Code S Season 3 - RO16 Group A:by Wax
Dark, KeeN, SpeCial, FanTaSy
Finally, after over a month's hiatus for ASUS ROG Summer and GSL vs. The World, GSL Code S is back with the round of sixteen. While I wish I could say we're returning with a bang, it's not quite the case here in group A. We should be intrigued to see how reigning Code S championship Dark bounces back from his embarrassing, first round loss to Elazer at GSL vs. The World ... but his three Ro16 opponents aren't exactly the scariest bunch of GSL players. I mean, they're literally three out of the four lowest ranked players remaining in this tournament,.
Start time: Wednesday, Aug 28 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
The way Dark ended up creating this cotton candy group is almost as interesting as the group itself. As we've mentioned in multiple group selection recaps, having the #1 seed gives you ridiculous power in the group selections—with the first pick of the initial selections and the final swap, you're able to choose two opponents for your Ro16 group.
The thing is, #1 seeds have learned how to effectively transform this into three picks over the last year or so. Basically, Dark declared that he wanted SpeCial, KeeN, and FanTaSy in his group ahead of the nominations. That scared everyone else off even considering them, knowing that Dark would just swap them away in the end. Now, as Korean caster Gisado tried to hastily explain during the proceedings, Dark only had one swap, meaning if more than one player went after Dark's targets, he would end up having to give one up. However, that required all the non-Dark players to be on the same page.
What ended up happening was that Trap (the seeded player in group B) made the worst play possible by picking FanTaSy when no one else was on board with the 'f*** with Dark' strategy. Thus, with KeeN and SpeCial falling into Dark's hands as planned, it was simple enough for him to steal FanTaSy back from Trap at the end.
Anyway, the group. Regardless of the conclusions you want to draw about Dark's ZvZ or European ZvZ from his loss to Elazer at GSL vs. The World, it probably won't have much bearing on this group. Dark hasn't actually had to play much challenging ZvT over the past few months (a Ro16 win against INnoVation in the last Code S was about it), but without anyone to threaten his throne, he's the de facto top ZvT player in Korea (hipsters would argue Solar has a case). Even if we haven't had a chance to see Dark play much ZvT in lately, he's expressed his confidence in the match-up by creating this three-Terran group.
This might be the first post-patch GSL group, but I'm doubtful as to how much that will affect the picture. Sure it would be interesting (if extremely unlikely) to see the EMP and Infested Terran changes instantly bring down one of Korea's best macro Zerg players, but I'm not even sure we'll get to that stage of the game. Since Dark tends to favor deadly all-ins when facing 'lesser' opponents, I think a blink-and-you'll-miss it 4-0 advancement from this group is in play.
The other interesting twist about the last few group nominations is how the players selected by the #1 seed have become happy to be in the 'group of life.' The logic seems to be that getting second place in a very easy group is easier than placing top two in a regular group. That's why KeeN was called an Infested Terran by the Korean commentators—even when Dark indirectly insulted him by taking him with the first pick (basically telling him he's the weakest player), he was more than willing to help Dark assemble this Terran trio.
TvT could be KeeN's ticket to his first quarterfinal berth in over eight years. When you go over his Code S results over time, TvT is really the only match-up you can say has been kind to him. He famously took a series off Maru during Maru's godlike run, and he defeated INnoVation 2-0 just this season. Add to this his favorable, 8-3 all-time record against SpeCial, and you can see why he was on board with Dark's plan.
From what SpeCial said during the group ceremonies, it seemed like he was also happy to be along for the ride. His stock is rising after GSL vs. The World, where he finally defeated WCS Circuit arch-enemy Reynor with the power of GSL STYLE PREPARATION™, and looked good in a 2-3 loss against Classic (he made it a sorta-not-really 3-3 by beating him in the team match). Still, one might be concerned about his TvT, considering that he barely beat out Kelazhur in the latest Copa America/WCS Qualifier finals. That match ended up being 3-3, but SpeCial prevailed 4-3 due to his winners bracket advantage. Still, with GSL STYLE PREPARATION™ in hand, I'm optimistic about SpeCial's chances here. Remember, this is the guy who was able to defeat his mentor TY in BlizzCon 2017 when he had a few weeks to prepare—with a quarterfinal spot on the line, we could very well see him play his best TvT in months.
Fan-favorite FanTaSy rounds out this group of life, whose latest GSL vs. The World performance reaffirmed our opinion of him as a clever buildsmith with some concerning finesse issues. His 1-3 series loss vs Classic saw him win a map with a delightful, Brood War-esque mech Terran timing, but his micro didn't seem to be on the same level as his builds in his following three losses. Fortunately for FanTaSy, TvT is a bizarre match-up where you can spill Marines left and right, and still end up winning by making a single decisive move. While FanTaSy may have advanced to the Ro16 by beating GuMiho with traditional, tank-viking positional play, I get the feeling we're going to see some base-trading, mass-dropping, chaos-filled brawls before this group is through.
Dark > KeeN
Special > FanTaSy
Dark > SpeCial
KeeN > FanTaSy
SpeCial > KeeN
Dark and SpeCial to advance