But I’m glad I did.
It’s been nearly four years since I last posted an update on this blog. While writing the last post, I was in the midst of many major life transitions. Those transitions never really slowed down, especially as COVID hit. But to fully explore the nature of these changes and how they affect my life as it relates to smash would require more attention and care than I have right now. So another time, maybe.
The most pertinent precipitant of the last few years is this: my relationship with smash is now more reactive than proactive. In other words, rather than proactively pursuing goals, I’m letting smash serve whatever purpose feels best to me at any given time. For most of COVID, this meant playing a lot and learning more and improving. I found a lot of fulfillment through those endeavors. And when I moved back to NYC last year, and was presented with the opportunity to enter Nightclubs, my competitive drive was re-engaged and I found a lot of fulfillment in overcoming all of my local opponents (which I did). And other times, all I want to do is analyze sets with lloD or Zain so I can watch them achieve even greater heights.
But in the background I am pursuing other interests and goals. Without getting into specifics, balancing my other priorities means I can’t always have the competitive smash switch flipped to “ON.” A few years ago, it was always on, or I would actively turn it on. Now, if my switch is dimmed or flipped to “OFF,” turning it back on is a painful process that causes a lot of internal friction. Which brings me to Collision.
I haven’t entered Nightclub since December, and in fact have had no competitive aspirations since then. I was coming off four or five Nightclub wins in a row, another single-digit major placing at APEX, and about to head into vacation and my busiest work-season of the year, so I put smash on the back-burner (meanwhile, still playing and learning on Slippi as a different means of fulfillment). I knew Collision was on the horizon, but February rolled around and I didn’t feel my engagement with smash increasing at all. The only Smash I was interested in was learning Peach because, for that month, I found it fun and engaging. And playing Peach is about all I did for two or three weeks.
But one thing I’ve learned about myself over the years is this: I cannot half-ass a tournament. I mean, it’s possible. But I can’t do it without feeling shitty afterward. It’s never worth it, and I’ve never felt good about it afterward. That includes playing all secondaries or pre-johning on Twitter (surprise: you can lie to your followers but you can’t lie to yourself). That left me with only two options: 1) drop out, or 2) force myself to re-engage with competitive smash.
I fully planned to drop out, except for a singular turn of event: lloD was now planning to attend, having gotten the weekend off from doctoring. I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to team with my brother after 4+ years of not teaming at majors (and remember how in 2018 lloD and I top 5’d every major in teams?). And if I were going to enter teams, why not singles too, eh? So I was forced to re-engage.
The process of re-engagement caused me a lot of mental distress, but I pushed through. It was a mix of short, focused 1-on-1 sessions in the week leading up (shoutouts to Krudo, Wally, Khryke), mindfulness, and support that got me over the hump. Boring answer, but that’s what it was. It’s also just about reinspiring interest, which is why anytime I finish up coaching with a student, I feel completely re-engaged. So I looked over my notes, identified potential areas of improvement that would be pertinent to my bracket, and finally rolled up to the tournament.
One SD, one hit, last stock, game 5 away from qualifying for another major top 8, and the first time lloD and I would face off in a major bracket since The Big House 8 in 2018…so tragic, am I right? It happens. I still got 9th, my 3rd-in-a-row single-digit result at a major. But wait a second, how come my results are so good now that competing isn’t my primary goal? Are any of you readers psychologists? Please help.
I will note one aspect of my competitive journey that I credit greatly for my success at the last three majors: listening to my body (and mind). If you read my old posts, you know I’ve greatly explored how to prepare one’s self for competition. This is anything ranging from routine to mental approach, etc. But at the end of the day what works best for me is listening to what my body and mind need and responding. And to not try to hard to control every variable. This means managing food, sleep, energy levels, socialization levels, when to warm up / against whom / for how long, and so on. Some things are routine for me, like having a small bar or two for breakfast, especially with morning pools. But other things are now subject to change. For example, I used to always use a noise-canceling headphone setup hooked directly into the console game audio. Lately I’ve exercised a mix of game audio headphones (on stream), using no headphones at all (but still ensuring the speaker volume is where I’d like to be), or just using noise-canceling earbuds as a dampener when I feel overstimulated.
In a way, this approach is scarier than what I used to do. Before I would have all variables controlled ahead of time and I knew what I would be getting into. But I, like many others, have a tendency to grasp too tightly onto that which we control, at the cost of the unknown beauty that is competition. You don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s a fundamental truth of Melee (and life) that we all have to grapple with eventually. And we are not the same people from day-to-day. So we adapt.
But it’s been working for me. And I try to apply this philosophy to other elements in my life as well.
I suppose I want to comment on my bracket as well. I took the approach of giving every opponent their due respect, and so I prepared for everyone. My first opponent out of pools was nut, about whom I knew little, but that didn’t stop me from taking him seriously. I prepped with Sheik practice the week prior and the day of the match. I hadn’t been quite where I wanted to be on this matchup even after reviewing my notes. I’m still not. But after grinding with Foxy Grandpa and Jflex that day, a few things clicked into place that got me to a point of contentment. From there I just needed to trust myself and execute, which I did, and won in a relatively solid 3-0.
Next up was Trif. This was the first time Trif and I have played in tournament, and thank goodness it was. Sure, I’ve been a Peach specialist my whole life, but that doesn’t mean I’m unbeatable. And if Trif and I had played a few years ago (or even more recently), I think he would have beaten me. He’s thrashed me in friendlies before. But at some point after losing to Polish at Xanadu Legends in October 2021 and Guava at Nightclub last fall (and seeing Zain lose to Wally), I realized I needed to brush up on this matchup before all the Peaches caught up. So I studied up a bit, played a bit, and got the chance to grind with both Trif and Wally at Ludwig’s Smash Invitational in Vegas. I do play lloD every once in a while, too, but not as often as most people might think. We did play a bit before I played Trif this weekend, though, and that’s about as tough a warmup as I could get.
I did end up beating Trif 3-0. It was at the end of the day on Saturday so I’m proud of myself for maintaining my grit in the face of looming fatigue, not to mention the venue growing increasingly rowdy and distracting. But I did my due diligence, listened to my body and mind to get myself in the right frame to fight, and implemented what I practiced. To show up with anything less is asking for a loss against a machine like Trif.
After that, it was time for the Dreaded Daylight Savings Time Sleep of 2023. Should I set my alarm 1 hour earlier? 1 hour later? Is daylight savings even happening? As it did for every other smasher (apparently), the unknowable answers to these questions propelled me into a fitful night of anxious insomnia…
JK. I, like most people alive today, have lived in the 21st century for many years, and I know that my phone auto-adjusts my alarm for Daylight Savings. Just like it does every year. In fact, when I set an alarm on my Android phone, it tells me how many hours until it goes off. And if you do quick math, you would see that it accounts for losing one hour. Nothing’s changed. I slept all night.
The next morning I played KoDoRiN. It’s always strange having a tough matchup first thing in the morning. The night before I was thinking to myself – how do I wake up and find myself ready to fight one of the best players in the world? There’s a sort of internal tension that comes with preparing for a specific match that is hard to release, and I decided to just not release it. I could still be mindful on resting and sleeping and getting myself ready in the morning, then be ready to release that tension when I needed it for my match. Another important part of the prep work was warming up with Error (a strong local Marth player) right when the venue opened. I don’t always believe in warming up in the specific matchup I’m going to play – sometimes it leads to overfocusing on elements of a matchup that one player presents but another doesn’t. That, however, is where things like shadowboxing come in handy. You can visualize what your intended opponent may do and go from there. It doesn’t always work, like I said, and so I don’t always warm up against the exact character I’m planning to fight. That’s why I also played lloD that morning – fighting a strong opponent, regardless of character, helps sharpen your instincts and execution, because without that sharpening you won’t win any games.
KoDoRiN and I had what I would describe as a classic Marth ditto in one of its many weird forms. There was some good, vintage neutral play with crouch cancels and Dtilts and Nair + Fair galore, and also some really cheesy early Fsmash and Dair kills. Then, on the far, far side of the spectrum, I landed two Uthrow kills off the top, in what Pipsqueak described as the “highest openings per kill in that matchup ever recorded.” By game 5, though, I was breathing fire and melting stocks. But my desire began to outweigh my grit, while KoDoRiN’s grit remained steadfast; there was a path to defeat for me, even with a 3-stock lead. I had flashbacks of almost dropping a 4-stock to 1-stock lead against Boyd at Full Bloom 5, which came down to last stock vs. both climbers back when wobbling was legal. While KoDoRiN didn’t have Nana to infinitely pummel me, his punish game proved deadly, as he had gimped me at low % off a single jump read the game prior. Luckily, I’d racked up enough % to solidify a 3-2 victory, if only barely.
And that victory completed what I called the Junebug-lloD-Zain bracket of Sheik into Peach into Marth. My brethren are always with me.
Another interesting tidbit is that now, having fought KoDoRiN in (offline) bracket for the first time, I think I’ve played and beaten almost every top Marth player in history, including: Mew2King, Azen, Zain, PewPewU, The Moon, and now KoDoRiN, among others. Notably missing from the list are Ken, against whom I never got to play (he refused to MM me at EVO 2015, darn you Kenneth!), and PPMD, against whom I have also never played in tournament, but have attained an insurmountable 1-0 record on Slippi Ranked. This is more of a cool historical fact than anything else, that I’ve played long enough to try my steel against so many of the greatest to have ever done it. It would be sweeter if I could boast winning records against all of the above, but alas, that isn’t the case. Actually…I might have a winning record against all of the above except PewPewU… Most of my early sets against Zain were unrecorded in Melee stats but I definitely won them all, and I have a pristine 1-0 record against M2K and Azen in the ditto. I take it back – I’m the greatest swordsman of all time! If Ken would like to challenge me for this title, simply name the time and place.
Anyway, the rest of this will be brief, and that’s a promise. I’m quite certain I can deliver on this promise because, in fact, brevity is one of my strengths as a writer. Through my brevity, I’m able to clearly and succinctly communicate my points with efficient use of language. G0D I’m good.
My next opponent was Cody. I have some preparation and notes for Cody, but simply put: I’m not ready to beat him. His gameplan is stronger than mine, his execution is cleaner across the board. He’s just better right now, and I’m not kicking myself at all for losing. If I keep pushing, I can do it. I’m close in many of the right ways. But for now, he’s too much of a beast.
Which brings me to my last opponent: Aklo. Yeah, this one was a heartbreaker. And as Pipsqueak so kindly pointed out, “Rishi is never allowed to have a W to save his fucking LIFE.” I thought I had mentally blocked out my TWO main-event qualifying game 5, last stock heartbreakers from Ludwig’s Smash Invitational, but Pipsqueak reminded me. I’ll start off by saying I 4-stocked the Fox. Yes, it includes an SD, but I’m still proud I got there. I’ve never been known as a “spacie-killer” Marth, but over the last few majors I’ve accrued quite the collection of bushy tails and blue feathers with which to adorn my walls. I have much further to go, but it’s always nice to see the fruits of my efforts.
Then came the Link. I don’t fear the Link. In fact, I beat it the last couple times it came out (only for one game at a time before Fox returned). But it was clear Aklo’s heart was in his Link today, rather than the Fox. He started strong, and I needed to readjust fast and hard. Which I did, taking game 3. Then I had the lead on game 4, some great momentum going my way, aaaanddd…an SD at 20%. What was it Pipsqueak said? Whatever, I could move past it. Game 5: my counterpick. I’m playing well. I’m never, ever challenging Link offstage even though I should, because I would rather win off my fundamentals and not lose off a botched edgeguard. I have a full stock lead on game 5, I’m comboing Link offstage, I see an easy waveland back to ledge that will position me to finish the game aaaanddd…another SD. That one hurt. It might have been Yoshi’s slant dodging my waveland, or maybe I was just bad. After that, it’s a repeat of my story with KoDoRiN: my desire outweighed my grit. Aklo, on the other hand, held onto his grit for dear life, and it paid off for him. That’s the difference between victory and defeat a lot of the times, and this time he came out on top. I can’t chalk up the result only to my mistakes; had he not shown the discipline of a strong competitor, I might have won the ensuing scramble.
It definitely hurt to lose in this way, especially considering the winner qualified for top 8 and got the chance to fight lloD. It was nice, at least, to see lloD avenge me and defeate the AkLink, even if it was a little too close for comfort. But lloD and I haven’t faced off at a major since The Big House 8, which was an insane set. Another day, perhaps.
I’m glad I attended Collision, and I’m glad I gave it my all. I’m not glad that it caused me anguish to get myself in competitive form, but sometimes we have to just make our choices and do the best we can with the ensuing circumstances. And that’s what I did: the best I could.
Luckily, home for me is pretty close to the venue, so soon enough I was back with SmashD0G. We spent the rest of the evening cheering on lloD, then Zain, then congratulating Jmook for being, as the young kids are saying, him.
So what’s next? I can’t tell you that yet.
Until next time, SmashG0D and SmashD0G signing off. Stay pawesome.