RO8 Group B Preview: Creator, Classic, Bunny, Dark

Start time: Thursday, Oct 26 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)

by Mizenhauer

With two of the members of the Round of 4 already decided, Creator, Classic, Bunny, and Dark will hope to join GuMiho and Solar in the semifinals of this year’s final season of Code S.

It’s been about 18 months since Creator reset his career in Code S Season 1 of 2022, where he reached the grand finals after spending nearly a decade as a fringe GSL player. But, form is a fickle thing, and much of the hope and optimism of that miracle run has faded. No, Creator hasn’t regressed back to being a player who frequently failed to qualify for Code S and was the butt of jokes for the Korean community. But he has regressed toward another shady place: mediocrity. Across the first eight Liquipedia-premier events of 2023, he failed to make the RO8 in a single one. Against fellow Koreans/GSL players, his record in 2023 is a dismal 64-89 in matches.

From that point of view, it seems like Creator is lucky to even be in the RO8, and it would be quite the shock to see him make it one step further. Indeed, his combined head-to-record against the Group B players in 2023 sits at an unimpressive 12-18 (7-8 vs Classic, 1-0 against Bunny, 4-10 against Dark), and Aligulac.com rates him as an underdog against all three of them (42% chance vs Classic, 48% vs Bunny, 27% vs Dark).

But, what do these numbers mean for Creator? The man has seen the bottom of the Korean StarCraft II scene—there’s no way these kinds of odds daunt him. And, after all, nothing was expected of him when he went on that career defining run a year and half ago (well, except from some of the hipster fans who watch every ESL weekly). With that run, he’s forced even the harshest of doubters to admit that while he may be down, he’s never out. A trip to the semifinals could transform Creator’s underwhelming 2023 into something far more memorable.

Classic arrives in the same RO8 group as Creator by a wildly different path. Creator became a middle-class citizen of the GSL through a dramatic rise and gradual fall—Classic got here through the familiar grind of a post-military player trying to regain his place in the world. Ultimately, they’re in the same, uncomfortable position: being Protoss’ greatest remaining hopes by default, not by acclaim.

Classic’s post-military story is very respectable, if not quite inspiring. He hasn’t returned to being a championship-caliber player, but he has become a Round of 8 mainstay. This year, he reached the top eight in Season 1 of Code S, ESL Masters Summer, and most impressively, at Gamers8. That last tournament gave us a brief glimpse of 2014-2015 Classic, as he defeated both Reynor and Serral in the Swiss group stages. However, that burst of brilliance has proven to be fleeting and somewhat inexplicable, as Classic has reverted back to being a good-but-not-great player in the following months. He has created separation between himself and the players below him, and has occasionally challenged the best in the world, but he has yet to prove he consistently belongs in the company of the truly elite.

With the end of the 2023 StarCraft II calendar approaching, Classic has another opportunity to leverage his steady improvement into a deep run. There’s no $150,000 jackpot to inspire him like at Gamers8, but a seeded spot at DreamHack: Atlanta is no small motivation. As mentioned above, Classic is slightly favored against Creator according to Aligulac, but he also has the edge against Bunny (52% in Classic’s favor). Of course, he’s a massive underdog against Dark (Aligulac has Dark winning 78% of the time), but it was clear from the onset that this group was going to be a battle for second place. If Classic can make the most of the matches in which he’s favored, Classic could reach the Code S RO4 for the first time since 2019 and for the fifth time in his career.

If you were looking forward to another couple hundred words about players who aren’t doing all that great at the moment but once upon a time did something really cool, then you’re in luck. Bunny became a regular competitor in Code S for the first time in 2017 and it wasn’t long before he was a decidedly better player than Creator. While not a legitimate threat to win Code S, Bunny managed to pick up some wins and even advanced to the second round a few times during that stretch.

After three years of less than middling finishes, Bunny had his coming out party in the second half of 2021, during which he reached the Round of 4 in Season 2 of Code S (his highest ever finish in said at the time). A freak arm injury threatened to kill his momentum in mid 2022, but he recovered to more than make up for lost time. After a quiet ramp up, Bunny played the best StarCraft of his career at DreamHack Atlanta where he reached his first ever major tournament finals. While it ended in a painful 3-4 loss to herO, it looked like a result he was sure to build upon.

When the IEM World Championship arrived in February of 2023, Bunny was considered one of the best players in attendance. However, saddled with the burden of expectations, Bunny crumbled in the group stage, winning only three maps en route to a 1-4 match record. And if that seemed like a fluke, he followed it up with a poor showing in the Gamers8 Korea qualifiers, failing to make the cut for the year’s second biggest event.

It’s tempting to say that Bunny is right back where he was in 2020, filling the Code S ranks as another solid, middle-class player. But there may be more reason for optimism than those world championship tournament results suggest. He played some excellent StarCraft in Code S Season 1, and was only halted in the RO4 by Maru’s TvT. In this season’s RO16, he destroyed NightMare in an almost contemptuous manner, as if he was determined to prove he’s far too good to be placed with the Code S rank-and-file. Sure, the gulf between Bunny and the so-called ‘title contenders’ is wider than it was last year, but he could be a lot more dangerous than expected.

And then there’s the elephant in the room. Now that Cure and Maru are eliminated, it falls upon Dark to don the cursed mantle of “favorite to win it all”. Reputation wise, he’s clearly the biggest name remaining, and the only one you’d automatically call a title contender at any point in time without opening up his Liquipedia or Aligulac page.

Our first two semifinalists in GuMiho and Solar have only combined for two Korean individual league titles (OSL, SSL, Code S) while Dark has three just by himself—not to mention the 2019 BlizzCon championship. That puts him on an entirely different plane than those remaining in this season of Code S. The gap is even more stark when you look at just Group B. You can’t even start to compare Bunny and Creator to Dark, and while Classic does have the championship pedigree, the 2023 version of Classic is far from one who won Code S and SSL in back to back years during HotS.

As it so happens, Dark doesn’t just have reputation on his side. The sometimes inconsistent Zerg has been playing excellent StarCraft II in the last few weeks, tearing through online cups and leading Team Korea to victory against Team World in a juicy $10,000 WTL showmatch. His form is well reflected by Aligulac, which gives him a healthy 87% chance of moving onto the semifinals, and also sees him finishing in first place 60% of the time. With Maru, Cure, herO, and ByuN already out of the picture, it’s hard to imagine Dark ever having a better chance of winning Code S.

Predictions

Classic 2-0 Creator
Dark 2-1 Bunny
Dark 2-0 Classic
Bunny 2-1 Creator
Classic 2-1 Bunny

Dark and Classic to advance.


Source: https://tl.net/forum/starcraft-2/617652-code-s-ro8-preview-creator-classic-bunny-dark