Code S Season 1 - Round of 24by Wax
After three initial RO24 groups where you could easily pick out two clear favorites and two clear underdogs, we've finally arrived at one of the trickier groups to predict. Group D consists of PartinG, Dream, Creator, and RagnaroK—while some fans might sniff at this as a 'group of life,' it might spell death for your Liquibets.
Group D Preview: PartinG, Dream, Creator, RagnaroKStart time: Wednesday, Apr 22 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
As the sole "Tier 1" player according to the GSL's internal points system, PartinG is the nominal favorite of the group. The fact that PartinG earned that status is a small victory for the 'returnees'—PartinG's long break hiatus wasn't due to military service like the others, but he overcame the same early-comeback struggles to land on his perch.
That said, it's not like it took that much success for PartinG to become this group's top seed. Last year he placed RO32-RO8-RO32 in three Code S tournaments, while his best result was a top four run in Super Tournament #1. Solid results, sure, but it's hard to say he was anything more than middle-tier in the GSL. The unusual circumstances around the Super Tournament also muddies significance of that run: he was one of the players to benefit from freak spike in Protoss power before Zerg dominated the rest of the year. PartinG's IEM Katowice 2020 results—RO24 group stage elimination with a 2-3 record—is probably more in line with fan-estimation of his skills.
PartinG's stats are actually deceptively good, with a 75.69% combined match win-rate in 4.11.0. But that's heavily buoyed by beating up on foreigners in an assortment of online competitions—narrow his results to just matches against fellow Koreans, and win-rate drops to 64.79%. Narrow it down even further to offline events against Koreans—the exact setting of this group—and his match win-rate decreases to just 42.86% (3W - 4L).
All that goes to say: PartinG calls himself the Big Boy, but that might only be because he's swimming in a shrinking GSL pond. If he's truly better than solidly mid-tier, he'd better show us by dominating this group.
Joining PartinG in Group D is a player who would like to follow in his foot steps. If PartinG has graduated from 'struggling returner' to becoming a 'GSL regular' again, Dream is still in the process of making that jump in his post-military career. He's cleared one important hurdle by qualifying for his second Code S tournament in a row, and his recent online results suggest he might even progress further to reach the RO16. The result to look at is the April 9th Kung Fu Cup weekly, where Dream took first place after defeating Cure, Zest and Dark in consecutive series—his win against Dark even being a shocking 3-0 stomp.
Beating the Super Tournament champion and the two gods of online play in a single tournament? That's a seriously amazing feat. Yet, I'm wary about reading too deeply into that triumph, since I was burned by allowing my expectations for Dream to get too high toward the end of 2019. Back then, a few weeks of good results in online cups and team leagues, coupled with qualification for Super Tournament #2 made it seem like Dream would return to top-tier Terran form before long. However, once he got to the Super Tournament, he was completely flummoxed by the tricky herO in a 3-0 sweep. A stretch of unremarkable results followed, with Dream's surge to Dark-beating form being a fairly recent occurrence.
I think there's a lesson to be learned from both the Dark and herO series. Dream has a chance to beat anyone, even if it's Dark, if he's left to execute his game-plan unhindered (be it a BC-hellbat timing or some solid bio-based macro). However, he can really fall apart when playing against someone like herO who will make risky counter-attacks, be aggressive at unexpected timings, and generally prevent you from playing your game. So, how do things bode for Dream in this Code S RO24? Well, it depends. His groupmates might let him play relatively normal games, like in last weekend's Group C. On the other hand, they might bring specially prepared, nasty strategies that barely give opponents a chance to play 'real' StarCraft, as occurred in groups A & B.
Creator might have been a lock to finish last place in some of the other groups, but this particular group gives him a better chance of survival. The problem for Creator isn't so much that he's a low-tier Code S player (three RO32 finishes last season), but that he's a player who has very little variance in results. He's the type of competitor who beats opponents he 'should' beat but rarely causes an upset. Going by the current Aligulac rankings, this group has the smallest difference between the highest rank player (PartinG, #11) and the lowest ranked player (Creator, #22) of all the groups so far. That means all of Creator's potential match-ups fall into the "could plausibly win" range, with no matches where you feel like Creator is drawing dead before the games even start.
Well, maybe you'd still think he's a goner in his initial match vs RagnaroK, given that he's sitting on a dismal 23-25 PvZ record in the current balance patch. But, curiously enough, Creator improbably won two online series against Solar in the past couple of months, which makes one wonder if he could all-in his way to one of his rare upsets.
Speaking of RagnaroK, let's examine the final player in this group. In 2019, RagnaroK caught our eye as some rare "new" blood in the scene, putting up respectable competitive results that saw his notability as a progamer (RO32-RO16-RO8 in Code S) eclipse that of his notability as a streamer/YouTuber. He seemed primed to enjoy an even better 2020, as he put up great online results during the pre-season. His most impressive achievement was winning WardiTV 2020, where he defeated online-god Cure twice on his way to the $2,500 first place prize. Cure-Zest-Solar might be the terrible trio of Korean online play, but RagnaroK certainly has a case to make it a fearsome foursome.
However, RagnaroK's momentum was halted at IEM Katowice 2020 when he was eliminated in the open qualifiers, failing to return to the group stage (his RO12 run at IEM Katowice 2019 was his breakout event). Reconciling the difference between online and offline performances has been a major underlying theme of our Code S Season 1 previews, and RagnaroK is another player we're eager to see reveal to us who is really is.
Predictions: At the time of writing, this is one of the tighter groups in Liquibet voting: 322 votes for PartinG, 222 for RagnaroK, 153 for Dream, and 85 for Creator. That's very even for a four-way Liquibet, especially compared to Group B where the bottom two players got less than 10% of the votes combined.
RagnaroK and Dream might actually be the strongest macro players in the group when they're allowed to play normal-ish games. Whiled Creator might oblige them in that regard, PartinG is one of the more devious players in the GSL and is sure to have some tricky strategies cooked up for each of his matches. I think that will give PartinG the edge in takingfirst place, which gives me a toss-up decision between Dream and RagnaroK for second place (sorry, Creator). In other circumstances, I'd probably favor RagnaroK and his far superior competitive resume over the last year, but this time I'm too entranced by Dream's 3-0 over Dark to think clearly. The matches haven't even started and I'm already kicking myself and telling myself I should have known better. Oh well!
PartinG > Dream
RagnaroK > Creator
PartinG > RagnaroK
Dream > Creator
Dream > RagnaroK
PartinG and Dream to advance.