My Performance at Prime

Yesterday was Prime, a Melee regional hosted at Xanadu. It was organized by my friend Scott, aka TheTantalus, to be a huge melee event, comparable to what Glitch was for sm4sh. For one reason or another, that didn’t happen. The competition was stiff, but the number of entrants was below 80.

That said, it was still super fun. I distinctly remember finishing up grand finals of doubles and not being salty that we lost, because I knew that in a few minutes I’d get to play Donkey Kong in low tiers. I didn’t really know when events were happening – I was just playing when I was told to – but it was fun because I just got to play melee.

Anyways, I thought this would be a good tournament to write about because I performed very well at it. So I’ll just start from the beginning of the day and go through the notable moments.

I showed up kinda late with lloD and tried to warm up for a bit. I made it to winners finals of my pool, which was a best-of-5 set against MikeMelee. I wanted to try listening to classical music at this tournament to see if it would help me at all, so I put in my headphones and started the set. A few games later, we’re on game 5. Before game 5 I decided to nix the music, I took off my hoodie, and got down to business. It was down to the wire, but I managed to clutch it out. MikeMelee has a super solid Falco, and I hope he keeps getting better. If he finds the drive, he could be our region’s star Falco.

This was also when I definitively decided that listening to music while playing is not for me. If I’m playing passively, it’s fine. But when I’m actively thinking during a match, the music gets in the way of my ability to process data as I play.

Anyways, moving forward. In teams, lloD and I made it out as first seed, but only barely. We had a game 3 last stock scenario versus Redd and Bones, in which I had to clutch out the 1v1 vs Redd, Marth versus Fox (foreshadowing). And so we pushed ahead.

lloD and I were determined not to lose to Milkman/Cyrain and DJ/Moon at this tournament, because those were the two teams that knocked us out at Pound, the last event at which we teamed. When we practiced for teams before Pound, we noticed that our teams synergy was very off. Because we lived separately the last few years, our styles kind of diverged and we lost our sync. That definitely showed in our play. We’ve worked over the last week and a half, being home together, to rectify that.

We ended up losing to Milkman and Cyrain’s double Fox anyways. I criticize lloD a lot in teams for being overly aggressive or not listening to me when I tell him stuff. The main takeaway from our set against the Richmond Fox boys this time around was that lloD kept fighting one Fox after the other was dead, which sort of left me helpless. I would control center stage, and could cover the enemy Fox if he came toward me, but that Fox will always start playing defense until his partner comes back. And when his partner does come back, he is an invincible Fox. And this is where the problem comes in. lloD will find himself between two Foxes, one at the ledge, and the other at center-stage, invincible. Meanwhile, I can’t access the vulnerable Fox, nor can I touch the invincible Fox. So I told lloD he needs to retreat to me when anticipating a Fox respawn. I can 1v1 the Fox that still lives, and have the mobility to get myself out when I need to, which Peach lacks.

We played melee singles pools, then doubles immediately afterwards, then low tier pools (and then our set vs Milkman and Cyrain). In the meantime, we had no opportunity to eat. Finally, after our doubles set, we went to get Chick-Fil-A.

While we were eating (at around 4 or 5pm) we talked about our teams strategy. Normally, we go Fox and Peach, but sometimes Marth and Peach. We decided that, for the duration of the tournament, we would go all Marth and Peach to see how things went. This would be good practice for nationals to come.

In losers, we ran into DJ and Moon who miraculously lost to Sypher and Zain in Marth/Fox dittos (I still gotta watch that set). They started double Fox against our Marth and Peach, and won the first two games handily. And that’s when I remembered a conversation lloD and I had that morning on the way to Prime – I mentioned that I don’t like Marth/Peach versus Fox/Fox, and I’d rather go Fox/Peach. So we abandoned our strategy of going all Marth/Peach in an attempt to beat DJ and The Moon, and end up taking the next two games, Fox/Peach versus Fox/Fox. Game 5, The Moon switches to Marth and we manage to win. It was a good feeling to not get eliminated by the same two teams, and to feel my teams synergy with lloD ramp back up to what we once had (and better?). We beat Sypher and Zain in losers finals with Marth/Peach, then lost to Milkman/Cyrain in grand finals with Fox/Peach.

Low tiers was really fun. I beat DJ’s Roy and went on to fight Redd’s Ganon (who is not a low tier). I love playing DK, and had spent some time playing DK on Netplay when I was at the #1 spot for a while and got bored playing real characters. DJ knocked me out in losers with his Mario, then with Bowser in two games on Yoshi’s Story.

Melee singles was where the real magic happened. I made it out first seed in my pool, and had to play DJ Nintendo in winners quarters. He beat me pretty solidly. He has a very weird Fox, pretty patient. I have a patient Marth, so this made for some interesting gameplay. In losers, I played Nurok who I beat 3-0, then Vist who I beat 3-0. Marth versus Luigi is always interesting, and I had the pleasure of commentating Vist versus Zain earlier in the day. Vist managed to beat Zain 3-2. I am not sure if that’s an upset, because Vist has been ranked pretty highly in MD/VA, but recently became inactive while Zain rocketed up to the #11 or #12 spot.

Before going on, I should say that the couple of weeks before this tournament, I felt more strongly that I was weak against spacies as Marth. I felt far more comfortable in the floaty matchups, which is strange, considering that Marth has one of the best matchups versus Fox and Falco in the game. I asked PPMD for some advice, which he graciously gave, and played with Chillin and Azen a bit. Even then, I didn’t feel too confident going into Prime. The night before Prime, however, from about 1:30am to 3:00am, I watched PewPewU videos while listening to classical music (the music I thought I would be listening to during the tournament the next day). When I’ve watched him in the past, I’ve had trouble understanding his decision-making. This time, I was determined to break it down to a science and figure out what he was doing that I was not. I noticed some of the things he did in the matchup were consistent across opponents and months and years, and wrote those things down. As a side note, I always believe that it’s more useful to study what your character can do to another character (and vice-versa), rather than studying a player. You don’t know what a player has learned since the video you studied, nor do you know how they will react to your playstyle. The best thing you can do is arm yourself with  the tools of your character in the matchup. Now I’ll resume, but shoutouts to you, Kevin Toy, if you’re reading!

After Vist I played Milkman, who lost a very tight set to The Moon in winner semis (after beating lloD in another very very tight set). I’ve beaten Milkman before, but at a smaller tournament that was pretty inconsequential. This time, I felt like it mattered a bit more. I was down 0-2 in the best-of-5, having lost a game on FD already. I took him back to FD, won, and he took me to Fountain of Dreams. I thought this was a bit strange considering that, in the past, I have counterpicked him to FoD. Upon review, however, I can see why that stage would be good for Fox, at least over other stages. I also think he wanted to save the Dreamland pick for game 5. For some reason, I’m pretty good on Dreamland. It becomes harder when Foxes try to camp me, because I have to overextend as Marth to catch them on the big stage, but they can’t really camp me when I have the lead. Also, Milkman is not a campy Fox player in general. By some miracle, I manage to win game 5 as well.

In losers, lloD lost to Redd, after trying the FD-Marth counterpick on game 3. It didn’t work, unfortunately for lloD. I think Redd was pretty happy about that, because lloD and him went back and forth a lot last fall, and this is the first time they’ve played since. Then Redd played me. I don’t remember how the stage counterpicking went quite as well as I did with my set versus Milkman, but I managed to win in another game 5 scenario. This was pretty big for me, because in the 10+ years I’ve been playing this game competitively, I have never beaten Redd. We were both aware of that fact.

I felt like after my set against DJ in winners, I started to find the rhythm I needed with Marth. I utilized some of the things I observed from PewPewU, such as his ledge tricks and recovery patterns (in order to avoid early-% shine gimps), and started to flow-chart my punish game a little better (which I developed a bit from watching M2K videos earlier in the work – forgot to mention that). I used to have a tendency to go off-stage a lot to edgeguard Fox, or to grab ledge when it wasn’t the best option, and those decisions resulted in me being offstage or dying at a low %. I was determined to not get shine gimped, nor to give up stage positioning. For this reason, my edgeguarding was not quite as good as it could have been… but I didn’t drop any stocks in an edgeguard attempt. And it worked.

So I played neutral as best I could, and got better and better at punishes as the night went on. And the night went on for a long time with all of the game 5s that were happening.

I played DJ in losers finals (he lost to The Moon in winners finals). I was the only MD/VA player left, so it was my job to defend the region. I think it was game 3 that he took me to Dreamland, and I had 1 stock to his 3, a large deficit. He started camping me hard. I took this as him trying to mentally wear me down. There was no chance of me winning that game, however, so I intentionally mentally checked out and played passively until the game was over. I took a breather before the next game and came back really strong (I think I 3-stocked him). During our game on FoD (which may have been game 1) I felt my hand start to hurt from all the playing – it was my left hand, aka my dash-dancing and wavedashing hand (I jump and wavedash with tap jump), so I did a quick hand stretch in-between stocks at one point, which you can actually see in the VoD. I once again, managed to clutch out a game 5.

At this point I was mentally exhausted. The Moon knows the Marth ditto punish game better than I do, and neutral and edgeguarding in Marth dittos are essentially rock-paper-scissors… so in order to beat The Moon, I would have needed far more mental energy than I had. He beat me 3-0, but I put on a pretty good fight. I knew he likes to go black Marth in grand finals, so I snagged white Marth and put on the “GNJI” tag (shoutouts to Overwatch). He switched to green “money” Marth on game 3, so there was a funny moment when I realized we were playing each other’s Marth colors. I’m going to do a close review of those matches to see what he did right in his combos, and what I can change. When I would combo him, there was always a vulnerable point at which he could reverse my combo back onto me, which I could not do to his combos. So that’s what I’ll work on for next time.

This tournament really made me realize the importance of staying physically and mentally healthy for tournaments, especially when you play against a series of tough opponents. In retrospect, I should be more consistent with my hand-stretches, I should drink more water throughout the day (I started getting a headache when I started my losers run, but tried to stave it off with water and focus on the game), and I should not have eaten only one meal that was unhealthy and so late in the day. Maybe I should have had an everything bagel (shoutouts to PPMD).

I’m going to do some close review of those sets from yesterday to see what I did right in terms of neutral and punishes, and to identify exactly where I went wrong in my edgegame. The goal is to be adept an acknowledging when to go offstage, when to grab ledge, and when to play it safe with the on-stage edgeguard.

This post was more for me than for anybody else to read, but if you read it, I hope you enjoyed nonetheless. I added a couple of names to my win list yesterday, and that list will only be growing this year.

Here’s to improvement and hard work.

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My Performance at Prime

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