2022 GSL Super Tournament 2 - RO16 Day Threeby Wax
Start time: Monday, Dec 05 8:00am GMT (GMT+00:00)
It's a post-apocalyptic landscape in the Super Tournament quarterfinals—at least for Protoss players. All three Protoss contestants were wiped out in the RO16, including DreamHack: Atlanta champion herO who was felled by Bunny's vengeful hand.
With Terrans now outnumbering Zerg five to three in the quarterfinals, it seems like a prime setup for Maru to take the championship. But it may be an even better opportunity for Dark, who showed outstanding ZvT skills in the recent AfreecaTV Championship Cup. Or, perhaps, we'll see someone else seize this chance and come out as a surprise champion?
The most striking games between the two are the ones where ByuN seems to have a significant early/mid-game lead but suffers a comeback victory in the late-game. They really drive home how inevitable Maru wins in TvT feel, and make the 'if Maru is behind he's even; if Maru is even he's actually winning' jokes feel like they're not giving Maru enough credit. After one such game at TSL9, mics picked up ByuN lamenting how he should have won, while Maru responded that he had never been in any danger in the first place. Was that Maru making a sarcastic dig at his friend of 10+ years? Or was it the confidence of a player who knows he's levels above anyone else in the match-up? I'm guessing it was a bit of both.
Anyhow, we all know what the prediction for this match has to be. Whether Maru dominates all the way or overcomes a rough start, most fans will see his victory as a foregone conclusion. In his RO16 interview, ByuN did say he felt like he had improved and looked forward to testing himself against Maru. While I appreciate the optimism, it's not going to affect this prediction.
Prediction: Maru 3 - 1 ByuN
While I prefer to call it "creative," I completely get the sentiment. The last time the two faced off in Code S (the RO10 of Season 3), GuMiho beat Solar 2-0 with consecutive Battlecruiser openers despite being known as THE Battlecruiser guy in the pro StarCraft II scene (sorry Nathanias!). It's one thing to be an unorthodox player—it's another thing entirely to succeed with an unorthodox style that everyone is expecting.
Still, I give Solar the overall edge in this match. Solar seems to have fully recovered from his summer slump and has returned to being one of the strongest macro Zergs in the non-Serral/Reynor/Dark division. He made a great run to the RO8 at DreamHack Atlanta, where it didn't seem like he was suffering from the big-match jitters that have plagued him in the past. He even pushed arch-nemesis Maru to game five in the RO8, though he did end up suffering a 2-3 defeat.
Solar also happened to beat GuMiho 2-1 in the group stage of DreamHack: Atlanta, and I think those games served as a decent overview of how this Super Tournament series will go. GuMiho managed to take one map with an unusual build order (a Thor-Hellbat timing), but was outmatched when he had to play standard bio-based macro in longer games. My prediction is that GuMiho's dirty/creative tricks will catch Solar off guard once or twice, but Solar will defend well enough to take three maps in the end.
Prediction: Solar 3 - 2 GuMiho
He's certainly no one-trick-pony in TvP. His most impressive showing at DreamHack actually came in the semifinals, where he defeated the fearsome Serral 3-1. His TvT is very strong as well, in the same tier with all of the Terrans just below Maru. However, he has the shocking distinction of being the only Terran with a winning record against Maru in the last year (2-0 in series). Of course, Bunny would still be the underdog against Maru in the finals, but he's the only Terran player in non-military existence who makes you wonder 'maybe…'
But I shouldn't get too ahead of myself. DongRaeGu is a tough ZvT opponent, and he flexed his skills in the RO16 with a 3-0 dismissal of Ryung. We should all be well-acquainted with DRG's strengths and weaknesses by now—he's overpowering if allowed to play mid-game macro, but is much shakier in the very early and very late stages of the game. With Bunny being an aggressive player who enjoys using a wide range of strategies, I think this will be a typical early-game offense versus defense style of series.
I'm not sure how to rate DRG's early game defense at the moment. He did handle Ryung's proxy-Barracks and two-base all-in well in the RO16, but Ryung isn't exactly known for this micro at this phase of his career. When DRG had to face Maru back at DreamHack Atlanta, he suffered a very quick 0-3 after failing to hold off two-base all-ins and a Battlecruiser cheese. Since I rate Bunny's attacking ability as being closer to the Maru end of the spectrum, I'll give him the nod to advance.
Prediction: Bunny 3 - 1 DongRaeGu
Dark's championship run in November's AfreecaTV Champions Cup signaled a return to top form for one of the best players in the game, with ShoWTimE, ByuN, Bunny, Clem, and Maru all falling in his path. Unfortunately, Dark's ability to travel overseas seems to be limited by his approaching military service, which presumably prevented him from playing at Atlanta. If he had been able to compete, all this hype around herO and Bunny may never have been sparked in the first place. Instead, we may have been celebrating the best player in the world and back-to-back DreamHack Masters champion Dark. Can Dark make up for that lost opportunity in the Super Tournament?
Things started off smoothly for Dark in the RO16, as he won the battle of build orders against soO and took a 3-1 victory in a ZvZ. While Dark's next match against Cure is a ZvT, I suspect it could be another contest of build orders as well. Cure's RO16 sweep of RagnaroK was largely thanks to his successful mind-games, guessing (some would say 'lucking') correctly with a CC-first into pool-first and later pulling off a Bunker-rush into containment on Stargazers. On the other hand, Dark is the top Zerg player who most strongly rejects Zerg's identity as the defensive faction, frequently looking to turn the tables on Protoss and Terran with early attacks. Dark's fondness for early Roach Warrens throws a wrench into the works for many Terrans, and Cure will surely be thinking long and hard about how to balance greed, safety, and aggression.
While I want to give Cure some credit for his convincing win against Code S runner-up RagnaroK, Dark's recent body of work in ZvT is just overwhelming in comparison. He's beaten nearly every top Terran player in a major tournament setting, and I'm afraid he's going to add Cure's name to that list.
Prediction: Dark 3 - 1 Cure