2021 GSL Code S Season 3by GhostForGood
After locking in two TvP’s for the quarterfinals, it’s time to move on to the second week of round-of-sixteen matches. Zerg fans need not fear yet, as Swarm legends are ready to go in Groups C & D—including the reigning Code S champion.
RO16 Group D: Dark, Bunny, ByuN, PartinGSunday, Sep 05 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
Headlining Group D is none other than the GSL Code S Season 2 champion, Dark. Having displayed some spectacular Zerg mastery to lift his first premier trophy of the year—defeating Rogue, PartinG, and Trap in his playoff run—fans are probably expecting Dark to blitz his way through a group that looks easier in comparison.
Supporting this enthusiastic view is his initial, hand-picked match-up against Team NV’s Bunny. Not only is Dark one of the world’s best all-around SC2 players (#5 on Aligulac.com at the time of writing), but his best match-up also happens to be ZvT. The champ's ZvT match win-rate is out of this world in 2021 at 84% (27W–5L), and he’s currently the #2 ranked vs Terran player on Aligulac.com—among Terran, Protoss, and Zerg players combined. While Bunny is obviously a solid Terran player with multiple top eight finishes over the past year, it's hard to rally behind him when we’ve seen Dark take dominant wins off players like Cure, Maru, and Clem throughout 2021. And that’s not all; Bunny is 3–14 in all-time matches against Dark, and considering the Zerg player's form of late, I can’t see the underdog Terran securing his fourth win here.
That being said, I should add that Bunny can keep games close against Dark and force him into some incredibly entertaining battles. If their group encounter in Katowice 2021 is anything to go by (VOD), then their upcoming RO16 battle will be a must-watch match. Although Dark was heavily favored to win that series, and did indeed win in a clean 2-0, the two played fantastic macro TvZ games that were some of the best of the Katowice group stage. Electrifying air and ground battles kept us on the edges of our seats in anticipation of who would eventually come out on top. Yet for all his commendable effort, Bunny still couldn’t break the cool of the illustrious Dark, becoming the rare Terran who ran out of money before the Zerg. For me, this highlights an important trait in their specific TvZ games: Dark always seems to find that all important angle to bring home a win against Bunny. Whether that be taking good trades, keeping the end-game win conditions in mind, or simply being ‘luckier’ in the dice roll of all-ins, Dark just seems to claim all the advantages around the margins that result in victory.
Presuming Dark is victorious as expected against Bunny, he’ll go on to face the winner of ByuN and PartinG—a match-up with some really fascinating stats!
The humongous difference in head-to-head results between Dark and Bunny is somewhat mirrored in PartinG versus ByuN, with PartinG holding a 11W–4L over ByuN since his return from military service, and with seven consecutive matches won since March. Unfortunately for ByuN, he failed to put up much of a fight in several of those matches, losing many by lopsided score lines.
Funnily enough, while ByuN is clearly struggling against PartinG, TvP has actually been his highest win-rate match-up on the year, sitting at around 66% (84W–43L). Going over ByuN’s TvP results, you notice a trend: a perplexing lack of consistency. ByuN will find impressive victories against leading PvT players such as Trap, Zest, and sOs, but then he will fall quite easily to other lesser competitors such as Creator, herO, and Classic.
On one hand, it’s encouraging to know that ByuN can peak high, and perhaps give PartinG a stiff challenge. Let’s not forget that in last year’s Code S Season 3—ByuN’s first major tournament after returning to SC2 from military service—the Terran actually defeated PartinG not once, but twice, in both the rounds of 24 (VOD) and 16 (VOD). In these matches, ByuN was practically unstoppable, overpowering the Protoss with his ruthless timing attacks before a macro game could even be established. On the other hand, his defeats to weaker Protosses suggest that ByuN could get utterly mauled by PartinG on an off night.
It’s also an interesting coincidence that ByuN’s GSL RO16 victory against PartinG was his last match before his unfortunate run of wrist-related incidents began in the AfreecaTV studio. It’s now been a few months since ByuN said he started receiving treatment for his psychosomatic condition, and it may be paying off as he’s gone through a handful of GSL matches without requesting a pause. If ByuN's condition has truly improved, then perhaps we might even be able to hope that he returns to his winning ways against PartinG.
In regards to the qualifying/elimination matches, while Dark’s ZvT has been superb this year, it seems that the defending champion might actually prefer to face PartinG instead of ByuN—at least as far as previous head-to-head results goes. This might sound weird at first considering Dark’s dominant ZvT, but some of the recent head-to-head results bear this out. Dark holds a clear advantage over PartinG in head-to-head results, winning all four of their matches this season—including the painfully one-sided 4-0 in last season’s semifinals. Whereas for ByuN, he’s won his only clash against Dark this year—an impressive 3-0 in the OlimoLeague 2021 April Finals—and is closely matched against him throughout his career. Although it’s true that ByuN has struggled with other top Korean Zergs such as Solar and Rogue as of late, the difference in results between PartinG and ByuN appears, though, to speak for itself. Therefore, while I would generally still lean towards Dark in either potential scenario, ByuN probably has a marginally better chance of giving him trouble.
The opposite could be said for Bunny though. If my predictions are correct, battling with ByuN would probably be his strongest bet. At first this might appear like an unusual statement, what with TvT having been Bunny’s worst match-up in 2021. Yet, Bunny has pretty much dominated ByuN in their sizable number of matches this year with a 5-2 record, and has won all four of their clashes in major events. Also, with ByuN seemingly struggling with TvT too, this actually quickly starts to make sense (or at least to me!)
As for potentially going up against PartinG, the odds are a bit less favourable for Bunny due to PartinG’s extremely strong PvT (currently #1 according to Aligulac.com’s ratings). However, it should be noted that Bunny has had the upper hand against PartinG in their recent contests—the best example of which being his 2-1 victory over PartinG in the Super Tournament #2 qualifiers back in May (combined with a loss to SpeCial, PartinG failed to qualify to the main event). Bunny displayed some great defence and counter-attack play in his games versus PartinG (VOD (3:30:00)), deflecting his opponent’s constant attacks before finishing him off with a powerful Liberator-backed army. While Bunny was able to handle PartinG’s Zealot backdoors in game two, he closed out the series by holding strong against a series of cheesy attacks from his opponent. If he can replicate this kind of play, he could possibly take down PartinG again.
Prediction: Dark and PartinG to advance.