Code S RO16 - Group C Preview:by Wax
Classic, Trap, INnoVation, sOs
Wednesday, Mar 20 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
Both IEM Katowice and WESG 2018 have concluded, finally returning GSL Code S back to a normal schedule. Some fans would contend that the GSL schedule isn't the only thing that's been returned to normal, with Serral's defeats at IEM and WESG meaning that Code S is once again the home arena to the #1 player in the world. But that's a topic for another day or month (wink), so let's just get on with this round of sixteen preview.
WESG 2018 champion INnoVation headlines this group, as he returns to Korea with his tenth premiere championship, $150,000 in prize money, a strong case to be called the greatest of all time, and the utter adoration of Korean SC2 fans who desperately wanted to see Serral taken down a notch. Yet, you get the feeling that March 20th may not be a glorious homecoming for Korea's avenging hero.
Having three Protoss opponents initially looked advantageous for INnoVation back when the RO16 groups were drawn in mid-February. He had already trounced Hurricane (2-0) and Creator (2-0) to advance from the RO32, and having only one race to prepare for would streamline his practice. However, things seem a lot different a month later. The idea of a preparation advantage has gone out the window after INnoVation spent two weeks at international tournaments, where he somehow managed to play just a single TvP series. That match happened to be a 3-1 victory vs Russia's Rail, but even in victory, INnoVation looked less than convincing when he let Rail expand and mine his fill. He also lost 1-3 to herO in a recent Olimoleague tournament. That was a more 'conventional' loss, one that suggested his Code S group-mates might PROTOSS™ the living daylights out of him.
Look, I'm not predicting that INnoVation WILL follow in soO's path and suffer a post-championship crash in Code S. The guy just beat Maru and Serral for $150,000, for god's sake. But all the Terran pessimists out there will note that between getting 'macro-cheesed' by Rail and then getting regular cheesed by herO, INnoVation has shown us that there are a whole lot of ways to lose.
The first Protoss to try and knock INnoVation off his pedestal will be sOs. I mentioned 'Protossing' above—historically, there has been no greater master of that dark art than sOs. We must admit that the cold-blooded killer aura surrounding sOs has faded in recent years. If you like narratives and callbacks, you might even point to the 2017 Code S final between sOs and INnoVation as the pivotal moment where the myth of sOs was dispelled. Going in as a heavy underdog, sOs somehow turned the series into an ugly, seven game slog. Instead of conjuring magic, sOs fell flat in the final two games, failing a DT-Shadow Stride all-in in game six before losing to a simple tank push in game seven.
However, it's not like things have exactly gone downhill for sOs since then—in 2018 he took 2nd at IEM PyeongChang, 2nd at a GSL Super Tournament, and he also finished top four at BlizzCon. At that last tournament, he ruthlessly crushed all of our predictions and dreams by eliminating Maru. So, while sOs may not be the favorite to to walk away from tournaments with the big check anymore, he's certainly capable of spoiling INnoVation's—or anyone else's—parade.
On the other side of the bracket we have Trap, a player for whom I think most of our readers could write this preview segment (Why don't you give it a shot in the comment section?). It only takes four easy steps. #1: Mention that Trap hasn't been to the Code S quarterfinals since 2013. #2: Mention that Trap was eliminated in third place from his Code S RO16 group in all but one instance. #3: Note that the 'never top-eight' curse stayed alive at IEM Katowice with Trap getting eliminated in the RO12. #4: Make a random GG-emini joke.
It's easy and lame to predict that a trend will continue until you actually see it be broken. Alas, I am easy and lame. Thus, while I don't see Trap beating INnoVation with a quarterfinal spot on the line, it would not be that shocking to see him eliminate INnoVation in the losers match before getting eliminated himself in the group decider match.
Finally, we have the most overlooked player in the entire RO16. While virtually every mid-top-tier Korean progamer was busy competing at IEM Katowice, poor Classic was left to practice at home due to being denied travel permission by the strict Korean government (Classic's age  technically makes him a draft-dodge risk).
It's a shame that we had to take a break from Classic Quest, because it was looking to be one of the more intriguing—if subtle—individual stories of 2019. If we rewind back to 2018, the Chin-toss looked to be making an incredible late-career surge with high placements at IEM and WESG. However, he crumbled midway through the year, and blew his last chance at BlizzCon by getting eliminated in the RO16 by SpeCial. A strong Code S RO32 performance (wins vs TRUE and Trap) suggested that 2019 was being set up to be Classic's final story arc: A heroic, last campaign for a battle-weary soldier. However, such a story could only be overshadowed by the blockbuster events of the last month, such as soO's ultimate redemption as well as Serral vs Korea (read in an inner-voice that's several octaves deeper and with the Inception horn at the end).
With a 4-3 match record but only a 9-11 map score in PvT matches since the start of the WCS 2019 cycle, the stats say Classic will be hard-pressed to trouble INnoVation. Yet, as the only player who had a full month to prepare for his group, we may soon discover that he was the favorite all-along.
Let me preface these predictions with the totally useless disclaimer that I really 'wanted' to predict against INnoVation advancing, but just couldn't 'bring myself' to do it. Instead, I ended up going chalk and predicting alongside the majority of Liquibet participants.
Classic > Trap
INnoVation > sOs
Classic < INnoVation
Trap > sOs
Classic > Trap
INnoVation and Classic advance.