Catching Up: EVO2016

Originally titled “Much Has Happened in the Last Four Months,” I was going to talk about… the last four months. I ended up writing 3400 words on EVO, so I’m going to leave it at that, for now. Enjoy!

My last post was about Prime, which in my mind was a big turning point for me in terms of mentality. It was a “mini-breakout” performance of mine, having eliminated Milkman, Redd, and DJ Nintendo all in a row. I really took what I learned about stamina to heart and applied it to EVO, which was approximately one month later.

I’ve talked about EVO and my tournaments since then here and there on Twitter, Reddit, and on my stream, but let me attempt to contextualize my experience from the last few months .

EVO 2016

I guess I’ll start with my approach to EVO 2016, and the ~big match~ I had with Armada. I saw the pools, and I knew that Armada was in my path. I knew I could beat him – I’m convinced that my brother, lloD, is the second-coming of Peach. You’ll all find that out for yourselves soon enough ;]. I practiced extremely hard in June, but actually went on vacation in Europe for two weeks at the beginning of July, with almost no access to Melee. The last couple days of the trip were spent in London, where I played for a few hours at BrTarolg’s place. That helped shake off some rust, and was my first experience with PAL. I got home that Sunday, which was just a few days before my flight to Vegas. I guess I got a taste of what it’s like for European competitors to travel intercontinentally for a supermajor (I was actually in the U.S. for fewer days prior to EVO than Armada, in this case).

I was getting up early everyday before EVO, going for a run, then practicing some Melee. I didn’t want to over-practice – I just wanted to make sure I could perform at my peak whenever the time came. [Anime moments: think Goku and Gohan staying in Super Saiyan and relaxing in their days prior to fighting Cell]. For EVO, I decided to take the approach of maximizing my potential through mindset adjustment rather than through “grinding” tech skill or matchups or whatever. I’ve been playing for years, my brother is the future best Peach in the world, etc etc. All the tools I needed to beat Armada (and everyone else – eyes on the prize) were at my disposal, I just needed to be able to access them.

~DAY 1: the set with Armada~

With 8am round 1 pools looming in the morning, I was in bed before 10pm on Thursday night in my hotel room (earplugs came in handy while lloD and Nintendude played more Melee). I was up at 5:30am the next morning, found the hotel’s gym and went for a run, came back, showered, wavedashed around for a bit on our setup and woke the other guys up, then headed to the venue. I swept through my pool for the most part. Winners Finals I was caught up guard by a Fox player’s punish game, and actually found myself down 1 stocks to 3. This is one of those pivotal moments where you either let the nerves and expectations of you winning and the pressure of EVO get to you, and Fsmash randomly only to get Uthrow -> Uair’d again… or where you realize that you’re a beast, and just play the matchup properly. If I decided to play like a g0d at the beginning of the game, I’d 4-stock him, right? So why not just start playing like that now, even though I’m down 1 stock to 3? So I did, and I eliminated his 3 stocks, then won game 2 pretty handily.

10am and that was it, I was out of round 1 pools. Round 2 pools started at 8pm… which was 10 hours later. I’d already been awake for almost 5 hours, and the EVO venue is not exactly the most restful place. You meet other players, fans, peers, and bask in the glory of 20 other fighting games being played on the world stage… but you’ve also got to keep your eyes on the prize. In the early afternoon, I decided to take the Monorail back to the hotel, and bring some food court food to my room. I studied a couple of Armada videos while I ate, then napped for a couple hours. I invited Chillin and Azen to play, and Nintendude and Fendy came too so we warmed up for a bit before heading back to the venue. I felt really good after eating, resting, and taking my time to warm up again.

Once back in the venue, they pretty much put me in against Armada almost immediately. We just sat down and started preparing. All morning I’d been using the venue-provided in-game audio headsets (which was really nice), but for some reason they weren’t working on the setup Armada and I had. No matter, though – I figured that in a set like this the crowd would be doing me a favor if anything.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but I started off my set vs. Armada the same way I started off my set vs. Hungrybox in the Pound Salty Suite: with a 0-death in the first ten seconds. This time, though, I got yet another early kill in the next 30 seconds. I think game 1 I was just out-footsie-ing him really well, and ultimately took a clean victory on Battlefield. Game 2 he counterpicked Stadium, so I took a breather and prepared for the Fox, as I thought there was no way he would go Peach on Stadium. That’s one of my counterpicks in the matchup, after all! Lo and behold, he stayed Peach. I didn’t think on it too much, but just tried to play my best.

Game 2 was actually really close for the most part, until he got a stitchface. Armada is far better at using stitches than any other Peach player that I’ve played, so he extended the lead pretty quickly and took the game. I could kind of see what his strategy was on that stage. He was doing a good job of getting away, pulling turnips, then floating medium-high and either retreating or playing a mixup on the way down. He tried staying just out of my range and whiff-punishing. It was a good, non-traditional gameplay mixup, and made me appreciate how good he is. I still played well, though, and I still think the stage favors Marth, so despite the gameplay switch it was practically even until the stitch.

Armada banned Yoshi’s Story for game 3, which makes sense. I think Peach typically either bans Yoshi’s or Stadium (or FD, if Armada is playing against M2K). In this case, I would normally counterpick Stadium, but Armada had already beaten me there. Even though the stitch made a big difference, I had to confront the possibility that he could run away and pull another stitch on Stadium. The three-platform layout of Battlefield aided my ability to out-footsie him in game 1, but I couldn’t go back to Battlefield. The last logical choice, then, was to go Fountain of Dreams. Maybe a strange pick, as FoD is where I usually expect Peach to go after I ban Dreamland. But I suppose this was no ordinary set.

Going into game 3, I flashed back to the lessons I’d learned over the past year. Specifically, a lesson I’d learned a few months prior at Shots Fired 2 in March 2016: game 3 against a top player –> don’t lose your patience. I surprised everyone by taking Ranai to game 3 at SF2 with my Corrin. Since then I’ve joked that it’s a good thing I lost to him, because otherwise I might be playing way more sm4sh instead of Melee now… but I digress. Upon reviewing my set with Ranai, I noticed that in game 3, I chased him down hard. Which was kind of silly. The reason I beat him game 1 was because I played patiently and capitalized on my openings. My game 3 mistake was rushing in instead of exercising restraint. So I had that in mind during my set with Armada.

This mindset helped me, and it hurt me. For the most part, I did a good job of avoiding his setups. I also cashed in on some conditioning I’d worked on from game 1, which was a good feeling. Reminds you that everyone is human, even the number 1 player in the world. Armada did an amazing job of cornering me in this game, and that’s a big reason I lost. Another reason I lost was that my mindset of patience caused me to miss out on a couple of opportunities to go aggro. Upon reviewing the set, I noticed a few openings in which I could have extended my lead, but instead decided to zone and play defense.

And then there was the “missed winning edgeguard” that people have argued over on YouTube comments and Reddit. I was recovering and hit Armada offstage with the back-hit of UpB, and we were both on our last stocks, high %. For the most part, I stand by not going for the risky Dair. He DI’d the UpB out, so I would have had to jump far for the Dair, and I may not have been able to come back. Plus, he double jumped back before drifting toward the stage. That said… *maybe* I could have hit the Dair. Maybe. In any case, the real mistake was me getting a bit fidgety with getting up from the ledge. I didn’t corner-pressure him well enough, I got hit away, and lost the game.

That was one of the saltiest losses I’ve suffered. I fist-bumped Armada, then stormed off, reeling. It took me a while to cool down. This is one of the drawbacks of what I’ve been calling the “champion mindset.” The harder you work to improve and grow and be the best, the much harder you fall when you lose. Same thing happened when I lost to Ranai, but on a smaller scale. People congratulated me in both cases, but at the end of the day, the bracket reads a loss. I’m writing this post three months later, and I still feel the effects of that lost. I’d be lying if I didn’t frequently imagine what things would be like if I had sealed the deal vs. Armada. It’s not a healthy thing to imagine, I think. I’ve been working on looking forward and learning what I can from the experience, instead of dwelling on *what-could-have-been*. It certainly isn’t easy.

I did cool off, and about 30 minutes after the set I sat down to warm up for my next match. Armada was warming up on the TV next to me when Ice came over to ask him how he was doing.

“I was almost sent to losers,” Armada said.

“By who?” replied Ice.

And I kind of leaned over and pointed to myself.

Armada and I got to talking a bit after that. He mentioned he thought about going Fox, but had not warmed him up at all that day and stuck with Peach (I also overheard him earlier that day saying he was confident in beating 99.9% of players with his Peach). He also mentioned that he didn’t know my brother was a Peach player and wasn’t expecting me to have such a good mastery over the matchup. It was a friendly conversation, and ended with him offering a fist-bump and saying “good luck in the bracket, man,” to which I replied “you too.” I walked away from that conversation feeling good, and with a newfound respect for Armada as a competitor.

I won’t go into quite as much detail on my loser’s bracket that day… mostly because it’s a bit of a blur. The set with Armada was the one that stood out. In any case, long-story short, I didn’t drop any more sets that day. I played some very good opponents. Excel Zero was a Peach, and had his whole crew behind him cheering him on, though at one point he was being coached and I politely reminded him that coaching wasn’t allowed. He was fast, and played very different from Armada. But still… it was Peach. Then there was Applesmaush/Cory who I had never heard of, but she was a very good, unorthodox Samus from Arizona. I ended up taking that set, as well.

I was waiting, then, to play the winner of Zain and Medz. Zain is my boy, who has joined me as a Marth pioneer. And now everybody knows who Zain is after his breakout performance at The Big House 6 where he took out both Plup and KJH. I don’t know as much about Medz, beyond that he is a great Fox player from AZ. I was the only person in the crowd cheering for Zain (who had taken out Ka-Master just before) amidst the AZ folk. Zain, being the Fox-slayer he is, ends up taking the set. It kind of sucked that he and I had to play each other, being the two best Marths from the same region, but Zain was upset in round 1 by an Ice Climbers player named Choknater.

Zain and I had played multiple times in our region this summer. I remember being frustrated when, the first tournament of the summer, he beat me for the first time ever. It was definitely a hit to my pride as MD/VA’s premiere Marth, even though I’ve made efforts to help Zain improve for a while. We went back and forth for a few weeks, but eventually I started winning every time. Something similar actually happened with lloD – we went back and forth in the beginning of summer, until I started winning every time. At this point, I haven’t lost to either of them since… early July, maybe? If you’ve been keeping up with MD/VA rankings, then you’ll know I was ranked 4th above lloD at 5th and Zain at 6th, and my record versus them was pretty influential in that.

In any case, I had to play Zain for 49th. I don’t know if he was playing worse or I was playing better than usual, but I beat him pretty convincingly (game 1: 3-stock, game 2: 2-stock). I say “worse or better than usual,” because although I had been winning when we played, it was almost always very close.

Fiction was 2nd seed in this pool, after Armada, so naturally he was my opponent in Losers Finals. Loser gets 33rd, winner makes it to top 32 for Day 2. Fiction plays a “smart” Fox rather than a “button-mashing” Fox – that is to say, he thinks about all of his movements and tries to play footsies with you. I love playing people like him because the games are largely comprised of mental combat, so this was a very fun set. I 3-stocked him game 1 on Battlefield, catching him with the same silly Ken Combo setup twice – I recall him exclaiming something to the effect of “I do those same combos on Fox” in a lighthearted manner. He ran it back to Battlefield game 2 and 1-stocked me. Game 3, I got the grabs I needed and 2-stocked him on Fountain. Fiction was a nice guy, a good sport, and a good player, so it was a nice way to end day 1 of EVO.

~DAY 2: Top 32~

The only non-MIOM-top-100 player in top 32 at the largest Melee tournament ever? I was feeling pretty good. Unfortunately I was to play my crewmate and EVO roommate, Nintendude, in round 1. For day 2, I didn’t have as planned a routine as I did for day 1. I just slept enough, ate a decent breakfast and lunch, and tried to warm up a bit. I had been playing with Mike in our hotel room, and I was doing very well in our friendlies, at least.

When we actually played, it was on stream. I was feeling fine, until we started playing. The beginning of the match, I got wobbled twice right away. I switched from Marth to Fox game 2, and did a bit better, but still not well enough. That was easily the worst I’d played all weekend. After the set, Mike stood up and said “I know you’re better than that.” And I am better than that, and we both knew it. So it was a pretty disappointing way to get knocked out of the bracket. And beyond that, winner of us played Chillindude, who I had a solid chance of beating (he mentioned he’d rather play Mike than me… though Mike was extremely prepared for Chillin and ended up beating him anyways). Still, it sucks that the three of us were stuck in that corner of bracket – yet another consequence of a round 1 pools upset where Nintendude lost to Kaeon.

So I took that loss pretty hard. It was cool that I placed so well as an unranked player, but I’m not one to settle when it comes to competition and my ambitions. I walked into that tournament aiming to win, and to beat everyone in my path. When I talked about my upcoming set with Armada, people would give me a certain look and say, “Ha… good luck. Maybe you’ll take a game!” I would reply, “Maybe I’ll take two.”

I am confident that I can compete at the very peak of Melee. It’s just a matter of filling in the weak spots in my gameplay so that I can make it far enough in bracket to compete with the top. And the more I fill in the gaps, and the more experience I get against better players, the better I will become. Step by step, I’m approaching the top.

Now that my Goku moment is out of the way, we can move on! The rest of EVO was fun. I entered Rivals of Aether, too, and had my own issues with how it was run. Rivals is a young game and still has a lot of growing to do – I ran into issues with it at SSC, as well. I have found it tiring to try and master a game that isn’t in a place to be mastered yet, which is why I’m not really playing it at the moment. Maybe I’ll talk about that more in-depth at a later date.

I also played quite a few Money Matches at the end of the day on day 2. Most notably, I played two MMs with fellow green-Marth Cactuar. We’d played in bracket once before at SSC 2015, where we had a close 3-game set (that he won). That time, he let me have green Marth and he played black, so this time I let him have green and I played black. He was up 2-0, then I made some adjustments and came back to win 3-2. Someone else wanted to play winner in an MM, but Cactuar asked to do another set. I agreed, but the other guy was pretty salty, walking away and sarcastically exclaiming “TPP!” That translates to “top-player privilege,” for the un-savvy. But I didn’t feel that bad, honestly… Cactuar is one of my favorite players to play, and we hardly ever get the chance to meet up. He is another one of those smart player that plays honest footsies, which, again, I find really fun.

He played Fox in the second set. I 4-stocked him game 1 on Battlefield, catching him with a super specific gimp trick that I remember catching him with the year prior, so that was pretty funny. We went back and forth, going to yet another last-hit scenario on game 5. This time, unfortunately, I SD’d… it was a super anti-climactic way to end our 10 games. But it was still really fun. Cactuar, if you’re reading this: let’s play again soon!!

~DAY 3: Top 8~

Pretty chill day. Started with a Mexican-food lunch with VGz + Zain. We got floor seats at top 8 for EVO, which was really nice. I loved the production and the cube-screen and the stage and everything. Nintendude accidentally popped someone’s thunderstick when they were Dreamland-clapping and they got super mad, which was hilarious. We watched the end of SFV, too. Then the Twitch party was lit. Yadda-yadda. EVO is great, and I’ll keep going back. Maybe next year I’ll enter SFV.

That’s all for now. Thanks to those of you who always read these posts all the way through! I know I tend to blather on occasion, but I hope I provided some entertaining and interesting insight into my experiences.

Happy smashing!

P.S. Remember to vote.

Catching Up: EVO2016

My Performance at Prime

Yesterday was Prime, a Melee regional hosted at Xanadu. It was organized by my friend Scott, aka TheTantalus, to be a huge melee event, comparable to what Glitch was for sm4sh. For one reason or another, that didn’t happen. The competition was stiff, but the number of entrants was below 80.

That said, it was still super fun. I distinctly remember finishing up grand finals of doubles and not being salty that we lost, because I knew that in a few minutes I’d get to play Donkey Kong in low tiers. I didn’t really know when events were happening – I was just playing when I was told to – but it was fun because I just got to play melee.

Anyways, I thought this would be a good tournament to write about because I performed very well at it. So I’ll just start from the beginning of the day and go through the notable moments.

I showed up kinda late with lloD and tried to warm up for a bit. I made it to winners finals of my pool, which was a best-of-5 set against MikeMelee. I wanted to try listening to classical music at this tournament to see if it would help me at all, so I put in my headphones and started the set. A few games later, we’re on game 5. Before game 5 I decided to nix the music, I took off my hoodie, and got down to business. It was down to the wire, but I managed to clutch it out. MikeMelee has a super solid Falco, and I hope he keeps getting better. If he finds the drive, he could be our region’s star Falco.

This was also when I definitively decided that listening to music while playing is not for me. If I’m playing passively, it’s fine. But when I’m actively thinking during a match, the music gets in the way of my ability to process data as I play.

Anyways, moving forward. In teams, lloD and I made it out as first seed, but only barely. We had a game 3 last stock scenario versus Redd and Bones, in which I had to clutch out the 1v1 vs Redd, Marth versus Fox (foreshadowing). And so we pushed ahead.

lloD and I were determined not to lose to Milkman/Cyrain and DJ/Moon at this tournament, because those were the two teams that knocked us out at Pound, the last event at which we teamed. When we practiced for teams before Pound, we noticed that our teams synergy was very off. Because we lived separately the last few years, our styles kind of diverged and we lost our sync. That definitely showed in our play. We’ve worked over the last week and a half, being home together, to rectify that.

We ended up losing to Milkman and Cyrain’s double Fox anyways. I criticize lloD a lot in teams for being overly aggressive or not listening to me when I tell him stuff. The main takeaway from our set against the Richmond Fox boys this time around was that lloD kept fighting one Fox after the other was dead, which sort of left me helpless. I would control center stage, and could cover the enemy Fox if he came toward me, but that Fox will always start playing defense until his partner comes back. And when his partner does come back, he is an invincible Fox. And this is where the problem comes in. lloD will find himself between two Foxes, one at the ledge, and the other at center-stage, invincible. Meanwhile, I can’t access the vulnerable Fox, nor can I touch the invincible Fox. So I told lloD he needs to retreat to me when anticipating a Fox respawn. I can 1v1 the Fox that still lives, and have the mobility to get myself out when I need to, which Peach lacks.

We played melee singles pools, then doubles immediately afterwards, then low tier pools (and then our set vs Milkman and Cyrain). In the meantime, we had no opportunity to eat. Finally, after our doubles set, we went to get Chick-Fil-A.

While we were eating (at around 4 or 5pm) we talked about our teams strategy. Normally, we go Fox and Peach, but sometimes Marth and Peach. We decided that, for the duration of the tournament, we would go all Marth and Peach to see how things went. This would be good practice for nationals to come.

In losers, we ran into DJ and Moon who miraculously lost to Sypher and Zain in Marth/Fox dittos (I still gotta watch that set). They started double Fox against our Marth and Peach, and won the first two games handily. And that’s when I remembered a conversation lloD and I had that morning on the way to Prime – I mentioned that I don’t like Marth/Peach versus Fox/Fox, and I’d rather go Fox/Peach. So we abandoned our strategy of going all Marth/Peach in an attempt to beat DJ and The Moon, and end up taking the next two games, Fox/Peach versus Fox/Fox. Game 5, The Moon switches to Marth and we manage to win. It was a good feeling to not get eliminated by the same two teams, and to feel my teams synergy with lloD ramp back up to what we once had (and better?). We beat Sypher and Zain in losers finals with Marth/Peach, then lost to Milkman/Cyrain in grand finals with Fox/Peach.

Low tiers was really fun. I beat DJ’s Roy and went on to fight Redd’s Ganon (who is not a low tier). I love playing DK, and had spent some time playing DK on Netplay when I was at the #1 spot for a while and got bored playing real characters. DJ knocked me out in losers with his Mario, then with Bowser in two games on Yoshi’s Story.

Melee singles was where the real magic happened. I made it out first seed in my pool, and had to play DJ Nintendo in winners quarters. He beat me pretty solidly. He has a very weird Fox, pretty patient. I have a patient Marth, so this made for some interesting gameplay. In losers, I played Nurok who I beat 3-0, then Vist who I beat 3-0. Marth versus Luigi is always interesting, and I had the pleasure of commentating Vist versus Zain earlier in the day. Vist managed to beat Zain 3-2. I am not sure if that’s an upset, because Vist has been ranked pretty highly in MD/VA, but recently became inactive while Zain rocketed up to the #11 or #12 spot.

Before going on, I should say that the couple of weeks before this tournament, I felt more strongly that I was weak against spacies as Marth. I felt far more comfortable in the floaty matchups, which is strange, considering that Marth has one of the best matchups versus Fox and Falco in the game. I asked PPMD for some advice, which he graciously gave, and played with Chillin and Azen a bit. Even then, I didn’t feel too confident going into Prime. The night before Prime, however, from about 1:30am to 3:00am, I watched PewPewU videos while listening to classical music (the music I thought I would be listening to during the tournament the next day). When I’ve watched him in the past, I’ve had trouble understanding his decision-making. This time, I was determined to break it down to a science and figure out what he was doing that I was not. I noticed some of the things he did in the matchup were consistent across opponents and months and years, and wrote those things down. As a side note, I always believe that it’s more useful to study what your character can do to another character (and vice-versa), rather than studying a player. You don’t know what a player has learned since the video you studied, nor do you know how they will react to your playstyle. The best thing you can do is arm yourself with  the tools of your character in the matchup. Now I’ll resume, but shoutouts to you, Kevin Toy, if you’re reading!

After Vist I played Milkman, who lost a very tight set to The Moon in winner semis (after beating lloD in another very very tight set). I’ve beaten Milkman before, but at a smaller tournament that was pretty inconsequential. This time, I felt like it mattered a bit more. I was down 0-2 in the best-of-5, having lost a game on FD already. I took him back to FD, won, and he took me to Fountain of Dreams. I thought this was a bit strange considering that, in the past, I have counterpicked him to FoD. Upon review, however, I can see why that stage would be good for Fox, at least over other stages. I also think he wanted to save the Dreamland pick for game 5. For some reason, I’m pretty good on Dreamland. It becomes harder when Foxes try to camp me, because I have to overextend as Marth to catch them on the big stage, but they can’t really camp me when I have the lead. Also, Milkman is not a campy Fox player in general. By some miracle, I manage to win game 5 as well.

In losers, lloD lost to Redd, after trying the FD-Marth counterpick on game 3. It didn’t work, unfortunately for lloD. I think Redd was pretty happy about that, because lloD and him went back and forth a lot last fall, and this is the first time they’ve played since. Then Redd played me. I don’t remember how the stage counterpicking went quite as well as I did with my set versus Milkman, but I managed to win in another game 5 scenario. This was pretty big for me, because in the 10+ years I’ve been playing this game competitively, I have never beaten Redd. We were both aware of that fact.

I felt like after my set against DJ in winners, I started to find the rhythm I needed with Marth. I utilized some of the things I observed from PewPewU, such as his ledge tricks and recovery patterns (in order to avoid early-% shine gimps), and started to flow-chart my punish game a little better (which I developed a bit from watching M2K videos earlier in the work – forgot to mention that). I used to have a tendency to go off-stage a lot to edgeguard Fox, or to grab ledge when it wasn’t the best option, and those decisions resulted in me being offstage or dying at a low %. I was determined to not get shine gimped, nor to give up stage positioning. For this reason, my edgeguarding was not quite as good as it could have been… but I didn’t drop any stocks in an edgeguard attempt. And it worked.

So I played neutral as best I could, and got better and better at punishes as the night went on. And the night went on for a long time with all of the game 5s that were happening.

I played DJ in losers finals (he lost to The Moon in winners finals). I was the only MD/VA player left, so it was my job to defend the region. I think it was game 3 that he took me to Dreamland, and I had 1 stock to his 3, a large deficit. He started camping me hard. I took this as him trying to mentally wear me down. There was no chance of me winning that game, however, so I intentionally mentally checked out and played passively until the game was over. I took a breather before the next game and came back really strong (I think I 3-stocked him). During our game on FoD (which may have been game 1) I felt my hand start to hurt from all the playing – it was my left hand, aka my dash-dancing and wavedashing hand (I jump and wavedash with tap jump), so I did a quick hand stretch in-between stocks at one point, which you can actually see in the VoD. I once again, managed to clutch out a game 5.

At this point I was mentally exhausted. The Moon knows the Marth ditto punish game better than I do, and neutral and edgeguarding in Marth dittos are essentially rock-paper-scissors… so in order to beat The Moon, I would have needed far more mental energy than I had. He beat me 3-0, but I put on a pretty good fight. I knew he likes to go black Marth in grand finals, so I snagged white Marth and put on the “GNJI” tag (shoutouts to Overwatch). He switched to green “money” Marth on game 3, so there was a funny moment when I realized we were playing each other’s Marth colors. I’m going to do a close review of those matches to see what he did right in his combos, and what I can change. When I would combo him, there was always a vulnerable point at which he could reverse my combo back onto me, which I could not do to his combos. So that’s what I’ll work on for next time.

This tournament really made me realize the importance of staying physically and mentally healthy for tournaments, especially when you play against a series of tough opponents. In retrospect, I should be more consistent with my hand-stretches, I should drink more water throughout the day (I started getting a headache when I started my losers run, but tried to stave it off with water and focus on the game), and I should not have eaten only one meal that was unhealthy and so late in the day. Maybe I should have had an everything bagel (shoutouts to PPMD).

I’m going to do some close review of those sets from yesterday to see what I did right in terms of neutral and punishes, and to identify exactly where I went wrong in my edgegame. The goal is to be adept an acknowledging when to go offstage, when to grab ledge, and when to play it safe with the on-stage edgeguard.

This post was more for me than for anybody else to read, but if you read it, I hope you enjoyed nonetheless. I added a couple of names to my win list yesterday, and that list will only be growing this year.

Here’s to improvement and hard work.

My Performance at Prime

My 2016 Melee Tier List (v2.0)

The final product with brief notes:

my tier list 2.png


I made a tier list about a month ago while procrastinating on finals, and posted it to Reddit. A fair amount of discussion ensued, which I really appreciated. I thought a lot about the placings of every character, and this is the result. I promised an in-depth discussion on my decision-making process, so I will go through pretty much the whole list in detail. But first, I wanted to share a couple of images. The first is the list of changes from my first list to the second list:

my tier list changes

The second is a matchup chart that I made for Fox through Ganondorf. Please, please resist the urge to take apart the matchup chart. I want to limit most discussion to the tier list itself – the matchup chart was used to inform the tier list. It was not the end-all deciding factor, as will be made clear, but it was useful to determine certain positionings. The thing about a matchup chart is that so many matchups are still undetermined and evolving, so there will always be debate over X vs. Y. In general, as the chart moves to the right, I became less confident in certain matchups, but I spent the most time on matchups that I felt were needed to break certain ties. So please, resist the urge. Also, you’ll notice that I used a points system – the points for X vs. Y plus the points for Y vs. X will always equal 0. I found this to be more helpful than the “6:4” system when comparing matchup spreads between characters. This system, however, is a loose approximation. For example, Falcon vs. Falco and Pichu vs. Falco might both be written as -10, but Falcon clearly has better tools for fighting Falco. So keep that in mind. Caveats aside, here is the chart:

my matchup chart


What is a tier list? In the simplest of terms, a tier list is a ranking of best character to worst character. More specifically, ranking characters by how likely they are to win a match under tournament conditions given that the players are of similar skill and both have knowledge of the matchup. The last part is important. Without the last part, two mid-level players playing Fox vs. Samus may find that the Samus wins the majority of the time, given the fact that Samus does better vs. Fox than many other characters. But if both players are given sufficient matchup knowledge, we will still find that Fox wins the matchup. This phenomenon is also very apparent when we see upsets from Ice Climbers players.

This list is mostly based on my opinions on what each character’s strengths are, and how the matchups play out. I consider results and what I have observed in tournaments as evidence, but understand that matchup unfamiliarity and character scarcity can often skew results. For example, there is only one Jigglypuff player in the top 30, but we know that she is an amazing character.

I tried to make the list reflect where I think the meta is headed, as well, which requires a bit of extrapolation beyond the results we currently have. For example, I think Peach and Falcon will have more developed metas in the next couple of years, and I had to think hard about how to reflect that in the tier list.

In general, the more advantageous matchups a character has, the better we consider that character to be. I also give more weight to matchups higher up on the tier list, because they are bigger threats in a tournament setting, but occasionally have to decide whether one or two decent matchups in the high/top tiers with multiple bad matchups is better or worse than all matchups being slightly disadvantaged (for example, determining whether Samus > Ice Climbers or vice-versa).

So without further ado, let’s dig in.

S Tier

Fox holding the number 1 spot is no surprise. He has one of the best projectiles in the game, the most number of options in almost every situation, the best shield pressure, the best out-of-shield options, one of the best recoveries, multiple kill moves and kill setups, and the highest skill cap in the game.

Falco has a lot of similar strengths, but lacks a strong recovery and is generally a bit easier to knock off-balance than Fox. He also may have a losing matchup to Peach and Marth. I believe that Marth has no losing matchups or one losing matchup (I am still not totally convinced either way on the Marth vs. Sheik matchup), but I don’t think it’s enough to put Falco over Marth. Some threats to Falco are Peach, Puff, and Samus, three characters over which Marth holds a distinct advantage.

Falco has arguably the strongest projectile in the game, giving him the ability to dominate neutral against most characters. As more players become proficient with powershielding, however, the effectiveness of lasers decreases. Powershielding literally lets a player turn Falco’s strength against him. I’m very interested to see how this evolves in the meta (Falco players may start ‘faking out’ with lasers by landing before the laser comes out to bait a shield and get a grab, while players against Falco may start eating a laser hit or powershielding more consistently in order to push Falco’s next move).

All of this being said, the reason these characters sit pretty in S tier is because they are mostly positive or even on every matchup, with one or two possible exceptions that may become less relevant as the meta evolves.

A Tier

This was the trickiest part of the tier list. I initially had Peach in front of Puff in front of Sheik, and many have disagreed with me on that count. After careful consideration, my first decision was to put Puff in the first spot of A tier. Her Bair is such a strong tool, capable of literally shutting down most characters in neutral. Additionally, she easily holds the title for best off-stage game, which includes both edgeguarding and recovery. Her incredible aerial mobility, multiple jumps, and powerful aerials leave her with only a couple of losing matchups: Fox and Marth.

Most players would agree that Fox beats Puff, but may not be convinced on Marth vs. Puff. Let me try to change your mind if you are one of the latter. Marth has one of the best ground games in Melee, a huge disjoint, guaranteed kill setups on Puff off a grab, the ability to command center-stage versus Puff, a strong whiffed rest punish, and a very strong mix-up game in neutral. Also, when I refer to Marth’s guaranteed kills on Puff off a grab, I don’t just mean the pivot tipper Fsmash, which is what we all know and love. Depending on Puff’s DI off an Fthrow, Marth can cover every option with Usmash, wavedash Fsmash, pivot Fsmash, or wavedash Dsmash tipper. Additionally, Marth has kills off of Dthrow to add an even deeper mix-up. As for neutral, between Marth’s Dtilt on crouching Puff, Fair for an approaching Puff in air (though not if Puff is perfectly spacing Bairs), ability to dash under a jumping Puff, and powershielding aerials (the tool of the future), Marth has the upper hand.

Placing Sheik and Peach was the hardest part of the tier list for me. Peach’s metagame is still developing at a fast rate with the discovery of new tech and the further optimization of combos and usage of her tools. Sheik’s metagame developments mostly revolve around movement. Peach also has better matchups against Fox and Falco, with an incredibly strong punish and edgeguard game on Fox and a possibly winning matchup on Falco. Sheik has strong edgeguards as well, but the punishes are not as consistent. She may have tech-chases to death, but those tech-chases may or may not be reliable, and as spacie players improve, Sheik players will land fewer grabs.

Peach does, however, lose to Marth. Turnips keep her relevant, but Marth’s speed and disjoint and kill setups keep him winning. Some say that Sheik vs. Marth is even as Marths get better, but it is even at best. Even that is better than what Peach has. So both have one even-ish/winning matchup against an S tier, and both lose to Fox and one other S tier. Does that mean they’re even? Well, we have to look at the rest of the matchups too. So I did that. In kind of an arbitrary way. I almost hesitate to share this, because I know it will be hard to agree upon, but like the earlier matchup chart, I beg you not to take it too much to heart. In fact, if unexact science and arbitrary number manipulation gives you anxiety, please just skip the next section and I’ll describe my thought process qualitatively. Otherwise, bear with me. Here is what I did:

peach sheik puff matchups.png

I arbitrarily assigned matchup points between -10 and 10 for every matchup. I tried to make the numbers for Peach/Puff/Sheik vs. character X relative to how the other characters did in that matchup. So don’t interpret that a 7 means the same in Peach vs. Samus and in Peach vs. Pika (even though I agree that it should, but this is not at ALL an exact science), but all three having a 7 vs. Samus means I think that they all do the same against her.

I summed every value and found that Peach and Sheik both end up with the same net matchup value: 4. Even if you tweak some of the numbers for both, the result will be in the same ball-park. So then I decided to find the sums of matchup values for Fox thru Falcon, and for Peach thru Falcon (in the order of this chart). The results were as follows:

Fox thru Falcon (S-A tiers): Peach (-19), Puff (1), Sheik (-7)

Peach Thru Falcon (A tier): Peach (-11), Puff (10), Sheik (3)

Once again, not an exact science. Can’t reiterate that enough. This just helped me organize my thoughts… but even if you tweak the numbers slightly, we see that Sheik has an advantage of at least 10 points over Peach in both categories. Additionally, Sheik generally wins the head-to-head (though recent events have led me to believe that matchup is getting closer to even).

Let me now try and talk things out qualitatively. I think the difference in placing between Sheik and Peach is almost negligible. Both characters are equally capable of winning a national, and both have very solid matchup spreads. Their ability to compete with S tiers at high level is approximately equal, though I would give Peach the slight edge. Sheik does better vs. the A tiers and wins the head-to-head, but notably loses to Ice Climbers in B tier, and Peach is one of Ice Climbers’ worst matchups. However, even as Marth vs. Sheik may be approaching a 50:50, so does Sheik vs. Ice Climbers, in my opinion. Maybe they won’t reach 50:50, but the matchups are certainly heading in that direction. And so Sheik’s evenly distributed, positive matchup spread, and her advantages over Peach and Falcon, put her over the very slightly over Peach.

And so I give the number five spot to Sheik.

But what is Falcon doing in this tier?! Why not B tier?

Falcon’s metagame is developing. And it isn’t just 20GX. He is perhaps the only character besides Fox that can keep up with Marth’s ground game, and has one of the most brutal, explosive punish games of our high tiers. His punish game off of a grab is still being optimized on Fox and Falco, and he has kill confirms off grab on Marth, Peach, and Sheik. I think Wizzrobe and n0ne really exemplify what I’m talking about in terms of Falcon’s meta evolution – Wizzy has shown us that Falcon can pretty much cover every spacie recovery option, and n0ne has shown us that Falcon’s combo game is still strong enough to keep him relevant with other high tiers. Falcon’s speed gives him the edge over Peach, he has an almost even matchup with Marth, and, in my opinion, a matchup that is approaching even with Sheik. Additionally, he beats every B tier character and below, notably Samus and Ice Climbers.

Phew. I hope I did a sufficient job in defending the positions of the A tier characters. I promise the other sections won’t be nearly as long as this one.

B Tier

Ice Climbers, Samus, and Pikachu all have good neutral games, good punishes, decent recovery, useful projectiles, and some sort of advantage that puts them above every character below them.

Ice Climbers have an extremely intricate set of tools involving desyncs, and the ever-controversial 0-death Wobbling technique. Samus boasts one of the best matchups versus Fox and Falco, with top Fox players struggling in the matchup, even in 2016. Samus also has one of the best crouch cancels in the game, and one of the best out-of-shield options: her UpB. Pikachu is fast, has an awesome recovery, and possess one of the strongest off-stage games versus Fox and Falco. Pikachu also has the strongest uncharged Usmash in the game. Unfortunately, Pikachu suffers from low damage output.

I originally had Samus at the top of this tier, but I’ve bumped the Ice Climbers up. I decided that Samus’ less-bad matchup against Fox and Falco was not worth the positive (and approaching even) matchup that Ice Climbers have against Sheik. For the most part, Ice Climbers and Samus share bad matchupsbut Ice Climbers have one positive matchup in S and A tier while Samus has none. I think the difference in the placing between Samus and Ice Climbers is very small, but Ice Climbers’ matchup on Sheik and still untapped potential given their crazy mechanics, plus the x-factor of Wobbling (which is strictly the strongest punish in the game), gives them the slight edge.

I think Pikachu belongs in this tier because he presents a threat to high tiers comparable to the threats of Ice Climbers and Samus, but is a clear 3rd, due to his low damage output and lack of any clearly positive matchup in the S and A tiers.

C Tier

The most notable part of C tier, in my opinion, is the inclusion of Ganondorf. I originally had him in D tier, citing a poor neutral and slowness. Upon further inspection, however, it is apparent that Ganondorf has some decent matchups in B tier and above. In fact, he arguably has some winning matchups, some as Samus and Ice Climbers. If not winning, then certainly close to even.

Yoshi, Luigi, and Doc don’t have any matchups that are definitely winning in B tier and above. They may have some even matchups, but none that I would go so far as to say are positive. What they do have, however, is enough tools in neutral, and enough ways to end a stock, to keep them relevant in the meta. Yoshi has an extremely high skill cap with his parry tricks and double-jump cancels, and one of the best crouch-cancels in the game. Luigi has the longest wavedash in the game which allows him to have a very strong ground game; he also has fast, powerful aerials that combo and kill. Doc has a decent combo game and a decent neutral with his pills, but suffers a bit from his poor recovery and slowness.

Despite Ganondorf’s few positive/even matchups in the high tiers, I put him below Luigi. Ganon may have the edge here and there, but when he loses, he really loses. Characters like Fox, Falco, and Puff completely shut down his neutral, and some characters like Sheik and Marth will have an easy time abusing his recovery.

Luigi goes approximately even with Samus, Ice Climbers, and Pikachu. He may have an advantage over Samus and Pikachu, but those matchups are very underdeveloped right now so it is hard to say. He still loses to A tiers and S tiers, but in many cases possesses the tools to deal with more scenarios than Ganon does. Ganon doesn’t need to land many hits to get Puff or Peach or Fox to kill percent, but if he never lands a hit, then it doesn’t matter. Luigi can match or surpass some high tier characters in speed, and has a pretty reliable punish game.

I know some people will be upset that Doc is below Luigi and Yoshi, but hear me out. Doc’s meta has staled, unfortunately. There is a significant dearth of Doc players, and we haven’t seen any big changes. Doc has some very reliable kill setups, such as jab->Dsmash and throw into Fair, and his neutral is relatively decent, but he lacks the little bit of advantage held by the three characters above him: Luigi’s speed and ability to keep pace with fast high tiers and control of the ground, Ganondorf’s actually positive matchups, and Yoshi’s unique defensive and punish games.

C tier is kind of weird in that all four of these characters bring some sort of unique strength to threaten the high tiers, and don’t have a whole lot in common (except for maybe Luigi and Doc). That is why, despite everything I’ve said, the order doesn’t matter too much when deciding which character to play. If you play one of them has a solo-main, you’re bound to run into a difficult opponent under tournament conditions anyways. Looking forward, I would love to see more Ganon players master the B tier matchups and cause some upsets. I would also like to see more Yoshi players step up besides our Japanese friend aMSa. As for Doc, I think he is still a relevant threat to high tiers, but so many players have given up on him that we hardly see Doc players anymore. The strengths are still there! We just need more people to pick them up and use them.

D Tier

This is my “has decent neutral OR decent combos OR okay neutral and combos” tier. Mario and Young Link are, in my mind, very close for the top spot in this tier. I bumped Mario up one spot from the last list because his neutral and combo games are more consistently relevant than Young Link’s strengths, which are camping and a neutral designed to counter floaty characters. Like I say in my brief notes, Mario is much like Doc, but with less kill potential and less edgeguarding potential. As per his design, however, he is relatively balanced overall when it comes to combos, recovery, speed, neutral, and so forth. His inability to confirm kills easily means that Doc outclasses him, and makes his high tier matchups that much more difficult.

Young Link can put up a fight against Peach and Puff, but I think his threat has diminished significantly as the meta has evolved. He is still a light character with one reliable kill setup (bomb into Dair, or Uair at very high %) and can be abused on certain counterpicks.

Link, as I mention in the notes, is the last character on the list with a decent neutral. He has a disjoint, and two good projectiles: bombs and his boomerang. He has some decent recovery tricks, but the tricks fall flat when an opponent knows the matchup. He is stronger than Young Link, but not nearly as mobile, which makes him less of a threat to floaty characters. In my opinion, the increase in strength, in this case, is not worth the loss in mobility by Young Link.

DK has better combos and kill setups than any character below him, and a decent out-of-shield option in his UpB, which keeps him in this tier. His neutral is not very good. His best aerial is Bair, which makes approaching a bit difficult (but if you watch my DK from the Prime Low Tier tournament, you’ll see that he can use pivots out of dash-dances in neutral to set up approaching Bairs!!). Additionally, because of his enormous hurtbox and normal-sized shield, he cannot block very many hits before getting shield-poked. This puts him below Mario, Young Link, and Link. His juggles, Bair walls, UpBs out-of-shield, and cargo setups keep him in this tier.

E Tier

Game&Watch’s crouch-cancel Dtilt, Fair, Dair, Nair, Dthrow, and jab give him enough tools to stay at the top of this tier. Unfortunately his shield is garbage and he’s extremely light.

Mewtwo made the biggest jump on this list, increasing four spots. This was one of my oversights in the last list. His Dtilt is great, he has the best projectile of any low tier, one of the best recovery, his teleport has no landing lag, and he has some interesting movement options. Plus, apparently he has an okay matchup against Peach due to her inability to catch him. He also has two kill throws, of which there are very few in Melee.

Pichu is fast, has some combos, a couple of decent kill moves, and an okay neutral. Unfortunately, Pichu suffers from Pika syndrome in that Pichu has no damage output… except to himself. His small size is an advantage, making him hard to hit. Additionally, he has one of the best recoveries of the low tiers, and recovery is a huge factor when considering how much of a threat a low tier is. He has reliable Uair juggles (even if every Uair only does a few %) and a decent dash dance. But his tech-roll is virtually non-existent, and he dies in three hits.

I know many Ness fans will be upset that he is placed below Pichu, but his absolute garbage recovery is enough to put him there for me. His Fair is good, and he has a kill throw, but his neutral is not great – most characters can just dash-dance until Ness does anything, and then punish.

Zelda’s Fair, Bair, and Dsmash are her best moves. She has no ground speed, however, which limits her ability to actually play neutral. Instead, she relies on the player making reads to land Fairs and Bairs, and relies on her opponent making a mistake. Her recovery goes very far, but with any amount of matchup knowledge it is very punishable. Fun fact: Zelda’s standing grab is just as slow as her dash grab, and so she is the only character in the game whose dash grab is always more optimal than he jump-cancel grab because it gives slightly more range for the same number of frames.

Roy has a disjoint, a great Dtilt, and some kill moves. He hardly reaps the benefits of his disjoint, however, due to the sweetspot of his moves lying on the inside of his sword, forcing him to space close to his opponent for any meaty hit. There are some wet noodle combos involving sourspots, but DI away is, most of the time, sufficient to escape. Roy and Zelda are very close on this list – they have a couple of strengths, but so many weaknesses. Zelda has one or two more useful moves than Roy, however, and a longer (better?) recovery, putting her above Roy.

F Tier

Another major oversight of the first iteration of this list was putting Bowser above Kirby. Kirby possesses the “fence of pain,”, aka his Bair wall, and some decent tilts. Bowser’s only redeeming qualities are UpB out-of-shield, a command grab, his ledge get-up, and the Yoshi’s Story counterpick (on which he gets a no-impact-landing ledge-jump under 100%). Ban Yoshi’s versus Bowser, however, and you can pretty much run around him all day.

Kirby might look better than F Tier on paper, but for some reason he was not blessed with any aerial mobility. You can use all of his jumps and pretty much end up where you started, and, for some reason, if he gets hit out of his UpB, he loses all of his jumps. Kirby can tech-chase out of Dthrow, and has some swallow-cide shenanigans near the ledge, but nothing that gives him the tools in neutral or to sufficiently punish other characters. Therefore, he remains in F tier.


That concludes my tier list post! I am sure I forgot something somewhere along the line, so I’ll make a note of any significant edits I make in this post. Please let me know your thoughts. Once again, I haven’t really been satisfied with any tier lists for Melee I’ve seen, community-voted, panel-dictated or otherwise, so I hope this list satisfies others like me (and more). Also, if you like what you read, consider following my WordPress (find the follow button on the bottom-right of the page).

Thanks for reading this far, I know it was a lot. Until next time!

My 2016 Melee Tier List (v2.0)

April Thoughts – The Games I’m Playing

I haven’t registered for EVO yet. I have my passes for Sunday finals, but I haven’t actually followed through on registration. And that’s because I’m not sure what events I’m entering quite yet.

I will be entering Melee for sure. Melee has and will continue to be my primary focus when it comes to improving myself as a competitor and a threat. I’ve been a bit lazy about practice this past month, only entering a couple of tournaments and trolling around on Netplay, but I know what I need to do moving forward. The last few weeks of school are hectic for me so I just haven’t had the time. But as EVO approaches, I will be working on Melee.

Sm4sh is still a big question mark. Prior to Pound, I had decided to take a break from really trying in sm4sh and I’m still of that mindset. It pretty much boils down to what I like to do in a competitive fighting game… which, I have realized, is doing cool and hype things. So when I play sm4sh, I’m playing to win, but I have less fun unless I do crazy stuff. The exception is often Kirby, because I pretty much play-to-troll with Kirby as long as there is a crowd to appreciate it. I do like Corrin a lot in sm4sh. But all things considered, I don’t have enough competitive drive to put serious effort into the game right now.

Speaking of doing cool things in competitive fighting games, Rivals of Aether! Rivals of Aether is super fun for me right now, and so I plan to keep playing it. I slowly worked my way back in this past month, sometimes playing randoms online, and, in the past week, played with Ralph extensively. I’m definitely looking to reassert myself as the best Wrastor, who is a character that I feel fits perfectly in my hands (thank you Dan Fornace). I get so many opportunities to do cool things with Wrastor, given his variety of movement options with multiple jumps and slipstreams, and plethora of combo tools. To land kills, you have to be vicious and creative. These are all things I love in fighting games. I can sit and do Wrastor combos until my hands give out.

I am really hoping that there is a Rivals of Aether side event at EVO, and, honestly, this is going to play into my decision over what games to enter. In fact, I might make a thread on Reddit as soon as I publish this post asking about the plans for Rivals at EVO. In the meantime, if you play Rivals, hit me up on Steam, or find me on random online matches, and possibly look for me in online tournaments. Realistically, though, I won’t be entering any online tournaments for a few weeks due to the next few weeks being exceptionally busy.

Pokken! I talked so much about this game, got so hyped for it. And it’s really fun. I spent a good amount of time playing and streaming it, and I don’t plan on stopping that. But I haven’t played for a couple of weeks now and I don’t really miss it. Playing Pokken doesn’t give me quite the same rush as Melee or Rivals with their high-speed gameplay and freedom of combos. With Pokken, you play a great deal of Rock-Paper-Scissors and it feels like a lot of characters have set, optimal combos. Having looked into things such as reset counters and damage scaling, I know that the meta is going to evolve more deeply as people learn how to maximize a combo without resetting to field phase and time those combos with a counter reset (i.e. when one Pokemon goes into burst), and so on. But I’m not super motivated to figure that stuff out myself. But yeah, I do want to play more Pokken in the near future, because I do think the game is really cool overall.

I bought and started playing Street Fighter V yesterday, and I’m really bad. This is to be expected, given my limited gameplay experience with traditional fighters. That said, I am pretty excited to learn the game and get better at it. I love watching high-level traditional fighters and feeling the crowd get hyped when one player outsmarts the other in neutral/footsies and lands a sick combo. I want to be able to do that. It’s just going to require a LOT of work, and I have ambitions in games in which I already exceed like Melee and Rivals, so we’ll see how far I take this. I’ll probably play it casually, at least. Pretty much because I want to. I ordered a Hori Fighting Commander to use for it – yesterday I managed to get my Hori Pokken Pad working, but I don’t think that’s optimal because I have triggers set to heavies. It makes more sense for me to use the standard six-button layout, but I don’t really want to invest in a nice stick. In any case…


What should I enter at EVO?? I’m not sure. Last year my brother and I entered Melee and Sm4sh, as well as the P:M side event and Melee doubles side event. My brother got pulled back and forth between Sm4sh wave 2 pools and Melee wave 1 pools, and he got pulled between the P:M side event and the Melee doubles side event. That’s only 4 events, but the overlap and distance between events was highly stressful, and at times I had to run back and forth to talk with TOs to make sure he wasn’t DQ’d (that was kind of ridiculous, because Melee and Sm4sh were scheduled by EVO). I have a lot of games I’m interested in, but I don’t want to be stressed and spread thin all weekend.

My goal is to perform exceedingly well in Melee. I want to walk out on that top 8 stage and play for the fans. I want to show people things they’ve never seen or thought possible with Marth. If there is a Rivals of Aether side event, I want to win that event. I want to be known as the best Wrastor and the best Rivals player.

As for the other games, I don’t feel like I have concrete goals. I was motivated to become the best Gengar in Pokken, but that motivation has faded a bit. I enjoy playing the other games, there is no doubt about that, but for EVO, I think it comes down to competitive drive.

But then again, it could be fun, right?? If I enter Street Fighter V, chances are I’d get 0-2’d, but at least I could say I entered the main event at EVO 2016.

You can probably see I’m conflicted. My inclination as of now is to enter Melee and Pokken, and to not tempt myself with Sm4sh or SFV. I’m going to play more SFV in the next few weeks to see if I’m anything more than garbage, and then reconsider my decision. I probably won’t enter Sm4sh, because if I did, I think I would make it out of pools, and, frankly, I don’t want to. I can’t bring myself to not play at least decently in tournament, and if I made it to round 2 of Sm4sh,  I would be draining a lot of time. But who knows – maybe I’ll change my mind in the next month or so.


If you have any recommendations for me based on these ramblings and conflicted remarks, let me know! Oh, and since this post is titled “The Games I’m Playing,” and not “The Competitive Fighting Games I’m Playing,” I thought I should mention that I’ve been playing Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest. And I hate it. But I also love it. But it’s the hardest Fire Emblem game I’ve played and so nicely frustrating. The art is beautiful. Music is awesome. It has that weird Fire Emblem charm, and they have found very creative ways to make levels challenging.

But damn, is it difficult.

Next “April Thoughts” post will come out tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

April Thoughts – The Games I’m Playing

April Thoughts – Pound

I haven’t written a post since the night before Pound 2016, and a lot has happened. So in this post I’ll lay out my thoughts on a bunch of things. Fun!

***This started as one post, but I had a lot more to say than initially expected, so I’ll be making a series of posts for what happened in April.


Such a fun tournaments. It was well-run, as expected, given the all-star TO team. There were some complaints about early-morning pools, but sometimes that’s a circumstance that competitive players have to face – last year at EVO, my first pool was at 8am on Friday morning. Not super fun, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Pound was a 2-day tournament anyways, so it makes sense that both days were packed from morning til night.

I probably had a busier tournament than most, actually… On Saturday, I began with Melee singles pools at 10am, then Sm4sh singles at noon, then Melee doubles at 2pm, then Melee Mono-character crew battles at 4pm, then Sm4sh singles wave 2 at 7 or 8pm (the day started to get hazy around this time), then Melee doubles top 16 at like 9pm (was I still awake at this point). And then AFTER all of that, I had my exhibition with Hungrybox scheduled for 11pm, so I revved myself up to play him… and doubles kept going. And going. I ended up lying down in the lobby and had a number of people come up to me ask if something was wrong or if I was drunk, but really I just wanted to rest my eyes. Finally at 1:30am, after waiting for 2 and a half hours, doubles finished and Hungrybox was ready to play.

It was a busy tournament.


I was a bit nervous about my Melee singles pool because the 2nd seed was Vro, a good Marth. I hadn’t heard of him in advance but people told me he was good, and Marth dittos can always go either way, and I really didn’t want to get sent to losers because of a jank Marth ditto. Unfortunately (but maybe lucky for me?) Vro thought his pool was at noon instead of 10am, so he didn’t show up and I got a free ride to round 2 singles.

This was my first time playing Sm4sh since Glitch, so I hadn’t tried the new patch, which had nerfed Corrin. I kinda just wanted to play to have fun rather than to really try and win. If you watch my sets with Kirby (e.g. vs Osiris), I think that attitude comes across very apparently. I made it into round 2 in losers and played fine overall.

Melee doubles… was rough. I’ve always taken pride in my teams play with lloD, since we have been teaming for so long, but I think that spending most of the year so far apart (we go to different colleges) disrupted the harmony of our playstyles. We argued a lot about how to play teams, who should be doing what in which scenarios, and so forth. We played a lot of friendlies trying to find our groove, and we sort of did in round 1 pools, but definitely lost it by top 16. Oh, and by the way, we had Mang0 and S2J in our pool, but they got DQ’d. Lucky for us, but… I did really want to play them. In any case, we lost to Milkman and Cyrain in winners top 16, against whom we have a positive record (last time we played, lloD and I won pretty convincingly at SuperSmashCon). To be fair, though, Milkman has leveled up recently. Part of the success that lloD and I have is due to the fact that I rarely lose Fox dittos in teams (for some reason), but that was definitely not the cas vs Milkman and Cyrain this time around. We lost to Grab’n’Go in losers, largely in part to me being bodied by DJ in Fox dittos. Definitely looking to work on that matchup.

Exhibitions were fine. I know for a fact that many complained about my position on the Marth team, but I like to think I defended that position. We lost round 1 to the Samus team. I went 1-1 stocks with ESAM, and went 2-3 stocks with Duck. We had a strategy to save Yoshi’s against a 4-stock Samus, but somehow we straight-up forgot that strategy and decided to put me in against ESAM’s 1 stock. A lot of foolish play. PewPewU losing the first game was a big detriment early on, too. But it was fun so it doesn’t really matter, and as I’ll mention later, it turns out I’m the real Samus slayer anyways.

My match vs Hungrybox was fun and the “trash-talk” video is hilarious and cringe-worthy. I think I played like straight garbage, though. I hate hate hate johns, so I try to not lay claim to any… On the other hand, if you watch our set, you can see that I mindlessly run in over and over and over again, swinging with little to no thought. I don’t think that set was representative of how I usually play, but it was just an exhibition so doesn’t really matter in the long-run. At least I was the only person besides Mang0 to take a set off of Hungrybox all weekend, even if it was against his Ness (we take those!).


The only thing I had to worry about for Sunday was Melee wave 2 and onward. My first round was against HugS. This was a matchup both of us had been anticipating – after he lost to The Moon at Xanadu a few days prior, he sent me a tweet suggesting I analyze the set. This was a reference to his ~secret technique~ of Multi-Tournament Conditioning. I have a philosophy about studying players: most of the time, don’t do it. Except in cases of studying mindgames and learning what tricks are available. I think it is far more useful to keep track of what my character can do to other characters, and vice-versa. Essentially, know the matchup. From there, player habits and so forth will come through in the match.

In the past, when I have attempted to study players before playing them, it hasn’t worked out. The only information available is how they played on date X Y or Z. You don’t know what work they have put in and what changes they have implemented since then. If you prepare to fight against a certain playstyle, you may actually walk into the set disadvantaged. And that is why I didn’t really bother learning HugS’s habits or studying his set with The Moon too closely. Rather, I did a lot of work in figuring out what Marth can do to Samus and what Samus can do to Marth. I actually have a lot of notes on it.

I remember trying to find a Samus player to practice against before my set with HugS. I saw Professor Pro and Duck practicing and I asked if I could join in the rotation. They said no – Prof wanted to practice against Samus for when he would play HugS… That turned out well, eh? In any case, I ended up practicing against QERB which was really fun. He’s a super nice guy and the best GW you’ll ever see.

HugS and I were on deck for stream, but there was a line and HugS didn’t want his warm-up to wear off so he requested we play off-stream and I was fine with it. We played off-stream and I beat him 2-0. He almost came back in game 2, but I cranked it back up, recognizing that the longer I delayed the set, the harder it would be for me to maintain patience in the match.

I played Professor Pro on stream, and winner would make it into top 32. He beat me 2-0, pretty convincingly. I played significantly better game 2, but it still wasn’t enough. Marth vs. Fox has been frustrating me recently, and I have been trying to rework my gameplan. It’s still a work in progress. I think I just need to keep playing with good Foxes and play a little less defensively in neutral. The fewer approaches I make, the more opportunities I provide Fox to win Rock-Paper-Scissors and land a hard punish.

In order to make it into top 32, I had to beat Doll, who had upset Frootloop (which not a lot of people have talked about, but I think that’s a pretty big deal). Doll and I attend the same University and pretty much play every week. He is a Peach player who inspired my brother to play Peach several years ago (have you noticed the Doll == lloD??). I am very comfortable in Marth vs Peach and so I won 2-0 and made it to top 32. I played Slox’s Sheik in round 1 of losers. He beat me 2-0, but it was pretty close. There was a big crowd cheering for him, but I did a pretty decent job of tuning everything out. I think my loss came down to my 2 or 3 SDs. Consistency can always be practiced, and I will keep practicing it to ensure that doesn’t happen. Obviously Sheik vs Marth is considered to be tough, but I have been putting a great deal of work into that matchup and am very close to being the Marth vs Sheik master.

There were so many upsets at Pound. Probably the most upsets at any tournament in recent history. My brother beat MacD. People have been john-ing for MacD, but all I can say is… don’t sleep on lloD. Let’s not forget that he beat Duck (2-0?) at SmashCon last August, and is #2 in MD/VA. He is probably our most consistent player.

Pardon the lack of transition, but two of the best moments at Pound were 1) when the crowd alternated chants for Pink Fresh and Mr. R, a bit of friendly rivalry, and 2) when Hax received a standing ovation after placing 3rd. Hax was an absolute pleasure to watch, and I sincerely hope he is able to recover quickly.

Those are most of the notable things I wanted to cover about Pound 2016, and my class is about to start so… that’s all for now! Hoping to crank out another post about my thoughts in April ASAP. Thanks for reading!

April Thoughts – Pound


You know that feeling of butterflies in your stomach? I used to get that before every tournament I entered. In 2005, I was still 11 years old and could only go to a few tournaments every year, so each one was a big deal. In the last few years, however, I found myself going to multiple tournaments a month, and so that feeling mostly faded.

I’m feeling it again for Pound.

Pound will always be a special tournament for me. I never traveled out of region until EVO 2015, and so the only access I had to national-scale tournament was Pound. I was at Pound 2, 3, 4, and 5 (though I didn’t enter 5), so the last Pound I entered was over six years ago. Insane. Pound 4 was one of my favorite tournament experiences.

I’m excited for Pound 2016 for all the same reasons, and more. I want this to be my break-out performance. I’ve been working extremely hard over the past year – innovating, practicing execution, studying matchups, developing my mental game, and so forth. I want to solidify myself as a top-level threat and remind people that you can’t sleep on MD/VA’s players. The goal is 1st place, because there’s no point in aiming for anything less.

So yeah, that’s a big part of it. I’m entering Melee singles, doubles, and Sm4sh singles. I also am part of the Marth crew for the mono-character crew battle (along with Pewpewu, The Moon, and Druggedfox), and will be playing in an exhibition against Hungrybox.

Let me briefly touch on sm4sh, first. After Glitch, I decided to take a competitive break from sm4sh, because I don’t have a competitive drive for that game. I like playing it in front of crowds and making upsets and doing cool stuff with Kirby… but I can do that stuff without practicing. So I haven’t touched the game since Glitch, and lloD and I decided to drop sm4sh doubles at Pound. I will not be going HAM in pools tomorrow; I will be playing to have fun, and I’ll see where that goes. I apologize to anyone that might disappoint… but my passion for Melee is strong right now, so I’ve been putting all my time into that (and Pokken… heheh).

I want to meet as many smashers as I can (so if you’re reading this and we haven’t met, please introduce yourself to me!), and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone that I probably haven’t seen since EVO last year. For those of you who have never been to a national before, I highly recommend you take advantage of this. There are very few opportunities to collect people from so many different cultures and backgrounds in one place, united by a single passion (especially when that passion is a 15-year old Nintendo game that somehow shines in the eSports spotlight).

I know this event is going to be awesome because three of my good friends – Scott (TheTantalus), Mike (Nintendude), and Jon (Plank) – are organizing it, and because it’s freakin’ *POUND*! Anyways. Yeah. I’m pumped. I want to play and perform my very best this weekend, and I want to soak in the atmosphere, and I want to see everybody, because the smash community is awesome.

Also I want to play with as many people as I can! I’ll play friendlies or money matches or whatever… But I’ve been having some exhaustion issues with my left hand so I will probably be taking breaks here and there. But I still want to meet you.

Anyways, I’ll be at the venue later tonight, and I’ll be there bright and early tomorrow!




Shots Fired Intermission

I was going to write a post last night after day 1 of Shots Fired 2, but found myself too tired. It is currently the morning of day 2, I’m ready to go, and lloD is in the shower… so this post will be brief. We’re heading back to the venue soon because lloD is in top 32 winners of Project M singles. I won’t be playing for a little while (Melee winners first, then sm4sh losers).

So day 1 of SF2 was actually pretty fun. The power went out on all the melee setups early in the day, which I thought was hilarious, but the tournament had not yet started so it was fine. Pools are run a little haphazardly, and there have been a great deal of DQs, but overall it’s fine.

I made it into top 32 of Melee from the winners side. Today I’ll play Jflex round 1, and then we’ll see. I’m looking forward to it. I made it into top 32 of sm4sh through losers, which was kind of interesting. Initially I was seeded 5th in my pool behind Ranai(1), Tweek(2), Seibrik(3), and Snakeee(4). They ended up switching my seed with Snakeee… but we still ended up playing in the same spot because 4th and 5th seeds play in quarters. I actually lost game 1 of my round 1 with Corrin. I switched to Kirby and took the set. Perhaps it was because that was the first sm4sh I’d played all day after several hours of melee… but no johns ;).

I beat Snakeee’s Rosa and Corrin in quarters with my Corrin, after which I went on to play Ranai. Obviously Ranai is amazing at this game, but I sort of had a game plan going in. I knew that Corrin would be able to combo Villager decently, and that my extended range would be a great benefit. Somehow I managed to take game 1, but lost in a very close game 3. I have reviewed the set and know what I should have done better to win game 3, but it’s easier to look back and critique than it is to actually play perfectly in the moment. All in all, I’m happy with how I played vs. Ranai. During the set, a great deal of my energy was spent remaining in the zone and keeping calm in the face of such a renowned player, a crowd, and a stream. The key is to remember that we’re playing the same game, and anyone is beatable.

Yesterday was a bit wild overall – running between three different events, not eating between 9am and 8pm, dealing with questionable smells… that was all rough. But it was nice getting to chill with people, meeting fans, and playing a lot of smash. Today, the name of the game is patience. There is less to keep track of throughout day 2, so I’ll be focusing on my strengths.

Okay lloD is out of the shower, so we’re gonna head to the venue. Ciao for now!

Shots Fired Intermission