2020 GSL Code S Season 3 - Round of 24by Orlok
Group E’s is a battle of between haves and have-not's. Two players have championships and fame to their name, while the other two have always been at the fringes of the pro-scene. Yet, despite their starkly contrasting resumes, their present-day forms are as close as ever. While that doesn't guarantee an upset as in the previous group, the favorites can't feel 100% safe about their chances at advancing.
Group E Preview: INnoVation, Hurricane, Zoun, soOStart time: Saturday, Sep 12 4:00am GMT (GMT+00:00)
INnoVation's cycle of ups and downs continues, and he's currently at the point where his reputation outstrips his skills. On his best days, he’s still the macro monster of legend, bullying the best players on earth into submission with his nonstop stream of units. He even added some creative depth to his 2020 playbook, making himself a more unpredictable opponent to face.
In Season 1 of Code S, INnoVation defeated the likes of Rogue, Zest, Maru, and Trap. Last season, he dominated Dark 4-0 in the group stages. But what looked to be the start of a third renaissance for INnoVation (fourth? fifth?) came to an abrupt end both times, when he tripped up on unexpected hurdles in Cure and DongRaeGu. For most other players, top four and top eight in Code S would be results to be happy with. But if you’re INnoVation, especially an INnoVation who seemed scorching hot in the first half of 2020, those results can only be seen as disappointing.
And so begins Code S Season 3 for INnoVation, his last chance to reach a Code S grand finals in 2020. This first stage should be easy, at least. Hurricane, Zoun have been firmly middle to low tier their whole careers, while soO is headed into his last dance. A dominating first round performance akin to Dark or Maru would put some air beneath INnoVation's wings as he heads into the more difficult stages of the competition.
Who knows what Hurricane would give to have just a sliver of INnoVation's prestige? Due to just how long Starcraft II has been around, it feels like half the players players in Code S can say they're some kind of champion. But not Hurricane. Aside from one freakish run last year, when he hit the semi-finals of Code S and the quarterfinals of the Super Tournament, Hurricane has spent most of his career where he is now: at the fringes of Code S.
It's hard to tell exactly what happened in 2019 that let him hit that brief peak. Perhaps he was just taking advantage of the favorable Protoss meta that lasted for a couple of months, or perhaps he was just in the best mental state he'd ever been in. He seemed to channel some of that mysterious magic again at this year's IEM Katowice, where he reached the knockout round after defeating Serral in the group stages.
As a player with a low floor (he didn't even qualify for Code S last season) but surprisingly high ceiling, it's hard to predict how Hurricane will fare here. While he seems superior to Zoun or soO on paper, the vagaries of PvP and the unusual nature of soO's participation make it anyone's guess as to whether or not he'll actually beat them.
Does anyone remember when Zoun was a part of SKT? He was rescued from the wreckage of the S.S. Prime, tossed a lifeline by the legendary KeSPA team. Zoun initially looked to be in a good position, sitting on the bench but still practicing with and learning from the likes of Classic, soO, and INnoVation. Besides the mega-talents, that's the kind of position most great players start from, paying their dues as practice partners for the greats.
Alas, Zoun didn't end up being one of the diamonds that emerged from that pressurized environment. He played in just a single Proleague game and never made it past the qualifiers of any individual league. Maybe he would have found his footing given some more time, but after the dissolution of Proleague and SKT, he became an esports journeyman. He answered Myungsik’s call and joined forces with him on the Overwatch team Team First Heroic, got screwed by sponsorship issues twice, joined APK Prince as a LOL pro before simply calling it quits in 2018.
After a gap year of all that going back and forth, he’s back in Starcraft. One can't help but be cynical about how he finally qualified for Code S: the barrier to entry must have been significantly lowered for Zoun to finally get in, after such dalliances in other games. Still, even if Zoun has benefited from a thinned out Korean scene, one hopes that being granted these kinds of opportunities will motivate him to keep working harder and belatedly realize his full potential. After all, there are some big shoes that will need filling in Code S...
soO rounds out our group as the second half of the haves, and boy is he in a weird spot. Originally, we didn't think he'd even be here. Just before the start of Code S Season 2, he announced that he'd been approved to serve on the military police force (a cushier assignment compared to standard army service), and seemed to confirm Season 2 would be the curtain call to his StarCraft II career. Unfortunately for soO, his 'final' show was more tragic than triumphant, as he was eliminated in the group stages with two losses to SpeCial.
However, perhaps due to some fuzziness in his exact enlistment date (which we only knew to be some time in October), a change in the GSL schedule, or some unknown factor in soO's life, he’s back for his last-last dance. Given how poorly he played in what we previously thought was his last Code S appearance, one has to be skeptical about his chances of making a deep run and claiming that long-awaited
But those are just side issues. It feels like we’re saying this for the umpteenth time, but at this point of soO's career, we're just happy to see that he's still playing. He deserves to have a stress-free, expectation-free run, after all that he's achieved and all that he's been through in his career. If he can give us some entertaining games, that will be more than sufficient note on which to send off a legend of StarCraft II.
INnovation has no enemies of note and is definitely favored bag the first place spot here, barring a colossal, totally unexpected meltdown. Hurricane should be slightly favored to take second place, because he's far more established than Zoun and soO already has one foot out the door. However, Hurricane is a rather inconsistent player as well, so who claims the last RO16 spot really seems like a toss-up.
INnoVation 2-0 Hurricane
Zoun 1-2 soO
INnoVation 2-0 soO
Hurricane 2-0 Zoun
Hurricane 2-1 soO
INnoVation and Hurricane to advance.