Time’s flying by—we’re already halfway through Code A! Day 4 was predictable (for once). Patience beat his new teammate Symbol, Ryung smashed through Soulkey with ease, while MyuNgSiK easily muscled his way past jjakji. On paper, Day 5 brings more of the same; will anyone manage to pull off the upset though?
Let’s be honest; HerO hasn’t been in the greatest form for quite a while. Since the start of 2015, he’s had 10 chances to progress in either Korean starleague. Two appearances in Code S (two exits in last place) and an 0-3 demolition in Code A by Classic in GSL 2015 Season 3 is hardly a record that’ll strike fear into any of his opponents. To add to that, he’s played practically no Starcraft this entire year—a 3-0 over Sacsri (since retired), and dual losses to soO and DongRaeGu in Code S. Hell, he didn’t even bother to go to the SSL qualifiers, and he’s only playing here tonight due to his Code S spot last time round. Currently teamless and struggling, another failure here would probably prompt thoughts of following another ex-Liquid Korean into the sunset.
That said, there are two things going for him. Firstly, his opponent tonight is a zerg; secondly, his opponent is clearly not top-class in any way. We’ve seen HerO deal with a sub-par zerg already in Sacsri, while the great multitask ability he demonstrated against DRG was promising, despite his eventual loss. Pet is a player with practically zero achievements in the game, despite his long history as a B teamer on StarTale and SBENU. One appearance in Code S back in early 2014 is a bleak summary of his struggles in Starcraft, while the fact that he was teamless for a good 7 months recently after leaving SBENU only adds to that image. His 71% winrate in ZvP for 2016 though is a good sign—while wins over weak opposition inflates that number drastically, he’s still 13-6 against the weaker Koreans he’s encountered in qualifiers and online tournaments (wins against Creator, Blaze, TAiLS and Seed, while losing to sOs). That said, aside from that one success, he’s typically fallen hard in Code A and the GSTL alike, and replicating his online success in the booth will be a tough task.
In HotS, Pet was typically a more aggressive player, favouring roach styles over the pre-nerf swarm host in ZvP, and it’ll be interesting to see if he’s kept faith in that despite the current trend for ling-bane now in 2016. On the other hand, it’s difficult to see HerO shifting too far from the warp prism harass style he’s used for years, now that it’s become a fundamental part of the protoss arsenal. If any set goes late, expect to see double prisms busted out. Neither player inspires too much confidence here either way; I think I’ll opt for HerO in a tight series.
HerO 3 - 2 Pet
Seed has been in abysmal form for the whole of 2016. Aside from his much publicised adept-ing of Bomber in Code A, and a win over a poor Leenock in Code S, there are no games or results that inspire confidence in his abilities. Part of that might be attributed to him taking up a part-time coaching role at MVP to cover for Choya’s absence, but sub-40% winrates in all three matchups isn’t a healthy sign. In particular, his PvT has looked poor—a 30% winrate since the adept nerf, including just two series wins over Journey and Dragon. He might be a former GSL champion, but that one-off result goes against the rest of his career. Since 2013, there have been 17 starleagues run. In that time, Seed has qualified for Code S twice, WCS America Premier League once, and Code A six times (excluding this season). For quite a while, he’s been a player struggling on the Code B / Code A border, with Code S a rare overachievement; he’ll need to buck that trend to get through here.
Luckily, his opponent tonight is hardly an established GSL star either. Sorry had a couple of great appearances last year; impressing against TaeJa in Code A and in his Proleague appearances for SKT in particular, but he’s found it hard to repeat the feat this year. In Season 1, he was swept 0-3 by Cure in Code A in one of the simplest series we’ve seen all year, while his expected transition from Proleague rookie (9 appearances last year) hasn’t happened at all—SKT are still yet to send him out for the 2016 campaign. Sorry’s hardly played anything at all this year—he’s had the aforementioned loss to Cure, a loss to CJ’s Rookie in the SSL S2 Qualifiers, and he’s traded series with PartinG to qualify for Code A this time round. With nothing on the horizon, that’s a streak that could well continue should he fail here.
Often when we’re comparing players, we turn to consistency and games played, to see if a player’s good performance is a mere Flash in the pan, or indicative of a more permanent increase in quality. That same principle applies here, only the other way round. We’ve seen plenty of evidence of Seed playing poorly this year, but comparatively little of Sorry. Granted, the one televised performance we saw was awful, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here (also, I was genuinely excited by his play last year).
Seed 1 - 3 Sorry
Oh. Well, this is happening, I guess. There’s been a great furore about this particular Code A match, causing plenty of people to question the Bo5 elimination playoff style that determines entry to Code S. It’s an issue I’m torn on. I liked the old Up & Down format, but I recognise that this system is a big time / cost saver. I also love the fact that we don’t have to wait until the Ro.8 to see players exercise their series planning skills, especially for players who probably won’t make it that far—an example I’ll always quote is Panic’s win over Trap in 2015 Season 2.
Still, though, we’re stuck with the current format now, for better and for worse. The real question is—is everybody right to pick this as the match to kickstart the pitchforks? Since April, INnoVation is 0-4 against protoss (Super, Stats, herO, Dear), while his TvT’s hardly in better shape (wins over Ryung and an amateur in the GSL qualifiers; a loss to jjakji in the SSL qualifiers). The one shining light (as ever) is his TvZ, but still—2-0 Ruler, 2-0 Scarlett, 1-0 DeParture isn’t the biggest of statements. It’s undeniable that he’s currently struggling hard; hell, he was actually dropped for the first time in forever for an important Proleague match (both against Jin Air in the Round Robin, and against KT in the Playoffs). That’s probably got a lot to do with the current protoss domination of Proleague, but it’s still a position we’re not used to seeing INnoVation in. With three failures notched up already this year, he’s got one last chance to make this year memorable individually.
Fortunately, he’s up against a zerg. INnoVation’s TvZ record is excellent in 2016, with the important counterexamples of his pair of mindmelts against soO and RagnaroK in the SSL last time round. Further, there are few truly impressive zergs in Korea right now. Solar and Losira are two of the top 3 zergs in Korea by achievements from last season, with a top 3 SSL finish and a top 8 GSL finish apiece; can you honestly call either a true championship contender right now?
Unfortunately for INnoVation, though, he’s up against the one zerg that is. Dark rolls into Code A as the current SSL champion, and the unquestionable best zerg in the world. Still, while his ZvZ has looked good, and his ZvP meta-defining, ZvT is the widest chink in his armour. We’ve seen him falter against Dream (hellbat timing and bio / tankivac play vs roach ravager) and Bomber’s mass bio strat recently, while Maru outmanoevered him in a long macro slugfest. Dark’s shown that he’s good, but not impenetrable. Time to see if INnoVation’s got what it takes.
Let’s throw something out from the start—let’s ignore all talk of the implications of the teamkill. Sure, Dark is qualified for BlizzCon, and INnoVation is not. Sure, Dark still has an SSL campaign to fight, and INnoVation does not. Sure, this is simply another chance for Dark to stamp his domination on the year, while INnoVation is still fighting for relevance in Legacy of the Void. Still, that’s no reason at all to claim that Dark would throw the match for INnoVation, especially before it’s even been played.
This is probably going to be tight. INnoVation is playing the one matchup he seems confident in, against a player who he’s beaten all four times they’ve played in HotS. Dark on the other hand is coming in hot, fresh off a hattrick of wins over TY—one of the top 2 terrans in the world. Add to that the awkwardness of the teamkill, and it’s difficult to know what’ll happen. Still, I expect Dark to take the win.
Dark 3 - 1 INnoVation