Hello readers old and new. Been a while since I’ve made an update here and I have a lot to say, as usual.
Since my last post, I freaking competed at Summit, Ultimate came out, I went to Hawaii with my family, and now it’s 2019. This was initially supposed to be a recap of all those things, and then I wrote more than 3000 words on Smash Summit 7. This is turning into a trend. So enjoy this write-up for now. Coming soon, my thoughts, in great volumes, on Smash Ultimate, and my experiences at DPOTG, Glitch 6, and Ultimate locals.
Smash Summit 7
First off, thank you again to everyone who supported me through the campaigning endeavor, and throughout the event. Like I said in the last post, fall was an extremely challenging time with everything I had on my plate, but we pulled through. Hope I did you guys proud.
I attended Smash Summit 5 as a coach, after which I published a very detailed account of my experience. Now having been through the event as a player, I can tell you that the experience is very different. This is largely due to the type of mental state I need to achieve in order to perform at my peak. If you’ve listened to Analog, I talked about this a bit on the Summit recap episode.
I had some of the same goals as last time – experience the event as best I could, and get experience fighting the best in the world in a concentrated environment. But I was also adding to the list – compete and defeat the best in the world. With that in mind, there’s additional intention and consideration going into every action I take. I’m more mindful of what I have for breakfast (no loaded waffles this time), I track water intake (instead of only drinking Monster throughout the day), and I make sure I get sufficient sleep every night (instead of making a late night Hooters/In-N-Out excursion with Hbox).
I think working hard on my ability to maintain composure in tournament settings really paid off here. I’ve heard mixed opinions on the “Summit setting” as opposed to the “big stage” setting at a tournament. Some players find that playing in a tournament venue with crowds helps stimulate your playing, whereas the more lax environment in the Summit house with commentary in the next room and people eating behind you can lead to lazy gameplay. But training myself to understand what my mind and body need in order to perform turned out to be a very useful skill for adapting to a different competitive atmosphere.
The week before Summit I actually attended House of Paign, which was a kind of warm-up for me. I hadn’t competed in about a month (Big House being my last tournament at that point), and here was a tournament I had the potential to win. I had mostly been playing DK and secondaries on stream, but the very next day after I got voted into Summit I had resumed my serious analysis and grinding in preparation. HoP would be a refresher in how to prepare for tournaments physically and mentally.
Turns out, it was just the refresher I needed. I ended up losing in round 1 of top 64 to a player I’d never heard of (Pleeba). I would later scold myself for not having reviewed my previous bl0g posts, because the mistakes I felt I made were mistakes I’d made before. About a year prior, I lost to lint at Apollo and felt that the way I felt was very similar. More specifically, I felt that I was overemphasizing a state of “relaxation” to the point that I actually pushed my energy down. Even in this state, most opponents wouldn’t beat me, but Pleeba had a solid gameplan and a strong punish game, so he was able to finish out enough stocks to win the set.
As they say, history repeats itself, and I cleaned up my act in the same way I did after losing to lint a year prior. After losing in round 1 of top 64, I barreled through losers bracket, taking out a number of Foxes and Prince Abu, before ultimately losing to lloD. He was playing better than me that day, but I was still proud of how I rallied.
With that tournament out of the way, I decided to take a clean two-day break from Melee before Summit. Beforehand, I’d planned on continuing to do analysis and netplay, but I realized I was overdoing it, which can lead to mistakes like the one I made. Taking breaks is just as important as working hard, as breaks will allow you let what you’ve learned sink into your subconscious so that it becomes second nature. It’s the same way cramming for a test is not the way to go – if you cram, then when you’re actually taking your test, you’ll be grasping for facts you tried to memorize. Sometimes it works, but it’s not as sustainable as an extended effort to achieve mastery over a subject. This is a lesson I often forget, so I hope that writing it down here will help me remember.
I’m glad I put myself out there at House of Paign, because after the fact I felt much more confident going into Summit. It’s important to remember that honing one’s competitive skillset is an ongoing process, and not easily picked back up out of the blue with no practice.
In the first day or two of Summit I was playing Marth Falco friendlies with Mang0, and he was demolishing me. He mentioned that I was going for Nair in a lot of spots where Zain would go for grab. I asked him to elaborate and point out certain examples, which he would do in the moment as we played. I said something along the lines of “so I should grab when you do this, Nair when you do that.” He responded (approximately), “You can master just Nair and grab and probably get good results, but if you really want to be sick you need to master all your tools.” This is one of those obvious things that you need to hear every once in a while. It really clicked with me and I mentioned how this is the way I play with all my characters… except Marth. When you focus on your “main,” sometimes learning the “do’s” and “don’ts” get in the way of your creativity. PPMD said that you need to know the rules well in order to break them. Ironically enough, one of the “rules” I was following against Falco was given to me by PPMD himself (he said he doesn’t Dtilt much vs Falco – a point I brought up when Mang0 mentioned I wasn’t Dtilt-ing him when I could).
I decided to sleep on that piece of advice from Mang0 and awake a new Marth. If you know me, you know I think all my secondaries are sick, and I wanted to feel that way about my Marth too. I started opening up those neural pathways that “experts” told me to close, and allowed my creativity to take the reigns. It felt amazing to play like this again, and with my best character at that.
I probably played most friendlies with Zain that weekend… either him or Mang0. Some people were mad when I told them how much I played with Zain, but we never get to play anymore!! Plus every time we play, we push the Marth ditto so hard. It feels like old times again. Mostly, I wanted to be a better “player” coming out of this weekend, if that makes sense. Not necessarily improve the nuances of matchups, but rather deepen my understanding of the interactions in the game. Like baiting, controlling space, dictating your opponent’s actions, and the like. I may have mixups 1, 2, and 3 on lock for a certain interaction, but I wanted to unlock further depth to my gameplay and get numbers 4, 5, and 6 as well. That’s where playing strong players like Zain and Mang0 pushes you. In terms of in-game skills and game knowledge, I already know 99.99% of what I need to know in order to succeed.
There were too many moments from the side events to recount, so I’ll try to focus on my actual singles bracket matches in this post. But you should definitely go back and watch crews because we (Plup Club) won!! And I pulled my weight against Leffen, and would have done even better if I didn’t go for the suicide Dair!! Now you can’t say I’d never go for a suicide Dair.
I have to mention how fun it was to commentate though. I love commentary, and I’m glad I got to educate and confuse the tens of thousands of people watching. Hopefully you guys will see me on the mic more in the future. Also, a special shoutout as always to Mafia. I finally got to play as Mafia, and I made a YOLO fake cop call. We probably could have won without it, but I wanted to make the call in case there was a secret town cop still lying in wait. I ended up getting killed, but I took 1-2 townspeople with me and solidified Leffen (who was Mafia) as town so the endgame was a clean sweep.
In any case, singles! I got to play Plup. The first thing I remember from that set is thinking, “Okay, yeah, I knew Plup was fast… but I wasn’t quite ready for how fast he was that game.” I got bodied game 1. I decided to stick to wider stages so that I could control the pace of the game better, and won the next game on FD. I lost on Dreamland, then lost a nailbiter on Stadium. I was actually making a nice comeback on Stadium (shoutouts to Dart who recommended I use more Bthrow -> tech-chase Fsmash tipper on plats, I used this to take an early stock from Plup). I had the momentum and we got a rock transformation. I considered waiting it out, but help my ground on the cliff/pit area in an attempt to keep up the pressure and try to conserve momentum rather than going for a hard reset at high %. If the stage reset and both characters are at high %, Sheik is much more likely to win off a stray hit. Alas, Plup decided to go in and scrap, and he ended up coming out on top, but barely! It was a super winnable set, and I was happy with how I played (which, if you’ve been paying attention, has been a theme for me throughout the year – this became the main metric I care about in tournament).
Because the scheduling of pools were mixed in order to prevent collusion, my next set was the next day, against Swedish. I actually played Swedish once earlier in the year and won pretty solidly, but the vod was never uploaded so it kind of went under the radar. Swedish was actually one of my first major wins – I beat him at Genesis 4 when he was near the top 10 level. He did go on to beat me the next 5 or 6 times… but I came back in 2018!
Over the last few months I’ve thought about the concept of playing your opponent’s game versus forcing your game upon your opponent. I think for a while I tried to be good at the former, but as of late I’ve been trying to work on the latter. If you master the latter, who your opponent is starts to matter less and less. Swedish has a very different style of Sheik than Plup’s, but if I’m an absolute master of my gameplan and forcing my will on my opponent, it wouldn’t matter, because they are still restricted to the tools Sheik provides.
I took the first two games against Swedish on Battlefield and Dreamland, lost one on Dreamland, then won a clencher game 4 on FD. I honestly don’t remember too many specifics, but I went back and watched a bit and there were lots of great footsies during that set. Swedish is a very interesting player where it doesn’t look like he’s actually doing that much, but he somehow manages to find hits that he needs and just capitalizes super hard. I did my best in fending him off, and ultimately came out on top.
My last set in pools, after much speculation over how the matchups were actually determined (somehow my next match depended on a result from the other pool… thanks PTAS for making it impossible to collude), was against Zain. We had already been playing quite a bit over the week, so you’ll notice that the flavor of the set is distinctly different from the BH8 set. But still, our signature styles show through, which always results in entertaining gameplay.
I got destroyed game 1, but that happened against Plup too, so I knew it didn’t need to matter. In the first significant variation from our BH8 set, I counterpicked to FD, which didn’t make an appearance at all before. I won that game off of some strong mid-punish mixups and edgeguards (even though Zain accidentally cheesed one of my stocks away). On Zain’s classic Yoshi’s counterpick, I was down 4 stocks to 1, but actually never felt like the match was unwinnable. I just needed to start winning in the moments that mattered, and I very nearly did. I had a great deal of momentum on the comeback but Zain clutched that game out. Game 4 I decided to go for Stadium, another novelty, but lost a last hit situation. I rewatched a few snippets of this set and… damn, it’s worth a watch. Even though it wasn’t the insane game 5 situation we had at BH8, it was very similar in style. And honestly, with Zain’s command over the neutral game to take leads combined with my defense and potentially lethal punish game, any of our sets can be game 5 last hit, or swift 3-0s.
And that was pools!
On finals day, the bracket was set to go and I had a high losers seed, so I would fight against DaShizWiz, who took a lower seed from his pool. I actually felt quite strong against Falco in August, but lost some of that confidence by November. I somehow had no notes written down, so I needed to either think hard to remember what I did or come up with new stuff. I played both Mang0 and Ginger who were beating me pretty handily, which helped me come to this decision – instead of trying to play pieces of a gameplan not fully remembered, I would just… brute-force it, I guess.
And it kind of looks like that if you watch the set. I wasn’t really playing the matchup “by the books,” and I would do weird things like dash-dance on a platform until Falco jumped so I could take center. It didn’t feel like real Marth versus Falco but it worked enough that I won the set 3-0.
After Shiz, I was up against Bananas who lost to Leffen. 2017 was the year of me beating ICs – I lost to dizzkidboogie at the very beginning of the year, which inspired me to rework the matchup. I completely changed my approach to the matchup and beat every ICs I played that year (which was basically all of them – Chu, Nintendude, and ARMY). In 2018, I was arrogant going into that matchup, while the ICs were grinding. I lost to Sharkz and Pound Underground, and ARMY at SSC. I felt like I would have to do another rework of the matchup, especially watching how PewPewU was able to dismantle ARMY with the more campy playstyle I had forsaken nearly two years prior after losing to dizz. However, upon rewatching my set with ARMY, I realized it was a lot closer than the match felt in the moment, and that if I fine-tuned a few aspects of my gameplan, and borrowed some strategies from PPU, I would be just fine.
If I’m being totally honest, though, there was only one thing that constantly ran through my mind during my set with Bananas. “You know what the plan is…” I wish I were joking. But at least I never forgot what to do with Popo or Nana.
Bananas is super good. He does a great job of making you respect his approaches by threatening smash attacks, but also has good grab setups. He can also edgeguard, which is a skill many ICs players neglect!! That said, it goes back to what I mentioned earlier about playing your opponent’s game versus imposing your own gameplan. I think I was wobbled maybe once or twice the whole set, and overall played with a great deal of discipline, which is so necessary in that matchup. I won’t go into all the nitty-gritty, because frankly, it’s hazy in my mind and would probably be better as a video analysis. So I’ll put that on the list. But definitely go check the set out. Since Summit, I’ve become a huge fan of Bananas the player and the person (especially after what he did, or tried to do, to Michael at DPOTG). Shoutouts to Bananas.
And with that, I freaking made top 8 at Smash Summit! As a vote-in! It’s only in moments like these that I can look back and say, dang, top 8 of Smash Summit 7 was Hbox, Leffen, Mang0, Wizzy, Axe, aMSa, Zain, and me. In the moment, though, it’s just one game of Melee after the next, trying to play my best and overcome my opponents.
Speaking of which, my next opponent would be aMSa. I really wanted to play aMSa at this tournament, because I had been working on the Yoshi matchup as both Fox and Marth. After playing so much Marth for three straight days, I went into the zone with Fox and solo-practiced for what felt like 2 hours. No idea how much time actually passed, but I was beating up on CPUs listening to music with my noise-canceling headphones in to really get into the zone so that I could execute when I needed to.
I had a decent start against aMSa, but a few things went wrong. Even though I took him to last stock on the first game, he had much more depth to his mixups than I. I think I was also suffering from how I prepared – I tried doing the same things over and over, but faster, rather than adjusting my actual gameplan. If you watch the set, I get punished for hitting his shield on platforms so many times, which is a big no-no against Yoshi. Game 3 I end up trying Marth but suffered a couple gimps. I think I can do the matchup with either character, but I need to prepare right. This was a good lesson in that, and I’ll be stronger next time for sure. The best part of this, though, was that all three people aMSa had beaten that day (3-0) coincidentally ended up commentating his set against Wizzy… so that was fun.
I am so thankful for the Summit experience. It remains one of the greatest events in Smash, for both attendees and spectators. I am so glad I took off work the next day so that I could properly enjoy the afterparty that night, get my poster signed by everyone, and get some sleep before my day of travel the next day.
Something interesting to note – I was feeling a great deal of euphoria the first time I went to Summit. But when I went as a competitor, there was almost a numbness around it. Not like a bad kind, but more like I was so focused and concentrated that I let certain experiences wash over me, rather than let myself become fully immersed. At least on the latter couple days. Playing Mafia, performing in the talent show, and all the fun stuff was still amazing. I actually totally forgot to mention the talent show until now. I got a lot of nice messages about my performance, which I really appreciate. I hadn’t played the ukulele in a long time but it felt so good to sing and perform again.
I could only capture a portion of my experience at Summit 7 in this post, but I really feel like the videos tell the rest of the story. Go check out the gameplay videos, and also the fun stuff like Mafia and Talent Show, and the matches that I commentated. OH! And I got to make a guest appearance on The Reads with my DK!!! That was super fun, I was actually really glad my DK got to make an appearance at Summit after playing such a major role in my campaign. So yeah. Thanks again so much to everyone who made this happen.
Axe is the best Melee player in the world…