2023 GSL Code S Season 1
RO16 Group D Preview: Cure, Astrea, Solar, RyungStart time: Thursday, Jul 13 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
The story of the RO16 so far has been underdogs making life difficult for the favorites, but ultimately falling short of actually advancing. Will that remain the case in Group D, as Cure and Solar look to fend off challenges from Ryung and Astrea?
Cure doesn’t have to worry about Maru at the moment, but he does have to focus on a different kind of challenge—the American Protoss Astrea. Max Angel is hardly someone you'd think deserves a last place seed when you check his record against Code S-caliber players in international competitions, but the GSL has historically insisted on using only GSL results for seeding. Thus, the non-GSL player Astrea was automatically put in the lowest seeding pool (Tier 4), and Cure was the unlucky recipient of this difficult draw.
While Astrea is made of sterner stuff than your typical Tier 4 seed, Cure is still the favorite. TvP is his best match-up by a solid margin, and he's a devastating 72-11 in matches since the meta-changing Raven patch back in January. Not only that, but Cure has defeated Astrea twice in the past couple of weeks, so he should have no issue taking the series and moving on to the winner’s match.
As mentioned above, he certainly isn’t the favorite in his opening match, and Aligulac only gives him a 14.36% chance of advancing in general. However, as Astrea's 2nd and 3rd place finishes at HomeStory Cups 21 and 22 showed, he's capable of heating up and beating world class players.
Recently, Astrea has been on a healthy diet of online events, and has had plenty of experience against his groupmates. Predictably, Cure and Solar have given him a bunch of trouble, but he has a favorable record against Ryung (beating him twice in the last month or so). So even if Astrea is extremely unlikely to win his opening match, a victory against Ryung and an inspired performance against Solar might be enough to see him through to the RO8.
The big factor going against Astrea (besides being in a group with Solar and Cure) is that he was a poor Code S player during his previous stints in Korea. Even during the times when he was on fire in other tournaments, including those aforementioned HomeStory Cups, he never made it out of the Code S group stages. Will this be the time he finally breaks his Code S jinx?
Super Tournament 2 in December of 2022, his first Liquipedia premier-tier championship since he won SSL Season 2 in 2016. It was also a sign he had conquered his offline demons to some extent, even if the pressure of a Super Tournament was lesser compared to a Code S or IEM World Championship.
However, Solar's February trip to Katowice yielded a very familiar result, where he progressed only up to the point where he had to face his eternal tormentor Maru—this time bowing out in the RO8 (his overall map record for the tournament was 10-11). Code S Season 1 saw him extend his stay in good-but-not-great land, being bounced from the RO8 in last place with losses to Bunny and ByuN.
Just as it seemed like you could write Solar off from title contention, he came through with an impressive top four finish at ESL Masters Summer where he took down ByuN, Bunny, and Dark—all players who have had more Code S success than Solar in recent years. Then, at HomeStory Cup 23 he ripped through the playoffs with 3-0's against Clem and Elazer, and came within a map of winning the championship against Reynor.
So, what are we to make of Solar right now? As the second most talented player in this group, he's still the favorite to advance. Should he stick to the script and stay out of his own way, he’ll be back in the Round of 8. However, even with his strong showings at international events, I don't know if he can avoid his Code S destiny of being eliminated in the RO8.
In the end, it’s a very accurate representation of Ryung’s place within the Korean StarCraft II scene. Ryung has spent much of his career as fodder for better players (barring the pair of Code S semifinals Ryung reached in 2012 and 2017 respectively). This season, however, Ryung got to play the role of gatekeeper—shattering KeeN and soO’s hopes of making it to Code S in back to back matches.
Aligulac.com gives him a surprisingly high 17% chance of making it out of Group D, which reflects some sneakily good results in online events and the World Team League. However, online events are one thing, and GSL Code S is another—there's no holding out for 1-1 draws against stronger players here. I suspect his actual chances are lower, and he's likely to go out as last place in the group.
PredictionsCure 2 - 0 Astrea
Solar 2 - 0 Ryung
Cure 2 - 0 Solar
Astrea 2 - 1 Ryung
Astrea 2 - 0 Solar
Cure and Astrea to advance