Code S RO32 - Group E & F Previewsby Wax
The search for a new Code S champions continues in the second half of the RO32. While one imagines title contenders like Stats, Dark, and TY will be even more motivated to seize this golden opportunity to win a Maru-less GSL, they must be cautious so that they don't suffer Maru's fate as well.
Group E: Rogue, FanTaSy, Leenock, StatsStart time: Monday, May 06 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
Every time we talk aboout Rogue in GSL Code S, we're obliged to bring up his curious, quarterfinal jinx. The 2017 BlizzCon champion has somehow never advanced past the Code S quarterfinals before, and last season marked his third consecutive elimination in the elite eight (8 total in his career). However, while that would be a big, black mark in a playoff preview, we can take a glass-half-full view in the RO32: This guy has been way too good to lose this early! Rogue's combined RO32 record over the past three seasons is a near-perfect 12-1 with victories against ByuL, Stats, Patience, aLive, SpeCial, and KeeN along the way. That's not the most impressive list of opponents (besides Stats), but that's kind of the point here: Rogue has always beat the players he should beat.
Two minor concerns: Rogue gave up a surprise 1-3 upset to Hurricane in the first round of the Super Tournament, and went 0-4 in the group stage of the online cup AfreecaTV World #36. While I'm still picking Rogue to advance in first place, it might end up looking rather obvious in hindsight if he gets eliminated.
But I mean, come on, is Rogue really going to lose to FanTaSy? FanTaSy might be a champion in our hearts for choosing to return to SC2 competition after finishing his mandatory military service last June, but if I had to be blunt, he's serving as a living example of why Classic treats his military service as a career death sentence. Since returning to SC2, Fantasy has achieved RO16 elimination in the Super Tournament 2 (2018), RO32 elimination in Code S, and RO76 elimination at IEM Katowice. However, there's a glass-half-full way to look at FanTaSy's situation as well: he IS getting slowly better. His Aligulac.com rating chart is trending slowly upward, and he's gone from failing to qualify for Code S to at least reaching a RO32 group decider match. But even if we give FanTaSy all the benefit of the doubt as to his long-term potential, the combination of Rogue and Stats should be too much to overcome for player who's not even a year removed from finishing military service.
Sadly, FanTaSy will probably have to look to fellow toiling-veteran Leenock for his 'easy' win of the group. FanTaSy battle-meched Leenock to death in the RO32 of last season, giving his fans reason to see him as a future GuMiho. But for Leenock fans it was quite a letdown, after it seemed that he had elevated himself above being just-another-RO32-player. His top eight run in Season 3 of 2018 seemed proof enough of that (his late-game masterclass against a god-mode Maru deserved all the Tastosis hyperbole in THE WORLD), and his run through the IEM Katowice open bracket followed by a solid, 2-3 performance in a tough group backed it up.
Although FanTaSy won their last Code S head-to-head, I still have to give Leenock the nod in terms of upset potential. FanTaSy is a little too inclined to play the 'right' macro style (or forced to, depending on which Terrans you ask), while Leenock has proven himself to be a very willing all-in player. As underdogs going up against Rogue and Stats, the latter approach is more likely to get you results.
That brings us to Stats, a player who once took #4 in a Power Rank in a month where he played zero competitive games. I mean, what were we supposed to do? The guy runner-up'd BlizzCon and the IEM Katowice back-to-back, which means he has a looooong line of credit.
That makes Stats' RO32 elimination in the previous season all the more bizarre as he gave up losses to minnows MC and Cure. While we can argue about whether it was the two underdogs playing inspired StarCraft or Stats being unusually sloppy, I think most of us can agree to treat it like a freak accident. Maybe it's like his past eliminations such as IEM Katowice 2018 at the hands of souL, or from IEM Shanghai 2017 to iAsonu: he's due ONE crazy elimination per year, but that's all the mercy he's allowing the rest of the field.
Rogue > FanTaSy
Stats > Leenock
Rogue > Stats
Leenock > FanTaSy
Stats > Leenock
Rogue and Stats to advance.
Group F: Trap, Scarlett, KeeN, herOStart time: Tuesday, May 07 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
Code S Season 1 was a momentous tournament for Trap, a player saddled with the dubious honor of being the GSL dictionary definition of 'good-but-not-great.' After countless seasons stuck in the Code S RO16, he shot through his personal glass-ceiling and finally earned the glory of being a semifinalist. Unfortunately, the glory was not long lived—Trap was 4-0'd by Maru in the semifinals and he was eliminated from the Super Tournament qualifiers only a few days after.
However, those two failures seem to have lit a fire underneath Trap. Since losing in the Super Tournament qualifiers, Trap has gone on a ridiculous online play rampage, going 20-3 in matches and 48-13 in games on his way to winning two Olimoleagues (#151 and #153) as well as AfreecaTV World #36. While one must be careful when considering online results, it's hard not to look into this degree of online domination as a sign of things to come. Having tasted the Code S playoffs once, Trap seems hell-bent on leaving group-stages finishes far behind him.
That may bode poorly for Trap's initial opponent Scarlett, who had something close to the opposite of Trap's Code S experience in 2018. The Canadian Zerg made a surprise run to the quarterfinals in the first Code S of 2018, only to be eliminated in the RO32 of Season 2, and then failing to qualify at all in Season 3. Of course, that's pretty par for the course for Scarlett, who can be a champ or chump (chumpette?) on any given day. She was a little bit of both in her RO32 outing last season, deftly brushing off two all-ins from RagnaroK in one series, but failing to finish herO off with a timing attack of her own in the deciding match. Scarlett gave a similarly mixed performance at WCS Winter Americas, where she dominated her regional rivals in the group stages of the tournament, only to come undone in a cheesefest grand final against Neeb.
Scarlett is going to have to max-out her wild card qualities if she's to topple her nemesis herO. The 2019 version of herO isn't the most solid Protoss player around, but he seems to be able to screw with the brains of his opponents and win messy games (the aforementioned match against Scarlett is another good example). It's not just about executing all-ins well—plenty of Protosses can do that—herO just has a knack for making clever, decisive choices in strange scenarios that help him get one over on his opponents.
herO's recent games have been wonky, but his long-term Code S success has been anything but that. While he's missed out on Code S qualification on a handful of occasions, he's placed top sixteen or higher in thirteen out of fourteen tournaments where he did qualify. If not for his brief, mid-2018 hiatus (mentioned, but unexplained during the group ceremonies), he might currently be on a streak of twelve straight RO16+ Code S finishes. When you add that to his 8-1 record vs Scarlett and 15-3 record vs KeeN, I have to pick him as the other favorite to advance from this group.
Unfortunately, that leaves me hard pressed to envision a scenario where KeeN advances. He's only advanced out of the Code S RO32 in two out of seven appearances in the LotV era and his previous season's campaign ended after he went a combined 0-4 vs Dear and Trust in the RO32 (his all-or-nothing tank pushes were easily repulsed). It doesn't seem like KeeN has found an answer for Protoss since then, going 7-11 in matches (18-27 in maps) vs Protoss since his last Code S appearance.
Trap > Scarlett
herO > KeeN
herO > Trap
Scarlett > KeeN
Trap > Scarlett
herO and Trap to advance.