2020 GSL Code S Season 2 - Round of 24by Wax
The spreading pandemic might have cancelled the traditional Fourth of July monster truck rallies in the United States, but the GSL might be able to offer you a decent replacement. Maru towers over the rest of Group E's competitors like a six ton contraption of steel and chrome, and once the matches are over, there's likely to be nothing left of them other than twisted wreckage.
Group E Preview: Maru, Prince, Scarlett, ArmaniStart time: Saturday, Jul 04 4:00am GMT (GMT+00:00)
The stand out player of this group is clearly Maru, who we all expect to easily advance in first place. Unlike previous seasons, Maru actually played a few more tournament matches to let us check up on his form. Since he was upset 3-2 by PartinG in last season's quarterfinals, he swept through the Code S Season 2 qualifiers with a 6-0 record (defeating Terra, Patience, and Zest), and beat Dark 3-2 in a thrilling play-in match for the Global Finals. That's more than enough to reassure us that he's still the same monster player he has been for two and a half years now, and barely threatened by the fringe Code S players that populate this group. In fact, we might have reason to believe that he'll be extra motivated this season. Round of eight elimination is an embarrassing result for a player of Maru's caliber, and winning the championship would be the only assured way of making up for that blemish on his record.
For some reason, the StarCraft II gods deigned to make things extra easy for Maru in the first round by matching him with debuting Code S player Prince in the opening bout. Prince is a player who has 'amateur' designation in the Korean community, for which the criteria seems to be 1) never played for a Proleague team, 2) never qualified for Code S, and 3) is considered to be less skilled than your typical Code S player. Personally, I know him best for being falsely accused of stream-cheating by a raging PartinG, for which the Big Boy had to later apologize.
Anyway, that's a lot of words to say "Prince is totally dead vs Maru." Out of curiosity, I perused a few betting sites to see what kind of odds people were giving Prince in his first match against Maru, and it seemed like bettors were giving him around a 8~10% chance to win. Hmmm, that seems awfully high to me!
Still, it would be uncouth to focus solely on the negatives when Prince has reached what must be an amazing milestone in his StarCraft II career. I don't know what Prince's long-term aspirations for StarCraft II are, but making it to Code S as more of a 'hobbyist' is an incredible achievement. It's worthy of the ultimate "I can't believe I did this, I'm crying right now" /r/StarCraft post, except instead of a phone-picture of his Masters rank-up screen, it's a picture of Maru sitting across from him in the opposite GSL booth. Of course, Prince had to have some legit skills to make it this far—his qualifier run was actually pretty solid, as defeated both Zest and Armani on his way to Code S. In one Kung Fu Cup in April, he even managed to get all the way to the finals, taking out Bomber, Dream, and Armani before losing to INnoVation.
In online matches, it's plausible that Prince would be able to score upsets against Armani or Scarlett. Unfortunately for him, this is GSL Code S, and there's a trend of first-time players being unable to play up to their full potential—just ask Zoun and Astrea. If Prince had some more experience under his belt, I might have been willing to call this a three-way race for second place. However, I just can't expect him to make a real impact in his first time around.the Teheran-ro block.
Thus, it seems like the second ticket out of this group will be contested between Scarlett and Armani. I'd like to take a second and give Scarlett props for eliminating Rogue with cheese last season. It was the biggest upset of the first round, and it really furthered the legend of NoRegret and his galaxy-brain strategies. I believe that the infinitesimally tiny chance that Maru does not advance in first place hinges solely on how nasty Scarlett's all-ins are.
As for Armani, he's nestled into a quite comfy position as Code S regular since returning from the military, and he's now playing in his fourth consecutive season of Code S. While I've given up on my past hope that he had the upside to be a playoff-tier Zerg (the success of DRG and Dream in the prior Group D are tempting me...), he's still been undeniably consistent and solid. In 2020, he's qualified for both Code S tournaments, qualified for the Super Tournament, and made it to the IEM Katowice group stage. Still, I don't think he has the variability in his play needed to defeat Maru, so his best chance at reaching the RO16 is going to be in a ZvZ decider match with Scarlett.
The stats give Scarlett a solid edge in the ZvZ match-up—in 2020, she's recorded a 56-31 map record for a 64.37% win-rate, while Armani trails significantly with a 81-67 map record and 54.73% win-rate. While I think these two will be reasonably matched in the mid-game Roach or Muta wars, Armani's late-game Zerg play is somewhat suspect and I expect Scarlett to have an advantage there. A complicating factor is Armani's tendency to go for Pool-first Spine Crawler rushes when he's put into tight situations—I get the feeling a map or two will be decided by how well Scarlett predicts/reacts to such an all-in.
Predictions: One final note! Both Scarlett and Maru are perfectly happy to play excruciatingly tedious turtle games when they think the meta favors it. The current map pool has some inklings of skewing that way. I really hope that we don't end up getting a snoozefest instead of Fourth of July fireworks.
Maru > Prince
Scarlett > Armani
Maru > Scarlett
Armani > Prince
Scarlett > Armani
Maru and Scarlett advance.