2021 GSL Code A Season 2 - Day 1 Previewby Poopi
The second season of the revived Code A is about to begin, with eight Code S spots up for grabs in a series of best-of-five showdowns. As in the previous season, GSL's best efforts to seed the tournament as favorites vs underdogs hasn't totally worked out, and we're due for a handful of matches where it will be painful to see the loser miss out on a Code S berth.
Match #1: ByuN vs TrustStart time: Monday, Jun 14 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
The last season of Code A saw ByuN get eliminated after drawing a tough opponent in Cure—an unfortunate consequence of ByuN losing his seeding match to PartinG during the qualifiers. This time around, ByuN successfully got the high seed for Code A by beating RagnaroK and Zest during the qualifiers, and he must be pretty happy to have drawn a far easier opponent in Trust.
The Code A opener is a huge mismatch on paper, featuring a GSL and BlizzCon champion against a Protoss whose best results in GSL are a couple of first round exits. Trust is not exactly a new player either, having started his career in 2013, so it seems pretty unlikely for him to show improvement at this point. However, an upset is never out of the question in StarCraft II, and while ByuN was finally able to play a full BO5 without requesting a break for wrist pain during Super Tournament 2, the lack of visible problems doesn't mean he's back to 100% in the GSL studio.
Trust actually got into Code A on the back of his PvT, scoring an upset versus SpeCial on day two (he was defeated twice by DongRaeGu on day one). In general, Trust has played very few competitive PvT matches in 2021, with his victories coming against players like Percival, HHQuanta and Kiwian. Still, his qualifier win against SpeCial gives us at least a little hope that he can make this match against ByuN remotely competitive.
Obviously, the Aligulac.com prediction hugely favors ByuN, who's projected to have around a 90% chance to win (curiously enough, Trust actually has a higher recent match-up win percentage in his very limited number of games). I looked back through ByuN's matches to see how often he was upset by weaker Protoss players—he mainly lost matches to the likes of Zest, PartinG and Zoun, leaving a single 0-3 loss to Creator during the Olimoleague February finals as the closest thing to a major upset. However, even Creator is still a comfortable 300 Aligulac points higher than Trust in the PvT match-up.
I don't know how Trust managed to beat SpeCial, but an offline BO5 for a Code S spot is an entirely different kind of match from a BO3 online qualifier. ByuN is in good enough shape where he should qualify with ease. The only uncertain part about this prediction is the exact score—I would expect ByuN to win any map vs Trust even if his wrist issues flared up again, so I will go with a clean sweep as the prediction.
Prediction: ByuN 3 - 0 Trust
Match #2: Creator vs SpeCialAfter an opening match with a rather lopsided Liquibet ratio, we move on to a PvT series that should be far closer and harder to predict.
Both SpeCial and Creator had to go through both days of qualifiers to reach Code A, SpeCial having lost to PartinG and sOs on day one, while Creator was defeated by Cure and Armani.
Creator had an easier time of things in his second chance bracket, needing only to defeat Cham (who is now in Korea) to qualify, and then taking a 2-0 victory against KeeN in the seeding match. The 'easy' opponent Creator got for obtaining the high-seed is SpeCial—a side effect of SpeCial losing to the aforementioned Trust and being forced to enter Code A as a low-seed player. Still, Creator should be ecstatic in contrast to last season, when his Code A opponent was none other than former teammate Maru.
Creator participates regularly in online cups, and his pedestrian 55% PvT win-rate in 2021 reflects the many losses he's suffered at the hands of other online warriors in Cure and ByuN. However, when it comes to facing SpeCial, Creator has an overall head-to-head match advantage of 3-1 this year (Creator has a slight all-time lead of 9-8), so he should still be relatively confident in the match—though he did happen to lose their last clash about a week ago.
SpeCial has been in good form as of late, qualifying for Super Tournament 2 by beating PartinG in the qualifiers and going on to defeat INnoVation in the main event. Though his run was ended by a dominant Maru, SpeCial has every reason to be confident in his ability to compete against GSL players at the moment (sealing an ace match win for eXoN over TeamLiquid in the WTL was the cherry on top). SpeCial has a history of performing above expectations when he's in good form, so I think his recent wins against PArtinG and INnoVation—albeit in different match-ups—are more indicative of his current level than the three losses he's given up to Creator in various online competitions.
Aligulac deems these two players to be closely matched, with SpeCial favored by just an inch at 53.71% vs 46.29%. I've always seen SpeCial as a great preparation-tournament player, so if he already has a slight edge according to all other factors, then the boost of this being a GSL match should make him a solid favorite.
Prediction: Creator 1 - 3 SpeCial
Match #3: DongRaeGu vs KeeNThis match is a blast from the past, with two teammates from Wings of Liberty meeting over a decade later after finishing their mandatory military service. DongRaeGu has been back on the scene for quite some time now, and played a big part in giving fans and players hope for the so-called returners. KeeN, on the other hand, just returned to the game and is basically starting over from scratch—which could be much harder for him considering he wasn't nearly as successful as DongRaeGu even before military service.
DRG is obviously the huge favorite coming into this match, and while it took some time for him to return to good shape after his military service, he obtained fantastic results in 2020. An unimpressive RO28 finish in Code S Season 1 was followed by a stunning top four finish in Season 2, followed again by a solid top eight run in Season 3. He's gotten off to a slower start in 2021, getting eliminated in the RO16 of the first Code S competition (DRG was swept up in the flurry of upsets from Bunny and Hurricane), but he'll be looking to hit his stride again in Season 2. His ZvT isn't at the same high level that powered his 2020 surge, at barely above a 50% win-rate in 2021, but he's still a fearsome gatekeeper in the match-up. DRG has a lot of trouble beating players like Cure, ByuN or Dream, but he frequently beats TY, SpeCial and the lesser known Korean terrans.
KeeN falls into that latter category, as he's been unable to defeat DRG after his return from military service. Surprisingly enough, KeeN actually had the upper hand in their head-to-heads prior to the start of his military service. He has not played a lot of competitive matches since returning to the fray in April 2021, so it's hard to gauge his skill level. KeeN has surprised us by quickly scoring notable upsets like a 2-0 against Dark in ESL Open Cup #69, or a 2-1 victory versus Zest in the Code A qualifiers (day 2). Compared to other players returning from military service, those are some awesome results to be putting up so quickly. However, playing in the studio is different from playing online, and this Code A match will be KeeN's first time on the big stage in several years.
Also, the games versus Dark in the ESL weekly might not be so relevant in predicting KeeN's Code A match. In game one, Dark was over-aggressive with an early Roach push and later Roach-Ravager attacks, which KeeN defended comfortably. Game two on Romanticide featured a clever map-specific proxy-Barracks cheese, using SCV's to mine out the low-mineral wall and launch an unexpected attack. Sure, you need a baseline level of competence to pull off, and defend against, early-game attacks when facing a player of Dark's level. But KeeN's loss to DongRaeGu in the next week's cup showed that in more straight-up games, he's still outmatched by the more established GSL players.
I am quite excited to see how KeeN will try to upset DongRaeGu as a fresh returnee, but I do not think there will be many surprises in this match. Most of the Hellbat push shenanigans are well-known by now, and the 2 or 3 rax proxy positions have been largely figured out (though KeeN can still try to abuse his opponent's scouting patterns). It is probably too soon for us to expect to see a victory ceremony from KeeN, but if he continues to recover at this rate, he might have reason to celebrate in a few months.
Prediction: DongRaeGu 3 - 0 KeeN