2021 GSL Super Tournament 2 - Day 3by Wax
The final day of the Super Tournament here! In the first semifinal, one of the underdog runs of the tournament must finally come to an end, as Zoun and sOs duel for a grand finals berth. In the second semifinal, Maru and Trap face off in a Code S rematch, with the winner heavily favored to win the championship no matter who comes out from the other side of the bracket.
Day 4 Preview: Semifinals and Grand FinalStart time: Thursday, May 27 8:00am GMT (GMT+00:00)
Semifinal Match #1: Zoun vs sOs
This match is akin to Cinderella arriving at the prince's ball in her gown and glass slippers, only to find out the fairy godmother sent another poor girl to the ball in her own pumpkin carriage. Now, the clock must strike midnight on one of these Protoss fairy tales in this semifinals showdown.
Over the last year, I've been skeptical about Zoun's ceiling as a player, even as the community has rallied behind him as the next great Protoss hope. Mostly, I've been concerned about his shortcomings in the finesse/micro side of the game—for a player who really likes making Disruptors, he sure does send them off to front line deaths a lot! However, after seeing him take two incredible upset victories over Dark and Rogue in Super Tournament #2, I've started to see shades of Zest in him. Zest's play can look sloppy and rough around the edges at times, but he always makes enough good big picture decisions to stay a dangerous, feared, championship contender. Zoun isn't quite at that level yet, but at least now I see the potential for him to reach it.
Placing second place in Super Tournament #1 was a breakthrough moment in Zoun's career, but that success was undercut by the beating he took in the Code S group of death. Reaching a second straight Super Tournament final would be a giant step in moving on from being merely a plucky underdog, and becoming a fringe title contender.
The other surprise semifinalist of the bracket is sOs, a sentimental fan-favorite whose skill level is always a mystery. Eight straight seasons without a Code S RO8 appearance seems to peg him as a low/mid-tier player, but he's continued to make the occasional deep run in various other competitions. However, all those runs came to a close when he met the true elites of the game, like his run-in with Maru at the IEM Katowice 2020 quarterfinals. As such, his run to the Super Tournament #2 semifinals so far isn't that unexpected a result—a real surprise would be sOs taking the next step and winning his first championship in nearly six years.
However, I think sOs' gameplay so far has been quite noteworthy, and offers faint hope that he might finally lift a trophy again. While sOs has continued to be a cheesy player in his post-prime, his reputation has definitely been bigger than his results. PvT in particular, has been a match-up where he hasn't ventured too far outside the box, prefering to play generic macro games (which he does happen to play well). However, in his brutal 3-0 takedowns of TY and Dream, sOs demonstrated a deviousness we haven't seen since his peak playing days. Each well-crafted build set up the next one, plunging his opponents in an ever-deepening, sanity-threatening pit of despair. sOs' dissection of Dream was especially impressive, with Dream reduced to a shivering wreck by the mere sight of an empty Protoss natural in game three.
Unfortunately for sOs, his next match is a PvP, where the inherent cheesiness of the match-up blunts his comparative edge. Even the most orthodox players know that they have to mix things up and go for proxies and risky strategies, or else they'll be too predictable to succeed in the most volatile mirror. It bodes especially poorly for sOs when you consider his last handful of PvP showings in GSL Code S. Playing in a Protoss-heavy Group D, sOs didn't really look like a strategic mastermind. Instead, he looked like a madman obsessed with trying to get Dark Templars to work, be it with early game proxies or a random mid-game tech switch. Perhaps this DT-oriented approach would have seemed brilliant if it had worked, but alas, Trap and Zest were not fooled, and sOs suffered group stage elimination yet again.
On the other hand, strong PVP was a key part of Zoun's finals run in the previous Super Tournament, as he took down both PartinG and Zest before losing to Trap. Zoun demonstrated his well-balanced strengths in PvP, defeating PartinG in mostly macro games while switching to aggressive early-game builds to earn a sweep over Zest.
The two players have a very limited head-to-head history, with sOs leading 2-0 in maps. Both players have around 60% PvP win-rates in 2021 ([Zoun], [sOs]), while Zoun has a moderate lead in Aligulac.com PvP rating with 2696 points to sOs' 2541.
Prediction: While Zoun has had more PvP success than sOs in recent major tournaments, their close overall PvP power levels makes it one of those matches where you just throw up your hands and say "I don't know man, anything can happen in a PvP." If sOs brings a sequence of meticulously prepared builds, a game one win could easily snowball into a 3-0 sweep. Or, it could just as easily go 3-0 in the other direction, with Zoun prevailing with his own collection of cheeses. Or, the series could take a completely unexpected turn, going all five games after the two players agree to an honorable macro game pact. Since Zoun has shown more potential for rapid growth and improvement, I'll give him the small edge here in the official prediction.
Zoun 3 - 1 sOs
Semifinal Match #2: Trap vs Maru
Is this the unofficial championship match of the Super Tournament? Maru and Trap could easily be considered the #1 player of their respective factions, and both players have won multiple championships since 2021. In contrast, neither of the players on the other side of the bracket have been considered title contenders for quite some while—not even when Zoun actually reached the Super Tournament finals. Though Zoun and sOs have impressed so far this tournament, one has to admit that the victor of Maru vs Trap will be a heavy favorite against either Protoss in the grand finals.
This bout is also an intriguing rematch from the recent Code S semifinals. In that now-infamous series, Trap initially went up 3-0 on Maru with near-perfect Protoss play, calmly deflecting Terran harassment and offensives before calmly converting his leads into victories. Then, as Trap neared a 4-0 sweep with a proxy-Tempest cheese in game four, he let victory slip through his fingers in a moment of panic and lost concentration. Trap never recovered his bearings after, losing three more games in one-sided fashion to concede the reverse sweep. One might have called it the worst collapse of Trap's career... ...if not for the egg he laid in the IEM Katowice group stages a couple of months prior. Really, the speed at which Trap is racking up devastating losses is alarming—he's going to catch up with soO at this rate.
In sharp contrast to Trap's struggles in so-called "tier 1" major events, he's been a dominant force in tournaments that are just one tier below. Before the tragedy of IEM Katowice, Trap had won four championships in "tier 2" events (yes, I'm counting NeXT Winter). In fact, he's won the last two Super Tournaments, and he has a chance to attain the unique honor of becoming a 3x consecutive Super Tournament champion with a victory in this event. Now, that would really cement his reputation as the king of tier two's. Maru hasn't been as successful as Trap in non-Code S events, but he still managed to win two championships in 2020 (King of Battles and Super Tournament #1). He's certainly less consistent than he was during his dominant 2018-2019 campaign, but his top 4 finish in Katowice followed by his runner-up finish in Code S suggests that at least right now, he's in excellent form.
The fact that Trap can play at 100% of his ability in situations with less pressure makes me suspect that this rematch will end up being very one-sided. After all, he was absolutely crushing Maru to go up 3-0 in their Code S semifinals. If it had been a best-of-five, like the Super Tournament semis are, the series would have just ended there and we'd have declared Trap the god of PvT. All the skills from those first three games were on display in the earlier rounds of the Super Tournament, with Trap comprehensively beating both Cure (3-1) and Bunny (3-0). While Trap was excellent all around, his early-game micro stood out in particular. Trap tempted disaster with risky Prism-juggling plays, but his fantastic micro meant he always cashed in on his risks, applying an outsize amount of pressure with very few units.
Furthermore, Maru's four wins in the Code S reverse sweep weren't terribly impressive. Two of them were throws from a disoriented Trap, while the latter two were games where luck played a significant factor. Of course, an ugly win is still a win, and legendary players like Maru seem to have a way of creating their own luck. So it's completely possible that Maru will cheese or coin-flip his way to a victory against Trap in this coming match. But if the matches end up playing out in more standard fashion, I feel that Trap has the edge.
As for the statistics, they haven't changed much since the Code S clash. Maru just barely broke their perfect head-to-head tie in his favor, and he now leads 10-9 in series and 30-29 on maps. The two players are also very close in terms of Aligulac.com rating, with Trap's PvT at 3014 points (#4), while Maru's TvP stands at 3067 points (#2). Thanks to Maru's win against Trap, his perfect TvP record in 2021 has become even gaudier, and now he stands at 14-0 in matches and 31-5 in games. That's quite the encapsulation of how useless and insightful stats can be: Maru certainly didn't look like a perfect TvP player when he was down 0-3 to Trap, but he did win in the end, didn't he? As for Trap, the 2021 PvT record doesn't seem to tell the entire story, as he's only 31-20 in matches and 69-66 in maps—around a 60% win-rate in both.
Prediction: I have a lot of questions about Trap's ability to perform in high-leverage situations, but those will have to wait until Code S Season 2. When you turn down the heat a bit and release a bit of pressure from the valve, that's when Trap really shines as the #1 Protoss in the world. As for Maru, his track record in mid-tier majors is somewhat inconsistent. I won't go full Maru fanboy and say he's not trying—it will suffice to say he doesn't always play his best games, for one reason or another. My prediction is that Trap will get a modicum of revenge against Maru, and go on to win his third straight Super Tournament title.
Trap 3 - 1 Maru