There can be no doubt; this is the most brutal, unforgiving group in the Round of 16. There is not a single player in this group who has not, in some way or another, carved a place for himself amongst the best, and thus by extension there is no player who can be definitively dismissed or favoured to advance. Anyone who seizes this group may well be the favourite to win the tournament, if he has not already established himself as such.

(Z)Solar, a highly-competent player who rose to prominence in the twilight of HotS, was the very first to stand out in the new battleground of LotV. He won the very first LotV Premier Tournament at Dreamhack with dominating flair, and coming a mere two weeks after making a mockery of what was supposed to be a challenging field at the Sandisk Shoutcraft Invitational, Solar has already earned his salt in the first year of the new expansion. But there is no satisfying the human appetite for conquest, and Solar has stepped into the Korean arena with nothing less than a desire for total victory. Ending his run at the SSL with a respectable 3rd place finish after a very close 3-4 defeat to the venerable Stats, Solar is now left with only the GSL to compete in. However, unlike the SSL, he can no longer rely purely on either a metagame shrouded in volatile darkness or weak opponents who relied on that same volatility to advance far, such as RagnaroK. For ZvZ, a somewhat solid metagame has already crystallised, with heavy focus on the ling/bane wars of old and a slight shift from purely roach armies to roach-ravager armies, hardly a large difference. Solar is no doubt a competent ZvZ player; virtually his entire campaign in the SSL was focussed on ZvZ, and he has a frightening 78% series winrate in LotV in the matchup. But such a winrate was earned through the blood of lesser opponents, and his current one cannot be said to be so.

While the name of (Z)soO is enough to invoke fear in the hearts of many, he simply has not displayed any degree of dominance whatsoever in LotV, although a player of his calibre is usually expected to take down most opponents with ease. soO was once incredibly dominant in the ZvZ matchup, with a sublime 70% series winrate in HotS, and since there is a high degree of similarity between HotS ZvZ and LotV ZvZ, his skills are easily transferable between the expansions. However, his current form leaves us with many questions; he has only played 4 ZvZ series in LotV, out of a total of 22. With such a small sample there is little room to make assumptions. However, recalling iloveoov's promise to put him at the very top of the world in 2016, soO is a player to be watched, regardless of any time period. Even ignoring this promise, soO's fundamental character, his sheer will and determination to reach the skies or die trying, make him a player worth giving a damn for, and a player of too much value to be left in the Round of 16. No, there is only 1 place soO is fit to be, and that is in the Finals of the greatest tournament on Earth.

Seldom has there been any player in SC2's history who has matched the degree of dominance (P)Zest exhibited in 2014, and there is no doubt that there has been none since then… with the possible exception of Zest right now. Watch any of his games in 2014, and one will be immediately awed by his sheer brilliance, his complete control of game flow, and his unparalleled mastery of Protoss mechanics. That, and the fact that he won 3 Korean titles in that year, a record only surpassed by the likes of Mvp, is sufficient to enshrine him in the pantheon. But a mere place in history cannot possibly be enough for a player of such class. Zest is once more displaying the same aura of invincibility that he once had when he was the last player to be uncontested in his throne. See for instance any of his recent series against Terrans; he doesn't even bother playing different builds on any single map to confound his opponents, because his builds are of such perfection that there is little need for adaptation. Even then, his decision-making acuity and his in-game adaptation to his opponents' play are historically without protoss precedent in their razor-sharpness.

There is little doubt that (T)Cure is the weakest player of this group by far; even then, he is no easy prey. Thus far he has looked on-point in LotV, advancing cleanly 4-0 in his Round of 32 group. Even then, let us be frank; he will probably not be able to defeat any of the players in this group, and will likely exit in 4th place. Still, there is always great room for upsets, and even if he gets crushed by Zest, he can always rely on his strong mechanics in TvZ, which has always maintained a large mechanical component in determining victors. In addition, Korean StarCraft has always been uncertain and volatile, and never has this been more true than now. Cure will need to either display a macromanagement and micromanagement so pure and pristine that he outshines his past self by a league, or he will need to deploy specialist build orders that take his opponents off guard, just to even have a chance of finishing in third place. There is always hope.


All things being equal, assuming Cure does not deploy some miraculous build order that Zest does not comprehend, Zest should crush Cure. soO vs Solar, however, is a much more uncertain affair, and either can advance; Solar, however, has had vastly more experience in LotV ZvZ than soO has, and is theoretically favoured here. In the Winners' Match, Zest should be able to defeat Solar; the latter's cheesy gimmicks were fully exposed by Stats as a farce in the SSL, and Zest can easily refer to the macro games Stats won to have a clear guide as to where Solar is weak. What transpires in the Losers' Match is anyone's guess, but we believe the Deciders' Match should be between soO and Solar (again), in which, again, the outcome is uncertain. Place your liquibets well.

Solar > soO
Cure < Zest
Zest > Solar
soO > Cure
soO > Solar

(Z)soO and (P)Zest advance to the Round of 8.

Writers' Draft

Round of 32 Report Card

Sorry that this section is slightly out of place; I wrote it a couple weeks ago and forgot to attach it to yesterday's preview. Expect the next Writers' Draft report alongside Wednesday's GSL Group C.

With the Round of 16 Group Selections complete, it’s time for a bumper edition of our weekly Writers' Draft Report. First up is a recap of the final week of the Round of 32, and then I take a look at how the groups and playoffs look to be stacking up. For an overview of the initial drafting process, click here. Here’s a quick reminder of the teams:
+ Show Spoiler +

Destructicon: Zest, Rogue, Dark, Curious, Dream, Bbyong, Trap, Creator
Soularion: TY, Soulkey, MyuNgSiK, Dear, Forte, Super, SpeeD, Seed
TheOneAboveU: herO, Classic, aLive, DongRaeGu, DeParture, Bunny, Cure, Journey
hexhaven: soO, Solar, TaeJa, Leenock, Stork, Losira, Symbol, HerO

Destructicon - 15 points - B-
Dark +15
Bbyong +0

Dark continued his spectacular early season form with his easy 4-0 here, while it’s probably a bit harsh to judge Destructicon too harshly for Bbyong’s 0 points. Note that I made the decision not to punish him with the 5 point penalty after Bbyong's forfeit, partly because Bbyong technically didn't actually lose any games.

Soularion - 21 points - A
Dear +15

A second consecutive A for Soularion? Surely not. But there’s not too much else to say if your sole player of the week picks up the full maximum available.

TheOneAboveU - 2 points - D
aLive +1
DongRaeGu +1

This one was pretty hard for me. Both aLive and DongRaeGu looked excellent in parts in their respective groups, but lost out in their decisive final sets. aLive certainly looked far better than Losira for vast periods of the night, while DRG pushed arguably the best ZvZer in SC2 history right to the breaking point. Desperately unlucky, then, to be getting 2 points here.

hexhaven - 10 points - B
Losira +5
soO +5
HerO +0

Just as TheOneAboveU was edged out for his two 1 pointers this week, hexhaven’s snuck in to nick the spoils. Losira and soO will be relieved to be progressing to the next round, while despite glimpses of great play from HerO, the ex-Liquid protoss was comfortably 4th best in the group. All in all, a pretty good week.

Round of 16 - A Look Ahead

Note: Any opinions offered in the next section should be taken as my initial thoughts on group selection night, and separate from our regular TL previews.

First, a breakdown of the groups showing the relevant writers, followed by a writer-by-writer breakdown:
+ Show Spoiler +

Group A
  • herO (TheOneAboveU)
  • SpeeD (Soularion)
  • Trap (Destructicon)
  • TaeJa (hexhaven)

Group B
  • Solar (hexhaven)
  • soO (hexhaven)
  • Zest (Destructicon)
  • Cure (TheOneAboveU)

Group C
  • Curious (Destructicon)
  • Losira (hexhaven)
  • Dream (Destructicon)
  • Dark (Destructicon)

Group D
  • Dear (Soularion)
  • Bunny (TheOneAboveU)
  • MyuNgSiK (Soularion)
  • TY (Soularion)


First things first; Destructicon has five players remaining (compared to four each for Soularion and hexhaven, and three for TheOneAboveU). However, he’s also got three players playing in Group C, meaning that he’ll definitely lose one—somewhat negating his advantage. However, all of Curious, Dream and Dark look superior to Losira so far this season, and with the SKT pair certainly looking to double up on the night, things aren’t looking that bad for him in Group C.

Trap is actually in one of the better groups possible for him. His disruptor PvP looked good against Super (although how much of that came down to the Afreeca player’s incompetence there is debatable), while SpeeD and TaeJa are probably two of the most beatable players left in the competition. That’s not to say he’s favoured at all (I still think he’ll come in 4th probably), but it’s not as hopeless as if he was in, say, Group B.

However, if there’s anyone favoured to be making it out of the group of death, it should be Zest. I’d love to see Solar’s unbeaten ZvP against Zest’s current form in the matchup in the winners’ match, but Solar might not even make it that far as he’s up against soO first. When you’ve got four players of quality, it’s hard to rule out anyone definitively, but until he proves otherwise Zest is my pick for 1st in the group.


Much like Destructicon, Soularion has three players in a group; unlike Destructicon, he doesn’t have the buffer of a five man lineup remaining. Everything points to a TY / Dear 1-2 finish, but as we saw all last year, it’s dangerous to count out MyuNgSiK’s zaniness. Bunny has a distant shot at an upset, but if I were Soularion I don’t think I’d be too worried here, and he should definitely have 2/3 advancing.

On the other hand, SpeeD has a distinct shot at furthering his run in Group A. We’ve seen him beat good protosses before, but his weakness seems to be in TvT. He actually looked OK in the only offline series he’s played (albeit against a poor Reality in Code A), but he’s been losing all over the place in online events. We’ve seen nothing of TaeJa’a TvT since his win over Journey in Code S over a month ago, but given his success in the matchup over the years, I think I’d still favour him to come out on top. Still, SpeeD certainly has a much better shot at making the playoffs than anyone would have given him prior to Code A.


This is starting to look pretty ugly for TheOneAboveU. herO is still flying the flag for him, but Cure and Bunny look like mincemeat in their respective groups. Sure, they looked pretty good in their initial groups, but then again everyone in a GSL Ro.16 is pretty good, and they both look inferior to the players around them. If herO fails, it’s pretty much all over. Also, it should be noted that if GSL follows the same format as prior years, the top 2 from Group A will play the top 2 from Group B in the Round of 8, so should herO qualify, he’s likely to get one of Solar / soO / Zest, or Cure for a TOAU teamkill. Any way you spin that, it isn’t looking good.


After a pretty awful start to the Round of 32, hexhaven’s chances suddenly started to look a lot brighter. Then, the groups came out. I’ve covered already why I think TaeJa got a very good shot at going through, but having both Solar and soO in the group of death is awkward. soO looked pretty weak against Dear in their earlier group, and barring some incredible improvement I can’t see him beating Zest, so I think hexhaven has to settle for 1/2 here. Finally, Losira barely scraped through his Ro.32 group, and I can’t see him repeating the miracle here.

Overall thoughts

Destructicon has by far the best Ro.16 setup, while TheOneAboveU probably has the worst. Interestingly though, Destructicon has 3 players in Group C, while Soularion has 3 in Group D; meaning that we'll likely get a double bill showdown between the two in the Round of 8. If one of the two comes out on top decisively there, that could well be the week that decides the overall winner of the Draft. For now though, with plenty of big points left to play for in the playoffs and plenty of upsets already so far, everything remains fairly open.

Current standings

Soularion - 48 points (4 to play this round)
Destructicon - 40 points (5)
TheOneAboveU - 24 points (3)
hexhaven - 21 points (4)