2021 GSL Code S Season 1 - Round of 16by GhostForGood
After a topsy-turvy Group A which saw the two favourites in TY and DRG fail to qualify into the quarterfinals of Code S, fans should brace themselves for more potential upsets in another exciting day of GSL battles.
Let the TvT Wars begin
While Group A offered a balanced representation of the three factions, Group B is overflowing with Terrans—Solar being the sole Zerg in the four-man group.
While TvT has a reputation for longer macro games, we have already witnessed some dynamic, unorthodox Terran battles occur in Code S between TY and Bunny. Not only did we watch TY pull-off a proxy-Barracks Marauder-Hellion rush, but we also saw an insane proxy-Reaper mirror war that left both players with just one lonely worker apiece. Therefore, if Group A’s TvT was anything to go by, we could be in for some extremely fast-paced Terran battles on top of the anticipated macro wars.
Group B: Maru, Solar, Cure, DreamStart time: Thursday, Apr 08 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
Headlining Group B is none other than the legendary Terran Maru. The Marine Prince may feel a sense of déjà vu heading into his Ro16 matches, finding himself placed into a Terran dominated group reminiscent of his 2021 IEM Katowice Ro24 TvT battles with TY, Clem and ByuN. In that regard, the Code S draw might encourage Maru—being one world’s strongest TvT players allowed him to escape that brutal IEM group in second place and reach the semifinals. Maru will probably feel quite comfortable as he prepares to enter the Code S Ro16 group stage.
Although Maru has been exceedingly quiet on the professional SC2 scene this year due to a shoulder injury (and his historic reservedness in non-major competitions), one only has to look at his impressive run in IEM to reaffirm his strength as a world-leading Terran. Despite a rocky start to his Katowice conquest, narrowly overcoming ByuN 2-1 and losing to TY 0-2, Maru followed up by winning his next five matches against Solar, Clem, ShoWTimE, HeRoMaRinE and Rogue—all without dropping a single game! Maru eventually fell short against the eventual world champion Reynor in a tight, five-game semi-final—yet IEM still clearly highlighted the deadly form that Maru is in.
With that being said, it was somewhat of a surprise to see Maru fail to qualify directly into Code S, losing to Armani 0-2 in the final match of the day one qualifiers. However, Maru assusaged some of the lurking doubts with a crushing 3-0 victory over Creator in Code A, booking his place into Code S’s Ro16.
Maru may be the favourite on paper in Group B, he faces some fierce opposition against the likes of Cure and Solar. Cure has surged in the various pre-season competitions after IEM Katowice, and is the new #1 TvT player according to Aligulac.com at the time of writing. Maru and Cure were tied in their 2020 matches (with Maru holding a 9-7 map score advantage), but the two have yet to face off with each other in 2021. Although I would still personally regard Maru as the favourite against Cure, the latter clearly remains a strong threat. Maru, then, will need to produce some solid TvT if he’s to overcome the other top Terran in the group..
In contrast to Maru, Zerg’s sole representative in the group, Solar, has been playing non-stop of late, participating in tournaments regardless of server. While he’s clearly performing best in ZvZ, Solar’s ZvT has been respectable this year at around a 65% map win-rate. Solar’s recent strength in ZvT was on display in his qualification pathway into Code S, as he defeated Bunny as well as groupmate Cure (twice) to bag his automatic berth into the highly prestigious event. Solar’s strong ZvT was also on display in the WardiTV Winter Champion, where he took convincing wins against ByuN and, once again, Cure on his way to the championship (defeating Zoun 3-2 in the finals).
I should state here that Cure is actually slightly ahead of Solar in terms of overall head-to-head results (and leads 5-4 in series this year), and we all know that Solar is a tough match for even the best of Terrans. As a result, both Maru and Cure will need to take the Zerg very carefully in their upcoming Code S matches. Even Maru—who has a head-to-head lead against Solar, who defeated him in unforgettable fashion in the IEM Katowice group stages, who hand-picked him as easy prey during the group selections—should recognize that Solar is more than capable of causing a shocking upset or two in the Ro16.
Getting back to Cure, he has been similar to Solar in playing online matches galore this year. However, despite his online success and impressive Aligulac rating, qualification into Code S was rather rocky going for Cure. As mentioned above, he was forced to play in Code A after losing to Solar in a direct qualifying match, nullifying his previous victories against Stats and Bunny. Unlucky seeding forced him to play a roller-coaster of a TvT against ByuN in Code A, which exhibited pulsating play from both sides. From ByuN’s early Raven/Tank/Marine push, to Cure’s unorthodox mass Thor and Tank strategy, we saw a nail-biting contest that challenged and pushed Cure to perform at his absolute best throughout. Cure just barely prevailed in the end—perhaps due to ByuN’s ailing wrists.
Cure’s game has been strong all round in 2021—TvZ being his ‘weakest’ match-up at a 69% map win-rate—but as previously stated, he’s been clear at his best when faced with Terran competition. Cure’s initial Ro16 match against the underdog Dream—a player he has only ever lost to once in all five of their previous contests—should surely prove a good test before having to do battle with the might of Maru.
As for Dream, he really couldn’t have asked for a more difficult Code S draw. In contrast to Maru and Cure, Dream has won barely 50% of his TvT matches this year. While Dream surprised us by defeating TY 2-1 to qualify into the GSL Super Tournament 1 (not to mention his incredible semi-final finish in said event!)—in addition to taking some quality wins here and there against top Terran’s such as Cure and ByuN—on the whole, it’s hard for me to comprehend how Dream can overcome the incredible odds of passing through this Terran ‘group of death’.
That being said, because of Dream’s tendency to unleash some crazy performances in big events, perhaps it would be wrong of me to rule the Terran out completely. Furthermore, he notched his first ever win against Cure in last week’s WardiTV Spring Championship preliminaries, and has a positive record against Solar in 2021 (albeit by one match). I could be very well mistaken for thinking that Dream’s campaign in Code S has ended before it has even begun! Yet, in as highly pressurised and important a tournament as Code S is, it is still extremely hard for me to envision Dream overcoming the strength of Maru, Cure and Solar, all in the space of just one day. Regardless, I look forward to seeing how Dream will perform, and remain welcome to any potential upsets and surprises that he has proved capable of producing in the past!
Prediction: Maru and Cure to advance.