Code S Season 1 - Round of 24by Wax
After a frantic four-way in Group D where the maximum possible 15 games were played, we're back to a more predictable group with two heavy favorites taking on two underdogs. Or, at least, that's how it seems on the surface—Bomber and Armani will look to continue the string of early upsets that have defined this season of Code S so far.
Group E Preview: TY, Bomber, Armani, DearStart time: Saturday, Apr 25 4:00am GMT (GMT+00:00)
After a string of mediocre results, one has to wonder if top-seeded TY is really the favorite in the group. There's no getting around it: his performances in high-stakes competition has been kinda meh in 2020.
Let's start with IEM Katowice, which was his best event. He did well to qualify for the RO24 by getting through the KR server qualifiers, but once he got to the main event, he was eliminated in the group stage with a 3-2 record. In the following Super Tournament, he was drubbed 3-0 by Zest in the first round. And, in salacious bit of news from the China, his poor performances in Chinese team tournaments (where he didn't exactly play Zest-tier players) contributed to him getting the boot from Triumphant Song Gaming.
And yet, through some kind of mathematical devilry, he's managed to hold onto the #9 position on the Aligulac.com rankings. While you have to take Aligulac's modified GLICKO system with a grain of salt, its conclusions are rarely totally bogus. To reach the top ten, you have to be some kind of good—as evidenced by TY's victories against INnoVation and Cure in Alpha-X showmatches—but he just hasn't brought that kind of skill to the most important tournaments.
It's hard to point out one common thread in TY's losses. In a game against Astrea, a disrespectful move-out against Blink Stalkers started a slow snowball to death. Against DynaMite, he just get straight-up out-maneuvered on Golden Wall. Against, sOs, he got sOs'd. But, when it comes time to predict who's getting out of the group, we have to consider that TY has built up plenty of credibility and reputation as a top-tier player. In fact, it's enough that we'll be extending him the benefit of the doubt here. However, should he merely limps into the RO16 instead of dominating his opponents, we'll have to wonder if there's some real substance to this slump.
If you're doubtful about TY's abilities, why not look to Dear as this groups #1? According to the official Dear skill-graph, the enigmatic Protoss might actually be the best player in the world at the moment! Then again, there's also a chance that he could be a wood-league struggler. Perhaps we should take to calling him the 'Quantum Protoss': one must observe him in the present to know his true state (physicists feel free to rip this analogy apart).
Dear really has been the up-and-down player everyone has grown used to in 2020, almost as if he's self-aware of the meme and trying to deliver upon it. At IEM Katowice, he actually took first place in his group ahead of Dark... only to get squashed 3-0 by Zest in the quarterfinals. I'd say he leapfrogged INnoVAtion as KaiZi Gaming's ace player in GTC... if he hadn't gone 0-2 against Zoun. His last GSL outing was rather poor, as he lost 1-3 to Cure in the first round of the Super Tournament. According to advanced Dear-o-mancy, I think that guarantees an overpowering performance from him in this group.
Now, let's look at our two underdogs. Bomber is a veteran in multiple senses. He's been around since Wings of Liberty, where he was an MLG champion and one of the early Terran greats. He's also a veteran of the Korean military, having completed his compulsory service in late 2018. Oh, did I mention he's easily the tournament's oldest player at 32-years-old? When you consider those two factors, it's actually pretty impressive that Bomber has a exactly 22-22 match record in the 2020 season. While we don't know the exactly relationship between age and StarCraft skill, we have enough data points to say the "good" does, indeed, die young.
Bomber might not be a great player in his current state, but it's damn impressive that he made it to his 2nd Code S tournament in a row when more established players like Patience (well, at least in LotV) are failing to make the cut. Does this mean I'm giving him any chance to advance? Hell no. As with fellow WoL great DongRaeGu, I wouldn't begrudge him at all if he collected his $2500 and peaced out.
The other ex-military man gives us a little more reason for pause, but not much more. Armani was one of the more intriguing 'returners' of 2019, even if his thoroughly mediocre, 56% win-rate record didn't bear it out. There was something about his play—particularly his intelligent army movements—that suggested he could break the army curse and be more than just an occasional RO32 player in the GSL. And, if you take stock in that sort of thing, he got Solar's endorsement as one of the players to look out in 2020.
Alas, Armani's recovery seems to have stalled, as it has for many players who tried to come back from military service. At IEM Katowice, he was good enough to get through the open bracket and into the group stage. But once the main event began, he went 1-4 to finish last place in his group (his only win being against second-to-last place soO). In the Super Tournament qualifiers, Armani did well to twice defeat Code S regular Hurricane to qualify. Unfortunately, he then suffered the most one-sided defeat of the first round against Solar.
What can I say? After Dream—the most promising of the players who finished their military service—was eliminated from the last group, I'm feeling rather down about the chances of the returners. I certainly hope one of Bomber or Armani will one-up the upsets achieved by Bunny and Scarlett in the earlier groups, but I certainly don't expect it.
TY > Bomber
Dear > Armani
Dear > TY
Armani > Bomber
TY > Armani
Dear and TY advance.