2020 GSL Code S Season 2 - Round of 16by Orlok
The "C" in Group C stands for "Complicated," as predicting the the round-of-sixteen has been anything but straight-forward so far. Conventional wisdom has mostly been thrown out the window these past few outings with DRG and PartinG getting out of their groups in first place despite their underdog status.
Everyone knows that on paper, Maru and Trap are favorites to advance from Group C—you don't need us to tell you that. Instead, we'll take a look at another underdog in Dream—possibly the best military returnee so far—and think about what his chances are of causing a third consecutive RO16 shock.
Group C Preview: Maru, Solar, Trap, DreamStart time: Wednesday, Jul 22 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
Just to catch everyone up on Dream, he was the ex-military we were most hopeful about until DongRaeGu pulled off his sports movie miracle last week. The best demonstration of Dream's potential came in the Gold Series Team Championship playoffs, where Dream went on a 12-game winning streak in the playoffs. Say what you will about the level of play in the GTC—it's hard to win 12 games against any mix of players without dropping a map due to cheese or bad luck. And, in Dream's case, he had some truly quality wins mixed into the streak: he went for seven wins against INnoVation (3), Dear (2), and Time (2) as he all-killed the KaiZi Gaming squad.
With that in mind, let's consider the match-ups and what Dream will need to do to advance.
TvT is a very straight-forward match-up: It boils down to who decides to proxy barracks and then transitions better... ...no, but seriously, the current GSL TvT meta is as dependent on early-game strategic choices as ever, with top players being quite willing to bet it all on an early gambit. Maru is an indiscriminate cheeser, looking for quick wins against both championship contenders and fringe Code S players, so scouting (and just dumb luck) will be important for Dream.
Still, when two Terrans do go macro—or when the game stabilizes into a macro-game after early exchanges—we seem to be at a place where both bio and mech are equally viable choices. If we look at the recent Maru vs Cure series from the Dreamhack Summer Finals, we got to see Maru play a fantastic variety of macro games, whether it was late-game mech vs bio or an absolutely chaotic maelstrom of Cyclone vs Cyclone fighting. A key undercurrent in Maru's play was that he was quite content to hunker down and play for lengthier games, establishing air control in anticipation of the coming battles for positioning in the late-game. Though Dream has proven himself to be an excellent mid-game brawler (especially in his 3-0 against INnoVation in the GTC), he'll want to avoid being sucked into turtle-fests where Maru has proven to be one of the absolute best in SC2 history.
I’ll go out on a limb and say Dream should beat Solar should they face each other, if he can play as well as he did against DongRaeGu in the RO24. Though Dream started with a disastrous 4-Barracks proxy in game one (a build copied off uThermal, which even uThermal disavowed as being terrible), game two showed us why Dream is a solid, RO16-quality player. He first showed off his timing-attack chops by securing a win with a Battlecruiser-Hellbat push, and then finished DRG off by overpowering him in a simple macro tug-of-war game.
After we just saw Dark get hammered 0-4 by INnoVation in the previous group, you have to feel good about Terran's chances in any TvZ match-up (well, unless they're playing the EU Zerg duo). If INnoVation was justified in picking a monstrous Zerg as his first opponent back in the group selections, Dream must surely feel good against a less accomplished Zerg in Solar. No, Dream isn’t as good as INnoVation, but recent matches suggest the gap between the two isn't that wide (Dream himself said he rated himself as the 5th best Terran below INnoVation by a small margin). While Solar isn’t a pushover of any sorts, he’s not quite as good as Dark, and he may be the next Zerg to fall to the GSL #TerranPatch.
Vs. Trap (initial match)
Trap has very much taken over the mantle of most consistent Protoss out of Stats' hands at this point, and one would expect him to glide into the RO8. But in the interest of rooting for Dream, we might question whether or not his PvT is quite as deadly as it was back in 2019, when it seemed like he'd be a multiple-time champion if not for those pesky Zergs.
It was certainly alarming to see Trap lose to Bunny of all people in the RO24. On the other hand, he beat Cure twice in different ESL Korea Cups, and then went on to defeat HeroMarine in the quarterfinals of the DreamHack Summer Finals. Somewhere in the middle is his 1-1 series split against Clem at DreamHack—Clem 'won' 3-2 on map score, but Trap actually won the latter, more important match which decided playoff advancement.
Seeing how badly Bunny flamed out last week, I'm tempted to look at that loss as being more about bad luck and less about Trap's current PvT form. This will be an uphill battle for Dream, since his best wins over Protoss lately have come against the likes of sOs, Zest and Dear—all strong names, but not currently strong players. On the other hand, Trap looks to be the best PvT player in the Korea, if not the entire world. It's a brutal first match for Dream to have drawn, and it's a hurdle he might not be able to overcome even with the best preparation. Still, if there's one thing Dream could take advantage of, it's that Trap's early-game defense doesn't seem quite as impervious as it once was.
Sure, there's a chance that "C" stands for "Conventional wisdom," and that Maru and Trap will advance, easy peasy. Maru and Trap are both consistent, strong players that don't have any business going out in the RO16—mostly because they rarely lose to weaker players.
However, after two groups that proved conventional wisdom is vastly overrated, it's hard not to be have some irrational hope here. The coming quarterfinals already looks to be one of the spiciest and least predictable one in several seasons. It might not be the odds on pick, but I'm putting my chips on Dream to keep the intrigue going.
Maru 2-0 Solar
Trap 1-2 Dream
Maru 2-1 Dream
Solar 1-2 Trap
Dream 2-1 Trap
Maru and Dream advance.