Upsets dotted the round of 24 in the first two Code S Seasons of the year, but it's been smooth sailing so far for the favorites in Season 3.
Dark rolled through Group B without incident, recording clean 2-0 wins over both Creator and Zest to take first place. In his post-match interview, Dark allayed some of the concerns fans might have had about his poor form in the last two months. He said his wrist pain situation had improved after receiving treatment, and that he had shored up the holes in his ZvT game which had held him back last season.
Zest followed Dark into the RO16 in second place, but had a close brush with elimination when he faced Creator in the group decider match. Creator came close to earning his first RO16 appearance in eight years when he went up 1-0 against Zest, but unfortunately for the Jin Air Protoss, he was unable to close the series out and allowed Zest to win in a 2-1 comeback.
Recommended games: Unfortunately, it was a dull night of games in the AfreecaTV studio. There was plenty of in-the-moment excitement in the Zest vs Creator series match where Creator had a chance of earning what would have been a heartwarming return to the RO16, but the actual game quality was not particularly notable.
Coming up (schedule change): The next Code S matchday is one day earlier than usual, held on Friday, Sep 04 8:00am GMT (GMT+00:00) to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the GSL. There will be a special event for the 10th anniversary of the GSL, alongside the RO24 Group C matches featuring Maru, NightMare, RagnaroK, and Dream.
Intial Match #1: Dark 2 - 0 Creator
Creator got off to a good start on Ice and Chrome to begin the series, sacrificing a handful of Adepts and an Oracle to inflict a decent amount of Drone damage to Dark. That set up a dangerous looking follow-up attack with an assortment of Gateway units and an Immortal, but Dark showed off his famed defensive prowess by fending it off with with Ravagers, Queens and some Spines. With the early game hostilities concluded, the two players continued to build up on their respective sides of the map, with Dark going for Roach-Ravager while Creator went for Gateway units supported by Disruptors and Immortals.
The game looked be be building to a series of exciting mid-game clashes, but a gaffe from Creator saw it end anticlimactically. Creator got caught moving out onto the map before he had really consolidated his forces, which ended up in his Disruptors and Immortals getting surrounded and killed by Speedlings. With the backbone of his force broken, Creator had no choice but to GG out to the Lurkers and Vipers that came soon after.
The series then headed to Ever Dream, where we saw the Zerg player pull out a 19-Drone Speedling cheese for the third consecutive time in a GSL ZvP. Creator definitely had the build in mind, and his careful Probe scouting prevented Dark from going for that sneaky Speedling backdoor that had defeated the likes of Trap and Stats within three minutes. However, the Speedling backdoor is really just a bonus win condition when the Protoss player gets careless—the 'real' point of the strategy is to batter down the opponent's wall with a flood of early-game Speedlings. And Dark did just that, despite Creator's desperate defensive effort with multiple re-walls and Probe pulls.
Intial Match #2: Zest 2 - 0 TaeJa
Game one on Ever Dream saw Zest open with a proxy-Stargate, while TaeJa looked to apply some even earlier pressure with an offensive Bunker (the very non-committal version with just a solo Reaper) followed by a couple of Concussive Shell-upgraded Marauders. This game of build order rock-paper-scissors went in Zest's favor, with the total lack of Terran anti-air allowing his Oracle to kill a handful of SCV's and force a mass evacuation, while he took care of the Marauders without too much trouble back at home.
Zest transitioned into Blink Stalkers and looked to build on his advantage, but accidentally walked into a quick win. TaeJa had loaded his Medivacs full of infantry and had just left his main, only to run straight into Zest's Stalkers. Zest blasted the Medivacs out of the sky and Blinked up into TaeJa's undefended base to force the GG.
Game two on Pillars of Gold was a bit of a throwback to the worst days of WoL, with the two players building up armies over ten minutes before closing the game with one engagement. The victor ended up being Zest, who overwhelmed TaeJa's bio with Gateway units backed by Colossi.
Winners' match: Dark 2 - 0 Zest
Zest opened with DT-drop into Archon-drop on Deathaura, which Dark easily fended off with Roaches while sneakily going for a fast Spire off three bases. Zest was almost caught unaware, but managed to Hallucinate-scout in time to set up Photon Cannons at his base. Dark picked at the edges of the Protoss bases with his Mutas while tech-switching into mass Roach-Ravager, whereas Zest built up an army of Stalkers, Archons, and High Templars to prepare for a big mid-game attack. While Zest landed some meaty Storms in the deciding battle, Dark's core of Ravagers survived largely unscathed and routed the Protsos force, prompting a GG from Zest.
Zest decided it was time go for his signature Glaive Adepts on Eternal Empire, but Dark made it look like the once revolutionary strategy was well past its expiration date with his initial defense. However, Zest demonstrated his Glaive Adept mastery with his follow-up move, fooling Dark into thinking he had sheepishly retreated when he was actually making even more Glaive Adepts to attack from another angle. A two prong attack into Dark's main and third base netted Zest the Drone kills he was looking for—not enough to cripple Dark, but enough to let himself comfortably power up on four bases and prepare a deadly mid-game attack with Colossi and Stalkers.
Indeed, Zest did put Dark in peril when he moved out, with Dark losing several Drones and being forced to give up his fourth base. However, Zest did a poor job at dealing with the Ling-Bane counter-attacks that were occurring at the same time, taking heavy economic damage on the home front. This effectively turned his promising mid-game attack into a true all-in, which had to finish Dark off before the game went any longer. Dark was able scrounge together enough Roach-Ravager-Baneling to halt the Protoss advance, and the arrival of Lurkers on the battlefield was enough to force Zest to GG out.
Losers' match: Creator 2 - 0 TaeJa
Creator took game one on Ice and Chrome with a clean three-hit combo, jabbing at TaeJa with proxy-Gate Adepts followed by Dark Templars, and finishing him off with the KO blow of Chargelots and Archons dropped into the main.
Creator used a different kind of proxy on Deathaura, plopping down a Stargate and Shield Battery for some post-patch Void Ray mischief. TaeJa scouted out the proxy position rather early and erected a Bunker right next to it, but this proved to be an ineffective and fatal defensive move. Creator simply made new Pylons and Batteries to support his proxy Stargate, which meant TaeJa's Bunker full of Marines did basically nothing to impede two Void Rays from waltzing directly into the Terran main and collecting the GG.
Decider Match: Zest 2 - 1 Creator
The series began with both players opening Stargate expand on Deathaura, with neither player able to do much damage with their Oracle. From there, the two players' paths diverged slightly, with Creator going straight into mass Blink Stalkers while Zest made a slight detour by building five Phoenixes first. Ultimately, this decision wasn't all that beneficial for Zest, as he only picked off a few Probes on Creator's side of the map, while he couldn't stop an Oracle from slipping by to put down a massive Stasis Trap inside his own mineral line. Nor did the Phoenixes help much on defense when Creator decided he had enough Blink Stalkers for a head-on attack, which overwhelmed Zest with sheer numbers and forced the GG.
Game two on Ever Dream saw Creator proxy a third gate out on the map to try and go for some heavy Stalker pressure early, while Zest once again went for a Stargate expand. Zest seemed like he might be in trouble when he opted to let his Nexus complete, but he microed well enough against Creator's force to make him sacrifice a decent chunk of his army in order to focus-fire down the Nexus. Zest tried to counter-attack with his two Void Rays and mixed ground troops, but was batted away by Blink Stalkers. Amusingly enough, these early game exchanges left both players on identical worker and army supply counts, with natural expansions starting to mine at nearly the same time.
This soft reset of the game opened up a variety of options for both players, and Zest decided to secure his third base and tech up to Immortals while Creator decided to go for the kill by continuing to mass Blink Stalkers. Zest would most certainly have died to Creator's attack if this game had been played before June of 2020, but Photon Overcharge allowed Zest to repel Creator's forces and tie up the series.
The deciding match on Ice and Chrome saw the two players flip positions from the previous game, with Zest going for 3-Gate pressure early (though with the third gate in his main, instead of being proxied), while Creator was the player opting for a normal 2-Gate expansion build. However, Zest did commit too hard to early game pressure, getting his own Nexus not long after. The two players continued to skirmish without either one coming out ahead, and they moved on to take their third bases and ponder their tech choices.
Creator went for the old standard of Immortal-Archon-Chargelot, while Zest deviated and went for Stalkers supported by Disruptors and Colossi. Scouting this out, Creator added Phoenixes to counter the Disruptors. The game came to a head in battle at Creator's third base, where the two forces collided with each other with RO16 advancement on the line. While Creator's Phoenixes did their job of neutralizing the Disruptors, Zest still had enough firepower to defeat Creator's force and take the second place spot in the group.