2021 GSL Code A Season 1 - Day 1 Previewby Seracis
The 2021/22 ESL Pro Tour is set to begin in earnest with Global Starcraft II League Season 1. This year, the GSL format has changed considerably in the lower rounds of the competition, with the return of Code A being the most notable difference (GSL preliminaries have been called Code A in the past, but they didn't carry the weight of a 'true' Code A).
This new version of Code A is effectively a replacement for the first group stage of Code S (RO24/32), with 16 players facing off in a series of BO5 matches to determine who moves on to Code S. The eight Code A winners will join four Super Tournament seeds, alongside four first place finishers from the qualifiers to form the 16-player Code S roster. From there on out GSL follows its familiar old format, with GSL-style group play in the RO16 followed by single elimination playoffs.
Day 1: The PvT FiestaStart time: Monday, Mar 22 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
Code A players were seeded based on their performance in the double-elimination qualifiers, which also included extra matches for seeding purposes. This has led to some interesting pairings on later playdays, but the first slate of matches looks rather predictable to say the least.
We have three PvT’s with three legends of the Starcraft II scene facing three complete underdogs: TY, sOs and Maru will play against Prince, Percival and Creator respectively. Though Creator had a taste of glory in 2012, those days are far in the past. Meanwhile, Prince and Percival have barely any experience in the GSL (none, in the case of Percival).
But viewers should resist the urge to skip the opening matches, because the PvT meta is arguably in one of the most diverse states it has ever been in. At IEM Katowice we saw a wide range of builds from the Terran side. Fast 3CC and 4 Hellion drop builds are a flavor from last year, but they're still finding success in 2021. Even almost ancient ideas like 3-Rax timings have made a return over the past few months to catch greedy Protoss players off guard. From the Protoss perspective there is a wide range of options as well. While the established builds like defensive-Phoenix into Colossus or Blink with a fast third base still are solid choices, PvT experts Zest and PartinG also showed that more aggressive builds like 4 Gate Blink, DT drops, Phoenix into Chargelots, or PartinG’s new 17 Nexus 3 Gate might be even more effective than defensive approaches.
In particular, the PartinG build and Terran responses to it will be something to look out for, as PartinG piloted it to convincing victories against both INnoVation and TY at IEM Katowice. I expect this build to appear a few times, but it's hard to say for certain where the meta has settled since IEM. So, let’s take a look at the lineup for Code A day 1.
Match #1: TY vs PrinceTY barely needs any introduction as he finished the 2020/21 EPT Season in first place in the Korea standings, winning two out of three Code S championships on the year. Even though he lost to PartinG’s 17 Nexus trickery in the quarterfinals of IEM Katowice, he is still one of the strongest Terrans at the moment. The biggest surprise is how he failed to qualify directly for Code S on the first day of the qualifiers, giving up upsets to both Ragnarok and Creator.
The rather unheralded Prince is a Korean Protoss who made some waves by qualifying for Code S Season 2 last year. He may have lost the first match to Maru, but he managed to steal a map with a weird 6 Gate Chargelot timing. Prince ended up being eliminated in last place, but not before also taking a map off Scarlett with a cheeky cannon/ battery contain. It was a very Protoss-y showing from Prince, but interestingly enough, fans seemed to give him more appreciation than scorn for his creativity.
TY seems to struggle a bit versus aggressive Protoss styles and so far Prince has shown that he fits into that category quite well. If there is a potential for a close series on the first day of Code A, I would definitely predict this one out of the three matches. It’s going to be interesting to see what Prince may come up with. With some Protoss trickery there is definitely a chance that he may take a map or two.
...Or TY just roasts 20 Probes with a 4 Hellion drop at the 4minute mark three times in a row and ruins all hope of a close series.
Prediction: TY 3-0 Prince
Match #2: sOs vs PercivalsOs to me is still an eternal enigma. The only two-time BlizzCon champion has been a shadow of his former self with his best result last year being reaching the RO8 of IEM Katowice 2020. He didn’t even reach the Code S RO16 a single time in last year’s GSL, and he also failed to reach the main event of IEM Katowice 2021 after losing to both Dream and ByuN in the play-in stages. But he also got a higher Code A seed by beating Dark 2-0 in a seeding match, so there is that.
The interesting part about sOs’ PvT is that he has been opting to go for super standard Blink/Colossus builds in almost every single game, which is surprising, considering that the current state of PvT meta allows for a diverse range of strategies. While other Protosses are showcasing how effective aggressive and cheesy play can be, the most infamous Protoss trickster is playing mostly macro games. It's kind of ironic for someone who won a game by building a Nexus in his opponent's base and producing probes from it.
sOs' opponent is probably the most unknown and also one of the weakest players in the entirety Code A. The Korean Terran Percival is on a quest for his personal holy grail, the grail in this case being reaching Code S for the first time ever. He hasn't even come close to qualifying before, never reaching a qualifying match in previous preliminaries. This time around, he took out Patience 2-0 to arrive in Code A, already making it the best achievement in his SC2 career (the other contender for his best result would be second place in Olimoleague #219 where he got absolutely obliterated by Zest 3-0).
So, even though sOs isn’t in good shape and he seems to put himself behind every single game due to his rather weak mechanics, it still should be more than enough to handle his inexperienced Team NV teammate. Even though his recent games suggest otherwise, I feel like sOs will bring some refined cheddar again even if it only comes in the form of a fast proxy Void Ray build.
Prediction: sOs 3-0 Percival
Match #3: Maru vs Creator2020/21 wasn't Maru's best campaign, but he still managed to win two tournaments, reach a Code S finals, and enter IEM Katowice 2021 as the #3 seed from Korea. At IEM, Maru just barely lost to Reynor 2-3 in a nail-biting semifinal series, and looked very much like a strong title contender.
Since Maru rarely participates in online cups, it’s hard to find up-to-date data for his PvT other than his really convincing performance against ShoWTimE at Katowice. He is 9-2 in PvT matches since November, only losing to Trap and Stats, which suggests that he should not have much trouble against a player like Creator.
That being said, Maru didn’t have the cleanest path to Code A, losing to Armani 0-2 in the final match of day 1 which cost him a direct Code S seed..
Creator's 2020 was quite miserable, at least compared to his time in the sun all the way back in 2012. Since then he has shown a spark of hope several times but still failed to qualify for a single Code S RO16 since his glory days. Last year, he qualified for two seasons of Code S, and even got close to reaching the RO16 in Season 3. However, the pressure overcame him in the crucial deciding series against Zest.
Creator defeated TY and sOs on day 1 of the Code A qualifiers, but couldn't pursue a direct Code S seed after losing to INnoVation. He earned his Code A spot on day 2, defeating a soft slate of opponents including NaTuRal and Billowy. Overall, it was a mixed qualifier performance, and not the most convincing one.
Maru’s recent performances don’t leave any doubts that he is the overwhelming favorite here. Creator is one of those players who doesn’t avoid long, drawn out games, a field in which Maru excels at. If Creator was facing a more inconsistent player who didn't want to play the late game like ByuN, I would give him some chance for a potential upset. But since it’s Maru, I have to go with the favorite here.
Prediction: Maru 3-0 Creator