DreamHack Masters: Last Chance 2021by Wax
Do I sense AfreecaTV getting a tad jealous here? Because DreamHack Masters is here to present us with a group of death that looks almost Code-S worthy. Open qualifiers across all servers allowed a slew of top GSL players to qualify, and a quirk of seeding has put four of them together in a particularly mortal combination. While it will be a shame to lose two of these players in the round of sixteen, the battle for survival should make for some thrilling StarCraft II.
RO16 Group B: Rogue, ByuN, Trap, PartinGStart time: Wednesday, Jan 13 2:00pm GMT (GMT+00:00)
Alright, so maybe my predictions for Group A didn't end up being quite as accurate as I hoped. But hear me out: I think Group B is going to be a real skills showcase for Trap, the hope of Protoss players around the world. His 2020 campaign ended on a streak-shattering high note, as he won the championships at both NeXT Winter and GSL Super Tournament 2 to end a Protoss title drought that had lasted for over a year.
Given the length of Protoss despair, I'm sure there are some fans who think Trap's pair of wins were merely a lucky break and that Protoss will soon plunge back into an era of darkness. As for me, I think that Trap's momentum will carry over into 2021. After all, he's been the best all-around Protoss player since 2019 (occasionally sharing the title with Stats during his peaks), proving that he's masterful at playing all-ins, macro-games, and everything in between. If there was some kind of mental block that hindered him in the later rounds of tournaments—some kind of late-onset silver surfer syndrome—breaking that long championship duck has surely helped improve his confidence as well. Look, I'm not predicting that Trap will win this tournament and revive the cries of "Protoss OP," but at the very least, I think he'll make the outlook for Protoss seem brighter than before.
While a Rogue vs Trap match-up isn't guaranteed, one thing I'm looking for Trap to do is wield the Golden Armada and take a hyper-late-game victory in a major tournament. For one, it would be great revenge for 2019. Second, it would give me some hope that Trap could finally take down the Serral-Reynor duo that have blocked his path in many events. Recent majors saw both Stats (DH Winter) and ShoWTimE (TSL6) take maps off Serral with the composition—Trap is hardly guaranteed to reach the late-game against Serral or Reynor, but it could be a small edge that takes him over the top against his tormentors.
While I'm most excited for Trap, I figure popular sentiment probably favors ByuN. That would be understandable and most deserved—ByuN made what was possibly the most anticipated comeback from military service to date, and unlike his peers, he massively over-delivered on expectations. Within three months of his return, ByuN defeated Maru to win the championship at ASUS ROG Online, and even played a game-of-the-year quality match against Serral along the way. ByuN and StarCraft II fans were reunited in bliss, as if nothing had changed since 2016.
Well, one thing did change, and unfortunately it was for the worse: the condition of ByuN's wrists. ByuN's wrist pain issue has been prone to flaring up in the AfreecaTV studio, be it due to stress, pressure, or simply the uncomfortable environment. It's hampered both of his GSL runs so far (one Code S and one Super Tournament), and it's a major concern for all those who hope he might win an offline title again. But, fortunately for ByuN in DH: Last Chance, wrist pain doesn't seem to afflict him in online play, or at least not to such a severe degree. He's been splendid in the three online majors he's played in so far, taking first place in ASUS ROG, top eight in NeXT Winter, and third place in TSL6.
Now, some fans might be worried about the end of ByuN's TSL6 run, where he was shellacked 3-0 by both Dark and Serral. I'd say it's not a big deal. It says less about the state of ByuN than it says about the current state of StarCraft II, where the 7~9 top players can all take a series off each other on any given day. Don't fret about ByuN, as he definitely has a fighting chance to win the championship.
Unlike Trap and ByuN, Rogue may never get a chance to be the hero. Despite that, the narrative around the two-time IEM Katowice champion is one of the more compelling ones in StarCraft II: he's either a world champion or simply not trying at all. But, in recent months, I've had to concede that his current reality is probably much more mundane and boring. Like many other progamers in the past, he's probably trying hard right now—yet still not playing at the level he wants to. [TL.net pushing a narrative and then disowning it? We'd never!]
Since winning Code S Season 2 back in August of 2020, Rogue has been stuck in that hazy very-good-but-not-great zone. Top four in Super Tournament 2 was his best subsequent performance; otherwise he's disappointed with several mid-table finishes. Obviously, a player with Rogue's resume can never be counted out, as he's shown he can go from zero to $200,000 on multiple occasions. However, for the 'mere' $12,500 first place prize on the line at DH: Last Chance, I wonder if we'll actually see Rogue unleash his black magic.
Finally, there's PartinG, who unfortunately has to play the underdog role in this group of death. He's come back down toward the middle of the GSL pack after a splendid top four run in Code S Season one, but his knowledge of cheeses, precise micro, and occasionally dominant macro PvT make him a persistently dangerous wildcard. Case in point: he swept both Cure and TY in the qualifiers to earn his Last Chance spot. In that vein, getting and winning a match against ByuN will be key for PartinG—PvT has been by far his strongest match-up in the current balance patch, and he'll have to lean on it if he wants to advance.
Predictions: Trap is the most consistently strong player in this group, and he's my favorite to advance here. That said, nothing is assured in this group, as ByuN, PartinG, and Rogue can play a championship-tier BO3 against anyone when things are clicking. In the end, I'm picking ByuN to advance alongside Trap, in a nod to his recent online performances.
ByuN > Rogue
Trap > PartinG
Trap > ByuN
Rogue > PartinG
ByuN > Rogue
Trap and ByuN advance.