One Last Ride

Prior to Legacy of the Void, (Z)RagnaroK was a fallow talent. He had briefly blossomed during summer 2014, when he followed an unexpected 5th- 6th place at MLG Anaheim with a flurry of second place finishes in online tournaments. Sadly, his notable performances in those never led to greater heights. He became one of those stout, respectable zergs who served as a barometer in the Korean scene. A single Bo5 against Ragnarok clearly showed where you stood in the hierarchy of the talent pool. He punished subpar gameplay with the appropriate maneuvers, yet neither possessed the invention nor the mechanical prowess to challenge the cream of the crop.

Now he finds himself sitting pretty in Code S, coming off a top 8 finish in SSL that included wins over INnoVation and ByuN. Did the year of tutelage under CJ Entus spark whatever dormant promise lay within him? Or did he get lucky, taking advantage of the new game that left so much of the competition in disarray? Outside of the two premier tournaments, little has changed. Ragnarok still wins and loses in equal measure. He's inconsistent to the point that words like "upset" or "expected" mean nothing. This doesn't bode well for him in the group, as all his opponents are well-established players who can boast tournament wins.

Then again, perhaps it's (T)TaeJa who should worried about getting trashed. The Liquid Terran hasn't been on top of his game for a long time, and has only shown intermittent flashes of the unstoppable bulldozer that dominated 2012 and 2013. His last official series was an ugly 0-3 loss to Zest in the GSL quarterfinals, one that would trigger anyone who has suffered at the hands of a DT drop. TaeJa looked helpless in that series, and it wouldn't surprise long-time fans that his failure was the product of apathy rather than declining skill. Wrist pains, shaky drive, an embrace of isolated practice rather than the traditional bonding of a team house...TaeJa's habits preclude the kind of commitments that would keep a player going. This didn't deter him in the past but back then, it was hard to tell whether TaeJa was serious about his claims of 'retirement'. People were glad to dismiss them as non-serious as long as he kept winning, and the problems were always extenuating in nature. Now it's official, and I have to doubt he will enter tonight's match intent on playing his best. I also doubt this claim means anything. TaeJa is still TaeJa.

Speaking of venerated prodigies, how well has (T)Maru been playing lately? LotV shook up the Korean scene, leaving the hierarchy of players nebulous, but Maru looks like the same player from HotS. He remains a monster in Proleague (his R1 + R2 record this year is one of the best team league showings in SC2 history). He is still easily one of the best terrans in the world, only surpassed by TY. With the exception of his twin encounters with the Great Wall of Protoss in the GSL and SSL, Maru has been successful in every venture during 2016. He's shown some weakness in TvP, and that might be a concern if he was in any other group. With a sterling record and only Zerg and Terran to worry about, Maru is the favorite for first place.

His opponent (Z)soO has less confidence to draw upon. Besides his loss to Maru in the WB final of his SSL group, the SK Telecom T1 zerg is at a bit of an impasse. Whatever you could say about his reliability in finals, soO usually wrecked the field in all other areas. In most tournaments he clearly outshone the competition leading to the semifinals; he fashioned sense out of the frustrating mirror matchup; he was rightfully considered one of the best, if not the best, zergs in HotS based on sheer consistency. In LotV he's been good, not great. He still wins the majority of the time in PL and other places, but not with the dominance of yesteryear. Like many of his fellow zergs, sometimes soO looks inexplicably bad. With so few games in Korea these days, it's hard to tell whether this is mere growing pains or something else. Being a tier below his usual form is still damn good though. Neither Ragnarok or TaeJa have lately shown the type of gameplay that would put them above soO, so he should still hear the beckoning of the Ro16.


TaeJa will not capitulate as quickly as he did against Zest. No matter his reluctance TaeJa still has pride and a team's reputation to uphold, and Zest is simply on another level in PvT. But the fact that he will relinquish his spot even if he finishes top 2 suggests he has not prepared for tonight; there would be no point in it. Besides, ZvT has been Ragnarok's best matchup in LotV. In terms of pure skill Maru has the edge over everyone else. His first match against soO will probably be the toughest of the night, so a victory there almost guarantees advancement.

TaeJa > Ragnarok
Maru > soO
Maru > Ragnarok
TaeJa < soO
soO > Ragnarok

(T)Maru and (Z)soO advance to the Round of 16.