2020 GSL Super Tournament 2by Wax
Final Day Preview
It's a setup worthy of Korea's final major tournament in 2020: the Terran and Zerg champions of Code S go up against the two Protoss players who did the most to preserve their faction's honor. Will the Protoss heroes finally come out on top? Or will the warriors from Aiur remain trophy-less in the 2020 GSL season?
TY comes in with an impressive win in the quarterfinals, having defeated Dark 3-1 on the back of strong late-game play. It was a solid retort to anyone who accused him of being a Code S-only player (present party included), one who needed preparation time and fine-tuned builds to win championships. But one series does not disprove an entire year's worth of results, so one could easily remain skeptical about TY's chances of fighting through the deadliest stages of the Super Tournament gauntlet.
TY optimists should be encouraged by his most recent results, as he survived Thursday's DH Last Chance qualifier by taking out Rogue 3-2 in a qualifying match. At the very least, it seems like TY's TvZ is currently at a very high level. On the other hand, TY got swept by 0-3 by PartinG earlier on in the same qualifier, continuing a string of dubious TvP results. Since Code S Season 3 ended, he's only defeated players like MaxPax, GogojOey, Hurricane, and Nice (though his recent DH qualifier run demands we put some respect on Nice's name), while losing to Neeb, Stats, PartinG. It really highlights how TY's comprehensive, 4-0 sweep of Stats in the Code S semifinals was an example of just how much stronger he becomes in a Code S setting.
With TY's participation in the Brood War BJ Destruction Match having concluded last week, he's had a bit of time to put his undivided focus back into StarCraft II. What kinds of strategies can TY prepare in a week? Perhaps the kinds that will decisive shut up his critics.
Is the Protoss championship drought already over? That depends on how you interpret the results of NeXT Winter, where Trap took the championship with a win over Dark in the finals. The Korean community forums were quickly flooded with memes, jokes, and not-quite-jokes about how NeXT didn't qualify as a major tournament and belonged in the category of 'Tier-2' wins alongside soO's long-forgotten KeSPA Cup victory. A similar conversations broke out on TL.net, where fans discussed the arbitrary distinctions between "premier" and "major" tournaments on Liquipedia, and whether or not NeXT should count as a significant win for Protoss.
What usually ends up happening here is that the community decides in favor of whatever makes the most narrative sense—or more specifically, what lets us keep perpetuating our favorite memes. soO as a loveable loser was just too appealing an identity to give up over just $9,000 and a KeSPA Cup trophy. In a somewhat similar vein, Protoss players and fans have developed a masochistic attachment to being the losers of StarCraft II, don't seem to be in any rush to give that status up over a mid-size online tournament.
That's not to say letting narrative and perception decide the facts is inherently bad. soO's long-awaited triumph at IEM Katowice 2019 wouldn't have meant as much if we hadn't bought so deeply into his storyline of suffering (one partly of our own creation). And it definitely does feel cheap to declare that the Protoss losing streak ended in an event that had BO3 semifinals. Still, it's also true that it must feel pretty damn s***y to be Trap and see everyone try to discredit your hard-fought tournament win.
Errr, where was I? Oh right, the Super Tournament. Yeah, Trap is good. He might win.
Would it surprise you to hear that Stats has just risen to the top of the Aligulac.com Korea standings? Ever since Stats mentioned that his approaching military service was giving him extra motivation, he's been putting up excellent results including runner-up finishes in the Code S Season 2 and DreamHack Winter Finals, as well as a top four finish in Code S Season 3. If you claimed that Stats is the best Korean player right now, I wouldn't push back. The Korean StarCraft II is in a severe state of flux, with all of the top players seemingly being able to beat each other on any given night. Everyone in the top-tier has a valid case.
Much of Stats' case would hinge on the fact that Terrans seem to be the strongest Korean faction, and Stats is the top dog in PvT. In the latest balance patch, he's 33-5 in PvT matches, and is in the midst of a nine-match winning streak. The major weakness for Stats used to be his PvZ, in which he's had statistical stretches where his win-rate was around 60% in both maps and series. While it's still his statistical worst match-up in the current balance patch, it does seem like he's turned a corner in terms of in-game play. He has looked quite confident in drawn out, late-game PvZ games, which means can now play his preferred defensive style in all three match-ups.
While all four players could win the championship at the best of their abilities, Stats appears to have the highest floor. That makes him the 'safe' pick to win the Super Tournament.
On Wednesday, it seemed like the Korean scene would have to go to Defcon 2, with Rogue threatening to demolish the scene again after sweeping Maru in the quarterfinals. Oh, how things can change in a matter of days! First, Rogue was eliminated in the DH Last Chance qualifiers, losing to a combination of Nice and TY. Then, news came out from Team NV that Maru was suffering from severe shoulder pain, and would be getting medical treatment shortly.
All of a sudden, one starts to see Rogue's last week of games in a different light. Those brutal 3-0's against Bunny and Harstem seem more like indictments of Rogue's opponents than a testament to Rogue's ability. The victory against Maru now seems empty. Meanwhile, Rogue's group stage elimination from NeXT Winter (losses to Stats and Dream) looks like it could be a portent of the future. What about the latest ESL Open Cup, where Rogue lost 1-3 to Stats in the finals? That's starting to look like a troubling indicator of Rogue's strength as well.
Well, I guess Rogue wouldn't be Rogue if he made it easy to ascertain his level, would he?
Predictions: While I mentioned TY's dubious recent TvP form above, Trap has also been having some issues in PvT as of late. What used to be his strongest match-up is now his worst, and he's recording barely a 60% map win-rate in the current balance patch. Still, given how steady and consistent Trap is across all types of competition, and the lingering doubts about TY's form in 'weekender'-style events, I'll give Trap the edge in the first semifinal.
Last year, I'd have given Stats almost zero chance to win against Rogue. Right now? I'd say the match-up is close to dead even. Stats has a narrow head to head lead against Rogue on the year, including a very recent 3-1 over him in the ESL Open Cup. Of course, I have to take that result with a bit of a grain of salt, as it seemed like Rogue was blindly going for aggressive strategies as he didn't want to give away anything for this upcoming Super Tournament match. Even if that approach failed for Rogue in the ESL Open, I think it will still be his key to victory as Stats' late-game play has looked quite strong. I'll pick Stats to win, because F-it, what's the worst thing that could come from doubting Rogue?
That would lead us to a PvP final between Stats and Trap, which is another match-up that projects to be extremely tight. They've been trading the #1 spot in the Aligulac.com PvP rankings back and forth for the better part of 2020, and just 13 points separate them now. Aligulac.com also says that Stats is just barely favored by a 51:49 margin, and with that I agree. While data and algorithms are the reason for that 1% swing in Aligulac's case, for me, it's the fact that Stats has actually lifted a trophy in the GSL studio.
Trap 3 - 1 TY
Stats 3 - 2 Rogue
Stats 4 - 3 Trap