2021 GSL Code S Season 2 - RO16 Previewby Poopi
A new Code S season is set to begin! Breaking from normal scheduling, we begin with Group B instead of Group A, featuring Dream, DongRaeGu, INnoVation, and Dark. Whether or not it's the group of death as some fans (and this writer) argue, it's sure to deliver some interesting games.
RO16 Group B: Dream, DongRaeGu, INnoVation, DarkStart time: Monday, Jun 28 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
There’s no clear consensus on which group is the ‘group of death’ in this season of Code S (or if such a group exists at all), but in my opinion, Group B is the clear answer! The four players have won a combined five Code S championships, and even the least accomplished player in Dream has a Code S RO4 finish. On the other hand, their present day form is more of a mixed bag. At the time of writing, Dark was an impressive 6th place in the Aligulac.com rankings, while INnoVation came close behind at #9. However,Dream and DongRaeGu trailed by quite a distance, standing at 20th and 26th place, respectively.
DongRaeGu faces Dream in the first match, and while he should be happy to have two Terrans in his group since it is his best match-up by far, he may have preferred to have play INnoVation first instead of Dream. Indeed, he is 6-5 in maps versus The Machine in 2021, he could not take a single map versus Dream in the same period, sitting at a worrying 0-5 record. Three of those losses came in a 0-3 sweep in GSL Super Tournament 1, showing that Dream has DRG’s number in the GSL studio and not just online. However, given the RO16 roster and DRG’s match-up strengths, this is still a reasonably good draw for the Team NV Zerg (not everyone can win the Percival lottery), and he can hope that his strong ZvT carries him through to the RO8.
Still, I can’t help but agree with Aligulac’s predictor tool in this group, and I think Dream will prevail in the first match. The GGG Terran showed strong TvZ in GSL Code S Season 1 versus Rogue (with even Rogue admitting he was lucky to win a scrappy game seven), and his 3-2 victory against Armani in the subsequent GSL Super Tournament was impressive as well—even if the scoreline wasn’t. In spite of DRG’s strongest match-up being ZvT, one could argue it’s somewhat of a backhanded compliment—it’s more an indicator of how weak his other two match-ups are, rather than his ZvT being particularly fearsome.
So far, we've seen two military returnees in DongRaeGu and Armani make surprise runs to the Code S semifinals, only to soon fall back down to earth. Compared to them, Dream's success feels more sustainable, considering his extremely narrow loss to Rogue in the Code S semis, and his subsequent wins against Rogue and Dark in Super Tournament 2. If Dream can beat out either INnoVation and Dark to reach the quarterfinals, he'll prove that he's here to stay in the upper echelons of Code S.
The second match features Dark against INnoVation, with Dark looking like the favorite to advance from Group B in first place as he’s in position to qualify on the back of his ZvT alone. He shocked the world in the match-up recently in TeamLiquid Starleague 7, taking out #1 TvZ player Clem by a 4-2 scoreline (he also beat HeroMarine 3-1 in an earlier round). Regularly going up against world-class ZvT players in Reynor and Serral, Clem had gradually honed his skills until he went from underdog to favorite against the duo, reaching a point in 2021 where it felt like he could beat them convincingly everytime. Clem was seen as nigh invincible in the match-up, but Dark overcame a substantial, 300+ Aligulac rating gap to score an upset. The veteran Zerg credited his victory to his more aggressive approach, having seen the European Zerg duo suffer too many losses from playing passively.
With such an immense ZvT win under his belt, one has to trust in Dark’s ability to defeat INnoVation and Dream. Still, nothing is guaranteed—upsets are more likely in BO3’s than BO7’s, Dark has been inconsistent for much of the year, and he did happen to lose to INnoVation in this season’s qualifiers AND in last season’s Code S RO16 group elimination match.
As for the ZvZ, Dark may not have been able to take down Reynor in TSL7, but he did defeat DongRaeGu twice in the latest Code S qualifiers. Even without those results in hand, you’d still consider Dark the favorite against DRG, who is extremely specialized in ZvT (his ZvP and ZvZ trail some 300~400 behind his ZvT on Aligulac). If Dark wins his initial match against INnoVation, then it shouldn’t matter much to him who he faces between Dream and DongRaeGu in the winners’ match.
INnoVation is capable of beating Dark, as their close 2021 head-to-head record shows, but I believe the latter's impressive result against Clem was not just a fluke, but rather a sign that he’s returned to being a top ZvT player once again, capable of lifting the Code S trophy once again. INnoVation’s matches against the other two players aren’t that much easier. As mentioned above, DongRaeGu has done surprisingly well in head-to-heads against INnoVation, and won their most recent clash in an Alpha X showmatch. Also, while INnoVation leads in 2021 head to heads against Dream with a 6-2 map record on the year, he has seemed shook in TvT lately, losing to SpeCial in Super Tournament 2 and actually avoiding him in the Code S group selections. Sure, maybe that’s more a credit to SpeCial than a demerit for INnoVation, but it’s not the kind of attitude you expect out of The Machine.
Although INnoVation has a difficult first match against Dark and some potential problems in the other matches, I’m still confident that he’ll make it to the round of eight. While he’s been out of the championship picture for quite some time now, his ability to reach the RO8 of nearly every major tournament has been quite uncanny. The last point of caution for INnoVation is how openly other players talked about his lackadaisical practice routine during the group selection ceremonies. But in a convoluted way, perhaps it means they should be scared of INnoVation [s]if[s] once he starts ramping up his practice for the Code S main event. Overall, this group is a must-watch with a lot of potential upsets, but I expect the end result to be a predictable one, with the more decorated players prevailing.
Dream 2-1 DongRaeGu
Dark 2-1 INnoVation
Dream 0-2 Dark
DongRaeGu 1-2 INnoVation
Dream 0-2 INnoVation
Dark and INnoVation to advance.