Code S Ro16 - Group Group C Previewby Mizenhauer
Expectations Defied: Zest, Leenock, Trap, herOStart time: Wednesday, Aug 22 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
Group C is a group unlike any other in this season’s Round of 16. In a tournament flush with champions and perennial contenders, no other quartet tests our fortitude as fans like the one assembled by Zest. It is, without a doubt, the group most lacking in star power. Group A featured Maru, who unsurprisingly emerged as top dog. A few days later Rogue demolished the group of death. Group D harbors Stats, TY and sOs. No one would be shocked in any of them won the whole tournament. The best Zest’s hodgepodge crew can manage is Zest himself, who still has a long way to go if he’s to convince the community he’s worthy of regaining his former status of a championship caliber player.
It’s amazing to think how how en vogue disparaging Zest has become given his reputation a few years ago. The best Protoss of HotS, he took to LotV like a bat out of hell, winning the first Code S of the new expansion in dominant form. We weren’t startled, though. Smashing the competition had become part of the routine for the KT ace. Then things soured. Zest’s form plummeted and his fans became critics. Another player might have been forgiven for the lapse in results, but Zest was no ordinary player. His past success meant that he was no longer measured by his actions. Instead he was compared to his perfect self that tore through 2014 and won a GSL thereafter. Though rather predictable given his exemplary past results and current shaky form, it’s still a tad depressing that many reduced his run to the Code S finals last season as luck and happenstance. Even if there's probably some truth to it.
herO knows Zest’s pain because he’s trying to dump buckets of water out of the same sinking ship that Zest is slowly patching back together right now. He was another of the Protoss pantheon of HotS. The ace of CJ, he was twice crowned champion by SpoTV, first in the KeSPA Cup, then in SSL later that year. He was a divisive player, however, and was never give his due, at least in the foreign scene. Even when he won the first Super Tournament a little more than a year ago, his detractors were in fine voice, criticizing the power of adept/phoenix and bemoaning that he didn’t have a more suitable finals opponent.
Despite all the snide remarks about his opportunistic playstyle and lack of fine-tuned decision-making or whatnot, we always expected great things from herO. That’s what happens when you constantly find ways to win amidst shifting metagames, changing map pools and balance patch after balance patch. All that success is why his steady decline over recent months has been so shocking. herO, like Zest, had been competitive for years, but now herO finds himself suddenly irrelevant much in the way Zest was in 2017. This season of Code S is herO’s chance to erase the disappointment of being dismissed by eMotion in the qualifiers last season. Still, I can’t help but wonder if we’d elevate our opinion of herO if he somehow scraped together a deep run after we gave Zest such a hard time.
While Zest and herO are working on regaining their honor, Leenock is trying his darnedest to prove that we got him all wrong. He may have lost to Maru in the winners match of the Round of 32, but his performance was so eye opening that it had some proclaiming him as one of the best Zergs in the world. In retrospect that brilliant bit of skill has proven to be a single shining moment more than a consistent trend. Leenock has been completely average against Korean opposition over the last month or so, a refreshing sight for those whose opinion of him was challenged when he spanked Maru in the late game in early July. The community can rest easy knowing that Leenock seems to be reverting to old ways, but it would be a delightful shock if he upset the whole balance of power by channeling his Round of 32 form and returning to the Code S quarterfinals for the first time in more than five years.
At least we can take solace in the fact that Trap is doing exactly what he’s supposed to. He’s in the Round of 16 once again, ready to lose in the final match as he’s done time and again throughout LotV. At this point there’s really not much to do beside laud Trap’s stunning consistency. The last time we saw something this unnerving was when Rogue lost in the quarterfinals of GSL and SSL five times back in 2015. It’s impossible to tell whether Trap has simply plateaued as his teammate appeared to have done, or if he’s generating momentum for a stellar 2020, but for now we can take step back and appreciate that while the other three group members seem to be making a living out of defying expectations, Trap is well on his way to doing exactly what he’s supposed to.
Zest 2 > 1 Leenock
Trap 2 > 1 herO
Zest 2 > 1 Trap
Leenock 0 < 2 herO
Trap 0 < 2 herO
Zest and herO to advance.