DreamHack Masters: Fall 2021 - Season FinalsBy Poopi
This group seems pretty straightforward on paper. #1 Korean seed Dark should get out in first place, while sole Oceania seed Probe should get eliminated in last place. That would leave Time (#1 China) and Scarlett (#2 NA) to battle it out for the 2nd spot in the playoffs.
But if StarCraft always went the way it was supposed to on paper, it wouldn’t be so fun, would it? Let’s dig a bit and see how realistic an upset is, and if it’s worth making a prediction that runs against conventional wisdom.
Group C Preview: Dark, Probe, Scarlett, TIMEMatch time: Thursday, Sep 09 2:00pm GMT (GMT+00:00)
Dark isn't only coming in as the favorite in this group, but also as one of the favorites to win the entire Season Finals. As the reigning GSL champion, and participant in the playoffs of the present GSL season, the DPG Zerg is looking as sharp as ever. While his 2-3 overall map record against Bunny during the Code S RO16 could be marked as a small demerit, it might end up being seen as more of a credit to Bunny depending on how the next couple of weeks go.
Dark's initial match against Probe is the biggest mismatch of this entire tournament, and all the fans will know that without looking at any statistics. However, it’s always more entertaining to put numbers on things. Sometimes they pay off when there's a ludicrous upset, as MBCGame learned when they gave Bisu a 2.69% chance of beating Savior in the 2007 MSL finals. More than 1000 Aligulac.com rating points separate Dark and Probe, giving our Zerg player nearly a 95% chance of winning. Ergo, if Probe wins, we can surmise that he's at least half as good as Bisu.
It will be interesting to see if Probe tries to cheese out Dark, or does his best before dying an honorable macro death. Alas, Probe might not have much agency in this at all, as Dark is prone to cheesing out his opponents—regardless of their relative stature.
The more interesting question of the group might be if anyone can stop Dark from going 4-0. According to Aligulac, Scarlett has the best chance at upsetting Dark at around 25%. However, the grim reality is that she's never beaten him in seven prior encounters, and has only ever won a single map against him (the head to head is 13-1 in favor of Dark overall). TIME is even less favored according to Aligulac with around a 13% chance of winning, but at least he was able to beat Dark once in ten matches for a slightly more respectable map record of 8W–21L (27.59% win-rate). Given that Dark is not known to perform particularly badly online, these statistics should be a pretty accurate depiction of the reality: Dark will top his group, and might lose a map to TIME if the Chinese terran were to beat Scarlett in their first match of the day.
The real battle then, will be for second place, which is likely to be contested between former Newbee teammates TIME and Scarlett. To give Probe some credit, the prior Summer Season Finals hardly gave him a stage to showcase his skills, as he went up against Maru (runner-up) and Reynor (champion) in consecutive series. TIME and Scarlett should give him a chance to play more even matches, and demonstrate exactly why he's the 3-time OCE champion. Also, there probably isn't a TON of pressure from the Australian community for him to do well, and we've heard plenty of stories about how having nothing to lose can result in better performance. But, ultimately, given the track record of the OCE region in big internationals, it will be an incredible long shot for Probe to make it to the playoffs.
In any case, Aligulac sees Scarlett and TIME as evenly matched due to their TvZ ratings being almost identical at around 2600. While Scarlett has a significant head-to-head advantage of 26W–11L (70.27%), she scored many of her wins before TIME really broke out in WCS/EPT tournaments. Their latest match was a 1-1 tie in the World Team League, and prior to that, TIME defeated her 2-0 in a TSL qualifier.
TIME's raw TvZ numbers in 2021 are actually shockingly poor compared to his Aligulac.com rating, with barely a 35% map win-rate. However, he faced almost solely top level Zergs such as Rogue, Dark and Solar, and given the same slate of games, it would be hard for all but the best EPT Terrans to do any better. Expectedly, Scarlett has a far better ZvT record in 2021 compared to TIME: 53W–30L (63.86%) in games and 24W–12L (66.67%) in matches. The reason is obvious: she faced worse opponents on average. She basically dominated every Terran from NA region, while losing to everyone around the level of uThermal, Kelazhur and SpeCial. In the end, I favor TIME, who had his rating deflated by losing to top zergs without being able to farm a lot of lower level Zergs to raise his rating.
While I give TIME the edge, I'm a bit worried about how the rematch curse might affect him. Going off anecdotal evidence, momentum really does seem to matter in GSL-style groups. If TIME beats Scarlett initially but then gets utterly demolished by Dark, will he be in sound mental shape against a Scarlett who is likely to have built some momentum by beating Probe? (Not to mention the extra scouting data she would have from Dark vs TIME). I'm still giving the nod to TIME, but it's far from a sure thing.
Predictions: Dark and TIME to advance.