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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Best sets of Evolution

Evolution is known for bringing together the best fighting game players in the world and creating an environment where amazing things can happen. The prestige of the event makes every hit, combo and round extra important. This is why Evo is the holy grail in the fighting game community.

Over the last decade, Evo has been the home to some of the best matches in the history of fighting games. I picked out the 10 most revered matches since 2010 and ranked them. These are matches and moments that stick with fans and are known for their heart throbbing intensity. Without further adieu…

10. Gamerbee vs Justin Wong, 2011, USFIV

Here’s a general theme for this list: Justin Wong and Gamerbee will be featured quite a bit. Both are incredible players but more importantly have a flair for the dramatic. The 2011 set between these two was not only a heart throbbing affair, but quite possibly ended Justin Wong’s best and last chance at a Street Fighter IV Evo title. Breaking American’s hearts everywhere.

9. Ally vs Kamemushi, 2016, Smash for Wii U

2016 was a great year and Ally and Kamemushi was the match to set the tone. Kamemushi sent the overwhelming favorite in Zero home with a 3-0, but couldn’t slow down Ally who seemed destined to take the event. It was a great sight to see Kamemush’s Mega Man blow the crowd away.

8. SilentWolf vs Axe, Melee

A four-stock in 57 seconds. On game five. In front of a raucous crowd. Enough said.

7. LI Joe vs Eita, 2016, SFV

It might not be number one on this list, but for a lot of fans this is most memorable Evo set in a long time. LI Joe, an American hero, summoned the spirit of the bald eagle to take out one of Japan’s up-and-coming players. I’ve been to a handful of Evo’s and no crowd has ever been as united behind a player than they were for Joe that day.

6. Justin Wong Wins Marvel at Evo, 2014

The greatest Marvel player this world has ever seen had failed to obtain a Marvel 3 Evo title throughout the first three years of the game’s life. It felt like only a matter of time before Justin was able to get that illustrious title. During that run, he had one of the most memorable comebacks against ChrisG and ended up taking him out in grand finals which led to the famous barrel role.

5. MadKOF vs Bala, 2012, KOF XIII

The special part about Evo is at any moment a game that isn’t on a persons’ radar can absolutely blow them away. KOF XIII did that to an entire crowd in 2012. Bala’s win over MadKOF was the match of the day and brought plenty of eyes to that game. It also gave us MadKOF and his divider curtain that added to the intensity and importance of this set to all involved.

4. Xian vs Snake Eyez

Snake Eyez was a well known player, but it wasn’t until this set that we got the full scope on how good he actually is. Xian was the returning champ but Snake Eyez and the American crowd were having none of that. It took some timeouts and disciplined play, but Snake Eyez pulled it off.

3. Infiltration vs Gamerbee, 2015

As a send off to street Fighter IV, Gamerbee and Infiltration put it all out there and gave the crowd a helluva show. The intense thought between sets, the simultaneous water chugs and 90 second matches were special. This set had everything! I couldn’t have imagined a better way to end the SFIV era.

2. Dogura vs Garireo BlazBlue, 2014

Similarly to Bala vs Mad KOF, Dogura and Garireo had a similar affect. At the end of an exciting day, everyone was talking about the BlazBlue finals that started the day. One of the most emotionally charged sets ever had Garireo summoning all his focus and strength to pull off the unthinkable reset win.

1. Hungrybox vs Armada, 2016, Melee

I can’t remember a set with so many momentum changes as this one. In many instances, Hungrybox was a hit away from missing out on his first Evo title. But, he kept fighting and never gave up. In most of these games, Hungrybox went into last stock at a deficit, but as we know now Hungrybox has no conscious regardless of the set count.  Hungrybox stunned an entire crowd and kept us on the edge of our seats for 11 straight games.

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Featured image courtesy of twitch.tv/evo2k

Super Smash Bros Melee Evo 2017 odds

Evolution 2017 takes place next weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada, and in classic Vegas fashion I’m here to present the odds for Super Smash Brothers Melee. Of the 1,493 entrances, one of these players on the list below will be Evo champion. Will it be a past champion or a new name that takes the title?

9/4 Adam “Armada” Lindgren

It’s been a long time since anyone other than Armada was the favorite heading into an event. The two-time Evo champion is still amid the best year of his career. For Armada, he’s already accomplished the Melee gauntlet of tournament wins in his career. The lone achievement missing from his mantle is a third Evo title, or the “threevo.”

The 2017 tournament will be his second chance to obtain the illustrious third title that Hungrybox ripped out of his grasp in 2016. Armada will be focused and prepared. It will take an inhuman effort, like Hungrybox last year to take out Armada.

13/5 Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma

Armada is the favorite, but Hungrybox has the most recent major victory between the two of them. Smash N’ Splash 3 presented another game five set and like Evo 2016, Hungrybox edged him out. If anything, Hungrybox will have the most momentum of any player. With the recent win and the fact that he’s a returning champion, Hungrybox must feel a wave of confidence.

The key match will not be with Armada, but with Mango. The play of Mango’s Fox could be a potential hurdle en route to another championship.

Armada and Hbox, Evo 2016. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/evo2k

15/5 Joseph “Mango” Marquez

Mango has had two disappointing Evo performances in the last two years. After scraping out two Evo titles previously, much was expected of him the last couple of years and in both instances Hungrybox ended his run. It was a despairing couple of losses due to the anticipation of the “threevo,” which is a title not many fighting game players hold.

The reality is that Mango still has another Evo run inside him. His talents still show up, not as often as in previous years, but the potential to win is there. This aspect makes Mango such a dangerous player heading into this weekend.

6/1 Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman

M2K is the one of the top four that has failed to win an Evo. Historically, Evo has been M2K’s worst major of the year. Some of his worst career performances have taken place at Evo. He’s never made it past a fifth-place finish. It’ll be another difficult year to break through for M2K, especially if Leffen plays up to par.

6/1 William “Leffen” Hjelte

Leffen is the wildcard once again. Recently, he’s given Armada some trouble and has pushed players like Hungrybox to their limits. Leffen rarely wins the tournament, but on any given day he’s capable of beating anyone. There’s not many players with the matchup prowess and understanding of Leffen.

18/1 Justin “Plup” McGrath

Plup is coming off a third-place finish at Evo 2016. A performance in which he took out Mango. Well, guess what? Plup will play Mango and his tournament success could ride on that matchup and if he can rewrite the history between him and Hungrybox.

25/1 Zac “SFAT” Cordoni

SFAT has cooled off a bit in 2017 after a breakout 2016, but the Fox player still has enough winnable matchups to get him over the top. SFAT avoids his problem matchups in M2K and Armada and will get ChuDat, Hungrybox and Mango. All players he’s had mild success against. If he can somehow get a win over a couple of these players, he could carry that momentum into the top 8.

30/1 Weston “Westballz” Dennis

The return of the extreme punish heavy Westballz has seemingly returned in 2017. The defense is still there, but now he’s starting to hit harder again with his Falco. He matches up with Leffen, who he has had close sets with in the past, but could run into some problems down the line.

30/1 Jeff “Axe” Williamson

Axe will have his hands full with Wizzrobe and Armada in bracket. He’ll have to play extremely well to have a shot at top 8 winners. The secret advantage Axe possesses is having the raucous Arizona crowd, which is in close proximity to the Vegas area, cheering for him.  Let’s see if Axe has the Evo main stage magic once again.

35/1 Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett

Wizzrobe could be the one underdog to place your money on this weekend. It feels like a matter of time before he has another breakout performance. He can compete with the upper echelon players and he’s starting to win more of the 50-50 matchups. Wizzrobe now has the tournament experience necessary and is a threat to win an Evo.

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Featured image courtesy of twitch.tv/evo2k

Evo 2017: Attendance drop is just returning to the mean

Evolution 2017 has seen massive drop-offs in terms of entrances. Street Fighter V is down nearly 50% from 2016, both Smash games lost almost 1,000 unique entrants, and the newer released games failed to reach their expected marks. So, what’s causing this?

The game to focus on here is Street Fighter V. SFV was wildly successful in its first year as players seemed ready to move on from Street Fighter IV. This caused the spike in attendance from Evo 2015 to Evo 2016. The extra 2,800 players created a trickle down effect for the rest of the games as there were the most crossover entrances in Evo history.

The fighting game community was buzzing around the time Evo 2016 rolled around. SFV was still a new game and no one wanted to miss out on the first Evo featuring the newest Street Fighter game. Evo 2016 had the most first timers in its history. While first time attendees are a good thing, it’s fleeting and not sustainable. It created unreasonable expectations for the follow-up year because the numbers exploded.

Additionally, Evo made the jump from the Westgate to the Las Vegas Convention Center while moving championship Sunday to the Mandalay Bay Sports Arena. It was a perfect combination of Evo taking strides to enhance the experience and a new game that brought extra attention to the tournament. It all culminated into the biggest Evo in its 14-year history.

evo 2017

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/capcomfighters

Fast forward to today, the buzz from last year has died off. In some respects, players now consider SFV to be an under-developed game that was rushed to market. Even with an influx of other fighting games being released in 2017, the sour taste SFV left in players mouths might have dissuaded them from attending Evo.

The direct result of SFV’s lackluster year is what we’re seeing now. Attendance is down across the board, with a few exceptions. SFV took the biggest hit. It’s not the sole reason attendance is down, but the larger player pool provided by SFV facilitated growth for nearly every other game.

Was 2016 an outlier? 

On the other hand, 2016 could be considered an outlier. Before 2016, Evo had never reached over 10,000 unique entrants. The numbers have been skewed by new releases and don’t provide an accurate estimate.

Take the release of the new Super Smash Brothers game for example. Three years ago, the popularity spiked and broke the record for the second most entered event in Evo history. Then the release of SFV started the trickle down and Smash re-broke their same record.

Returning to the present time, the Smash 4 numbers have dropped significantly. Is it because the community has shrunken in size? No, it’s just coming back to the average. Evo had doubled the entrants of most Smash majors last year. It’s no surprise to see the Evo numbers coming down.

As for Melee, the lack of a Sunday slot seemed to hurt the overall total. Part of the draw of Evo is having your favorite game on the main stage Sunday afternoon. Melee’s numbers dropping are correlated to the move to Saturday’s night. The trickle down hurts melee as well but not nearly as bad as Smash 4. It’s Evo’s lowest number of entrants for Melee since 2013.

In reality, the combination of factors when realizing that last year was a total outlier and not indicative of actual Evo numbers explains the drop. It’s still the third largest Evo in the tournaments history and will bring the same level of competition as ever. The general fan decided to stay and watch from home this year.


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Featured image courtesy of twitch.tv/capcomfighters

The newcomer’s guide to Evo 2017

EVO 2017 is a monster of a three day tournament. It’s been going strong online with viewership rising steadily since 2009. With two weeks to go, we’ll give some tips on how to watch, enjoy and survive the long three day weekend of EVO. Make sure to grab some snacks.

Pre-Show: Snacks r’ Us

Courtesy of Kellog

Think of this like a Super Bowl and Wrestlemania for video games. Limited commercial breaks, minor swearing, insults, trash talking, mind games, commentators going hoarse- and that’s just Friday. A usual set up to watch as much of the action as possible requires north of three TVs, a mini fridge, assorted snacks of multiple veins. Pizza is a must order in case matches go long. It also helps to have one or two friends sit down and watch with you as this is a spectacle. Most of all, during any sort of downtime, make sure to stay hydrated in some fashion and reload any and all snacks. It helps if you’re going to watch EVO with someone to bring some food as well.

First: Know the LINEUP

Street Fighter V – The longest running staple in the fighting game scene. The premier game that gets all the attention.

Tekken 7 – The step sister to Street Fighter. Pioneering the 3-D arena combat games, it’s held in regard to Street Fighter as a near equal.

Guilty Gear Xrd Rev2 – A new game in an old style, Guilty Gear is the alternative to Street Fighter as a 2.5D (3D characters on a 2D plane) with flashier visuals, absurd characters and a much more underground scene.

Injustice 2 – Mortal Kombat and Justice League in one game. If one has ever wondered about Mortal Kombat, this game is the successor to it and always has a strong showing.

Super Smash Bros. Melee – The oldest played game featured on stream, Smash Bros. Melee has been a underground community until it broke into EVO a few years ago. Since then, it’s given rise to a second coming of Esports within itself and others.

Super Smash Bros for Wii U – The little cousin, Smash for WiiU or Sm4sh is more casual and easier to watch. Players in this are less famous than the Melee counterparts yet all the more entertaining as the character pool is more diverse.

BlazBlue: Central Fiction – made by the people who made Guilty Gear. It features highly detailed sprites, ridiculously combos and an in-depth combo breaking system. No character within the game is too good or too bad to be played.

King of Fighters 14 – A new game on the scene, it must fill the shoes of the last KoF which was 13. It’s legacy is more well renown internationally, as its character pool is largely diverse with interesting 3 on 3 game play.

Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 – The last of an old guard, MvC 3 is likely about to have its last big major at Evo 2017. It was never quite Street Fighter but it did have incredible moments tied to it.

Second: Know the Players and the scene

Street Fighter V

 

SFV logo courtesy of Capcom

Memorize these names: Daigo, Justin Wong, Infiltration, Fuudo, KnuckleDu, Xaiohai, GamerBee, Xian, LI Joe, PR Balrog, Punk, and Snake Eyez. It seems absolutely ridiculous with these names but they’re the actual notables for Street Fighter. Justin Wong and Daigo Umehara essentially built the Street Fighter scene. If you google Evo Moment Number 37, it’s those two clashing almost fifteen years prior. Older players recognize  Daigo and Justin Wong, while Infiltration, Xiaohai, Xian, PR Balrog, Fuudo, KnuckleDu, Tokido, Momochi and Bonchan made their names specifically to american crowds in Street Fighter 4. GamerBee put an exclaimation on his name by eliminating Justin Wong in a set that shocked the crowd and the bracket. Xian, Fuudo, Infiltration and Daigo are all previous EVO winners. New comer Punk looks to be the favorite for Street Fighter V and might win it all. Rarely has a unanimous favorite ever won an EVO as competition within this particular tournament is fierce and notoriety is just a target on your back.

 

Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 and BlazBlue

Only one name needs to be mentioned for this and it’s Dogura. Ever since his appearance in BlazBlue, Dogura has essentially ruled most of the “anime fighters” with an iron fist in the past. Now sponsored by cyclops, Dogura looks to take another couple jewels for his crown. His opponents like Kazunoko in GG and Kizzie Kay in both GG and BlazBlue may not be so kind as to oblige. Look for a lot of the quarter finals to really open up as there’s very little wiggle room when it comes to the standings and rankings of these games. Skills gets wins and a lot of the players mentioned have spent a good chunk of time understanding the fundamentals of these games as much as the high flying combos. Their game has no weaknesses that are easily perceived.

Injustice 2

Sonic Fox holds the number one rank in nearly every game made by Nether Realm Studios. Mortal Kombat X and Injustice before that, Sonic Fox has been involved in the scene. This year however begs the question for upsets. Injustice’s balancing has shifted from the long range pokes of Deadshot and Dr. Fate to mainstays from Injustice 1, namely Aquaman, Batman and Superman. Players will likely rotate in counter picks at will as having a good back up character is a great idea to set the edge against an opponent.

Smash Bros

While the scenes are not remotely interchangeable the games are. For Melee, it’s always going to be a close debate on who wins the whole thing. Armada, Mango, Hungrybox, Mew2King are four of the five gods of Melee and despite age – nothing has changed, they still cycle between who is the best. Leffen who is more an anti-god never fails to challenge them however. If any of those five names are streamed, it’ll likely be a massacre. If two of those five names are on the screen however, the match will likely be blowing up chat, Twitter and people’s minds all at the same time. In the meantime however, the Sm4sh scene has quietly congealed into ZeRo versus everyone else. The past two years, ZeRo has essentially crushed in near every bracket he’s been in. Players like Dabuz and Nairo have stood up against ZeRo but it’s never truly fallen in their favor.

Third: Study the schedule

While Evo 2017’s schedule has yet to be posted, the event is closing in and the stream guide will be the window. Look at the games and ask yourself which ones you’re curious to see played at the highest possible levels.

No game is a bad watch and experimenting is definitely encouraged. Top picks for sure will be Injustice 2 – the early games show off a lot of the unorthodox plays and the character range will be diverse. Guilty Gear and BlazBlue always have interesting matches and will likely be great sometime on Saturday depending on the quarter and semifinals schedule. Finally, save as much energy and food for Sunday. That essentially is the gauntlet of five or six games in a row running throughout the day into the evening.

The games without knowing the order will be Sm4sh, Tekken 7, BlazBlue, Marvel 3 and Street Fighter 5 with two hours set aside for each block.  The snub for Melee is likely due to it taking an abnormally long time to finish the last two years among other reasons. Yet that absence will likely cause enough conspiracies to rise up as to why. Regardless, this guide hopefully helps get you through EVO 2017 weekend.


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Can America end the winless streak in Street Fighter at Evolution 2017?

In the history of the Evolution series, no American born player has won the most current Street Fighter game since it was called B4 in 2000. It’s been a bloodbath of American Street Fighter players falling to the great Japanese players like Daigo “The Beast” Umehara in Street Fighter IV or Shinya “Nuki” Ohnuki in 3rd Strike. But, 2017 might be the year the impossible happens.

Looking at the current Capcom Cup standings, three American players sit atop the leader boards. Victor “Punk” Woodley is the top dog, Du “NuckleDu” Dang is a close second, and Darryl “Snake Eyez” Lewis is starting to push the other two. These three players are playing a level above the rest of the competition right now and will give America its best shot at an Evo title in years.

History is not on America’s Side

The last real chance came in 2009, when Street Fighter IV was still in its first year. Like the famous ‘Evo Moment: 37’ in 2004, the ballet between Justin Wong and Daigo Umehara in 09’ was one of the most unforgettable sets in fighting game history. Justin pushed Daigo to his limits, but the strength of his unrelenting Ryu carried him to another Evo title. A year later Ricki Ortiz had her shot and in similar fashion, but couldn’t quite get over that hill that was Daigo.

Americans have been close. Real close. But, in the end, the Japanese players have prevailed proving their international fighting game dominance. Justin Wong has four runner ups in Street Fighter. Jason “Afro Cole” Cole did win two consecutive Street Fighter II: Turbo titles, but no other American has sniffed a title.

Meanwhile, even Europe has an Evo title in the past 15 years. In one of the most surprising Saturday and Sunday runs ever, Oliver “Luffy” Hay ran through loser’s bracket to eventually beat the favorite, Masato “Bonchan” Takahashi, and be the first French player to win Evo.

So, if Europe has one, is America just getting an unlucky break each year? Yes and no. It’s tough when players have been close on so many different occasions and not come away with any hardware. But that would be taking away from the Japanese rigorous training and overall talent level to reach their goals. Justin Wong made us believe it’s possible, but now eight years since his loss to Daigo there still hasn’t been much progress made.

The Big Three Americans can Win Evo

Enter 2017, the year that goes against conventional wisdom and has three American pad players dominating the scene. Daigo looks…old. Infiltration is focused on his personal life. Tokido and Momochi have been missing in action. The usual names aren’t putting in the same work. The best Japanese players are getting passed up by this new group of uber-confident, experienced, American born players.

Loud, brash, and cocky is not the archetype the world’s best players fall under in Street Fighter usually. It’s the calm, cool, and collected that win those crucial sets. Punk is changing the entire game, playing on the screen, and with your mind. If players aren’t ready, they will crumble under his intense zoning pressure. Hit one button, whiff, and it could be game over…Oh, and here’s a teabag for your trouble.

The next two have been around a little longer than the young Punk. These two have been around the block. Snake Eyez has been bringing the American crowd to their feet since early in Street Fighter IV’s life cycle. NuckleDu is coming off a 2016, where he won the Capcom Cup, which is almost as unlikely as an American winning Evo.

The three best players were born here, bred and raised here and now give the American fans who have been holding out hope, like delirious Cleveland Browns fans, that one day an American will win an Evo. The big three give Americans three chances to do it. At no other point, have the three undeniable best players been Americans one month before Evo. I haven’t even mentioned other monsters like Bryant “Smug” Huggin or Eduardo “PR Balrog” Perez. So for the love of all things holy, keep the Evo trophy here in the states.

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Featured Image courtesy of twitch.tv/evo2k

 

CEO 2017: Snake Eyez on the rise, wins first Capcom Pro Tour event of the year

Darryl “Snake Eyez” Lewis is an immensely talented Street Fighter player. It’s been this way since his Zangief blew the world away in Street Fighter IV by winning disadvantageous match ups consistently. After a year of SFV, Snake Eyez has found the winning formula and is back to playing at his peak level.

Snake Eyez vs Punk. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/capcomfighters

Losses against Victor “Punk” Woodley and Du “NuckleDu” Dang in past tournaments were delaying the inevitable. As he inched closer to a major win, the play of both his Zangief and Akuma continued to improve. At Community Effort Orlando, the months of runner-up’s and close losses culminated into a steady performance that earned him the CEO belt.

Additionally, Snake Eyez exorcised some of his demons by squeaking out a 3-2 victory over Punk. Punk has been everyone’s demon, winning a majority of the Capcom Pro Tour events in 2017. Snake Eyez has had his shots in the past but came up short against Punk’s unbelievable spacing game. As Zangief is forced to do, Snake Eyez has been finding new ways to get in and get big damage with the Russian grappler.

Finding a way against Xiao Hai

Aside from beating Punk, Snake Eyez had to earn his pay through other monsters. XiaoHai gave Snake Eyez all he could handle before being sent to loser’s bracket. In one of the most patient SFV sets ever, Snake Eyez had to work hard to bait and not get trapped in by XiaoHai’s Cammy, strong footsie game. The average time on their rounds was much higher than most Street Fighter matches.

Both grinding out every opening and hit to maximum damage. The battle of attrition was ended with well-timed wake-up critical arts. Occasionally, Snake Eyez would catch XiaoHai overextending just slightly, and punish him to his death. It was one of those sets that the audience had no feel of who had the upper hand. Each hit seemed to turn the momentum, but as Snake Eyez has been known to do, he clutched it out to push him closer to his first CPT win in 2017.

Unfortunately for XiaoHai, despite playing extremely disciplined against Snake Eyez, the wearing down of Zangief got to him in the end. XiaoHai gave Snake Eyez the biggest run for his money, forcing him to stay patient and come back from a 2-1 deficit. Punk, on the other hand, pushed the pace and fell into Snake Eyez trap. However, Punk whiffed punished extremely hard and forced Snake Eyez to think critically about his button presses in neutral.

The Best in the West

After another American victory, the top of the Capcom Pro Tour rankings has an unfamiliar look to it. Three American born players currently reside at the top, with Snake Eyez moving up with his CEO win. Punk still sits as “the alpha” in SFV, but the competition from his own statesman is opening the field to new names taking home trophies. NuckleDu, who was widely considered as the best player in 2016, is making another case for 2017, even with a lackluster CEO performance.

The resurgence of Snake Eyez must have the other two on edge. His pedigree speaks for itself and he’s making players play his game similarly to his Zangief in USFV4, which was a handful to deal with. The slow, break down process Snake Eyez deploys makes a player question everything about their approach. The only problem is his character might not have the necessary tools to continue to adapt. No question Snake Eyez gets the most out of Zangief, but is that enough to keep these results up?

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Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/capcomfighters

CEO 2017: Five sets, five game fives during exciting Melee top 8

For what it’s worth, CEO 2017 had one of the better Melee top 8s of the year. The lack of high-level players didn’t stop those who showed up from putting on a show. It all culminated into Juan “Hungrybox” Debiebma’s first career CEO belt, after running the gauntlet.

Hungrybox after beating Plup in Grand Finals. http://twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

Hungrybox went to two game fives against non-gods, which is extremely rare. He even fell to Justin “Plup” McGrath in Grand Finals, but, fortunately for him, he was playing from the winner’s side so he had the reset in his back pocket. The other player to push him to the brink was Jeff “Axe” Williamson, and it took a clutch on Axe’s counter-pick for Hungrybox to pull it out.

In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, there were plenty of game five, last stock, last hit games on Saturday night. In fact, the first five matches of top 8 were exactly that. From Michael “King Momo” Morales’s self-destruct against Colin “Colbol” Green to Colbol pulling off the upset over Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallet, every single set was going to the last hit.

Even with a rather disappointing amount of entrants and top players showing up, it was good to see a lively crowd witness what turned out to be a surprisingly entertaining top 8. Yes, the predictable win for Hungrybox took out some of the drama, but players like Plup and Axe, who both have a huge deficit in terms of losses, seemed to give him a rougher go this time around. The sudden reemergence of what looked like 2014 Colbol was a welcomed surprise. He finished in fourth.

King Momo makes top 8

Melee majors, historically, have been incredibly difficult to break into a top 8 as a player outside the top-50. That makes what King Momo did this weekend special. Momo has been a rising star in 2017 with his second strong performance. Placing seventh was not only his best finish ever, but he achieved his greatest win with a victory over Ryan “The Moon” Coker-Welch.

Unfortunately, his run ended immediately in top 8 but not without showing the world his excellent neutral game and ability to move in and out of his opponents spacing. He is clearly a player to keep an eye on moving forward.

Another Florida player who seems to be improving is Colbol. As I mentioned, it looked more like peak Colbol this weekend than the player who’s had consistent average performances the last few years. The wins were over fellow Florida players, but placing fourth at a CEO is no joke.

Axe and Plup put Hungrybox on upset alert

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

Fox has been the one answer for Hungrybox’s Jigglypuff and he finally forced Plup off his Sheik for the matchup. Based off the matchup history, Plup’s Sheik hasn’t fared well but he’s built up the necessary experience to bring out the Fox in finals. He even got his first win over Hungrybox with his Fox on Saturday. But it was only a matter of time before Hungrybox landed more rest setups and he had two full sets to find those openings.

The set with Axe was similar with Hungrybox forcing Axe to play differently than normal. Axe spent his entire neutral game focusing on keeping tight dash dances to eventually whiff punish with up-smash. If only Axe could have kept it up for one more stock, I’d be writing a different story.

Moral of the story: Hungrybox doesn’t lose to players outside the top-five. The top players don’t have a handle on the Jigglypuff matchup and coupled with Hungrybox’s rare and special abilities, it makes it really difficult to pull off the upset. It’s a mental grind and most don’t have the fortitude to see it through to the end. It’s the most central aspect to Hungrybox’s successes. The win at CEO 2017 marks his second consecutive win.


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