Code S Season 3 - RO32 - Week 1 PreviewCode S Season 1 was given the tagline of 'Regeneration.' The recently concluded Season 2 was called 'Renaissance.' Now, headed into the final Code S of the year, AfreecaTV has declared this to be the tournament for 'Reversal.'
Really? What a reprehensibly ridiculous register of rephrasings. Regardless, the regiment of StarCraft II retainers is ready to re-immerse themselves in regular GSL action from the Republic of Korea. You'd be remiss to go into the round of 32 without reading the related previews.
Group A: PartinG, SpeCial, aLive, Rogueby: Destructicon
Start time: Wednesday, Jul 03 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
After a very brief break, this year’s final season of Code S is set to begin with the stakes at their highest. Not only is the prestigious Code S title on the line, but it's also a make-or-break tournament for players looking to earn a spot at the WCS Global Finals. And fittingly, this season kicks of with ragtag group of players who must fight tooth and nail to even have a small chance at playing in the Global Finals.
Compared to some of the other players in the group, PartinG has actually exceeded expectations in 2019. History shows it's extremely hard for a player to 'un-retire' and recapture any of their previous form. And after suffering Ro32 elimination in the first Code S of 2019, things weren’t looking that hot for PartinG.
But PartinG rebounded with two, very solid results in back-to-back GSL tournaments: a semifinal finish the GSL Super Tournament and a quarterfinal finish in Code S Season 2. What was impressive about PartinG's Code S run last season was that he didn’t have an easy road. Sure, beating Cure twice in the Ro32 wasn't the biggest accomplishment, but then he went on to beat GuMiho and soO in the Ro16. Even if he got swept by Hurricane in the quarterfinals, it seems clear that PartinG had the skills to upset the more established stars in LotV. In this Ro32 group, he'll even have the preparation advantage on his opponents, only needing to prepare for two match-ups, including his historically strong PvT.
Another pleasant surprise to come out of last season was SpeCial, who finally managed to break out of the Ro32 after three previous attempts. He did so in impressive fashion, beating the foreigner-slayer sOs twice (still a fearsome foe, diminished as he may be). SpeCial maintained his momentum at WCS Spring, where he dominated most of his opponents on his way to another career-best result of runner-up in a Circuit major. Unfortunately, he faced Serral in the finals. Despite playing a couple of close games, SpeCial was unable to convert his advantages into victories in what ended up being a 0-4 sweep. SpeCial’s return to Korean didn't go any better, as he was eliminated from the Code S Ro16 by Trap and herO.
Still, there's no shame in losing to Serral (just ask the Koreans at HomeStory Cup), and there's nothing wrong with making Code S progress one step at the time. Much like last season, SpeCial starts at a bit of a disadvantage, having to prepare for all MU’s, facing a dangerous Protoss in the initial round, and also potentially having to face a famous late-game ZvT player in Rogue later on. But with none of his opponents being clear, top-tier players at the moment, his odds of making it to the Ro16 don’t look that bad.
It’s not uncommon for the Ro32 groups to have at least one clear underdog, and unfortunately, aLive checks all the boxes for that role. So far, 2019 has been one large struggle for the former Ro16 mainstay. Unlike in past years, there isn’t any silver lining to cling to—there's no impressive upset, online tournament win-streak, or strong performance in a non-GSL event.
aLive's year started somewhat poorly with him getting a pretty hard Code S RO32 group consisting of Rogue, Patience and Zest. Though aLive tried his best to remain relevant elsewhere, he was unable to break through to the main event at IEM Katowice or qualify for the GSL Super Tournament. Season 2 of Code S didn't go much better, as he was eliminated in the Ro32 again after losing to soO and Creator. Unfortunately, given his results so far in 2019, I don’t think aLive will be able to live up to his nickname and survive this group.
In a weird twist, 2017 Global Champion Rogue has had an extremely disappointing year. He started 2019 by putting up reasonable results, making it to the Ro8 of the first season of Code S while exiting IEM Katowice in the group stage. But inexplicably and suddenly, Rogue’s trajectory took a nosedive in the spring, starting with an upset elimination at the hands of Hurricane in the Super Tournament Ro16. Even with the retroactive knowledge that Hurricane was good enough to reach the Code S semifinals, Rogue's loss is still shocking.
But even more worrisome was Rogue's subsequent Code S Ro32 elimination at the hands of FanTaSy and Leenock—two opponents whom Rogue should have far outclassed based on past accomplishments. This makes Rogue very hard to read this season. Going by his past highs as IEM and WCS world champion, we might assume he's an obvious pick to make it out of the Ro32. And yet, he's been so hapless since losing to Hurricane—both online and offline—that it's hard to call him a lock.
Given these recent trends, I actually favor PartinG to do well in this group. His more aggressive play-style lends itself well to catching opponents off-guard, and he can play credible macro games against Terran in the mid-late game. Overall, if PartinG can bring the kind of GSL-prepared builds that saw him get to the playoffs last season, I think he has a good chance of topping the group. I want to say Rogue can do well—and based off his historical results he definitely should—but I have a nagging feeling that he can just as easily get eliminated by SpeCial or PartinG.
PartinG 2 – 1 SpeCial
aLive 0 – 2 Rogue
PartinG 2 – 1 Rogue
SpeCial 2 – 0 aLive
SpeCial 2 – 1 Rogue
PartinG and SpeCial to advance.
Group B: Dark, Bomber, RagnaroK, sOsby: Ziggy
Start time: Thursday, Jul 04 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
Group B features a motley crew of former champions fallen from grace in Bomber and sOs, reigning Code S champion Dark, and a boldfaced question mark in the form RagnaroK.
Bomber's last appearance in the GSL dates back all the way to the summer of 2016, where his skill had already fallen off by quite a bit from his championship-winning prime. The professional scene of StarCraft II has changed considerably since Bomber left to fulfill his military service shortly after the collapse of Proleague. He returns to a scene where Code S stands as the sole remaining tournament circuit in South Korea, and one might think the reality of competing in such a cutthroat environment would dissuade him from returning to the scene. Bomber, alongside several other returning pros, have demonstrated otherwise.
I like to imagine Bomber spent the last two years scanning the border in search of underground tunnels or driving a ROTEM K2 up and down the northern reaches of Taebaek Mountains; all the while the peers he used to be miles ahead of were grinding out game after game (yes, I realize this narrative might be somewhat far-fetched). And now he sees the whole scene gone topsy-turvy, with the likes of Hurricane, Patience, and Trap seriously impacting the title picture.
While qualifying for Code S is an achievement in itself and shouldn't be overlooked, there is a bitter-sweetness to it. One is reminded of Bomber's legacy and how formidable a player he used to be. If reasserting himself is what Bomber is after, he still has a long way to go as his recent results would indicate. He was 0-2'd by KeeN and TRUE in the Code S qualifier, and he even dropped a map to Aligulac's #333 ranked player in "LunaSea." Bomber has been at the top before and I'm sure he has what it takes to get back—just not this season, though.
Bomber's first opponent will be Dark, a player who there's very little to say about at this stage of the tournament. To keep it brief: he's the reigning Code S champion, he didn't drop a single series last season, his last offline loss dates back to mid-April (vs GuMiho in the Super Tournament), and he's advanced from the Ro32 in eleven consecutive Code S tournaments. I don't think there's any question about whether he'll make it out or not.
It sometimes feels the only thing standing in sOs' way is his own stubbornness (go ahead and watch both of his matches against SpeCial from Season 2). And while sOs' recalcitrant non-conformity and his unique take on the game has led him to multiple championships and over $600,000 in prize money winnings, those same qualities have likewise played a key part in his untimely elimination from numerous tournaments in the past. My question is: which sOs are we going to see on Thursday? Is it going to be the two-time WCS Global Champion sOs, or the let-me-try-and-do-the-same-Gateway-proxy-on-Cobalt-I'm-sure-SpeCial-won't-figure-me-out sOs?
Hopefully I'm not alone in thinking RagnaroK is the player to look out for in this group. Despite a noticeable lack of deep runs in premier tournaments, RagnaroK has proven he has what it takes to make things interesting on more than one occasion. 2019 already seems to be shaping up as his best year in professional SC2 yet: a top 32 finish in the first season of Code S, an appearance in the Super Tournament, a decent showing in Code S Season 2, and, of course, his remarkable IEM Katowice run. That's where we saw the true potential of RagnaroK, who not only fought his way through the draconian Ro76 bracket, but also finished second place after Serral in the Ro24 group-of-death (also featuring the likes of Solar, GuMiho, Rogue, and INnoVation). Look, I'm not saying he'll beat Dark. Bomber? Almost surely. And while I'm somewhat apprehensive about declaring that RagnaroK will take down sOs, I wouldn't be at all surprised if that were to happen.
Dark 2 - 0 Bomber
RagnaroK 1 - 2 sOs
Dark 2 - 1 sOs
RagnaroK 2 - 1 Bomber
sOs 2 - 1 RagnaroK
Dark and sOs to advance.
Group C: Hurricane, Scarlett, Cure, Statsby: Wax
Start time: Saturday, Jul 06 4:00am GMT (GMT+00:00)
As StarCraft II fans, we have to take care to temper expectations for players who make unexpectedly deep runs in Code S. Sure, sometimes there are players like Trap who manage to build on their breakthrough performances, enjoying continued success in subsequent seasons. But there are also players like Bunny, who qualify for their first ever GSL playoffs and then drop out of Code S completely. With all that in mind, what can we fairly proclaim about last season's shock semifinalist Hurricane?
I feel that even Protoss haters have to give him credit for his ingenuity and adaptability. He didn't just bring a wide variety of build orders against Zerg opponents—he also said that he basically re-learned modern PvP from scratch in order beat PartinG in the quarterfinals. Not bad for two weeks of prep! However, you did get the feeling Hurricane could never quite find his bearings in his semifinal match against Dark, with early attacks negating whatever well-laid plans he had. If his group opponents take the same approach (Scarlett and Stats could be particularly dangerous in this regard), then he could end up being the next Code S flash in the pan.
While Scarlett didn't suffer as disastrous a crash as the aforementioned Bunny, she's another example of why we keep our expectations in check (it's basically become a life philosophy for Scarlett fans). Her trip to the Code S playoffs in Season 1 of 2018 didn't end up being the turning point some expected it to be—instead she ended up suffering Ro32 elimination in all subsequent Code S events. Last season she was eliminated by a combination of Trap (understandable) and KeeN (someone you really need to beat if you want to be a Ro16 player).
I might have liked Scarlett's chances to advance in a group with more Terran players, given her 2-3 loss to INnoVation in the finals of China's Gold Pro Championship and her respectable 29-15 ZvT record since her last Code S appearance. Unfortunately for Scarlett, there are two Protosses in this group, and Protoss has been the bane of her existence
Cure is another player looking to repeat a bygone accomplish, having been largely unsuccessful in Code S since reaching the semifinals all the way back in 2016. He is a senior member of the online-offline club, with his strong performances in online tournaments rarely translating to any tangible results in Code S. In the two months following his RO32 elimination at the hands of PartinG and Dark, he recorded close to a 70% win-rate in online matches. Alas, past precedent suggests that those stats won't mean much when he arrives at the AfreecaTV studio to play his Code S group.
Perhaps Cure can get some counselling from teammate Trap, who seems to have figured out the secret sauce to overcoming mental blocks and bringing forth 100% of one's abilities (if one were to believe Trap, it's simple as chilling and not taking things so seriously). It might help that Cure's first opponent is Stats. Nominally, multiple-time finalist Stats is a player who far out-classes Cure. However, Cure somehow managed to score a huge upset to eliminate Stats from Code S Season 1 Ro32 earlier this year. As far as confidence boosters go, one couldn't ask for much better.
Speaking of Stats and early eliminations, we didn't get get to see much of the IEM Katowice and BlizzCon runner-up in May and June as he suffered yet another group stage elimination in Code S (at least this time it was in the RO16). After such underwhelming GSL performances, we got a much-needed check-up on Stats' form at last weekend's HomeStory Cup XIX.
The diagnosis? Well, it's mixed. On one hand, Stats dominated his Ro32 group at HSC with a 7-0 record (14-2 game score), even handing eventual champion Serral his only series loss of the tournament. On the other hand, Stats lost to the only two Korean players he faced, losing 0-3 to TY and then 1-3 to soO in the double elimination playoffs to finish in sixth place. Oof.
Considering that Stats went undefeated against foreigners at HSC and that none of the Koreans in this group are quite at the soO or TY level, I think we we can be optimistic about Stats' chances of advancing to the Ro16. However, there might be bigger problems for Stats further down the line when he's facing tougher opponents or playing in BO5+ series.
Hurricane 2 – 1 Scarlett
Cure 1 – 2 Stats
Hurricane 0 – 2 Stats
Scarlett 2 – 1 Cure
Hurricane 2 – 1 Scarlett
Stats and Hurricane to advance.