RO16 Group C Preview: Dark, Stats, GuMiho, Ryung
Start time: Tuesday, May 02 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
Group C sees one of the first major re-debuts of 2023, as Stats plays in Code S for the first time since 2020. Can the Shield of Aiur pick up where he left off and carry his faction? Or will the trio of Dark, GuMiho, and Ryung be too much of a challenge for the rusty champion?
Rivalry Renewed? – Dark vs Stats
In the not so distant past, this was the premier rivalry in Korean StarCraft II. From 2016 to 2020 the pair played 16 matches against one another, including a duel in the finals of 2016 SSL Season 1, a semifinals bout in the 2017 IEM World Championships, a Super Tournament final in 2018, and another IEM semifinals in 2019. Beyond the high profile and high pressure games, Dark and Stats both went a long way towards pioneering how Legacy of the Void was played in the early years of the expansion, and their influence can be felt even today.
When looking back, it seems almost fated that Dark and Stats ended up as rivals. Both of them shared a similar trajectory in Heart of the Swarm, with the pair seeing moderate success in individual competitions (Dark lost a pair of KeSPA Cup Finals in 2015 while Stats made the semifinals of SSL twice in the same year). Both were also solid contributors in Proleague—Stats posted a 22-12 record in 2015 while Dark was 17-12.
It took the release of Legacy of the Void for both players to realize their potential. Within two years of launch, Stats made the finals of SSL (losing to Dark), came in second at IEM Gyeonggi and the 2017 IEM World Championships and finally claimed his first Premier Event titles in Season 1 of Code S (defeating soO) and Season 2 of SSL Premier (this time beating Dark). Dark, meanwhile, bested Stats to win the first SSL of Legacy of the Void, finished second in the finals of Season 2 five months later and fell in the finals of the 2016 WCS Globals Finals and Season 2 of SSL in 2017 (to ByuN and Stats respectively).
To say Legacy of the Void unlocked Stats and Dark would be an understatement as the pair quickly rose to become two of the most elite players in StarCraft II. As the expansion aged, they made deep run after deep run—making numerous Round of 4 appearances, reaching the finals time and again and adding more trophies to their collection.
Of all the major rivalries in StarCraft II, Stats vs Dark had a case to be called the most even. From 2016 to 2020, Stats’ record in offline matches against Dark was 29-30 (map score). Reduce that to BO5+ series, and it’s still extremely close at 20-19.
Their battles were cut short, however, when Stats left to fulfill his military service in 2021. Now, approximately two years later, they are set to renew their rivalry. Much has changed since they last faced off. Beyond the larger changes in the scene, this marks the first time one of them is a heavy favorite over the other. Dark has been an unstoppable juggernaut in online play in 2023, while Stats is only recently returned from the military. Even with Stats making fast progress for a returnee, it’s hard to give him much of a chance to win in his current state. Still, one has to feel nostalgic as these two foes take the field opposite one another again.
From the Class of 2010 – GuMiho vs Ryung
While GuMiho and Ryung have never competed for championships in the manner of Dark and Stats, the history between the two Terrans stretches back to the nascent days of StarCraft II. Their first meeting occurred before GSL even came up with the name “Code S,” clashing in the qualifiers of the GSL Open Season 3 back in 2010 (GuMiho got the better of Ryung in that tilt). They dueled again in Code A half a year later, then once more in 2011 and 2012 respectively. In fact, by the time Stats made his StarCraft II debut, GuMiho and Ryung had already taken part in hundreds of matches.
More than a dozen years later, GuMiho and Ryung have experienced what it’s like to be on nearly every rung of the progamer ladder. Ryung got as far as the Code S Season 1 semifinals in 2017, ultimately losing to Stats. GuMiho made it all the way to a championship that year, refining his unorthodox style to beat soO in the finals.
More recently, both Terrans have developed a reputation for being mid-tier players who can show occasional flashes of elite play. GuMiho actually finished in the final four of the last Code S season, losing to RagnaroK in the semifinals. Ryung put in some brilliant performances in the WTL and IEM Katowice 2022, but Code S vexed him as he only advanced past the first round a single time.
It will be tough for either Terran to beat Dark at his current ZvT level, but second place is very realistic considering Stats’ uncertain form.
Stats qualified on the back of two wins against Creator and a series win against Scarlett—but he also lost to groupmate GuMiho. It’s the kind of run that’s extremely hard to draw conclusions from, especially considering Creator’s erratic form as of late. However, Stats seems to have larger PvT problems since his return, so this may end up being a two way race between GuMiho and Ryung for second.
Still, all the nostalgia around Stats’ return makes it hard not to pick him to advance for sentiment’s sake. Here’s to hoping he proves that old cliche true, with his eternal class making up for his briefly diminished form.
Prediction: Dark and Stats to advance.