVation 2 – 1 Ryung
Dark and INnoVation to advance.