Matchup Breakdown: GC Busan and RunAway even as it gets for Apex Season 4 Final

The long, arduous Apex season is drawing to a close with the best possible matchup remaining in the Grand Finals. Thirty-two teams have been leveled down to the upstart GC Busan, who’s having a coming out party in Season Four versus a team that was once in their position: RunAway, who’s now in a role reversal as the experienced team.

GC Busan over C9 Kongdoo. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/ogn

In terms of talent, no one is surprised to see either of these teams reach the final. GC Busan qualified as a challenger team heading into this season, but it was clear early on that this team belonged in Apex. After a clean 4-0 sweep of Cloud9 Kongdoo (formerly Kongdoo Panthera), this team has arrived. It wasn’t just a sweep, but a complete and total annihilation of a more experienced and favored team.

Flip to RunAway, a team who had their hearts broken against the juggernaut Lunatic-Hai in the Season Two finals. RunAway got out to a 3-1 lead only to blow three straight games in a gut wrenching loss that stuck with them heading into Season Three. Amid that loss and a losing Kaiser midway through the season made it tough for the team to adjust. A season later, RunAway is back to their perch and once again four wins away from an Apex title.

It’s a fantastic matchup for Overwatch fans, and after both teams pummeled their opponents in the Apex semifinals, both teams enter these finals playing at their best. It’s also a chance to see a Lunatic-Hai-less Apex Finals for the first time since Season One. Let’s break down each aspect of the matchup.

DPS: RunAway

DPS is where this series is going to be won and lost. No question about it, both these teams thrive in their playmakers. On one side, GC Busan can rely on Park “Profit” Joon-Yeong on Tracer and Lee “Hooreg”Dong-Eun picking heroes based on matchups (as he did against Kongdoo). Those two make up maybe the second best DPS duo in all of Apex.

However, RunAway sports the best DPS-duo with Lee “Sitch” Choong-Hui on Tracer and Kim “Haksal” Hyo-Jong as the best Genji main in the world. It’s not a good reason RunAway has managed to get this far but it is the main reason. Stitch’s ability to get to the back line on offense and Haksal’s constant ultimate charge for endless Dragon Blades makes them this effective.

Whilst, on paper it might favor RunAway’s dynamic combination and use of the dive-heavy compositions with Genji. GC Busan has some of the most effective game planning, and as we saw against C9 Kongdoo, Hooreg has the ability to shut them down. Neutralizing Haksal’s Dragon Blade damage and capitalizing on better ultimate economy is key.

RunAway vs NC Foxes. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/ogn

Tank: RunAway

The tank line in this matchup doesn’t feel as important as the DPS-matchup, but in some ways, players like RunAway’s Hwang “TiZi” Jang-Hyeon and GC Busan’s Hong “Gesture” Jae-Hee have helped decide some matchups this year. In my eyes, it’s extra important for GC Busan to outplay RunAway in this area as a dive-counter.

In a sense, this area of the game should be a push. TiZi and Gesture separated themselves as two of the best Winston mains. It’s a big reason why these two teams find each other here. The advantage for RunAway is in Choo “JJANU” Hyeon-Woo on D.Va. In the semifinals, he displayed the ability to play a support D.Va and was a big reason the two DPS-mains were able to live forever and take chances.

Essentially, the two Winston’s will cancel each other out. Sung “WOOHYAL” Seung-Hyun is the wildcard here. In a flex position, he’s been playing more tank and has come on at the end of the season. He’s a major reason this team has even made it to this point and could spoil Ruxaway’s day if he plays his best.

Support: RunAway

Despite RunAway having the advantage in all three areas, the margins here are razor thin. But unlike the other two, RunAway has the biggest matchup advantage at support. Kim “KoX” Min-Soo is the main reason for that. Park “Bumper” Sang-Beom has been unbelievably reliable as the RunAway Lucio, but there aren’t many players with the sort of game changing effectiveness that KoX has on all his characters.

For GC Busan, it was a revolving door for their supports to start the season. The addition of Jun “Closer” Won-Sik gave them some stability with a Lucio-main. However, the ultimate coordination has not been as strong as RunAway’s this season. That could be the difference for GC Busan when trying to defend against Haksal’s Sound Barrier-Dragon Blade.

Back to KoX, RunAway is not afraid to flex him out toReaper or another tank. The moving compositions make it really tough for opposing teams to game plan against. That’s why KoX will be such a major factor in this matchup. Other than that, KoX has a great sense of when to use Transcendence with Zenyatta.

In the one time they faced off this season, it was as close as it gets. GC Busan not only won on control point and the escort map Route 66, but fairly dominated. Unfortunately for them, RunAway’s strongest on hybrid maps and has a pension for assault maps. As it stands now, the set winner is most likely going to come down to who wins the two escort maps (games four and six).

Whatever the result, it should be a great show and a great preview of the worlds best players before the Overwatch League kicks off. If I had to make a pick, it feels as if RunAway is due for a title. GC Busan will do whatever necessary to make sure that doesn’t happen. Series should go six or seven games.


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EnvyUs and Misfits heavy Favorites to win Overwatch Contenders Season One

As the Overwatch League creeps closer, and before the preseason starts, the leagues worldwide, including the Contenders series, Korea’s Apex, and OPC in Taiwan will conclude. Five major event champions will be crowned in October, and a world champion will take the Apex crown.

Notably, another team will be crowned before the start of the preseaon giving teams and fans a taste of what’s to come in the Overwatch league. The events I will be focusing on in this piece will be the regional contender series: North America and Europe specifically. On October 8th, these regionals leagues will conclude their season and crown two champions.

Let’s take a look at the Contender playoffs

Overwatch Contenders Season One: North America

It’s clear who the favorites are in North America. EnvyUs had a perfect 7-0 record, going +21 in individual games, and only four game losses on the season. FaZe Clan is the only other team to even compete with EnvyUs, going 6-1 in the group with the only loss coming from EnvyUs.

Team EnvyUs. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/ogn

In the bottom two of the playoffs, Envision eSports and FNRGE will look to pull the upsets. Against EnvyUs, NRG was one of the few teams to take a game and give them any sort of trouble (EnvyUs finished 25-4 on the season). NRG played them tight on escort maps, but ultimately fell 3-1. In the other matchup, Faze has the season advantage over Envision with a 4-1 regular season win. The only game Envision won was a draw on Hanamura. Both EnvyUs and FaZe are heavily favored to reach the finals.

It’s likely that the two uber-talented North American rosters will play in the title game. EnvyUs is a well established team with a world title under their belt. Taimou, Harryhook, and most of the roster have the experience. FaZe doesn’t have quite the same level of experience, but in terms of talent they matchup well.

Unfortunately, FaZe doesn’t have the continuity on the roster that EnvyUs has. The additions of Spree, Joemeister, and especially the addition of South Korean DPS-main: Carpe show that it’s clear they’re much improved and should give EnvyUs all they can handle.

Overwatch Contenders Season One: Europe

Similarly to North America, Europe was dominated by one of the more established and experienced teams in Overwatch. Mistfits only dropped two games in the regular season and finished at a staggering 27-2 (+25, best of any contender team). The only other teams to compete were the talented up-and-coming Team Gigantti, out of Finland, and 123. The two teams will matchup in the semifinals and have a chance to face (presumably) Misfits in the title match.

TviQ and the Misfits squad. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/ogn

In terms of dominance, Misfits didn’t drop a single game to any of the playoff teams. And similarly to EnvyUs and Rogue, Misfits is one of the few foreign teams to get a chance to gain Apex experience. They still have one of the most talented DPS players, TviQ, and a strong roster to follow. It will take a great effort for any team to take out the top seeded Misfits in these playoffs.

Lastly, the second overall seed Gigantti will have the mismatches in the semifinals. After a 3-1 regular season victory over 123, they looked primed at another face-off with Misfits. The regular season matchup wasn’t close, though. A 4-0 with a number of convincing victories.

Whatever the case, it should be a good glimpse into which teams are primed to take the next step as we move closer to the start of the Overwatch League.


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Hungrybox wins GTX 2017 with clutch victory over Armada

The recipe for Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma’s success against Adam “Armada” Lindgren is to stay within striking distance. Aggressive on game one, gain counter-pick advantage and win game five on Yoshi’s. The win at GTX 2017 marks Hungrybox’s third Grand Finals victory over Armada this year.

GTX- 2017 main stage. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

Once again, Hungrybox adds another improbable championship run to his list of career achievements. In reality, it’s Hbox’s droid-like ability to stay calm in the frenzy that wins him tournaments. Over the years, he’s developed those late-game situations with rest setups and it’s what makes his Jigglypuff style so strong.

Correspondingly, Hungrybox has earned his title of most clutch player once again. Armada is a machine in today’s game, but even Armada is susceptible to nerves under pressure. Armada’s route to a championship is built on winning game one of a set. It allows him to get counter-pick advantage for a potential game five. At the same time, Hungrybox managed to get ahead in two separate sets with an aggressive game plan.

However, it wasn’t a blemish-free day for Hbox. Even with five set wins over Fox, Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman got the best of him in the winners bracket, but Hbox didn’t drop a set the rest of the day. It’s no surprise considering two of his opponents have pocket Foxs specifically for Hungrybox’s Jugglypuff.

Shroomed earns a spot on The Summit

Another key point, DaJuan “Shroomed” McDaniel earning the Summit spot, giving it to the highest placing non-invite player. Shroomed had to out-place Johnny “S2J” Kim and Sami “DruggedFox” Muhanna, who both started in losers bracket.

Luckily, Shroomed didn’t have to win a set in top eight to qualify. He fell quickly to Armada and Zac “SFAT” Cordoni, losing 3-0 in both sets. S2J almost pulled off the upset over SFAT, 3-2, but that’s the closest any non-invite got to Shroomed. Early in pools, William “Leffen” Hjelte fell to Lovage in a best of three. That loss reverberated through the bracket and Shroomed turned that into a Summit invite.

Mew2King Improving against Armada

M2K in top eight. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

M2K had arguably the second best day outside of Hungrybox. As M2K stated in a tweet, he was actually the only one to beat Hbox at GTX. A near win against Armada would’ve been his first in 2017, and only his third in the last three years.

Despite the numbers, M2K’s Marth had a better showing against Armada’s turnip strategy. He had both a game one advantage and a 2-1 lead, but couldn’t win on his counter-pick. Hungrybox has the mental advantage over Armada in those situations, M2K still struggles to win when the game is on the line.

Nonetheless, his pocket Fox pick against Hungrybox is starting to win at more than a .500 rate. In fact, M2K’s Fox seems to be having the most consistent success against the Puff lately. The problem for M2K has always been winning the second set, and Hungrybox has a more fluid game plan.

M2K is improving, but it’s still unlikely that he gets over the Armada mountain anytime soon. Joseph “Mango” Marquez and Hungrybox are still the only two players capable of beating Armada.

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Yukadon’s Dominating Ibuki Play wins SCR 2017

Ibuki, since the start of season two, has been considered one of, if not the best character in street Fighter V. At SoCal Regionals 2017, Fujimara “Yukadon” Atsushi put on a show with Ibuki that clearly showed the characters potential. The win for Yukadon will inspire players to try out all of Ibuki’s wonderful offensive tools.

In Grand Finals, it was apparent what Yukadon was trying to do with his aggressive play style. Facing off against one of South Korea’s rising fighting game stars, NL, Yukadon enforced his game plan on Cammy by pushing her to the corner. Then, it was Yukadon’s time to use the many mixups in Ibuki’s arsenal to keep NL guessing.

Even against Cammy, who’s well known for being one of the stronger characters, NL looked limited. Not to mention the movement, with the dash unders and staying at a precise space to get maximum damqage with Ibuki’s bomb combos, really gave NL and the rest of the players at SCR a rough time. One of the first times in SFV where a character looked broken.

Yukadon Finding his Main
Yukadon was one of many Nash players forced off of that character because of the nerfs. It’s taken half the year, but it looks like the uber-talented Yukadon found a character that allows him to play that similar Nash style. In fact, Ibuki seems more suited to Yukadon’s fluent, pressure-oriented play style.

Ever since his run at Evo 2016, it seemed as if Yukadon has taken a step back in his development. One of the smartest, fastest thinking players had suddenly regressed. The changeover from season one to two hit him hard. Despite a 17th place finish at Evo 2017, it did seem as if Yukadon was starting to improve again with a new character. A win at Dreamhack Summer, over some talented players, spurred on further development and now we’re seeing Yukadon at his best.

At SCR, he had plenty of close matches but ended up finishing 15-4 in top 64. He also had two individual set wins over NL and snuck out a close 2-1 over Justin Wong. His day wasn’t perfect, but it was a step towards eventually taking the tournament. In top 8, he finished 9-3 and was playing some amazingly efficient Street Fighter.

The Rise of NL
Conversely, NL surprised many Street Fighter fans by finishing second at a premier event. In only his fifth premier event of the year, he achieved by far his best result. He did however get 13th at Combobreaker 2017 and 17th at CEO 2017. He’s clearly talented, but until this weekend had never put it all together like this.

NL after falling to Yukadon. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/leveluplive

Consequently, NL had the hardest road to Grand Finals starting top 8 in losers. As stated earlier, he did already face Yukadon in top 64 and made him work. What followed after was a trail of closely fought matches that he came out on top time-and-time again. His list of names taken out include: Justin Wong, Momochi, Commander Jesse, Smug, MenaRD, and JB. It was quite the losers bracket run for the rising star.

Ibuki Factor
Yukadon’s not the only player to find the many advantage Ibuki presents in most situations. Xian was the first player to make a change to Ibuki, and while it worked out at first has somewhat stagnated. Another former Nash player, Infiltration, also tried to make a change. Yukadon looks to be the first player to switch to Ibuki and have prolonged success.

According to Haitani, Bonchan and Fuudo, three fantastic players, had Ibuki as the clear number one. Now in reality, that means squat. It’s just an opinion. But, it’s safe to say an Ibuki surge is coming and it starts with Yukadon. She’s clearly a good character, and now we’re going to see that translate into tournament wins.

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SoCal Regionals 2017 preview: Street Fighter V and Marvel vs Capcom Infinite

SoCal Regionals has been a staple and one of the few times the fighting game scene takes its talents to the most talented region in the United States. The event will feature 12 separate tournaments including the worlds first major Marvel vs Capcom Infinite tournament. The focus will be on Street Fighter V, but there’s enough for all types of fighting game fans to keep them interested.

The four main events will be Street Fighter V, Marvel vs Capcom Infinite, Tekken 7 and Injustice 2. Marvel will be the most intriguing because it’s a new game, but the SFV tournament will have the most fire power with all the heavy-hitters showing up. All the other events have significantly lower turnouts.

Unfortunately, the event as a whole has much lower turnout than expected. The reason for this is the tournament overlap, which is spreading out the talent. TGS, EGX and CEOTaku are all happening and plenty of Street Fighter and other players are playing elsewhere this weekend. A large portion are still making their way to California, but this explains why the turnout has dipped.

Street Fighter V

Street Fighter V is going to be a mix of the regular Wednesday night fight crew intertwined with some Japanese players and a slew of top-20 players. The favorite heading into the weekend will be the juggernaut Punk but players like Darryl “Snake Eyez” Lewis, Eduardo “PR_Rog” Perez, Justin Wong and momochi could be a problem for Punk.

PG Punk. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/evo2k

Based off bracket projections, it’ll most likely come down to either Snake Eyez, PR_Rog or 801Strider on the winners side. There’s plenty of potential upsets along the way with names like NO RESPECT, Veloreon and ChrisT waiting to take out the top names. Top 64 will be separated into four separate 16 player brackets that get funneled into top 8.

In terms of must-watch matches, the potential for upsets is there for a lot of these match ups, but I’m looking more towards underrated threats to make deep runs. BrianF vs Smug is a set I’ll be looking forward to. Two of the best Balrog players facing off once again. NO RESPECT with his patented Urien going up against Momochi (and Justin Wong). K-Brad against Verloren could decide that entire pool.

SCR won’t feature the heavyweight bouts, but there’s enough talent to watch a whole bunch of high quality matchups. It’ll also be interesting to see if any of the top four fall. Punk has had early bracket trouble in the past, and there’s names here that players aren’t necessarily prepared for.

Marvel vs Capcom Infinite

Expect the unexpected with Marvel Infinite. Obviously with the game being released last Tuesday the depths of the mechanics and characters won’t be close to fleshed out. Early tournaments are more for feeling out certain strategies and even more importantly, CHEESING.

Week one tournaments almost always come down to cheese. Cheesing essentially means using cheap tactics that haven’t been learned to counter yet and winning. It’s a fleeting feeling of superiority, but it’s undoubtedly effective in the early stages of a fighting game. Let’s look at the players who might take advantage of this at SCR.

Looking at the names attending, it seems pretty straight forward who’ll be able to quickly adapt and have a chance to take the event. The first names to focus on are the veterans: Justin Wong, NYChrisG, Cloud805 or RayRay. Any of these guys are capable of winning, but week one tournaments usually aren’t about talent.

In the end, it will be a combination of a gimmick team or strategy, a lot of luck, and the overall experience of a dedicated fighting game player. At the same time, natural talent can compensate for lack of experience. Expect to see new players giving experienced players a run for their money.

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Melee’s Competition Committee good for the community despite shaky start

It’s about time the Smash community formed a governing body to watch over all competitive decisions. For a long time, the onus has been on the individual tournament organizers to make the decisions without any real discussion on practicality. It’s been a mixed bag of results, seemingly changing from week to week.

I’m here to tell you that “The 25” is a step in the right direction.

Lack of diversity

Before I dive deeper, I want to address the Adam “Armada” Lindgren situation. Armada, the greatest Melee player in history, left his post on the committee to make way for a female representative. The fact that all 25 members were male was a reality check and Armada took it into his own hands to right this egregious wrong.

Smash Sisters at Shine 2017. Photo courtesy of twitter.com/smash_sisters

Yes, the amount of females in the community is a small percentage compared to males, but that’s what makes it even more important to reach out to females. Women have almost zero representation or voice in this community and that dissuades others from potentially entering tournaments. Giving females a voice is paramount to easing the tension females feel in this community. Also, giving power to females could be beneficial to the scene as a whole.

So, good on Armada for recognizing this great indifference and taking action. It might not seem like a big deal to some, but what’s the point of a rules committee if not everyone’s voice is heard. Even the smaller and less vocal groups. The committee is still considering options at this point, since Armada’s departure, but it’s forcing them to consider on a female member.

The committee itself has been under severe scrutiny with many community members missing the point of its creation. Above all else, it was formed to create fairness for all competitors as the scene adapts to new technology and formats.

Shine 2017 is a great example of this and it also helped spawn the CoC. MattDotZeb is as experienced as they come in Smash and even he came across a situation that has never been dealt with before. The decision to make UCF legal and mandatory was an innovative idea, but the perils of trying something out is not being prepared if something goes awry. The situation led to a controversial decision that left the community angry.

It’s not the first time either. Situations like Shine happen a few times a year in seemingly big spots. It’s hard enough for organizers to deal with running the event itself, but having to make stressful decisions with time constraints is something else entirely. That’s where the CoC comes in and can help out.

Despite what some think, the CoC is not a power grab setup for Melee dictatorship. It’s not mandatory. It’s just an outlet of experienced and professional people to give assurance and assistance to tournaments and events. It will help streamline everything and get more consistency from different events.

“The Melee Competition Committee (CC), which includes the Leadership Panel (“The 5”) and the At-Large Panel (“The 25”), was formed so that we’d have a process in place for prominent tournament organizers, players, and influencers to come to the table, and unify rulesets at a critical point in our history. In a time when players were clamoring for consistency, fairness, and clarity in regards to Melee gameplay rules across events, we brought some of the community’s biggest names together to make their opinions accountable: in exchange for having the power to make lasting change, they’d have to make all votes and amendments public.”

The structure

Shine 2017. Photo courtey of twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

The structure is setup to promote accountability down the line. No one can deny the members of this community being the right choice in helping manage decisions. It was a carefully selected group of some of the pioneers of the Melee community along with some lesser known names. The diversity is there from players, coaches, player managers, tournament organizers, streamers and even historians.

However, the lack of women is appalling, as stated earlier. My only problem is the five members heading the operation. Self-proclaimed power and importance of opinion seems unjust, and while they’re here to get the decision-making process started, it feels as if those five will be making most of the decisions.

It’s an incredibly important time for Melee and the CoC is here to make it last and strengthen our events. While I’ll disagree with some of the methods used when creating this committee, I also see the benefits of having a governing body. This is not the Melee backroom, where all discussion are kept private. The CoC promises to keep everything out in the open for the public to see. It’s a test run and we’ll see if it actively makes the Melee community more appealing to players.

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Redbull Gods and Gatekeepers: A fresh new idea with mixed results

Melee’s at a stage in its development where trying new things is not only fresh and new but necessary. Singles tournaments are great, but the audience needs something to keep them interested aside from singles. Crew tournaments could be that outlet.

Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman showed us the potential of teams and how different compositions can work.

Yes, the M2K team was absolutely stacked: Shroomed, Duck, and Zhu create a rather tough opponent, but that wasn’t the main story coming out of Gods and Gatekeepers. No, the main story was the emergence of possibly the bigger underdog of the entire tournament.

Team SFAT. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/redbullesports

Zac “SFAT” Cordoni passed up depth in favor of teaming with his best bud and doubles partner Kevin “PPU” Toy. Now those two are incredible players, but the addition of Army and Ryan Ford was seemingly their downfall. Logic would say the best team is deep and not relying on any one person or strategy (hence why M2K’s team won), but that’s the exact strategy SFAT employed to reach the Grand Finals in WINNERS.

Here’s how they did it:

According to the rules, if a set extends to a game five, it’s no longer a one-vs-one match and turns into a doubles match to decide the winner. The key for team SFAT was: by any means necessary, force other teams into a game five. Considering SFAT and PPU make up the best team in the world it seemed to be a solid strategy.

For this reason, SFAT’s team was able to pull off upset after upset and fall into winners finals and eventually grand finals. Two game five wins over Daniel “ChuDat” Rodriguez and Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett’s teams propelled them to a second face finish. The struggles came when they got behind 2-0 in the set early and had to win out with bad matchups.

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/redbullesports

However, M2K’s team, despite falling to Wizzrobe’s squad, didn’t have to rely on strategy. The four players on the team knew all it took was winning the individual matchups. Yes, teams could compete with them, but the overall talent was clearly a step above the rest of the competition.

The Upsets

However, the crew battles did something that no tournament has done in quite a long time. It evened the Melee playing field. It was a nice change of pace to see names not usually in the spotlight making huge plays.

Ice warming up. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/redbullesports

 

The inspiring Marth play from Medz to upset team Mango 3-0. The doubles performance from ChuDat’s Ice Climbers and Weston “Westballz” Dennis to take out Leffen. Each of the top seeds fell in the first round – that’s something that has never happened in singles.

A team comprised of two fringe top-50 players almost won the entire event. Regardless of your opinion of the tournament format, there’s no denying it presented a myriad of surprising and fun results. I hope to see more of these types of tournaments in the future.


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Hungrybox busts out of his slump amid controversial and wild top 8

Shine 2017 was a microcosm of the year it’s been for Smash. It ended with a struggling Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma breaking out of his slump and beating Jospeh “Mango” Marquez’s new found Falco. Prior to that matchup, the Sunday afternoon was filled with bedlam and plenty of controversies. It was a good time for everyone not named MattDotZeb or Leffen.

ChuDat and Leffen in set one. Photo via twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

The Controller Controversy

Now some might think the University of Central Florida (UCF) played a major role in a decision made by the Shine tournament organizers on Sunday. That was unfortunately not the case. In fact, all the controversy that has dominated the headlines comes from a new mod from the 20xx team that was made legal before the event started.

If you haven’t heard, William “Leffen” Hjelte lost an extremely close set to Daniel “ChuDat” Rodriguz in the top 8, but according to the tournament rules, the set had to be replayed because the Universal Controller Fix (UCF) was turned off during the set. It was a complete oversight by the Shine crew, but one that isn’t completely shocking considering this is one of the first events to run with UCF on during play.

In short, Leffen noticed that the UCF was off and went through the necessary channels to field his complaint. His complaint was heard and despite losing the set, the Shine organizers decided to replay the entire set – a decision that has since rocked the Smash community.

Unfortunately for ChuDat, this oversight was at the expense of his tournament placing. It not only erased one of the more exciting sets of 2017 but actively changed the results. Opinions aside, mistakes happen and though it was a pretty glaring omission, Chu decided to play the set out. And let’s remember, these players aren’t playing for fun. If it’s in the rules it must be handled accordingly.

S2J after beating Shroomed 3-0. Photo via twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

The Curse is broken

Changing the subject, let’s talk about the play at this event. Aside from a flurry of second round upsets, the emergence of Johnny “S2J” Kim was the real story. It’s not only that S2J was able to do the seemingly impossible, but the fact that he did it in the most impressive way imaginable.

Moreover, most people will walk away from this tournament remembering the image of S2J landing the knee on Yoshi’s Island top platform to finally beat Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman. A week prior, I watched in amazement as S2J ran circles around Professor Pro in Europe. At Shine, that intense, mesmerizing speed showed up again and pushed S2J to his best major result ever.

It was a dazzling display of follow-ups, tech chases, and staying one step ahead of his opponents based off of his reaction timings. It was one of those moments where the sheer amazement of what a person was able to accomplish in the game boiled to the surface. The ending of the “curse” got one of the best crowd receptions all year and for good reason.

Hungrybox the slump buster

Finally, after a month of avoiding Hungrybox, the world got to see what character decision Mango would make in the matchup. Obviously, Mango has made a consorted effort to stick with the bird, but not having to face Hungrybox seemingly played into the decision. At Shine, all those questions were answered.

In light of Hungrybox struggling against the likes of Justin “Plup” McGrath and losing to M2K’s Fox, it was unclear when he would make his turn back into a top three. Any knowledgeable Smash fan would realize it was only a matter of time. It took a more conservative and focused effort but Hungrybox finally got back to his place on the pedestal.

On the other hand, Mango’s had another strong August. The return to Falco pushed that along, but with no Adam “Armada” Lindgren waiting in the shadows and a slumping Hungrybox, Mango had a little easier time maneuvering through the bracket. The first real test for his Falco finally presented itself: Hungrybox’s Jigglypuff.

Now conventionally, Falco hypothetically wins the Jigglypuff matchup. But, as we all know, Hungrybox has elevated Puff outside the modern meta-game. It no longer becomes a Jigglypuff matchup when facing the experience and skill of Hungrybox. Most pros, including Armada, believe Fox should be the pick for Mango, but others opinions have never influenced Mango before.

Mango stuck to his principles and didn’t switch off Falco until desperation time. At that point, it was too little too late, but there was more success in that matchup for Mango than with Falco. Mango didn’t do necessarily a bad job with Falco, but the limitations in Falco’s grab game and kill-setups were apparent. It was an important win for Hungrybox to get him back on the right track and should present Mango with another tough decision in their next meeting.


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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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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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