Code S Season 3Start time: Wednesday, Sep 18 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
Semifinal #1 Preview: Dark vs Rogue
Following his 3-2 victory against Zest in the Code S quarterfinals, Rogue remarked that he had a tough match coming up against Korea's #2 Zerg in Dark. Rogue followed by saying he had to rate Solar as #1—if only for the sake of kissing-up and convincing Solar to help him practice for the match.
A GSL/Korean elitist fan might have laughed at that joke before breaking down into uncontrollable sobbing. What Rogue left unsaid was far more important. 'Since, haha, there's only like three good Zergs in Korea. And, uhhh, that's on a good day.' continued Rogue, in an imaginary inner monologue.
Honestly, Korea's Zerg problem didn't feel THAT big until a month ago. The theory was that Europe was overpopulated with strong Zerg players, forcing them through a fiery ZvZ crucible that gave them disproportionate power in a single match-up. In reality, players like Rogue and Dark always seemed to stomp them all the same. Serral was just an outlier in the foreigner-verse, and one could argue that the gap hadn't really closed between top Koreans and the EU-Zerg pack. Then, Elazer 3-2'd Dark out of the Ro16 in GSL vs. The World. In an instant, Lambo's assertions that Korean Zergs don't know how to play ZvZ went from something you might laugh off to an "oh f***, he might be right" type of deal.
Even if you dismiss Dark vs Elazer as a one-series sample, it is interesting to think about how locking up Solar as a practice partner could be an actual, serious advantage. Who else are Rogue and Dark supposed to call upon? Impact? RagnaroK? Would they hit-up NoRegret and inquire about who was staying at the foreigner house? "Hey, Scarlett, Dark here. Biiiig fan."
Predicting ZvZ between top players has always felt like a crapshoot, but recent matches suggest that Rogue might have an edge if the games go late. The vaunted EU ZvZ late-game only factored in for one game of Elazer vs Dark, but that one game did make it seem like Dark was completely exposed when it came down to Lurker-Viper play. In contrast, Rogue clinched first place in his Ro16 group against Solar by outplaying him in the late-game, although it could be said that it was more Solar's fault that he instantly crumbled to a single Hydra-Lurker drop. Of course, one has to wonder how many of these games will go late at all—even with macro-favoring maps like Thunderbird in the pool, we might just see a blitz of Speedling rushes and Nydus timings end the series regardless.
The obligatory Aligulac.com deep dive doesn't offer much insight. The two haven't played a meaningful head-to-head match since 2018, and they're close to 50-50 against each other anyway. For Dark, who avoids online play almost entirely (outside of qualifiers), the lack of Korean Zergs is reflected in his limited 2019 stats: He's 11-5 in matches on ths year, and a mere 5-3 when you reduce it to inter-Korean matches. Rogue's fondness for online play gives us more to go by, as he's put up a 26-14 record on the year, which goes down to 19-11 when limited to inter-Koraen competition. Rogue does seem to be building some momentum in the match-up, as he's currently on an eight-match ZvZ winning streak (although, the fact that the streak includes a win against frequently-banned TL.net poster Ej_ does force me to rethink the general premise of including Aligulac.com stats at all).
Finally, a note on mentality. Dark is typically the loud-mouthed, boisterous player in a given match-up, but this time the tables are oddly reversed. Dark admitted that Zest would have been an easier opponent, speaking of his ZvZ as a work-in-progress with surmounting Serral as the eventual goal. On the other hand, Rogue confidently brought up his undefeated record in offline best-of-seven series (4/4, in the finals of IEM Katowice, BlizzCon, Super Tournament II, and IEM Shanghai), saying that he becomes a different man once he reaches that stage of a tournament. Will Rogue's confidence be justified? Or will a humbled Dark prove to be the most dangerous version of Dark? We'll know the answer soon enough.
Prediction: Rogue 4 - 3 Dark