GSL Code A Day 5
Two weeks into the first starleagues of Legacy of the Void, things are still topsy turvy in the world of Korean Starcraft. We’ve seen massive upsets, Best of 3 cheeses, and a decent amount of balance ‘discussion’. Former top tier players from Heart of the Swarm have crashed and burned in ignominy, while rookies have popped up showing great results and performances. Upsets are hardly upsets when we have little knowledge of the status quo in this expansion, and it may take some time to iron out who's hot and who's not. We could have more surprises in Day 5—and hopefully, a few more good games.
SKT T1 soO
For all their varying reputations, soO and Trust come into this match on even ground. Both were bopped pretty hard in their initial SSL games (by ByuN and ByuL respectively), with neither impressing too much. It’s relatively common that the players who have performed the worst so far in televised matches have been those sticking to a pseudo HotS-esque style, while those who have succeeded have embraced the new units and possibilities that Legacy brings to the table.
So far, soO’s a player who clearly falls into the former category. His muta ling bane ZvT was straight out of HotS, which is why it was slightly odd to see him struggle so hard with a traditional bio style from ByuN. Taken apart by a couple sharp counters and timing, it wasn’t entirely clear if it was poor play, or simply lack of preparation and unfamiliarity with the map/game that caused his demise. On the other hand, Trust’s lengthy matches gave us a decent look at his PvZ. Against ByuL, he displayed the archon chargelot style that’s become increasingly popular in Korea at the moment, and was perhaps unfortunate to be on the losing end of the semi-basetrade situation.
While both players still have their spot in the SSL Losers Bracket to come, it’s certainly a precarious situation that they find themselves in. With the changes to the Korean system, there’s more pressure than ever on merely getting into Code S—let alone thinking about progression through the main competition—and the uncertainty surrounding the state of the various matchups in Legacy only makes it harder to guess which player will take home the win at the end of the day. In the absence of any truly reliable data, I have to go for the known quantity. soO’s upped his game before so many times already, while Trust remains a player always on the fringes of Code S.
soO 3 - 1 Trust
"We need a sponsor" KeeN
Legacy of the Void competitive record:
KeeN: 80-73 (24-31 in TvT)
Journey: 50-46 (22-24 in TvT)
For most of 2015, KeeN was dreadful. Failing in starleague qualifiers all year until his single Code A appearance in Season 3, and marooned on a struggling team in Proleague, there would’ve been few people with genuine expectations of him returning to his former levels. However, towards the end of the year, something started to click, whether due to the sudden lack of pressure after PRIME hit rock bottom, or if he was desperately gunning for a spot on another team. A decent showing at ASUS ROG, losing to eventual champion Losira, was paired with suddenly improved performances in Proleague—being practically the only PRIME player to distinguish himself after the loss of Creator.
Suddenly, there was a spark to his play, crucially missing during his 0-6 start to the campaign. He pushed INnoVation to the very brink of his TvT capabilities in Code A at a time when the SKT terran looked unbeatable in the mirror matchup, not managing to convert his mid game advantages heading into the late game. It all culminated in him taking home the trophy from Gfinity Summer Masters II—beating Lilbow, MyuNgSiK and MarineLorD— for his first offline tournament win in six years of playing the game.
So, what comes next? Will the momentum from digging himself out of his 2015 trough catapult him back into the big leagues, or was it the last hurrah of a stop-start career? Chances are that this match will define his year going forwards, even at such an early juncture. KeeN failed in the SSL qualifiers, so Code A represents his only shot at the individual leagues in Korea for a good five-six months, while getting games in Proleague (when it eventually rolls around) will be tough given SBENU’s already bloated roster.
Meanwhile, it’s equally difficult to see where Journey stands. He’s always lurked on the fringes of the Korean scene—adding a single appearance in the SSL Challenge last year to his previous pair of Code A appearances. His time in Proleague was strangely limited last year on Samsung Galaxy, despite his promising play and 5-5 record, and with the rest of his team performing well in the transition to Legacy of the Void, he needs to ensure that he’s not left behind. While he might be a willing participant in pretty much every Asian online tournament, at some stage it’s time to kick on when it’s your turn on the stage.
The results we’ve seen in Legacy have been strange so far to say the least, and considering the turbulent nature of TvT in the new expansion, either player has a decent shot here. With that, I guess I’ll go for the guy with more experience in the studio.
KeeN 3 - 1 Journey
The story seemed to write itself. Months after making his debut in Code S with brilliant success, walking the royal road and taking home the WCS Season 3 championship trophy home for good measure, he was done and dusted. Stranded on a foreign team in Mousesports who failed to back him at all (dumping him after four months), falling down to Code B, he looked like a player who had burned too bright, too fast. Or at least, that’s what it looked like. In today’s hyper-competitive Korean scene, every defeat seems important; every tournament failure spells doom. Especially this year, with the huge gap between tournaments in Korea, it’s all too easy to declare that someone has lost their spark after a particularly egregious loss.
Why then, was Dear Samsung’s best player in Proleague? What about his starleague results in 2015—one top 4, one top 8, two top 16s and a first round exit in the first GSL of the year? It’s a more than respectable tally—better than sOs’, for one. Although clearly he’s not yet the championship tier protoss that appeared at the end of 2013—one of the most clinical and decisive players we’ve seen yet—neither is he a ‘One and Done’ champion on the level of jjakji. Time will tell if he can ever make a true return to the heady days of Autumn 2013, but for now, he's a more than adequate threat that has to be taken seriously.
Meanwhile, sOs is a player who can probably tell Dear a thing or two about ups and downs in form. It’s becoming a bit of a cliché to say that sOs is a man for the big occasion (and complementary six figure rewards), but the mounting body of evidence is starting to turn a joke into something far more concrete. Of the three tournaments that he’s qualified for offering $100,000+ prizes for top place, he has won all three. However, the unspoken counterpoint to that argument is his perennial failures in Korean starleagues. For a player of his talents and planning ability, falling short time after time in the most preparation-focused tournament in Starcraft must be galling. Two top 4s and a top 8 are chump change for a player who epitomises the phrase ‘Go Big or Go Home’. Sooner or later, he has to hit it big in Korea to cement his legacy.
Dear looked in decent form in the GSL Preseason Week 2, taking out Rogue and jjakji before being shredded by one of Legacy’s early stars in MyuNgSiK, while sOs has hardly played any recorded games at all (just the GSL and SSL qualifiers, in fact). With Jin Air’s funk in Legacy so far, we don’t even know how much sOs has been playing the game; I guess I’ll go for Dear here.
Dear 3 - 2 sOs