2020 GSL Code S Season 3 - Semifinals Previewby Wax
Semifinal #1: TY vs StatsDay 1 start time: Wednesday, Oct 21 8:00am GMT (GMT+00:00)
The first semifinal is a rematch from last season, with TY and Stats once again competing for a spot in the Code S finals. Last time around, Stats prevailed by a 4-2 score—now it's time to see what kind of adjustments TY has made for the rematch.
My initial impression of this series is that TY is in a world of trouble. The previous semifinal was a classic battle between brains and brawn, with TY looking to use cunning strategies to break through the defensive macro play of Stats. As the 4-2 score shows, it didn't go particularly well for TY. He won one game after scouting and thwarting Stats' proxy Stargate, another game with his own Proxy-Baracks all-in, and lost the other four games where Stats got to play out macro-ish games. TY even got the early leads in a some of those standard games—be it through greedy openers or successful early-game harassment—but Stats recovered and won all the same. Basically, TY gave Stats his best shot, and Stats told him to sit the f*** down.
The Shield of Aiur held firm in the previous season's semifinal.
A recent best-of-nine showmatch in the ITaX Super Series (played on October 9th, prior to the quarterfinals) makes the outlook even more grim for TY, with Stats winning 5-1. Stats shrugged off what seemed like catastrophic early-game damage on some occasions, looking like a one-man harbinger of imbalance (TY took one map with an SCV-pull all-in). Granted, TY is the player whose level of play increases the most when given time for GSL preparation™, but he's relying on that preparation to make up for what looks like an almost unsurmountable baseline gap.
Strangely enough, Armani's winner interview after his RO8 victory over Zest was what really highlighted the uphill battle TY faces in preparing for this match. Armani said practicing against Stats in late-game ZvP scenarios helped him against Zest, as Stats' late-game ability was a level above Zest's. The tables are reversed for TY: who is he going to practice against that's in the same tier as Stats, and can give him any accurate reading of whether his strategies are good or not? A timing attack that's a sure-fire win against a lesser Protoss might very well fall short against Stats.
And still, there are some factors working in TY's favor. Stats may have a prior reputation as one of the most consistently excellent players of LotV, but recently, he's been making some inexplicably terrible plays. Consider his quarterfinal series against INnoVation. He went down 0-2 to start, losing game one trying out a Templar-based strategy he later admitted he didn't totally understand, and threw a gift-wrapped game two after completely botching his defensive micro against INnoVation's last-ditch all-in. Then, as if nothing happened, he went on to outplay INnoVation in three macro games to reverse-sweep the series.
These disaster moments have popped up in other matches as well. We all remember the unblocked wall (with a Probe standing by) in the Season 2 finals against Rogue, which brought the finals to sad end. Even in that previous semifinal against TY, there was a game where Stats gave TY an early-game gift of a Warp Prism and two Archons while greeding for SCV kills (it's a testament to Stats' macro play that he won anyway).
Another potential problem for Stats is that he has the compunction to cheese every now and then. Normally, being perceived as a credible cheese-threat is important in playing out a GSL BO5+ series, but it just hasn't worked out for Stats in his recent matches. Maybe I'm just judging too hastily based off a small sample size of games, but I think Stats' PvT is at a level where [i]'I'm going to macro, try and stop me' is the correct approach in almost every circumstance, and he's just giving away value with his random proxies and DT drops.
Those are ways that Stats might beat himself. But what about things TY can do on his end? In that area, I'm going to have speak more abstractly, because by definition, it's something only TY can figure out. While his macro, micro, and overall mechanics have been excellent in 2020, it's really his one-of-a-kind series preparation that's made him a Code S championship-tier player. Once TY starts living rent free in his opponent's head, and makes him fear every combination of units that might come out of a 1/1/1 opener, [i]then his mechanics come into play in terms of maximizing damage inflicted.
If there's anyone that can look at his own previous losses, analyze Stats' style, and invent a way to win, it's TY. Through three seasons of Code S so far, TY has won every BO5+ series he's played except for last season's semifinal against Stats. Maybe that means Stats is just too solid to be solved by TY. Or maybe it means TY has now collected the data he needs. There's a relatively 'boring' version of this series where TY just looks for the 39,583th way to force a Hellion or Mine drop. But there's also the chance that TY judges his situation to be so dire that he'll bring out some truly creative and outside-the-box strategies, coming all the way from sOs-land.
Prediction: I tend to lean conservatively on predictions, and in this case, just about every factor is pointing to Stats as the safe pick. Stats won convincingly in their last Code S match. Stats' map win-rate against Terran since the Photon Overcharge patch stands at 71.09% (91W - 37L) compared to TY's 47.06% (32W - 36L) in the same period. Aligulac.com's predictive formula gives Stats a 65.4% chance to win, while betting lines on gambling sites favor Stats by around the same percentage. Liquibet is the only indicator where the two players are near even, with Stats having a marginal lead at the time of writing.
If TY was to win this match, it would be a moment that proves that GSL Code S is, indeed, a completely different animal from all other competitions, with the preparation alone able to outweigh a mountain of other factors. And while it would certainly be interesting if that happened, with TY needing to reach deeper into his bag of tricks than ever before, I just can't make that my final pick.
Stats 4 - 2 TY