2020 GSL Code S Season 3 - Round of 16by Wax
After a lengthy break for the Chuseok holiday, Code S returns with more RO16 action. Half of the playoff bracket has been determined, and now it's time to see which players will claim the remaining four spots.
Group C Preview: Stats, ByuN, PartinG, MaruStart time: Wednesday, Oct 07 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
What's the state of Terran vs Protoss?
PvT has reached that dangerous place where some Protoss players are openly expressing their confidence in the match-up. Ten years of StarCraft II has taught us that progamers aren't exactly unbiased in their judgment of balance, and an assessment that a match-up is "even" often means it's leaning a certain way, while a match-up being "good" might be a warning sign that factional balance is getting out of wack.
Otherwise cheesy players like Patience and Zoun are starting to look suspiciously comfortable in macro PvT, which may lead one to believe that Photon Overcharge is a little too helpful in helping Protoss survive early/mid-game pushes, and that mid-game Disruptors shift the burden of execution a little bit too far toward the Terran side.
Or, maybe things are totally fine, as Aligulac.com's match-up stats suggest. Whatever the case, Group C is the closest thing we'll get to a one-day referendum on a match-up.
PartinG is one of the aforementioned confident Protoss players, and his decision to pick Maru over Dark during the group selections should tell you all you need to know about his opinion of his own PvT (or his PvZ, perhaps). PartinG is a true dual threat in PvT, able to steal games with cheesy builds (his proxy-Tempest against ByuN was one of the funkiest builds of the RO24), but also overpower opponents in macro games.
Stats is more one dimensional in comparison, but no less capable in PvT. Alongside Trap, he's one of the best "I'm gonna play a macro game; try and stop me" players in the match-up, and might be the best suited to defend against the inevitable early attacks from Group C's two Terrans.
ByuN could be the scariest early game Terran in this group. In a surprising show of bravado from a player just recently returned from military service, ByuN said he was as confident as anyone in his ability to prepare builds/strats for these GSL-style matches. Maybe it's not so audacious a claim, as while muscle-memory and hand-speed might rapidly decline during a break from StarCraft II, the overall know-how of planning for a GSL series probably sticks around for longer.
Indeed, ByuN used some simple but clever tricks in the RO24, like using an Engineering Bay block to force PartinG to build his Nexus at his third, and then abusing the lack of a defensive wall with a Hellion attack. On the other hand, ByuN did lose a macro game to the previously mentioned Patience in the same RO24 group, so I'm not optimistic about his chances should his opponents successfully drag the games out.
That's not the case for Maru, Maru who enters this match after having defeated top PvT player Trap 3-2 in the King of Battles RO16. On new map Oxide, he gave us a performance that resembled vintage 2018 Maru, turtling up and whittling Trap down with constant tactical Nukes and harassment in the late-game.
While I've always been wary about getting hyped for someone's GSL performance due to a non-GSL match, the KoB result did make me a little giddy. There was a little hint of that invincible 2018 Maru who could beat you at any stage of the game, where surviving early-game attacks simply meant you were delaying your death until later. On the other hand, Maru's overall 2020 record suggests that victory against Trap was just a blip, while his RO8 and RO16 eliminations in Code S 2020 are the norm. As with most fans of great StarCraft, I'm hoping this season is a turning point for Maru.
Stats' Last Ride?
2020 is turning into a year of weird last stands before military service. soO set the bar high in terms of awkwardness, saying Code S Season 2 would be his final tournament before finding out he actually had enough time to compete in Season 3. Not that it mattered, as he was eliminated in the RO24 both times. Dear kept things quiet, announcing his retirement after he had already played his last match.
As it turns out, it's really hard to go out in a blaze of glory! Classic might have been only guy who ever did it right. He announced his departure a year ahead of time, and then rode off into the sunset at BlizzCon after slaying Rogue with a brilliant Blink-DT strategy. And even that came close to never happening, if not for some last minute scrambling by Blizzard and KeSPA to get him permission to travel to Anaheim.
So, what of Stats? He's also set to begin his military service in the nebulous 'near future.' He said that the impending end actually motivated him last season, which helped power him to his first Code S finals appearance since 2018. Even if it ended in a lop-sided 1-4 defeat at the hands of Rogue, he would still have scored a solid 8/10 on the blaze of glory scale' had he enlisted for the military then and there.
But now, Stats is back for another season, which may or may not be his last. On one hand, it represents one last chance to make up for his loss to Rogue. On the other hand, the bar for redemption has been set ridiculously high: winning a Code S title.
Despite the devastating nature of Stats' defeat to Rogue, I still think he has a decent shot of winning the title this time around. The issue with Stats isn't so much his overall level as it is how lop-sided his match-ups are. He's an excellent, championship-tier PvT and PvP player, equal or perhaps even superior to Trap in those departments. On the other hand, his PvZ is lacking, below a 60% map win-rate in 2020. It's weird because Stats is still really good at getting things done with Oracles and Adepts thanks to his micro, but somehow it just doesn't snowball into a victory that often.
Fortunately for Stats, this group is all PvP and PvT. Even more fortunately for Stats, Rogue has condemned both himself and Dark to the group of death in Group D, where one of them might get eliminated early on. Looking at the big picture, the bracket might break in a way that Stats doesn't have to play either of Dark or Rogue all the way to the championship. Yes, I'm basically saying Stats is in the position of old-Trap, before Trap figured out PvZ.
If not for the absurdity of Group D, we might have called Group C this season's group of death. Stats and Maru are ostensibly the favorites here, but PartinG and ByuN are both creative enough to upset either of them with well-planned strategies.
Stats > ByuN
PartinG > Maru
Stats > PartinG
Maru > ByuN
Maru > PartinG
Stats and Maru to advance.