Code S RO32 - Group A Preview:by Mizenhauer
Dark, Dear, Keen, Trust
It’s been a trying offseason ripe with uncertainty, but after an interminable wait during which many feared the worst, Code S makes its triumphant return on February 2nd with Dark, KeeN, Trust, and Dear at the forefront.
Grouped together by GSL points and good ol’ fashioned RNG, the quartet are as different as could be. Leading the pack is Dark, one of the most celebrated players of recent years and the most consistent Zerg in the world since the release of Legacy of the Void. soO and Rogue had their moments in the sun, but it was Dark, for the most part, who carried the distinction of “best Zerg in the world” for more than two years. Even in the absence of titles his skill, ingenuity and ruthlessness was never questioned. He’d shown too much quality to be discounted or doubted.
2018 wasn’t as kind to Dark and his ilk. Korean Zergs were humbled last year by Serral's overwhelming dominance and a stretch of inadequacy during which the Korean Zerg collective claimed a single Premier event title (Rogue at IEM Katowice). For years they ranked head and shoulders above their foreign counterparts, but the Finnish Zerg showcased a style and mastery of the race which outclassed that we‘ve seen from Dark.
Serral’s rise to power, and the manner in which he dismantled Dark at the WCS Global Finals, casts doubt over Dark’s long established superiority. We’ve long since decided Dark is great. But is it possible he’s a a few rungs below Serral, Maru and even Stats? The fact that he’s one of eight Koreans to qualify outright for this year's edition of IEM Katowice laughs in the face of such a preposterous theory. It boils down to one question. Where does Dark stand among the best in the game?
Dark’s multiple finals and the subsequent slide from champion to Kong are a perfect example of how StarCraft II is a “what have you done for me lately” type of game. The community is hungry to divine order from chaos and players are evaluated and re-ranked in the wake of every competitive result. For most it’s an inextricable mire, but Dark’s group-mate Dear has largely defied that maxim.
That’s because Dear will forever be defined by his peerless late 2013 form. The heights he reached that summer frame him as someone of great potential, but maddeningly erratic. Had he never won GSL and WCS Season 3 in rapid succession it’s quite possible we’d celebrate his four Round of 4 appearances in GSL and SSL. Instead it’s his his two failed qualifications, his combined 14-19 record in the other nine seasons during that stretch, and the manner in which he seemingly can’t help stumbling over his own feet in big matches that cast him as futilely trying to recapture the past rather than someone working towards the future. Despite assembling a 44-17 record since BlizzCon, Dear continues in that role, with his failure to qualify for Katowice only tightening the noose.
While Dark and Dear have enjoyed the limelight for time unseen Keen spent much of the last six years toiling away in anonymity until his revival of sorts over the past two years. Just last year he beat soO, SpeCial, and Maru in GSL, reminding us that KeeN’s not exactly awful. Ultimately, the momentary flashes do little to change our opinions of KeeN. After all, failing to qualify for IEM Katowice on four separate attempts is more indicative of a player’s place in the scene than a few isolated victories which amounted to nothing. It’s curious that what KeeN needs most, a period of sustained success, would interrupt a period of stasis which has persisted more than half a decade.
And yet, despite all KeeN’s failings, there are those in the scene who aspire to achieve his relative degree of success. One member of this camp, Trust, would be well served to channel some of KeeN’s consistency. Where KeeN has been a persistent present in Code S as of late, Trust has only made two visits since the beginning of 2017. It’s not as if he’s been entirely absent during that period, having emerged victorious in 143 of 298 matches over the last two plus years, but the fact that he hasn’t won a televised offline match during that period is indicative of Trust’s position on the totem pole. Where the community dismisses KeeN due in large part to the visibility of his defeats, there’s probably only a handful of people out there who even cared enough to check Trust’s record since BlizzCon; a woeful 13-17.
The general consensus is that New Year’s resolutions are a waste of breath, but in StarCraft II, where last year’s WCS points are wiped clean and the road to BlizzCon starts anew, the turn of the calendar really is a chance for new beginnings. With Maru’s dominance a thing of the past, opportunities abound for players like Dark and Dear to replace him at the zenith. Meanwhile, KeeN and Trust have a chance to craft a new image on a new patch. It might seem impossible given the years of middling results, but in esports, where a championship shines so brightly, it’s never too late to change our perception forever.