Code S Season 3 - RO10 Group A Preview (Day 1)

Code S Season 3 – RO10 Group A Preview (Day 1)

by Poopi

This Round-of-10 group appears to be wide open, with everyone having a reasonable chance of making the playoffs. Who will gain an initial advantage in the first day of games and take a step further toward the playoffs?

Start time: Monday, Sep 19 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)

herO is the obvious favorite as he is the reigning GSL champion, and a minor post-championship slump doesn’t change that. Also, last season’s semifinalist Bunny looks like he’s kept up his momentum, beating Reynor to top his RO20 group.

But you definitely can’t count RagnaroK out either, as he’s advanced from the RO10 in both previous seasons of Code S this year. Nor can you look past GuMiho. He may have taken a lot longer than herO to get back into shape after his return from the military, but his recent performances (including a big upset versus Serral at HSC and a decent TSL9 run) have propelled him back as a playoff contender.

Last but not least, Solar could be in position to end one of StarCraft II’s most insane ‘losing’ streaks. For thirteen seasons (nearly five years), he had been unable to reach the RO8 of Code S. Kind-hearted fans may be willing to say the curse has been broken since the RO8 was removed with the 2022 format change, or that reaching the RO10 is close enough in spirit. But others may demand a more convincing performance from Solar—only a Round-of-6 appearance will absolve him once and for all. Fortunately for Solar, his unusual summer slump seems to be over, and he’s been playing far better StarCraft as of late.

Match #1: Bunny vs RagnaroK

Going by Aligulac, RagnaroK’s best match-up currently is ZvT where he’s (#7 in the world). The raw number stats don’t look good on paper: his 2022 record is 26W-21L in series and 69W-57L in maps. However, if you look underneath the hood of these 55%-ish win-rates, you’ll see that RagnaroK has played a lot of top Terrans in 2022, and has beaten them at a good enough clip to deserve his place in the ZvT standings. Basically, outside of Maru, he’s managed to play about evenly against all the top Terrans.

However, Bunny has been playing even better in TvZ, and Aligulac favors him with around 58:42 odds of winning. The head-to-head match record is rather close at 19W-17L in favor of Bunny, but his recent good form is apparent in the 3-match winning streak he’s picked up against RagnaroK since June. One of those wins even came in the RO10 of Code S Season 2, so you could say the momentum is in his favor.

Both players finished 1st in their RO20 groups, though RagnaroK didn’t have to prove much against Ryung who is notorious for his struggles in TvZ compared to TvT/TvP. On the other hand, Bunny beat the ZvT monster Reynor 2-1 in the group stage, which is far more impressive. Given the current meta of TvZ on this map-pool which leans toward extreme play—2-base timings or campy macro games with Ghosts, I have to consider Bunny the favorite. RagnaroK thrives in mid-game fighting, but Bunny may decline to engage him there entirely.

Prediction: Bunny > RagnaroK

Match #2: herO vs Solar

This match might seem like a foregone conclusion. HerO is widely acknowledged as the best PvZ player in the world, while Solar’s most memorable ZvP series in 2022 were his losses to the off-racing Reynor. However, the circumstances have changed in the weeks since the last Code S Season. herO has started to struggle a bit in the PvZ match-up since his championship run, while Solar has recovered some of his form after a dismal summer.

herO has struggled in the handful of series he’s played since the last Code S, only going 2W-5L in matches and 6W-9L in maps—albeit mostly in smaller online events. Many of these losses came at the hands of Reynor, but he also lost to soO and Solar himself. On the other hand, Solar has been reaving through weaker Protoss players in online cups, putting up a 20W-7L match record in the last two months—including a current 11-match winning streak.

How does one square these contrasting results against vastly different quality of opponents? While herO’s ‘new’ style has been somewhat figured out, I still expect the GSL champion to be much more sharp in the AfreecaTV studio and unveil some strong builds. Solar has not played at this stage of GSL in years, while herO is used to the RO10 format and has actually won the whole tournament, so I deem him the favorite despite not seeing him play much PvZ recently.

Prediction: herO > Solar

Match #3: Bunny vs GuMiho

Bunny scored a massive win against Maru last season, ending the ONSYDE Terran’s 11-match win-streak with a 3-1 victory in the RO6. However, the result was very hard to gauge. Maru threw out some very unusual builds, whether it was massing 2-Starport Ravens early or going for unusually fast Ghosts in the mid-game. To me, the series mostly proved two things: the “meta” composition and builds in TvT are meta for a reason: they are superior. Secondly, Bunny is good enough to remain calm and play well versus the unexpected. Maru’s off-meta strategies may have worked well in practice, but Bunny was able to adapt well when seeing them for (presumably) the first time.

As for GuMiho, he played a lot of TvT in smaller cups in the past few months, and has put up a solid 60%+ win-rate in matches. However, the series that was the most interesting to me was his recent match versus ByuN at TSL9. Neither player was fond of the standard Viking-Raven transition, and the two went heavy Marine-Medivac-Tank to try and win before the late-game. Given Bunny’s proficiency in the various Terran style of plays—ranging from all-ins to late macro—and the fact that he perfectly controlled Maru in an even macro game on 2000 Atmospheres, I see him as having the upper hand against GuMiho.

The towel Terran has definitely improved a lot in recent weeks, but Bunny has reached a whole new level. He’s been absolutely key to Team NV’s success in the WTL, and is enjoying some of the best individual success of his career. I even see him as a dark horse to win the GSL championship, though Maru and herO are the favorites.

Prediction: Bunny > GuMiho

Match #4: herO vs RagnaroK

Similar to herO, RagnaroK has not played a lot of ZvP series in the past couple of months. However, he did get a 2-1 victory against Creator in the round-of-20, and he seemed quite confident in his post-match interview. Regardless of his short term statistics, RagnaroK has definitely banked a lot of credit by placing 5th place in Code S Season 1 and 6th place in Season 2.

However, herO is definitely a tricky obstacle to surmount in RagnaroK’s quest to reach the playoffs for the third season in a row. Sure, RagnaroK managed to beat herO 2-0 in Season 1, when the DPG ace was starting to get a lot of hype from his peers. But herO has leveled up even further since then, winning the entire tournament in Season 2. Arguably, herO could get even better in the coming months, considering that he’s barely a year returned from military service. On the other hand, you could cynically contend that RagnaroK reaching top 6 twice in a row is already his career peak.

As mentioned above, herO hasn’t played many PvZ games in major tournament settings, so it’s hard to predict what kind of play he’ll show in the GSL. Still, I doubt he is gonna crash and burn like other champions have after a big win. herO still seems hungry for more victories, and his narrow TSL9 elimination at the hands of Maru might be motivation to work even harder.

Prediction: herO > RagnaroK

Match #5: Solar vs GuMiho

In my opinion, this match is the hardest one to predict in week one.

Some of the numbers favor Solar, with Aligulac seeing him as a solid favorite with around a 64% chance to win. Also Solar, just recently beat GuMiho in the finals of the ESL Open Korean cup, though it was a narrow 3-2 victory in a series with close games (GuMiho did the same to Solar in an earlier Open Cup finals in August).

However, GuMiho is probably at his best in those BO3 group stages where he can surprise people with his unorthodox play. You may not expect him to be strong in TvZ given that his mechanics aren’t as good as the top Terrans, but he sure is unpredictable. Whether it’s Thor drops, Marine-Hellbat timings, or double-Starport BC’s, it’s hard for Zergs to account for everything he might possibly do.

The best recent-ish GuMiho has is his 2-0 victory over Serral in the HomeStory Cup 21 group stage. It was the quintessential GuMiho series, where all of his unusual openers found some degree of success, allowing him to take out a better opponent on paper.

Even if Aligulac likes Solar by a decent margin, I’m not sure he is the favorite. Sure, GuMiho failed to qualify for the round-of-10 last season, but Solar’s RO8/RO10 curse goes back far longer than that. The creativity of GuMiho, and the favorable meta in terms of TvZ styles discussed earlier, makes me think that he is the favorite in this encounter.

Prediction: GuMiho > Solar

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