2022 GSL Code S Season 3 - Round of 4Start time: Thursday, Oct 06 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
We're down to just four players left in GSL Code S, and each one of them has a unique story behind them.
For RagnaroK, reaching the semifinals is already his career high. While he can be proud to have come so far, he knows he can't afford to blow what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Defending champion herO hit two big milestones last season, becoming the first military returnee to win the Code S championship and winning Protoss its first title in five years. This season, he could end another drought by becoming the first back-to-back Code S champion since Maru in 2018.
Speaking of Maru, his quest to win the cursed G5L trophy has dragged on for years. Is this the season he finally wins the most elusive prize in StarCraft II?
Finally, GuMiho looks to follow in the footsteps of herO by winning a Code S championship after losing 18 months of his career to military service. While some may say it's still too soon for GuMiho, two reverse-sweep wins in the RO6 suggests that no challenge is too big for the master of mech.
Semifinal Match #1: RagnaroK vs GuMihoby Poopi
This first semifinal feels like it's the undercard to herO vs Maru at first glance, but it has real potential to become the spectacle of the night.
This season is the high point of an all-around great year for RagnaroK where he's become one of the most consistently strong Korean players. He reached the top six of Code S in the last two seasons, and he's improved on that further by reaching the top four this time around. GuMiho has also been on the rise this year, although he mostly plied his skills in the less noticed venues of online competitions. However, he's finally broken through on the big stage, putting in some fantastic performances in this season of GSL Code S.
RagnaroK has had a brilliant run so far, putting up a perfect 6-0 series record with wins against Ryung, Creator, herO, Bunny, Solar, and even GuMiho himself. In contrast, the Bee Gees' Stayin' Alive has been the soundtrack to GuMiho's journey. He advanced from his RO20 group in second place, his RO10 group in 3rd place, and barely survived the RO6 with two reverse-sweep victories against Cure and DRG. Even though GuMiho hasn't been nearly as dominant as RagnaroK, there's something convincing about his uncanny clutch-ness.
Either player winning would continue a wonderful storyline: GuMiho trying to win the Code S title after coming back from military service, or RagnaroK chasing his first championship after over ten years of progaming. In any case, one dream must be sacrificed for the other in this key match.
The head-to-head record in 2022 favors RagnaroK who is 5W-1L in matches, although one has to take it with a grain of salt as GuMiho only really started to come alive midway through the year. Statistics website Aligulac.com sees RagnaroK as the slight favorite with a 55.67% chance of winning, which is very close to TL.net user Liquibets which see the two as nearly dead even.
RagnaroK has been impressive in the ZvT match-up over the last three months, putting up a 8W-3L match record (19W-11L map score) where his losses only came against Bunny, ByuN, and Maru. On the other hand, his wins came against strong Terrans like Ryung, GuMiho, Cure, Bunny, and even HeroMarine. Of course, TL.net has contended that RagnaroK has been an underrated ZvT player for years, having the misfortune of running into Maru quite a few times in GSL.
Aligulac ranks GuMiho as the #6 TvZ player at the moment, but it's hard to gauge where he truly stands given his rate of improvement. His main strength is having his own unique style of play that's hard to prepare for. He plays a huge variety of openers, many of them which lead into his signature mech style. This allows him to beat Zergs who are stronger on paper—in fact, he's actually the last player who actually managed to beat Serral (back at HSC 21).
GuMiho has definitely become far more exposed since then, but he's still a tricky opponent for Zergs to deal with. In his comeback win against DRG, GuMiho lost with his mech initially, but showed his strategic range by winning with a variety of bio timing attacks. It should be noted that he lamented having to show so many build orders in his five game series against DongRaeGu, and one wonders how many new strategies he'll have prepared in the few days he's been given. Still, he has yet to use any of the 2 base all-in variants that are popular in TvZ these days, and they could be a valuable mix-up in the coming match.
It should be noted that RagnaroK did beat GuMiho 2-1 in the RO10, though the series featured straight-up macro games with GuMiho playing a relatively conventional style. Going by those games, and RagnaroK's recent play against Terran, he does seem like the more solid player in the match-up. However, one has to wonder how much stock should be put into that BO3 result. DRG would have beaten GuMiho 2-0 in a BO3, but he ended up losing 2-3 due to GuMiho's powers that activated in a time of crisis. Considering that RagnaroK hasn't even had to play a single BO5 so far in this tournament, GuMiho might have a mental edge in this high-pressure situation.
Both the "GuMigod" and "Ragnagod" have won over the hearts of fans who want to see the underdogs succeed in Code S. So, sadly, this match will result in as much disappointment as it will result in joy. Both players have strong arguments for winning: RagnaroK is the more solid player in straight-up games, leads in head-to-head, and has had a far more dominant GSL run so far. GuMiho is a strategic mastermind that can punch above his weight-class, has already demonstrated his ability to win GSL BO5's, and showed an incredible clutch factor in his reverse-sweep victories.Since it is so close, I will choose with my heart and predict RagnaroK to win, especially since he is the only player among the four remaining that has not won a GSL yet.
Prediction: RagnaroK 3 - 2 GuMiho
Semifinal Match #2: Maru vs herOby Wax
Two months after herO triumphed over Maru in the finals of Code S Season 2, it's still hard to know what to make of that result. Maru was the favorite headed into the bout, with nearly a 65% chance of winning according to Aligulac and taking about 75% of TL.net users' votes on Liquibet. By itself, it wasn't a huge surprise that herO pulled off the upset and won the championship. He had rode into the finals on a wave of momentum that had been building for months, and the victory could be seen as the crest of that wave. However, few expected herO to win in such dominant fashion, be it the 4-1 scoreline or the one-sided content of the games.
herO's level has fallen off slightly since then—not to the degree that you'd dare accuse him of being a flash in the pan, but enough to make you wonder if he was an opportunist who struck when the iron was hot. That version of the story is all the more convincing when you consider that Maru is 5W-1L against herO in 2022, with the GSL finals being the only loss.
This rematch presents an opportunity for both players to set the record straight (at least until their next clash). With a victory, Maru can brush aside that crushing defeat as an outlier; a fluke; an act of divine intervention from the StarCraft gods who were either showing mercy upon Protoss or making sure the G5L trophy stayed cursed. As for herO, winning would effectively declare that there's nothing wrong with being an opportunist, since opportunists win when it REALLY matters—like in the final four of Code S.
But perhaps I'm making things too complicated with storylines and recent history. This match is plenty hype for the basic StarCraft reason that it's an extremely high-level fight between the best players in the TvP match-up. Both players are ranked #1 in TvP/PvT according to Aligulac.com, and they've certainly been the most successful players for their respective factions in terms of premier tournament results in 2022. If you want to see TvP played at the absolute highest level with real stakes on the line, you won't have many better opportunities than this.
Maru already got a modicum of revenge last month in TSL 9, where he narrowly beat herO 3-2 in a reverse sweep. Unlike the GSL finals, that series was about as close to 50/50 as you can get without an actual draw being called. Both players won a map where they won relatively easily off early game advantages, and then both players won a map where they played brilliantly to come back from an early game disadvantage. The decider was a lengthy macro-game on Moondance, where things were even until Maru capitalized on a positioning error from herO. While this is oversimplifying the series somewhat, you could say that the difference between the two players was that single mistake.
As clichéd as it might be to say this about a TvP, but I get the feeling that this match will be decided by early-game build orders and execution. herO's love of aggressive early-game strategies is well-known, and he can get a quick win against any Terran in the world if his micro is on point. However, Maru can be very attack-minded as well, also looking to overwhelm his opponent with superior micro and multi-tasking. As much as the fans would love to see drawn out macro games, I think we're going to see a lot of games that are effectively decided in the first six minutes.
However, if the games do progress to the later phases, I have to give Maru an edge. herO is great at closing people out in the mid-game when he has a lead, but he's not quite as good when both players are on even footing and he can't afford to throw waves of troops at the opponent. On the other hand, Maru is probably the most complete player on the planet, equally strong at every stage of the game.
Aligulac.com sees Maru as a slight favorite with a 60.81% chance of winning. That's almost 50/50 when you include the margin of error from the 'wild things happen in the GSL' factor, but I still give Maru a very narrow edge here.
Prediction: Maru 3 - 2 herO
Credits and acknowledgements
Writers: Poopi, Wax
Records and Statistics: Aligulac.com and Liquipedia
Writers: Poopi, Wax
Records and Statistics: Aligulac.com and Liquipedia