2022 GSL Code S Season 1 - Round of 10by Wax
Day 1 of Group A featured plenty of cheeses and meticulously planned strategies, showing just how desperate the five players were to advance to the next round. They'll need to dig even deeper into their bag of tricks on Day 2 if they want to finish the job and lock in a playoff spot.
Rogue looks to be in a comfortable position with a 2-0 record, but he still has every reason to go 100% here. Advancing in 2nd or 3rd place makes it very likely that he'll face Dark or Maru in the RO6, whereas finishing 1st place would allow him to bypass the RO6 and start directly in the RO4—his preference should be clear here.
As for the three 1-1 players in RagnaroK, Trap, and Ryung, they'll be competing fiercely to ensure they finish in the top three. Not only that, but they'll also be hoping that Rogue fumbles the lead and gives them a chance to steal first place.
Finally, 0-2 ByuN doesn't need to despair just yet. 1st place is probably out of reach, but finishing 2-2 will give him a very good chance of advancing to the playoffs.
Group A - Day 2 Preview: Rogue, RagnaroK, Trap, Ryung, ByuNStart time: Monday, Apr 18 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
Match #1: ByuN vs RagnaroKByuN's potential comeback will start with a difficult match against RagnaroK, who might be the most impressive player of the tournament so far. This has already been one the best Code S runs of his entire career, and it's been built on his commitment to nasty all-ins and creative build orders. Interestingly enough, he credited Cure as inspiration for this change. GSL fans will remember that Cure was a macro-oriented player who ended up winning his first ever Code S title last season by bringing meticulously prepared, opponent-specific builds to every match. Similar to Cure, RagnaroK has been able to use his previous matches to set up mind games for the next: you could see how his active use of proxy-Hatcheries in the RO20 messed with Trap's head when they faced off last week in the RO10.
However, I wonder if RagnaroK will revert to a more standard style when he goes up against ByuN. Historically, ZvT has been the match-up where he's shown the most preference for macro-oriented play, and personally I think he's rather good at it. Sure, he's going to get demolished by someone like Maru, but he's more than capable of tackling someone like ByuN head on. Aligulac.com agrees with me here, giving RagnaroK around a 55% chance of winning this BO3. On the other hand, TL.net users are favoring ByuN by around a 10:7 ratio in Liquibet, probably leaning on ByuN's old reputation as a micro-master in TvZ. Frankly, I think that reputation is somewhat overblown—ByuN shows glimpses of brilliance occasionally, but ZvT defense has reached such a high average level that it's hard to overwhelm people by force of mechanics on a regular basis. However RagnaroK wants to play it—'honorably' or by employing trickery—I think he has the slight edge over ByuN.
Prediction: RagnaroK 2 - 1 ByuN
Match #2: Trap vs RyungRyung's run at IEM Katowice may have ended in the RO12, but he hasn't stopped conjuring miracles elsewhere. First, he defeated Zest twice in the Code S RO20 to advance to the next round. Then, in the first day of RO10 action, he managed to take down ByuN 2-1 despite having only a 20% chance of winning according to Aligulac.com (though TL.net's Poopi correctly predicted that Ryung's historical TvT clutchness would carry the day). Not only that, but he stole a map off the heavily favored Rogue with a cheeky Bunker-rush, getting a map win that might be crucial in potential tie-breakers. RO6 Ryung seemed like an outlandish proposition at the start of the season, but it's looking quite realistic as we head into the last week of RO10 action.
Every match in a five-player round robin is critical, but I think this is the most important one for Ryung. TvP is the match-up where he's been the most magical in his recent run, defeating herO and Creator at IEM and then going on to defeat Zest in Code S. The amazing thing is that Ryung has been winning largely through great standard play, establishing himself as a legitimate TvP powerhouse and not just someone who's getting lucky with build orders and all-ins. On the other hand, Trap is in the midst of a slight PvT slump—he's still a strong player who's ranked #3 in the match-up on Aligulac, but he's nowhere close to looking like the unstoppable PvT player he was around nine months ago. As unbelievable as it may have sounded at the start of the tournament, Trap is the one opponent in the group that Ryung 'should' defeat.
To me, Trap is akin to a 'final exam' for Ryung. I'm 90% sold on Ryung as one of the best TvP players in the world, on a level with Clem or Maru, but a win against Trap here would lock it in as 100%. Aligulac still things Trap is a heavy favorite with a 70% chance to win, but that's how the numbers have looked for Ryung in all his previous TvP upsets as well. Considering what Ryung has achieved in the last few weeks, I think he'll barely pass the test.
Prediction: Ryung 2 - 1 Trap
Match #3: ByuN vs RogueThis is the series that could prove to be a backbreaker for ByuN and his hopes of reaching the playoffs. Not only is Rogue the heavy favorite to take first place in this group, but on top of that his ZvT has been his best match-up for over half a year. While he's dropped series to weaker players in online play, he rarely ever gives up an upset in major tournaments. His ZvT peaks are as high as any player in the world, which he proved by being one of the few players to defeat Maru in a BO5+ during the Terran's nigh-invincible run in late 2021. Not surprisingly, Aligulac.com sees Rogue as a healthy favorite in this match with over a 70% chance of winning.
It's worth noting the few upsets Rogue has surrendered when looking at the case for a ByuN victory. The most prominent one was his 2-3 loss to Bunny in January's Super Tournament, where Bunny was hell-bent on killing Rogue with a variety of 2-base Bio + Tank pushes. That's definitely a style that ByuN can emulate—ByuN is rarely given to passive play in any match-up, and he can hope to catch Rogue napping. Something else ByuN might look to do is go for more drastic Bunker-rush cheeses, as it's what Ryung used to steal a map off Rogue earlier in the group. On the other hand, the way Rogue completely shut down another one of Ryung's Bunker-rushes when he got an early scout demonstrated the riskiness of this approach.
Overall, I think the situation is pretty bad for ByuN, but he still has a puncher's chance with careful preparation and good execution. Rogue's defense is very good, but it isn't of the completely invulnerable variety like Serral's. If ByuN stays true to his aggressive style, he might be able to punish Rogue on an off-night.
Prediction: Rogue 2 - 1 ByuN
Match #4: RagnaroK vs RyungDuring the pre-match interviews for Group A, RagnaroK expressed his great satisfaction at being drawn together with both Ryung and ByuN in his group. This is especially easy to understand when you look at Ryung's stats over the last few months: he might have had divine protection in TvT and TvP, but the StarCraft II gods have left him to fend for himself in TvZ. He's all the way down at #16 in the Aligulac.com TvZ rankings, sandwiched between Epic and Kelazhur above him, and MilkiCow and Future beneath him. While the Aligulac.com odds for this match aren't quite as bad as the 82 that Ryung had against Rogue, the stats website still projects this to be a brutal uphill battle where he only has a 16% chance to win.
After already revealing two proxy-Barracks variants and a TvP-esque Marine-Tank-SCV all-in against Rogue on day one, I have to wonder what else Rogue has in the bag. He could very well go with the proxy-Barracks strategies again and just gamble on Overlord scouts going the wrong direction—that kind of coin flip might be his best option given his disadvantage in straight-up games. Otherwise, I feel like Ryung's options will be pretty limited as RagnaroK knows he's the favored player here, and should be scouting meticulously for slower cheeses such as Hellbat or BC rushes. While RagnaroK might bring out a trick or two against ByuN, I think the match against Ryung is where he's most likely to play it safe and win with standard play. Unless Ryung is extremely creative with his builds, or unless RagnaroK overthinks his plan here and does something weird, I feel like RagnaroK should be the heavy favorite.
Prediction: RagnaroK 2 - 0 Ryung
Match #5: Trap vs RogueThis match-up features a curiously large disparity between TL.net Liquibet picks and Aligulac.com odds. The TL.net users see Trap as a dead man walking, favoring Rogue by a ratio of nearly 5 to 1. On the other hand, Aligulac only sees Rogue as a minor favorite who has a 59.05% chance to win. As a TL.net user myself, my gut feeling was also that Trap's prospects of winning were very poor. I still can't get his utterly demoralizing 0-3 loss to Dark from IEM Katowice out of my mind, and his 0-2 against RagnaroK earlier in Group A certainly hasn't helped my impression of his PvZ.
However, going over Rogue's matches in the last few months, I realized that Rogue hasn't exactly been a dominant force in ZvP himself. First off, he's been losing quite a bit in smaller online events in the last few months, even if we grant that he's never really bought his A-game to such events historically. But additionally, his performances in major events have been slightly spotty as well. Recently, his over-cautious play cost him a map against the heavy underdog NightMare in the RO20, allowing his opponent to get a game-winning lead in a macro game. Going back even further, it's actually been a while since Rogue took out a 'top-tier' Protoss player in a major event. This is partially just due to brackets working out so he never had to face them, but he also blew his opportunities when they came (notably against Zest in the Code S Season 3 semifinals). As Dark and Serral have continued to demonstrate they are elite ZvP players by handing top Protosses soul-crushing defeats in big matches, perhaps I've just been assuming that Rogue is on the same level without any real evidence, just because he has generally kept pace with his vaunted Zerg peers for the last four years.
Still, some minor uncertainty about whether Rogue is 'very good' or 'great' at ZvP isn't going to stop me from picking him to win this match. Trap's PvZ slump has continued for quite a while now, and I doubt Rogue is going to be the player who helps bring it to an end.
Prediction: Rogue 2 - 1 Trap
Credits and acknowledgements
Records and Statistics: Aligulac.com and Liquipedia
Records and Statistics: Aligulac.com and Liquipedia