An Old Classic

Last week’s Code S groups went off-kilter compared to expectations. Season 1 champion Zest stumbled at the first hurdle of his title defense before reasserting authority to leave the group in second place. His teammate Stats fared worse, being a mere specter of the dominant protoss who emerged from Zest’s shadow in the first half of the year. It’s fair to say that it’s hardly been an ideal start for each of the runaway favorites in each group. So, what does that mean for Group C? We’ve got two players who should be heavily favored to make it out but as we’ve already seen in both starleagues, that means little once we get down to business.

(T)ByuN is undoubtedly the most interesting piece in the Group C puzzle. His repeated farming of the online scene has been ridiculously efficient, compiling an 84% winrate (280-52) since the start of April. TvP is the "weakest" of his three matchups at a mere 75%, while his TvZ record is a disturbingly dominant 89-8 (92%). However, most of his wins have come against weak opposition (the regular Chinese contingent in the daily Douyu cups, for example), although it should be noted that the mid-tier Korean opposition have also been summarily dismissed whenever he’s met them. Of course, that’s the issue with trying to rate an online contender. The ladder-esque daily barrage of constant games against weak or unprepared opposition is light years away from the GSL. You might know how to play Starcraft but in the starleagues, you need to play the opposition just as much (for example, see his 2-3 loss to Curious back in Code A Season 1). Aside from his pair of Code S semifinals back in 2011 and 2012, ByuN has never been a major threat in solo competition. His top 6 finish in the SSL last season was admirable, but he needs to do better here to show he’s not about to slip back into exile.

If there’s a diametric opposite to ByuN in this group, it’s (P)Classic. He eschews online competition (just two series played in 2016), and he’s fully geared towards the big prizes. With both a GSL and SSL title, an IEM trophy, and a pair of BlizzCon Ro4s, it’s a wonder that people still question him. From 2014 to 2015, we had an unprecedented era of Korean protoss—Classic, Zest, herO, Stats, PartinG, Rain—and it’s hard to deny the SKT man a spot right behind Zest in a power ranking of those six. However, adapting to Legacy has taken longer than expected, and his early PvZ in particular was a major crutch preventing success. Since his return in April, things have been looking up for him. An 8-6 record in Proleague is decent, if nothing special, although a slight weakness to terran is possibly creeping in—he’s fallen to 1-1-1s from Reality and GuMiho in Proleague, as well as losing a crucial game against BrAvO’s variant in their tight Code A match. ByuN will definitely be his biggest concern in this group—a terran no stranger to aggression in Legacy.

If ByuN and Classic are the two clear favorites here, (Z)Losira is the dark horse. It was pretty unbelievable that he made it to the Ro8 last season. Beating MVP Coach Choya in Code A and aLive in their truncated Bbyong-less Code S group catapulted him into a somewhat fortunate Ro.16 group, where he emerged victorious in a ZvZ fest against Dark and Curious. It’s hardly the most convincing GSL run we’ve ever seen, and it’s not like results in other competitions have backed up his standing either—he sports a 1-5 record in Proleague this year (with many of those losses proving crucial, to the dismay of KT fans), while finishing dead last in his (admittedly tough) SSL Challenge group. Win rates sometimes don’t tell the whole story, but an 18-30 record against all 2016 competition is hardly reflective of an average GSL quarterfinalist. His ZvT stands at an appalling 3-13 (wins over aLive during the terran’s slump and, inexplicably, Maru during their Challenge marathon), and there’s pretty much no reason to believe he’ll emerge victorious should he meet ByuN here. ZvP is a different story though. He’s stuck to the tried and tested roach-ravager meta, and managed to take a pair of maps off Zest and Super with fast rushes. He’s been stubborn this year, managing to hang on in both individual competitions and in KT’s Proleague lineup, and it wouldn’t be an outrageous shock to see him upset Classic here.

To round off the group, (P)Seed’s got an incredibly tough task on his hands here. His successes have been few and far between this year, and frankly qualifying twice for Code S is probably more than what most would have expected. Last season’s Code A match against Bomber was one of the ugliest Starcraft series of all time, as he crushed the terran with unstoppable waves of soon-to-be-nerfed adepts, and this season’s wasn’t too much better—with Sorry crumbling under pressure and folding from a 2-0 advantage to a 2-3 sweep. His Proleague appearances this season have been easy fodder for the opposing team (1-5 for the year, with a sole win over Journey in February), and there’s been nothing to suggest that he could buck the trend here. There's just one curious fact to note: back in ByuN's prime peak in GSL 2012 Season 3, he faced Seed in the Code S semifinals. Up 2-1, ByuN dealt crushing economic damage to Seed in game 4, yet threw the game and the series after the protoss pulled off a miracle hold against his SCV pull. Since then, ByuN has never made it to the Ro.16 again, falling repeatedly in the Ro.32 and in Code A, before starting his two-year long Korean exile in 2013. It would be all too fitting if Seed dealt the final blow here as well.


Let’s start off at the bottom end: barring a performance of hitherto unseen LotV skill, Seed’s nailed on to fall out of this group in last place. On the other end of the scale, ByuN should be favored to come out on top against all three players, although Classic should give him a decent fight. Losira’s ZvT should be too weak to compete. It then comes down to Classic vs Losira, and that same question from earlier in the year still lingers: has Classic fixed his PvZ? It certainly looks okay—he’s won his only three televised matches since his hiatus (two over ByuL in Proleague, and one over Curious in their SSL group)—although none of the three wins was wholly convincing. With that small sample size in mind, it’s not inconceivable that Losira could upset him here, but I’ll be backing the SKT protoss.

Losira < ByuN
Seed < Classic
ByuN > Classic
Losira > Seed
Classic > Losira

(T)ByuN and (P)Classic to advance to the Ro.16.