2023 GSL Code S Season 1
RO16 Group B Preview: herO, NightMare, ByuN, RagnaroKStart time: Thursday, Jul 06 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
GSL's move to a 16-player format has made even getting out of the first round a perilous affair, and it was nowhere more obvious than in last season's Group B. There, #1 Protoss player herO was harshly eliminated in a stacked group, snuffing out all realistic championship hopes for his faction.
herO must now be feeling an eerie sense of deja vu, as he's once again been placed into Group B of the RO16. While his opponents are different, they're all dangerous in their own way. Are we headed for another Protoss calamity, or will Aiur's herO live up to his name?
ESL Masters Summer (losses to Elazer and Creator). These poor offline tournament results stand in stark contrast to his excellent play in online events, which has pushed him as high as #5 in the Aligulac.com rankings. Long-time TL.net readers should know where I'm going here—herO might be the new online-Zest.
"Might" is doing a lot of work there, because I'm heavily inclined to give herO the benefit of the doubt regarding his recent offline showings. It was only 5 months ago that he placed top four at IEM Katowice 2023, 7 months ago that he won DreamHack: Atlanta, and about a year ago that he won Code S Season 2. Prior to the 2023/24 season, I'd have said he's a great online player who somehow plays even better offline, and I don't think that's changed overnight.
While I have some minor concerns about players becoming more used to herO's hyper-aggressive style—especially in PvZ—I'm not going to overdiagnose the situation here. Sometimes good players just lose games to other good players, and I think that's what happened to herO in GSL and ESL. This group certainly won't be easy for him to get out of, but I still see him as the strongest player and only top-tier championship contender.
Unfortunately, my assessment of NightMare is similar to last season: He's good enough to get here, but he doesn't have enough to go further. It's not like he's a Patience or a MyungsiK who lives and dies by cheese—he's developed some real macro chops in the last year or so. However, when you're the 4th best player in a group where everyone else could realistically reach the RO4, being merely a 'solid' player won't cut it. Perhaps NightMare can steal a BO3 to hasten someone else's elimination, but I can't see him getting the two series wins needed to advance.
The Astrea loss is the one I find more disheartening. Over the course of a year or so, ByuN showed he could keep his nerves in check (as far as we know, his wrist issues are psychological) during the lower rounds of big events, and he made it past the midway point in most of the offline tournaments he played in during 2022. It's hard to say exactly how deep in the tournament ByuN vs Astrea was given the convoluted ESL Masters format, but I wouldn't say it was the highest pressure match since tournament elimination wasn't on the line. To me, that makes it a sign of regression for ByuN, which is especially concerning now that GSL is back in the studio for the RO16.
To continue the familiar-sounding spiel, ByuN continues to be an excellent player online, and has a good chance of advancing if he can play at 100%. However, concerns with his non-gameplay issues are a high point at the moment, and I just can't pick him to advance this time around.
Indeed, RagnaroK was riding high after IEM Katowice 2023, where he reached the top four after beating Serral 3-2 in the best series of his career. And, by all accounts from other progamers and RagnaroK himself, he continued to practice hard afterward and maintained a high level of play. Yet, somehow, the 2023/24 season has been nothing short of a disaster for RagnaroK, as he failed to qualify for Code S Season 1 and Gamers8. ESL Masters Summer was a chance at redemption, but even there he finished low in the RO24 after losing to Lambo in the knockout bracket.
Just going by results, I should be VERY down on RagnaroK. However, like herO, I'm going to extend him some benefit of the doubt (although not quite as much). It's very relevant to me that his peers continue to rate him highly, even in the midst of his dreadful tournament results. It wasn't that long ago that he reached a Code S finals and the top four of IEM. Also, while his online play isn't in the god-tier alongside herO, Dark, Cure, et al., he's been good enough for me to think his major tournament results have a fluke. If normal ByuN was playing in this group, I'd have picked RagnaroK to finish third, but given the circumstances, I think he'll make his way to the top eight.
PredictionsherO > NightMare
ByuN > RagnaroK
herO > ByuN
RagnaroK > NightMare
RagnaroK > ByuN
herO and RagnaroK to advance.