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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Armada’s Loss at Royal Flush Ends Historic Six Month Run of Dominance

In the world of competitive Melee, it’s hard to imagine Adam “Armada” Lindgren being overlooked as a player. Falling short at Royal Flush to Joseph “Mango” Marquez was a heart breaker and ends a historic run of dominance from a singular player. But in this community, sometimes the narrative is more appealing than reality.

Armada vs DruggedFox . Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/VGbootcamp

Let’s take a look at just how good Armada has been in the last six months.

Yes, six months of dominance, from the end of October 2016 to early May 2017, Armada won everything. In that same time span, he only dropped two sets. One to Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma at Canada Cup 2016, and the other to Jason “mew2king” Zimmerman at UGC Smash Open, which both resulted in losses after the reset.

However, his last two outright losses were to Mango. In both instances, Armada lost to Mango’s Fox in reset game five situations. As always, those sets were absolute classics, with the crowd favorite Mango taking it home (The Big House 6 and Royal Flush). Armada responded exceptionally well after the game five loss at TBH6 and showed his untempered resolve.

Conversely, Armada gave Mango the hands at Genesis 4. Armada’s 6-1 game differential and a +10 in stock differential over Mango was staggering. Despite it being a massacre, the pure dominance is sometimes overlooked because entertainment value was compromised. It was the quickest Grand Finals yet, and killed the carry-over momentum Mango had from playing in losers. It almost looked too easy for Armada.

Subsequently, Armada ended up winning nine straight tournaments from October to April. Two Smash Summit victories, UGC Smash Open, Dreamhack Winter, and most importantly, Genesis 4. No one could touch him in the singles bracket. He had four Grand Finals victories over Hungrybox in that span, who has been arguably just as consistent.

That’s not even mentioning Armada’s results in doubles. It’s hard to argue against the Swedish “brudders” being the best team in Melee right now. The reset win over William “Leffen” Hjelte and Mustafa “Ice” Ackaya at Royal Flush showed once again the unflinching demeanor of Armada and his brother Andreas “Android” Lindgren.

Looking back on Melee history, Armada’s most recent run coupled with his success in the last three years has never been matched in modern Melee. Sure, Ken “Ken” Hoang had long stretches without losses, but those were in the early days. Now Melee has high-level tournaments every weekend. Mango is the only one with similar runs of pure dominance.

On the whole, it’s good to see new names on top of the results page. But let’s take a second to fully appreciate the historical context of what Armada was able to accomplish. It will be hard to mimic that performance with how competitive Melee is today, but Armada can do it again. His Fox continues to improve while his Peach is as steady as ever. He has the formula and experience.

Even with his most recent loss at Royal Flush, I would not bet against Armada heading into the Summer of Smash (tournaments). It will be interesting to see if Armada can win his third title at another tournament. Mango and Armada still battling for the Threevo.

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ChuDat’s Run is Changing the Game

The Melee community is deep into a discussion on whether or not a ledge grab limit should be implemented to combat camping. Relative to ledge camping, the Maryland Melee scene recently banned wobbling in lieu of a community decision. All these issues arising in the last month can be traced back to one man: Daniel “ChuDat” Rodriguez.

However, ChuDat isn’t the root of the community’s discourse. He just happens to be excelling in a time where the community is keeping a close eye on these types of game mechanics. Since wobbling was discovered, it’s been a nuisance for some members of the Melee scene. It’s also cultivated a style of extreme defensive play predicated on getting as many grabs as possible.

ChuDat is seen as the proprietor of this Ice Climbers style in this dilemma. Chu has no shame as a player. He has his game plan and forces his opponents to counter it. The patience displayed by Chu should be commended. He’s not going to change his play based on a community outcry to try and make specific Ice Climbers matchups more entertaining.

For example, we’ll take a look at the Grand Finals from this weekend. Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma, the premier Jigglypuff player in Melee, fell down 2-0 to ChuDat. In most cases, Hungrybox will play an in-and-out style where he dances out of aerial range with Jigglypuff’s four extra jumps. This forces opponents to find a way into Hungrybox’s defensive zone.

In Grand Finals, ChuDat would never approach, and he essentially camped under platforms. After getting punished in the first couple games through approaching, Hungrybox decided to be more passive and stay away from the center of the stage. In turn, this made the next three games about outlasting one another and winning in a small number of micro engagements.

Ultimately, early leads were able to carry Hungrybox to his second Dreamhack title. But three straight games lasting 6+ minutes left a bad taste in some Melee fans’ mouths. Some people blame Hungrybox, some people blame ChuDat. In the end, no player is to blame, for this is just the nature of the game.

The question becomes, is this an actual problem? It’s funny because these types of complaints seem to be on a cycle. Many times in the past, the legitimacy of wobbling has been argued. Also, anytime Hungrybox is forced to use Jigglypuff’s ledge tactics, the conversation pops up again. It’s like clockwork.

Do we need a ledge guard limit?

Absolutely not. The only time it would be applicable is when it comes to Jigglypuff players. Taking away that advantage severely hinders that character’s ability to win. It’d be completely unfair to players like Hungrybox to implement a ruling that’s so outwardly unfair toward Puff mains.

The Brawl days are over. Despite the results on Sunday, we’ve seen plenty of tactics to counter ledge stalling. Adam “Armada” Lindgren had similar difficulties against Hbox in 2016, but kept making tweaks and forced him off that game plan.

In conclusion, anytime Hungrybox seems to play more defensive, the community throws a fit. Even against a player committed to not approaching, fans still show their dismay. As Hungrybox said on his stream, if money is on the line, then he’ll do whatever it takes to win. That’s the most sound argument to be made. The strategy can be beaten and isn’t broken. Anyone who dislikes this style doesn’t truly understand the game of Melee and how it’s meant to be played.
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Hungrybox’s Approach to Win Dreamhack Austin: Don’t Approach

Approaching in Melee is a dangerous proposition. Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma has perfected the art of forcing opponents to approach and punishing them to their deaths. Even against Daniel “ChuDatz” Rodriguez’s defensive minded Ice Climbers in Grand Finals at Dreamhack Austin, Hungrybox forced approaches.

Hungrybox makes his opponent plays long, drawn-out games. Aside from the air-spacing, ledge and platform camping, the mental game Hungrybox plays is his most potent weapon. It’s hard to outlast him, especially if the main aspect of a game plan is to play defensively. A large number of entrants struggled in this regard.

Hungrybox’s Dreamhack Austin marks his third major win of the year. It’s another instance of Hungrybox’s consistency pushing him into a title. His path to his second Dreamhack title went through four top-20 players, including Justin “Plup” McGrath, Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett, and eventually beating Chu. A 12-3 (4-0 in sets) record showed he had little trouble.

ChuDat’s Improbable Run

Aside from Hungrybox’s win, Jospeh “Mango” Marquez returned to form making it back to top 8 winners with a solid 3-0 victory over William “Leffen” Hjelte. Unfortunately for the Mango nation, he dropped his third set in 2017 to ChuDat. Three “yaayyahyuz” at three straight tournaments.

ChuDat avoided having to face Adam “Armada” Lindgren due to controller issues, but he still had to fight his way through two Gods while pushing Hungrybox to his limits. A Nana forward smash ended Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman’s day while Mango made too many mental mistakes. As a matter of fact, ChuDat has earned a placing in the top 8 at every major he’s entered in 2017. His return to prominence has been nothing short of remarkable.

In the elimination games, Mango grabbed game one off M2K before dropping three straight on the larger stages (Final Destination and Dream Land). After winning teams on Friday and having a strong Saturday, his recent struggles showed up again. Mango’s in one of the worst slumps of his illustrious career.

Regardless, Hungrybox takes the spotlight away from a momentum based player making their rise. It’s a time-old tradition where Hungrybox ruthlessly stomps on his opponent’s carry over momentum with his ability to change the pace of play. Chu mentally prepared for the aggressive Mango style and didn’t prepare for a potential matchup with Hungrybox.

In the Grand Finals, both guys were playing to win by playing their style. ChuDat landed a few grab setups, but his strength was avoiding hits with Sopo. He tacked on plenty of damage with just Sopo. Hungrybox adjusted and made sure to win neutral early to play with the clock on his side. The strategy earned him his second Dreamhack trophy.


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Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/Dreamhack

Plup’s Luigi Pleases the Crowd at CEO: Dreamland; Mew2King Takes Home Top Prizes

The CEO: Dreamland win for Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman was impressive. He beat top seeded Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma, overcoming a 2-4 2017 record against Hbox. The bounce back win was a great story, but it took a back seat to the rise of Luigi.

The last month for Justin “Plup” McGrath was not spent playing Melee. Plup, being a top-10 player, spent the last couple weeks traveling across South Korea and focusing on anything but Melee. In his first tournament back, the readiness and performance was in question. Then, late Saturday night, Plup sent out this tweet:

In light of this tweet, Plup took to the CEO ballroom floor and proceeded to turn heads with a character most people would say couldn’t win a major. Plup’s Luigi was assumed a gimmick when the day started, but no one was thinking that at the end of the day.

Furthermore, Plup took out Michael “Nintendude” Brancato and Sami “DruggedFox” Muhanna, proving early on his Luigi was for real. He made it into a winners semifinal at a major by going all Luigi. It’s a rare sight seeing Luigi anywhere near Top 8. Stephen “Abate” Abate was the first Luigi to make a deep run at The Big House 5 where he almost brought the venue down with his win over Johnny “S2J” Kim (the invisible celing set). The play of Ben “Luigikid” Tolan making deep runs at SSS, and Eduardo “Eddy Mexico” Lucatero Rincon help legitimize Luigi with strong wins in Southern California.

The best part is Plup has no recorded tournament sets with Luigi, so in his first try he finished fifth. He gave the eventual champion, M2K, a ride before the inevitable readjustments coming from M2K’s counter pick of Marth from Sheik.

SFAT Loses the Runback

SFAT and M2K. Photo courtesy of YouTube.com/vgbootcamp

It’s rarer than rare to see a performance similar to Zac “SFAT” Cordoni’s at CEO: Dreamland. The only other player with similar results that come to mind is William “Leffen” Hjelte who has beaten multiple gods before he was considered one himself. SFAT is slowly developing those next level mind games to be able to compete with the likes of M2K and Hungrybox.

Despite a 2-16 lifetime record against M2K for SFAT, he entered grand finals up 3-2 in sets against a player who’s absolutely had his number. All signs pointed to SFAT winning his first major with Gods in attendance. But, as history has shown us before, never count out any of the Gods to get the reset win in grand finals.

M2K, who lost in game 5 against SFAT in winners finals, made key adjustments and played better on Final Destination. Two of the best players statistically on Final Destination played four games on the flat stage. The count was 2-2, but M2K took back stage control and forced his will on SFAT’s Fox.

Unfortunately, SFAT ran into M2K who has historically had his number. The southern California Fox main is creeping into the title conversation. He’s real close to breaking the ceiling, but M2K wasn’t going to let that happen at CEO: Dreamland.

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CEO: Dreamland Smash 64, Melee, Brawl, and Wii U

Photo courtesy of twitter.com/CEOGaming

The growth of Community Effort Orlando (CEO) has flourished to the point where Alex Jebailey, the proprietor of CEO, has been able to create events for specific communities. CEO: Dreamland is the newest installment, and it’s one of the first events of its kind. A tournament dedicated solely to platform fighters.

Yes, Smash events have always been focused around Smash, and to a lesser extent, any other platform fighters. It’s not a new idea, but coming from one of the most well-known and well-respected members of the fighting game community adds a new sense of belonging. It’s a sign of good things to come for the Smash community when traditional fighting tournament organizers are throwing Smash centered events.

However, this is not CEO’s first attempt targeting the larger niche communities in fighting games. CEOtaku, a tournament for the Anime fighters, was a big success. Similar to Smash, Anime players feel as if their needs aren’t always heard. Jebailey and company are here to listen and create an environment built specifically for us, the fans of this game.

The event itself will feature six games: Smash Bros 64, Melee, Brawl, and Wii U. Also added are two recently developed games, Rivals of Aether and Brawlhalla. Dreamland will not only provide high level matches of Melee and Wii U, but also give Smash 64 another chance to be in the spotlight. Rivals of Aether is also starting to generate more competitive interest after recently being at Genesis 4. It even has Brawl as a featured event!

Here’s a quick preview of all the Smash tournaments at Dreamland.

Smash 64

The Smash 64 tournament has two players headed on a collision course towards each other in winners final. Alvin Clay Leon Haro, otherwise known as just Alvin, is quickly rising up the 64 rankings. He’s 4-0 against the best player in the world in his last four attempts, and has won his last two North American tournaments. He’s becoming the best Pikachu, unless Dan “SuPeRbOoMfAn” Hoyt (SBF) can stop him.

SBF had a strong 2016, but started the 2017 season on somewhat of a sour note with some uncharacteristic losses. In all likelihood, SBF will get his shot at Alvin this weekend, and the most patient Pikachu-ditto will commence once again. The only threat I see to potentially messing up this reunion is Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallet and his Yoshi coming out of nowhere and beating one of the two. It’s happened before, but seems like he’ll be focused on Melee this weekend.

Melee

Photo courtesy of http://wiki.teamliquid.net/smash/CEO/Dreamland

Smash Rivalries may have built confidence in the underdogs and presented doubt within the favorites’ psyche. CEO: Dreamland will be a tournament to build upon that momentum from last weekend. Wizzrobe is clearly the player to watch this weekend. His performance last week was no joke, and he’s a candidate to potentially make it back to Grand Finals.

30 ranked players will be in attendance at Dreamland, which means more upsets will be coming down the pipeline. It’ll be good to get back to an open bracket where anyone can make a name for themselves.

Favorite: Obviously Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma is a heavy favorite to take Dreamland. He’s coming off a win at Smash Rivalries and a win at Full Bloom 3. Outside of Wizzrobe, no one has given him a close set. Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman also presents some problems, but after a weak performance at Rivalries (9th place), we’ll have to see if any doubt lingers over.

Players to watch: Sami “DruggedFox” Muhanna has been on a rocket ship in the last month. He’s starting to win problem matchups and play consistently. Justin “Plup” McGrath is clearly one of the favorites, but his recent travels have taken away practice time. He might not be as sharp as usual this weekend.

Sleepers: Jay “Drunk Sloth” Danya has had success at locals recently and could be the surprise player this weekend. His fifth place finish at Frame Perfect Series 2 was an aberration and a performance he can build off of. It’s Edgar “N0ne” Sheleby’s first major appearance since Genesis, so people haven’t seen his play style in a while, which may become a factor.

Brawl

Brawl is back once again! It’s back with all the hard hitting players and should be a nice break between Melee and Wii U. The most successful Brawl competitor in history, M2K, will be competing alongside the second most successful Brawl player, Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada.

Despite the history, Vishal “V115” Balaram might be the favorite as the most practiced Brawl player at a Dreamland. Also, the fact that most players will be focused on other tournaments will benefit V115. Look for his Zero Suit Samus to turn some heads.

Smash 4

http://wiki.teamliquid.net/smash/CEO/Dreamland

The Smash 4 scene is still reeling from Civil War. This will be the first real major since then, so eyes will be on the top players who got eliminated early at Civil War to bounce back. Gonzalo “Zero” Barrios, Nairo, and Jason “ANTi” Bates, who all had bad placings at Civil War, will look to make it back into top 8.

Favorites: ZeRo, as always, is the likely favorite to take the event. Despite one bad event, he’s still the same threat. He has wins over Leonardo “MKLeo” Lopez Perez in the last month too. Samuel “Dabuz” Robert Buzby will also look to build off his Civil War win.

Players to watch: Tyler “Marss” Martin always flies under the radar, and this tournament is no different. He has good records against a number of the top players attending. Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey is also due for a nice showing. The final name is the second place finisher at Civil War, Griffin “Fatality” Miller, who’s been having strong showings even in bad matchups.

Sleepers: Jamaal “Samsora” Morris Jr has been an underrated player in the south since release of Smash 4. With the new burgeoning conservative styles of Peach and Rosalina getting results, Samsora could be the next player in line to make a jump in placings.

 

 

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Smash Rivalries Ends With The East Coast and Hungrybox Stealing the Show

The West coast squad ended up winning the crew battle on Saturday, but the East coast players showed up at Yahoo Esports Smash Rivalries singles tournament on Sunday. The top three players were all from the East coast, along with five of the top eight. The best player from the East coast, Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma, won his second consecutive event, taking it over Captain Falcon main Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallet.

Zac “SFAT” Cordoni happy. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/yahooesports

Aside from Wizzrobe’s surprising performance, Sami “DruggedFox” Muhanna also stepped up and finished third. It was a day of interesting results as two of the expected favorites fell out of the tournament before the top six and both Joseph “Mango” Marquez and Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman finished well below their average placings.

Wizzrobe not only made himself the third player in history to take out M2K with Falcon, but he sent him to losers with a 3-0 sweep. He went on to take a set off Hungrybox in the Grand Finals and beat DruggedFox, James “Duck” Ma, and Daniel “ChuDat” Rodriguez with a combined set count of 12-1. He ended up going down to Hungrybox 8-3 (3-0, 2-3, 3-0).

Hungrybox took care of business as usual. He once again proved how consistent of a player he’s become, as the rest of the God’s had one of their worst days in recent memory. It was also a fairly dominant effort, considering Hungrybox’s 17-5 record on the day. He did face three consecutive Fox players in Zac “SFAT” Cordoni , DruggedFox, and Joey “Lucky” Aldama before his match with Wizzrobe.

Graphic Courtesy of twitch.tv/yahooesports

Smash Rivalries provided us matchups like Ice Climbers vs. Captain Falcon in a winners semifnals. That’s almost unheard of at Melee tournament nowadays.

ChuDat moves to 2-0 against Mango in 2017 with another 3-2 win. Mango’s lack of Smash DI out of the Chu’S jab setups was his demise.

With this in mind, the Melee tournament landscape is starting to evolve and the top players are starting to get figured out. Mango’s off to the worst start to a year with three straight finishes outside the top five. He went Falco for every set aside from his matchup with ChuDat.

Here are the rest of the results:
1. Liquid Hungrybox (Jigglypuff)
2. Wizzrobe (C. Falcon)
3. DruggedFox (Fox)
4. CLG SFAT (Fox)
5. Tempo Axe (Pikachu)
5. VGBC ChuDat (Ice Climbers)
7. RNG Swedish Delight (Sheik)
7. C9 Mango (Falco/Fox)

The character diversity was seen throughout the tournament. The fact that a Pikachu, Ice Climbers, Captain Falcon, and Jigglypuff made deep bracket runs is evidence of that. Even with a Fox heavy field, the mid-tier characters hit hard.

Wizzrobe’s style and game plan switched drastically from player to player. Also, Jeff “Axe” Williamson uses Pikachu’s strongest tools to their highest potential.

For this reason, these top players have taken these characters to their limit. Hungrybox is redefining the meta-game with how people look at Jigglypuff. In almost every situation, Hungrybox seems to find the advantage. This was the case at smash Rivalries.

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Smash Rivalries East vs West Crew Battle Preview

Smash Rivalries by Yahoo Esports, a return to a more crew focused Melee event that pins the two sides of the country against each other. It’s the most classic rivalry in fighting games: East coast vs. West coast. Players are representing more than just themselves and it creates a level of pressure unseen in a regular singles tournament.

The event itself will be held in California, and will consist of two teams of eight players, five hand selected commentators from both sides of the country, and a $15,000 prize pool. The tournament also has a singles and doubles tournament both with $5,000 in the pot ($5k for each event). 13 of the worlds top 20 players will be in attendance. It’s a star-studded affair.

However, it doesn’t seem like a coincidence after the success 2GG’s Civil War had with Smash 4. Crew battles generate rivalries and appeal to a different type of audience not always wanting to watch the singles tournament. If Smash Rivalries can avoid some of the Civil War pitfalls, like crew battle after singles concludes (salty players), the crew battle can be a highlight reel of clutch plays.

The teams are basically even. It’s definitely a pick em’ game with how tight these two rosters are. Historically, the West coast has been the best, mainly Southern California, aside from a few losses at events like Melee-FC. The Southern California crew (seven of eight players on West reside in California) has won the last two Big House crew events. Mango and the depth was the main reason behind the success.

Let’s take a look at the teams…

East
Juan” Hungrybox” DeBiedma, Florida (MIOM Rank: 2)
Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman, New Jersey (MIOM: 4)
James “Swedish Delight” Liu, New York (MIOM: 11)
Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallet, Florida (MIOM: 12)
James “Duck” Ma, Michigan (MIOM: 15)
Ryan “TheMoon” Coker-Welch, New York (MIOM: 21)
Daniel “ChuDat” Rodriguez, Maryland (MIOM: 22)
Sami “DruggedFox” Muhanna, Georgia (MIOM: 23)

 

photo courtesy of twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

Strengths: Top of the roster. Having to deal with both Hungrybox and Mew2King is going to be a problem. Both are capable of taking 4+ stock and could quickly turn the game in the East’s favor. Add the ability to neutralize certain players. Outside of Mango, Hungrybox was 25-2 against the West players in 2016. M2K has strong numbers and even better matchups with a counter pick. It’s going to be tough to game plan around M2K’s versatility.

Weaknesses: Lack of depth. The East has underrated talent, but the bottom half still can’t match up with the West. If it comes down to depth, it’s tough to see a situation where the East prevails. Despite their head-to-head records, players like ChuDat, TheMoon, and DruggedFox can be a liability in the wrong situation. A lead will be extra important if they have to fall back on the bottom half of the roster. That said, all three of those mentioned are hovering around an even record against the West roster.

X-Factor: Duck. Samus can be a hassle and most Fox mains still don’t have a handle on the matchup. Duck proved this with a second place finish at Full Bloom 3. With a West team full of Fox and Falco mains, Duck could be the counter pick answer. His play, as of late, has been great and he’s starting to get more marquee wins on his resume.

Sleeper: ChuDat. Yes, Ice Climbers can be hard-countered with a Fox or PewPewU who has a strong record against Ice Climbers. But, we’ve seen Chu pull off the unbelievable upsets. He’s unquestionably the best Ice Climbers player, and his grab setups continue to improve. He had the potential to beat a player like Mango and get whooped by Lucky’s Fox.

West
Joseph “Mango” Marquez (MIOM Rank: 3)
Zac “SFAT” Cordoni, Northern California (MIOM: 7)
Westin “Westballz” Dennis, Souther California (MIOM: 8)
Jeff “Axe” Williamson, Arizona (MIOM: 9)
DeJuan “Shroomed” McDaniel, Northern California (MIOM: 11)
Kevin “PewPewU” Toy, Northern California (MIOM: 14)
Johnny “S2J” Kim, Southern California (MIOM: 16)
Joey “Lucky” Aldama, Norwalk (MIOM: 19)

S2J and Mango after TBH6 Crew Battle win. Photo Courtesy of twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

Strengths: Depth. The East lacks depth, while the West has eight top-20 players. The ability to throw out Axe, Westballz, and SFAT after Mango is a luxury. Almost every player has a positive record against the East squad excluding matches against Hungrybox and M2K. Outside the Gods, it’s clear the West has the personnel edge.

Weaknesses: Character Diversity. The Four Spacie mains will make it tough to counter pick against an East team with plenty of character options. There’s no floatie characters as all are fast fallers, which will give players like Wizzrobe and TheMoon the chance to take the advantage with a strong punish game.

X-Factor: Mango. Anytime Mango is involved in a crew battle it’s most likely going to come down to his overall performance. He has the highest stock ceiling with the best punish game with his Falco. His punish game is what makes him so dangerous in crew battles. Mango builds momentum quickly through his punish game. The only problem is the East had two Gods to throw at him; but if he gets a favorable matchup, watch out.

Sleeper: S2J. He has a favorable record against most of the East squad, and despite tougher matchups with his Captain Falcon, he can still generate plenty of momentum. He’s shown in the past that his nerves are meant for these types of events. At The Big House 6, S2J held off William “Leffen” Hjelte to win the crew battle regional tournament.

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Razer Renews Sponsorship with Team Liquid: What Makes a Great Esports Partnership?

Team Liquid has announced an extension of partnership with Razer, one of it’s long standing sponsors.

7 Years of Partnership

Courtesy: TeamLiquid.Net

Team Liquid is a pioneer of esports, having been around since Starcraft 2’s competitive days back in 2001. This year will mark seven years of partnership for the two organizations. Razer and Team Liquid have both thrived in their partnership as they watched the esports world grow.

Nobody would have predicted just how big esports would become seven years ago, a time in which most players were playing for the competition alone. But Team Liquid has stayed the course and is active in just about every major esport, including League of Legends, Overwatch, CS:GO, and more.

“I’m very proud that Razer is our longest standing partner. It feels like an eternity since we signed our first sponsorship with Razer. In an industry that moves at a million miles an hour, we’ve been on the journey together and it’s incredible that our two brands have come so far,” said Victor Goossens, co-CEO of Team Liquid.

What Makes a great Sponsor relationship

Game Haus had the chance to interview Team Liquid’s Director of Operations, Mike Milanov, who had much praise for the relationship they’ve been able to build with Razer. He highlighted that Team Liquid is considered a “premium brand”, having been involved in esports longer than almost anyone. This was a major factor in Razer’s initial partnership with the organization in 2011.

When asked about how Razer differs from other sponsors, Milanov said, “Razer was one of the first brands to get involved with Starcraft back in the early esports era. They were one of the first brands to really ramp up with team sponsorship and take relationships seriously. They value partners that work with them on the things they find most important…We’ve always been treated like a tier one organization by Razer.”

Another ideal he praised Razer for was their ability to adapt to other esports organizations and grow together with one another.

They understand that it’s not in templated approach with every organization. Razer adapts to different organizations very well in the esports scene,” he said.

Milanov also brought up how growing together was one of the biggest priorities in the partnership.

He noted, “We had many offers to potentially go elsewhere for a little more money, but that’s not what it’s all about. It’s about growing together. As Team Liquid grows, Razer grows.”

 

Looking Ahead

Razer recently came out with Team Liquid DeathAdder mouse bundles, which sold out ahead of schedule during the holiday season. Announcing another year of partnership could mean more opportunities for additional Team Liquid gear.

Milanov commented that this may only be the beginning of a new line of Team Liquid Razer infused products, due to the success that they found with the holiday bundles.

“Just the fact that they trust us enough to make a Razer DeathAdder with Team Liquid theme says enough about what we’re going to be doing with them in the future,” he said.

Courtesy: Team Liquid Pro

Team Liquid underscores what Razer’s ‘unfair advantage’ is all about,” said Min-Liang Tan, Razer co-founder and CEO. “We have enjoyed working with this incredible team on dozens of products over the years. We look forward to continuing the collaboration to ensure our products are the best in the world at the highest level of competition.

With the announcement of another year of partnership, both organizations will enjoy another year of esports growth side by side.

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Kirihara Wins His First Tournament Ever at Frame Perfect Series 2

It’s been an impressive couple of weeks for the Japanese Smash 4 scene. Random Japanese players, in their first American tournament, have come in and had tremendous success against American competition. First, Tsu at Frostbite, now Kirihara (Noriyuki Kirihara) at Frame Perfect Series 2 as he took Grand Finals over the world’s best, ZeRo (Gonzalo Barrios).

Photo via twitter.com/mvgleague

Additionally, it’s the first Rosalina main since Dabuz (Samuel Robert Buzby) to win a major. The “Japanese ZeRo” surprised us all, winning his first Smash 4 tournament EVER at a major in the United States. His road to his first title came rather easily. He didn’t drop a set the entire tournament, and beat ZeRo in straight sets 3-2, 3-2.

Japan’s hidden bosses are coming out of the woodwork. A region that’s been known to have a strong Smash 4 scene is finally backing it up with results. Komorikiri, who’s basically a United States citizen, made another deep Losers run, sending home Dabuz and getting revenge for the legendary “.9” moment at Genesis 4 against Captain Zack (Zack Lauth).

It was a strong showing from Japan. The road to ZeRo wasn’t easy for the eventual champion, having close sets with Mr. E’s (Eric Weber) Marth (3-2), and ESAM’s (Eric Lee) Pikachu. He proved Rosalina is much better than the general perception. His use of Luma even proceeds the consensus world’s best Rosalina in Dabuz. If Luma is still alive, it’s extremely tough to approach or escape Kirihara’s approaches.

A trend is developing, visit the US and face ZeRo in Grand Finals. It’s been known how deep the Japanese scene is, but now it’s being displayed right before our eyes. Even Tsu, who nearly beat ZeRo, said that there’s a lot of players better than him back home, and he’s correct. The turf war for Smash 4 dominance begins now.

Hungrybox holds it down in home state

The Melee tournament was a disappointment. The favorites either decided not to play or only play half-halfheartedly. It setup for expected results without much excitement behind it.

That said, Hungrybox (Juan DeBiedma) deserves a ton of credit. He was able to just come out, play Melee, and win. He didn’t overthink it. Hbox knew he had the advantage in top 8 and rode that all the way to another win.

Unfortunately, the fans didn’t get the classic Armada (Adam Lindgren) vs. Hungrybox Grand Finals, or Mango (Joseph Marquez) making a losers run; but this event seemed to be a warm up for Full Bloom 3 next weekend. Mango clearly was apathetic towards this event, going Captain Falcon all the way through top 48. He lost 3-0 to Drunksloth (Jay Dahya), who had a strong weekend, finishing in the top 8, and Kels (Kelly Smith) who also finished in the top 8.

Armada was in attendance, but decided to only play doubles. It’s not clear why players were dropping out, but it left a dull product at times. As a Melee purist, I could watch any match and be happy, but most fans would see Mango or Armada and shut the stream off.

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