2022 GSL Code S Season 3 - Round of 6by Wax
Defending champion herO suffered a minor setback in the RO10, as he was forced down to the Round-of-6 after losing to RagnaroK. Now that he faces dangerous and unpredictable contenders GuMiho, Cure, and DongRaeGu, a return to the semifinals is hardly assured.
Round of 6: herO, DongRaeGu, GuMiho, CureStart time: Monday, Oct 03 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
We've arrived at herO vs. DongRaeGu at a point in time where PvZ is extremely chaotic, and is perhaps the most diverse it has been in years. Yes, perhaps there is some mid/late-game convergence in terms of army compositions, but in terms of openers, almost anything seems to be on the table.
With all that said, I still think herO is the best PvZ player in the world and a significant favorite against DongRaeGu. No, the baseline version of the herO-style doesn't feel like the free-win it once was, allowing herO to simply A-move Zergs into oblivion. The thing is, even when herO had the strategic advantage over his peers, he was never predictable—he had a lot of ways to play out of his standard Oracle-Blink start. That kind of strategic variety is still helping him now, as Protoss gets back to its PvZ roots of playing a deception-based game.
DongRaeGu, to his credit, is a much improved PvZ player from around half a year ago. Back then, he seemed unusually easy for those nasty Protosses to dupe, often falling for their tricks in the early-game. Now, he's become a much more solid player all-around, defending early-game leads and overwhelming opponents with his tremendous mid-game macro play (his late-game control is still somewhat suspect). However, I'm dubious that having become merely a 'very solid' ZvP player will be enough to see DRG to victory against herO. Not only does herO have a deep bag of tricks, but he has the absolute best small-scale unit control. If Creator saw DRG swat aside his harassment as a minor nuisance in the RO10, you have to think herO will achieve much more in similar situations.
It's worth noting that herO fell 1-2 to RagnaroK in his own RO10 group, a result that might have concerned some onlookers about the state of PvZ. The #1 PvZ player, losing to #6 ZvP player? However, I don't think that match reflected too poorly on herO's abilities. In the deciding map on Cosmic Sapphire, he basically had RagnaroK dead to rights after executing a powerful mid-game timing. herO lost because of his stubborn insistence on trying to end the game with Stalkers, allowing RagnaroK to pull off a great comeback with Mutas against the Phoenix-less Protoss. herO's aggressiveness and preference of going for the throat is a double edged sword, and it inevitably leads to the occasional loss.
Aligulac sees herO has a strong favorite, giving him a 76.23% chance of winning the match. I think this is a bit unfair toward DongRaeGu, who has a history of playing above his 'normal' level in big matches (a combination of well-prepared strategies and general good composure). Even so, I still think herO's advantages in early-game micro and build selection will see him through to the semifinals.
Prediction: herO 3 - 2 DongRaeGu
To be totally honest—and it hurts to say this as a GuMiho fan—I think his creativity gets a bit overblown. He rarely brings out something completely new in a major tournament—it's more that he cycles through a set number of unorthodox openers. However, there's definitely a lot of value in being able to play a wide variety of 'predictable' strategies. For instance, Solar 100% knew that GuMiho had a 2-Starport BC build in his playbook when they met in the RO10, but simply knowing didn't help him defend it when he had to consider Hellion-Banshee, three different versions of a Hellbat timing, and all the other things he could potentially execute.
Similarly, Cure's GSL championship run didn't happen because he was doing anything mind-blowing. However, by mixing up different kinds of known cheeses, different proxy locations, and different angles from where to drop, he managed to get in his opponents' heads and manufacture advantages for himself.
While I think build-order selection will play a big role in the outcome of this series, I'm giving Cure the edge due to his mechanics. It's amusing how often between high level players, we see some frenzied early-game exchange that ends in them transitioning to a macro game on relatively even terms. In such scenarios, I have to favor the player with better hands in Cure. Even at GuMiho's peak, he was never a player with great mechanics, whereas you could argue Cure presently has the third best mechanics after Maru and Clem. Some of these games are inevitably going to swing on who reacts half a second faster as Marine-Tank armies maneuver around the map, and I think Cure will be the one who has the advantage more often than not.
Aligulac.com gives Cure a respetable edge with a 68.23% chance of winning. While I agree with that general assessment, this also feels like the highest variance series of the night, and it wouldn't be too shocking if GuMiho strategized his way to a victory.
Prediction: Cure 3 - 1 GuMiho
Decider Match: TBD vs TBDHere are some brief thoughts on the potential final matches.
DongRaeGu vs Cure: These two players faced off earlier in the RO10 with DRG taking a 2-1 win. They definitely gave each other some things to think about in a potential rematch, with Cure pulling out a proxy-Barracks all-in in game one while DRG showed Cure he's more than willing to play Roach openers in game two. However, the most important takeaway might have been Cure's huge blunder in game three, where he went for a Hellbat timing and made a Fusion Core instead of an Armory—are his nerves still not settled after winning Code S a year ago? Hmm, maybe I should go back and revise my GuMiho vs Cure prediction…
DongRaeGu vs GuMiho: This is the match I desperately want to see happen, because so much is possible in a GuMiho BO5 when maps like Stargazers and Moondance start to open up. And by "so much," I mostly mean VERY SPECIFICALLY MECH, although there are some other cute strategies possible as well. I do think DRG will win in the end, unless GuMiho hits 100% with his early-game gambits.
herO vs Cure: herO has fallen off slightly in PvT since winning Code S Season 2, and Aligulac actually sees this match being slightly in Cure's favor at around 56:44. However, considering that herO has been kicking Cure's butt all year (10-2 in series) and factoring in Cure's tendency to underperform in the GSL, I have to pick herO to win.
herO vs GuMiho: My takeaway from herO's earlier 2-1 win over GuMiho in the RO10 was that he's still significantly better at mid-game combat, and GuMiho really needs to find early-game damage to make the game competitive. GuMiho has the potential to upset in a BO3, but I think herO will win fairly convincingly in a BO5.
Predictions: herO and DRG advance to RO4