How I Got Into [Competitive] Smash

Happy birthday! Today, Super Smash Bros. Melee turns fifteen years old. And Smash for Wii U turns two years old. I thought this was a fitting occasion to talk a bit about how I got involved with competitive smash in the first place. I’ll also briefly reminisce about my smash career before you probably heard of me.

People are usually surprised when they hear how long I’ve been around in the scene. I wasn’t on most people’s radars until Project:M became big at Xanadu and I got to show off my Mewtwo (plus many other characters) every Tuesday. The first time I met Westballz was actually at a Melee Xanadu, and I recall him cheering for me during a set – “Yeah, show em that PM players can play Melee too!” I know lloD has had similar experiences, with people assuming he was a Brawl player first – his trademark patience is often attributed to his high skill level in Brawl. But I’m here to give you the full story!

Me and smash go a long way back. My earliest memory of smash is watching my sister, who is older than me by nine years, play with our two cousins (who are both around her age) in Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64. She played Luigi, because green was her favorite color, while one of my cousins played Kirby and the other bomb-camped with Link. I distinctly remember them playing on Hyrule Castle, and someone got a Charizard out of a Pokeball on the top platform. I didn’t know what Charizard was… so I believed them when they told me that they “released the dragon from the castle prison.”

Eventually I got old enough to understand the game, and my brother, lloD, and I started playing ourselves. I had formed a habit of copying things my sister did, as younger siblings do, and so I became attached to Luigi early on. We played and had fun. It was good times.

We started playing way more later in elementary school when Melee came out (15 years ago today!). We got the game a bit later than our friends because we didn’t have a Gamecube, but we finally got it. My fellow 2nd-graders had already been unlocking characters, and my best friend was coming up with cool strategies. At one of our many sleepovers, he was “teaching” me how to utilize Mewtwo’s movement options. We talked about how there’s a visual effect for Mewtwo’s UpB, but not for his airdodge, and so that would be the best way to identify where he’s going if he disappears.

Having a brother meant I played a LOT of Melee. We would play each other and put time into the single-player events. In 2005, we got good enough that our friends didn’t want to play with us anymore. I was in 6th grade at the time, and my brother was in 5th. Up until this time, we were both pretty obsessed with Runescape, but that obsession was dying down. We needed another outlet.

Everything changed the day I looked up “super smash bros competitions” (…or something like that) on Google. That is how I found Smashboards.

Smashboards opened my eyes. It gave us access to guides, fellow smash competitors, tournaments, and so on. The possibilities were endless. It was at this time that I struggled to come up with a “gamertag” to use on the forums, but my 6th-grade self eventually decided that “Smash G 0 D” sounded really cool. And it still does, right guys?! Even without all those spaces in-between letters!

I created my Smashboards account in October 2005, and went to my first tournament in November of 2005: BOMB4. My dad drove me, my brother, and some friends to the event. We only entered doubles, got bodied, then left. But it was still fun, and we talked about it for a long time. For the first few years of entering tournaments, there was something extremely exhilarating about playing people who were so much better at the game. Unfortunately, we could only go to a few events per year – our parents didn’t want us playing too much smash, especially at tournaments with older people that we didn’t know very well.

I tried finding my first Smashboards post, but for some reason the archive only goes far back as 2006, so the oldest post I could find was about the FC3 East Coast vs. West Coast crew battle. I watched that crew battle so many times. I downloaded it and put it on my PSP, watching it over and over when we would travel. I loved seeing the top-level play, and I loved seeing East Coast pop off. As an aspiring Marth player with a lot of East Coast pride, I really looked up to Azen and Husband in particular. It’s also worth noting that, at this time, YouTube hadn’t even been created, and we watched all our videos through DC++ (p2p video sharing) or Google Video or some other voodoo methods. Another fun fact – my dad warmed up to the smash community more after chatting with Husband and seeing that smashers were just normal people with a unique hobby.

In Spring of 2006, my brother and I went to Redd’s house and met him for the first time. He was a Falco main, and I remember the first match we played was him beating my Luigi with Ganondorf. He would Fair my shield, and L-cancel it into a jab, and I couldn’t beat it. Later, he 4-stocked my Fox with his Falco (the only Falco game he played). For the most part, he beat my brother and I with his secondaries. Our moms chatted upstairs while we played. We played for about 45 minutes total, then had to leave. It still felt awesome playing someone so good (also, Redd was 14 or 15 years old at this point).

I can’t say I remember what my brother’s gamer tag was this early on… at some point, though, I thought it would be cool to call him “Sheikij,” derived from “Sheikage” like “pwnage” like “ownage.” It was 2006, guys. People read the tag as “Sheik I J,” however, and pronounced the last two letters separately. But mostly they referred to him as my “little bro.” So at some point, he officially named himself “Smash G 0 D’s Little Bro.” In fact, that exact Smashboards username still exists. I just looked it up, and found a post where he points out that he 4-stocked some guy in our region with Sheik and Zelda, then lists his mains as “Marth and Jiggz” with a Falco secondary. Like I said, our mains and secondaries switched around a ton at this point. This post was also made in the “TNR” thread, which was the first real crew we joined. It stood for “Team No Respect” and included members such as ChozenOne, AlphaZealot, Boss, and EE.

At some point, my brother met Doll, the legendary local Peach player. My brother was a Sheik main with a Peach secondary at this point, if I recall correctly, and was inspired by Doll’s lame playstyle with Peach. He attempted to emulate that style, and adopted the name “lloD,” or “Doll” backwards. It probably isn’t surprising, then, that lloD found further inspiration with Sheik after watching Drephen videos. In any case, the oldest post I can find on his Smashboards account is from 2009, but he was never as avid a Smashboards user as I, so I can’t say exactly when the name-change stuck. It was almost definitely before 2008, though, because he was lloD by the time Brawl came out.

Anecdote time, because I like this story: In 2008, I attended one of ChuDat’s many basement tournaments. This was a Halloween-themed tournament, and we were encouraged to come in costume. I, naturally, came dressed as my favorite player: Azen. I had a button-down and a messenger bag with a “Nintendo Tech Support” sign taped onto it. I was playing with Slikvik, one of our better players at the time and a Peach main, before the tournament. He thought my Fox was pretty good, and mentioned to someone, “you should team with this guy if you want to place in the money.” That was a pretty big compliment for me. He wrestled with ditching his teammate, but eventually decided to in favor of teaming with me (whoops, sorry fam). We played Fox/Peach and ended up getting 2nd in teams. For the life of me, I can’t remember who we beat or who we lost to, but I remember making some pretty big upsets and playing out of my mind. At some point I got so heated and caught up in the moment, that on respawn I just went IN on my partner. He had to say, “yo chill!” before I realized I was attacking the wrong Peach (was DoH on the other team? It must have been another Peach player). In any case, after the set I stood up and noticed the crowd that had been watching… and then noticed that Azen had sat down on the arm of the sofa I was on, right next to me. So that was pretty cool, because I was definitely a fanboy at that point. This tournament is also one of the building blocks upon which I built my career in teams.

For a long portion of my competitive smash career, I tri-mained Luigi, Marth, and Fox. (If you go on Smashboards, you can actually find the Luigi guide I wrote years and years back.) I always struggled with counterpicking because I never knew which of my characters was having a good day. At some point, I started putting faith into my Luigi and saw good results. The last tournament in which I seriously played Luigi was Hyperphoenix 2 at the end of 2013. lloD and I got 2nd in teams with all Luigi/Peach, beating Redd+DoH twice, and losing to Chillin+Cyrain twice. It looks like I got 9th at that tournament, losing to Chillin and Wenbo in singles. Earlier that year, at HyperPhoenix 1, I got 4th in singles, beating Vist, Bones, and DoH with Luigi. I lost to Mew2King and Redd, which was pretty respectable. The results for that tournament were 1. M2K, 2. Eggm, 3. Redd, 4. Me.

For posterity’s sake, here’s a video of my Luigi from Hyperphoenix 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xgyjodMRbc

The following year, Project:M 3.0 came out, and I was living with Junebug, so we played a ton of smash. In Melee, I switched to all Fox, and had a decently successful year, beating ChuDat for the first time. This is when I started getting on people’s radars, especially with my Mewtwo play in PM. Then 3.5 came out, and I was still really good, but I started playing less. In early 2015, I heard The Moon was coming to a Xanadu for the second week in a row, and he was disappointed with the competition from the first week, having won with all Fox. I planned to go and give him a challenge, and was worried about beating his Marth with my Fox. I asked Chillin and Redd for advice, and Chillin said, “if you can just get him to play his main, that’ll be good enough.” The day of, I decided to take a leap and try Marth. We played three Marth ditto games, and I won the set. That was the day I realized that becoming a top Melee player was possible – I just needed a sign. Though, I should mention that I then got 4-stocked by Plank and Moon 2-0’d me in the runback. But still. It was a big day for me, and from that day forward I was a Marth main.

The rest, we say, is history. I stopped playing PM, I started playing more Sm4sh, I put my major focus onto Melee, entered EVO for the first time, and have been grinding mostly Melee ever since. But now, if you didn’t know that I’d been around since 2005, now you know! It’s been an absolute pleasure watching Melee go from a fun pasttime as an 11 year-old to a major esport in which I compete as a 22 year-old. And having written that sentence, I now realize that half of my entire life has been shaped by competitive smash and the smash community.

So for all you who love playing the game and who love and support the smash community, thank you. Happy smashing.

How I Got Into [Competitive] Smash

Thoughts on Olympus

Olympus took place over Halloween weekend. It was primarily a Project:M major, but also featured a great deal of Melee and Sm4sh talent. It was my first big tournament since SmashCon, and I had high expectations for myself. I couldn’t find a Melee teams partner, so I decided to take a leap and enter PM, Sm4sh, and Melee singles. Let’s take it day by day!

Friday

The tournament didn’t technically start until Saturday morning, but there were some exhibition tournaments planned for Friday. I was invited to compete in the PM 3.02 Top Player Crew Battle Exhibition, and also decided to enter Melee Low Tiers and the Melee Reverse Main Tournament. Everything was set to start at 5pm, so I made sure I rolled into Atlantic City at around 4pm to check in and get settled before heading to play. Unfortunately, everything got shifted back by about 1.5-2 hours so we ended up just playing friendlies for a while. Eventually, Melee Low Tiers started and it ran pretty smoothly. There weren’t many entrants, and it wasn’t being streamed, so it was easy. 1st place was Strong Bad, I got 2nd, and Drephen’s Roy got 3rd. I played mostly DK, but wasn’t ready for Strong Bad in the DK ditto… he definitely had a better grasp on the punish-game flow-chart than I did. My Zelda and Pichu put up good fights as well, but it wasn’t enough.

The PM 3.02 exhibition was then canceled because other players were coming late, so all that was left was the Reverse Main Tournament. I thought people would get hyped for the side events, and that there would be some good competition. I was wrong, unfortunately, so I decided to drop out. This was largely because of how late everything had been pushed back, and I didn’t want to be competing in a free tournament with no competition at 1am the night before bracket actually started.

Friday was a bit all over the place, but I at least got to sit down and play a good amount of friendlies with DruggedFox and Drephen. DruggedFox beat me for the most part, which was a good wake-up call. He called out all of my tricky recoveries and played an extremely solid neutral. I also learned that the rumors about Drephen’s spotdodging with Sheik are not unfounded in the slightest! He said he uses it mostly for conditioning and mixups, but if Marth spaces outside of Sheik’s tilt and grab range, the spotdodges aren’t very threatening. I’d just played Plank in the matchup at Xanadu in the couple weeks prior, and I think he had a better understanding of the intricacies in the matchup – notably how to utilize short-hop mixups. If Sheik spotdodges, then she isn’t doing enough to counteract Marth’s Dtilt.

I was back in my room and ready for bed before 1am, which was pretty decent timing. Unfortunately, pools were not finalized until 12:30am. This was a major problem, in my opinion. I believe that you shouldn’t worry too much about who you’re playing in bracket or you risk overthinking player matchups when you should just focus on playing your best… but when you’re at a tournament of this caliber, it is reasonable to expect that skill and regional seeding will be completed by a reasonable amount of time before the tournament starts. I don’t think that less-than-10-hours before the tournament starts falls into that category.

They actually had released pools earlier that week, which confused a great deal of people. They stated that pools weren’t final, but I had to wonder why pools weren’t final. They got MikeHaze and Redd to seed Melee, but that could have been done days in advance over Skype or Discord. I heard some criticisms from locals that they didn’t put enough effort into seeding NYC locals for skill and regional dispersion.

Saturday

(I’m going to deviate slightly from the chronology here so as not to break up my discussion of seeding issues.)

I kept hearing that the TOs would be reseeding the bracket after round 1 pools. That is to say that round 1 pools would be completed, and then the TOs would take each person that made it into top 32 and individually re-seed. To me, this was a ludicrous idea. If you have to re-seed people for skill and region in the top 32 bracket, that means your initial seeding was garbage. The bracket should be seeded in the very beginning, placed into bracket-running software like on smashgg, and then the TOs should be hands-off. Let the bracket play out with the seeding you agreed upon in the first place.

If there are major regional conflicts, that means there could have been an upset somewhere in bracket. But that’s how it works out sometimes. I’d rather maintain the integrity of the bracket – this integrity is, of course, reliant upon good initial seeding.

All of that being said, the TOs did not ultimately re-seed for top 32. But there was no confirmation that re-seeding would not occur until very soon before top 32 actually started, so nobody knew for certain who they would be playing against. This is kind of frustrating as a competitor. While I think it can be harmful to focus too much on who you’re up against next, and it is far more useful to focus on playing your best, it is reasonable to expect some amount of time and information to prepare to compete.

Someone mentioned that PM was re-seeded, but I wasn’t paying too close attention so I can’t really comment on that. If that was the case… I think that’s dumb. TOs: make your seeding good right off the bat, and finish it at least a week prior to the event.

Oh! I should mention that one issue with this event was that at-the-door signups for Melee and Sm4sh were open until Friday night before the tournament starts. This was, of course, a major reason that the TOs procrastinated on seeding. I personally prefer the “death pool” clause for at-the-door signups, though. Or to not allow door signups at all. TOs should be firm with their expectations of competitors, and these days, signing up for a tournament ahead of and on time is the standard. Don’t diminish the ability of your signed-up competitors to prepare in order to gain 5 or 10 more entrants the night before bracket.

There could certainly be worse issues at a tournament than these I have described, there is no doubt. But in the age of professionalism in esports, some of these occurrences rubbed me and other competitors the wrong way.

And now let’s jump back to Saturday morning! I played Melee first, then had Sm4sh pools, then Project:M. I made it out in winners for Melee, with one close call against CIZ. My play was not looking clean at all games 1 and 2, but I took it with a 3-stock on game 3. My round 1 in sm4sh didn’t show up, so I had to play Biddy. Biddy and I played a long time ago, back when I played Rosalina. I believe I beat him in a clutch set, winning the game with a Rosa Uair kill at 45%. I got a lot of hate on YouTube for that, but I personally thought it was hilarious. This time, I thought about playing Rosa again for Gravitational Pull, but I haven’t practiced her in over a year so I stuck with my Kirby guns. I lost game 1 on Smashville, and ran it back. I tried to play it safe and get a read on his patterns, then make hard reads to get openings and win the up-close mix-ups. It worked for both games 2 and 3, and I made it into top 32 winning only one game.

I was set to play Larry Lurr in round 1 of sm4sh top 32, a match I was excited to play. I’ve always admired Larry’s skill, and wanted my shot at beating him. I should mention that, prior to this event, I was officially “retired” from sm4sh (as of March 2016). When I couldn’t find a Melee partner for teams, however, I decided to practice for the couple weeks leading up to the event. So I didn’t have any major expectations, but the tech barrier in the game is pretty low and I believe I have the mental game of a top player.

I played Kirby against Larry, naturally. Kirby versus Fox is a hilarious matchup in which Kirby crouches everything and then gets a 0-40% combo off one Utilt. I Utilt combo’d him, took his ability, shot lasers, crouched a bunch, played some footsies, and then Kirbycided him for the 2-stock. He switched off to DK for game 2, which I expected. I was outplaying him for a bit, getting DK to high %, but then got grabbed at 50% twice and died both times (Ding Dong). Game 3, I took him to Duck Hunt and he switched to Metaknight, a less polished character of his. I died early, unsure how to DI out of MK’s Uair UpB combo, but then played the rest of the game safe. I was winning most exchanges, I think, which resulted in an inch-by-inch comeback. It was, however, too little and too late. I was fishing for a grab under the tree (I was at 130%, he was at 65%), to get an Uthrow kill, but I forgot he had the same trick and let myself get killed by it. In losers I beat a Cloud with Sheik, then lost to a Mewtwo with Lucario.

Meanwhile, I played my first set in PM against Robfox. We Mewtwo ditto’d on Stadium 2 twice, and I beat him 2-0. Then I forfeited. I was focused on Sm4sh top 32 matches, and I was warming up Melee in-between games.

I played Slox first in Melee top 32. He beat me 2-0 at Pound in Marth vs. Sheik, and he did the same thing here. For some reason, and I can’t really say why, I was getting very tilted during our set. This doesn’t usually happen to me – I like to think one of my strengths is keeping my cool in tense situations. In this set, though, I was just getting frustrated and irritated. I remember getting a phantom tipper at one point, and that sealed the deal. After that set, I thought to myself “I don’t want to play Melee right now.” More specifically, I didn’t feel like playing Marth. This was very unusual, and hadn’t happened before.

I played G$ immediately afterward, and lost to his Falco on Battlefield and Marth on FD. I was very unhappy with how I played Melee all day, and I left the venue at this point. I was frustrated and needed to take a walk and lie down for a bit. I’ve gotten frustrated at losses before, but I never felt the way I did that day where I didn’t feel like playing my matches. It was very unusual.

And that led to an epiphany: having fun is pretty important. Seems like a given, right? Melee is the most fun game of all time. But I think, at some point in the last month, training and playing with Marth in matchups I didn’t like started to feel like a chore, and I couldn’t muster up the motivation and positivity to do the best I could. The rest of that day, I played whoever I felt like playing. Mostly Fox, Sheik, Peach, Falco and the like.

I actually ended up entering teams because Wenbo was out of a teammate. We did alright, beating Zealous5000 and CIZ round 1, then losing to DJ and The Moon. I forget what team we played, because we tried so many, but I think our default was double Fox. I may have tried Peach against DJ and Moon. Then we beat Silver and Darc in losers, with double Fox I think, and lost to Drephen and dizzkidboogie.

So that was the end of smash for the day. I didn’t like feeling so negative about the game and Marth, but playing whoever I wanted to the rest of the day really helped. Sometimes you’ve got to sit back and just enjoy the game. We had a dope dinner at a burger bar later, and then I turned in early to get some sleep.

Sunday

I was planning on leaving pretty early. I checked out, put my stuff in my car, then went back to the venue to chill for a bit and then head out. I just wanted to get back and not worry about smash anymore… but then dizzkidboogie asked if I’d give him Marth practice for his set against The Moon. So we started playing, and we kept playing, and I was having fun again (even though it was Marth versus Ice Climbers!!). I felt a twinge of guilt giving practice against my buddy The Moon, but Dizz is my friend also and I don’t usually turn people away when they ask for help. Plus it was super fun.

I consider myself to be pretty good at the Marth versus ICs matchup, having been exposed to it a great deal over the past year and a half with Nintendude. At least, until he moved away to NorCal. Dizz also showed me a few tricks I hadn’t been utilizing, like the fact that in a handoff scenario, you should always mash when Nana grabs because she pummels a random number of times! We broke down the neutral of the matchup into stages, and also looked at the intricacies. I taught him that Fthrow pivot Fsmash is never guaranteed as Marth if you DI it correctly, and showed him a couple things that Nintendude and ChuDat have done against me that worked.

If you have trouble fighting Ice Climbers, practice against Ice Climbers players and ask them to wobble you. I know a lot of players tend to get frustrated while they’re being wobbled, but if you are more used to it after playing in friendlies, it doesn’t feel as bad when you get down to it in tournament.

He went on to 3-0 The Moon and win the whole tournament. It was a major win for him, getting 1st over the likes of The Moon, Lucky, HugS, Professor Pro, and many more! So Kyle, if you’re reading this, congrats again. ;]

Before I finish, there was one other big criticism I had: the TOs were far too loud over the microphone. When you have a half-size ballroom packed with people and the microphone turned all the way up, you do not need to swallow the mic and scream. It was intrusively loud, and I had to put in earphones just to muffle the noise so I could focus on my matches. But again, there could have been far worse issues with a tournament like this, so I still give props to all the organizers and TOs.

That pretty much sums up the story of my weekend at Olympus in Atlantic City. It started off pretty rocky, then I felt pretty awful about how I played, had a realization that I needed to rediscover the fun I have with the game, then had a ton of fun playing, and then drove home on Sunday evening.

Since Olympus, I haven’t been sitting and grinding too much, but I’ve been having fun while competing. I’ve been playing mostly Fox, and got 1st at the last three tournaments I entered. I don’t know if I’ll switch to using more Fox than I have in the past, or if I’ll keep him in the pocket, but I do know that I’m having fun with him. I’m also using Marth when it makes sense, such as when a spacie takes me to FD, or I fight Ice Climbers or Puff.

Anyways, it’s very unusual for me to publish two posts so close together! But I’d like to be updating the bl0g more frequently, so if you like this sort of thing, you can follow my bl0g (in the bottom-right hand corner of the page) to get updates! I don’t expect people to read these things all the way through, because of how lengthy they are. But for those of you who do, I hope you enjoy reading about my experiences and maybe learn a thing or two about the game or about competing, or just about me as a person and competitor.

That’s all for now!

Thoughts on Olympus

Catching Up: Post-EVO and SSC2016

I meant to cover these topics in the aforementioned “Much Has Happened in the Last Four Months” post, but that was before my bit on EVO turned into a novella. So, as promised, here is the second arc of the 2016 summer of smash (and Rivals)!

Post-EVO

To be honest, the weeks after EVO and before SuperSmashCon are kind of a blur to me, at this point. I was kind of wrapped up in preparing for graduate school, I suppose, and needed a mental break after EVO. I don’t know if I can properly emphasize how taxing the loss to Armada was, and how disappointed I was with myself after an embarrassingly subpar performance against my crewmate Nintendude to get eliminated. I was feeling proud of myself for surpassing the expectations of others and placing in top 32 of the largest Melee tournament of all time… but it stopped becoming about expectations for me. It became about winning.

I don’t go into pools matches or brackets expecting to win or lose anymore. I go in preparing myself to fight, and to win. Maybe that isn’t strictly true, at least for early-round pools… but it should be. And that is a mindset I am working on developing for myself, because it emphasizes a process-oriented mental approach as opposed to a results-oriented approach. Let me elaborate.

If you are up against a top player and you expect to lose before the set even starts, you handicap yourself. To win a close set, you need to be able to draw on your ability to clutch out a set. You have to go down kicking and scratching until the announcer says “Game!” You won’t put up this kind of fight if you already expect to lose. I’ve experienced this firsthand, and I’m sure many other competitors have as well – I feel like, in this case, you accept the loss before the game even ends.

Take a look at the flip-side: a top player who is expecting to win. When you go into a set expecting to win, you aren’t as focused on what your opponent is doing, and you sort of play autopilot. This approach leaves top players vulnerable to mid- and high-level players with strong punish games. The top player plays sloppily, relying on superior game knowledge and punishes to win the set, but when each opening the other player gets (as a result of the top player’s sloppy) leads to high % or a stock… well, that’s how upsets happen.

Let’s take Zain versus Plup from The Big House 6 as an example. Plup is the closest thing we have to a Melee demi-god, and so for him to lose to anyone outside of the top 20 is a big deal. Zain isn’t even top 100 at the moment. Nobody expected Zain to win. I have a feeling Plup expected the same.

When you step into the ring with all the evidence pointing to your victory, and you believe that evidence and expect to win, you leave yourself open to the strong punish game of a player like Zain. And that’s what happened. Zain moved smoothly, quickly, and capitalized on his punishes, and followed the edgeguard flowchart well. Plup was a little stuck in his movement, and I am sure he was taken off-guard by how well Zain started off. By the time you realize you’re on the ropes against a player much lower-ranked than you are, all you can do is re-calibrate your mentality and scramble your way back to victory. But when all it takes is one or two more openings for your opponent to take the set, it could be too late.

In all fairness, I have no idea whether or not Plup came into that set expecting to win. I asked Zain about his expectations prior to the set, and this is what he said:

“When i first got news that I had to play him I honestly thought I was just going to lose. But when the time actually came to play him, my head was pretty clear and I didn’t think about winning or losing at all.

So regardless of what Plup’s mindset was, Zain’s worked. If you’re focusing on the process – playing neutral, landing punishes, finishing edgeguards, etc. – then you are forcing yourself to draw upon your game knowledge. If you focus on results before the game is over, you’re adding an extra step of thinking and distracting yourself.

The bottom line here is that expectations are dangerous. If I started my set versus Armada expecting to lose, I surely would not have gotten so close. And on multiple occasions I have had to scramble my way back to victory against opponents with good punish-games that took me by surprise.

I think the best way to counteract the risks of expecting to lose and expecting to win is to eliminate expectations entirely. The impact that expectations have on your gameplay are purely cognitive. It affects your mindset, which in turn affects how you play. So instead of saying “I expect to win this set,” try telling yourself, “I will do everything in my power to win.” Once you shift your mental approach from the former to the latter, what follows is a change in your thinking process as the game moves forward.

Hypothetical Player #1 tells herself that she will do everything in her power to win. What follows is a series of questions that may pop up before, during, and after the set:

“What is my opponent doing in neutral?”

“What options can I pick to counter his/her options?”

“What should I utilize to maximize my advantages and minimize my disadvantages in this matchup?”

Hypothetical Player #2 expects to win, but finds himself losing to a player that he, and everyone else, expected him to beat. He starts thinking:

“Why am I losing to this guy?”

“How will it look if I lose a set that everybody expected me to win?”

And then you get frustrated. The first question, “why am I losing to this guy?”, isn’t all that bad. But in the former case, that question is skipped. The player with the better mindset skips the “why am I losing” question because he or she is already weighing and considering options.


I’ll be honest. It’s been eight days since I wrote the previous portion of this bl0g post, so it’s a bit fuzzy, but I’m determined to finish it! The main point of the previous section was to outline how I think expectations can be harmful in a competitive environment, and that the most consistent path to success is to adopt a process-oriented mindset rather than a results-oriented mindset. There are intricacies to this all, naturally. For example, one might have trouble drawing the line between “expecting to win” and “having confidence.” Playing confidently has certainly been shown to improve a competitor’s gameplay, but can also teeter too far into arrogance and the territory of “I expect to win this game now, so let me show off and- whoops, I lost!” It’s an interesting balance to strike, and not an easy one to find. I urge all competitors to explore it themselves.

Now onto SmashCon! I’m gonna keep this section brief because SSC was a bit ago and it wasn’t as significant as EVO, for me. But I can at least provide context for anyone interested in following my story!

SuperSmashCon 2016

Like I mentioned, around this time I was preparing to start graduate school. For anyone who is interested, I’m getting my M.S. in Marketing Analytics at the University of Maryland!

Let me start this story on the Wednesday before SmashCon. I was determined to “just have fun” at SSC, and not worry so much about the competition. I worried that preparing for SSC like I did for EVO would detract and distract from my school preparations. I had a positive outlook on the weekend.

I decided to attend Melee at Xanadu that Wednesday prior to SSC to compete against some good players, see my friend Mike (Nintendude) again, and so forth. I saw the aMSa was in my bracket, so I was trying to figure out how to beat Yoshi with Marth – this was a matchup I’d never experienced at top-level. I should say, though, that when I asked people for tips and they asked, “Oh, are you playing aMSa?” I responded, “if I beat everyone before him, yeah.” I was trying to prepare for a match later in bracket, but also not assuming I would just win every game up to then (eliminate expectations!).

Ironically enough, I end up losing to Wenbo the round before I would have played aMSa. I hadn’t lost to Wenbo in a very long time, so this was a pretty confusing loss. Maybe it was the heat I complained about, maybe it was because I hadn’t been preparing/studying like I had been earlier in the summer, or maybe Wenbo transformed into a g0d for a few minutes. One way or another, the loss was on me.

I was chatting with Ice a bit later and he asked me, “why did you lose to Wenbo?” I didn’t have a good answer. There were answers in my head (the main one was the heat complaint), but I didn’t feel good about offering any of them up. I knew that, had I appropriately adopted a winning mentality, any excuse I could come up with would have been nullified. If it was hot and I really wanted to win, I would have drank more water, taken breaks outside, and so forth. I felt kind of fraudulent having performed well all summer, then to lose like this.

As Ice and I talked about mentality and the challenges of winning and achieving success, I realized we agreed on a lot. We talked about how you should take care of your body days and weeks in advance of tournaments (which, for serious competitors, is all the time). At the end of the day, you want to eliminate as many excuses as possible for losing so that all that’s left is your gameplay. And your gameplay is something you can analyze and improve on.

Fun fact about me – I’ve been doing theatre for many years, mainly directing. One note I got from a director many years ago that has stuck with me and that I have given to cast members I’ve directed since: leave everything on the stage. Never leave the stage wishing you’d given more. Competing should be the same. Never walk away feeling like you could have done more to perform better, or that you could have prepared something in advance to eliminate any excuses you can come up with.

Back to Xanadu – I kind of recalibrated my mindset and reminded myself that I don’t like losing, so I played with a renewed mind in loser’s bracket. I beat SypherPhoenix 2-1, then played my brother lloD. I lost game 1, after which we switched setups. We were playing on a 20XX setup that had distracting visuals and music. I ended up winning in the following two games. Then I played Nintendude in our first runback since he eliminated me at EVO. I beat him 2-1 as well, being more stubborn about sticking to my gameplan of camping platforms. He flubbed a Marth killer on game 3 which cost his stock… but we take those!

Next I finally got the match against aMSa I was expecting. I put up a good fight, but man was I unprepared. People told me some stuff about the matchup, but you really don’t know what it’s like to fight against aMSa until you fight aMSa… the punishes were unreal. I didn’t know Yoshi could combo Marth like that. But now I know, and since then I’ve practiced with local Yoshi player PeanutPhobia. You’ve got to be prepared for any matchup that can come your way!

That night I got home and slept late, but had to be up at 7am to move into my new apartment! Spent the whole day moving all my furniture in and taking a trip through IKEA on three hours of sleep. It was awful. But luckily I could sleep early that night in preparation for SSC.

In keeping with my “have fun at SSC” mentality, I entered sm4sh as well as Melee singles and doubles. I played pretty well, tried to have fun, and it was all good. To summarize my Melee singles experience… it was bad. I did fine going through round 1 pools. But coming in day 2, I just had a bad feeling all morning. I woke up late, I forgot my badge, I was stressed about Rivals of Aether (more on that in another post), and I was overthinking a lot.

I had to play Tafo round 1 of my round 2 pool. We sat down and he said, “Are you ready to win?” I guess he expected me to beat him, which I guess wasn’t unreasonable given my summer performance, but I just said, “We’ll see!” because I knew anything could happen. I lost game 1, and the pressure was on. Game 2 I took him to FD, and all I remember from that was getting a sick kill: I hit him off-stage, grabbed ledge, and forced him to UpB on-stage. Then I ledge-hopped Dair, and caught his DI away on the Dair with a perfect pivot Tipper kill. It was dope. Then I had the lead game 3 and threw it away. I honestly don’t remember what happened, but I didn’t feel good. That kind of set the tone for me the rest of the day.

In losers, I played a Fox player who had been doing well. I forget his tag, unfortunately. But his whole squad was cheering him on. There were a bit of shots against me while we were playing, but I think I beat him pretty badly and the posse was a bit quieter as game 2 moved along. I remember seeing that I had to play against the winner of Aglet and Cyrain. Obviously I would have preferred Aglet, because he’s a Puff, but Cyrain clutched it out game 3 with a Bthrow into Uair. Cyrain beat me 2-1. It was a super flubby set, and again I felt pretty bad.

I feel like that weekend, my downfall was my lack of preparation. I felt awful all of Saturday after losing. My temper was on edge, and I couldn’t shake off the salt. It really just ruined my day.

And that helped me learn what kind of competitor I am. First, disclaimer: I really dislike johns, and I hate making johns. In the context of this bl0g, I’m trying to contextualize my experiences and learn from my mistakes. In this case, I thought I could aim to have a chill, fun weekend and still compete. But why did I feel so bad?

Let’s go back to my experience at Xanadu. When was I feeling bad, feeling uncomfortable? It was when I lost to Wenbo, and did not have a good excuse for it. I had excuses, but none of them were good. I felt the same way after being eliminated at SSC. I felt like I would have won both of the sets I’d lost had I prepared appropriately, but I didn’t, so I lost. And that felt awful.

This was a good realization for me. I can’t tell myself that I will be okay with any outcome if I decide to compete. I need to prepare and try my hardest… as it turns out, that isn’t even the end of the story (more on that in my post about Olympus).

I want to end this bl0g post on a more positive note, so let’s talk about Melee doubles! lloD and I did really well in teams. Our first big win in the bracket was over Wobbles and Axe. I remember walking to the restroom before we played them, and I was thinking about whether to go Fox or Marth. Typically, Fox/Peach is our default team. In this case, I thought Marth would be a better idea, so I texted lloD and asked him what he thought. He trusted my judgment and said okay.

It ended up working out really well. Fox/Peach may have been a better choice on paper, but the risk of Fox dying to Pikachu gimps by Axe or eating a ton of damage from Ice Climbers was too high for my liking. I recall a specific moment in game 3 that summarizes why the team worked so well – Pika was offstage while I was on the ground guarding ledge, and Ice Climbers were in the corner on the other side of the stage while lloD floated in center-stage with Peach. Even though we didn’t have reliable kill setups that we’d have had with Fox, the stage control and hitbox advantage of Marth/Peach was sufficiently oppressive.

Next, we played PewFat. As lifelong teams partners who have been training together for a long time, lloD and I respect PewFat. This set was pretty hype, and it was on the mainstage. We lost 1-2, but it was very close. We actually had a lead on them game 3, but Mr. S “Most Improved Player of the Year” FAT really stepped it up and turned the tides. I remember lloD pointing out that every unsafe dash attack he threw out on SFAT was punished with waveshines out-of-shield into Usmash. Even though we lost, we played our best. We actually lost to PewFat at EVO in teams… to be honest, they bodied us. It felt like they always covered the other’s position very well, and we had trouble getting our footing. I am kind of the “coach” of me and lloD’s team, so I tried re-tooling our strategy before we played them at SSC. To have gone from getting bodied to a near-win against one of the best teams in the world was a great feeling.

At SSC 2015, lloD and I got 5th in teams. We were double-eliminated by Colbol and Gahtzu. In losers, it was an extremely close game 5. We notably had trouble with Falcon’s camping on the top platform. After losing to PewFat, we were set to play against KJH and Gahtzu. We tried learning from our mistakes again, and anticipated how Gahtzu planned on playing Falcon in teams. I think, individually, lloD and I had both improved in the matchup as well. We beat them 2-1 in a fun set.

In top 8, we lost to ChuDat and Chillin. lloD often says that our team relies on my Fox holding my own, or winning, Fox dittos against any other Fox. And for the most part, that holds true. I held my own against KJH and SFAT. For some reason, Chillin destroyed me in the ditto. The guy plays so weird. I actually think our Fox styles are kind of similar, but his is more refined. We lost 0-3. They were definitely the hardest team we played at the tournament, and the only one we didn’t take a game off. But we have learned and will win next time. ;]

That’s pretty much all for now. Upcoming posts will outline my thoughts on Olympus as a tournament and my personal experience with it, and another post on “The Games I’m Playing” where I’ll talk about… the games that I’m playing and not playing.

Hope you enjoyed this post!

P.S. Never let me write “I’ll keep this next part brief” again because it’s always a lie.

Catching Up: Post-EVO and SSC2016