GSL Up and Down Matches Recap
As we creep closer and closer towards the release of Heart of the Swarm, the final season of the GSL featuring Wings of Liberty is upon us. With the conclusion of the Up and Down matches last week, the field is set for Code S. Let's take a quick look at some of the storylines headed into this final season of what has been the premier tournament for Wings of Liberty.
Up and Downs
The players emerging from the very difficult Up and Down matches this season are a curious mix of expected stars and resurgent heroes. Perhaps the strangest facet of the group is the complete lack of KeSPA players making it out, with the possible exception of Squirtle, who is expected to be picked up by a KeSPA team after leaving StarTale in the past few days. Some big names like EG.RC.Jaedong and KT.Flash came up just short, but word on the street is that KeSPA players save their best strategies for ProLeague, so perhaps that came into effect here.
The biggest surprise has to be seeing a foreigner Protoss come second in his group, and no, it wasn't Grubby. Many people, myself included, couldn't really see why EG.RC.HuK was offered an Up and Down seed based upon his recent results, but he certainly shut up the nonbelievers with his play last week. Also advancing from HuK's group was LG-IM.NesTea, who some thought was starting to fall off after some poor Code S showings, but he has found his way back into the fray as well.
HuK returns to Code S for the first time since 2011
Some possible title contenders have also qualified for Code S through the Up and Downs. SK.MC is always a threat, and the now-teamless Squirtle is also capable of making a run for Protoss. MVP.DongRaeGu and the ex-TSL Zerg Symbol are the strongest Zerg contenders, while Liquid.TaeJa and the ever-improving LG-IM.YoDa represent Terran's best players coming out of this stage.
The last couple players I have not mentioned are no slouches, either, including ST. Bomber, who is now arguably the second best player on his team with the departure of Parting and Squirtle. LG-IM.LosirA, best known for getting crushed by NesTea in a final, is also back after a strong group showing, along with his new teammate LG-IM.ByuL. The field is rounded out by two-time semifinalist ByuN.PRIME, who seems to be capable of a good run no matter his recent performances.
When former TSL star Polt dropped out of the GSL with the intention of moving to America, GSL was presented with a golden opportunity to seed the most consistent performing foreigner in Starcraft 2, EG.RC.Stephano, who was conveniently already going to be in Korea as a part of the EG-Team Liquid partnership in ProLeague.
Stephano represents the best chance we have had to see a foreigner make it into the final four of Code S since NaNiwa's consecutive round of eight finishes in 2012 Season 2 and 3, and it is not entirely crazy to hope for him to make it into the finals. However, this will be the first major test of Stephano's ability to prepare, and knowing both his personality and approach to the game, that could end up being a potential issue.
Stephano is finally debuting in SC2's premier tournament
Even so, Stephano remains one of the best players in the world at making decisions, and has made his living crushing opponents with perfectly executed engagements. With many players potentially splitting time between Heart of the Swarm and Wings of Liberty during its swan song GSL season, Stephano should have a chance to catch some of the GSL's best players off-guard, but he is honestly so skilled that he can beat any player at their best.
His first opponents will be his Group H foes: MVP:DongRaeGu, STX.INnoVation, and ST.Hack. Stephano's ability to prepare will be tested against INnoVation in his first match, as the STX Soul Terran reached the round of four last season with crisp timing attacks. DRG also represents a strong threat, but Stephano should be more than capable of contending with him in ZvZ. I can see Stephano emerging from that group, but that first match will be of critical importance.
Code S matches begin next week, starting with Creator.PRIME, LG-IM.ByuL, Symbol, and ST.Life in Group A. Come on back to SCV Rush after the round of 32 matches for a quick recap if you cannot catch the matches and still want to follow the action!