Code S Season 3 - RO16 Group C:Start time: Wednesday, Sep 04 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
Maru, Solar, Stats, Rogue
StarCraft II fans have zero restraint in using the term 'group of death,' with every tournament requiring at least one group to receive such a designation. It's devalued the term to the degree that we have to send out a special disclaimer this time around: ladies and gentlemen, this is a REAL group of death.
Is it, tho?
Months after the end of Maru's incredible 4-Code S winning streak, I'm left thinking we somehow didn't give him enough credit at the time. Ironically, I also feel like he's not getting enough criticism now. Of course, in terms of historical accomplishments, that four-GSL streak means he's going to headline every single group he competes in until the end of time, akin to Flash or Boxer in Brood War. But in this very moment, a day away from Maru's Code S Ro16 group, you have to admit he hasn't really done anything to justify being called the heavy-hitter of the group.
After a disaster Code S Season 2 where he was kicked out in the Ro32, Maru just barely evaded a second straight Ro32 elimination in season 3 by limping out of his group in second place (losing to TY but winning vs Super and Impact for a 5-4 total map score). He then had the tar kicked out of him by Stats in the first round of GSL vs. The World, with Stats seemingly getting the better of him at every stage of the game. The only impressive thing we've seen from Maru in months was his 4-0 drubbing) of Reynor at WCG—something of a showmatch, but a showmatch worth $25,000.
And still, I feel stupid and afraid about casting any doubt on Maru's abilities, because, you know, he did happen to win his fourth straight Code S tournament less than THREE F***ING MONTHS AGO. Look, all I'm saying is that if INnoVation regularly gets "you never know with INnoVation...." hype when he hasn't won a tournament for a YEAR, then Maru probably deserves a healthy dose of past credit too.
As a seeded player, Maru was able to choose Solar as his initial opponent during the July group selections, but it doesn't seem like much of an advantage anymore.
In fact, if you post 'I actually think Solar is the best player in this group, considering everyone's current form,' I will award you a total of zero hipster points. That would fit right in an [unpopular opinion] post on Reddit. Ever since Solar was eliminated in the Ro32 of season two, he's gone on to 1) Finish second place at ASUS ROG Summer (14-1 before meeting Stats in the finals), 2) lead Triumphant Song Gaming to the China Team Championship title, 3) put up a near 70% map win-rate across ALL competitions, 4) ace his Code S Ro32 group with wins over Trap and Patience.
None of those things on their own scream obvious title contender, but it's an amazing run of good form from Solar, the likes of which we haven't seen in years. Unfortunately, his ZvZ has brought him down in a number of high-profile events, such as his top eight finish at HomeStory Cup (losses to Elazer and soO), and another top eight finish at China's GPC Season 1 (1-3 loss to iAsonu).
That could mean trouble for Solar if he has to face Rogue, another player looking to bounce back after a poor showing in the previous season. The spring of Protoss all-ins completely derailed Rogue's 2019 campaign—after getting bounced from the first round of the GSL Super Tournament #1 by Hurricane, he was eliminated in the Code S RO32, failed to garner any serious votes for GSL vs. The World, and get this: recorded one win and two draws in the China Team Championship Season 1 (he got his win vs XY while giving up draws to Firefly and Wanted. If you have to ask "who?" then the point has already been made).
Rogue tends to play in a lot of online competitions when not on GSL duty, and that's where we've been getting a whiff of his recovery. Left without much do since finishing his early Code S RO32 group (wins vs PartinG and aLive) back in early July, Rogue has put up an impressive 24-10 record in online matches (with a 67-33 map score) ever since. Now, I'm very case-by-case about looking into online stats. If they're put up by Zest, I throw them in the trash. If they're recorded by Trap? Maybe there's something there. In Rogue's case, I'm inclined to believe they could be indicative of real improvement, since he was absolutely, sub 50% win-rate dreadful during the period encompassing his Super Tournament and Code S Season 2 eliminations.
That leaves us with Stats, the only player in the group who wasn't eliminated in the Ro32 of the previous season. Indeed, Stats was merely eliminated in the Ro16, the very round that GSL/Korean elitists denigrate as 'free' and non-meaningful when foreigners manage to advance. No, I wasn't going anywhere with that thought—just wanted to throw it out there.
Anyway, at the time of writing, the majority of fans were picking Stats as the one bringing 'death' to this group. Stats comes in with recent wins against Maru, Solar, AND Serral at major offline events, so who else were they supposed to pick? Even if 2019 has been a poor Code S year (Ro32 season 1, Ro16 season 2) for the usually well-rounded Stats, he's more than earned his fearsome reputation at 'weekender' style events. After ceding the spotlight to soO in the finals of IEM Katowice, Stats managed to steal the show at ASUS ROG Summer where he beat Solar and Serral to win the championship. While Neeb did throw some cold water on his hot streak at GSL vs. The World, there's no PvP to hamper Stats here.
One has to wonder how much the odd timing of the group selections was responsible for this group. The groups were picked before HomeStory Cup, ASUS ROG and GSL vs The World—a cluster of tournaments that saw Stats' reputation improve hugely, and Solar to a lesser degree. Perhaps progamers are more apt to trust their intuition from playing their peers on ladder, but I somehow doubt we'd get this exact same group if there was a redraft.
Predictions: So, yeah, this IS a group of death. But in that overused, cliched way. Which is fine! Hype is cool. StarCraft is cool. Getting hyped for StarCraft is cool! Not every group of death has to be like THAT one from 2013.
I have to take Stats to advance in first place here. While I believe Solar and Rogue are 'for real,' there's no better PvZ player in the world in a tournament setting. I'm also taking Maru to advance in second place. While I fancy myself a 'results over reputation' type of guy, I'll have to make an exception this time. I mean, if Maru can't get past credit right now, there's no way I could justify extending anyone past credit ever again.
Maru > Solar
Stats > Rogue
Stats > Maru
Rogue > Solar
Maru > Rogue
Stats and Maru to advance.