Code S Round of 8 - Matchday 2 PreviewDark and Classic prevailed on the first day of the round of eight, setting up another clash between the two frenemies. Now it's time to see who will be joining them in the Code S semifinals.
Quarterfinal #3: Maru vs Dearby Destructicon and Wax
Rivalries are an interesting phenomenon in any esport, usually occurring whenever two players or teams, evenly matched and in their prime clash several times in high stakes situations. Rivalries, unfortunately, aren’t always very long lasting as one side's performance will inevitably dip due to the forces of time.
For a moment, Maru vs Dear was a white-hot rivalry. In 2013, the two shone like the brightest stars in StarCraft's sky—Maru was the youngest Royal Roader, while Dear had claimed back-to-back titles in GSL and WCS. They dazzled dazzling onlookers with feats of micro, macro and multi-tasking. Their collisions were spectacular, with both players stretching their skills to the limit in a test of immovable object vs unstoppable force.
Unfortunately, this rivalry wasn't meant to last.
Dear’s form fell greatly after his two-championship run in 2013. Occasionally he’d manage to recapture some of his old mojo just long enough to make a top four run in Code S or SSL. However, he never came close to recovering the form from his absolute peak when he was briefly the best player in the world. Prior to 2018, Maru had a tumultuous career of his own, with a single SSL championship interrupting years of erratic form. When the two would occasionally cross paths, it evoked fond memories of the past. Yet, the games themselves could only disappoint in comparison to those rose-tinted expectations. The white-hot rivalry had cooled into a lump of slag.
However, recent circumstances offer a glimmer of hope, that against all odds, this old rivalry might roar back to life in 2019.
Dear has impressed so far in 2019, reaching the RO8 of both IEM and Code S with wins against top-tier opponents such as Dark, soO and TY. But we've seen those kind of performances from Dear in the past. What makes this rematch with Maru so intriguing is that Dear is in the midst of a ludicrous PvT winning streak, winning his last 10 matches with a perfect map score of 20-0. Some of his opponents were on the softer side, such as Brat_OK and FanTaSy. But his list of victims also includes players such as TY, Bunny, and even Maru himself. It's hard to point to one thing Dear is doing right in the match-up—one could even argue that his mechanics aren't as crisp as some of his peers. But he just seems to know what the right decision is in any given situation, whether it's to go for a basetrade, divert some of his units for a backdoor attack, make Phoenixes to counter Starport tricks, or just be conservative and let his opponent impale himself on the defenses. At this very moment, it's hard to argue that Dear isn't the best PvT player in the world. That's one condition fulfilled for this rivalry to live again.
It's less clear cut if Maru can live up to his side of the bargain. The ultra-dominant Maru of 2018 seems long gone. While he did crush his Code S RO32 group (wins against RagnaroK and herO), he then took second place in a RO16 group that he had hand-crafted to give himself the best chance of advancement. He suffered a shock defeat to Bunny in the winners' match, and was a Nydus away from being eliminated by Impact in the group decider match.
IEM Katowice was even worse for Maru, where he lost to Leenock, Trap, and Neeb during the RO24 group stage to miss out on the playoffs. While he got a more acceptable result at WESG with a third place finish, the process was far from convincing. He gave up a shocking upset to MeomaikA during the group stage, and was handily beaten by INnoVation in the semifinals. Though Maru won the third-place match against Scarlett, the 3-2 scoreline left us with more questions than answers about his level.
Thus, the case for Maru is based almost entirely on belief. We want to believe that he is not content to rest on his laurels, that he has been deeply shamed by his failures at IEM and WESG, and that he will defend his last remaining territory of GSL Code S with his all his strength. If all that happens to be the case, then we might see this rivalry restored to its former glory.
I recall giving Dear the TL curse in one of last year's Code S previews, where I predicted he’d manage to get the better of his old rival and eliminate him from the Ro16. I’m far more confident in his abilities this year, and coupled with Maru’s particularly shaky form, I think Dear will get his revenge in Code S.
Maru 2 – 3 Dear
Quarterfinal #4: Trap vs TYby Orlok
The championship picture in the GSL can seem repetitive at times, an outcome of the same people playing the same game for years. Despite this, the veterans of the GSL continue to toil toward achieving their dream of upending the established order and earning a championship opportunity.
Enter Trap, the old workhorse of the Jin Air squad. As one of the most star-crossed players in recent memory, Trap has been stuck with the image of being a perennial choker. You wouldn think that couldn't happen to a major championship winner (MLG Anaheim 2014), but Trap's reputation has been marred by years of Code S group stage eliminations ever since. Sometimes he can play like the best Protoss in Korea—his victory against Dark in the playoffs of last year's IEM Katowice comes readily to mind. But when it comes time to play that Code S RO16 decider match, nothing seems to go right. Trap is no ordinary mediocre—he's mediocre by the average of his wildly varying play.
Well, at long last, we’ve now arrived at a place where Trap has returned to the GSL Code S playoffs. While his road wasn’t as dominant or forceful compared to some other players players, he still got the job done. In particular, Trap's dismantling of INnoVation in the RO16 showed just how good he can be when he's hitting his stride. INnoVation, despite coming off a big win at WESG, looked like he was inside the palm of Trap's hand, and was every bit the inferior player in the series. Following that win with a tight victory against sOs, Trap reached the promise land. All eyes will be on Trap to see how far his newfound momentum can carry him.
Unfortunately for Trap, reaching the playoffs only means he's going to face ever more difficult opponents. Standing in front of Trap and his feel-good run is TY, a player for whom reaching the RO8 has become a baseline expectation. TY is the prodigy who lived up to his potential, using his blazing speed to win championships (albeit, a little late) and become one of the top players in StarCraft II. His run at the start of 2017, where he won WESG and IEM back to back, is one of the all-time great competitive peaks. However, a lot of time has passed since then, and we're getting the nagging feeling he should have won again by now. He came tantalizingly close in the previous GSL Code S tournament, but he was painfully eliminated by Maru in game seven of the grand finals. That might be cause for encouragement—if Maru has slid since 2018, then who can stand between TY and his next trophy?
TY enters this series running red hot. He looked every bit the dominant force we expected him to be in the group stages, smashing the likes of GuMiho and Rogue along the way. It was a welcome change from his lukewarm performances in the earlier parts of the year, especially at IEM Katowice where he was thoroughly beaten by Solar in the RO12. However, TY's TvP is relatively unproven this year, and INnoVation's RO16 elimination showed us that playing amazing in two out of three match-ups doesn't guarantee anything in the remaining one. The stars may be aligning for TY to go all the way, as long as he can pass this serious TvP test.
This match is actually quite difficult to do an outright prediction due to the fact that both Trap and TY look on point. TY showed nothing but brilliant performances throughout his run so far. Trap might not have duplicated such prowess, but his overall level of play and especially his series against INnoVation showed his PvT is certainly not something to mess with. This should be a close match, as long as it's clutch-Trap and not cursed-Trap who shows up. May the best
Trap 2 – 3 TY