2020 GSL Super Tournament 2by Wax
RO16 - Day 1 Preview
The StarCraft II action never seems to stop, as we move on from ASUS ROG Online and head straight into GSL Super Tournament 2. Not only is it the last GSL competition of the year, but it's also the last chance for Korean players to earn a big chunk of EPT points without having to worry about facing international players.
RO16 Match #1: TY vs HurricaneWhile it's a running joke on TL to excuse a player's losses by saying they were "not trying," TY has done some things that make you legitimately question his effort level as of late. I got the first hint that TY might start taking things a bit easy in his post-finals interview after winning Code S Season 3, where he sidestepped the question of if he would win Super Tournament 2 by saying he would focus on becoming a better caster. Subsequently, he went on a Brood War binge where he participated in the AfreecaTV BJ Destruction match, made a guest stream appearance with Flash, and declined a seeded invite to ASUS ROG Online.
Now, given that TY won two Code S championships in 2020 while adding casting and YouTubing to his interests, no one should criticize him for how he spends his time. He's completely proven that he can balance being a top-tier StarCraft II player with other activities—when he wants to. Indeed, if he treats the Super Tournament like Code S, and sets aside all the time he needs to bring championship-class play, he could very well go on and win it all. But does he care to?
Hurricane's problem is much more straight-forward: His Protoss vs. Terran form is bad. Since the last balance patch (5.0.2, Aug 6), he barely has a 40%+ win-rate in the match-up. Furthermore, he got a lot of those wins against 'amateur' level players who aren't Code S class (NaTuRal, control, etc). That's not to say Hurricane didn't beat any top-tier players in that time frame—he even 3-0'd TY in an ITaX Super Series match back in August. But both me and you, the reader, know that's the kind of match result we bring up so we can politely say "Hurricane has a puncher's chance!" before we predict against him.
Prediction: TY 3 - 1 Hurricane
RO16 Match #2: Dark vs ByuNBarely three months after the end of his military service, it feels like ByuN has already 'completed' his comeback by winning ASUS ROG Online. After a brilliant tournament run that saw ByuN take out Reynor, Stats, Serral, Solar, and Maru in BO5+ series, only the most hardened cynic would dare say "let's see you do that offline."
With quality wins against top-tier players in every single match-up, you might even say ByuN has a legitimate claim to be called the best in the world—even if it's only for a few days. [Standard TL.net disclaimer about small sample sizes here]. ByuN himself was pretty humble after his ASUS ROG win, saying he was "lucky." Yet, he also predicted that he'd win his upcoming Super Tournament match against Dark, who he described as a "powerful" opponent.
Speaking of Dark, he's had a rough 2020. While the new ESL-administered pro system has pushed the next 'BlizzCon' (now known as the Masters Championship at IEM Katowice) to 2021, it seems like Dark is going to lose his 2019 BlizzCon title defense by judges' decision (using UFC scoring, I'd say 2020 is beating Dark 40-36 headed into the final round). He has no championships on the year, only made it to the Code S playoffs once in three seasons, while his best result was runner-up in Super Tournament 1 .
Going by ByuN's performance from ASUS ROG Online, one has to think Dark is doomed to end his 2020 on a rather gloomy note. Not only did ByuN bring tricky early-game timings and overwhelming mid-game aggression, but he also looked like the strongest late-game TvZ player in the world. Somewhat akin to 2018 Maru, ByuN seemed supremely confident that he could out-trade any Zerg in the late game, eventually winning any war of attrition. It was just freaky to see games where Reynor's 'just outspend Terran' style failed even after he went up to over 110+ Drones, or where Serral's usual efficiency went out the window as he lost over twice the amount of Gas in units. It's no secret that Dark's vaunted late-game play has fallen off in 2020—he's far removed from being the player with the best control of complex, Hive-tech armies. However, Dark has preserved most of his reputation as an unpredictable, deadly user of all-ins, and that might be what sees him through to the next round.
One curious caveat is that Dark did beat ByuN 2-1 in the Super Tournament II qualifiers, just a week before ByuN went on his amazing run at ASUS ROG Online. That poses an interesting question: Was ByuN lucky to win ASUS ROG Online, or was Dark lucky to beat ByuN?
Prediction: ByuN 3 - 2 Dark
Regarding ByuN's IEM qualification chances: While it would be great for ByuN to nab more points in the Super Tournament and put his IEM qualification out of doubt, there's a reasonable chance that he could qualify without getting any more points. ByuN is currently 19th in the Korea standings (the ESL and Liquipedia ranking pages include non-Koreans because of a rules technicality)—that's two spots outside of Korea's starting cutoff line of 17th place, but the cutoff is likely to rollover two spots to exactly 19th.
The first rollover is due to Rogue winning IEM Katowice 2020 and getting a direct seed. The other rollover would be due to the 'replacement' spot that a Korea player is likely to be awarded. Originally there was supposed to be another direct seed given via a Katowice-esque global event, but it was scrapped due to the COVID pandemic. That seed is now awarded based on EPT points across ALL the regions. Now, since I don't want this section to become too long, I won't go into the weeds about the specific interpretation of the rules and the various points scenarios that could play out. It will suffice to say that a Korean player is very likely to be awarded the replacement seed, thus making 19th place the cutoff for Korean IEM qualification.
RO16 Match #3: Zest vs sOsSo, it's a PvP, it's between two of the more inconsistent players in Korea, and they don't have any head-to-head games this year? Yeah, I'm just going to leave this one to Aligulac.
Prediction: Zest 3 - 1 sOs
Alright, now that I have that out of the way, let me ramble a bit about these players without any relation to the match ("But Wax, that's what you always d—" shut up).
I love how Zest has been the most innovative player this year, popularizing the Adept-printer in PvZ, late-game Blink-DT use in PvT, and 3-Stargate openers in PvZ (I say "popularize" instead of invent, because it's hard to attribute these things). While there were certainly subtler but more impactful strategic innovations in 2020, Zest definitely brought us the ones that were the most noticeable, and made us think "holy s***, that's different." Even though Zest quickly fell to being a tier below Trap and Stats in the Protoss standings, I still feel like he might be the most memorable Protoss of 2020 if only for his creativity. There's just a month left in 2020, but I'm holding out for another moment of strategic brilliance.
sOs is a feast or famine player, and right now sOs fans are in danger of dying of hunger. But have hope! Even though he's gone eight seasons without making it to the Code S playoffs, you can still cling on to the fact that he's still bizarrely good in weekender tournaments. Just look back to IEM Katowice 2020: sOs headed in looking like a husk of his former self, humbly entering the open bracket on the back of two straight Code S RO32 eliminations. sOs proceeded to climb through the open bracket, took second place in his RO24 group, beat Stats in the RO12 playoffs, before being eliminated in the RO8 by Maru. Pretty good for a washed up player!
We're going down the same path right now. Three straight Code S tournaments without advancing a single round. Failure to qualify for every single major online tournament. Played ONE series for Jin Air in the Gold Series Team Championship, with Creator playing ahead of him. You might have thought he was headed straight toward the retirement home. If so, you just haven't learned your lesson, and sOs is going to take you to school. Ahhh, I guess I'm changing my prediction.
Prediction: sOs 3 - 2 Zest
RO16 Match #4: Trap vs SolarHey, where's Cure? Let's get him in here so we can have a triple-threat match for the 'most underrated' championship belt.
Now, some might argue that Trap already moved on from underrated status back in 2019, when he made two Code S finals and won the coveted* TL.net award for best Protoss player of the year. My rebuttal is that some people actually argued that Stats should have won the award, proving that Trap will somehow always manage to be overlooked—even when he's having a career-best year.
Jokes aside, Trap has built upon his breakout 2019 by being a consistent championship contender for another year, achieving two second-place finishes in Dreamhack Season Finals. Even if Trap's popularity still isn't commensurate to his skill-level, he's certainly become a player who commands much more respect. Alas, just as in 2019, Zerg proved to be an insurmountable obstacle in Trap's chase for a major title, with Serral and Reynor giving him two more bitter tastes of silver in DreamHack Masters. It's a damn shame, too, as Trap's PvZ has definitely improved from 2019 when it was his clear
Given Solar's three-year, nine-season Code S playoff drought, you might say he's actually properly rated as a solid, mid-tier Zerg. Yet, his peers consistently talk about him as one of the most skillful Zergs players in the world, and he occasionally shows flashes of this at weekender events. Last year, it was a finals run at ASUS ROG 2019. This year, it was a semifinal run at the online version of the same tournament, which ended up being even more impressive despite the lower finish. In the group stages, Solar took out both Clem and Maru (by a combined 6-1 map score) to take first place in his group, and then stomped PartinG 3-0 in the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, Solar's one-sided 0-3 defeat to ByuN in the semifinals overshadowed all his prior good work.
Now, Solar has tried to self-analyze the cause of his Code S woes in interviews, surmising it might be due to him being an overly predictable, macro-oriented player. But even mixing in more all-ins and unpredictable plays hasn't solved his problems, while ironically, we've seen 'weaker' players like Armani make the playoffs with Solar's own all-in builds. It could just mean Solar is just unlucky as well as underrated, but one has to wonder if there's a nervousness/jitters issue at hand. That would certainly help explain why his deep runs in weekenders always stop short of a championship. At least, in an early-round match like this, we should expect to see the best version of Solar come to play.
Prediction: Solar 3 - 2 Trap