DreamHack StarCraft II Masters: Valenciaby Poopi
The TL.net Power Rank makes a return for the first DreamHack event of the 2022/23 season!
If previous installments were decided by a committee of writers, this Power Rank goes back to TL.net's Brood War roots of being inked by one all-powerful arbiter of ability. Whether you agree or disagree, make sure to leave your own power rank of the top players in the comments!
#10 - DongRaeGuSolar was DongRaeGu's close rival for the #10 spot, but DRG had a small advantage in being seeded into a higher group stage. Also, he managed to beat both GuMiho and Rogue to qualify for the RO10 in the GSL, whereas Solar ended up 3rd in his group.
Other than that, I don't really see any player who should realistically be ranked above DRG. ByuN has been a bit disappointing as of late, whereas the top foreigners are already comfortably ranked above DRG.
#9 - CreatorCreator was poor in his first day of Code S round-of-10 matches, losing to both RagnaroK and Bunny. That result amplifies worries that he might be a flash in the pan finalist, doomed to fall back to his previous station in SC2. However, I still have faith in him, and I'll gamble on him being able to shed some of the pressure and deliver great results like he did in Code S Season 1.
Putting Creator ahead of DRG feels like a bit of a stretch given his recent performances, but he gets the #9 spot since we're not that that far removed from the Code S run that showed his potential.
#8: RagnaroKRagnaroK actually has better results compared to some higher ranked players who are relying on their reputations and past results. So far, he has been excellent in Code S. He topped his RO20 group by beating both Trap and Cure, and went on to win his first two RO10 matches against Creator and Cure. With apologies to Solar, RagnaroK seems to be clearly the best Zerg here who hasn't already won a world championship tier event.
#7 - BunnyBunny had a superb run at IEM Katowice 2022, finishing top 8 after winning his RO24 group. He lost to Zest in the RO24, but ripped off a series of wins against HeroMarine, Trap, Astrea, and Lambo to take first place in his group. While he ended up losing 1-3 against Rogue in the playoffs, it was certainly a high point in his career.
Bunny had a chance to carry that momentum over into Code S Season 1, but a freak wrist injury saw him go out in the RO20. However, he's been playing very well after recovering from that injury, and took #1 in his RO20 group in Code S season 2 with wins over ByuN and soO. Combined with some great results in the WTL, Bunny looks like a force to be reckoned with even if he's coming from the open bracket.
#6 - HeroMarineThis one is quite obvious. Big Gabe's run in Katowice was phenomenal, as he almost reached the finals with a narrow 2-3 loss against Reynor in the semis. If that was not enough, he kept that momentum going in the first season of DHM: Europe, scoring a shocking upset over Serral in playoff rounds.
Also, HeroMarine is still a relatively dominant force in the EPT Cups, showing off the consistency that's been a key strength for nearly a decade now. He's very close to breaking the top five, but I have to put him just outside since he narrowly lost his DHM: Europe match to Clem in the losers bracket.
#5 - herOherO as fifth is both too low and too high. Going by his performances in online tournaments and most recent outing in the GSL RO10, you might even say he's the best Korean player not named Maru.
His recent 2-0 victory against Rogue in the Code S RO20 seemed like it had almost meta-shifting potential, and in this week's Code S RO10 matches, he was one of the few players who managed to enhance his reputation in a losing effort by going toe-to-toe with Maru in a 1-2 loss. In the ESL Open Cups, he recently won a ridiculous four Korean cups in a row.
However, you might have been hyped for herO four months ago as well, only to see him disappoint at both IEM Katowice and Code S Season 1. So far, herO hasn't proven that he can bring championship-tier gameplay to a weekend tournament outside of Korea, whereas the players above him have given us a lot more reasons to have faith in them. The sky seems to be the limit for herO, but I am still cautious since his major tournament results don’t quite match his gameplay and potential yet.
#4 - DarkDark's Code S Season 1 run was impressive as he reached the semifinals with only a group stage loss to herO. Even though he lost to eventual champion Rogue, it was definitely a solid result. It fell in line with some of the 'unlucky' losses Dark has been suffering lately: if he had defeated Rogue in the GSL, then he would have been a favorite to beat Creator and win the championship. Also, if he hadn't narrowly lost 2-3 to Reynor at IEM Katowice, then he would have had a good shot to beat HeroMarine and reach the finals. Remember, when Dark actually did beat his nemesis Rogue back in 2021's Code S Season 2, he went all the way to win the finals.
Of course, what-if's are just what-if's, and we can't dwell on them too much. Lately, Dark's performances haven't really been up to par. He lost versus Zoun in the first group stage of Code S Season 2, advancing in second place despite being the clear favorite on paper. Dark's WTL performances have also been rather disappointing as he only has a 4W-4L record (1-1 vs Dream, 2-0 vs Sakya, 0-2 vs Bunny, and 1-1 vs SpeCial).
Dark did look more like himself in the Code S RO10 where he got the job done against Bunny and Cure, but he just hasn't done quite enough lately to be ranked above the absolute beasts in this PR. However, Dark being a global champion, two-time GSL winner, and one of the most consistently great players in SC2 forces me to give him the benefit of the doubt and rank him above players who arguably have more momentum right now.
#3 - ClemIt's pretty easy to place Clem in the top 3 after his championship run in DHM: Europe. Europe as a region has never been more competitive, and it's inching closer and closer to Korea (some might say it's even surpassed Korea at the top). Compared to some of the Korean players who aren't exactly dominating the GSL (more on Maru in a second), I don’t see any reason to rank him lower.
Once I got to the top 3, the players were very hard to order—I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been if Serral participated from the open bracket or if Rogue was able to come.
It seems harsh to rate Clem lower than Reynor after he beat him to win the regional championship. It also seems a bit unfair to place him lower than Maru when the Onsyde Gaming Terran was so disappointing in Code S Season 1.
It's a matter of match-ups, relative strengths, and historical success. Clem and Reynor are close to 50-50 against each other, but Reynor is the favorite against almost everyone else while Clem has a handful of difficult match-ups. In particular, I think Reynor has a better shot of beating Maru than Clem.
And despite Maru's disappointing Code S Season 1, he's been dominant so far in Season 2. If we believe that Maru is close to being full strength, then he has a better shot of winning it all than Clem. Despite winning several European regionals, Clem has struggled to convert those wins into international success. The peak version of Maru has clearly been a better international player than Clem, and that's saying something considering that Maru typically underperforms outside the GSL.
#2 - MaruAs mentioned in the Clem section, Maru has been looking fantastic in his recent GSL matches, delivering high level TvP series against both Creator and herO, and a proper late game domination versus Solar. His TvT still looks untouchable, which makes him a player with no clear weaknesses and a few extreme strengths.
However, it is always hard to predict how well Maru will do in international offline tournaments, especially the farther you go from South Korea. His IEM Katowice run would have been pretty great for any other player, as he made it out of the group of death and only lost to eventual champion Serral in the quarterfinals. However, top eight feels low for a player of Maru's reputation. He's at a level where he's expected to win it all in major internationals, and he's fallen short compared to his elite peers.
If we could confirm beforehand that Maru would play at DH:Valencia at the same level he did in GSL Season 2, I would put him rank 1 immediately. Reynor eventually lost to Clem in DH:Europe, and Maru has demonstrated even better gameplay than Clem in my opinion.
I see Maru as the favorite against virtually everyone but Reynor, and maybe herO and Dark, but his TvT is so flawless that even “international” Maru should be the main championship contender alongside the Italian Zerg.
#1 - ReynorThis placement was probably expected by most fans, but I still have to remind everyone why Reynor is arguably the strongest player coming into Valencia. His performance at Katowice was stellar, utterly dominating the group of death with a 5-0 match score, only losing maps to Zoun and Maru. He took 3-2 playoff victories against both Dark and HeroMarine, proving clutch when his back was against the wall. He looked monstrous versus Serral in the first half of the finals, and only lost after Serral made the most spectacular comeback of his career.
Reynor's DHM:EU run was slow to start with mixed results (5-2 losing against SoulSpirit and Elazer in ZvZ), but once the playoffs started he unleashed his full potential: 3-0 vs ShoWTimE, 3-1 vs Serral and 3-0 vs Clem in the upper bracket. The French Terran ultimately won the series 4-3 with a one map disadvantage coming from the loser’s bracket, but it was a very close call. Ultimately, Reynor did have the season map advantage against Clem, 5-4.
If that was not enough to convince you, Reynor is also dominating in the margins as well. He turned KaiZi Gaming's fortunes around in the WTL, racking up a league-best 16-2 record. That's the kind of dominance Maru showed when he led Team NV to championships.
Since Reynor's closest competitor seems to be Maru, I think the final deciding factor is the fact that the tournament takes place in Europe and not in South Korea. As such, I see Reynor as the favorite to win it all at Valencia.