2021 GSL Super Tournament 3 - Day 1by Poopi
The day one matches for Super Tournament 3 were much closer than they projected to be on paper, reminding us that this stage has often been a golden opportunity for underdogs. Will the favorites continue to hold the line on day two, or will they start to fall to their hungry opponents?
Day 2 Preview: Round of 16Start time: Thursday, Nov 25 8:00am GMT (GMT+00:00)
RO16 Match #5: Zoun vs Ryung
The opening match of day 2 is looking to be super one-sided in favor of Zoun for several reasons. The most obvious one is the difference in competitive resumes. Zoun has grown to become a Code S regular and is one of the rare ‘new blood’ Korean players that has actually challenged for championships (technically, he came back to SC2 after a long hiatus). Zoun has also performed exceptionally well in Super Tournaments, reaching the finals in both Seasons 1 and 2 of 2021. He managed to take out strong players like PartinG, Zest, Rogue, and Dark (in a dramatic reverse sweep) on his way to those two finals, only losing to peak-form Trap both times.
On the other hand, merely qualifying for this Super Tournament is arguably Ryung’s best result since his return from the military as he hasn’t been able to get past the Code A wall (he lost 0-3 to KeeN in his one appearance). If Zoun is a rising Protoss hope, then Ryung is a battle-worn veteran who’s still struggling to find his footing in the second act of his career.
Not surprisingly, virtually all the statistics suggest that Zoun should dominate. Indeed, their head-to-head record this year (which is also their all-time record) is 5-1 in favor of Zoun (12-3 in map score)—Zoun even won 2-0 in their most recent match in the Super Tournament qualifier. The Alpha X Protoss is the #3 PvT player on Aligulac.com with a rating of around 2980, while Ryung is only the #18 TvP player at a 2240 rating. According to Aligulac’s formula, that massive rating gap means Zoun is a whopping 94:6 favorite to win in a best-of-five series. Even at the peak of Ryung’s career, he was a TvT specialist with a notable weakness in TvP—his all-time TvP win-rate is barely over 50% at 655 wins and 651 losses.
Still, there were almost upsets on the first day of this Super Tournament, with underdogs ByuN, RagnaroK and Creator on the verge of eliminating Cure, Trap and Dark respectively. Also, there is an intriguing glimmer of hope for Ryung in the form of Team GP magic. This mysterious super-buff has allowed the underdog team to punch far above its weight in the World Team League, and that included Ryung taking out MaxPax in a vital ace-match. However, this is the Super Tournament, where the StarCraft gods seem to have designated Zoun for their blessing.
Aligulac thinks there’s a 50% chance that Zoun will win in a clean 3-0 sweep, but I’ll make the ‘bold’ call and say RyunG takes a map. I think Ryung will be able to prepare well and bring some Team GP magic in this tournament, which should be good for at least one victory.
Prediction: Zoun 3-1 Ryung
RO16 Match #6: Dream vs Solar
If you were to ask random GSL fans who is the most likely to win this match or who had the better results in 2021, I would bet that most people would answer Solar due to their historical reputations (Editor’s note: indeed, Liquibet voters are favoring Solar by around 60:40). Yet, Dream has actually had a better 2021 than Solar in terms of results—while I hesitate to call him the straight-up favorite, I wouldn’t call him the underdog, either.
Dream had a fantastic start in 2021, with top 4 finishes in both the first Super Tournament and Code S seasons. In the latter, he took the offline BO7 king Rogue to a game seven and made him work very hard for his GSL finals spot. After that, Dream’s results fell more toward the middle of the pack, with a top 8 finish in Super Tournament 2, RO16 finish in Code S Season 2, and a top 8 finish in a DHM Season Finals. Still, those are very respectable results. He even finished top 8 in the last Code S of the year, losing 1-3 against eventual finalist Zest.
On the other hand, Solar’s year in the GSL has been entirely middle-of-the-road, with RO16 finishes in the first two Super Tournaments and all three GSL Code S seasons. However, Solar did manage to go on an impressive finals run in June’s NeXT Season 1, going through Creator and Reynor to advance from the group stage, defeating TIME (3-0) and Maru (3-1) in the playoffs, and only narrow losing to Trap in the grand finals (3-4).
Whatever their 2021 tournament results say, Aligulac.com still sees Solar as the favorite with around 63:37 odds to beat Dream in a BO5. Solar is a very highly rated in ZvT on Aligulac.com at #6 in the standings, while Dream is #7 for the Terran faction. I agree that Solar is on paper a very good ZvT player, and while I think that he exploits his qualities quite well in the various online tournaments he plays in, his major tournament results are still very subpar for a player of his reputation.
The most extreme example that typifies Solar’s big-tournament play would be the epic nuke on his army versus Maru at IEM Katowice—sure, it was a one in a million shot, but of course that ONE happened to be Solar. A more recent example was his performance in the latest Code S season. He matched Maru strength-for-strength in Maru's favored ultra-late-game scenario, and ultimately managed to come out on top. Yet, he couldn’t close out the BO3 and lost in the early/mid-game twice after. You would think that beating the soon-to-be-retired sOs in the loser’s match would have been easy after such an impressive game one against Maru. However, Solar played visibly worse against sOs and was eliminated in last place.
This is the most recent example that comes to mind, but you could probably easily find other examples considering that Solar hasn’t made a top 8 in Code S since the Season 3 of 2017.
On the other hand, while Dream's stats in various online tournaments aren’t great, he always seems to play at a higher level in GSL events. He may be one the players that slips through the cracks of Aligulac’s system, failing to account for the different level of preparation and concentration he brings to the GSL. TvZ also happens to be his best match-up, with most of his losses coming against world class players such as Dark, Reynor, Serral or Rogue (while going back and forth with Solar).
This is why I will favor Dream in this match, even though Solar is a slight favorite on paper. The KaiZi Zerg is just more prone to choking in GSL matches, whereas Dream has demonstrated good preparation and cold-blooded calmness on this stage. Solar is still a very fierce opponent, however—therefore I expect him to take two games.
Prediction: Dream 3 - 2 Solar
RO16 Match #7: Maru vs Classic
After Maru's insane display of skill that saw him win consecutive championships at ASUS ROG Fall, DHM Winter, and King of Battles 2, one would be crazy not to instantly pick him as the winner of this match.
While I won’t exaggerate and predict Classic will win, I do think it’s worth reminding viewers that the possibility is there. Whether it’s from Maru’s own interviews, Aligulac.com stats, or tournament results, it’s clear that TvP is the one (relative) weakness in Maru’s game. Indeed, he got eliminated in Code S seasons 2 and 3 by Protoss opponents—losing 1-2 against both sOs and Zoun in group stages of Season 2, and then losing 1-3 to former teammate Trap in the quarterfinals of Season 3. Going by Aligulac.com ratings, it’s interesting to note that Maru’s TvP is almost 200 rating points lower compared to his TvT and TvZ. But, it’s not because his TvP is necessarily weak—it’s because he has extraordinarily high TvT and TvZ ratings at the moment. He hasn’t lost a single map(!) in ages in TvT (against largely the best Terrans in the world), and has had fantastic results against the best Zergs as well (propelling him to #1 in the Aligulac.com TvZ rankings ahead of Clem).
While Maru avoided the top Protosses in his recent championship runs, he still managed to beat his foreigner opponents decisively: 2-0 MaNa in KoB, 2-0 versus ShowTime and Nice in DH, 2-1 Neeb in Asus ROG. His most notable loss outside of the aforementioned GSL is a 1-3 defeat against Harstem, but it was in TSL#8 qualifier EU, with a clear latency disadvantage, and he still beat PtitDrogo and MaxPax respectively 2-0 and 3-0 in the same qualifier, which is not too shabby. Far be it to say that Maru can’t beat top PvT players—he’s coming off a key ace match victory against Trap in the WTL. But he’s not a consistent TvP player either, evidenced by his 1-1 draws against both herO and Prince in earlier WTL matches.
Though it’s only been a few months since Classic returned to SC2 from military service, his results are improving almost by the week, and he has beaten plenty of Code S regulars recently. Notably, in PvT, he’s taken series off ByuN, Dream, and Bunny. Also, preparation was always Classic’s greatest strength, and this is just his second time playing a serious BO5 since his return. His first one was a narrow 2-3 loss to Zest in Code A Season 3, and that was barely a month after returning from military service. It might not be long before he can wield the same strategic mastery he used to defeat Rogue 3-2 in the quarterfinals of BlizzCon 2019 before his military service began.
The head-to-head doesn’t tell us much since these two players haven’t played each other since Classic's return, but it’s still interesting to note that Maru only has a slight 31-29 lead in map score (though 13-9 in matches). Of course, the overall Aligulac.com ratings place Maru as a comfortable 81:19 favorite against Classic, with his TvP rating being a few hundred points higher than Classic's PvT.
All in all, this match has some upset potential, but I think Maru’s momentum is insanely high, and he is still clearly above Classic at the moment. Given Classic’s ability to prepare and recent progress in the many online tournaments he participates in, I see him taking at least a map, but Maru should prevail in the end.
Prediction: Maru 3-1 Classic
RO16 Match #8: Zest vs herO
To close the day, we will have a PvP that is also a team kill, as herO has joined Zest’s Dragon Phoenix Gaming after his return to SC2. You would think that these players did not face each other much in 2021 given herO’s late return from the military, but the prolific nature of both players has led to them already facing each other ten times in various online events.
Zest got upset by herO right away 1-2, but that was in a TLMC map contest tournament, so this result should be taken with a grain of salt. More expectedly, Zest dominated herO six matches in a row, for a total of 16 map wins - 4 losses between July and September 2021. herO was finally able to beat Zest again in late October / early November, with 3-2 and 2-1 victories in online cups, with Zest winning again 2-1 in the latest EPT Cup KR. A few weeks ago, I would have predicted an easy victory for Zest, but the upward grind of herO, his recent wins against Zest, and the latter beginning to underperform after his Code S finals loss, makes me think that herO might just win.
Since his GSL loss against Cure in early October, Zest has had good results in the small online cups, but hasn’t delivered on the level of a GSL-finalist in the bigger online tournaments that happened recently. He performed very well in the group stage of Stay At HSC#4 and reached the RO8—beating notably Serral 2-1, Bunny 3-2 and Solar 3-0 (although losing 1-2 against Lambo)—but he got beaten by Clem rather easily 3-1 in the match-up that is supposedly Clem’s weakness. After that, ByuN destroyed him 3-0 in the losers’ bracket. Zest then qualified for King of Battles 2 with good performances in the second qualifier, notably beating Zoun, DRG, Solar, Creator, Trap. However, he couldn’t get out of his group in the actual tournament, losing 1-2 against RagnaroK and 0-2 versus HeroMarine. Also, in DHM Winter Season Finals, he got upset by Scarlett 2-3 in the ro8.
Sure, his PvP was not really the culprit in those disappointing losses, but I do not think those results are just a fluke, and they might be indicative of some sort of slump starting for Zest. Maybe he lost his confidence for these slightly more important matches, or maybe he just hasn’t adjusted to the new maps. In any case, you can’t really accuse him of not practicing much anymore, given his almost daily activity in online cups.
herO, on the contrary, is on an upward trend. He took an important map off Maru in the WTL (though Maru’s errors were half to blame), won EPT KR Cup #95 with 2-1 wins over Zest and a 3-2 victory against NightMare, and qualified for TSL8 with wins over Elazer, Creator, Solar and SpeCial in the AM qualifier, among other solid results. herO is not the favorite by any means, (Aligulac favors Zest by roughly 66:34 odds in a BO5), but he is looking really hungry and motivated.
Following my intuition that Zest’s reign of terror (which culminated when he managed to defeat the invincible Rogue in an offline BO7) is coming to its end, I will go against Aligulac similar to my Dream vs Solar prediction. With day 1 already bringing us many near-upsets, it would only be natural that day 2 actually has upsets happening, right?
Prediction: herO 3 - 2 Zest