My 2017 Goals

They say you should always strive toward the top. I always used to gear my decisions toward reaching #1, but a brief conversation with Ice last year led me on a path to believing that may not be the best way to improve. Ice suggested setting frequent, achievable goals, rather than playing for years and never achieving your goal of “being #1.”

I first tried this out at Genesis 4. Instead of telling myself “just place as high as you can!!”, which is only moderately rewarding if you place well, I told myself: “get top 32.” I was coming off my above-average performance at Eden where I beat DJ and Prof, so I felt that it was a goal I could achieve if I really played well. Lo and behold, I ended up defeating Swedish and Prof in winners, before being knocked out by Westballz and dizzkidboogie at 17th place. And I have to say, it felt very good. I remember looking at Genesis 3 results for SSBMRank 2016 and being impressed by anyone who made it into the top 48. But to get 17th?! It was a good feeling.

I told myself that my goal for the remainder of Q1 was to maintain. If I improved and did even better, then that’s great. But the thing about Melee is that, oftentimes, your success can greatly depend on your bracket. The same player can get top 8 at a national, and 65th at a super-major. This is also why we look at Wins and Losses so carefully. There are 26 characters in the game, and players of all different backgrounds and styles. I was coming off a top 32 placing at Genesis 4, but I knew that maintaining that level of play would be a challenge in itself as I entered more tournaments throughout the Spring season. So although maintaining the sort of Win/Loss level I started off with at G4 seemed like an unambitious goal, I think it was no easy feat.

For the most part, I believe I accomplished this goal. The first big tournament after G4 was Smash Valley V in Pennsylvania, which featured players such as Lucky, MikeHaze, Swedish, Duck, KJH, and MD/VA threats like myself, lloD, Chillin, Zain, and so forth. Fun fact, it was also scary Jerry’s first tournament besides Xanadu (though he didn’t perform nearly as well as he did at Royal Flush). At this tournament, my first big match was against Colbol, which I only found out minutes before I played him. I chose not to examine the projected bracket before this event, because I occasionally overthink the matches I have upcoming, and get in my own head.

I’m glad I didn’t overthink. I played extremely well versus Colbol – I moved nicely, got a lot of openings, had decent punishes, etc. I ended up defeating him 3-0. My next round was against MikeHaze. It was an extremely sloppy set (in all fairness, it was sloppy on both sides). I dropped guaranteed punishes, didn’t move as nicely, got gimped a few times. But that’s how the game goes sometimes. Mike ended up defeating me 2-3 (and went on to perform very well the remainder of the tournament).

In losers, my first match was against Duck, who defeated my 0-3. The games were close-ish, and he stole away one game on Yoshi’s with a sick gimp. I received some notes from a fellow Marth in the R&D Discord which, upon reviewing that set, will be very helpful for my versus-Samus game in the future. My set with Duck occurred pretty early in bracket because Duck was knocked out of winners early by my brother lloD. I believe it was a reverse 3-0 in their winners set… but I could be wrong.

I believe I placed 9th at that tournament. Not too bad. I solidly beat Colbol, and lost to MikeHaze (arguably top 30), and Duck (definitely top 20). Though one of my goals currently is to start consistently top-8-ing events of this caliber – both Eden and Smash Valley V top 8s were a meager one win out of my reach.

A few weeks later, lloD and I would travel to NYC to compete at Apollo III. More travel experience, more experience competing in unfamiliar environments, etc. I wanted to keep doing this sort of thing, and I’m glad I did. In singles, I was seeded 3rd behind Swedish and Slox, and right above lloD. I made my way through winners pretty unscathed, defeating Slox 3-0 in winner semis for the first time. Slox actually beat me twice in 2016 – once at Pound, and once at Olympus. Both times he used Sheik. This time he played Fox. I think he’s been committing harder to Fox, and perhaps realized that my versus-Sheik game improved since I beat Swedish at Genesis 4. One way or another, I ended up getting a rematch with Swedish in Winners Finals. I’m not really happy with how I played against him that set – there were a lot of mess-ups from my end, and despite winning game 1, I lost 1-3. I beat lloD pretty convincingly in Losers Finals (he beat iBDW and… someone else to get there – iBDW beat Slox in Losers’ Quarters). My second set with Swedish looked very similar – I won game 1, but lost the set 1-3. I actually played significantly cleaner in that set, so I was less unhappy with the loss.

This was also a decent teams tournament for me and lloD. At Smash Valley V, our teams synergy was all out of wack. This time, we did pretty well. We played all Peach/Fox until we were down 0-2 against Swedish and Slox in grands… my Fox ran out of steam and I was getting destroyed. We switched to Marth/Peach and played significantly better, but ended up losing. Since then, I’ve worked a bit more on Marth in teams, and we’ve experimented with both teams.

The following month, I entered CEO Dreamland. This was probably my worst performance of the Spring season. I played Colbol in pools, where he beat me 2-0. I knew he was in my pool ahead of time, and was trying to approach the stage with a different mindset. I think, ultimately, I didn’t do a good job of accessing my “peak play” when I was in the moment. Perhaps I was too caught up in things that didn’t matter. I dropped some easy stuff, and Colbol was playing amazing. He landed huge punishes off openings, and had an extremely good read on my recoveries. Like, extremely good. Nobody goes that deep for shinespikes. He also went on to thrive in the Marth gauntlet, defeating both Zain and The Moon before finally falling to PewPewU. What a legend. Colin is ballin’.

I had a close call in losers with Uncle Mojo. This set was a bo5, and every game except game 5 was a last stock scenario (I won game 5 by 2 stocks). I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sleep on Mojo, so I’m glad I didn’t.

My next match was against Swedish. I think I played pretty well against Swedish, but, again, lost 1-3. If I had tuned a few things up, I think I could have taken the set. But no major complaints about that set regardless.

I was pretty bummed that I didn’t get to run into more players at that tournament – I had beaten Colbol already this season, and that was my 4th set against Swedish at a big tournament. There were plenty of other players there that I wanted to add to my list, but that’s how it goes.

That was my last big tournament of the first third of 2017. I think Colbol was my “worst” loss, which, to be honest, is not an awful worst loss to have, because that guy is pretty damn good. The rest of my losses were all top 30 players, and I’d racked up several good wins. I think I achieved my goal of maintaining.

As for in-region events, I don’t particularly care about those as much. As far as I’m concerned, in-region events are training grounds for the events that really matter. At least when it’s against the same people I play all the time. The biggest blemish on my in-region record is my history with Junebug in 2017 – I think he’s beaten me four times. He actually mentioned to me yesterday that he hasn’t lost to a Marth in 2017. Hopefully I can change that soon, heh. Besides that, I have a decent or good record with everyone.

Chu came to one Xanadu when he was campaigning for Summit votes, and I beat him in Winners Finals, lost Grand Finals set 1, and won the tournament over him in the second set. I was undefeated against lloD in all of 2017 until last Saturday, where he took the first set of GFs over me before I won the tournament in a 3-0 on set 2. He also, beat me in Losers Finals at The Cave on Monday night, but I have no-sleep johns…

I graduated with my M.S. on Monday morning, but unfortunately only slept three hours due to the early ceremony. I took a brief nap in the afternoon, and woke up at 6:30pm, having to make a split decision on whether to attend The Cave. I decided to swallow my ego and risk my local win-streak of the past week in order to experiment on how I’d play in tournament on limited sleep. I’m glad I went, because against the same opponents in a local environment, I was able to pinpoint exactly how limited sleep affects my play. The answer basically lies in mental capacity – I could feel that my mind was less flexible in adapting to my opponents, and less willing to move on from mistakes. It’s pretty interesting.

Zain actually beat me in Winners Finals of that tournament, beating me in a Marth ditto for the first time since June 2016. I remember when he beat me for the first time last June, I was pretty salty, but after 2 or 3 back-and-forth sets, I stopped losing to him, period. That continued throughout 2017, and I beat him 3-0 at the Xanadu monthly on Saturday. When we played on Monday, though, I felt like he had reviewed our previous set, because the stuff I kept doing that usually worked stopped working (I confirmed with him after that he did, in fact, review our set). His punish game was also way better. So he came prepared. I was down 0-2, then won the next two games, but lost pretty solidly in game 5.

I’m holding both my L’s against lloD and Zain, though, because it was my decision to enter and compete. You’ve got to leave your johns at the door, and the only reason I mention them here is to talk about how I learned from the experience. Zain, lloD, and I all competed at the last three locals in our region (Xanadu weekly, Xanadu regional, and Cave weekly), so it was a good way to do an experiment.

So here we are. I entered at least one big-ish tournament in January, February, March, and April. May has been hectic due to finals and graduation, and I missed Royal Flush because lloD graduated college that weekend. But Smash’n’Splash 3 is next weekend, and I’m confirmed. It’s time to think about my goals moving forward.

There is going to be a top 50 SSBMRank update at the end of this summer. I think, currently, I have a strong argument for top 50, considering my only losses are in the top 30 (knock-on-wood) and I have a plethora of good wins across the top 100 list. I really want to establish myself in the top 30, but with only a few tournaments left before the top 50 comes out, top 40 might be more realistic. That being said, it’s impossible to know how data will be interpreted, and because the ranking period is so large, I can’t base my goals for Smash’n’Splash 3, EVO, and whatever else, based on how they’ll affect my overall rank.

I will set more specific goals for myself as brackets become clearer for these events. But in general, my goal is to take a solid step forward from what I’ve established for myself so far in 2017. That means if I’m back at Genesis 4, and I’ve beaten Swedish and Prof already, I’m ready to defeat Westballz and dizzkidboogie. I’m ready to get that next win. If I’m at Smash Valley V, I’m definitely stepping into top 8. The list of players I beat at each event is going to get longer and longer.

I also have to figure out how these goals will fit into the rest of my goals, such as working on my career now that I’ve graduated. I also aim to be signed by a team. The sooner I get signed, the more events I can enter, and the more rapidly I can improve.

In the meantime, I’m studying videos, practicing on my stream (which is now Partnered on Twitch! Shoutouts to the #G0DSquad –, and bettering myself. Time to make moves!

Thanks for reading – I know it’s been a while since my last post. I’ll be updating the bl0g with how the summer is going.

Ciao, for now.

My 2017 Goals

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

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

Tourney Etiquette – Handshakes, Hygiene, Coaching, and more

Sick day gave me some extra time to write, so here’s my first substantive bl0g post! This is partially an expression of my opinion, and partially instructive to people who are either new to the tournament scene or unclear on expect etiquette.

I’ve always found the changes in expected etiquette at tournaments to be interesting. Some major turning points include the numerous times the Smash community has dipped its feet into eSports waters, the release of new smash games, the rise of online play, and ultimately the dive into the eSports spotlight we’re seeing now.

Let me get the easy one out of the way – HYGIENE. It is your responsibility to your fellow smashers to be odorless or to carry a pleasant odor. If you think that this is not a pervasive issue, and that bad-smasher-stench only occurs every once in a while, let me provide you with an example: Xanadu. I hate to ruin the illusion that the weekly VGBC stream might give, but you aren’t getting the full Xanadu experience if you’ve never caught a whiff of what I call “the classic Xanadu stench.” Believe it or not, there is an easy 2-step remedy to this:

  1. Take a shower. And use soap, shampoo, and conditioner.
  2. Wear deodorant. If you notice people giving you a wide berth at tourneys, maybe you should put some more on than you usually do.

Both of these steps should be taken soon before the tournament actually occurs! If you shower and slap on deo on Monday, you are NOT good-to-go for a Saturday monthly. Get up a bit earlier on Saturday morning, and take care of business. Also, brush your teeth and use mouthwash. Thankfully bad breath seems to not be a huge issue as far as I’ve seen…

Back in the early Melee days, you would find “deodorant” listed with “controller” under the list of ~Essentials~ for a national. It had become enough of an issue that it had to be formally addressed… It is not as bad these days, but you hardly see reminders anymore. So let this be a reminder: please practice good hygiene at tournaments. Do it for your fellow smashers, and do it for yourself.

Also, I only ever notice “the classic Xanadu stench” on Tuesdays, and never on Wednesdays… Does that mean that sm4sh players smell worse than Melee players?!  Maybe… Maybe not. Let’s just nip all stereotypes in the bud and remind our fellow smashers to always practice good hygiene.


Cool. That’s out of the way. What actually inspired this post was the question of HANDSHAKES. GRSmash has done a good job of demonstrating how awkward it can be when people go for different types of “the set is over and now we show mutual respect” action. We mostly see handshakes and fist-bumps (hereon referred to as a *pound*). The differences in choice vary greatly among smashers, and are caused by personal preference, regional tendencies, amount of saltiness/respect, and so forth. Here is my answer:

Always. Pound.

I will admit a slight bias – I’m from MD/VA, which is home of the *pound* (please register for Pound 2016 on smashgg if you haven’t already!). But, all things taken into consideration, the pound is the best post-set option.

You have to ask yourself what you want out of a hand-to-hand gesture at the end of a set. I’m looking for a way to signify the close of a set, for a gesture that lets my opponent know I respect his or her gameplay (win or lose), and for something that does not hinder me otherwise.

The pound achieves all of these. I do believe that a handshake has slightly more impact in the “respect” department – if I have a really tight set with someone in finals, then occasionally I have gone for handshakes over pounds – but the difference is overall negligible. If you really want to strive for the epitome of etiquette, try to make eye contact with your opponent before and after the set! That’s also something I try to do. Not only does it demonstrate politeness, but it shows your opponent that you’re confident.

Where the handshake holds the potential to not achieve everything I look for in an end-of-set-gesture is the last point: “something that does not hinder me otherwise.” Some smashers really get in the zone while playing… which results in sweaty hands. A smasher’s hands are his or her tools, and I try to keep them as uncompromised as possible in a tournament setting. I don’t want to have to wash my hands after every set, nor do I want to be slipping on my own controller! With a pound, you get a nice’n’simple bracing of knuckles, and you can move on with your life.


I think most people go for pounds before a set, anyways, but if not, I think there is even more reason to go for a pound than a handshake prior to the set. See: sweaty hands.


I wanted to address coaching because I think it’s an under-addressed issue. Firstly, mid-game coaching is absolutely prohibited. If not by the rules, then by common courtesy. You should not be subject to an opponent who has a coach whispering advice in his or her ear throughout the match. Secondly, and perhaps a bit more controversially, mid-SET coaching should be prohibited. It is quite common to see mid-set coaching, and I myself am guilty of providing and receiving mid-set coaching. But at the end of the day, what is a set of smash?

  1. Two opponents
  2. Attempting to outplay each other
  3. Attempting to execute exactly what they intend

Step 2 contains a whole ocean of sub-steps, including identifying habits, selecting optimal counterpicks, baiting and punishing, asserting zone control, making reads, and so forth. But when coaches are allowed mid-set, this process becomes less honest. If one player has a coach and the other does not, then the player-with-coach has an extra head helping him or her identify habits, come up with counterplays, predicting future moves, and so forth. So what if both players have a coach? Then you have four heads, and it’s hard to say whether the better PLAYER has won the set rather than the better PLAYER-COACH TEAM.

I am against mid-set coaching and in favor of maintaining the integrity of 1-on-1 competition in smash. I may address this in further detail in another post, but I thought I’d include it here because I know some players see mid-set coaching as bad tournament etiquette.


Here are a few other should-go-without-saying guidelines:

  1. Don’t talk to your opponent, or any other players, mid-set. It’s distracting and very BM.
  2. Don’t physically touch your opponent mid-set, and don’t touch other players while they are playing. Nothing pulls you out of a game more quickly than someone bumping your arm causing and SD, or shoving your chair over.
  3. Be a nice person. If your opponent pauses to help you because you accidentally unplugged your controller, don’t make them take a stock (but this would never happen, right?).
  4. Trash talk is fun. Try to keep it relatively impersonal.
  5. Thank your TOs.


There are a whole lot of other things I could have addressed, but this post got a bit long and rather rant-y. I hope it proved to be entertaining and at least somewhat informative in the meantime!

If any readers would like further elaboration or have questions or comments, please leave a reply below! I’ll read them all. Otherwise, hit me up on Twitter (@SmashG0D).


Happy smashing –


Tourney Etiquette – Handshakes, Hygiene, Coaching, and more


Welcome to SMASHBl0G! In this blog I’ll be making posts about our favorite game, SUPER SMASH BROS. Specifically, Melee and Smash 4 Wii U. I want to use this blog as a way to help organize my own thoughts about my career as a competitor, but also as a sort of teaching mechanism for people interested in reading about smash. I’ll write about matchups, tournament experiences, theorycrafting, and so forth!


So if you’re interested in learning more about competitive smash as a fan and/or as a competitor, then this bl0g might interest you. Or maybe you just want to hear me ramble.


I suppose I should introduce myself! My name is Rishi, and my gamer tag is SmashG0D. I have been competing in tournaments since November 2005 – I was 11 years old (which I hope helps explain the fact that I named myself “SmashG0D”…). For the next several years, I would enter tournaments here and there, always following the competitive scene, but never fully diving in. I began entering tournaments more frequently about 4 or 5 years ago, and since then my motivation to improve has grown. I currently compete in Melee and Smash 4. In Melee I main Marth, and in Smash 4 I main Kirby (though Corrin is my FOTM).


I’ll probably make a bl0g post at some point that gives a more in-depth history of my career as a smasher, but for now I hope the basics suffice.


I have a lot planned in order to help myself improve as a player, and I hope that I can help others along the way. If you want to reach out to me, please check out my Twitter (@SmashG0D) – I am usually good about responding to tweets! Additionally, I stream Melee and Smash 4 Wii U on Twitch (, so if you’re interested in watching, please follow the stream so you get notifications when I go live!


That’s all for today. I hope to have new content out soon, and as we get the ball rolling, I will come up with a consistent schedule for writing.


Happy smashing-