Code S RO16: Group A Preview
Match One: Genius vs NaNiwa
As the player with the most GSL points in the RO16, Genius was allowed the very first pick of the group selection ceremony. With possible twelve players to choose from, it was a bit of a surprise that Genius decided to go for Quantic's NaNiwa. While Genius said a lot of things during the group selection ceremony, I kept thinking he was intentionally avoiding saying anything of substance. He downplayed his previous Code S run as being a lucky streak, mentioned he had been lax in practice in the last few weeks, and gave no clear reason for his NaNiwa pick – other than the fact that he gave up his original choice of Terran opponent (likely Maru) due to convincing from PartinG and MC.
Genius' RO32 pick (the two finalists get to pick their first opponents) might provide more insight on why he picked NaNiwa. There, Genius went with a very utilitarian pick in BBoongBBoong, statistically a poor ZvP player, and definitely a player on the shallow end of the Code S skill pool. With that in mind, it seems plausible that Genius could have picked NaNiwa simply because he thinks foreigners are worse than Koreans. It's a strategy that worked for Jjakji when he crushed Sen in Code S Season One, so it makes some sense.
However, it's still PvP, and it's strange that Genius would take a player who has beat Puzzle, MC, and JYP in the last month. Sure, Genius has looked strong in PvP as well, taking down MC 3 – 0 in his last series, but considering that PvT has been his most impressive match-up, it's surprising that he left Terrans on the table (especially if it's true that he talked to MC and PartinG, and they planned to take Terrans for themselves).
Whether or not Genius is underestimating NaNiwa, this is pretty much the same to me as the NaNiwa vs Puzzle match in being very even. As far as PvP is concerned, NaNiwa is a Code S class Korean and on par with Genius. Players like HuK, Oz, and Elfi might have pulled off win streaks that made them seem unusually good at the Protoss mirror, but for the most part there's usually very little separating top level PvP players from one another.
Match Two: SuperNoVa vs Virus
The Genius –> Naniwa pick vexed me a little bit, NaNiwa –> SuperNoVa seemed reasonable, but SuperNoVa –> Virus had me tearing my hair out. With most pro-gamers content to pick guys they think they can beat instead of going for glory, the players left at the end of the group selection draft are usually the scariest guys in the room. Progamers know what's up before the general public does, and we can see that from how aLive, SuperNoVa, PartinG, and Genius were last season's final four. For Code S November, Bomber, Nada, Jjakji, and MKP were the last four picks in the RO32 group selections.
So, that begs the question, how the f*** does Virus get into that tier? Don't get me wrong – Virus played pretty decent in his Up/Down group, and actually played really well in his Code S RO32 group against Nestea and MC. However, the fact that he's actually being avoided suggests that his recent performances aren't a fluke, and that he's legitimately way better than his career 46.91% win rate says. What the fans see isn't always what the progamers see: People were almost fighting over fan favorite Maru because they thought he was an easy opponent, while our cult hero Virus got left for last. Maybe Maru is the kid who got a bit lucky, while Virus is the player who's coming up strong in 2012. Or maybe he just fell through the cracks.
Whether Virus has mutated or not, this head to head still seems to favor SuperNoVa. Virus might have looked strong against Nestea and MC, but he looked totally outmatched by Jjakji (not the best TvT player) in their Code A meeting last season. He looked much better against ForGG in his Up/Down group, winning a game where he was at a big disadvantage – though you might say that ForGG's stake of zero in that game made him let go after taking a lead. SuperNova has been fairly mediocre in his recent TvTs as well, but at least historically the quality of his TvT player has always been better than Virus. It's a battle of "meh" versus "eh" in TvT, but one player appears to have the advantage.
Winners', Losers', and Final matches: TvParadise
After the initial pair of mirrors, we're guaranteed to have some PvTs. As we've seen in the RO32, players like PartinG and Oz can make the match-up look pretty much imbalanced, while players like Mvp can fire back with "NOPE, MARAUDERS!" Though we've seen precious little of Genius outside the GSL, his performances from Code S Season One where he beat MKP in a tense series and made aLive look like a jobber in the semi-finals puts him solidly in the imba PvT category. For all his talk about being lucky and not practicing, he's probably going to crush whichever Terran player he faces. Though Genius lost to SuperNoVa in the RO32, he only lost because he made a one-in-a-hundred terrible decision after easily thwarting SuperNova's all-in.
In NaNiwa's case, he had an easy time against the TvP impaired Ryung in the RO32, but SuperNoVa and Virus are tougher opponents. His match against Virus is essentially a StartaleQ team-kill, and it will have all the prediction defying weirdness that goes along with team-kill games. NaNiwa was confident enough in his PvT to pick SuperNoVa, and he did happen to say that he thinks SuperNoVa is a player who needs preparation to play at his best level (NaNiwa must have watched IEM Sao Paulo and the World Championship, where SuperNoVa played below his Code S regular reputation). SuperNoVa claimed two days was enough, but that will remain to be seen in a fairly close match-up.
Overall Outlook and Prediction
This is a pretty evenly matched group where there's a plausible 1st place finish scenario for everyone. The Protoss players can flip on their mirror and play their good match-ups. SuperNoVa is simply a guy who always seems to play his best in Code S, and Virus is a mega-mystery who is probably going to mess up everyone's liquibets. No doubt, this one is tough.
NaNiwa > Genius
SuperNoVa > Virus
SuperNoVa > NaNiwa
Genius > Virus
NaNiwa > Genius
SuperNoVa and NaNiwa advance. As long as it's too close to call, might as well go with the foreigner in the PvP's for a second week in a row.
Code A RO48: Day One Recap
Ace Up The Sleeve
It wasn't the prettiest victory, but ST_AcE was able to survive against oGs' JookTo in a close 2-1 series. Neither player's control was at their best, but after going down to a mass of hive units in the first game, Ace was able to use both a clever warp prism attack and solid three base play to pick up two consecutive wins and get into the next round. Jookto, known as one of the better players on oGs in practice, again looked like a player who didn't show his full potential in the booth.
Stung in the Heart
Can we please, as a community, make a support group for BumblebeePrime? Not only was he the first player in GSL history to go 0-5 in the Up and Down groups, but he also had the shame of losing to a foreigner in the first round of IPL4, and not even a European at that. We know that foreigners are a bit better than Koreans give them credit for, but I doubt that will help Bumblebee's reputation in the Korean community. Now, he's got almost nothing going for him, being sent straight back down to Code B.
After not being used in Prime's victory against Startale in the GSTL Finals, he returned back to Korea with redemption on his mind against Complexity's Heart. Instead of getting revenge for the past month of disappointment in the GSL, the sadness only continued with Heart taking a 2-0 sweep over the downtrodden Prime player. While Heart gets another shot at Code S after a strong performance at MLG Columbus and a nice debut in Code A last season by upsetting Bomber, Bumblebee must once more go into the Code A qualifiers to try and get back into the GSL.
Midnight for Cinderella
For a few minutes, dtGGanDoL looked like he was on his way to achieving the upset of a lifetime, just a game away from getting to the second round of Code A after eliminating BBoongBBoongPrime. In the face of B4's tireless pressure in the first game, GGandol was able to impressively hold and then hit with a great counter-attack using a giant blink stalker and colossi army to win himself an unbelievable first victory. Sadly, the carriage made of gold turned into a pumpkin at midnight, and B4 proved why he was in Code S a few weeks ago, and why GGandol was a mid-masters player. B4 didn't let GGandol settle-in during the next two sets, putting an ample amount of pressure on the GSL rookie and was able to take him off his game. The miracle run couldn't continue and B4 rolled through the final two sets to take the series. Although he lost, GGandol, who a lot of people thought would be a joke opponent, actually proved that he could hang with one of the better Zergs in Korea and is someone to keep your eye on in Code A qualifiers from now on.
In his first game against TSL_Symbol, MvPsC played well in a long macro game victory, suggesting that poor health or not, he was still more than a Code A player. His bio control was on point and even after losing force after force, he kept rallying in an endless amount of units using his trademark macro until his opponent couldn't hold on any longer.
Unfortunately, after showing us one of his best games in months, sC couldn't seal the deal. His aggressive rush in game two failed against Symbol's great defense, and then fell to Symbol's own early game bust in the deciding set. It was an important victory for Symbol, a player whose strong performances in a variety of tournaments outside the GSL suggested that he was a player to look out for. With the lack of Zergs in Code S, Symbol might be the player to watch out for in upcoming GSL seasons.
DRG Doesn't Have Time For This
Let's keep this as short as the sets were. MvPDongRaeGu did a quick pool in the first game and speedling all-in'd an unsuspecting TSL_RevivaL who went for a fast expansion with late banelings. In the second game, DRG followed that up with a zergling-drone-spinecrawler rush, easily defeating another hatch first build from Revival. DRG wants to be back into Code S as soon as possible, and he isn't messing around in Code A.
JYProves He Belongs
Against one of the better Zergs in the world, EG.JYP was able to pick up his biggest GSL win in quite a while by 2-0'ing NSH_Seal. The first game was an absolute classic as both players were able to continuously pressure, back-stab, and harass each other into an exciting game that came down to an epic, climactic battle between massive armies. Seal was able to get a neural on JYP's mothership and throw down a vortex on his army, but wasn't able to capitalize as JYP's army was still too strong. JYP was able to keep up his momentum in game two and take an easier game that time around.
While JYP has weathered one difficult test from NS Hoseo to make it to the next round, he now faces an even tougher challenge from the New Stars. His next opponent is Jjakji, whose TvP is known to be as good as JYP's PvT is bad. A victory against Seal was a good statement, but if he can pull the victory against Jjakji, there will be no doubts JYP has not only improved his PvT, but that he belongs in Code S.
Red Card for Soccer
This series came down to one key moment. After battling back after getting his economy wiped out by cloaked banshees in the early game, SlayerS_Ven (formerly known as Soccer) was able to put himself in a good position in the late game against the heavy favorite FnaticRC aLive. aLive had applied some nice pressure all game with auto turrets and banshees, but his main micro control on his bio army hadn't been the best and he had lost most of his medivacs along the way. With maxed out armies and Ven having a great composition consisting of colossi and high templar against the mainly bio army of Alive, things were looking bright for the Protoss player after a disastrous start.
Then, as happens to be the trend with Slayers recently, things fell apart in the blink of an eye. With 1A probably enough to win the game, Soccer command moved his colossi and the rest of his army outside his base, leaving himself wide open to Alive's vikings and bio force that cleaned up everything in a matter of seconds. That was all she wrote for Soccer as he lost the game and then succumbed to bunker aggression from Alive in game two to fall into Code B.
Huk Hacked Down
StartaleQ cannot be stopped. After their controversial loss in Las Vegas, they came back with all four of their players winning their respective Code S groups and followed that up with two more Code A victories tonight. ST_Hack was too much for the foreigner favorite with a strong bionic play in game one that gave him the win. Things were going well for EG.HuK, but in what seemed like only a few seconds, after a strong dual push + drop from Hack on Huk's newly created third and main, the foreigner was down 50 supply and against a bio player with an insane amount of medivacs at his disposal. Things only got worse in game two with Hack deciding that he didn't want a long game, going for a one base marine all-in that streamed in marine after marine to Huk's natural expansion. With an immortal and forcefields, Huk was able to hold on for a few minutes, but with stim completed and medivacs out, Hack did a drop in Huk's base and finished things off to get the 2-0 victory.
Game of the Night: EG.JYP vs. NSH_Seal - Game One
Seal, for the second straight season, delivered one of the best Code A series, but continued his streak of having incredible games while also being eliminated in the first round. Both players were able to play at their best, but JYP was able to eck out a victory and secure his spot in the second round with a strong showing.
Code S RO32: Group E Recap
No Cure for the Code S Virus
The Code S Virus is in danger of growing from localized outbreak into an all-out pandemic. ST_Virus defeated past GSL champions SK_MC and IMNesTea to earn a first place finish in his group, a shocking result for a player better known for his survivalist skills than world-beating ability. What made it all the more impressive was Virus' ability to outplay his illustrious opponents in straight up games, without resorting to the all-ins many had expected.
Virus showed that he could use MMM with the best of them in his first game against MC, where he defeated the Protoss President in a straight up, macro slugfest. On the other hand, it was a game that was revealing for MC as well, showing that despite his unparalleled ability to win in the early to mid-game, he was definitely no PartinG when the game went late. Virus couldn't help but follow up the victory with a loss to one of MC's aggressive, two base attacks, but he was able to fend off another one in the deciding game to clinch first place.
Against Nestea, Virus was just as good – if not even better. Nestea's aggressive lair stage bust caught him off guard in game one, but in games two and three, Virus played solid macro games with great multi-tasking that had Nestea huffing and puffing to keep up. By running Nestea ragged before he could put together meaningful hive compositions, Virus won with surprising ease.
MC vs Nestea – Deferred Dream Rematch
With Virus securing first place, there was only room for one more player in Code S. Both Nestea and MC swept aside Inca with almost laughable ease, making it a duel between former GSL champions for the 2nd place spot.
One year ago, it would have been the most eagerly awaited duel in all of Starcraft II, but in April of 2012, it was more of a heat-check for two resurgent veterans trying to make their way in a harsher, more competitive world. The result of this partial diagnosis didn't come as too much of a surprise: MC was more suited to go on.
For a player who had built his career on unerring defense since the oldest of days, it was disappointing to see Nestea to drop the first game to some simple one-base pressure from MC. Perhaps he was caught off guard by the President's willingness to play such an old-school style, but it felt like Nestea was losing to a strategy he had fought off multiple times in the past, even in its stronger, pre-nerf variations. The second game saw Nestea completely unable to deal with the fast third base style of Protoss, his three base roach-hydra timing coming after colossi were already on the battlefield, and his mutalisk switch destroyed by range upgraded phoenixes.
After a strong run at IPL4, where the lack of preparation time between matches was supposed to be Nestea's weakness, it was disappointing to see Nestea lose so easily in Code S. It could have been an off day, similar to those of Jjakji, DRG, and aLive, but one cannot deny that Nestea's consistency is questionable.
Inca vs Nestea – Deferred "Dream" Rematch
oGs.InCa did not disappoint in his games against Nestea, bringing a bizarre three-base carrier build on his way to a 0 – 2 defeat. Nestea laughed, and exploited the immobility of carriers by using his muta-ling to alternately wreak havoc on Inca's three bases. After killing seventy probes, Nestea decided it was time to end the game and made some corruptors to finish off the carries. With this series, Inca dropped to 0 – 6 all time against Nestea.
Game of the Night: Virus vs MC – Game One
Though we've been spoiled by PartinG and Polt in terms of absolutely top class PvT, Virus and MC still provided an entertaining PvT slugfest. MC played well, while Virus really rose above expectations by showing a long TvP late game. In general, Virus' games were all very interesting as he looked much better than his previously sub 50% win-rate in everything record would suggest.
Bañe-ata by shiroiusagi.
Writers: Fionn and Waxangel.
Graphics and Art: Meko and shiroiusagi.