Tournament Spotlight:by dbRic1203
Stay At HomeStory Cup #3
It's been just over a week since Reynor was crowned as the IEM Katowice 2021 champion, and we're already headed straight into "pre-season" action. Although the global pandemic has prevented fans from enjoying a full-blown HomeStory Cup for over a year now, TakeTV has kept its tournament series going with online Stay At HomeStory Cup events. Now it's time for third StayAtHSC, which kicks off the unofficial 2021/22 pre-season in earnest.
Schedule: Stay at HomeStory Cup #3 runs over four days from March 11th to March 14th. The start time for the first day of games is 13:00 GMT (+00:00), though this may change for later days.
Format: Like regular HSC tournaments, StayAtHSC #3 is a 32-player invitational with two group stages followed by a double elimination playoff bracket. Both group stages are held GSL-style with 4-player double-elimination groups (8 groups of 4 in the RO32, 4 groups of 4 in the RO16). The top 8 players from the RO16 stage play in a double-elimination playoff bracket for the championship.
Prize pool: $5000 total; distribution to be announced later.
Roster: As usual, TakeTV has pulled all the strings to deliver a stacked roster of players from around the world, even including IEM Katowice champion Reynor and runner-up Zest.
Round of 32 Preview and Predictions
Group A: Cure – Lambo – Gerald – SkillousCure is the undisputed heavy hitter in Group A. While he can be hit and miss in premier events, he is still an absolute beast in small and medium sized online tournaments. A good example of that would be his mediocre performance at IEM Katowice 2021, followed up by his victory over Katowice runner-up Zest in the finals of an ESL Open Cup. We can expect Cure to deliver at his usual non-premier event level (that he was actually able to show offline once at GSL S1 2020 almost a year ago) and cruise through this group with ease.
Cure's three opponents from Europe are rather evenly matched: Shopify Rebellion's EU Zerg and championship coach Lambo, Team Exon's Gerald, and Cascades SKillous. The three players actually had insanely similar results in the DH Masters: Europe events in 2020. All three players had a single top 8 finish as their best performance and a top 12 finish as their second best performance. Head-to-head, the two young Protoss players have been trading blows over 2020, going back and forth taking series off each other. While every player between the three has a decent shot at advancing, I pick Lambo here. Not only was he the brain behind Reynor's IEM run (maybe we'll even see the 'proper' version of the Void Ray Killer build), but he also beat both opponents consistently in 2020 and should be able to repeat it here.
Cure 2-0 Skillous
Lambo 1-2 Gerald
Cure 2-0 Gerald
Lambo 2-1 Skillous
Lambo 2-0 Gerald
Cure and Lambo advance
Group B: Serral – Astrea – Armani – SoulIn Group B the top spot should be relatively clear once again. Serral must be pretty disappointed with his IEM Katowice showing. While he took out lesser players with ease, he lost when he faced championship contenders in Dark and Clem. We can only assume he is here for revenge and I expect him to play well as he always has in TakeTV events. Serral has won the last five HSC/StayAtHSC events—can he make it six in a row?
The fight for 2nd place is going to be tough, with all three remaining players having a decent shot at advancing. The new NA hope Astrea almost managed to get out of one of the tougher groups at IEM Katowice with a 2-3 record, taking a map off Reynor and even winning his series against Zest and Trap. Armani just barely failed to escape the IEM play-in bracket, but he's gained a recent boost in momentum after beating Maru and Dark in the first Code S qualifier of 2021. Is it fool's gold? Or will he show us some newly uncovered, world-class skills in StayAtHSC? While souL didn’t qualify for Katowice, he still showed a good form in various online tournaments lately, going toe-to-toe with players like Big Gabe, Armani or Creator. Still with his great showing at IEM, I am going to pick Astrea to advance in 2nd place here.
Serral 2-0 Soul
Astrea 1-2 Armani
Serral 2-0 Armani
Soul 1-2 Astrea
Armani 0-2 Astrea
Serral and Astrea advance
Group C: Reynor – Showtime – Bunny – GoblinReynor is definitely the top player in this group and should be the favorite to move on to the second group stage. His ZvT is probably the strongest on the planet right now thanks to some insane Archon training pre-Katowice (sometimes even playing 1v5) and he showed strong ZvP there as well.
The race for 2nd place in this group is going to be really tight between ShoWTimE and Bunny. While Die Mauer failed to have an impact in his Terran-heavy IEM group, Bunny is mostly considered to be a step behind ShoWTimE's IEM groupmates TY, Maru, Clem, and Byun. Meanwhile Bunny's TvP wasn’t tested at all in the World Championship event. While his 3-1 victory over Stats in GSL ST1 2021 was indeed impressive, that was pretty much his only high level win against Protoss players this year. Also he failed to follow it up by losing to Zest in the next round. With the overall match history in PvT looking slightly more impressive for the German, I predict him to win their match by the slightest of margins. The last player in the group, Team Rotti’s goblin, is most likely not going to be able to have a bigger impact in this group:
Reynor 2-0 goblin
Showtime 0-2 Bunny
Reynor 2-1 Bunny
Showtime 2-1 goblin
Bunny 1-2 Showtime
Reynor and Showtime advance
Group D: Rogue – Scarlett – Zoun – VanyaIn Group B, the race for the top spot is way more open than in some other groups. Rogue, Scarlett, and Zoun all can be characterized by the same word: inconsistent. While that sounds pretty harsh at first, that also means they can reach insanely high peaks as well. Rogue won multiple world championships at his best, only to fall into unbelievable slumps right afterwards. Scarlett was a regular Code S participant before she had to leave Korea due to the pandemic, and made a surprising underdog run to win IEM PyeongChang in 2018. Zoun has been rising quickly, more than carrying his weight for Alpha X in the GTC, and managing to get 2nd place in the first GSL Super Tournament 1 of 2021.
Still none of these 3 players is looking super hot right now. Rogue managed to get out of his Katowice group with solid play, but got completely destroyed by former teammate Maru in the playoffs. Scarlett's IEM run ended in the play-in stages, where she was the only player who didn't even win a map as she was eliminated by Cyan and uThermal. Zoun also seems to have fallen back to his old level after the Super Tournament surge, putting up mediocre results since then.
While Vanya can definitely take maps in this group, his record against Code S level Koreans has been really poor, which doesn't bode well with 2.5 Koreans in his group. In the end, I'm going with the players who have the best recent results in Zoun and Rogue.
Rogue 2-1 Vanya
Scarlett 1-2 Zoun
Rogue 1-2 Zoun
Scarlett 2-1 Vanya
Rogue 2-0 Scarlett
Zoun and Rogue advance
Group E: Clem – Byun – Mana – BlyWhile Clem was able to conclude his breakout 2020/21 campaign with a top eight run at IEM Katowice, ByuN failed to perform up to (admittedly high) expectations. After his impressive return to competition from his mandatory military service, many fans expected a deep run from him at the biggest event of the year. While the One Man Army managed to qualify for the main event, his path through the play-in stage was way bumpier than most fans expected. This foreshadowed his rather mediocre performance in the group stage, though it can be somewhat excused given his extremely difficult group. ByuN actually has a chance to take revenge on Clem now, who handed him one of his IEM losses. No matter the outcome of that IEM Katowice rematch, the Terran duo should still be able to get out of this group pretty handily, as both MaNa and Bly have horrendous head-to-head match histories against both Terrans.
Clem 2-0 Bly
Byun 2-0 Mana
Clem 2-1 Byun
Mana 2-1 Bly
Byun 2-1 Mana
Clem and Byun advance
Group F: Innovation – Solar – Ptitdrogo – MaxPaxAt first glance Group F has two clear favorites and two clear underdogs. The duo of KaiZi players were good-but-not-great in 2020/21. Solar was a RO16 regular in Code S while showing strong online play, especially in the ESL Weeklies. Meanwhile INnoVation got to the RO8 in almost every tournament he entered. Unfortunately, neither of them managed to really affect the championship picture. Solar’s only top 4 performance came in 2020's Super Tournament 1, which was almost exactly one year ago now. As for INnoVation, his last finals appearance was in TSL5 back in June of 2020. Still, on paper, that makes them strong enough to get to the RO16 easily.
PtitDrogo's year has been in his own words “similar/barely worse than [2019, where he almost made it to BlizzCon]”, “while [being] overall worse in 2020 compared to [his] competition.“ His level of play recently hasn’t been any different from that, so it can’t really be expected from him to make it out of the group. Dark horse player MaxPax is a completely different beast, though. Yes, he is still the big underdog here. But he has actually beaten players like Parting, Zest, Armani and Solar in 2021 already. If he has another performance like in WardiTV 2021, where he survived a Group of Death, he might have a puncher's chance at advancing here:
Innovation 2-0 MaxPax
Solar 2-0 Ptitdrogo
Innovation 2-1 Solar
MaxPax 2-1 Ptitdrogo
Solar 2-1 MaxPax
Innovation and Solar advance
Group G: Zest – Gabe – Elazer – GungfubandaGroup G has two ESL weekly grinders as the headliners: Zest and HeroMarine. Both of them performed very well at IEM Katowice, with Big Gabe reaching the playoffs for the first time in his career while Zest earned his second consecutive Liquipedia silver medal. Zest managed to beat HeroMarine in the group stage and can be considered the favorite to advance in first place. For the King of the EPT weeklies from Germany, it could be a little bit harder to get out here against strong competition in Poland’s best player, Elazer. While the Zerg certainly wasn’t pleased with his own performance in the open bracket of IEM, he still can be a very dangerous and unpredictable opponent. The final player in this group, GunGFuBanDa can probably take maps from all players in the group and maybe even cause an upset. All three opponents are still favored against him and taking two upsets seems pretty unlikely for him.
The other ticket into Group Stage 2 will most likely be decided in a match between Elazer and Big Gabe. It's hard to predict this match as they haven't had an official tournament match against each other in 2021, and neither player has yet scored a quality win against a player above their weight class. Still, they've looked strong in losses, with Big Gabe being the only player to pierce Reynor's early-game defense at IEM while Elazer played well against Clem in WardiTV 2021. I'm going with HeroMarine because of his consistency and good IEM run.
Zest 2-1 Gungfubanda
Heromarine 2-1 Elazer
Zest 2-0 Heromarine
Gungfubanda 0-2 Elazer
Heromarine 2-1 Elazer
Zest and HeroMarine advance
Group H: Stats – DongRaeGu – Kelazhur – HarstemStats has constantly been in the conversation for best Protoss player in the world for the last three years. While Trap or Zest have outshone him as of late, Stats has had more long-term success in LotV. Since his second place finishes at the DH Winter Finals and Super Tournament 2, he has cooled down quite a bit, being unable to go on deeper runs ever since. Still, this group should be more than just doable for the Shield of Aiur.
While Harstem didn't qualify for IEM Katowice, that doesn't mean he's necessarily worse than DongRaeGu or Team Liquid's Kelazhur. Both of them had a chance to play at IEM Katowice, and both of them were eliminated by the 2nd round of the losers bracket. The fight for the second spot into group stage 2 is going to be fierce between the three players. While I give Harstem a slight edge over his Brazilian teammate, who is also a staff member of the Dutch organization, the Protoss might struggle a bit more against DRG. While both players seem to struggle a bit in the PvZ matchup (DRG's winrate in 2021 is below 45% and Harstem hasn't beat a Code S level Zerg in a while). Looking at Harstem's past struggles with Korean Zergs in particular, where his last map win against them was against soO in Nation Wars 2019, I predict DRG to take second place here.
Stats 2-1 Harstem
DRG 2-0 Kelazhur
Stats 2-0 DRG
Harstem 2-0 Kelazhur
DRG 2-0 Harstem
Stats and DRG advance
Group Stage 2 and PlayoffsOnce the field is narrowed down to the RO16, the match-ups should be quite even, and unlucky group draws might see some strong players go out early. Unfortunately for the underdogs and rising stars, it's hard to see any of them surviving two rounds of group play and make a splash in the playoffs.
With the *new age of parity* we've entered in SC2, it is pretty hard to single out an overall favorite to win a tournament nowadays. I'll go with the boring picks and say reigning world champion Reynor, five-time consecutive HSC/StayAtHSC winner Serral, and online warriors like Zest, Cure and Byun have the best chances of going all the way.