Code S RO8: Day 1 Preview:by Wax
The Code S Season 2 playoffs begins with the 'half-bracket of death,' where four of the toughest competitors have been lumped together in a battle for a grand final spot.
Start time: Wednesday, Jun 05 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
Quarterfinal #1: Classic vs soOPlaying first are Classic and soO, two old friends who are so close that GSL host Gyuri asked soO how he felt about having to play against his "spouse" in a post RO16 interview. Indeed, there's been quite a lovefest between the two former SKT teammates and GSL finals opponents, with each one crediting the other for inspiring them with their resilience and championship-winning performances in 2019.
Alas, only one shall now pass: the IEM Katowice champion or the GSL Super Tournament champion. soO said he's the underdog in this match and there's not much reason to doubt him. He recently lost 1-3 to Classic in the Super Tournament in a match that seemed to affirm his on-stream complaints that Protoss can do 'whatever they want' and still win. A cliche 7-minute timing attack and a double-Stargate build were responsible for two of Classic's wins, while another one came after Classic stormed soO to death after losing both Archons in his Archon-drop opener. It wasn't necessarily representative of ZvP on the whole, but it did paint a grim picture for soO vs Classic.
However, soO wouldn't have made it this far in Code S if he hadn't found a some makeshift remedies for his ZvP troubles. Even if deflecting Protoss attacks and out-macroing them is the way soO prefers to win (it's how he won IEM Katowice, after all), he's made good use of Nydus timings (with a shoutout to Elazer), Ling-Bane busts, and Roach-Ravager timings in his current Code S run.
This makes me wonder if we're going to see a weird, cheesy, 'team-kill' type of series. Classic proved his mastery over the Protoss dark arts last season when he brought a different build to every game of his series against Rogue and Dark. soO may not enjoy playing that way, but desperate times are calling for desperate measures. On top of that, soO and Classic have previously practiced together for GSL matches, so they're familiar with each other's styles—or at least what the other wants them to THINK their style is. I'm intrigued to see how many 'He never 12-pools in this situation so I can get away with—oh I'm dead.' type moments we'll come across in the series, even if it means the individual games aren't particularly attractive.
While I think soO can hoodwink Classic once or twice, I have to favor Classic to win in the end. Not only did he win their last GSL meeting convincingly, he has a fantastic PvZ record of 5-0 in BO3+ series and 16-7 in maps since the last patch (March 25). If you called Classic the best PvZ player in the world at present, there would be few people who'd argue with you. On the other hand, soO has a contrasting ZvP record of 5-7 in BO3+ matches and 23-19 in maps over the same period, and a generally projects an air of utter despondency about the match-up.
Classic 3 - 1 soO
Quarterfinal #2: Trap vs INnoVationThe other quarterfinal of the night features another pair of former teammates: INnoVation and Trap who had a stint together on STX Soul. If soO and Classic have gone out of their way to show mutual respect for each other, Trap and INnoVation's relationship seems to be more about one-way taunting. Asked by Gyuri about having to face Trap in the quarterfinals, INnoVation said he was fine with facing him, stating that Trap had played poorly when he ran into him during practice sessions on ladder. He also said "newcomers get nervous when they reach the quarterfinals," a rather dismissive statement about a seven-year Code S veteran who finally broke into the playoffs last season.
Does INnoVation have the game to match his words? He DID happen to reach the quarterfinals off of two victories against top Protoss player Stats (combined 4-1 map score). He somehow pulled that off by effectively playing the same strategy in every single game (he said he only practiced by laddering): a Marine-Tank-Raven timing that transitions into a 3-base, endless parade push of bio. The games made you feel like the old INnoVation was back, the one that didn't care if he was being predictable if his opponents knew what he was doing—give him three bases, and he'd just brute force you to death with macro.
If there's any Protoss player who could handle that kind of play, it's gotta be Trap. If Stats is the famous brand name "Shield of Aiur," Trap is the lesser-known, unassumingly labelled version you can get at Costco but is basically just as good. Trap has experience dealing with the current version of INnoVation in online competition, both winning and losing against those unrelenting waves of bio. Trap has seen INnoVation's change-of-ace builds as well, of change-ups as well, ranging from infinite Mine drops, two-base marine-tank pushes, to good ol' proxy-Barracks all-ins. There won't be many true surprises INnoVation can bring to bear—this could really boil down to a battle of fundamentals and execution.
The number support the notion that this should be a close match: INnoVation is 42-24 (63.4% win rate) in TvP games since the last balance patch while Trap is 32-17 (65.3%) in PvT.
The completely subjective, unscientific X factor in all of this is the fact that INnoVation actually seems confident again. He mentioned the group stages are always tricky for him, but he feels like he has a shot of winning the championship now that he's in the playoffs. Gyuri responded to this with an implicit 'oh, so you actually care about winning now?' (or at least that's how I read it between the lines). It's weird that one of the most successful players in SC2 history has such a blatant on/off switch, but we all know that INnoVation when he gives a f*** is one of the best players in the world. He doesn't express his confidence idly, and everyone left in the GSL should be very afraid.
INnoVation 3 - 1 Trap
Credits and acknowledgements