2022 GSL Super Tournament 1 - RO16 Day Oneby Wax
Start time: Sunday, Jan 16 8:00am GMT (GMT+00:00)
Another year of the Global StarCraft II League is set to begin with the first of three Super Tournaments ushering in the action. The overall prize money has been upped from 2021, with the first place now claiming $10,000 (up from $8,000). For now, prize money is the only stakes we know of—while last year's Super Tournament #1 awarded Code S seeds to the top four players, AfreecaTV have yet to announce if that will be the case in this year as well.
Super Tournament #1 is also noteworthy in that it's the last major skill-check for Korean players before the IEM Katowice World Championship in February. International players already had their last chance to show us what they've got at DHM: Last Chance—the GSL's best players get one more shot to leave a good final impression.
Round of 16 - Match #1: Zest vs ClassicIn last year's Code A season three, there was a potential baton-passing moment as Zest took on Classic. While Zest was facing the specter of a conscription letter that could arrive at any moment, Classic had recently completed his own military service and was looking to resume his career. Ultimately, the match ended up having a different kind of symbolism: Zest won 3-2, as if to declare that he wasn't going to let anyone 'retire' him without a fight.
Months laters, the two meet again at a similar juncture. Zest is still competing with the sword of conscription hanging over his head, even hoping that IEM Katowice participation may still be a possibility (whether this is a vain hope or a realistic possibility, who knows?). Meanwhile, Classic's recovery has continued at a steady pace—since his loss to Zest in Code A, he's gone on to reach the RO16 of Super Tournament 3 (2021) and the RO8 of NeXT Season 2. This time, can Classic finally put his old foe out to pasture?
I'm tempted to pick Classic to win in this match. The master strategist has always excelled when given preparation time—his close 2-3 loss against Zest back in Code A felt way ahead of schedule, and something only possible due to his expertise in GSL-like settings. Even though he can't smash through the ESL Weeklies like Zest, Classic's qualification for ST3 and RO8 run in NeXT are a testament to his big-event chops.
On the other hand, Zest still has a higher baseline level of play as the 68.74% win chance given to him by Aligulac.com suggests. For over a year now, Zest's PvP has been top three or better. Headed into this match, the biggest mark against him would have been a severe dip in form around mid-November/early-December, but he seems to be rapidly rounding back into good shape. At DHM: Last Chance, Zest explained things by saying he had been taking things easy for a month or so, but was ramping his practice back up ahead of IEM Katowice.
Now, to reiterate, I have no idea how realistic it is that Zest will be able to compete at IEM Katowice. But considering how well he played during his Code S Season 3 finals run—when he seemed to think it was his last chance at winning a championship—you have to respect a motivated and fully focused Zest. Even if the real prize Zest is aiming for is the jackpot at IEM Katowice, Super Tournament #1 could be a secondary prize he takes in the wake of his preparation.
Prediction: Zest 3 - 2 Classic
Round of 16 - Match #2: Rogue vs BunnySpeaking of shaping up for IEM Katowice: Rogue looked to be championship contender #1 after winning Super Tournament 3 by defeating Maru, and then going on to win TSL8 by annihilating Serral. Unfortunately for Rogue, his bizarre tendency of embarrassing himself after winning a championship reared its head again in DHM: Last Chance as he was eliminated in the RO16 with losses to Elazer and Zest. We've seen this abrupt collapse so many times now that there doesn't seem to be much point in trying to attach much meaning to the result. Jaedong once said of Rogue: "Winners gonna win." I'll suggest a corollary statement: "Rogue's gonna Rogue."
What does this mean for Bunny? The solid Team NV Terran had improved significantly in 2021, growing to become a regular top eight player in major events. However, he also exhibited a quality akin to the older versions of HeroMarine, where matches against top tier players like Trap or Serral felt like completely hopeless propositions... ...with a notable exception in Rogue. Bunny actually went 4-1 in matches against Rogue in 2021—three of those wins came in online cups, but one was a huge upset in the Code S group stages (with Rogue even hand-picking Bunny as an opponent during the group selections). With Bunny already having shown he can take out Rogue in a GSL setting when he's not totally locked in, you have to think he has a puncher's chance of causing another upset.
On the other hand, Rogue's DHM: Last Chance might just be an example of general tournament randomness, and not another one of those chronic lapses in focus that are unique to him. Considering the unpredictable nature of ZvZ combined with Elazer's history of upsetting top players, it was hardly inexcusable for Rogue to lose to the Polish Zerg. As for his following 0-2 loss to Zest, that was another understandable loss to one of the best (if consistent) players of their faction. Moreover, Rogue didn't have to play any ZvT at Last Chance—as far as we know, this might still be the Maru-slaying beast from the previous Super Tournament.
While there are no sure things with Rogue, I'm going to put my faith in him and say that Super Tournament 3 and TSL8 are truly representative of his current level, while DHM: Last Chance was more of a freak accident.
Prediction: Rogue 3 - 1 Bunny
Round of 16 - Match #3: Maru vs ArmaniNot even 24 hours removed from winning DHM: Last Chance, Maru will be back in action in the Super Tournament. Playing until 4AM in the morning and getting up to play another tournament on what's technically the same day can't be great for his condition, so he might be relieved that his first round match-up is Armani.
Maru is arguably the best player in the world at the moment, and TvZ is his strongest match-up. Over the past three months, he's gone up against top Zergs like Serral, Dark, and Rogue in several major events, and has come out with a winning or tied record against all of them. Just a few days ago in the quarterfinals of DHM: Last Chance, Maru defeated Dark 3-1 in a late-game TvZ masterclass. In contrast, Armani's ZvT falls in that tricky 'good-but-not-great zone', where he can pressure Maru hard in the mid-game with swarming Ling-Bane play, but doesn't stand much of a chance if things go late. It's not particularly encouraging that his latest series of ZvT performances were going 0-3 during the Super Tournament qualifiers (losing to ByuN, SpeCial, and Cure).
Not surprisingly, Aligulac.com is giving Maru a 96.45% chance to win this upcoming best-of-five bout. Quibble all you will about Aligulac's predictive abilities—it's rarely wrong when the numbers are that stark. That ~3% chance lies in the possibility that Maru might be too impatient to play his turtle style again, and gets too predictable with his favored proxy-Barracks strats.
Prediction: Maru 3 - 1 Armani
Round of 16 - Match #4: herO vs TrapDay one is bookended by another PvP with Trap taking on herO. Three months ago, I'd have picked this as an easy win for Trap—now, the story isn't quite so clear.
What seemed like a brief adjustment period to the new map pool in October has turned into an extended slump for Trap. His decline hasn't been precipitous—he's still in the tier of players who could easily make the top four at any major event. However, he's no longer the clear #1 Protoss player in the world and seems much more prone to upsets in all three match-ups. On the other hand, herO has recovered rapidly since his return to StarCraft II in June of 2021, and is putting up solid results across all sorts of competition. He already has a top eight Super Tournament finish under his belt, having defeated Zest 3-1 in last year's ST #3. He's been an absolute revelation for DPG in the World Team League, where he's already outperformed teammate Zest and forced him to share Protoss duties equally.
If we go back to the Aligulac.com well, PvP has actually been the match-up where herO has gained the most ratings points since his return, and he's now virtually tied with Trap for 4th/5th place in the PvP standings. PvP really seems to fit herO's current style well—it's a venue where his creative build orders, keen instinct for when to go for the kill, and unpredictable tech switches all get to shine at once. Interestingly enough, herO actually beat Trap 2-1 in the qualifiers for the Super Tournament based on his defensive prowess, taking both games by holding out against the opponent's attacks. Overall, herO seems to have found the right balance of offense and defense in PvP needed to be a top player in the match-up.
While I still give Trap the slight edge due to his tremendous resume in the GSL Super Tournament, this is definitely the day one match-up where an upset is the most likely.
Prediction: Trap 3 - 2 herO