2021's GSL Season 1 began with the return of Code A as a live, studio event. This new version of Code A will be held as a series of best-of-five matches, with the winners moving directly on to compete in Code S. With Code S shifting to a 16-player format, the new Code A event could be seen as a semi-replacement for the old Code S RO32/RO24 group stages.
In a rather perplexing move, AfreecaTV welcomed back Code A by scheduling the three most stark mismatches for the first day. The favorites ended up claiming their Code S spots without much trouble, with TY winning 3-1 over Prince, sOs going 3-0 against Percival, and Maru also taking a sweep against Creator.
Prince returned to the studio for the first time since Code S Season 2 in 2020. Despite being eliminated in the first round, he had left an impression on the fans with his creative/cheesy style, taking games off both Maru and Scarlett. He picked up right where he left off, beginning game one against TY with a proxy-Nexus inside the Terran main. However, TY quickly scouted this sOs-esque maneuver and reacted calmly on defense, taking an easy win after shutting down the initial tactical recall of four Adepts. Games two and four were also one-sided losses for Prince, but without the fun-factor of a crazy build. Whether it was due to mechanics or nervousness, Prince just couldn't keep up with TY's harassment while also executing his own game plan and lost in fairly straight-forward games.
However, even in defeat, Prince may have further improved his reputation among GSL fans due to his unorthodox, Skytoss-powered victory in game three. After starting with a 2-Stargate Void Ray opener, Prince found a way to transition into mass Carriers backed by Disruptors on the ground—all without dying in the meanwhile. TY's army of Marine and Vikings were unable to defeat the Protoss fleet in a straight-up fight, and the AfreecaTV Terran was forced to surrender his only loss of the series. After the games, TY joked that "At least for a moment, I knew how Zerg players felt."
Unfortunately for Percival—who made his AfreecaTV studio debut against teammate sOs—he wasn't able to make as much of an impact in a 0-3 defeat. The first game ended rather abruptly after a proxy-Robo vs proxy-Starport start. Percival was too hasty in moving out to clear the enemy proxy, giving sOs the greenlight to attack the undefended Terran base and do irreparable damage. Game two saw Percival go for a proxy-2 Rax Marauder strategy which successfully cancelled sOs' expansion Nexus. However, Percival was far too disrespectful of sOs' capacity for cheese, and made a greedy transition by expanding and teching at home while floating both Barracks. sOs promptly punished him with an old-school 4-Gate for an easy win.
Percival gave his best performance in the third and final game on Romanticide, hiding a proxy Starport and catching sOs completely off-guard with two cloaked Banshees. After killing over twenty Probes, Percival went for the kill by pulling SCV's and going for an all-in Bio-Tank attack. However, his lack of patience led to his downfall, as he hit an anti-timing ten seconds before Stimpak completed. Percival still had enough troops to win, but a poor fight into a super-charged Battery sealed the series in sOs' favor.
After the match, sOs said he was lucky to win the third game due to Percival's lack of experience in studio matches. sOs also expressed his relief at having earned a Code S RO16 berth for the first time in nearly two years and five seasons.
Creator came into day one with the strongest resume among the underdogs, but this was offset by the fact that he faced the strongest opponent. Maru took a dominating 3-0 sweep against his former Jin Air and current Team NV teammate, making up for a weak showing in the qualifiers.
Creator managed to keep things close for a while in game one on Deathaura, with the two players settling in for a standard macro game. While Maru was in control for most of the game, Creator's dangerous army centered on Colossi and Disruptors that made it difficult for Maru to fight head on. However, Maru was able to take Creator apart once he added mass Liberators to his army, razing base after Protoss base to force a GG.
The next two games were rather one-sided, with Creator taking fatal Probe losses to an Armory-Widow Mine drop in game two, and then ceding defeat in game three after committing to an ill-fated basetrade.
After the matches, Maru gave his fans some reasons to be optimistic going forward, mentioning his improving shoulder health and saying "I think I'll do better than last year." Of course, in typical Maru style, he still complained about Terran being underpowered when asked about the possibility of winning the G5L trophy.
Maru also gave a cheeky comment on his IEM semifinals loss to Reynor, joking that "After winning the second set, I thought 'this guy is really bad.' I felt really bad for a month for letting my guard down like that."
GSL Code A will continue on Thursday, Mar 25 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00) with DongRaeGu vs SpeCial, Cure vs ByuN, and RagnaroK vs Hurricane.