What If? - Rogue in the Code S FinalsStart time: Saturday, Sep 28 8:00am GMT (GMT+00:00)
“What if?” is a question that torments people. The past is unchangeable, yet we still torture ourselves with this question, asking ourselves what could have, maybe even should have been. We imagine in our minds the countless ways things could have played out differently, forever chasing dreams that are cursed to remain dreams.
One has to wonder if Rogue ever asks himself this question. He’s tasted success, and plenty of it. Once a cunning-but-inconsistent wild card player for Jin Air, Rogue emerged from beneath the shadow of illustrious teammates sOs and Maru to forge his own shining legacy in StarCraft II. IEM World Champion. WCS Global Champion. 4th highest prize money earner of all time. What phantoms of the past could still cause Rogue to lose sleep?
Should Rogue have any regrets, they probably have something to do with the fact that he now enters his first ever GSL Code S finals. If soO was the king of kongs, then Rogue was the regent of the round-of-eight. Prior to this season, Rogue clawed his way to eight quarterfinal appearances in Code S, only to bite the dust each and every time. At times, you could be sympathetic to his plight, like when he ran into Stats and Maru at the peak of their powers. But after four years of losing, it became clear that it didn't matter if his opponents were top-tier competitors, outmatched underdogs, or even a foreigner in Neeb—the quarterfinal round itself was Rogue's true nemesis.
"What if Rogue never wins GSL Code S?" If fans entertained this question, then it's hard to believe that Rogue wouldn't have pondered it as well. Considering Rogue's success at 'weekender' style tournaments such as IEM, GSL Super Tournament, and BlizzCon, this Code S jinx might not seem like such a huge disappointment. Yet, there is something special about Code S that transcends prize money and any other factors, due to its nearly decade-year long history as the utmost test of skill in StarCraft II. To not win Code S would leave Rogue fans with a feeling of emptiness, even with the crowns of 'world champion' bestowed upon him by other organizations. After all, how great can a player be if they can't win the most prestigious domestic trophy?
And all of the sudden, miracle. Perhaps thinking enough was enough, Janus, Osiris, Marduk, or whatever deities decided to intervene on behalf of Rogue’s cursed soul (obviously they're StarCraft II fans). This season of Code S saw Rogue finally brush off his past failures, not only advancing past the quarterfinals but proceeding to crash directly through the semifinal gate to reach the grand finals.
The actual breaking of the quarterfinal curse happened in almost the least impressive way possible, as Rogue's 3-2 win over Zest was marred by sloppy play, failed cheeses, and ugly throws. In the end, a lucky scout against a desperation cannon rush just barely let Rogue squeak by. After such a rough showing against a confessed poor PvZ player like Zest, you had to wonder if the curse would just carry over into the semifinals.
However, Rogue went on to eliminate such doubts with a 4-1 thrashing of the de facto 'best Korean Zerg' Dark. The weak, unsure Rogue of the quarterfinals was magically replaced by the confident, audacious competitor who had won trophies around the world. Maybe that bit of magic was actually the change in format—Rogue reminded us before the semifinals that he was undefeated in offline best-of-seven matches, with a 4-0 record in such settings. It might be that the extra wriggle room to go for risky strategies brings out the absolute best in Rogue. It certainly seemed that way against Dark, as Rogue's near perfect map-by-map planning (besides losing to Dark's brilliant Nydus-Swarm Host tactics in game one) allowed him to take a smashing victory.
This Code S finals gives Rogue a chance to make up for all of the missed opportunities in the past and tick off the final box on his career checklist. His success at big-money international tournaments is already etched into history, and all he needs now is the prestige of a Code S title to complete his career.
We all know what can happen when Rogue catches fire toward the end of a season. In 2017, it almost seemed like he was pacing himself to peak in the final third of the year, embarking on a remarkable winning streak that concluded in a WCS Global Championship. Now, it's time for Rogue to turn that 5-0 record in best-of-sevens into 6-0, answering the "what if?" of a Code S championship for good. And after he's done with that, it will be time to move on to the next challenge and force StarCraft 2 fans to ask a different kind of question: "what if Rogue can make it 7-0 in the BlizzCon finals?"