I see this year as being comprised of five parts.
Part 1: The Rise. As 2017 Smash kicked off (in December 2016), I found myself skyrocketing in skills and placements. I started off with a respectable performance at Eden, and then surpassed expectations significantly as Genesis 4. I was really proud of how far I’d come, given how much work I’d put into the game in 2016.
Part 2: The Grind. I kept entering tournaments in the spring with the intent of maintaining my upward climb, and continuing to beat strong opponents. For the most part, that’s what I did. I also went through a 2-month period of serious practice and labbing. I was determined to become a “smash nerd” and get really familiar with a lot more scenarios. I wanted to optimize my punish game as much as I could.
Part 3: The Exhibition. The Summer of Smash is everyone’s chance to show off how far they’ve come. Tournament after tournament after tournament, I was constantly exposed to new opponents and playstyles. This was also an exercise in maintaining sanity while competing in a series of events, one after the other. During this time, I entered Smash’n’Splash 2, I was flown out to Arizona to compete in Boss Rush, and placed top 32 at EVO, SuperSmashCon, and Shine.
Part 4: The Plateau. This was the latter half of summer, moving into fall. I hate to phrase it like this, but I did feel like I hit a bit of a plateau. In my head, I kind of group SSC and Shine into this phase. Although I’d been placing 25th or better at every major this year, I felt like my rapid increase in skill had hit a brick wall. I think was caused by two events. One: I reached the top in MDVA. Our local top players were still challenging and I still have a lot to learn, but the motivation decreased as I joined our S tier players. Two: I went through some major life changes.
For those of you who don’t know, I graduated with my M.S. this past May. After that, I was at home for a couple of months while I decided where I wanted to live and looked for a job. Ultimately, I decided to take a big risk and look for a job in New York City. I’ve never been sure if I was a city person, and felt that this was the optimal time in my life to figure it out. I’m looking for my first full-time job out of school, I have nothing tying me to any particular place, and I’m young. So I found a job in NYC, and moved on August 1st.
Naturally, Smash took a bit of a backseat to my personal and professional life. Although I did attend SSC and Shine in the first month of moving to NYC, I didn’t have a whole lot of time to spend practicing like I used to. Still, I mostly met expectations. To a ‘T,’ in the case of Shine, which was my first major bracket that played out exactly as seeded.
I see “Part 4” as finishing up after The Big House 7. This was the last big tournament on my radar for 2017. My focus in the weeks leading up to the event, however, was on teams. If I were to structure 2017 in “Parts” for teams, it would look completely different. For one, lloD and I didn’t enter as a team at any majors this year until Smash’n’Splash, because lloD was at school and couldn’t travel as much as I did. So for us, the Summer of Smash was “The Grind.” We continued to explore Marth/Peach as a team, even though Fox/Peach has been our go-to for years.
I’ve been saying all year that I want to establish ourselves as a top 10 team. I think moving to NYC had an effect on me, too… playing against DJ and G$ with an assortment of partners got me thinking a lot about teams. So I bothered lloD, forced him to watch videos and study with me, and eventually he got as excited about teams as I was.
We played three or four sessions of teams on netplay leading up to BH7. We worked out the most efficient ways to communicate each other, and mapped out what to do in certain scenarios (easier said than done… there are a LOT of scenarios). We were feeling really good about teams.
In singles, aMSa brutalized me in winners bracket (team kill :(). I then lost to Rik in losers. I actually beat Rik at Smash’n’Splash, but he has obviously improved since then. If you’ve been keeping up with my bl0g posts, you know I don’t like making johns. The only reason I’ll talk about what may have led to a loss is so that I can learn more about myself and improve in the future.
In this case, my heart wasn’t in singles. I just wanted to have fun, and I did, so I didn’t feel bad afterward. I struck stages differently than I do, I acted differently than I do mid-game (you can even tell in the player-cam), and I counter-picked differently. I was in a different mindset.
So what’s the lesson here? Well, you can’t force your heart into something. But what if I want to win anyways? Then you have to be that much better than your opponent. And that got me thinking: why is my baseline not high enough to defeat any player outside of the top 50? Shouldn’t I be winning anyways, just because of my game knowledge and experience? Why does my heart have to be in it?
These realizations have motivated me to really get my matchups on lock. I want to be able to sit down and force my opponent to outplay me, rather than let them capitalize on awkward mistakes. I know it’s possible, and for the first time in a while, I saw a clear path to improvement.
Of course, there are always ways to improve. But I believe in investing time where you’ll see the most results. And for a while, I felt like there was no clear area like that for me. But now I could see it. So I’ve been working on it. Honestly, it’s more of a mindset issue than anything else. I played a lot of friendlies the next day, warming up my friends for bracket and practicing matchups in MMs. I felt like my Marth was reborn with this new mindset.
And I got to show it the very next weekend. Apollo X was a regional in NYC, and Hungrybox attended. It also featured me, Slox, and a horde of tri-state spacie players.
I actually lost to lint in winners bracket. “Is Rishi washed?!?!?!?!?!!” That loss sparked a fuse in me. I felt like I walked into that set half-asleep, and woke up partway through. It was a nice wake-up call, and a reminder to always be on your game as soon as the set starts.
Slox was also upset in winners, so he and I played for 7th (after I beat Wes). Following him, I defeated Swiftbass in a Marth ditto (last time he was up 2-0 on me and I reverse 3-0’d him, this time I started the set on my game and won 3-0). Then I defeated Animal 3-1 (he defeated lint so I couldn’t get my runback). Then I beat Kaeon 3-0.
Lo and behold, I made it to Hbox. A few weeks prior, I’d studied his set with Zain from SSC. I felt like there were some issues with what Zain was doing in neutral, and he got edgeguarded the same way several times. I made some adjustments, and…. lost 0-3. But I was proud of how I played. I had a 4-2 stock lead game 1 (but blew it), and kept it close all three games. I always scoff when people say “it was a close 3-0,” and I scoff at myself now. The important thing is that I felt tangible improvement in my gameplay and my mindset after this tournament and learning experience.
I’ve taken a break from serious Melee since then. I troll around on netplay. But I feel like I can once again put myself on a path to improvement.
And this weekend will be the perfect opportunity.
If you haven’t heard, I’m attending Smash Summit 5 this weekend as aMSa’s coach. I will be doing whatever I can, and whatever aMSa needs, in order to improve his performance. He and I have already been talking (his English is pretty good, guys!), and I’m really excited to see how he does.
I was really pushing for aMSa and Zain to get into Summit. I’ve always supported people that have demonstrated improvement and a desire to compete at the top level. I also want to give more opportunities to players who don’t always get them, like aMSa and Trifasia. It doesn’t always happen, but I’m so glad it did for aMSa.
To be honest, I didn’t even realize I could go as aMSa’s coach until MikeHaze DM’d me on Twitter asking if I was going to go (the day before aMSa got in). I thanked him for reminding me, and talked to aMSa and GimR. Once aMSa got in, we started making arrangements and.. here we are.
I didn’t opt into Summit myself for numerous reasons… I didn’t want to have to take off work, I didn’t want to get involved in the insane voting process, I wanted to focus on other things, etc. But going as a coach works perfectly. Because I’m not bound as strictly to the Summit schedule as the players, I’m able to work remotely on Thursday and Friday. Then I can spend the rest of my time coaching aMSa and chilling and playing with top players.
I talked on Twitter about posting a lot of Summit content on my Snapchat Story, but wasn’t sure if I’d put my Snap out in public. I’m not gonna put it on Twitter. But I’ll put it in the middle of this paragraph for my diligent readers who want to get a behind-the-scenes look. Snap: fishirishi. Also my Snap Stories are generally entertaining anyways. Heheh. There you go. Please don’t needlessly share. And thanks for reading carefully. [UPDATE: I’ve been informed I can’t post content from inside the Summit house. Sorry guys! 😦 I’ll still post stuff from other smash tourneys)
Summit 5 will start “Part 5” of 2017. I don’t know what the title of it will be yet, because I don’t know what this final part entails. November is going to be crazy for me, and besides Summit, I won’t be attending any smash events. December, I have a couple things planned. So we’ll see how it goes.
I mentioned earlier in the year that I would love to get ranked in the top 30 for 2017. I think I have solidified in the top 40 range, despite a blip at Big House. To be frank, relative to most players in the top 50, my results have been extremely consistent throughout the year. But there is still time to improve those results. I’m really happy for my brother, lloD, and good friend Zain for having launched themselves into the top 30 range (if you don’t think they’re both top 30 at the moment, check again).
I’m still working on this whole life-balance thing. I can’t stop focusing on my personal and professional lives right now. But I think there is a lot of rebalancing I can do in terms of how I spend my time. And I’m working toward finding that balance where I can make improving in smash a priority again. This weekend at Summit will be a good start.
I didn’t even talk about teams that much in this post! Teams is sick, me and lloD are sick, don’t @ me. I’ll write about teams more another time. 🙂
Thanks for reading. Catch you guys next time.