2023 GSL Code S Season 1
RO16 Group B Preview: herO, KeeN, Cure, SolarStart time: Thursday, Apr 27 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
Group B highlights how Code S contracting from twenty to sixteen players in the first round has heightened the stakes. herO, Cure, and Solar are all candidates to make deep runs this season, but at least one of them will suffer the bitter pain of elimination by the end of the night.
herOMaru was the most notable victim of the Oliveira tidal wave at IEM Katowice, but one round before that, herO was also swept aside in the semifinals.
herO seems to have decided that the best way to blow off steam from losing at StarCraft II is to play even more (something he has in common with our readers?), diving headlong into pre-season competition and racking up a whopping 348 tournament games played.
His results were a bit of a mixed bag. On the plus side, he won one of the larger pre-season tournaments in the Wardi Korean Royale, taking out Maru by a 4-3 scoreline in the grand finals. Less encouraging were his struggles in the high-stakes Gamers8 qualifier, where he lost to GuMiho, Maru, and Cure, and only advanced to the lucrative main event on his very last chance (albeit, in a 3-0 over Bunny). herO was a very strong player in the smaller cups of the pre-season, though not quite the hyper-dominant force he was at around this time last year. Put it all together and it feels like herO has lost a small, teeny bit of his shine when compared to the best players of the other factions, but he still remains one of the top contenders to win Code S alongside Maru and Dark.
Pre-season results suggest this could be a tricky group for herO, as he's gone 4-5 in matches vs Cure and 1-3 against Solar. In the old GSL, I would have brushed those numbers off as online nonsense, and picked the steely herO to beat his notoriously inconsistent opponents in the GSL studio. Actually, I'm still going to do that—herO is by far the most trustworthy big match player in this group. However, with the new GSL RO16 taking place entirely online, I have to at least wonder if herO is in danger of getting Oliveira'd once more.
KeeNIn a video package before Group A, DongRaeGu mentioned that KeeN making it to Code S was the biggest surprise of the qualifier. While this was partially a jest between former MVP teammates, there definitely was some substance to this jab. KeeN only managed to qualify for one out of three Code S seasons in 2022, and went out in the RO20 of the one tournament he did play in. When he disappeared from tournament play toward the end of 2022, I had to wonder if he was preparing for retirement.
Instead, KeeN came back in March, and somehow managed to qualify for Code S by beating both Armani and Creator.
Right now, I'm inclined to say it was a lucky run from a player with a solid baseline skill level. Creator's results have been very erratic lately—some might say he's in a slump. KeeN beating a shaky Creator 2-1 isn't the craziest result, even if he hasn't been playing much StarCraft II according to DRG.
While it must have been a pleasant surprise for KeeN to make it to Code S, this is almost certainly where his journey ends. I'll pick a potential match vs Cure as the one place where KeeN might sniff an upset, as TvT has been his most impressive match-up when he's on his game.
CureCure has the unfortunate distinction of being the least memorable member of the "what the f*** Oliveira?" club, getting knocked out of the IEM Katowice group stage on the back of a loss to the Normal Man. But even without the Chinese and international communities memeing him into oblivion, Cure found more than enough internal motivation to have a productive pre-season.
Similar to herO, Cure played over 300 tournament games in the weeks after Katowice. He was somewhat overshadowed by the many online monsters who decided to go hard during the off-season—namely Dark, herO, and MaxPax—but he still came out looking quite strong at #9 in the Aligulac.com standings (if nothing else, a good measure of online prowess). If I had to pick the highlight of Cure's pre-season, it would be his awe-inspiring performance in the WTL Winter grand finals where he crushed both Reynor (3-0) and Oliveira (2-0) to win DPG another championship.
As mentioned in the herO section, the GSL's shift to online play for the group stages could be an enormous boon for Cure. Even if it's only during the online stages, he has a chance to bring back the brilliant play from his Code S championship run in 2021.
SolarI would have been tempted to lump Cure and Solar into the same preview section in the past, running with the narrative of them being highly skilled players who fall apart in big competitions.
However, Solar has made some serious strides toward shedding that reputation in the past few months. His championship run at Super Tournament 2 in December was an important milestone—even if was just a 'tier 2' major, it still marked Solar's best performance under pressure in years (arguably since he finished runner-up to Stats at Assembly 2019). He followed that up with a very respectable top eight finish at IEM Katowice, losing to Maru in the quarterfinals.
More recently, Solar made another breakthrough, getting a bit of revenge by smashing Maru 3-0 in the Gamers8 Qualifiers. Sure, there were some extenuating circumstances around the match—it was an upper-bracket match where both players knew they had plenty more chances if they lost, which may have been the reason Maru went for unorthodox speed-Banshee and/or mech builds in every game. Even so, the fact that Solar calmly dealt with the trickery from his arch-nemesis to book his ticket to a $400k tournament had to mean something.
Besides that very notable win, Solar hasn't exactly been killing it in the pre-season compared to some of his peers. Yet, due to Solar's big picture progress, I have quite a bit of confidence in him headed into a new year of GSL.
PredictionsDespite herO's losing record against Cure and Solar in the pre-season, I still have to pick him to advance because he has played much better in big tournaments like Code S. In the same vein, I'm picking Solar to claim the other RO8 ticket instead of Cure, due to his superior play in recent major competitions.
Conveniently, my somewhat crude prediction method produces the same result as Aligulac.com. The stats website's formula gives herO a 78.45% chance of advancing, and has Solar narrowly beating out Cure by 60.74% to 55.23% (KeeN lags far behind at 5.58%).
herO > KeeN
Cure > Solar
herO > Cure
Solar > KeeN
Solar > Cure
herO and Solar to advance.
Credits and acknowledgements
Records and Statistics: Aligulac.com and Liquipedia
Records and Statistics: Aligulac.com and Liquipedia