ZeRo returns to form at SCR Saga

Two months removed from his last S-tier win, Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios was able to reach the top again after a number of near misses, by beating MKLeo at SCR Saga. It was the return of ZeRo’s last stock magic, as he was able to pull himself out of a variety of difficult situations to take his 10th win of 2017.

For reference, it’s been a tough couple of months for the undisputed champ. A near miss at Evo 2017 and Dreamhack while watching Salem parade around his trophy. Second place at both Super Smash Con and Low Tier City. It wasn’t just that he lost, either. It was the way that he lost. Losing in situations he normally came out victorious by not letting the pressure exceed the moment.

However, it showed that it was just a matter of time before he reclaimed the top spot. After a strong performance this weekend, any talk of him not being the best player in 2017 should be off the table.

Photo courtesy YouTube.com/2ggaming

Last stock magic

When Zero is at his best, he takes early percent stocks and is constantly running in-and-out of attack range. At SCR Saga, the audience saw that in droves. In many instances, Zero would bait out a certain recovery option to setup a dair spike at the ledge with Diddy Kong. Larry Lurr and MKLeo unfortunately took the bait and paid the price.

By no means was it a perfect day for ZeRo, but it was characteristically a day in which ZeRo takes the crown. He’s no stranger to coming back from a deficit and in many cases was forced to overcome entire stock leads. This goes back to his ability to set up low percent kills and punish accordingly.

The day Bayonetta took over

No, a Bayonetta main did not win this event. There was none in the top three. But, there were three in top eight. Prejudice aside, Bayonetta mains are starting to make a clear push towards the end of the bracket. SCR Saga is just the first example of all the top Bayonetta’s playing well enough at the same time.

As a matter of fact, the world’s best Bayonetta main in Salem struggled mightily against the new up and comer Bayonetta in Mistake. Mistake forced Salem off of Bayo and onto Greninja. Salem was out placed by the two other Bayonetta mains (Captain Zack and Mistake) and this weekend seems to be a turning point.

Captain Zack after eliminating Nairo. Photo courtesy YouTube.com/2ggaminng

The sudden emergence of Mistake and the elevation of the meta through Salem has given Bayonetta new life. And at SCR Saga, it was a mix of play styles that all proved to be effective. Salem stayed defense heavy, while Mistake played all out aggressive and Captain Zack stayed in the middle of that spectrum. The group of players as a whole are improving.

Larry Lurr and MKLeo are close

It’s only a matter of time for Larry Lurr and MKleo. Both players are seemingly always right there, but have a few player matchups that hold them back. SCR Saga was another example of this.

To enumerate, Larry Lurr has now been in this situation many times in the past few months. His Fox continues to improve and another bracket similar to what he faced at Evo could mean an S-Tier major win. For MKLeo, he’s known as a champion already, but he seems back on track to start winning events again.

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Feature image courtesy of YouTube.com/2ggaming

Mango Goes with Falco and Wins Super Smash Con 2017

Fox or Falco? It’s the age old question going into tournaments for Joseph “Mango” Marquez. At Super Smash Con, Mango pulled out the bird and put on a performance that raises the question of wether or not Fox is in his future plans.

That said, Mango, at this moment in time, is the premiere Fox player in Melee. He’s won countless tournaments with Fox and has been the character he relies on when all else fails. It’s foolish to think he’ll ever abandon Fox, but at the same time, Falco seems to suit his play style more than Fox.

Mango’s Creativity with Falco
Mango’s got a brilliant mind for Melee. He’s able to constantly throw various looks at a player to keep them off balance. Falco’s play style is conducive to this and Mango is the perfect player to bring out the full potential of a character that’s been neglected by the rest of the scene.

In effect, Mango was able to play more to his style and dictate the pace of play. Top 8 was a show from Mango’s Falco. Fortunately, he didn’t have to face Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma so it was Falco all afternoon long and it was a display of Mango’s mixup game.

For example, let’s look at his two sets with Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman. In both sets Mango was able to control the stage by the virtue of Falco’s laser game. In his winners finals set against Justin “Plup” McGrath, the gameplay changed drastically. Mango adapted and played aggressively on Plup’s shield. Facing M2K, Mango emphasized the laser pressure and stayed clear of out of shield range.

The mixup game is a staple of the Falco meta. Mango made it imperative that the same option wasn’t coming twice in a row. Both Plup and M2K had trouble predicting what Mango was going to do and in many cases set themselves up for down-air finishers. The DI traps continually put Mango in advantageous situations.

Where does this place Mango?
Certainly, this win and his recent results at Evo have propelled Mango to second overall in the Melee ranks. Couple that with Hungrybox’s struggles against Plup, and it’s clear who’s been the better overall player. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Hbox struggle to this extent. He’s usually a guarantee to finish in the top three.Plup and Mango. YouTube.com/vgbootcampvods

As for Mango, it’ll be interesting to watch if he makes the change back to Fox at future tournaments. And yes, Adam “Armada” Lindgren didn’t make it to Super Smash Con, so his presence might make Mango change his mind. Mango’s Fox has a positive record against nearly every player outside of Armada’s Peach.

The next major event is Shine and the player list is nearly identical to SSC. Mango will have the edge heading into the event, but a face-off against either Hbox or potentially William “Leffen” Hjelte could stall that momentum. Unfortunately, Armada is not confirmed so we might not see a matchup with Mango till the fall.

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Ranking the biggest events in esports

In honor of it being the week of the International, I wanted to discuss the events that have helped legitimize esports. From DOTA to League, all the way to fighting games and Counter-Strike, each game has pushed the scene forward with events that not only grab the attention of esports fans, but even more importantly the general public.

The five events mentioned below have all played an important role in building up their respective scenes. They have not only been great for publicity but have also made careers in esports a reality. They have partially changed the communities in which these events take place. Here are the five most essential events today.

5. Call of Duty World Championships

Activision has made serious strides into making Call of Duty a premiere title within the esports landscape. The creation of the Call of Duty Championship, with prize pools over $1 million, along with the creation of Call of Duty World League, is the support this game needed.

It’s not only given fans more to watch each weekend but also gives them a reason to follow along as the season moves closer to the World Championship. In a short time, Call of Duty has become the premier console shooter and it’s thanks to this.

4. ESL CS:GO

Counter-Strike is different than the other esports. The scene doesn’t have one championship event that takes priority over the others. It’s an open landscape with many different events that offer plenty of payouts.

However, there’s one league that consistently puts together the most competitive and prestigious events. ESL has always been a major contributor to Counter-Strike dating back to 1.6, but in Global Offensive they’ve stepped up significantly. The one other event to rival ESL is Turner’s ELEAGUE which brought in a million unique viewers on Twitch alone.

For this reason, I have to mention Counter-Strike in this discussion. While it doesn’t have a keystone tournament like The International or Evo, the largest events in CS surpass any other event in terms of general interest. ESL is a great example of this, but there’s plenty of other tournaments that also take precedent in this argument.

3. League of Legends – Worlds

League of Legends wasn’t the first game to popularize the esports age, but it’s mostly responsible for the boom in popularity since the creation of the League Championship Series. The LCS has been a major success, in terms of growing esports, and has kept players interested in the game since release.

Continually, the League of Legends season culminates into the World Championships, a month long tournament that brings together all the regional champions. League is essentially the only title currently that has a system that funnels into a championship event. 15 days of competition while a litany of the best teams compete for millions in prizes on the big stage of Madison Square Garden and other stadiums.

2. Evo

By the same token, no other event comes close to the history of the Evolution series. Dating back to 1996, Evo has been the linchpin for all the growth in the fighting game community. Evo has single handily brought the underground community into the Mandalay Bay Stadium.

It’s hard to say that any other event matches the intensity that Evo cultivates. Once a player gets on that grand stage, it’s almost a guarantee that something amazing will follow. It’s also the one event that doesn’t require any knowledge coming in because of the simplicity of fighting games. Anyone can enjoy it and more importantly, anyone can feel the hype generated from the world’s most prestigious fighting game tournament.

In spite of the fact that Evo has a significantly lower prize pool than these other events, it’s still considered by many to be the most meaningful tournament for the players. Coupled with the history, an Evo trophy means something more than just a check. It’s a chance to cement a legacy as one of the greats.

The International 7. Photo courtesy of GosuGamers

1. The International

Finally, we reach The International. It’s an event responsible for bringing in a new generation of esports fans. It not only has the highest prize pool in esports, but in a short time has become the most sought after trophy in the entire scene.

It’s a life changing event. The rush of playing for millions of dollars amps up the intensity levels. Even as a fan, the adrenaline begins to pump. It’s a wild ride from start to finish, and not one event has been a let down in seven years. Valve’s responsible for making it an event in every sense of the word. It’s no longer just a DOTA tournament, it’s a happening in the Seattle area.


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The Week in Smash: Tweek’s Consistency and MKLeo’s Return to Form

Smash never seems to take a weekend off anymore. Even after the tournament packed July, the month of August started with two smaller major events (or regionals) that divided the time of many top players. It’s the first weekend since Evo that a top tier tournament wasn’t taking place so it’s a good time to take a look at some of the smaller events.

The two main events this weekend happened in the south. Low Tier City 5, that took place in Dallas, Texas and Smash Factor 6 that was south of the border in Mexico. In terms of talent, both events had significantly smaller attendance from top players, but it allowed for the regions to display their best.

The top players that did show put on a show for those crowds. Smash 4 was the main story this weekend with many of the top 10 Melee taking a week off before Super Smash Con. Smash 4 still had the likes of Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios, MKLeo, Larry Lurr, and the surprise of the weekend In Tweek competing.

The problem was the two smaller events split up the talent, but in turn it gave us a good look at Mexico’s hidden Smash 4 talents. Yes, there’s plenty of good players outside of the Afro mentioned MKLeo in the Mexico scene. It’s not a matter of “if” the Mexico scene, it’s a matter of “when” they can fly these players out to events states side.

Smash Factor 6

In classic Smash Factor form, this tournament wasn’t going to leave us without MKLeo roasting Ramin “Mr. R” Delshad for the third time in a row. Let’s remember, MKLeo defeating a beaten down Mr. R at Smash Factor 4 is where Leo first burst onto the scene. It’s only right for MKLeo to handily and swiftly take down Mr. R at the tournament that helped launch his career.

Mr. R did take a set off Leo at this tournament, 3-1, but that just set up Leo’s incredible 10 game stretch where he only dropped one game. A 3-0 sweep over NAKAT, while going 3-1, 3-0 to finish off Mr. R and win his third straight Smash Factor.

Melee

The Melee side also had a similar mix of mostly local players with some top 20’ish players. Unfortunately, the Mexico Melee scene isn’t nearly as fleshed out as Smash 4 so it’s not the same type of talent pool. While there are some talented players, the whole is severely lacking compared to most American Melee scenes.

As for the tournament itself, the games were great and it had excellent storylines all the way up to Zac “SFAT” Cordoni winning the event. After losing 3-0 to TheMoon, SFAT narrowly beat out Johnny “S2J” Kim before getting the back against TheMoon.

In the games SFAT won, it was a steamroll. TheMoon was getting fooled by SFAT’s willingness to DI out at certain moments. He made it extremely difficult for TheMoon to get any of his patented Marth combos going against Fox. Outside of that, SFAT did an excellent job staying out of range and then moving in and getting run-up up-smashes for kills.

Low Tier City 5

It’s disheartening to see a community thrown event go to the wayside because of the influx of new tournaments. The once prominent Project M major In Texas has been relegated to more of a regional.

Melee

It’s a nice change of pace when none on the top six show up. It gives viewers a chance to see matchups that don’t ordinarily happen. For example, Wizzrobe vs. Hugs in a winners Finals is something that’s never been seen. It also gives a talented, yet under appreciated region like Texas a chance to show their skill.

While Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett won the event, Bananas, an ice climbers player who took the spot of Wobbles, made some serious noise. Finishing fifth at a major the size of LTC5 is no joke. Names like MT (who beat Wobbles) and UncleMojo (who beat MT) also made another deep run. Both names popped up at LTC4 as well.

In the end, it was Wizzrobe’s tournament to lose and he did not disappoint. Despite a close encounter with Syrox, he made it through top 8 with a 9-3 record and looked dominant while doing so. Wizzrobe continues to improve and refine his craft.

Smash 4

Finally, the most newsworthy moment of the weekend: Tweek over ZeRo. Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey is redefining consistency. He hasn’t placed outside the top 8 once this season and now he has a win over Zero under his belt.

However, ZeRo did fall early in the bracket. A Texas Bayonetta main named Mistake who made it all the way to winners finals. Mistake went on to beat the most feared Bayo in Smash 4, CaptainZack, and finish third. It was a great run for him and the Texas crowd cheering him on.

Regardless, Tweek was the real winner this weekend. Similarly to Wizzrobe, Tweek ended top 8 with a 9-2 record and beat the best player in the world. Three tournaments in a row ZeRo has come up just short. It’s becoming a pattern. Tweek is also slowly moving up result pages so expect another win to come shortly after this one.

 

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Featured image courtesy of https://goo.gl/images/TMVXZh

BEAST 7 payout situation cannot be tolerated

The year is 2009. The Super Smash Bros Melee competitive scene is hanging on by a thread. Tournament organizers are untrustworthy and payouts at events aren’t always fully guaranteed. Due to this trend, the Melee competitive scene is nearing its end…

WAIT, it’s 2017 and the scene is flourishing. Modern tournaments are a great experience and the scene is filled with the best tournament organizers in the history of the scene. So, why are we still seeing a flux of shady dealings within some prominent organizations?

Armada via twitter.com/UGSArmada

Let’s focus on one situation that happened recently. By now, Smash fans have likely come across the video Adam “Armada” Lindgren made or the tweet sent out from Ramin “Mr. R” Delshad’s twitter account. In summary, the main organizer behind the Swedish based tournament series B.E.A.S.T. didn’t budget appropriately and is now not financially able to pay the players for an event that took place in February of this year.

This is not the first time this has happened in Smash. Infamously, Pound V paid out players five years after the actual tournament. But that was 2011 and the scene was much different back then. It was still a young community (in terms of average age) and without esports media and social media fully developed, situations like this could be slipped under a rug. In 2017, with a fully fleshed out scene, this is completely unacceptable.

For reference, there’s a major nearly every week in Smash. Players have to carefully plan out where to spend their time and money. If an event backfires, it can cost a player financially, especially if they aren’t compensated for their efforts. It’s a negative effect that’s detrimental to not only the image of the tournament but the scene as a whole.

Organizational ignorance should be met with legal action

Today, payouts should be done accordingly, and if not, legal action should be considered. Smash is out of the basement. It’s a professional scene now where players, organizers, and media members are making a living. Issues with missing finances can’t be tolerated like it was back when the spotlight wasn’t as bright.

Unfortunately, it’s not an easy topic to discuss because most of these community figures and players are all friends with history. And that’s where the leniency from players who haven’t been paid comes from, but at some point, the pleasantries need to stop and people need to take responsibility.

It’s great to see players like Mr. R speak out while the organization involved is directly telling him to keep quiet. That’s not only completely unprofessional on their part, but almost feels as if they’re extorting these players with the idea that they’ll never see the money they earned from winning. It doesn’t help the fact that the BEAST organizers are tip-toeing around the situation trying to avoid controversy. That’s a giant red flag.

In today’s context, it’s not nearly as big of a problem as it once was, but it’s still a terrible look for Smash when it happens. It’s hard for this community to be taken seriously when prominent members and organizations are acting like it’s 2009. Organizers don’t have the luxury of taking their time anymore, and as a community, more pressure needs to be placed on these organizations to pay up.


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Featured image courtesy of https://smash.gg/tournament/beast-7-1/details

Leffen Wins Second Consecutive Get on My Level Melee Title

Ice and Leffen. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/evenmatchupgaming

What is it about Canada that makes William “Leffen” Hjelte untouchable? Is it the Canadian crowd that’s passion boils over into the gameplay? Or possibly, Leffen just feels more comfortable north of the border. Whatever the case, Leffen now owns two Get On My Level trophies.

 

Coincidence or not, Leffen took care of business in back-to-back years with dominating performances. At GOML 2017, Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma was the victim of another strong winners bracket run from Leffen. It wasn’t a clean sweep, but every game Leffen came out victorious rather convincingly. He had three separate three-stock wins and two two-stock wins.

After achieving another doubles title with his European partner Mustafa “Ice” Akcakaya, Leffen’s play showed a singles championship run was possible. Edging out DaJuan “Shroomed”McDaniels and Zac “SFAT” Cordoni started the run on Saturday as the momentum carried over to Sunday. Leffen only dropped one game before his matchup with Hungrybox.

Luck is always a factor

Competition breeds story lines because of the passion in which one competes. In this, characters are developed and a plot is set in motion. The famous Mango losers bracket runs, or Mango reaching Armada in Genesis grand finals is an example of this. All these patterns that develop over-time feel as if they’re scripted. How or why does life work like that?

I’m not trying to get existential over Melee, but Leffen’s performance feels as if it’s another example of certain patterns that don’t seemingly make senses on the surface. As I tried to explain earlier, the reasoning for this is unknown. It seems to be a combination of many different factors with a hint of luck.

Does the absence of Armada, Mango, and Mew2King from GOML push destiny along? Absolutely. It’s a different tournament with those names in the bracket, but here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter. Leffen came to defend his title regardless of who’s registered. Luck is a factor, but he still had to go through players that have bested him in the past.

 

The Grand finals

Hungrybox is 4-1 against Leffen in 2017. Even with some success against Hungrybox in the past, it’s still a mighty difficult task for Leffen to beat a player who has much more experience playing with the stakes as high as Grand Finals. The largest advantage for Leffen being his understanding of the Jigglypuff matchup.

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/evenmatchupgaming

 

Facing Hungrybox is unlike any other Puff main. Yes, Leffen plays the correct way to beat the character, but it’s an entirely different thing to try and outsmart, and outperform Hungrybox. That’s what makes this performance even more special. From the start of game one, it was clear who had the advantage. Leffen built large leads and stayed committed to his solid game plan.

A year after running the gauntlet at GOML 2016, Leffen comes back off a 2017 filled with plenty of struggles and wins his first event of the year. Ironically, his last win came against Hungrybox at Don’t Park on the Grass at the backend of 2016. It’s a performance to get him back on track after failing to make Evo top 8.

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Featured image courtesy of YouTube.com/evenmatchupgaming

The New Star in Smash? Salem somehow wins back-to-back majors

Winning Evo and Dreamhack in a weeks span is special. Saleem “Salem” Akiel Young did exactly that and sent the Smash world into a frenzy while he’s at it. Salem’s unrelenting ability to defy the situation and pull out a win at any deficit is what defined his unexpected run to two S-tier major wins.

In fact, it’s what characterizes his play the most and gives Salem the Hungrybox effect every time it’s a last stock scenario. In a tournament scene flooded with strong Bayonetta play, Salem has separated himself from the rest. It’s the preciseness of his neutral game and how he turns a win in neutral into huge damage and in many cases: death.

$14,000 is a nice chunk of change for two weeks of service. Winning once can be considered a fluke, but winning twice is proof that it’s more than that. Yes, Salem is riding a wave of momentum and plays a character that no ones collectively figured out, but that doesn’t take away from his immaculate play that should be commended.

Let’s take a look at Salem’s results over the past week because they are staggering. At Dreamhack Austin, he took out Jason “ANTi” Bates and Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada twice in bracket. He also had wins over Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey, and of course, the now famous set with Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios at Evo 2017 a week ago. He finished off his Dreamhack weekend by sneaking out two set wins over James “Void” Mekekau-Tyson.

In a word, it’s been epic what he’s been able to accomplish in the losers bracket. On the verge of elimination, he’s been consistently able to scrape out wins. It’s becoming his calling card and is what makes him such a dangerous opponent.

Salem

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/dreamhacksmash

The next star in smash 4?
As a result of these past two weekends, Salem has flipped the Smash world on its side. It’s extremely rare for a player outside the likes of ZeRo, Ally, or Nairo to take an event of this size and notoriety. It’s nearly blasphemy to think a player could do it twice in a row. The odds were heavily against Salem but that didn’t stop him.

However, Salem is no stranger to shocking the world and winning a super major. Apex 2013, and most likely the last notable Brawl major, was won by none other than Salem by surprising the world and beating the worlds best at the time in Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman. His demeanor and temperament seem to be most effective up on the big stage as he’s proven over the years.

Now, it’s been a long time since a player established himself as a threat to win every tournament he attends. But, the combination of Salem’s skill and the uprising of Bayonetta as a top tier character gives the look of a potentially new god in the Smash 4 scene. It’s clear he has the makings of the next super star in Smash 4.

The real test will be whether or not he can keep up these placings. It’s likely he’s not going to win every event from here on out so it’s important for Salem to stay consistent and place high at every event possible. Right now, no one seems to have a handle on how to approach his Bayonetta. For now, that works in his favor but he’ll need to keep adapting to stay on top.

Nevertheless, it’s good for Smash to get new blood at the top of the leaderboards. Consistent placings, like with Melee, create storylines, but the hectic nature of Smash 4 tournaments right now is great for the scene. Salem is the face of this new trend. ZeRo, Ally, and Leo “MKLeo” Corrazco all missed top 8. Is it a sign of the times changing of just a blip in a busy Smash schedule? All I know it’s going to take some serious thought to take down king Salem.

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featured image courtesy of twitch.tv/dreamhacksmash

Echo Fox dominates Evo 2017

Echo Fox invested heavily into their fighting game team early in 2017, signing a plethora of talented players in the hope of winning tournaments. At the conclusion of Evo 2017, Echo Fox as a team walked away with four medals and two golds. The investment into the first “super team” in fighting games has paid off handsomely.

Equally important, Echo Fox landed six players in the top 8 and many more in the top 16. The next closest team is Panda Global with three. Special performances propelled Echo Fox to one of the strongest performances from a single team in Evo history.

Certainly, the play of Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi and Kim “JDCR” Hyun Jin put the 2017 squad into the discussion of best team ever. Tokido wins the marquee event in Street Fighter V, and has a dominating effort in both Injustice 2 and Tekken 7.

Tokido in Grand Finals. twitch.tv/evo

In a stroke of genius, Echo Fox bought out the Tekken free agent market before the release of Tekken 7 and have been winning everything since. Evo was no different. JDCR looked dominant taking home the gold, while Choi “Saint” Jinwoo finished second.

Everyone’s chasing Echo Fox

Panda Global is the only team that is anywhere in the vicinity of Echo Fox. Punk’s loss to Tokido was a complete heart-breaker and stole away an Evo Street Fighter for Panda Global. PG is also the only team with players across multiple games and platforms performing well. One medal and three top 8 appearances in three separate games.

SFV pools at Evo.

Not to mention, there’s only five teams with multiple players reaching a top 8. Noble, Splyce, Liquid and CLG had two each. It was Echo Fox far ahead of the pack. The Fox squad had more medals than the next best team had top 8 placings. It was a complete wreck.

In other instances, players still don’t have the sponsors. BlazBlue top 8 didn’t have one player sponsored, but that’s not much of a surprise considering the majority of players hail from Asia. The problem is that the few sponsored Asian born players all play for Echo Fox. With no more MadCatz, Echo Fox swept up all the talent.

Who will be the next team to make a big move in the fighting game free agent market? The best team at Evo changes nearly every year, especially with more teams joining the fray. It will be interesting to see if Echo Fox can hold that title again at Evo 2018.

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Tokido’s masterful play at Evo 2017: Advanced Street Fighter V

Victor “Punk” Woodly entered into the grand finals at Evo 2017 unscathed. Fourteen contests all resulted in Punk victories, leading into his date with destiny. The six straight wins in top eight seemingly signified the passing of the guard to a younger generation of American born players. But, to the behest of the American crowd, Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi had different plans.

Evo 2017 tokido

Tokido. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/evo

Early on, Tokido meeting up with the conceded best player almost felt inevitable. Punk was busy disposing of players in winner’s bracket, while Tokido was cruising through the loser’s bracket and gaining momentum. Both players stood out among the rest of the top eight. Their level of play just looked significantly higher than the rest.

It’s important to realize the fact that Tokido and Punk played not only earlier in the bracket, but earlier in the week in training sessions at Justin Wong’s house. Reports from Wong and other members of the fighting game community say Tokido not only took it to Punk, but beat him 10-0.

However, Punk got the best of Tokido in winners quarterfinals with a quick 2-0. At the time, the win didn’t feel any more significant than any of Punk’s prior victories, but it seemed to light a fire under Tokido. And fighting under the scrutiny of elimination made Tokido turn on the Murderface.

Tokido’s Top 8 Run

As a result, Tokido, who’s known as one of the five gods of street fighter, upped his game. Despite a close 3-2 win over Ryan “FChamp” Ramirez in a tough matchup for Akuma, his punish and neutral game were clearly coming together. Tokido usually has stretches of brilliance but it’s not often that we see it all come together like at Evo.

A combination of good enough defense leading into heavy 40% combos made it tough on every opponent. Yes, Itazan Zangief took Tokido to a last game, last round scenario, but that’s the Akuma and Zangief matchup. As James Chen pointed out over commentary, every round in that set was either distinctly in one player or the others favor. It never got to a last hit situation.

Soon after getting through Itazan’s terrifying Zangief, Tokido was just gleaming with confidence. The hint of a smile on Murderface’s grin suggested that Evo had been decided and now everyone needed to sit back and enjoy the show. Ryoto “Kazunoko” Inoue gave it his best effort in loser’s finals, but fate had seemingly already been decided.

Tokido was the last player Punk wanted to face

It’s true that Punk, however confident and talented he may be, definitely wanted to avoid Tokido. Even if it’s just practice, getting constantly blown up by a player can leave a lasting impression. It’s almost a little brother complex. And the 32-year old who had failed at obtaining his ultimate goal of winning the Main Street Fighter game at Evo had to teach the young man a lesson.

Evo 2017 tokido

Punk. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/evo

In addition, Punk was attending his first Evo ever. Tokido has been playing Street Fighter while Punk was still in kindergarten. So, when Punk finessed his way into grand finals, Punk had to be aware of potentially having to face a red-hot and experienced Tokido.

The result? 6-1 in favor of Tokido, and it never really felt that close. In a year of Punk sweeping through everyone, Tokido made him look completely lost. And as the set continued, Tokido grew stronger and brought out more deadly Akuma setups. Keep in mind, Punk didn’t drop a game until Grand Finals. That’s how badly Tokido was in his head.

Nevertheless, Tokido earned the champion title by playing truly beautiful Street Fighter V. I don’t think I’m alone in the idea that what we saw from Tokido on Championship Sunday was the game being pushed to an even higher level. Punk and Tokido are carving their own path. And it looks and feels like they’re standing alone at the top of the mountain.


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Featured image courtesy of twitch.tv/Evo

Armada continues best year ever with win at Evo 2017

In Melee’s fifth consecutive year at Evo, the results stayed consistent. Adam “Armada” Lindgren asserted his dominance as the world’s best Melee player, winning in straight sets over Joseph “Mango” Marquez. This secured Armada his second Evo title.

Armada winning a tournament is hardly news anymore, but that doesn’t take away from his massive achievement at Evo 2017. This speaks to his consistency and work ethic. He continues to perfect his Peach play while improving at playing under pressure.

As a matter of fact, Armada has become nearly unbeatable in last stock situations since famously falling to Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma at Evo 2016. Armada had to put that loss behind him and as a result it made him stronger for this latest run of dominance. The second Evo victory for Armada not only adds another trophy to his mantle but improves his 2017 resume as the best year from any Smasher ever.

Mango vs Armada

Nevertheless, Mango was looking to finally get that elusive third Evo title after failing the last two years. His first win over Hungrybox, after two consecutive exits at the hands of Hbox’s Puff previously, finally setup the matchup fans of Melee have been waiting to see at an Evo for the last four years.

Shockingly, this is the first time Mango and Armada reached Grand Finals in the same Evo. El Classico, as it’s known in Melee circles, fizzled out the last couple years. Armada held up his end of the bargain, but Mango struggled to reach the finals through losers bracket. And after all this time, Armada did what he does best and won by simply outplaying his opponent.

Reminiscent of Genesis 4, in which Armada dismantled a mentally tired Mango, Armada wasn’t pushed like in previous years. Evo 2017 felt similar to that Genesis 4 result. Mango put all his strength into beating Hungrybox and didn’t seem as mentally prepared to face Armada’s overwhelming, punish-heavy Peach.

M2K nearly pulls it off

However, Armada did struggle in one of the most intense and pain staking sets of 2017. Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman, similar to Mango against Hungrybox, put his heart and soul into beating Armada. Even in a best of three, the set felt like it took ages. A seven minute game three on Pokémon stadium was a game to be remembered. Every single hit was important.

Although M2K didn’t get the win, he managed to make Armada sweat. Something that isn’t easy to do. In no other set did Armada feel that pressure or the threat of a loss. Armada went 12-3 in the semifinal bracket, and despite a small setback against Jeff “Axe” Williamson, he dominated all day.

Armada sets up a chance at the “Threevo”

I don’t want to already move on to 2018, but it’s hard not to picture what could happen in the days to come. Mango has spoken of a third Evo title, but has let it linger too long and now is in jeopardy of potentially losing the “threevo” to his nemesis, Armada.

In the event that Mango and Armada meet in another Evo grand final, the stakes will be as high as they’ve ever been. But for now, it’s Armada’s time to sit back and enjoy another Evo title. One of the hardest working players in Smash continues to separate himself from the rest of the pack. The onus is on the rest of the field to match the Evolution 2017 world champion.

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