2020 GSL Code S Season 3 - Round of 16by Orlok
What a group we have to finish the RO16, ladies and gentlemen. Group D is the stuff of legends, and a collection of players worthy of being called the group of death. It may very well be the most intimidating Code S RO16 group since 2013, when we saw PartinG, Life, INnoVation, and Flash face off.
In terms of both name value and skill level, these are four of the absolute top players in Korea. Only two will survive to see the playoffs.
Group D Preview: Rogue, INnoVation, Dark, TrapStart time: Saturday, Oct 10 4:00am GMT (GMT+00:00)
It’s funny how life works. Rogue has historically been viewed as a streaky player—someone who can win world championships at his peak, but whose skills can wane in unpredictable ways (especially in the immediate wake of winning a major title). While that might be true of Rogue, it's been interesting to see how he has continued to collect championships and started to overtake supposedly more consistent players on the GOAT ladder.
Amidst the never-ending arguments regarding Maru and Serral in 2018, the evergreen debates about INnoVation's long-term legacy, and more recent focus on rising stars like Clem and Reynor, Rogue has quietly just done his thing: cash huge checks and win big trophies. When Rogue was knocked out of BlizzCon 2019 in the quarterfinals, some might have thought his time as an apex Zerg was over. A few months later, he quietly showed up at IEM Katowice 2020 with very little hype behind him, andmade a spectacular run to become the first ever two-time champion of that particular super-major tournament.
When Rogue subsequently flopped out of Code S in the RO24, it seemed so typical of him—taking it easy after winning one of the biggest prizes in StarCraft. Perhaps even more typical was how furiously Rogue bounced back from that embarrassment, rampaging through the playoffs of Code S Season 2 and winning his second Code S title. There really is no one quite like Rogue right now: criminally underhyped despite being the best among his peers. If you're questioning his decision to create this group of death, just go take a look at his Liquipedia page, take a minute to absorb his resume, and just accept that he knows what he's doing.
INnoVation is this group's link back to that legendary 2013 group of death. But if he was one of the favorites to advance seven years ago, these days he can't seem to catch a break. Early 2020 looked good for INnoVation until it wasn’t. For a few weeks, INnoVation's combination of strong macro and uncharacteristic creativity in Code S Season 1 made it seem like we were watching INnoVation version 3.0 (4.0? 5.0? the man has had so many phases in his illustrious career). Then, he lost a narrow best-of-seven against Cure, and his championship momentum ground to a halt. He got swept by DRG in the quarterfinals of Code S Season 2, lost to Reynor in the quarterfinals of DreamHack Summer, and lost to Zest in the losers bracket of the DouYu Cup.
Of course, INnoVation is still really good—no single finish he’s had in any tournament this year was below eighth place. But his Achilles heel, namely any and all Protoss players continue to haunt him. Zoun blew him out of the water last round with all ins that in all honesty should have been scouted better or dealt with more decisiveness. Trap made quick work of him in the recent DH Fall finals. Zest won a drawn out series in the Douyu cup. Be it strong or average Protoss players, INnoVation’s tendency to always just play honest doesn’t help him get over the hump, and it’s cost him more than once. Now, he’s been great against Zergs not named Reynor or Serral, so it's likely he’ll be able to advance quickly….if he can overcome Trap and the current turbulent matchup that is TvP, which isn’t a guarantee despite the difference in form and results. INnoVation comes to this group at the odd position of being a favorite that somehow isn’t top on the list to win; he can win, but doesn’t have enough to guarantee said victory.
Dark surprisingly finds himself as an overshadowed Global champion this time around. His victory over Reynor at BlizzCon last year was a refreshing sight for OG Korean elitists, and felt like a restoration of world order to some. But that momentum hasn’t quite translated into anything big this year so far. The closest he came to winning a title at the Super Tournament, but he was upstaged in the finals due to a massive comeback show from Maru. Dark was also just plain unlucky at times, running into in-form players like TY and INnoVation in Code S. But part of being a great player is always being in form, and there aren't any excuses for how Dark hasn't quite lived up to the title of reigning BlizzCon champion. While having such high standards can be seen as a tad unfair, high results result in such expectations being set; it's the trade-off for temporarily grabbing championship mantles like GOAT or “Best in the world”. Dark has one last chance to prove for himself he is deserving for the top spot in SC2 history, and hopefully this time he gets to showcase what made him such a winner last year.
Trap rounds out this ultra stacked group as the lone Protoss hope. With PartinG falling in the previous group, Trap is now the only Protoss that could make the round of eight in all Code S competitions of this year. Thankfully, his form is as stable and reliable as ever; he’s been efficient in online tournaments in particular, taking silver in both the DreamHack Summer and Fall finals whilst securing 3rd and 4th place finishes at TSL and Douyu cup respectively. If one has a quibble with Trap, it’s his inability to advance further in Code S this year. However, similarly to Dark, one can certainly chalk a big part of that to bad luck. INnovation and Stats just were on a hotter streak at the time, and in the case of INnoVation, Trap managed to go the distance while losing. Add in the fact that INnoVation hasn’t looked all that great in the Protoss matchup, Trap looks to perhaps translate this advantage into breaking out of this historic group. PvZ certainly looks to be a tough match-up at the high end of pro StarCraft II, but Trap is the player who has drawn the most blood from the elite Zergs in major competitions as of late. If he can somehow break through the two best Zergs in Korea, then it might be a prelude to a Code S championship run.
This group showcases the mantra of “given day” conditions as much as weaker, more balanced groups. Any one of these four players could wreak havoc onto the other, and vice versa, leading to so many outcomes that are open to us depending on what kind of form they find themselves in the studio. Since Terran hope is a lot dimmer due to the forever persistent Power of Protoss™, I'll peg my hope on INnoVation finally getting over his unlucky breaks and leave the rest up to luck.
Rogue 1:2 INnoVation
Dark 2:1 Trap
INnoVation 2:1 Dark
Rogue 2:1 Trap
Dark 1:2 Rogue
INnoVation and Rogue to advance.