Code S Season 1 - Round of 24by Destructicon
Code S returns this Wednesday with a healthy dose of TvZ in Group B. Reigning IEM Champion Rogue will be in action again after a disappointing (if predictable) early elimination in the Super Tournament. He'll be facing a slew of fan favorites from multiple eras, including a surprise combatant who hasn’t graced the GSL since 2011.
Group B Preview: Rogue, TOP, INnoVation, ScarlettStart time: Wednesday, Apr 15 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
Our first player is none other than the sly, wild, first champion of 2020: Jin Air's Rogue. Going into this group, Rogue finds himself in the interesting and new position of being one of the Code S championship favorites. Newer fans might only know Rogue as a world-class player, but for much of his career he struggled to find his groove and break through to the later rounds of tournaments. He finally got over the hump during a torrid streak in late 2017-early 2018, where he won IEM Shanghai, Super Tournament II, BlizzCon, and IEM Katowice 2018. However, for as quickly as Rogue rose, he just as quickly faded back into the realm of merely 'very good.' Code S in particular, was the tournament where he got regularly undressed: despite all his 'weekender' titles, he never advanced past the quarterfinals of Code S.
However, that final hurdle fell in Season 3 of 2019, when Rogue won his first ever Code S title and completed a rare career triple crown: GSL Code S, the WCS Global Finals, and the IEM World Championship/Katowice. In March, Rogue became the only two-time IEM Katowice SC2 champion ever, making it clear that he is the real deal and one of the all-time greats. Those kinds of players have to afforded a special kind of respect in any tournament they enter, no matter their short-term form.
Given the make-up of this group, Rogue is the clear favorite. He dominated his IEM Katowice group only losing closely to Zest. In the playoffs, he took out heavyweights Dark, his teammate Maru, and got revenge on Zest in a one-sided finals.
With a nearly 80% win-rate in ZvZ since the 4.11.0 patch, ZvZ is unlikely to give him much trouble. TvZ could be a surprising weakness—he's only 11-9 in the match-up (in 4.11.0), and even lost to DynaMite in a recent Kung Fu Cup. But virtually all those matches were online, with one notable exception: His 3-2 victory over Maru at IEM. Maybe that's the only result we need to consider.
Rogue’s first opponent is one we haven’t seen in Code S in a very long time, someone who has really faded out of competitive relevance for nearly a decade. Yes, after a long absence, former oGs player and Code S runner-up TOP finally returns to the GSL.
While we've made plenty of jokes about aLive for being invisible, it's TOP who pulled off the biggest disappearing act. It's strange how abruptly TOP fell off. He was one of the top Terrans in 2011: he beat ByuN to win January edition of Code A (back when Code A was its own tournament), reached the top four of the $200,000 Super Tournament, and then finally reached the finals of Code S. He did this mostly by being ahead of the curve in solid macro play, outproducing many of his opponents. Unfortunately, the one thing we remember TOP for most for is his complete deconstruction at the hands of an even better macro player: Mvp crushed him 4-1 in that fated GSL finals.
And we remember it so clearly because it's the last big impression TOP left on us. He fell out of Code S in the November season of 2011, and hasn't returned up until now. While he didn't retire completely—he's always showing up to qualifiers and playing in online cups—it seems clear that he's more focused on streaming than competitive gaming (otherwise, it would be hard to explain how drastically he fell off).
I do admire TOPs tenacity—while most players would have quit long ago, he somehow managed to re-qualify to Code S after so many years. It takes a special kind of dedication to hang in for so long. Unfortunately, I don’t see him making much of an impact this season, as he landed in the group with the reigning IEM Katowice champion, one of the strongest macro Terrans in the world, and one of the more creative and aggressive foreign Zergs.
Our next player needs little introduction: The 10+ time major tournament champion INnoVation. While INnoVation has a well-earned reputation of being one of the most solid and consistent Terrans, his recent performances indicate that he's slowed down compared to his peak. At the height of his powers in 2017, INnoVation was winning multiple tournaments in a year, and was constantly picked by fans and players as the favorite in any event he entered. 2018 was completely forgettable—one could almost say he took the year off. 2019 was better, with "only" two championships at WESG and the Gold Pro Championship.
I know it sounds like such a first world problem to say of a player “he only won 2 tournaments,” including one where he beat Serral in the finals, but in this case it really does say a lot about INnoVations form. His two victories in China look like outliers compared to his other results: Top 16, top 8, top 32 in the three GSL seasons, group stage elimination at IEM, and ultimately failure to qualify for BlizzCon. And even though he won a $100,000+ jackpot at WESG, it wasn't as rigorous a test of skill as IEM or BlizzCon. Sure, he pulled off the impressive feat of beating Maru and Serral in the last two rounds, but he faced mostly foreigners he was expected to beat up until that point.
Overall, I just don’t feel the same aura of invincibility and inevitable victory like I did from the old INnoVation. Maybe he can play like old INnoVation for a couple of series, but he doesn't seem to be able to bring that level of play consistently over the two month grind of a Code S season. And at his worst, he's vulnerable to players he would have soundly defeated in the past.
His recent results are solid but not inspiring: at IEM Katowice 2020, he advanced as 2nd place in his group behind Maru, only to get destroyed by Serral in the playoffs. In the GSL Super Tournament, he defeated soO in round one, and then lost 2-3 to Maru in the quarterfinals. That's good enough for a player who wants to make it to the RO16. But if we're looking at the playoffs and beyond, there does seem to be a gap between INnoVation and the absolute best players.
Our last player of the group is fan-favorite Scarlett, one of the OG "foreigners who can stand up to Koreans." While she's been overshadowed by other players in the post-Serral era, one can't forget her remarkable championship run at IEM PyeongChang in early 2018—the second ever foreigner SC2 championship on Korean soil.
Scarlett has yet to match that particular high again, but she's put up a handful of respectable results. In 2019, she came in second at WCS Winter: Americas, second at Gold Pro Series, and made the top four of WESG. For a seasoned international player, Scarlett has been oddly disappointing in the WCS Circuit, failing to ever qualify for BlizzCon. But perhaps it's not so strange, as she spends much of her time training in Korea. Code S might be considered her primary competition, with her best result coming in 2018 when she reached the quarterfinals (coinciding with her surge that saw her win IEM Pyeongchang).
While Scarlett doesn’t have any notable results in 2020 to latch on to—she didn't participate at IEM Katowice and failed to qualify for the Super Tournament—she could still present some upset potential in the RO32. She has proven to be an apt cheeser throughout the LotV era, with her early game antics having even caught INnoVation off guard in the Ro16 of a previous Code S. I have a hard time seeing her beat Rogue though, especially with his Katowice results, but if she can leverage her ZvT trickery, she does stand a fighting chance.
I’m going to place my first bet here on Rogue. While he has a history of inconsistency, the embarrassment from the Super Tournament should have motivated him to get his rear in gear. The second place spot will likely be contested between INnoVation and Scarlett, where I think it will come down to preparation. I will give INnoVation the slight nod here—even though he's a predictable macro player who sticks to his preferred builds, that knowledge doesn't seem to help his opponents much (ask Solar, Elazer, or soO). But I could also see him being blindsided by an exceptionally well-prepared Scarlett. TOP, unfortunately, will probably just find himself caught in the crossfire.
Rogue 2 – 0 TOP
INnoVation 1 – 2 Scarlett
Rogue 2 – 0 Scarlett
INnoVation 2 – 0 TOP
Scarlett 1 – 2 INnoVation
Rogue and INnoVation to advance.