2020 GSL Code S Season 3 - Round of 24by Wax
GSL will be bringing you the next Code S RO24 group one day earlier than usual, on a Friday instead of Saturday. That's because ten years ago, on September 4th, the Global StarCraft II League Open Season 1 began.
Yup, it's a 10 year anniversary celebration for the GSL, which is set to kick off at 08:00 GMT (+00:00). That's a start time usually reserved for grand finals and other occasions that need a little bit of extra broadcast time, so one imagines there are some special festivities in store. AfreecaTV has been coy on the details, but perhaps there will be a few special guests in attendance. Maybe it would be hard to get IdrA in this time and age, but what about a rare FruitDealer appearance...
Group C Preview: Maru, NightMare, RagnaroK, DreamStart time: Friday, Sep 04 8:00am GMT (GMT+00:00)
Dark got off to a good start on his comeback campaign after last season's disappointing RO16 elimination, advancing from first place in his group with a perfect 4-0 scoreline. Now, it's Maru's turn to show that he can do the same. Like Dark, he was also ejected from last seasons' Code S competition in the round of sixteen, losing to Trap and Solar in disappointing fashion. While it wasn't too surprising that he lost to a PvT master in Trap, his capitulation to Solar in straight-up macro games served as a stark reminder that the God-mode Maru who won four consecutive Code S titles disappeared over a year ago. What we're left with now is merely 'incredibly f***ing good player' Maru, who is a perennial title contender, but is also afflicted with the same curse of mortality as everyone else.
Heading into this season, we have a little more data about Maru's recent form than usual. That's because he actually played an online event in between Code S tournaments, competing in Blizzard's War Chest Team League. There, he put up a solid but unremarkable 7-3 record. What should one make of that, when Reynor went 12-1 and Serral was 16-3? And what should one make of the fact that Maru dropped another series to Solar in this season's Code S qualifiers?
Returning to the comparisons with Dark, I think it's too early to sound any alarm bells. Dark was far worse in the lead-up to this season of Code S, but still dominated his opponents all the same once he sat down in the AfreecaTV studio. I think we have enough of a sample size over Maru's career that says he's a similar kind of player, who is prone to slack in smaller competitions and only bring his 100%, fully-focused, A-game in important matches. Then again, that whole-career sample also reveals that Maru is a less consistent player than Dark, sometimes dropping out the first round of GSL Code S—or not even qualifying—when it seems like he has no business doing so. For the sake of this group's prediction, I'm going to split the difference and say Maru advances—but not as easily as you would expect.
At least Maru will get an easy initial match, as he has drawn the "amateur" player NightMare. As we've stated in multiple other previews, I mean "amateur" in the way the Korean community uses it, basically denoting the tier of Korean StarCraft II players who are just barely below the Code S qualification level. Now, unlike other so-called "amateur" players such as Spear and Prince, NightMare has actually qualified for a previous Code S tournament, way back in Season 1 of 2017. However, he took a long hiatus from competitive StarCraft II soon after, and just recently reappeared on the competitive SC2 scene (which probably means he's now returning from doing his military service).
The optimistic view of NightMare is that he was an amateur player who had clawed his way up the ranks, and is ready to pick up right where he left off after an untimely hiatus (one could argue making the RO32 of Code S back in 2017 was harder than it is to make the RO24 now). The cynical view is that he's another hobbyist who's hopelessly outmatched by Korean SC2's old boy's club, and while retirements might allow him an RO24 berth every now and then, he's never going to really contend for anything. For the sake of SC2, I really hope that the former case is true, but my group prediction will follow the latter line of thought.
If you needed any more reason to feel assured of Maru's advancement, let me point out that RagnaroK is in this group. Maru has an all-time 13-1 match record against RagnaroK, with the most recent victory coming in the latest Code S qualifiers, and five of those victories coming in GSL Code S proper. Now that Dear has retired and taken Dear vs Zest away from us forever, this is probably the most comically one-sided relationship that remains between Code S regulars.
As someone who was once a big believer in RagnaroK's potential, I want to say that the aforementioned stat is slightly misleading. In fact, a big part of the reason I had faith in Ragnarok is because he put up a surprisingly good fight against Maru in their matches in 2019, when few people were really giving Maru any sort of challenge. But, looking back on it now, maybe 13-1 is 13-1 for a reason, and looking for moral victories in StarCraft II is a lost cause. Maybe I let my inner Artosis get the better of me, overly appreciating a player who wanted to win the 'right' way through solid macro play but forgetting than 'almost winning' is the same as 'definitely losing.' In any case, I certainly have much less reason to be hopeful about RagnaroK's prospects in 2020 compared to 2019. Back in 2019, he was able to reach the top 12 of IEM Katowice and top eight of GSL Code S. This year, the RO16 of Code S has been his peak (reached in Season 1), and he was eliminated from the RO24 last season with deflating losses to Bunny and Trap. I'm still holding out a little bit of hope for a great performance from RagnaroK, but I have to think Dream is the player who will be booking the second RO16 ticket from this group.
DongRaeGu's semifinal run might have been the most glamorous Cinderella story of Code S Season 2, but I thought that Dream's run to the quarterfinals had more big picture implications on the Korean SC2 scene. Unlike DRG, Dream had been putting in consistently great performances in non-GSL tournaments such as the Gold Series Team Championship before he made his breakout run in Code S, even all-killing INnoVation's KaiZi gaming in a playoff match. Now, as much as we warn fans against reading too deeply into non-GSL results in TL.net previews, when you consider all of Dream's tournament performances in their totality—be it Code S, the Super Tournament, GTC, or weekly cups—it's hard to ignore the gradual upward trend.
Even taking all the caveats about non-GSL play into account, you had to be impressed with how impressive Dream was in his recent GTC match against Rogue, avenging his 0-3 loss in last season's quarterfinals. Dream already proved he had world-class mechanics during his peak in Heart of the Swarm, and we're seeing more of that quality from post-military Dream with each passing match. I'm not just interested in seeing if Dream will advance from this group—I want to see if this is where he takes another big leap.
Maru > NightMare
Dream > RagnaroK
Dream > Maru
RagnaroK > Nightmare
Maru > RagnaroK
Dream and Maru advance.