They say you should always strive toward the top. I always used to gear my decisions toward reaching #1, but a brief conversation with Ice last year led me on a path to believing that may not be the best way to improve. Ice suggested setting frequent, achievable goals, rather than playing for years and never achieving your goal of “being #1.”
I first tried this out at Genesis 4. Instead of telling myself “just place as high as you can!!”, which is only moderately rewarding if you place well, I told myself: “get top 32.” I was coming off my above-average performance at Eden where I beat DJ and Prof, so I felt that it was a goal I could achieve if I really played well. Lo and behold, I ended up defeating Swedish and Prof in winners, before being knocked out by Westballz and dizzkidboogie at 17th place. And I have to say, it felt very good. I remember looking at Genesis 3 results for SSBMRank 2016 and being impressed by anyone who made it into the top 48. But to get 17th?! It was a good feeling.
I told myself that my goal for the remainder of Q1 was to maintain. If I improved and did even better, then that’s great. But the thing about Melee is that, oftentimes, your success can greatly depend on your bracket. The same player can get top 8 at a national, and 65th at a super-major. This is also why we look at Wins and Losses so carefully. There are 26 characters in the game, and players of all different backgrounds and styles. I was coming off a top 32 placing at Genesis 4, but I knew that maintaining that level of play would be a challenge in itself as I entered more tournaments throughout the Spring season. So although maintaining the sort of Win/Loss level I started off with at G4 seemed like an unambitious goal, I think it was no easy feat.
For the most part, I believe I accomplished this goal. The first big tournament after G4 was Smash Valley V in Pennsylvania, which featured players such as Lucky, MikeHaze, Swedish, Duck, KJH, and MD/VA threats like myself, lloD, Chillin, Zain, and so forth. Fun fact, it was also scary Jerry’s first tournament besides Xanadu (though he didn’t perform nearly as well as he did at Royal Flush). At this tournament, my first big match was against Colbol, which I only found out minutes before I played him. I chose not to examine the projected bracket before this event, because I occasionally overthink the matches I have upcoming, and get in my own head.
I’m glad I didn’t overthink. I played extremely well versus Colbol – I moved nicely, got a lot of openings, had decent punishes, etc. I ended up defeating him 3-0. My next round was against MikeHaze. It was an extremely sloppy set (in all fairness, it was sloppy on both sides). I dropped guaranteed punishes, didn’t move as nicely, got gimped a few times. But that’s how the game goes sometimes. Mike ended up defeating me 2-3 (and went on to perform very well the remainder of the tournament).
In losers, my first match was against Duck, who defeated my 0-3. The games were close-ish, and he stole away one game on Yoshi’s with a sick gimp. I received some notes from a fellow Marth in the R&D Discord which, upon reviewing that set, will be very helpful for my versus-Samus game in the future. My set with Duck occurred pretty early in bracket because Duck was knocked out of winners early by my brother lloD. I believe it was a reverse 3-0 in their winners set… but I could be wrong.
I believe I placed 9th at that tournament. Not too bad. I solidly beat Colbol, and lost to MikeHaze (arguably top 30), and Duck (definitely top 20). Though one of my goals currently is to start consistently top-8-ing events of this caliber – both Eden and Smash Valley V top 8s were a meager one win out of my reach.
A few weeks later, lloD and I would travel to NYC to compete at Apollo III. More travel experience, more experience competing in unfamiliar environments, etc. I wanted to keep doing this sort of thing, and I’m glad I did. In singles, I was seeded 3rd behind Swedish and Slox, and right above lloD. I made my way through winners pretty unscathed, defeating Slox 3-0 in winner semis for the first time. Slox actually beat me twice in 2016 – once at Pound, and once at Olympus. Both times he used Sheik. This time he played Fox. I think he’s been committing harder to Fox, and perhaps realized that my versus-Sheik game improved since I beat Swedish at Genesis 4. One way or another, I ended up getting a rematch with Swedish in Winners Finals. I’m not really happy with how I played against him that set – there were a lot of mess-ups from my end, and despite winning game 1, I lost 1-3. I beat lloD pretty convincingly in Losers Finals (he beat iBDW and… someone else to get there – iBDW beat Slox in Losers’ Quarters). My second set with Swedish looked very similar – I won game 1, but lost the set 1-3. I actually played significantly cleaner in that set, so I was less unhappy with the loss.
This was also a decent teams tournament for me and lloD. At Smash Valley V, our teams synergy was all out of wack. This time, we did pretty well. We played all Peach/Fox until we were down 0-2 against Swedish and Slox in grands… my Fox ran out of steam and I was getting destroyed. We switched to Marth/Peach and played significantly better, but ended up losing. Since then, I’ve worked a bit more on Marth in teams, and we’ve experimented with both teams.
The following month, I entered CEO Dreamland. This was probably my worst performance of the Spring season. I played Colbol in pools, where he beat me 2-0. I knew he was in my pool ahead of time, and was trying to approach the stage with a different mindset. I think, ultimately, I didn’t do a good job of accessing my “peak play” when I was in the moment. Perhaps I was too caught up in things that didn’t matter. I dropped some easy stuff, and Colbol was playing amazing. He landed huge punishes off openings, and had an extremely good read on my recoveries. Like, extremely good. Nobody goes that deep for shinespikes. He also went on to thrive in the Marth gauntlet, defeating both Zain and The Moon before finally falling to PewPewU. What a legend. Colin is ballin’.
I had a close call in losers with Uncle Mojo. This set was a bo5, and every game except game 5 was a last stock scenario (I won game 5 by 2 stocks). I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sleep on Mojo, so I’m glad I didn’t.
My next match was against Swedish. I think I played pretty well against Swedish, but, again, lost 1-3. If I had tuned a few things up, I think I could have taken the set. But no major complaints about that set regardless.
I was pretty bummed that I didn’t get to run into more players at that tournament – I had beaten Colbol already this season, and that was my 4th set against Swedish at a big tournament. There were plenty of other players there that I wanted to add to my list, but that’s how it goes.
That was my last big tournament of the first third of 2017. I think Colbol was my “worst” loss, which, to be honest, is not an awful worst loss to have, because that guy is pretty damn good. The rest of my losses were all top 30 players, and I’d racked up several good wins. I think I achieved my goal of maintaining.
As for in-region events, I don’t particularly care about those as much. As far as I’m concerned, in-region events are training grounds for the events that really matter. At least when it’s against the same people I play all the time. The biggest blemish on my in-region record is my history with Junebug in 2017 – I think he’s beaten me four times. He actually mentioned to me yesterday that he hasn’t lost to a Marth in 2017. Hopefully I can change that soon, heh. Besides that, I have a decent or good record with everyone.
Chu came to one Xanadu when he was campaigning for Summit votes, and I beat him in Winners Finals, lost Grand Finals set 1, and won the tournament over him in the second set. I was undefeated against lloD in all of 2017 until last Saturday, where he took the first set of GFs over me before I won the tournament in a 3-0 on set 2. He also, beat me in Losers Finals at The Cave on Monday night, but I have no-sleep johns…
I graduated with my M.S. on Monday morning, but unfortunately only slept three hours due to the early ceremony. I took a brief nap in the afternoon, and woke up at 6:30pm, having to make a split decision on whether to attend The Cave. I decided to swallow my ego and risk my local win-streak of the past week in order to experiment on how I’d play in tournament on limited sleep. I’m glad I went, because against the same opponents in a local environment, I was able to pinpoint exactly how limited sleep affects my play. The answer basically lies in mental capacity – I could feel that my mind was less flexible in adapting to my opponents, and less willing to move on from mistakes. It’s pretty interesting.
Zain actually beat me in Winners Finals of that tournament, beating me in a Marth ditto for the first time since June 2016. I remember when he beat me for the first time last June, I was pretty salty, but after 2 or 3 back-and-forth sets, I stopped losing to him, period. That continued throughout 2017, and I beat him 3-0 at the Xanadu monthly on Saturday. When we played on Monday, though, I felt like he had reviewed our previous set, because the stuff I kept doing that usually worked stopped working (I confirmed with him after that he did, in fact, review our set). His punish game was also way better. So he came prepared. I was down 0-2, then won the next two games, but lost pretty solidly in game 5.
I’m holding both my L’s against lloD and Zain, though, because it was my decision to enter and compete. You’ve got to leave your johns at the door, and the only reason I mention them here is to talk about how I learned from the experience. Zain, lloD, and I all competed at the last three locals in our region (Xanadu weekly, Xanadu regional, and Cave weekly), so it was a good way to do an experiment.
So here we are. I entered at least one big-ish tournament in January, February, March, and April. May has been hectic due to finals and graduation, and I missed Royal Flush because lloD graduated college that weekend. But Smash’n’Splash 3 is next weekend, and I’m confirmed. It’s time to think about my goals moving forward.
There is going to be a top 50 SSBMRank update at the end of this summer. I think, currently, I have a strong argument for top 50, considering my only losses are in the top 30 (knock-on-wood) and I have a plethora of good wins across the top 100 list. I really want to establish myself in the top 30, but with only a few tournaments left before the top 50 comes out, top 40 might be more realistic. That being said, it’s impossible to know how data will be interpreted, and because the ranking period is so large, I can’t base my goals for Smash’n’Splash 3, EVO, and whatever else, based on how they’ll affect my overall rank.
I will set more specific goals for myself as brackets become clearer for these events. But in general, my goal is to take a solid step forward from what I’ve established for myself so far in 2017. That means if I’m back at Genesis 4, and I’ve beaten Swedish and Prof already, I’m ready to defeat Westballz and dizzkidboogie. I’m ready to get that next win. If I’m at Smash Valley V, I’m definitely stepping into top 8. The list of players I beat at each event is going to get longer and longer.
I also have to figure out how these goals will fit into the rest of my goals, such as working on my career now that I’ve graduated. I also aim to be signed by a team. The sooner I get signed, the more events I can enter, and the more rapidly I can improve.
In the meantime, I’m studying videos, practicing on my stream (which is now Partnered on Twitch! Shoutouts to the #G0DSquad – twitch.tv/smashg0d), and bettering myself. Time to make moves!
Thanks for reading – I know it’s been a while since my last post. I’ll be updating the bl0g with how the summer is going.
Ciao, for now.