Code S RO32 - Group G & H PreviewsWe're down to the final two groups in the Code S RO32 and the storm clouds of balance-whine are gathering overhead. With just one Protoss player per remaining group, Terran and Zerg are bound to make up some ground—but will that be enough to appease the angry masses?
Group G: Dark, DongRaeGu, Cure, PartinGby Mizenhauer
Start time: Wednesday, May 08 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
The first match of Group G features two Zerg greats who are at radically different points in their careers. Dark and DongRaeGu both started playing SC2 in Wings of Liberty, but only DRG achieved immediate success. By the time Dark made his belated Code S debut in 2014, DongRaeGu had already won championships in Code S, IEM, and MLG, establishing himself as one of the great Zergs of early SC2. He lost a step following the KeSPA invasion and the release of HoTS, but still earned a last hurrah in 2014 when he reached the Code S quarterfinals with a trademark ling/bane/muta victory over Flash. DongRaeGu continued to compete until 2016, but was clearly past his prime. When he began his military service in October of 2016, it seemed like the career of one of SC2's first legends had finally come to an end.
DongRaeGu's fall coincided with Dark's rise. While DRG struggled to adapt to a new expansion and new competitors, Dark finally hit his stride. Largely irrelevant during the first few years of his career, Dark began to break through during the twilight of Heart of the Swarm. Finally, he became synonymous with Zerg greatness in LotV, winning his first championship in SSL and reaching the finals of BlizzCon 2016. Even with the later ascendance of Rogue and Serral, Dark remains one of the preeminent Zerg players in the world, known as much for his bravado and trash talk as his dominant gameplay.
In that regard he's quite unlike DongRaeGu, who quietly returned to StarCraft II last October after finishing his military service. The thinning Korean SC2 scene has been welcoming to returning veterans—a soft qualifier bracket in Code S could see one pick up a relatively 'easy' 3,000,000 won for reaching the RO32. Indeed, DongRaeGu managed to get through this season's qualifiers with wins against "HonmonO" and MC, qualifying for Code S for the first time since 2016. However, exactly how serious DRG will take his comeback may depend on how his upcoming matches go.
Just a few days ago FanTaSy reached the Round of 16 for the first time since ending his own military service. Which begs the question: why can’t DongRaeGu? DRG and Dark previous faced off in the 2019 Season 1 qualifiers for Code S, where DongRaeGu won a surprising 2-1 upset behind closed doors. While DRG ultimately failed to qualify for Code S that time around, perhaps this match isn't as hopeless as it seems on paper.
The second match of the group showcases another pair of disparate career situations. PartinG, like DongRaeGu, made his mark early on in SC2. He enjoyed great success in 2012, winning the Battle.net World Championship (the precursor to the WCS Global Finals at BlizzCon), and earning a considerable amount of prize money overseas. There are two key differences between PartinG and DRG. First, PartinG continued to be a top Korean Protoss well into HotS and the very start of LotV. Second, PartinG's hiatus from StarCraft II was voluntary—he went off on a series of misadventures in other games before returning as a prodigal son.
If anyone, PartinG should have been the returning player who could jump right back into the deep end of Code S and swim, but so far he's been held to RO32 finishes in 2018 and 2019. His recent run to the semifinals of the Super Tournament is as much as a curiosity as it is a solid result, given his soft bracket consisting of RagnaroK and Hurricane.
In his prime, PartinG was so consistently good in Code S he had an award named after him. Believe it or not, Cure has actually reached the Round of 4 in Code S as many times as PartinG. He took INnoVation the distance in 2014, part of a short lived run that also included a finals appearance at Red Bull Battlegrounds: Washington in which Cure looked like a credible challenger for the title of best in the world.
Though ranging from modest to commendable in Proleague for most of Heart of the Swarm, Cure’s next semifinal appearance wouldn’t come until 2016. This time around he was less competitive, with his 4-0 loss to TY being a far better encapsulation of the past few years than the closely contested tie from 2014.
The unfortunate truth is, Cure’s been consistently poor since 2017, missing out on Code S qualifications several times and only returning to the RO16 last season after a two year gap. The fact that PartinG stole a top four finish in Super Tournament while splitting time as a streamer probably doesn't sit well with Cure. You’d still think Cure would be the likely victor, what with the support of his team and his knockout win against Stats last season. But it feels just as likely that PartinG’s talent and stage experience will make up for his deficiencies and earn him a spot in the winner’s match.
Dark > DongRaeGu
PartinG > Cure
Dark > PartinG
Cure > DongRaeGu
PartinG > Cure
Dark and PartinG to advance
Group H: sOs, SpeCial, RagnaroK, TYDestructicon
Start time: Saturday, May 11 4:00am GMT (GMT+00:00)
The final group of the RO32 has saved some of the best for last, with two titans of the Korean scene, one of the top foreign Terrans, and a surprisingly spry underdog. Although there's considerable name-value to this group, it's do-or-die time for many of these players after lackluster starts to the year.
While still feared for his weird builds and ruthless game-finishing ability, it's becoming harder and harder to look past the fact that two-time BlizzCon champion sOs hasn't won a title in over three years. He came tantalizingly close last year with a silver at IEM PyeongChang and in GSL Super Tournament 2, but it's clear that this is no longer the old sOs we expected to win every big match.
2019 has been more of the same with sOs suffering RO16 elimination in the first season of Code S and even failing to make it out of the open bracket at IEM Katowice. However, sOs did fare way better in the GSL Super Tournament by ousting both Solar and Zest to make the semifinals before falling to the eventual champion Classic. With these results, an early blunder is hardly out of the question for sOs, whether he's vexed by fine-tuned Terran builds or weird Zerg cheeses. Yet, we can never truly count sOs out, especially not now when Protoss is retaking the GSL with ruthless aggression.
Top foreign Terran SpeCial has also sent us mixed messages in 2019. A top 24 finish at IEM Katowice (with wins over Creator and Patience) and top 16 finish at WESG seemed to reaffirm his status as one of the best foreigners in the 'non-Serral' category, but his surprise RO16 elimination in WCS Winter Americas left us scratching our heads. Wasn't that tournament supposed to be an obvious three-way race between Scarlett, Neeb, and SpeCial? When you think about how WCS Winter Americas runner-up Scarlett was recently eliminated in the Code S RO32, one has to become glum about SpeCial's chances of advancing here.
However, SpeCial has always maintained that preparation-heavy tournaments are his forte, and he's proved it in a BIG way with upsets against the likes of TY, Stats, and Classic at the Global Finals. Yet, oddly enough, he hasn't been able to bring that ability to bear in Code S (three RO32 eliminations), which many consider the most preparation-focused tournament of them all. While SpeCial's GSL resume suggests it will be rough going for him, perhaps this will be the group where his strategies finally connect the way they have at the Global Finals.
TY had a promising start to the year: he broke through the brutal Korean qualifiers to reach the group stage of IEM Katowice and cruised through the Code S RO32 and RO16 with a perfect 8-0 score to reach the playoffs.
However, TY went careening off the highway when the rubber met the road. In Katowice, he advanced from his RO24 group only to suffer a sweep at the hands of Solar in the playoffs. Back in Code S, Trap handed TY another playoff elimination, albeit in a closer 3-2 match. Adding insult to injury, TY then failed to qualify for the Super Tournament at all, losing twice to Hurricane in the qualifiers.
It's a weird series of results for the only player who even came close dethroning Maru during his 4x Code S run, and this is a very unfortunate time for TY to be performing below his standards. With Maru out in the early going, there may never be a better chance for TY to win that Code S title that's eluded him for so long. One would expect him to cruise through this group, but any result seems to be possible during one of the most unpredictable Code S seasons in a long time.
RagnaroK has been one of the pleasant surprises of 2019, becoming a regular fixture in premiere tournaments after spending several years bouncing in and out of the Code S RO32. He even made a RO12 playoff run at IEM Katowice after finishing second place in a group-of-death containing Serral, Solar, GuMiho, Rogue and INnoVation—surely the underdog performance of the year so far.
Unlike the other players in this group, RagnaroK doesn't have past performances to live up to—this is all about breaking new ground. The bad news is that this RO32 group looks quite similar to the one from last season (Maru, herO, Scarlett), where RagnaroK went 0-4 against a top Korean and a foreigner veteran. While his ZvT win rate sits at 61.54% over the past two months (including a victory vs SpeCial in the Code S qualifiers), his ZvP is in an abysmal state. Whatever spark RagnaroK had at IEM Katowice, he's going to have to rediscover it to stand a chance.
I’m really liking TY’s chances in this group. He might lose weirdly once he makes a RO8 or higher but he hasn’t failed to advance from the RO32 since 2015. By hook or by crook, sOs seems likely to also advance, though it's hard to say who will take 1st place.
sOs 2 – 0 SpeCial
RagnaroK 0 – 2 TY
sOs 2 – 0 TY
SpeCial 2 – 1 RagnaroK
TY 2 – 0 SpeCial
sOs and TY to advance.