2022 GSL Super Tournament 1 - RO8 Previewby Wax
Start time: Monday, Jan 24 8:00am GMT (GMT+00:00)
The underdogs showed out in the RO16, sending Rogue and Trap hurtling out of the tournament early. Can Maru and Dark capitalize on Rogue's elimination and book a grand finals match? Or will they be the next to fall against this underdog surge?
Round of 8 - Match #1: Zest vs BunnyThe neverending farewell tour for Zest continues for yet another match, as he enters the RO16 after surviving a close call against Classic. The next player looking to end Zest's GSL career (unless he comes back for Code S…) is a Terran, coming in the form of Bunny.
As with all Zest matches in the past few months, this match largely hinges on what version of Zest shows up in the studio. For a few weeks in late 2021, Zest's swings between IEM Katowice runner-up form and eliminated-in-Code-A form were quite wild, but he is steadying himself in 2022. In particular, he seems to have settled on a PvT style that is getting him consistent wins, eschewing splash damage for swarms of Gateway units and Blink-DT's in the mid-game. While it feels a bit predictable to me, it hasn't stopped Terrans from landing their third bases too fast and dying anyway.
As for Bunny, he grew to become quite adept at GSL preparation in 2021, and he showed those skills off against Rogue in the RO16 by hammering him with early/mid-game Marine-Tank pushes. TvP allows for an even wider range of tricky openers for Terran, so expect to see some early cheeses that are equally creative and nasty. Zest's defense is often a bellwether for how his overall form will be on the day, so I expect the early game exchanges will play a big part in deciding the outcome.
The trusty Aligulac formula gives Zest a 68% chance of winning, which falls roughly in line with my expectations as well. I predict Bunny to take some games on the back of build order wins, but ultimately fall to Zest.
Prediction: Zest 3- 2 Bunny
Round of 8 - Match #2: Maru vs herOI'm scared for herO here. After winning DHM: Last Chance without facing a Protoss, Maru used his post-match interview to say he was fine with the TvP match-up, citing that Terran has the initiative in terms of build orders. Now, as all fans fluent in Korean progamer-ese know, if a pro says a match-up is balanced, it means it actually favors their race. In the rare case they say a match-up is good for them, it probably means they're feeling ridiculously confident. Remember, Maru went into Last Chance saying he was having trouble in both TvZ and TvT before annihilating both Dark and Cure on his way to the championship—imagine what he will do in a match-up he actually likes! Not only that, but it hasn't even been that long since Maru last laid the smackdown on herO, taking him down 3-0 in the previous Super Tournament.
Still, there's reason to believe that herO will put up a better fight than he did back then. He's easily the fastest improving military returnee from the 2021 class, and his PvT rating on Aligulac.com has actually gone up considerably since that last meeting against Maru. It might shock some fans to learn that he's now the #4 rated PvT player on Aligulac. In fact, in his post-match interview after the RO16, herO actually said his PvT and PvP are back at their old levels, with only PvZ remaining as a problem. Going to Aligulac again, the stats website gives Maru a 76.58% chance of winning, which is actually giving herO a lot more credit than I expected.
Though I can't pick herO to win, I still think he can make Maru sweat a little. He has a unique talent for creating chaotic situations and preventing games from stabilizing, and that can take even the best players out of their comfort zone now and then.
Prediction: Maru 3 - 1 herO
Round of 8 - Match #3: ByuN vs DarkAfter going 1-1 in the WTL playoff match between DPG and Shopify, ByuN and Dark are set to meet again barely two days later in the Super Tournament quarterfinals. That brief two-game series was a pretty succinct demonstration of the potential highs and lows of Dark's unique TvZ style. In a winning game on 2000 Atmospheres, Dark wielded his favored Roach-Ravager composition in the mid-game, defended well against the Terran attacks, and then finished ByuN with a Lurker-Nydus combo into the main. But in a losing effort on Berlingrad, Dark's gamble on early-game Ling-Roach strikes failed to hit the jackpot, and he was overwhelmed by ByuN's superior economy.
While Dark wouldn't be Dark without the occasional all-in (well, more than occasional), I have to think a more Serral-like approach might avail him here. He's been tremendous in macro ZvT games over the last few months, with it seeming like Maru is the only Terran capable of challenging him. Though ByuN's fast-paced multi-prong attacks can overwhelm most Zerg players—and even Dark on occasion—I doubt he can take three macro games off of Dark in a BO5 series.
Interestingly enough, ByuN was very well aware of his underdog status during his post-match interview after beating Dream, but still said he preferred to play the more difficult opponent in Dark. Rather than setting his goal as winning the match, he gave the somewhat cryptic statement that he'd be satisfied just to show the level of play that he wants. Could ByuN already be looking ahead to Katowice, and be thinking of this as a kind of tune-up/skill-check match?
This match actually mirrors Maru vs herO in terms of the Aligulac.com ratings. Like herO, ByuN is an excellent player at the relevant match-up and is #4 in the Aligulac.com rankings, but still only has a 20% chance of winning because his opponent is just playing an entirely different level. ByuN has had a bit of success against Dark in ESL Open Cups, but GSL studio matches are a different story altogether. I'll pick Dark to win handily, with ByuN stealing one of the short maps with a well-executed Marine-Tank push.
Prediction: Dark 3 - 1 ByuN
Round of 8 - Match #4: Creator vs ZounBefore even looking into this specific match-up, I'm happy for the fact that Creator is simply playing in this round. It's been over three years since he advanced a round in a GSL tournament, you could feel the relief in his voice in his post-match interview after beating Solar last week. Fans who keep up with non-GSL tournaments would have noticed that Creator improved greatly in the second half of 2021, but he didn't really get a chance to show it in major tournaments. Even when he did qualify for a major event in TSL8, he suffered agonizing 1-2 defeats to Dark and Scarlett despite fighting valiantly.
In his Super Tournament interview, Creator talked about the mentality issues that afflicted him in those tense situations where the game was tied 1-1, preventing him from playing up to his usual level. He said that he has been working on his mentality lately, and it seemed to pay off in his dominating 3-0 win over Solar. As we've seen with players like Trap, improving one's mental can be a slow, step-by-step process where one has to adapt to the growing pressure of each and every round. Thus, it might be too much to ask of Creator for another strong performance, just days after he hit a major milestone. Nonetheless, it's just nice to see him winning in the GSL and getting interview opportunities again.
If one was to be cautiously optimistic, Zoun is actually fairly good draw for Creator as he looks to make it into the semifinals for the first time in nine years. Zoun admitted that PvP isn't quite his best match-up, while Creator stated a preference for playing Zoun over Cure. It might be a bit surprising considering that Zoun has a winning record against Creator and is currently on a four match winning streak, but those results are somewhat dated. Aligulac actually sees Creator as a slight favorite in the BO5, reflecting the attitudes of the two players.
PvP's between closely matched players are notoriously hard to predict, but there's enough out-of-game circumstances to make Zoun an easy pick for me. Creator, despite his impressive RO16 showing, has a long history of underperforming in big tournament matches. On the other hand, Zoun has been a consistently clutch player in important games, including his RO16 win against Cure in the last round. Perhaps the series will go all five games, but I expect Zoun to stay composed and close the series out.
Prediction: Zoun 3 - 2 Creator