2021 GSL Code S Season 2 - RO8 Day 2 Previewby Poopi
With Bunny and Trap through to the first semifinal, it's time to find out which two players will advance from the other side of the bracket. While it wouldn't be a surprise to see any of Rogue, Dark, or PartinG advance, perhaps it's time for rising star Zoun to have a breakout Code S performance.
Quarterfinal Match #3: Rogue vs DarkStart time: Thursday, Jul 15 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
Rogue versus Dark is very difficult to predict for multiple reasons, the most obvious one being that Rogue is probably the hardest individual player to predict in StarCraft II. His tournament-to-tournament form can seem random, going from World Champion to group stage fodder at the drop of the dime. In Code S, he was stuck as a RO8-tier player for the longest time, before encroaching on hallowed ground with 3 championships in the last two years. He’s become a sneaky candidate to one day win the G5L trophy, with his invincible record in offline BO7’s giving him a unique edge. After he overcame the odds to defeat Maru in last season’s finals, nothing seems to be off the table for Rogue.
But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Before we can speak of the G5L or best-of-sevens, there’s an extremely difficult best-of-five coming up for Rogue. Looking at the bracket, the biggest obstacle between Rogue and a fourth Code S title could potentially be Dark, and he’s facing him in the first round of the playoffs.
While some might think it’s expected for Rogue to be in this spot, others might see it as a minor miracle. After all, he’s accustomed to bombing out early in the tournament immediately after a big win, and it could have happened again this season. The new Code S format starting from RO16 is pretty forgiving, with a quarterfinal spot being two BO3 wins away. As the reigning Code S champion, Rogue assembled an easy group for himself, taking a rookie Code S player in Percival and making practice easy by stacking the rest of the group with Terrans. Even then, he dropped a map to Percival, gave little resistance to Bunny in a 0-2 defeat, and beat a slumping ByuN to advance. Even though Rogue is in the playoffs, it feels like he’s suffering from some of his usual post-championship hangover.
But even if Rogue was playing at a high level, he wouldn’t necessarily be favored in this match. Dark has put up a much better win-loss record in 2021 ZvZ’s, going 40-19 (67.80%) in maps compared to Rogue’s 33-28 (54.10%). Rogue does have the edge in career head-to-head matches by 44-34 in maps, and won their only 2021 meeting back in Code S Season 1’s group stage.
Looking at the two players’ performances since their Code S clash in April, Dark has been on a ZvZ hot streak, going 12-2 in matches, with those two losses coming against Lambo and Reynor (though he gave up disappointing 1-1 ties to Cham and RagnaroK in the World Team League). Rogue, on the other hand, played far fewer matches, winning a solid 3-1 victory against Solar in Super Tournament 2, but giving up losses to DongRaeGu and Reynor in other competitions. Their mutual losses to Reynor in major tournaments are an interesting throughline and comparison point. Dark lost 2-3 compared to Rogue’s 1-3, and the general quality of his play seemed better regardless of the map score—though that’s not necessarily indicative of how they’ll play against each other in a direct match.
Overall, the statistical records in ZvZ paint a slightly more positive picture for Dark, but it’s not enough to convince me that he is the obvious favorite. Aligulac coldly thinks of Rogue as a moderate underdog here with only a 41% chance to win, though I don’t trust Aligulac rating system for predicting Rogue’s matches—especially in major tournaments like GSL.
Ultimately, the motivation factor is what leads me to believe Dark is the slight favorite in this match. It’s been two years since Dark’s last Code S win, and outside of TeamLiquid Starleague 6 last December, Dark has been pretty starved for a major tournament victory. While Dark has certainly been inconsistent, he's also played fantastic, championship-tier StarCraft II in spurts. On the other hand, Rogue is showing some signs of his post-championship complacency with his recent performances. Also, it’s a best-of-five and not a best-of-seven, so he does not have that aura of invincibility around him to intimidate his opponent.
Doubting Rogue is always risky—there’s every chance that he will utterly crush Dark and my prediction. But I think the group stage of the tournament—even though it involved mostly ZvT’s for Rogue—gave enough hints that it’s the disappointing version of him, not the multiple-time champion, who's come to play. Of course, Rogue is still a fearsome preparation-format player, so Dark will have to play his best Starcraft in order to win. But I truly believe that he is in championship form at the moment, and a serious candidate to win it all.
Prediction: Rogue 1 - 3 Dark
Quarterfinal Match #4: Zoun vs PartinGPvP is sometimes seen as a more volatile match-up than ZvZ, but I find this match easier to predict than the previous one. In fact, if it wasn’t for Zoun’s special knack for pulling off reverse sweeps and upsets, I would have predicted PartinG to win without much further research.
The Alpha X protoss has proved that his hype as an up and coming player in 2020 was deserved. He reached the finals of both GSL Super Tournaments this year, both times falling short against the Tier 2 king, Trap. In fact, he even beat PartinG 3-1 on his way to the finals of ST 1, and even more impressively reverse swept Dark in ST2, before narrowly beating Rogue 3-2 and sOs 3-2 to reach the finals. Zoun’s Code S performances have also rapidly improved, and he’s become a regular fixture of the tournament. While he went out in the RO16 in Season 1, it was a very excusable result in a group with INnoVation, Dark and Rogue.
In contrast, while PartinG is a much more accomplished player than Zoun overall, even reaching the final four of IEM Katowice, he’s been in a GSL slump in 2021, failing to qualify for Code S at all in Season 1. That’s partially due to his incredibly poor match-up luck in Code A (drawing Dark in Season 1), but there’s no such mitigating factor when you compare his Super Tournament performances to Zoun’s.
GGSL results aren’t necessarily the best indicators to predict their performance in this specific PvP duel, so let’s take a look at how they’ve been doing in the match-up on the whole. PartinG is seen as a slight favorite by Aligulac.com, leading in every statistical category. However, their PvP ratings—the metric that actually decides Aligulac’s prediction—are actually quite close, giving PartinG a somewhat modest 56.19% chance to win.
Zoun’s PvP record in 2021 is nothing to scoff at with an impressive 37-19 match record (66.07%) match record, but PartinG managed to accrue an even better record while playing more games, putting up a 69-26 PvP match record in 2021 (72.63%). Zoun couldn’t really touch PartinG in head-to-head matches before 2021, with a 0-8 record map record prior to his breakout 2021. Then, things started to turn around, with Zoun actually leading 7-6 in maps in 2021 (including his 3-1 win in the GSL Super Tournament).
We have to mention PartinG’s incredible momentum in PvP, where the big picture stats may not yet have caught up to how well he’s playing at the moment. Ever since PartinG’s last defeat to Zoun 2-3 in ESL Cup Asia #75 a month ago, he won 16 matches while only losing 1, surprisingly to Nice. Notably, he destroyed Zest 3-0 in Code A in a shocking manner, avenging his loss from the IEM Katowice semifinals. Seemingly for good measure, PartinG went on to beat Zest again in an ESL Open Cup, and then took down top PvP player Trap 2-0 in the Code S group stages en route to this quarterfinal match.
Similarly to Rogue vs Dark, I respect Zoun’s ability to play better in big matches and keep things close when he’s the underdog. However, PartinG is in scary form at the moment, and he's a threat to reach the Code S finals for the first time since 2015.
Prediction: Zoun 1 - 3 PartinG