2021 GSL Code A Season 1 - Day 2 Previewby Poopi
While the results from day one of Code A were pretty predictable, day two promises to deliver more fierce competition. First, DongRaeGu will fight SpeCial yet another time in GSL since his return from military service, this time in a BO5. Then, Cure and ByuN will face off in the match of death from day two. And finally, RagnaroK will play the role of Code S gatekeeper versus Hurricane.
Match #1: DongRaeGu vs SpeCialThe first match of day two features DongRaeGu and SpeCial, who have frequently played competitive matches against each other since DongRaeGu came back from his military service in 2019 (despite their old school backgrounds, they did not face each other much before LotV).
On paper (Aligulac.com is digital but the English idioms haven’t catched up yet), one would think that SpeCial doesn't really stand a chance. Since his return, DongRaeGu has defeated SpeCial in 8 matches and only lost 4 times for a combined map score of 18-11. In addition, DRG's present best match-up seems to be ZvT, with his 2808 rating on Aligulac.com making him the fourth best ZvT player in Korea. In contrast SpeCial has a 2396 rating in TvZ—Aligulac ratings don't tell the whole story, but such wide point gaps (especially between players in the same region) are a strong indicator of relative skill.
However, after further inspection, one can make a more qualitative case that there's some hope for SpeCial. Out of these twelve prior encounters, four matches were substantially more important than the others: Code S Season 3 2019, Code S Season 1 2020, Code S Season 2 2020, and IEM Katowice 2020. In these matches, SpeCial went 2-2 in matches with a map score of 5-5: a perfect tie. We might interpret this to reaffirm what we already know about SpeCial: he can rise to the occasion in big events. SpeCial may have been overshadowed by other non-Korean players lately, but it was considered an incredible feat when he reached the BlizzCon semifinals in 2017 (defeating TY and Stats in the group stage), and beat Classic to reach the quarterfinals of BlizzCon 2018.
While there is hope for SpeCial, those BlizzCons are far in the past, and his recent TvZ form is not that great. A little bit of that clutch SpeCial showed up in the Super Tournament qualifiers two months ago, when he defeated Rogue to claim a main event spot. On the other hand, he recently dropped a BO3 series to Latin American player Erik, albeit in a small online cup.
Another close examination of the stats that gives SpeCial some hope is that DongRaeGu built up his high ZvT rating in the latter part of 2020. In 2021, DRG had more trouble in the match-up. His recent StayAt HomeStory Cup 3 performance was a mixed bag: he lost twice to souL, but he did sweep ByuN in a clean 3-0. On a more positive note, he narrowly beat TY—who is a big inspiration for SpeCial as well as his practice partner—by a 6-5 score.
DRG is clearly the favorite versus SpeCial, but the Mexican Terran is often able to be clutch in prestigious tournaments and he is a proven virtuoso of preparation. The opening match could end up being quite exciting.
Prediction: DongRaeGu 3 - 2 SpeCial
Match #2: Cure vs ByuNThis battle probably takes the cake as the most anticipated match of the night. Cure has quietly been destroying Terrans left and right in 2021, sporting a whopping 85%+ match win rate (23-4) with a similarly impressive 74% map win rate (62-22). Surprisingly, he actually attained his highest ever Aligulac rating in early March, peaking higher than in early 2020 when he was hailed as the next big thing after leaving Jin Air and flying solo—and that run 'only' ended in a second place Code S finish. Some 200 Aligulac rating points separate Cure and ByuN in TvT—hardly an insurmountable gap, but nothing to look past either.
After reading Cure’s bit, you might be a bit worried for our Terran Horseman ByuN. But, as with SpeCial and DRG, some of the detailed history between the two players reveals another side of the story. Let’s get back to Cure's match history to learn a bit more about the only four TvT matches he lost in 2021. The only Terrans that managed to beat him this year were Clem, INnoVation, and ByuN—twice. “Beat” is quite an understatement in the case of ByuN, since he destroyed Cure 4-0 in ITaX Trovo Series #7 and 4-1 in OlimoLeague 2021 January Monthly Finals—though Cure got him back with a 2-0 win in a more recent ITaX event.. Let’s also look even further into the past, when ByuN had just returned from military service. He surpassed all expectations and beat Cure 2-0 the Code S Season 3 qualifier to earn an immediate return to the GSL, which eventually helped him qualify for IEM Katowice. Overall, ByuN is 8-4 in matches against Cure since his return from the military, and has won all their meetings in 'major' events.
While Aligulac only gives ByuN around a 30% chance to win, this Code A match will probably end up being a fierce battle between two Code S-worthy Terrans. This is could be a case where mathematical formulas don't tell the whole tale—TL.net Liquibetters are favoring ByuN thus far (some inside info from the editor). Even though ByuN runs the risk of having his wrist issues flare up once more in the GSL studio, I believe in his ability to get past this challenge and reach Code S.
Prediction: ByuN 3 - 1 Cure
Match #3: RagnaroK vs HurricaneZvP has been a volatile match-up since the rise of Void Rays as a standard opener. Some players and fans swore that Protoss would dominate the competition at iEM Katowice with the perfected Skytoss composition, but instead Reynor managed to take out the top Protosses with carefully crafted Queen busts. A month later, Stats proved that Protoss late-game was still quite formidable, winning StayAt HomeStory Cup #3 by beating Reynor, Rogue, and Serral with the help of Carriers. We don't have much information about Skytoss's effectiveness at the lower end of GSL, which makes Hurricane's BO5 against RagnaroK an intriguing match. Neither player was able to go further than the RO16 of Code S. RagnaroK was a bit more successful in that regard, qualifying for Code S in all 3 seasons, with a top 16 finish in Season 1. Hurricane was eliminated in the RO24 in Code S Seasons 1 and 3, and did not manage to qualify in Season 2, losing to Bomber and then Bunny in the qualifiers.
RagnaroK is a strong favorite according to Aligulac.com with an over 80% chance to win. This is largely in part due to his impressive PvZ rating (2689), which is seventh place in the world—much higher than you might expect compared to RagnaroK's tournament results. On the other hand, Hurricane's rating of PvZ 2220 is around where one might expect, placing him at 27th in the world. RagnaroK has played a lot of ZvP in 2021, with a solid 61% match win rate (19-2 losses) for a combined map score of 44-33 losses (57% win rate). He's won several times against top Protosses such as Zest, Trap and Neeb, though mixed in are losses to weaker players like Nice and Creator.
Among RagnaroK's many games, I thought his 3-0 victory against MaxPax in WardiTV 2021 Main Event (VOD) was instructive of how he's a strong player in the Skytoss-centric ZvP meta, and how he should be able to respond to any trickery Hurricane tries to employ. Sure, Maxpax isn’t yet at RagnaroK level in spite of his great potential, but he is very often a tricky player to face and very fond of aerial protoss units. In game one, RagnaroK won against an army consisting of mostly Void Rays, Sentries and Disruptors with a very sharp Hydra-Bane-Queen timing attack at around the 9:30 mark. In game two, he busted through a Void Ray opener with a much earlier timing at around the six minutes, going for mass Queens and Ravagers. RagnaroK didn't win straight up, but he proved that he could use a big economic advantage to overpower a Carrier-Templar force. In the third and final game, RagnaroK saw past Maxpax's Void Ray into Glaive-Adept mind game, surviving a potentially dangerous timing attack to take a win.
On the other hand, Hurricane hasn't played that much PvZ in 2021, and has a poor match record of 4-8 (33% win-rate) for a combined map score of 10-17 losses (37% winrate). Even going back as far as January of 2020 to gather more long-term data, Hurricane still has a worrying sub-50% win rate in the match-up. The one bright point is that Hurricane has a slightly positive all-time record against RagnaroK, though mostly off the back of matches played in 2019 and earlier when he was arguably the better player. Another sliver of hope is that Hurricane recently beat RagnaroK in a best-of-one during the 2021 BJ Destruction Matches. However, best of five is a whole other world, so I'm going to follow Aligulac’s very one-sided prediction for this match.
Prediction: RagnaroK 3 - 0 Hurricane