2021 GSL Code S Season 3by Poopi
After advancing from Group A, both Trap and Zest said they'd be okay with facing anyone but Maru in the playoffs. On Thursday night, we'll see which of the two Protosses will get to celebrate—or if both will end up having their wish come true after a series of wild upsets.
RO16 Group B: Maru, Solar, sOs, DreamMatch time: Thursday, Sep 02 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
At first glance, Maru and Solar appear to be the favorites in the group, standing at #5 and #10 in the Aligulac.com rankings compared to Dream and sOs at #19 and #20.
However, there are a number of complicating factors that make the results tricky to predict. Not only do the players have to contend with sOs being his usual unpredictable self, but the two Terrans have to be fearful of his disproportionately powerful, #4 ranked PvT (just below Trap). I doubt Dream has any shot versus TvT master Maru, but his GSL track record says he could be a tough challenge for sOs or Solar. And while Solar might be the second strongest player on paper, he has the disadvantage of having to face his biggest hurdle in Maru in his very first match.
Speaking of Maru vs Solar, the 4-time Code S champ has really enjoyed picking on Solar during the group selections over the years. Even in his Code A interview, Solar seemed sadly resigned to getting selected by his nemesis once more, with Maru later acknowledging that Solar was indeed the obvious choice (though Maru has passed up on Solar for tastier players like Patience and RagnaroK in the past). However, the fact that Maru loves to pick Solar as a Code S opponent, and that Solar gets so depressed each time, seems to fly in the face of statistics.
Sure, Maru has a strong record in career head-to-heads against Solar at 49 map wins and 27 losses (64.47% winrate), but in just GSL matches, they’re almost dead even with Solar leading 5W–4L in matches while Maru leads 13W–12L in maps. Maru actually got eliminated when he picked Solar in 2020’s Code S Season 2, losing his initial match to Maru and then getting finished off by Trap (alas, Solar was eliminated as well). More recently, the KaiZi Gaming Zerg managed to beat Maru 3-1 in NeXT Season 1.
There's not much separating the two players in terms of Aligulac.com TvZ rating either, with Maru standing at 3189 points while Solar trails with 3072. In fact, Solar actually leads in terms of pure win percentage in 2021, with a 92W–43L record (68.15% match winrate) while Maru trails at 10W–6L (62.50%)—though that's mostly attributable to the fact that Solar plays in online cups while Maru plays almost solely in major tournaments.
It's understandable if Solar is still traumatized from being on the receiving end of the biggest nuke in pro-SC2 history, but his defeatist attitude ahead of matches with Maru seems somewhat unwarranted. Of course, Maru is still the favorite here, but Solar has proven on plenty of occasions that he has more than a fighting chance.
The second match of the group should be more clear cut, considering how much of a juggernaut sOs has been in PvT. In 2021, he sports an impressive 36W–17L (67.92% win-rate) map record and 13W–4L (76.47%) match record, which earned him the #4 spot in the PvT rankings as mentioned earlier. sOs' last PvT loss came almost six months ago, and he's currently on a ten match winning streak (albeit, he tied 1-1 versus Cure in July's WTL playoffs). The high point of that streak was a 2-1 victory over Maru in the group stage of Code S Season 2, though Maru had the excuse of having played Reynor in the DH Summer Finals just a day prior.
The situation just doesn't look too good for Dream, especially since he has to prepare all three match-ups while sOs and Solar only have to focus on two. While one can dig for reasons to be optimistic about Dream's chances, they might all end up being fool's gold. For example, Dream actually did take consecutive BO5 victories against sOs earlier this year at GSL Super Tournament 1 (3-1) and IEM Katowice (3-2). That made me think he had a real shot at winning when they met again in Super Tournament 2, but that time, sOs took his revenge with a 2-0 victory in the qualifier and a 3-0 smashing in the main event.
One could also point out that Dream qualified for this season of Code S on the back of TvP alone, going 6W–0L in matches and 13W–5L in maps. However, a look at the match list shows that he beat the likes of Prince and Gyulzzing, with Classic and Creator being his toughest opponents. Classic might be a Protoss legend of the past, but he is still a very early military returnee at the moment so he can hardly be compared to sOs. And even Creator, who is a fringe Code S player, managed to take Dream to five games in their Code A match.
As for the rest of the matches, I do not see Maru losing to sOs in a rematch from Season 2, even though Aliguliac.com rates sOs' PvT so highly as to give Maru only a 52.81% chance of winning. Last time, Maru had to prepare for the DreamHack Season Finals at the same time—now, he'll be able to focus solely on GSL, and I predict he'll advance in first place with relative ease. Solar vs Dream is another potentially close match, but I'll go chalk on this one and pick Solar—I figure he'll have more of his mental intact after a match with Maru, compared to Dream after facing sOs' underhanded tactics. Dream vs Maru could actually be the most one-sided match of the night, with Maru being 13W–1L in TvT in 2021 and undefeated since February (losing only to TY).
Finally, a Solar vs sOs clash should go comfortably in the Zerg's favor—sOs' match-up strengths are absurdly skewed in favor of his PvT at the moment, while his PvZ is actually rated below Creator at the moment.
Put it all together, and I still see Maru and Solar advancing side by side as the most likely outcome, even after they face each other in their first match. Then again, hunter and prey managed to both get eliminated back in Code S Season 2 of 2020, so maybe Dream and sOs have the wherewithal to make history repeat itself.
Predictions: Maru and Solar to advance.