As we head leave the Ro24 behind and head into the Ro16, we're greeted by the titans of last season—ZerO, Light, Flash, and Soma—while we wave goodbye to a host of other players, including juggernauts like Bisu, Stork, and Sharp. And the competition is just heating up.
So far, Season 10 has been all but predictable. The rather non-standard map pool seems to have thrown even the most seasoned veterans for a loop and enabled all sorts of cheeses that rarely work in the standard Neo Sylphid/Circuit Breakers map pool. The craziest part is that we haven't even gotten to the truly strange maps. Shakuras Temple, reminiscent of Return of the King with its low ground natural bases, makes its debut in the opening matches of the Ro16, and Optimizer and Plasma, two notoriously strange maps, will likely be gracing us with their presence. In short, you haven't seen anything yet.
The Ro16 will be played all in one week, so we'll be going through things quickly. Strap on your seatbelts, it's going to be a wild ride!
Built to Serve
“It’s good to be the champ” is probably the thought running through the mind of ZerO, especially after managing to get a group of three Terrans and only having to practice one matchup. But despite his advantage, the man to beat in this group may not be ZerO himself but actually Rush.
Sponbbang numbers taken from 1-8-20 to 2-10-20.
ZerO vs Leta
On sponbbang, ZerO has not lost to Leta a single time in the last two months. ZerO’s overall sponbbang rating in ZvT isn’t the best, sitting at only 48% with a vast majority of his losses were at the hands of Light, Sharp, and Flash, but he has held a 9-0 record against Leta, which says a lot about Leta’s chances of winning. I concede I have said something similar about his chances in the Ro24, and he’s managed to bamboozle his way to the Ro16, so anything could happen.
The upside for Leta is the map, Shakuras Temple. It’s what you get if you close your eyes and think of a map that screams “Tank Imba”. While not many sponmatches have been played on the map, there is enough to set an obvious pattern with a very nice 69% win rate for Terran in TvZ.
In a straight up macro match, I’d put ZerO in for the win, but looking at the Ro24 performance...a macro match might not be in the cards.
Rush vs JyJ
Rush (AKA ASL10ChampionRush) has started to impress a lot of people with his play again. He seems to have fixed his issues with TvP and improved his already good TvZ, and while his TvT is good, his chances against JyJ don’t look great. JyJ hasn’t played that many TvTs these last couple of months, but he has won most of them, including a 2-0 head to head against Rush.
Rush does have the better macro of both players and decent enough army control to back it, so while it is a bit of a toss up, I would pick Rush to move on to the winners match.
Assuming things go as predicted, ZerO and Rush take each other on in a Bo3 in the winners game. The moment you move into a series format, it gets a lot easier for seasoned veterans like ZerO. On top of that, his head to head with Rush stands at 12-6 or a 66.7% win rate. Unfortunately, we don’t know ahead of time what the maps they’ve picked and banned from the pool, but based on its history in the tournament thus far, Ringing Bloom seems to be a real good pick for ZerO along with Eclipse and Polypoid, while the other maps seem to be skewed a lot more toward Terran. Provided decent map picks, ZerO should be able to secure his spot in the Ro8 over Rush, leaving us with a couple of TvT series.
It's not often that a match from Ro24 is repeated in the next round, but as luck would have it, JyJ and Leta have drawn the same group and will face off against each other. Of course, this time Leta can’t get away with a BBS three times in a row. Among the whole group, he still remains the weakest link with overall subpar play. If it was somehow within the rules that they could draw Shakuras Temple again, someone would try to proxy a factory at the third adjacent to their opponent’s main and float it in.
In a series, Rush should be able to beat JyJ or Leta and advance.
ZerO and Rush advance to the Ro8!
Lights, Camera, and Action
As the customary culling of the Ro24 is completed and the four strongest players of the previous season enter the fray, the Ro16 is turning up the heat. At this stage, we are often treated to a group of death, and this season Group B looks like a strong contender for the title. On paper Light appears to be head and shoulders above the rest of the group, but one can never be too sure with the likes of PvT powerhouse Best, ever-improving Action, and reinvigorated
In addition to the expanded (and downright wacky) map pool, there have been changes in the map selection rules for the Bo3 series: after each player vetoes a map, three maps are chosen at random, excluding the map for the opening matches (in this case, Shakuras Temple). How much this will factor into the preparation of the players remains to be seen, but it should force more general practice and less specialized builds.
All sponbbang data is from 1-8-20 to 2-10-20.
Light vs Best
If one decides to take recent premier tournament performance as a basis for a prediction, this may look like a no-brainer. Light is in the offline form of his career, and online he’s consistently been a beast. Meanwhile, Best has consistently failed to advance beyond the group stages and has almost universally been labelled a choker. In fact, his last appearance in the elimination stage of the ASL was way back in Season 3, but PvT remains his strong suit, as evidenced by a 65.2% sponmatch win rate in the matchup and a 9-9 record with Light since August. Light has been tearing it up too with a 60.2% and a winning record against every Protoss (including Snow) except for...Best. He sports a very respectable 6-2 record against him in September, though.
Shakuras Temple does not seem to offer anyone a meaningful advantage in this matchup. The low ground natural presents a multitude of options for backstabs and flanks though, and it looks like a fine map for Light to show how much he likes to use vultures and drops.
When recent tournament history and online statistics collide, I tend to go with history, but I think this is closer than it feels. I’d bet on Light to win based primarily on Best’s tendency to underperform in the Ro16 and Light’s strong latest showing.
Light > Best
Larva vs Action
If there is one player I’d be more than 51% certain of winning a ZvZ against a comparable opponent in the current era, that would be Action. Despite the insane volatility of the matchup, he consistently manages to outsmart his opponents. His only ZvZ loss in the ASL so far is when Soma defeated him 2-1 last season. Most recently, Action defeated beast—who made a very respectable ZvZ run in the ASTL—to qualify for the Ro16 this season.
Larva, on the other hand, used to be the kind of Zerg that would construct and subsequently top an all-Zerg group in the ASL4. He’s definitely no slouch in the matchup, but I don’t think he’s in the kind of shape to beat a guy like Action. I know a Bo1 ZvZ is probably the worst thing to bet on, but I’ll repeat myself: if there’s anyone I’d do it for, it’s Action. He’s on fire right now, and while Larva appears rejuvenated, I don’t think that’s enough. I won’t bother with sponmatch stats this time around because of their traditionally small sample size, on top of the coinflip nature of the matchup and especially in an offline setting.
Action > Larva
Light vs Action
If the above predictions turn out to be correct, this would be the first Bo3 in the group. Light has traditionally been hailed as a TvZ expert, and usually for good reason. Despite a series of offline disappointments, most notably against ggaemo and Modesty in Season 7, his reputation survived. When he finally rose to be a premier tournament menace, his results in the matchup rose accordingly, most notably with his win against Soma in last season’s semifinal match. Online he’s been pretty dominant with а 66.5% win rate against Zerg since August and a winning record against basically everyone—including Action, although by a small margin (21-19).
Action is no easy opponent. Even though he’s not considered a ZvT expert, he gave Flash a run for his money last season and narrowly lost 2-3. Against Light he actually has a perfect 2-0 record so far in the ASL in Bo1 matches. Granted, these were before Light’s insane surge, but it’s still indicative that the wily Zerg is a very dangerous foe. Online, he’s been doing decently with a 53.4% win rate in the matchup, but overall, statistics aren’t in this favor against this particular opponent.
A fair bit depends on the way the map selection process plays out. Since Shakuras Temple was played in the opener, this leaves six maps, two of which will get vetoed. Three of the remaining four will be randomly assigned for the series. Statistically, Benzene and Eclipse look the least Terran favored, with Optimizer and Plasma on the opposite end. Besides Benzene, most other maps favor Terran to varying degrees. Action might want to veto either Ringing Bloom—because of his own poor record against Terran in general and Light—or Plasma. It’s reasonable to assume Light might veto Benzene. The way the map selection works hurts players like Action the most, too. He likes to prepare specialized builds, and it’s a gamble to keep a weird map like Plasma to prepare for and then never even get to play. Light prefers a sturdy style that emphasizes his extremely solid fundamentals and is less dependent on map-specific strategies.
All of this taken into consideration, Light is the favorite here. It’s still a somewhat close call, but considering the map pool and the random way those maps will play, Action is at a small but definite disadvantage.
Light > Action
Best vs Larva
PvZ was never Best’s strong suit, but quite frankly, I look forward to this matchup from a viewer’s perspective. While Best is made fun of for his
Larva, however, has long since been established as a dangerous ZvP player. His 3-1 win against Rain in ASL Season 4 is probably the most prominent moment of his offline career, and more recently he eliminated Snow in the Ro16 of Season 9. His current form is questionable, though. Online he’s been doing pretty well with a 61% win rate in the matchup and a positive record against everyone but Bisu, Stork, and Snow (whom he’s even with). Stylistically, Best’s tendency to incorporate Dark Archons into a heavy ground based army precludes Larva’s (over)reliance on sudden mutalisk switches. Greedy scumbag play by the Zerg is an option, although his defense is nowhere as stellar as it used to be, and the map pool is questionable.
As far as maps go, Ringing Bloom and Plasma again appear most likely for a veto from the Zerg player. Benzene and, to a lesser extent, Polypoid are candidates to be banned by Best. This is mostly speculation since the maps are picked from the final pool at random and stats carry a bit more weight than usual for the vetoes in my mind. Sample sizes for some of the maps are rather small, so this is not meant to be more than quasi-informed guesswork.
I’d go with my heart here and predict a hard-fought win for Best simply because I want to watch more of his ground heavy PvZ style. I actually consider Larva to be the favorite based on his historically strong ZvP, though. The map pool and order have the potential to favor either player, and if the stars align the right way for Best AND he does not underperform, a win for him is not at all impossible.
Best > Larva
Action vs Best
Action’s offline performance has been steadily improving, and he is truly a ZvP monster. In my estimation, this is by far his strongest matchup, and stats tell the same story: a 65.9% win rate and a positive record against most top Protoss except Bisu and Snow. An 8-4 head-to-head score with Best only compounds the issue further. Even on his strongest day, I don’t think Best has what it takes to bring down Action...and one never knows if Best will bring his A game anyway. I won’t even bother with speculation about the maps. Action is heavily favored here, and a Best win would be a huge upset.
Action > Best
Light and Action qualify for the Ro8!