Thoughts on Olympus

Olympus took place over Halloween weekend. It was primarily a Project:M major, but also featured a great deal of Melee and Sm4sh talent. It was my first big tournament since SmashCon, and I had high expectations for myself. I couldn’t find a Melee teams partner, so I decided to take a leap and enter PM, Sm4sh, and Melee singles. Let’s take it day by day!

Friday

The tournament didn’t technically start until Saturday morning, but there were some exhibition tournaments planned for Friday. I was invited to compete in the PM 3.02 Top Player Crew Battle Exhibition, and also decided to enter Melee Low Tiers and the Melee Reverse Main Tournament. Everything was set to start at 5pm, so I made sure I rolled into Atlantic City at around 4pm to check in and get settled before heading to play. Unfortunately, everything got shifted back by about 1.5-2 hours so we ended up just playing friendlies for a while. Eventually, Melee Low Tiers started and it ran pretty smoothly. There weren’t many entrants, and it wasn’t being streamed, so it was easy. 1st place was Strong Bad, I got 2nd, and Drephen’s Roy got 3rd. I played mostly DK, but wasn’t ready for Strong Bad in the DK ditto… he definitely had a better grasp on the punish-game flow-chart than I did. My Zelda and Pichu put up good fights as well, but it wasn’t enough.

The PM 3.02 exhibition was then canceled because other players were coming late, so all that was left was the Reverse Main Tournament. I thought people would get hyped for the side events, and that there would be some good competition. I was wrong, unfortunately, so I decided to drop out. This was largely because of how late everything had been pushed back, and I didn’t want to be competing in a free tournament with no competition at 1am the night before bracket actually started.

Friday was a bit all over the place, but I at least got to sit down and play a good amount of friendlies with DruggedFox and Drephen. DruggedFox beat me for the most part, which was a good wake-up call. He called out all of my tricky recoveries and played an extremely solid neutral. I also learned that the rumors about Drephen’s spotdodging with Sheik are not unfounded in the slightest! He said he uses it mostly for conditioning and mixups, but if Marth spaces outside of Sheik’s tilt and grab range, the spotdodges aren’t very threatening. I’d just played Plank in the matchup at Xanadu in the couple weeks prior, and I think he had a better understanding of the intricacies in the matchup – notably how to utilize short-hop mixups. If Sheik spotdodges, then she isn’t doing enough to counteract Marth’s Dtilt.

I was back in my room and ready for bed before 1am, which was pretty decent timing. Unfortunately, pools were not finalized until 12:30am. This was a major problem, in my opinion. I believe that you shouldn’t worry too much about who you’re playing in bracket or you risk overthinking player matchups when you should just focus on playing your best… but when you’re at a tournament of this caliber, it is reasonable to expect that skill and regional seeding will be completed by a reasonable amount of time before the tournament starts. I don’t think that less-than-10-hours before the tournament starts falls into that category.

They actually had released pools earlier that week, which confused a great deal of people. They stated that pools weren’t final, but I had to wonder why pools weren’t final. They got MikeHaze and Redd to seed Melee, but that could have been done days in advance over Skype or Discord. I heard some criticisms from locals that they didn’t put enough effort into seeding NYC locals for skill and regional dispersion.

Saturday

(I’m going to deviate slightly from the chronology here so as not to break up my discussion of seeding issues.)

I kept hearing that the TOs would be reseeding the bracket after round 1 pools. That is to say that round 1 pools would be completed, and then the TOs would take each person that made it into top 32 and individually re-seed. To me, this was a ludicrous idea. If you have to re-seed people for skill and region in the top 32 bracket, that means your initial seeding was garbage. The bracket should be seeded in the very beginning, placed into bracket-running software like on smashgg, and then the TOs should be hands-off. Let the bracket play out with the seeding you agreed upon in the first place.

If there are major regional conflicts, that means there could have been an upset somewhere in bracket. But that’s how it works out sometimes. I’d rather maintain the integrity of the bracket – this integrity is, of course, reliant upon good initial seeding.

All of that being said, the TOs did not ultimately re-seed for top 32. But there was no confirmation that re-seeding would not occur until very soon before top 32 actually started, so nobody knew for certain who they would be playing against. This is kind of frustrating as a competitor. While I think it can be harmful to focus too much on who you’re up against next, and it is far more useful to focus on playing your best, it is reasonable to expect some amount of time and information to prepare to compete.

Someone mentioned that PM was re-seeded, but I wasn’t paying too close attention so I can’t really comment on that. If that was the case… I think that’s dumb. TOs: make your seeding good right off the bat, and finish it at least a week prior to the event.

Oh! I should mention that one issue with this event was that at-the-door signups for Melee and Sm4sh were open until Friday night before the tournament starts. This was, of course, a major reason that the TOs procrastinated on seeding. I personally prefer the “death pool” clause for at-the-door signups, though. Or to not allow door signups at all. TOs should be firm with their expectations of competitors, and these days, signing up for a tournament ahead of and on time is the standard. Don’t diminish the ability of your signed-up competitors to prepare in order to gain 5 or 10 more entrants the night before bracket.

There could certainly be worse issues at a tournament than these I have described, there is no doubt. But in the age of professionalism in esports, some of these occurrences rubbed me and other competitors the wrong way.

And now let’s jump back to Saturday morning! I played Melee first, then had Sm4sh pools, then Project:M. I made it out in winners for Melee, with one close call against CIZ. My play was not looking clean at all games 1 and 2, but I took it with a 3-stock on game 3. My round 1 in sm4sh didn’t show up, so I had to play Biddy. Biddy and I played a long time ago, back when I played Rosalina. I believe I beat him in a clutch set, winning the game with a Rosa Uair kill at 45%. I got a lot of hate on YouTube for that, but I personally thought it was hilarious. This time, I thought about playing Rosa again for Gravitational Pull, but I haven’t practiced her in over a year so I stuck with my Kirby guns. I lost game 1 on Smashville, and ran it back. I tried to play it safe and get a read on his patterns, then make hard reads to get openings and win the up-close mix-ups. It worked for both games 2 and 3, and I made it into top 32 winning only one game.

I was set to play Larry Lurr in round 1 of sm4sh top 32, a match I was excited to play. I’ve always admired Larry’s skill, and wanted my shot at beating him. I should mention that, prior to this event, I was officially “retired” from sm4sh (as of March 2016). When I couldn’t find a Melee partner for teams, however, I decided to practice for the couple weeks leading up to the event. So I didn’t have any major expectations, but the tech barrier in the game is pretty low and I believe I have the mental game of a top player.

I played Kirby against Larry, naturally. Kirby versus Fox is a hilarious matchup in which Kirby crouches everything and then gets a 0-40% combo off one Utilt. I Utilt combo’d him, took his ability, shot lasers, crouched a bunch, played some footsies, and then Kirbycided him for the 2-stock. He switched off to DK for game 2, which I expected. I was outplaying him for a bit, getting DK to high %, but then got grabbed at 50% twice and died both times (Ding Dong). Game 3, I took him to Duck Hunt and he switched to Metaknight, a less polished character of his. I died early, unsure how to DI out of MK’s Uair UpB combo, but then played the rest of the game safe. I was winning most exchanges, I think, which resulted in an inch-by-inch comeback. It was, however, too little and too late. I was fishing for a grab under the tree (I was at 130%, he was at 65%), to get an Uthrow kill, but I forgot he had the same trick and let myself get killed by it. In losers I beat a Cloud with Sheik, then lost to a Mewtwo with Lucario.

Meanwhile, I played my first set in PM against Robfox. We Mewtwo ditto’d on Stadium 2 twice, and I beat him 2-0. Then I forfeited. I was focused on Sm4sh top 32 matches, and I was warming up Melee in-between games.

I played Slox first in Melee top 32. He beat me 2-0 at Pound in Marth vs. Sheik, and he did the same thing here. For some reason, and I can’t really say why, I was getting very tilted during our set. This doesn’t usually happen to me – I like to think one of my strengths is keeping my cool in tense situations. In this set, though, I was just getting frustrated and irritated. I remember getting a phantom tipper at one point, and that sealed the deal. After that set, I thought to myself “I don’t want to play Melee right now.” More specifically, I didn’t feel like playing Marth. This was very unusual, and hadn’t happened before.

I played G$ immediately afterward, and lost to his Falco on Battlefield and Marth on FD. I was very unhappy with how I played Melee all day, and I left the venue at this point. I was frustrated and needed to take a walk and lie down for a bit. I’ve gotten frustrated at losses before, but I never felt the way I did that day where I didn’t feel like playing my matches. It was very unusual.

And that led to an epiphany: having fun is pretty important. Seems like a given, right? Melee is the most fun game of all time. But I think, at some point in the last month, training and playing with Marth in matchups I didn’t like started to feel like a chore, and I couldn’t muster up the motivation and positivity to do the best I could. The rest of that day, I played whoever I felt like playing. Mostly Fox, Sheik, Peach, Falco and the like.

I actually ended up entering teams because Wenbo was out of a teammate. We did alright, beating Zealous5000 and CIZ round 1, then losing to DJ and The Moon. I forget what team we played, because we tried so many, but I think our default was double Fox. I may have tried Peach against DJ and Moon. Then we beat Silver and Darc in losers, with double Fox I think, and lost to Drephen and dizzkidboogie.

So that was the end of smash for the day. I didn’t like feeling so negative about the game and Marth, but playing whoever I wanted to the rest of the day really helped. Sometimes you’ve got to sit back and just enjoy the game. We had a dope dinner at a burger bar later, and then I turned in early to get some sleep.

Sunday

I was planning on leaving pretty early. I checked out, put my stuff in my car, then went back to the venue to chill for a bit and then head out. I just wanted to get back and not worry about smash anymore… but then dizzkidboogie asked if I’d give him Marth practice for his set against The Moon. So we started playing, and we kept playing, and I was having fun again (even though it was Marth versus Ice Climbers!!). I felt a twinge of guilt giving practice against my buddy The Moon, but Dizz is my friend also and I don’t usually turn people away when they ask for help. Plus it was super fun.

I consider myself to be pretty good at the Marth versus ICs matchup, having been exposed to it a great deal over the past year and a half with Nintendude. At least, until he moved away to NorCal. Dizz also showed me a few tricks I hadn’t been utilizing, like the fact that in a handoff scenario, you should always mash when Nana grabs because she pummels a random number of times! We broke down the neutral of the matchup into stages, and also looked at the intricacies. I taught him that Fthrow pivot Fsmash is never guaranteed as Marth if you DI it correctly, and showed him a couple things that Nintendude and ChuDat have done against me that worked.

If you have trouble fighting Ice Climbers, practice against Ice Climbers players and ask them to wobble you. I know a lot of players tend to get frustrated while they’re being wobbled, but if you are more used to it after playing in friendlies, it doesn’t feel as bad when you get down to it in tournament.

He went on to 3-0 The Moon and win the whole tournament. It was a major win for him, getting 1st over the likes of The Moon, Lucky, HugS, Professor Pro, and many more! So Kyle, if you’re reading this, congrats again. ;]

Before I finish, there was one other big criticism I had: the TOs were far too loud over the microphone. When you have a half-size ballroom packed with people and the microphone turned all the way up, you do not need to swallow the mic and scream. It was intrusively loud, and I had to put in earphones just to muffle the noise so I could focus on my matches. But again, there could have been far worse issues with a tournament like this, so I still give props to all the organizers and TOs.

That pretty much sums up the story of my weekend at Olympus in Atlantic City. It started off pretty rocky, then I felt pretty awful about how I played, had a realization that I needed to rediscover the fun I have with the game, then had a ton of fun playing, and then drove home on Sunday evening.

Since Olympus, I haven’t been sitting and grinding too much, but I’ve been having fun while competing. I’ve been playing mostly Fox, and got 1st at the last three tournaments I entered. I don’t know if I’ll switch to using more Fox than I have in the past, or if I’ll keep him in the pocket, but I do know that I’m having fun with him. I’m also using Marth when it makes sense, such as when a spacie takes me to FD, or I fight Ice Climbers or Puff.

Anyways, it’s very unusual for me to publish two posts so close together! But I’d like to be updating the bl0g more frequently, so if you like this sort of thing, you can follow my bl0g (in the bottom-right hand corner of the page) to get updates! I don’t expect people to read these things all the way through, because of how lengthy they are. But for those of you who do, I hope you enjoy reading about my experiences and maybe learn a thing or two about the game or about competing, or just about me as a person and competitor.

That’s all for now!

Thoughts on Olympus

Catching Up: Post-EVO and SSC2016

I meant to cover these topics in the aforementioned “Much Has Happened in the Last Four Months” post, but that was before my bit on EVO turned into a novella. So, as promised, here is the second arc of the 2016 summer of smash (and Rivals)!

Post-EVO

To be honest, the weeks after EVO and before SuperSmashCon are kind of a blur to me, at this point. I was kind of wrapped up in preparing for graduate school, I suppose, and needed a mental break after EVO. I don’t know if I can properly emphasize how taxing the loss to Armada was, and how disappointed I was with myself after an embarrassingly subpar performance against my crewmate Nintendude to get eliminated. I was feeling proud of myself for surpassing the expectations of others and placing in top 32 of the largest Melee tournament of all time… but it stopped becoming about expectations for me. It became about winning.

I don’t go into pools matches or brackets expecting to win or lose anymore. I go in preparing myself to fight, and to win. Maybe that isn’t strictly true, at least for early-round pools… but it should be. And that is a mindset I am working on developing for myself, because it emphasizes a process-oriented mental approach as opposed to a results-oriented approach. Let me elaborate.

If you are up against a top player and you expect to lose before the set even starts, you handicap yourself. To win a close set, you need to be able to draw on your ability to clutch out a set. You have to go down kicking and scratching until the announcer says “Game!” You won’t put up this kind of fight if you already expect to lose. I’ve experienced this firsthand, and I’m sure many other competitors have as well – I feel like, in this case, you accept the loss before the game even ends.

Take a look at the flip-side: a top player who is expecting to win. When you go into a set expecting to win, you aren’t as focused on what your opponent is doing, and you sort of play autopilot. This approach leaves top players vulnerable to mid- and high-level players with strong punish games. The top player plays sloppily, relying on superior game knowledge and punishes to win the set, but when each opening the other player gets (as a result of the top player’s sloppy) leads to high % or a stock… well, that’s how upsets happen.

Let’s take Zain versus Plup from The Big House 6 as an example. Plup is the closest thing we have to a Melee demi-god, and so for him to lose to anyone outside of the top 20 is a big deal. Zain isn’t even top 100 at the moment. Nobody expected Zain to win. I have a feeling Plup expected the same.

When you step into the ring with all the evidence pointing to your victory, and you believe that evidence and expect to win, you leave yourself open to the strong punish game of a player like Zain. And that’s what happened. Zain moved smoothly, quickly, and capitalized on his punishes, and followed the edgeguard flowchart well. Plup was a little stuck in his movement, and I am sure he was taken off-guard by how well Zain started off. By the time you realize you’re on the ropes against a player much lower-ranked than you are, all you can do is re-calibrate your mentality and scramble your way back to victory. But when all it takes is one or two more openings for your opponent to take the set, it could be too late.

In all fairness, I have no idea whether or not Plup came into that set expecting to win. I asked Zain about his expectations prior to the set, and this is what he said:

“When i first got news that I had to play him I honestly thought I was just going to lose. But when the time actually came to play him, my head was pretty clear and I didn’t think about winning or losing at all.

So regardless of what Plup’s mindset was, Zain’s worked. If you’re focusing on the process – playing neutral, landing punishes, finishing edgeguards, etc. – then you are forcing yourself to draw upon your game knowledge. If you focus on results before the game is over, you’re adding an extra step of thinking and distracting yourself.

The bottom line here is that expectations are dangerous. If I started my set versus Armada expecting to lose, I surely would not have gotten so close. And on multiple occasions I have had to scramble my way back to victory against opponents with good punish-games that took me by surprise.

I think the best way to counteract the risks of expecting to lose and expecting to win is to eliminate expectations entirely. The impact that expectations have on your gameplay are purely cognitive. It affects your mindset, which in turn affects how you play. So instead of saying “I expect to win this set,” try telling yourself, “I will do everything in my power to win.” Once you shift your mental approach from the former to the latter, what follows is a change in your thinking process as the game moves forward.

Hypothetical Player #1 tells herself that she will do everything in her power to win. What follows is a series of questions that may pop up before, during, and after the set:

“What is my opponent doing in neutral?”

“What options can I pick to counter his/her options?”

“What should I utilize to maximize my advantages and minimize my disadvantages in this matchup?”

Hypothetical Player #2 expects to win, but finds himself losing to a player that he, and everyone else, expected him to beat. He starts thinking:

“Why am I losing to this guy?”

“How will it look if I lose a set that everybody expected me to win?”

And then you get frustrated. The first question, “why am I losing to this guy?”, isn’t all that bad. But in the former case, that question is skipped. The player with the better mindset skips the “why am I losing” question because he or she is already weighing and considering options.


I’ll be honest. It’s been eight days since I wrote the previous portion of this bl0g post, so it’s a bit fuzzy, but I’m determined to finish it! The main point of the previous section was to outline how I think expectations can be harmful in a competitive environment, and that the most consistent path to success is to adopt a process-oriented mindset rather than a results-oriented mindset. There are intricacies to this all, naturally. For example, one might have trouble drawing the line between “expecting to win” and “having confidence.” Playing confidently has certainly been shown to improve a competitor’s gameplay, but can also teeter too far into arrogance and the territory of “I expect to win this game now, so let me show off and- whoops, I lost!” It’s an interesting balance to strike, and not an easy one to find. I urge all competitors to explore it themselves.

Now onto SmashCon! I’m gonna keep this section brief because SSC was a bit ago and it wasn’t as significant as EVO, for me. But I can at least provide context for anyone interested in following my story!

SuperSmashCon 2016

Like I mentioned, around this time I was preparing to start graduate school. For anyone who is interested, I’m getting my M.S. in Marketing Analytics at the University of Maryland!

Let me start this story on the Wednesday before SmashCon. I was determined to “just have fun” at SSC, and not worry so much about the competition. I worried that preparing for SSC like I did for EVO would detract and distract from my school preparations. I had a positive outlook on the weekend.

I decided to attend Melee at Xanadu that Wednesday prior to SSC to compete against some good players, see my friend Mike (Nintendude) again, and so forth. I saw the aMSa was in my bracket, so I was trying to figure out how to beat Yoshi with Marth – this was a matchup I’d never experienced at top-level. I should say, though, that when I asked people for tips and they asked, “Oh, are you playing aMSa?” I responded, “if I beat everyone before him, yeah.” I was trying to prepare for a match later in bracket, but also not assuming I would just win every game up to then (eliminate expectations!).

Ironically enough, I end up losing to Wenbo the round before I would have played aMSa. I hadn’t lost to Wenbo in a very long time, so this was a pretty confusing loss. Maybe it was the heat I complained about, maybe it was because I hadn’t been preparing/studying like I had been earlier in the summer, or maybe Wenbo transformed into a g0d for a few minutes. One way or another, the loss was on me.

I was chatting with Ice a bit later and he asked me, “why did you lose to Wenbo?” I didn’t have a good answer. There were answers in my head (the main one was the heat complaint), but I didn’t feel good about offering any of them up. I knew that, had I appropriately adopted a winning mentality, any excuse I could come up with would have been nullified. If it was hot and I really wanted to win, I would have drank more water, taken breaks outside, and so forth. I felt kind of fraudulent having performed well all summer, then to lose like this.

As Ice and I talked about mentality and the challenges of winning and achieving success, I realized we agreed on a lot. We talked about how you should take care of your body days and weeks in advance of tournaments (which, for serious competitors, is all the time). At the end of the day, you want to eliminate as many excuses as possible for losing so that all that’s left is your gameplay. And your gameplay is something you can analyze and improve on.

Fun fact about me – I’ve been doing theatre for many years, mainly directing. One note I got from a director many years ago that has stuck with me and that I have given to cast members I’ve directed since: leave everything on the stage. Never leave the stage wishing you’d given more. Competing should be the same. Never walk away feeling like you could have done more to perform better, or that you could have prepared something in advance to eliminate any excuses you can come up with.

Back to Xanadu – I kind of recalibrated my mindset and reminded myself that I don’t like losing, so I played with a renewed mind in loser’s bracket. I beat SypherPhoenix 2-1, then played my brother lloD. I lost game 1, after which we switched setups. We were playing on a 20XX setup that had distracting visuals and music. I ended up winning in the following two games. Then I played Nintendude in our first runback since he eliminated me at EVO. I beat him 2-1 as well, being more stubborn about sticking to my gameplan of camping platforms. He flubbed a Marth killer on game 3 which cost his stock… but we take those!

Next I finally got the match against aMSa I was expecting. I put up a good fight, but man was I unprepared. People told me some stuff about the matchup, but you really don’t know what it’s like to fight against aMSa until you fight aMSa… the punishes were unreal. I didn’t know Yoshi could combo Marth like that. But now I know, and since then I’ve practiced with local Yoshi player PeanutPhobia. You’ve got to be prepared for any matchup that can come your way!

That night I got home and slept late, but had to be up at 7am to move into my new apartment! Spent the whole day moving all my furniture in and taking a trip through IKEA on three hours of sleep. It was awful. But luckily I could sleep early that night in preparation for SSC.

In keeping with my “have fun at SSC” mentality, I entered sm4sh as well as Melee singles and doubles. I played pretty well, tried to have fun, and it was all good. To summarize my Melee singles experience… it was bad. I did fine going through round 1 pools. But coming in day 2, I just had a bad feeling all morning. I woke up late, I forgot my badge, I was stressed about Rivals of Aether (more on that in another post), and I was overthinking a lot.

I had to play Tafo round 1 of my round 2 pool. We sat down and he said, “Are you ready to win?” I guess he expected me to beat him, which I guess wasn’t unreasonable given my summer performance, but I just said, “We’ll see!” because I knew anything could happen. I lost game 1, and the pressure was on. Game 2 I took him to FD, and all I remember from that was getting a sick kill: I hit him off-stage, grabbed ledge, and forced him to UpB on-stage. Then I ledge-hopped Dair, and caught his DI away on the Dair with a perfect pivot Tipper kill. It was dope. Then I had the lead game 3 and threw it away. I honestly don’t remember what happened, but I didn’t feel good. That kind of set the tone for me the rest of the day.

In losers, I played a Fox player who had been doing well. I forget his tag, unfortunately. But his whole squad was cheering him on. There were a bit of shots against me while we were playing, but I think I beat him pretty badly and the posse was a bit quieter as game 2 moved along. I remember seeing that I had to play against the winner of Aglet and Cyrain. Obviously I would have preferred Aglet, because he’s a Puff, but Cyrain clutched it out game 3 with a Bthrow into Uair. Cyrain beat me 2-1. It was a super flubby set, and again I felt pretty bad.

I feel like that weekend, my downfall was my lack of preparation. I felt awful all of Saturday after losing. My temper was on edge, and I couldn’t shake off the salt. It really just ruined my day.

And that helped me learn what kind of competitor I am. First, disclaimer: I really dislike johns, and I hate making johns. In the context of this bl0g, I’m trying to contextualize my experiences and learn from my mistakes. In this case, I thought I could aim to have a chill, fun weekend and still compete. But why did I feel so bad?

Let’s go back to my experience at Xanadu. When was I feeling bad, feeling uncomfortable? It was when I lost to Wenbo, and did not have a good excuse for it. I had excuses, but none of them were good. I felt the same way after being eliminated at SSC. I felt like I would have won both of the sets I’d lost had I prepared appropriately, but I didn’t, so I lost. And that felt awful.

This was a good realization for me. I can’t tell myself that I will be okay with any outcome if I decide to compete. I need to prepare and try my hardest… as it turns out, that isn’t even the end of the story (more on that in my post about Olympus).

I want to end this bl0g post on a more positive note, so let’s talk about Melee doubles! lloD and I did really well in teams. Our first big win in the bracket was over Wobbles and Axe. I remember walking to the restroom before we played them, and I was thinking about whether to go Fox or Marth. Typically, Fox/Peach is our default team. In this case, I thought Marth would be a better idea, so I texted lloD and asked him what he thought. He trusted my judgment and said okay.

It ended up working out really well. Fox/Peach may have been a better choice on paper, but the risk of Fox dying to Pikachu gimps by Axe or eating a ton of damage from Ice Climbers was too high for my liking. I recall a specific moment in game 3 that summarizes why the team worked so well – Pika was offstage while I was on the ground guarding ledge, and Ice Climbers were in the corner on the other side of the stage while lloD floated in center-stage with Peach. Even though we didn’t have reliable kill setups that we’d have had with Fox, the stage control and hitbox advantage of Marth/Peach was sufficiently oppressive.

Next, we played PewFat. As lifelong teams partners who have been training together for a long time, lloD and I respect PewFat. This set was pretty hype, and it was on the mainstage. We lost 1-2, but it was very close. We actually had a lead on them game 3, but Mr. S “Most Improved Player of the Year” FAT really stepped it up and turned the tides. I remember lloD pointing out that every unsafe dash attack he threw out on SFAT was punished with waveshines out-of-shield into Usmash. Even though we lost, we played our best. We actually lost to PewFat at EVO in teams… to be honest, they bodied us. It felt like they always covered the other’s position very well, and we had trouble getting our footing. I am kind of the “coach” of me and lloD’s team, so I tried re-tooling our strategy before we played them at SSC. To have gone from getting bodied to a near-win against one of the best teams in the world was a great feeling.

At SSC 2015, lloD and I got 5th in teams. We were double-eliminated by Colbol and Gahtzu. In losers, it was an extremely close game 5. We notably had trouble with Falcon’s camping on the top platform. After losing to PewFat, we were set to play against KJH and Gahtzu. We tried learning from our mistakes again, and anticipated how Gahtzu planned on playing Falcon in teams. I think, individually, lloD and I had both improved in the matchup as well. We beat them 2-1 in a fun set.

In top 8, we lost to ChuDat and Chillin. lloD often says that our team relies on my Fox holding my own, or winning, Fox dittos against any other Fox. And for the most part, that holds true. I held my own against KJH and SFAT. For some reason, Chillin destroyed me in the ditto. The guy plays so weird. I actually think our Fox styles are kind of similar, but his is more refined. We lost 0-3. They were definitely the hardest team we played at the tournament, and the only one we didn’t take a game off. But we have learned and will win next time. ;]

That’s pretty much all for now. Upcoming posts will outline my thoughts on Olympus as a tournament and my personal experience with it, and another post on “The Games I’m Playing” where I’ll talk about… the games that I’m playing and not playing.

Hope you enjoyed this post!

P.S. Never let me write “I’ll keep this next part brief” again because it’s always a lie.

Catching Up: Post-EVO and SSC2016

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 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

Criteria

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.

Pound

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.

Saturday

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!).

Sunday

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

A Reflection on my tournaments this week

It’s spring break! And as we all know, spring break means more smashing.

I got back home about an hour before writing this post. I plan on taking it easy today because Shots Fired 2 is tomorrow! But more on that in a second.

Last week I went to Unity 3, a Melee regional in Maryland. It featured a decent number of MD/VA’s mid-high level players, and I heard that the first two installations of the series were a blast. Additionally, I was looking for a chance to practice before Shots Fired 2. I’ve been working on improving various aspects of my gameplay and wanted a bigger tournament in which to gain some experience with ~practical application~.

The venue was pretty decent. It was connected to a food court, which is always nice, and there were setups aplenty. The stream setup was angled so that, during the day, there was glare on the screen… which is not an issue I have run into before. But it was manageable for the most part, and was no longer an issue as singles got rolling.

I entered teams with Chillin. We were seeded 1st, but ended up getting 2nd place to Milkman and Aglet. We did manage to beat DoH and Nintendude convincingly, but Milkman has recently ascended, and Aglet had a high success rate of edgeguards and rests. In any case, it was good experience for my Marth in teams – Chillin and I decided to go Fox/Marth instead of double Fox (I usually play Fox in teams).

Singles is where it got interesting. Chillin was seeded 4th, behind Nintendude (1), Milkman (2), and DoH (3). I’m not really sure why Chillin was seeded below DoH or Milkman. I’m pretty certain that his results are better than DoH’s, and although Milkman defeated him at Xanadu recently, Chillin, to my knowledge, has the better results. It was strange to see Chillin play Nintendude as early as Winner Semis.

I was seeded 8th, which I felt was too low. But I came into the tournament with the intention of beating everyone anyways, so I didn’t let myself get too caught up with seeding. Sometimes it’s nice to have a shake-up, anyways. At least at a regional.

I played Nintendude in Winners Quarters, and he beat me. I have been learning a great deal about the Marth vs. Ice Climbers matchup over the past several months from playing with him, and I believe my mastery over the matchup has improved significantly. Nintendude is still an amazing player, however, and ended up taking it. I got a few tips from Milkman later – be more stubborn about killing Nana after separation, and he told me a bit about Nana’s recovery habits – and that helped in my set vs. Nintendude in losers. I still lost, but I walked away a bit better at that matchup.

Before my 2nd set with Nintendude, I played Fendy, Mahone, and DoH. I was pretty excited to play Mahone again – he and I had a very tight set last summer that I won 3-2. Soon after that, he came over and played on my stream for a while, and I learned a lot about fighting Puff. This time I beat him with a convincing 3-0, which increased my confidence in that matchup a bit. I’ve talked to Nintendude about this, and we’re convinced that most Marth players still don’t play the Marth vs. Puff matchup correctly. I’m considering doing a write-up on the matchup at some point, but, frankly, I would like to gain some more experience in it first. I think I have a good handle on it fundamentally, but I’ve seen Puff players play it so differently that I want to keep increasing my knowledge first.

I beat DoH 3-1. I’ve always been confident in the Peach matchup. My brother, lloD, is one of the best Peach players, so I’ve had a great deal of access to that matchup. I beat DoH 2-0 at SmashCon, and beat Doll (the OG) in Charlottesville. Earlier last week, however, I actually got double-eliminated by Doll. He played the matchup extremely intelligently, and I got hit by every dash attack. My ~john~ (NO JOHNS!!) is that I was extremely lightheaded, and ended up in the ER the next day, but I can’t discount how well Doll played. Definitely reminded me that no matchup is a free win regardless of how well I know it – you ALWAYS have to try your hardest and play well. If you go into a set with the humble-champion mindset (I’ll probably write about this at some point), this is always achievable.

The first thing I noticed in my set with DoH was how fast he was moving. He was playing way better than I remembered him playing at SSC, and game 1 was super close – he ended up taking it on the last hit. I won the next three games. My takeaway from this set was to never be taken off-guard by the pace your opponent attempts to set at the beginning of the match. I got used to Doll’s slower, somewhat calculated pace, and thrown off by DoH’s ferocious aggression. In a sense, you should go into every match with a blank slate, gather data, and then select an approach method toward the match. I wonder if there is some research to be done on the first portion of every match. Like the first 30 seconds, or first 60 seconds. That might be interesting to look into. I might look at that with all of my own matches and see how what I do and what my opponent does affects the result of game 1, and eventually, the set.

Two days after Unity 3, I was back in Charlottesville, and entered our weekly. This time, I played Doll twice (again), and 3-0’d him in Winners Finals and Grand Finals. They were close matches – all 1- and 2-stocks – but I was feeling much better about how I was playing. I was hoping to get some grinding with him at some point during the week, but it was an extremely busy week so we couldn’t swing it, regrettably. But expect him on my stream at some point! It’s always fun playing with him, especially when you consider that he actually inspired my brother to play Peach seriously (Doll = lloD ??).

Also, Wednesday was my birthday! Woo!

So yeah. It was a good couple of tournaments. Theorycrafting and practicing in the lab is good, but it is very important to get in-tournament application.

Looking forward…

Tomorrow is Shots Fired 2. I’m very curious to see how it goes. A lot of people are skeptical about the event given MVG’s reputation, but at the end of the day, it’s a bunch of smashers playing the game. So one way or another, I’m looking forward to playing everybody and to trying my hardest in bracket. I’m entering Melee singles and doubles, and Smash 4 singles. I was going to enter Smash 4 doubles, but lloD didn’t want to play it at all and I couldn’t find a partner. Ultimately I think that is for the best – this will give me a chance to focus more on the three events I’m entering, which I do value far more than Smash 4 doubles.

I’ll be heading to New Jersey at around 5am EST tomorrow morning (tonight?) with lloD, and then the tournament runs all day! I’ll definitely be updating via Twitter. Antics are sure to ensue. I’ll write a follow-up post to this reflecting on the Shots Fired 2 experience.

Wish me luck, and if you’re going to be at Shots Fired 2, please introduce yourself to me! This weekend, I’m looking to meet a lot of people and play a lot of smash. And to win.

A Reflection on my tournaments this week