2022 GSL Code S Season 3 - Round of 20by Wax
Code S is back for its final season of 2022!
When we last left off, herO had taken down Maru 4-1 in the grand finals, winning Protoss's first Code S title in five years AND the first ever Code S title for a military returnee. After that kind of result, anything seems to be possible in the world of the GSL (well, maybe except the G5L...), and it will be fascinating to see if this season creates another surprise star.
Of course, all eyes will be on Reynor as he attempts to become the first ever non-Korean player to win GSL Code S. But his fellow foreigner-house player Astrea has to be watched as well, as his recent run of good form suggests that it might finally be time for him to make a splash in in the GSL.
Group A Preview: herO, Astrea, ByuN, ArmaniStart time: Sunday, Aug 21 11:30pm GMT (GMT+00:00)
As is tradition, reigning champion herO is the headliner on opening day. Before herO's finals match against Maru, everyone wondered if he had what it took to win the Code S title. As it turned out, he proved himself to be worthy beyond a doubt in a one-sided 4-1 drubbing.
Alas, being a progamer means facing a series of never ending questions, and we must now ask: what kind of champion will herO be? In a decade of Code S play, we've seen one-hit wonders, dynasty makers, and every type of champion in between. herO, after winning Code S, claimed that the victory only made him thirst for even more titles. However, we know from past winners that words are much cheaper than actions—*cough* Rogue *cough*—and it will be up to herO to prove he can keep his hot Protoss summer going.
Overall, I would say this group is a pretty unlucky draw for a reigning champion. Typically they're gifted a relatively easy, low-seeded player as their initial opponent, but AfreecaTV's GSL point system—which only factors in GSL-brand tournaments—has yielded peculiar seeding results (view seeding table). Now herO must face Astrea—the 11th ranked player in the EPT Global Standings—instead of someone like Prince or soO.
Alongside herO and Creator, Astrea is one of the three most improved players in the 2022/23 season. While he went out without a single map victory in his Code S Season 2 group, he rebounded with a fantastic run at July's HomeStory Cup where he defeated players like Clem, Zoun, Reynor, and Neeb on the way to a third place finish. When you throw in the inherent danger of PvP, it's a very difficult match for a defending champion, even if he still happens to be the favorite.
Armani is the only relatively easy opponent for herO to face, as the Kwangdong Freecs Zerg is firmly entrenched as a mid-level player. He hasn't made it past the first round of Code S in five consecutive seasons, serving as something of a qualifiers gatekeeper (this season he barred SpeCial's passage).
Interestingly enough, Armani had a very nice season in World Team League Summer with a 12-6 record, assuming the position of ace as Trap prepared for his (presumed) retirement. In WTL, a 1-1 tie is often a perfectly acceptable result, and Armani was very good at forcing draws out of theoretically stronger players (he also gave up 1-1's to weaker players, but oh well). Unfortunately for Armani, there are no ties here in the GSL, and his chance of actually winning full BO3's seems rather grim in a stacked RO20 group.
Alongside Astrea, ByuN is the other player making this opening group feel thorny for herO. The ESL Open cups enhanced the phenomenon of 'online-only' players, with the legacy being passed on from Zest, to Cure, to herO himself, and now to ByuN. Looking at that list of players, you have to be pretty concerned for the reigning champ. Eventually, all of them converted their online prowess into a great run at an offline event—even if the waiting period was excruciatingly long in the case of Cure.
ByuN's current run in the Open Cups is reminiscent of herO earlier in the year, going on streaks of several consecutive victories. He's even risen to #7 in the Aligulac.com rankings, which is just two places behind herO at #5. If ByuN finally brings his A-game to the AfreecaTV studio, then he could make a potential clash with herO very close.
Prediction: Obviously, #1 Protoss player herO is still the favorite to advance here—it's just that the group draw has made it harder than usual for a reigning Code S champion. ByuN, in particular, is a player who poses a big danger to him with Aligulac.com seeing the match-up as a near 50/50. If things play out as expected, they should battle for the #1 seed out of the group. With both players favoring incredibly aggressive styles, their ability to manage chaotic basetrades could make the difference in the series.
Astrea is the big wild card here, with the biggest gap between his highs and lows. He's failed to build on his great HSC 21 run, dropping out of TSL9 with losses to Classic and Reynor, and then against Solar and HeroMarine in a last-chance replacement event. Of course, those are all strong opponents, but being 0-4 in your last premier tournament matches isn't exactly building momentum ahead of Code S.
While this group definitely has a chance to get very complicated, I'll still go with the most probable result in the end.
herO > Astrea
ByuN > Armani
herO > ByuN
Astrea > Armani
ByuN > Astrea
herO and ByuN to advance.