DreamHack Masters: Fall 2021 - Season FinalsBy Wax
Group A of the RO16 saw lone Terran HeroMarine weather a Protoss storm to reach the playoffs. There's been an about face move in Group B, with MaxPax standing as the sole Protoss representative against three terrific Terrans. Will he follow in HeroMarine's footsteps, or will he be trampled underneath a march of Marines?
Group B Preview: Clem, MaxPax, Bunny, SpeCialMatch time: Wednesday, Sep 08 2:00pm GMT (GMT+00:00)
Clem will be at the center of attention in this group, something he should have become quite accustomed to over the past year. The reigning, back-to-back-to-back DHM European champion is an unstoppable juggernaut in TvZ, but every international tournament he competes in spotlights his weakness in TvT and TvP. Clem's statistics in those matchups are actually excellent, whether you go by raw win-rate or Aligulac.com rating. However, when you look over his match list, results like his 2-3 loss to MarineLord in the DHM Europe playoffs are far more noticeable than the long list of TvP and TvT wins in weekly cups. July's DHM Summer Finals was another notable example of Clem struggling with Terran and Protoss players in a major tournament, as he went out of the group stages after losing to both Neeb and HeroMarine. French fans may worry that a similar fate will befall Clem here, as he'll be facing Terrans and Protosses of similar if not greater ability in this group.
Still, Clem should probably feel comfortable with facing the rising Protoss star MaxPax as his first opponent. The two players have a one-sided competitive relationship that doesn't match their skill-levels, with Clem having a ridiculous 27W–7L head-to-head lead in series. The really bizarre thing is that during a breakout summer where MaxPax enjoyed the most success of his nascent career, he also got smashed harder than ever before by Clem. The Danish Dynamo (new nicknames will be workshopped in every article) recently finished in the top four of DHM Europe, qualified for his first DHM Season Finals, and scored a massive upset against Serral in the recent ASUS ROG qualifiers... ...but he also lost seven straight series to Clem where he only took back a single map. His bête noire aside, this group could be a great opportunity for MaxPax to continue along his upward trajectory. His results in various cups suggest he isn't quite ready to take on true, championship-tier players at the international level, but he just might be ready to get into the playoffs mix.
When you take the questions about Clem into consideration, Bunny may actually be the sneaky favorite to take first place in this group. Or perhaps not so sneaky? Once a fringe Code S player who was known for his reckless Medivac drops, Bunny has rapidly improved in 2021 to become a strong all-around player who regularly makes top-eight appearances in major tournaments. The previous season of Code S was his best run yet, where he made it all the way to the semifinals. In the current season of GSL, Bunny pulled off the rare feat of enhancing his reputation despite getting eliminated in the group stage, putting up great fights against PartinG and Dark before going down (he actually finished with a combined 3-2 map score against Dark). Like MaxPax, this Season Finals is a great chance for Bunny to keep his momentum going. With the advantage of a first place seed from the group stage, we could very well see this new-and-improved Bunny reach the semifinals or higher.
The fourth and final competitor in the group is SpeCial, who comes in having won his 13th straight Latin American regional in DHM/WCS. Like sOs from Group A, SpeCial's knack for coming up with unorthodox strategies gives him a wild-card reputation. Unfortunately, Juanito has had more misses than hits in 2021, with his 3-2 upset over INnoVation in May's Super Tournament II standing out as the only real 'vintage' SpeCial performance of the year. Still, placed into a group with two Europeans who he rarely faces, SpeCial might be able to work his magic. In particular, keep an eye for mech play—a regular fixture of his series, regardless of match-up (even TvP). SpeCial's last few attempts to use mech in GSL competition have gone rather poorly, with his opponents breaking him with mid-game attacks before his defenses could get fully set. However, against opponents less accustomed to this unorthodox style, SpeCial may actually get a chance to show off his specialty strategy.
Predictions: Given the improvement and consistent results Bunny has put up in 2021, I don't think his top four run in Code S Season 2 was a flash in the pan. Taking Clem's TvT vulnerabilities into account, I really believe Bunny is the top dog (rabbit?) in this group, even if it's by a slim margin. As for second place, I'll have to go with the obvious pick in Clem, weaknesses be damned.
Though I'm picking Bunny and Clem to advance, I do think SpeCial has a decent shot of stealing the second place spot. A decider match against Special could be very dicey for Clem, considering that SpeCial comes from the Korean school of Terrans. Alas, poor MaxPax. I would have liked his chances in a lot of other groups, but I think having to face Clem in his initial match is too brutal a draw to overcome.
Clem > MaxPax
Bunny > SpeCial
Bunny > Clem
SpeCial > MaxPax
Clem > SpeCial
Bunny and Clem to advance.