Code S Quarterfinals - Day TwoStart time: Sunday, Sep 02 4:00am GMT (GMT+00:00)
TY and Neeb were the first two players to reach the Code S semifinals, setting up a clash between grizzled veteran and upstart rookie. Now it's time to see who will prevail on the other side of the playoff bracket.
Quarterfinal #3: Maru vs GuMihoby Orlok
Neeb vs. Rogue may have been a blockbuster battle in the eternal Korea-Foreigner conflict, but for GSL purists, Maru vs. GuMiho is undoubtedly the marquee match-up of the round-of-eight. THE story of this GSL season has been Maru's quest for a groundbreaking Code S three-peat that would cement him as a legend of StarCraft II. However, Maru now faces an entirely new kind of obstacle in GuMiho.
Despite his domination of other the races, Maru hasn’t had to face a truly elite Terran player in a long time. It's been well over a year since his last BO5+ TvT series in the GSL—a loss to GuMiho (surprise!) in the semifinals of Code S Season 2 of 2017 (VOD). The truth is, Maru's most memorable TvT moment of 2018 may very well have been when he resorted to consecutive proxy-rax cheeses to defeat Keen after going 0-2 against him in standard games.
GuMiho is, at the very worst, a solid TvT player who won't crumble easily under early game pressure. Maru may be a master of proxy-raxing, but chances are he's going to have to win a couple of games in the mid-to-late game chaos of Terran vs. Terran. Maru did look sharp when he picked apart Forte earlier this season, but we just haven't had the opportunity to see how he endures a tough TvT test against the likes of GuMiho.
Another irksome problem for Maru is his participation in the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games. Unlike GuMiho, who has had ample time to prepare after advancing from his RO16 group, Maru is short on time after committing four-odd days to represent Korea (and StarCraft II) at the Asian Games. Any amount of time not practicing at the last remaining KeSPA team house in Korea is time wasted, especially when facing a unorthodox player like GuMiho. While winning the gold medal was a fantastic achievement, Maru may be inadequately prepared as he jumps straight back into Code S.
On paper, GuMiho has everything he needs to stage one of the biggest upsets of the year. He waltzed through the group of death with masterful games against Dark and INnoVation, who many many assumed would outmuscle him. GuMiho also has the benefit of having had over two weeks to craft shrewd builds and strategies to vex Maru. To top it all off, GuMiho has desperation on his side. Double-qualified for the Global Finals, you never know when complacency might set in for Maru. On the other hand, GuMiho sits precariously at #8 in the WCS Korea standings with six players chasing close behind him. Advancing just one more round would give GuMiho enough points to make him a near-lock for the Global Finals. A loss would doom him to a chaotic Super Tournament royal rumble for the final spot.
GuMiho doesn't have the same cachet of some of Maru’s other opponents this year, but the stars have aligned for him to be the one who slays the dragon and denies him a third Code S championship. Winning here would not only let GuMiho bring him a step closer to BlizzCon, but it would give him a chance at reclaiming the Code S championship he won last year. This one series means everything for our Towel Terran. It's do or die time for GuMiho.
Under normal conditions, Maru would be favored against anyone he faces, but this time he's been dealt an unfavorable hand. But even with these disadvantages, Maru is still without a doubt the best player in Korea. His sheer dominance in 2018 inspires a kind of belief that defies conventional StarCraft logic, leading one to believe he will somehow prevail regardless of the circumstances.
Prediction: Maru 3 - 2 GuMiho
Quarterfinal #4: Zest vs Statsby Mizenhauer
The Ro8 will conclude with Stats and Zest writing another chapter in StarCraft II’s most maligned matchup. While the community might not adore Protoss vs Protoss, at least the players themselves are two of the more affable ones in the scene. Congenial and reliable, Stats has the everyman’s charm. Mysterious and statuesque, Zest leaves us wondering what goes on inside that mind when there's no StarCraft to be played. Of course they won’t enter the FreecUP studio to win smiles from the crowd—they’ll dive into a battle with a spot in the GSL semifinals on the line.
Zest and Stats began August in diametrically opposite ways. Zest was, in a word, embarrassed by ShoWTimE at GSL vs. the World, while Stats made it all the way to the finals while defeating Maru in the Ro4. He may have lost to Serral a day later but he still gave an impressive performance in a narrow 3-4 loss—even if that fact went unnoticed in the wake of the Finnish Zerg’s victory.
Overall, Stats is quietly having a tremendous year. His early ejection from IEM Katowice remains at the forefront of many people’s minds, but he was playing in the Code S finals just a few weeks later. He ultimately lost to Maru, but he didn’t drop the ball the second time around, as he took out Dark in their latest finals bout to win the first Super Tournament. Combined with the aforementioned GSL vs. the World finals, that gives Stats more premier event finals appearance than Rogue, TY and his quarterfinal opponent, Zest, combined. Stats is almost certainly the best Protoss in Korea, a title seemingly held by everyone but himself at one time or another this year, and looks to be well positioned against his ex-teammate. Stats is 12-1 in offline PvP’s this year, the lone loss coming way back in February. Since then he’s beaten Classic, herO and sOs twice. And, while he beat Zest in Olimoleague earlier this month, the newly minted Scythe Protoss remains the only headlining son of Aiur he hasn’t faced in a high pressure environment since the turn of the calendar.
Zest, meanwhile, somehow rebounded from his atrocious showing against Die Mauer. His typically active self, Zest played 30 matches from that point on, posting a more than respectable 24-6 record, including a 14-2 run in the second half of August that culminated with his Master’s Coliseum 3 triumph over soO. Winning the Chinese tournament must have been a small but much needed relief for Zest, who showed a bit of that finishing ability and class which has characterized his play in years past. It's been a wild, up and down year for Zest, but the end result has been an upward trend. Recent victories show signs that he may be unearthing his old form, a welcome sign as the final season of GSL draws to a close.
Zest and Stats may be the least hyped quarterfinal matchup, but there’s plenty on the line. While both will be eyeing a PvT semifinal, possibly against Maru, Zest could virtually secure his BlizzCon spot with a win in what could very well be the last PvP in Code S this year.
Editor's note: Mizenhauer declined to make a prediction so ONCE MORE I'm making one in his place:
Prediction: Zest 3 - 2 Stats