ZeRo

A legend retires: Reflecting on ZeRo’s impact on Smash

On January 12, Panda Global released the fourth version of their Panda Global Rankings (PGR) that ranks each professional player of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. The first three versions of the list featured Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios as the highest ranked player for Smash 4. To little surprise, Barrios ended up claiming the top spot on PGRv4. However, on the same day of the rankings being released, Barrios announced via Twitter that he would no longer be competing in tournaments for Smash 4.

Barrios’ Twitter post included many different reasons as to why he wants to put an end to his Smash 4 career. Among them was that he simply lost his passion for Smash 4, in regards to competing in high-stakes events. Barrios claimed that he is likely going to compete again once a new Smash game arises. Until that happens though, Smash 4’s top player is currently retired.

As such, I feel that now is the optimal time to reflect on how Barrios impacted the Smash community, particularly in the era of Smash 4. Barrios impacted the Smash Bros. community in ways that many people may not initially realize. He impacted the game and community on both a macro and micro level. He impacted the community of top-level players just as much as he impacted the little guys that can only afford to attend local tournaments. How did he do this, exactly? Let’s talk about it.

ZeRo’s Legendary Win Streak and Tournament Performance

While I understand how cliche it is to mention the incredibly long win streak that Barrios had throughout the first year of Smash 4’s life, it can’t be overstated how influential this made Barrios as a figure within the entire competitive Smash Bros. community. Barrios attained a streak of winning over 40 consecutive tournaments throughout the first year of Smash 4’s existence. The streak itself didn’t end until the MLG World Finals in October of 2015, over a year after Smash 4’s release on 3DS and just under a year after the Wii U version’s release.

During this time period, Barrios admittedly became an easy player to root against. It’s only natural for many people to want the world’s greatest player to be dethroned at some point. While this inevitably happened with Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada’s win over Barrios at the event, this ending of Barrios’ win streak didn’t slow him down. Barrios continued placing very high in most tournaments in 2016 and 2017. Many viewers of Smash 4, myself included, found utter joy in every instance of seeing Barrios’ stellar performances at tournaments. Barrios went from an easy player to root against to someone that viewers could always look forward to seeing perform. The best part was that Barrios rarely disappointed viewers, in that regard.

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Perhaps one of the most iconic victories for Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios was from EVO 2015 when he won against Mr. R in Grand Finals. Image: YouTube

In the entirety of Smash 4’s life to date, Barrios has remained loyal at playing Diddy Kong, despite all of Smash 4’s patches that reduced the character’s knockback and damage output of certain moves. The same can’t be said for Sheik, a character that Barrios used often in tournaments for a time, but dropped following nerfs given to the character in later updates to Smash 4. As time progressed, Barrios began occasionally playing as Lucina in tournaments in 2017.

No matter which character he used, Barrios always showcased extreme knowledge of Smash 4’s mechanics, and the specific mechanics of each character that he used. This always made Barrios’ performances at tournaments a pure spectacle to behold. Another contributor of this was Barrios’ ability to make incredible “reads” – predicting what moves players would make in the moment, adjusting his play style accordingly.

Lastly, another component of Barrios’ incredible tournament performance was merely the camaraderie and chemistry that he had with other players. Barrios remained a fun player to watch because it was always clear to see that he enjoyed playing against other top-level players, which brought about a positive atmosphere to watching events with him. Notable accomplishments for Barrios throughout Smash 4’s life include placing first at EVO 2015, Super Smash Con 2015, GENESIS 3, Big House 6 and placing second at EVO 2017 and the 2017 2GG Championship.

Zero’s Youtube Channel garnering a community

Over the course of Smash 4’s life, many competitive players began producing content on YouTube, such as giving extended thoughts on characters, making tier lists and talking about their experiences at high-level tournaments. This includes Barrios, who began posting content on Smash 4 as soon as the game released in Japan in September of 2014. Barrios went on in 2015 to make various types of content on his YouTube channel.

Throughout 2015 and 2016, Barrios made many videos, including character analyses, tier lists, self-imposed challenge videos, discussions and more. In 2017, there was a noticeable decrease in the amount of videos made by Barrios, as he shifted more of his attention to tournaments and streaming on Twitch. In a way, Barrios’ steady decrease of involvement within the Smash 4 community throughout 2017 foreshadowed his eventual tournament retirement in 2018. Despite this, Barrios’ YouTube channel currently sits at over 200,000 subscribers.

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Barrios’ YouTube channel discussed various topics that were effective in getting the Smash 4 community to keep talking about the game. Image: YouTube

So why mention this? What does Barrios having a YouTube channel have to do with him being an important figure in the life of competitive Smash 4? Simply put, Barrios’ videos got people talking. I have fond memories of going to local tournaments in 2016 and talking to other players about videos that Barrios posted on his YouTube channel. Barrios never strayed from voicing his opinions that may not have been popular.

His videos resonated with many Smash players of different skill levels in a way that no other Smash 4 content creator could match. There was something magical about seeing so much content about a game that was put together by the best player of said game. While other top-level Smash 4 players create content, such as Eric “ESAM” Lew for example, Barrios’ content seemed to be talked about a lot more among many different players, particularly those that attend smaller, local tournaments. Barrios used his YouTube channel as a way to get the Smash 4 community talking about certain subjects that they may not have talked about otherwise. I am certainly grateful that Barrios did just that in 2015 and 2016 specifically, since they were the most crucial years for the competitive game’s development and growth.

Zero: An Inspiration to local players

Naturally, being the top player of any game is going to put a spotlight on you, and Barrios is no exception. Barrios turned into an example of what Smash players could achieve. His dedication and passion for Smash 4 for the past three years was both astounding and admirable. Whether it was the content about what a lot of people were wondering, or the stellar tournament performances throughout his Smash 4 career, there was a lot for Smash 4 players and viewers to enjoy from Barrios.

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Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios will be remembered as one of the most important players in the history of Smash 4. Image: YouTube

As he turns away from playing in tournaments in the year, it’s important for Barrios to know exactly how much he contributed to the community that he was and continues to be an active part of. Speaking on a personal note, Barrios’ tournament performances always inspired me to keep improving, and even encouraged me to begin attending local tournaments in early 2016. Barrios’ stellar play style in tournaments was something that made me, and countless other Smash 4 players, want to improve and get better. Moreover, Barrios’ content made me curious about certain topics, and actually ended up making me want to try improving with certain characters that he talked about in his videos. Barrios impacted so much of my experience with Smash 4 throughout the last three years that I honestly don’t know what my experience with Smash 4 would have been like without him.

As Barrios retires from playing in tournaments in Smash 4, I wish him the very best moving forward. As stated in his Twitter post, Barrios intends on streaming on Twitch more often throughout 2018, in addition to entertaining the idea of commentating for tournaments. Regardless of where he goes, all Smash 4 players and viewers should wish Barrios well as he pursues different endeavors. This isn’t necessarily a goodbye to Barrios. In fact, I plan on watching his streams and hope to see him commentate in the future. However, this is a send-off to one of, if not the most entertaining, likable and important players in Smash 4 history. Gonzalo Barrios, we the Smash 4 community, wish you well and look forward to seeing you compete again, whenever that may be.

 

What are your thoughts on ZeRo? Has he impacted your experience with Smash 4 at all? As always, join the conversation and let us know!

 


 

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future

The future of competitive Smash: A hopeful outlook

As the year comes to a close, now is as good a time as any to discuss the future of Smash. Last week, we discussed the concerns and troubles that competitive Smash has experienced throughout the past year. This week, however, it’s time to have the second part of that conversation. While there certainly continues to be concerns regarding the financials and growth of Smash as an esport, there’s more positive and hopeful aspects of competitive Smash to talk about.

One of the most powerful things about the competitive Smash community is that, no matter how little money and coverage surrounds Smash Bros. in comparison to other esports, the community remains as loyal and dedicated to the games they love. This past year is proof that the Smash community is as alive as ever. What helps prove this was the abundance of incredible tournaments throughout the year, in addition to the growing diversity of represented players and characters in tournaments. Can we hope that these trends will continue into 2018 and beyond? What should the Smash community strive for as we look to the future of Smash as an esport? Let’s talk about it.

2017 as an example of the future of tournaments

The health of any esports community can be measured by both the quality and quantity of major tournaments. Smash is no different. Thankfully, this year has seen the prevalence of high-quality Smash tournaments throughout the year, and a large contributor was 2GGaming. Throughout the year, 2GGaming provided viewers with more Smash tournaments than they had provided in any year before. Tournaments such as Civil War and the 2GG Championship provided highly competitive, exciting tournaments for viewers.

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Leonardo “MK Leo” Perez won the 2GG Championship, the tournament that capped off the 2017 2GG Tournament Series. Image: Twitter

Additionally, they were organized, structured and presented in an incredibly professional way. This professional presentation goes a long way to allowing Smash to provide positive impressions to non-fans. In the coming year, if more events have the high-quality production values that 2GGaming exemplified this year, then we could see Smash begin to garner many new viewers, and gain more attention as an esport.

The 2GG Championship Series kept major tournaments at a consistent pace throughout the year. This series also allowed viewers to more easily stay up to date with high-level players. Over the past few years, Smash has struggled to have a consistent stream of content for viewers to keep themselves busy with. This year’s 2GG Championship Series serves a good blueprint for what other tournament organizers can accomplish in the years to come. Nevertheless, continuing to organize tournaments consistently and professionally will help Smash grow its viewer audience, something that certainly needs to be done.

The variety of Players and Characters

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Eric “ESAM” Lew’s win against Elliot “Ally” Carroza-Oyarce at 2GG Civil War was considered by many to be one of the highlights of the entire year. Image: YouTube

2017 was the first year in Smash 4’s life to not see the arrival of any downloadable content or patches that affected the balancing of characters. As such, this year saw some stabilization in the competitive Smash community. Now that the dust of new characters and rebalancing of old characters has settled, players have used this year as a chance to finally grow used to how characters perform in tournament, without having to worry about the possibility of patches affecting balance.

This caused some experimentation within the community. This year, we saw many well-known players pick up new characters. A good example of this was when Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios began using Lucina in tournament to accompany his trademark Diddy Kong. In addition, we also saw the continued main and secondary use of characters that aren’t considered top tier, such as with Matt “Elegant” Fitzpatrick’s Luigi and Eric “ESAM” Lew’s Samus, among many other examples. Tournaments throughout the year brought viewers a more diverse pool of played characters, which kept tournaments exciting and diverse to viewers.

I hope that the variety of characters and playstyles that we saw throughout 2017 continues in future tournaments in 2018 and beyond.

Looking to the future of Smash

Smash has always been at a disadvantage as an esport. Unlike many other esports, Smash doesn’t receive much financial backing at all from its creators. This makes it difficult for competitive Smash players to make a full-time career out of their love for the game. And yet, this year, we saw so much passion and camaraderie among Smash players. This year served as a reminder of how much competitive Smash players love the game that they play.

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Competitive Smash continues to be played at large events such as EVO. It’s an exciting time to be a fan of Smash. Image: Twitter

I feel that the future of Smash, though certainly having some legitimate issues and concerns, is a bright one. A large reason for this is the competitive community for the game. The players that we see in major tournaments – their personalities, their playstyles, and their presence – they keep us coming back. While the competitive Smash community itself certainly has flaws just as any community does, it’s clear that all competitive Smash players are determined to keep providing viewers with great sets at great tournaments for years to come.

With the rumors of a Nintendo Switch port of Smash 4 still up in the air, along with so many great major tournaments in recent memory, it’s hard to see competitive Smash going anywhere. This year was a year of growth for competitive Smash. If we continue to see this level of growth, professionalism and diverse playstyles and characters, then we could see Smash become even bigger.

Nevertheless, it’s an exciting time to be part of the competitive Smash community. With that said, what do you think? Do you think this year was a good year for Smash? What do you think the future holds for the competitive community? As always, join the conversation and let us know!

 


 

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2GG Tournament

Discussion and takeaways from the 2GG Championship

This past weekend was an exciting one for every fan of Smash 4. The 2GG Championship Series has been running throughout this entire year, hosting incredible tournaments including the likes of Civil War. 20 of Smash 4’s best players came together this weekend for the grand finale of the championship series. What resulted was the 2GG Championship, quite possibly one of the greatest tournaments in Smash 4 history.

There a lot of reasons to make this claim. Many cite the diverse range of characters that were represented as the reason why the tournament was so interesting. Others claim that the production value of the tournament made it entertaining to watch. Or perhaps it was the high quality of the matches themselves that made the tournament so entertaining for so many viewers. With that said, let’s break down what made the 2GG Championship such a great tournament.

The Stellar Matches of the Event

With every player in the tournament being among the highest rated in the Panda Global Rankings (PGR), the 2GG Championship was set to be an exciting event. And the matches throughout the event certainly did not disappoint. While there were many great performances from many players, a few select ones stuck out to me. One of the most entertaining performances was that of Matt “Elegant” Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick was the winner of the Last Chance Qualifiers, landing the nineteen-year-old player into the pools for the main event. Fitzpatrick went on to perform well enough to get out of pools, placing 5th at the event. What made Fitzpatrick’s performance so exciting to watch was his use of Luigi, a character that we don’t see too often in high-level tournaments.

2GG Tournament

MK Leo, winner of the event, repped a total of four different characters throughout the tournament. Image: YouTube

In fact, there were a wide variety of characters that were used. Of the 20 entrants of the event, there were only a few instances of repeat characters. Saleem “Salem” Young, Yuta “Abadango” Kawamura and Zack “CaptainZack” Lauth all used Bayonetta. Kawamura and Chris “WaDi” Boston both used Mewtwo. Leonardo “MK Leo” Lopez Perez and Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey both used Cloud (though Perez used four different characters throughout the tournament). Lastly, Samuel “Dabuz” Buzby and Noriyoku “Kirihara” Kirihara both used Rosalina.

Outside of these instances, each player in the tournament represented their own character. This led to the tournament being full of multifarious matches that felt unique to one another, in large thanks to a variety of characters giving way to a diverse range of different matchups. This kept the weekend-long tournament engaging for viewers.

With so few repeat characters represented during the tournament, I feel that the 2GG Championship serves as an example of how exciting Smash 4 can be because of the game’s balanced roster. Seeing so many characters represented in a high-level tournament is part of what makes Smash 4 so interesting to watch for many viewers. The 2GG Championship may encourage future attendees of tournaments to play as underrepresented characters in bracket, which will only lead to even more character diversity in tournaments to come.

MK Leo’s win over ZeRo

2GG Championship

MK Leo deals a final Shuttle Loop to ZeRo, ending the 2GG Championship. Image: YouTube

After 20 players stood their ground, only two remained. Echo Fox’s Leonardo “MK Leo” Lopez Perez and Team SoloMid’s Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios faced off against each other in the grand finals of the championship. Perez played against Barrios earlier in the tournament, winning the set 3-0. This raised the stakes for viewers and players alike when the grand finals began. After Barrios won the first set of grand finals 3-2, Perez took grand finals after winning the bracket reset 3-1.

This grand finals was simply an incredible spectacle. Barrios’ Diddy Kong and Perez’s Meta Knight were both sights to behold, with both entrants playing phenomenally well against each other. At just 16 years old, Perez reinforces what helps make Smash 4 tournaments a joy to watch. Perez played as multiple characters throughout the tournament, including Corrin, Marth and Meta Knight, which made watching him feel different each time. Moreover, his aggressive playstyle kept matches quick, even making a few matches end in less than a minute.

The 2GG Championship’s High Production Value

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These frequent step-backs kept the tournament feeling engaging and professional. They were much appreciated. Image: Twitch

Lastly, another component that made the 2GG Championship so entertaining to watch was the unprecedented level of production value. This tournament looked good. Constant discussion on the outcomes of events and analysis on play kept the tournament moving throughout the weekend. Rarely was there an instance where the tournament felt like it was being slowed down by the presentation of the event.

Moreover, I feel that the way in which the 2GG Championship was presented is an important milestone for Smash 4 as an esport. If future events can replicate and even improve upon the level of production value that we saw at the 2GG Championship, we could see more and more people turn their heads towards Smash 4 and Smash Bros. as a whole. Having Smash tournaments with such a high production value makes Smash as a whole feel more palatable to non-fans. This could help expand the audience of competitive Smash, and win over non-fans. The presentation of the event, overall, was certainly a successful step in an ambitious direction.

Moving Forward

Overall, the 2GG Championship had a lot of components to it that made it one of the most entertaining Smash 4 tournaments to date. I look forward to how the results and presentation of this event will effect the many tournaments to come in the next year. We may see more and more tournaments with greater production value. Moreover, we could continue to see more character diversity in high-level tournaments. The future is certainly bright for Smash 4.

And now, we turn it to you. What were your takeaways from the 2GG Championship? What parts of the tournament did you enjoy? As always, join the conversation and let us know!


 

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top tier

Prevalent use of top tier characters in Smash 4: Helping or hurting watchability?

An inevitability of any competitive game is that certain characters will get used more than others. For fighting games, this is true in regards to the top tier characters used in tournaments. It isn’t uncommon to hear something along the lines of, “this character is good if you actually want to win a tournament” at a local or even regional or national tournament. I’ve heard this uttered while attending local Smash tournaments. People also say similar things online, and even top competitive players mirror this sentiment.

There is no problem with competitive players using top tier characters at high-level play. There isn’t a problem with anyone using top-tier characters, for that matter. If people feel confident using a character in tournament, then it’s fine for them to want to use that character in competitive play. But more and more I see arguments that people can’t watch tournaments anymore because they have “started to feel the same.” These arguments use the rationale of constantly seeing the same select few characters being used at the top of tournaments. This makes these people less willing to watch events. Is this a fair argument? Let’s discuss it.

“Too much use of Top Tier characters makes sets less interesting to watch”

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Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios has consistently used Diddy Kong throughout his entire Smash 4 career. Does this make him less fun to watch? Image: SSB Wiki

Naturally, seeing a wider variety of characters used in tournament would be more interesting for viewers. But players ultimately decide what characters they find themselves the most comfortable with. Especially when players’ primary or even secondary source of income is from their winnings from tournaments, they’re naturally going to choose characters that they feel can get them meaningful results.

At the same time, this argument is understandable though. Whenever we see a player using a character that isn’t top tier make it to the top of a bracket, it’s only natural to cheer for them. It’s exciting to see more diversity in higher level play. Realistically, we can’t expect top-level players to shy away from using characters that reliably yield positive results in tournaments. Does this hurt watchability for Smash 4 as a whole, though? This is entirely subjective, based on how much you value seeing different characters used in competitive play. Another component is how much you value seeing the same character used in competitive play, but played significantly differently between players. Both of these values come from different types of viewers of Smash 4; to some extent, it’s impossible to completely satisfy both all the time.

We can see a variety of ways to play Cloud, Bayonetta or Rosalina. This could be satisfying to watch for many viewers. But for many other viewers, it’s more satisfying to see characters that aren’t nearly as common in competitive play. Both are valid things to want to see when watching tournaments. Some would argue that there’s only so many different ways that a character such as Bayonetta can actually be played, which makes watching players use her not be very interesting. This is a fair critique that doesn’t necessarily have a simple solution to it, other than suggesting that viewers pay closer to attention to the nuances of each player’s individual playstyle of a certain character.

However, this isn’t to say that players, regardless of skill level, shouldn’t use lower tier characters in tournament. In fact, it’s detrimental to competitive Smash 4 that they do.

The curious case of Civil war

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Griffin “Fatality” Miller impressed with his Captain Falcon, a character often considered to be mid tier or high tier. Certain viewers may find seeing such characters more entertaining. Image: SSB Wiki

I’m convinced that 2GGC Civil War in March of this year was one of, if not the best tournaments in Smash 4 history. It was full of upsets, exciting matches and unexpected character matchups. This tournament saw players that used rather underrepresented characters in competitive play get really far in brackets. Moreover, two of the top three players played as characters that aren’t considered to be top-tier. Griffin “Fatality” Miller’s Captain Falcon helped popularize the character among many players after his performance at the tournament. Isami “T” Ikeda’s Link did the same thing, though to a lesser extent.

Seeing skilled players use underrepresented characters helps encourage players of all skill levels to want to learn underrepresented characters themselves. Watchability of esports, as stated earlier, depends on what the viewer values seeing when they watch a tournament. But most viewers, regardless of what they value seeing in a tournament, all want to see gameplay that is exciting and new. Seeing different playstyles, whether they’re of top tier, well-represented characters or lower tier, underrepresented characters, is what makes watching competitive Smash Bros. fun.

This is what causes people to perhaps not enjoy seeing top tier characters used in competitive play so much. It’s naturally more difficult to see nuances of a player’s individual playstyle when they use a top tier character that viewers see more often than it is to see an entirely different, underrepresented character.

Does OVER-REPRESENTATION of top tier characters hurt watchability?

In my opinion, no. Seeing top tier characters used often in high-level play doesn’t make it less watchable. But the criticisms placed towards the over-reliance of such characters by many viewers are valid, and should be seriously considered by the competitive Smash community.

As usual, we’ll turn the talking point to you. Do you feel that over-representation of top tier characters hurts or helps the watchability of Smash Bros., specifically with Smash 4? Join the conversation and let us know what you think!

 

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Takeaways and Discussion on Salem’s win over ZeRo at Midwest Mayhem 10

Midwest Mayhem 10 provided an emotional roller coaster for Smash 4 viewers on Saturday, November 25th. Most Valuable Gaming’s Saleem “Salem” Young went up against Team SoloMid’s Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios in the grand finals of Smash 4 singles. The two players have played against each other numerous times throughout Smash 4’s history. Perhaps their most well-known spar was at EVO 2017, where Salem won against ZeRo using Bayonetta’s infamous Witch Twist, making him the champion of EVO this year.

midwest mayhem

Saleem “Salem” Young won the final match of the set by initiating a Witch Twist combo with only twelve seconds left. Image: YouTube.

Barrios had placed first in the previous two Smash 4 singles at Midwest Mayhem. Barrios attempted to defend his throne and go for a “threepeat” at the event. He certainly put up a fight to accomplish this. Barrios and Young first played in Winners Finals, where Young won 3-1, putting Barrios in Losers Finals. This put Barrios up against Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey, where Barrios won 3-2. This reunited Barrios and Young, where they fought in Grand Finals of the event. After a bracket reset and two wins for each player in the second bracket of grand finals, it all came down to the final match.

History ended up repeating itself. Although Barrios attained a comfortable lead throughout most of the match and a timeout would have lead to Barrios winning the event, Young ending up killing Barrios’ Diddy Kong with a Witch Twist, ending the match with only eleven seconds left. You can watch the entire Grand Finals of the event here.

After watching the tournament, it occurred to this author that this tournament initiates some talking points that the Smash community can have. With that in mind, let’s discuss some takeaways from the tournament.

Barrios got cheered for at grand finals of Midwest Mayhem

Whether you consider yourself a fan of Barrios or not, no one can deny the legacy he’s left on the Smash 4 community. He is widely considered to be the best Smash 4 player to this day. At the Grand Finals of Midwest Mayhem, Barrios actually was enthusiastically cheered for by the audience attending the event. This is a bigger deal than it may initially seem.

In 2015, Barrios was a player that very few people enjoyed watching in tournament. This was mainly due to Barrios winning nearly every event at the time, with him having a 53 tournament winning streak during the year. He was even recognized by Guinness World Records for having the longest winning streak in all of Super Smash Bros.. This inevitably made Barrios a difficult player to root for at the time. Many viewers rooted for other players to dethrone Barrios, and end his winning streak.

Over two years after Barrios’ stellar winning streak has ended, it is encouraging to see such a large event have a grand finals that involves Barrios that has audience members cheering for both players. This creates a more even-sided competitive environment, where the best player isn’t considered unbeatable.

The Shifting landscape of competitive Smash 4

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Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios (left) and Saleem “Salem” Young (right) shake hands after an intense Grand Finals. Image: YouTube

This leads into how much the competitive landscape of Smash 4 has changed over the past three years. Since the Wii U version of Smash 4 recently turned three years old, Midwest Mayhem does a good job at capturing what the competitive landscape has become over those three years. Midwest Mayhem featured a wide variety of characters used across the over three hundred entrants in the tournament. Additionally, the Grand Finals of this tournament shows exactly how much room for improvement there still is in Smash 4 for even some of the best players in the world.

Throughout their sets, Barrios repeatedly used Diddy’s up-throw into up-air, often waiting for Young to perform an air dodge. Young didn’t adapt to this situation until the final match of Grand Finals, where he finally jumped after Barrios performing an up-throw. Young failing to adapt quickly led to fair amount of his KOs throughout Young and Barrios’ total of fourteen matches played against each other. On the other side of that coin, Barrios often used Diddy’s Monkey Flip as a means of compensating for Diddy’s poor air movement speed. Barrios’ over-reliance on this move eventually cost him the final match of Grand Finals, with Young punishing Barrios’ Monkey Flip with an After Burner Kick into a Witch Twist.

This is important, in that it shows that everyone in the Smash 4 community – even two highly ranked players – still has room to significantly improve their play style. This Grand Finals is a good example of how much Smash 4 can still develop moving forward, which is exciting both as a player and as a viewer.

Moving Forward with Tournaments

Though Midwest Mayhem has come and gone, many more Smash 4 tournaments are on their way over the next few weekends. The 2GG Championship is next weekend from December 1 – 3, with the Smash 4 Boot Camp Invitational being held a week later on December 7 – 10.

What were your reactions and takeaways from Midwest Mayhem this past weekend? And what are you looking forward to seeing from the upcoming majors over the next few weeks? As always, join the conversation and let us know!

 


 

Featured image courtesy of Unrivaled Tournaments via YouTube.

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

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

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

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

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

Smash Factor 6

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

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

Melee

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

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

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

Low Tier City 5

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

Melee

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

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

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

Smash 4

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salem

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/dreamhacksmash

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

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

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

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

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

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featured image courtesy of twitch.tv/dreamhacksmash

Ones to watch: GPL season two playoffs

Although the teams for the Call of Duty World Championship have just been finalized there is one more battle ready to take place. That battle is the playoffs of Call of Duty’s second LAN pro league. The first round matchups caused controversy within the scene as they were drawn off stream leading some players to believe they were fixed. Although that may be detrimental to some squad’s chances of winning the tournament, there will be some thrilling first matches for fans to tune in to.

This article will pick out some key players their team will need if they are to overcome the rest of the field.

FaZe Clan’s Pierce “Gunless” Hillman

Two of Call of Duty’s biggest brands go head to head in round one. The first, FaZe Clan, is still fresh off of the transfer of Gunless. Meanwhile, Team EnVyUs continue to falter against the top teams.

Call of Duty World Championship

Gunless led eUnited to the trophy at CWL Atlanta. [Source: MLG]

Both sides have struggled massively in Infinite Warfare so I expect this one to be a brawl. If FaZe are to come out on top Gunless needs to be the star he was back on eUnited. The team qualified for the players in the final series of group blue. They had to win the series versus Ghost Gaming without conceding two map losses. They managed to end it convincingly on the fourth map, although, games one and three were nail-biters.

Looking at FaZe’s stats, it seems odd that Gunless had the lowest overall kill death ratio. It could be that with Clayster’s departure Enable can embrace being the main assault rifler. Furthermore, opening up space for Attach to make plays but Gunless is going to have to be on that same level if they are to take down the likes of Splyce or Luminosity.

I’m not hating on Gunless’ performance by any means, the man was still a beast in Search and Destroy. The Canadian had the highest K/D whilst simultaneously having the most bombs planted. It’s just we know that the CWL Atlanta MVP has more to offer in the respawns.

Tom “Tommey” Trewen of Fnatic

Tommey has been at the top of European CoD for as long as I can remember. Even though nowadays Splyce is taking all the glory, the Brit remains a huge figure in the scene leading Fnatic’s foray into Call of Duty.

Call of Duty World Championship

Tommey was perfect for Fnatic’s entrance into CoD. [Source: @fnatic]

When the team was conceived many would have believed Tommey to be its star player, however, he has been overshadowed by adored brothers Skrapz and Wuskin. Much like Gunless, we know that Tommey can bring more to the table.

He has always been a clutch player, particularly in Search and Destroy. If the squad is to knock down the Green Wall, Fnatic is going to need that skill, especially since you could argue OpTic’s best game mode right now is SnD.

Enigma6’s Nicholas “Proto” Maldonado

Call of Duty World Championship

Proto does the dirty work for E6. [Source: enigma6group.com]

The notorious Enigma6 qualified from the same scrappy group as FaZe. They secured their playoff spot due to their head to head record against Ghost Gaming, beating the team both times they played. However, the wins didn’t come any easier.

Latest addition Royalty put his backpack on for the weekend leading the slaying in every single game mode with General usually not far behind. Proto was lacking in that department, finishing the weekend with an overall K/D of 0.90 being sub par in Uplink and SnD in terms of the slaying.

In spite of the stats, Proto holds his place in the team. He was their lead scorer in both Uplink and Hardpoint. However, the lack of fragging will be a problem against the likes of eUnited if the team want to make a deep run. With no guarantees that Royalty will go that nuclear again if Proto can step up and make the difference, they might be able to steal a win. Something Enigma6 is quite known for doing.

Trei “Zer0” Morris of Splyce

At MLG Anaheim, Zero was fighting to be the best player in the world. The man was hitting shots we thought not possible. The second place finish seems to have hit him hard with group yellow being one of his worst events yet.

Call of Duty World Championship

Zer0 pictured left on stage. [Source: MLG]

Similarly to Enigma6, Splyce qualified for the playoffs because of a 2-0 head to head against fellow Europeans Red Reserve. Despite their victories over Red, they were another team that looked unconvincing after being swept by eUnited and even losing to Rise Nation on the final day.

If Splyce is to beat the number one ranked team Luminosity in the first round, they are going to need their best player back on top form. His K/D in the pro league was at 0.90 while at Anaheim he racked up a deadly 1.17 over 38 maps. If Octane performs the way he did at Anaheim I honestly believe Zero is one of the only players that could possibly shut him down.

If Zero wants to defend Splyce’s title from season one he’ll have to prove that group yellow was an anomaly in an otherwise fantastic year for him. The playoffs start up later today with the first series being eUnited against Enigma6, tune into mlg.tv to see the action unfold.

 

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles. You can find me on Twitter at @JackWrightIGL. Feature image from MLG, Stats courtesy of codcompstats.com

Luminosity Gaming wins CWL Anaheim

Luminosity destroyed European hopes of back to back championships in a nail-biting Grand Final at CWL Anaheim.

Call of Duty’s most historic event saw a repeat of the Stage One finals between Luminosity and Splyce. However, this time the roles were reversed. Luminosity reached the Grand Final through the winners’ bracket, while, Splyce had a strenuous Sunday after dropping to the losers’ bracket following an early loss to fellow countrymen Epsilon.

After narrowly beating OpTic Gaming in the first round of the bracket, Luminosity would go on to sweep Evil Geniuses and Epsilon to cement their spot in the Grand Final.

Grand Final

As many know, Anaheim is illustrious for creating epic games and this one was no different despite the 3-1 score line.

The Grand Final series opened up with Scorch Hardpoint, where LG jumped out to a lead. Splyce would crawl back into the game on the second rotation of hills. It looked like Sam “Octane” Larew had put the nail in the coffin after going on an insane streak of kills in the hangar Hardpoint. However, with LG needing only one point to win, Splyce contested the hill for around 30 seconds, eventually closing the deficit and snatching the win 250-249. To see the exciting end just watch this clip.

Game two was Search and Destroy on Crusher. The teams traded rounds, although Luminosity was much more consistent throughout the game and looked experts at holding and retaking bomb sites. The scoreline looks close but Luminosity looked in control throughout the map and won it.

Map three was Throwback Uplink, which started out relatively slow with the first half ending at just 5-3. LG was on the attack for the majority of that half but didn’t convert many chances that were until the second half. All of the NA team went on a tear in the second half ending the game 11-5 after rallying the drone multiple times. Throwback was a pleasure to watch with both Octane and Trei “Zer0” Morris showing off their superb accuracy, gunning people down from range with the NV4.

The final map in the series was Retaliation Hardpoint which again went down to the wire. Similarly to game one, Luminosity jumped out to the lead with MVP Octane going on a seven kill streak and earning his bombardment. However, Splyce came back after Octane wasted his streaks allowing Jordan “Jurd” Crowley to get some of his own. The game came down to the bridge hill with all the players piling in like a game of Advanced Warfare. This time Renato “Saints” Forza secured key kills to win the championship for his squad.

Closing Thoughts

Octane earned the MVP award for the event. [Source CWL]

As they did in Counter-Strike, the Luminosity organization has seemingly plucked out another rising team that has won them a championship. Casters, analysts and players have been tipping the team to reach the top for a while now and they have finally succeeded in doing so. Octane earned the MVP award but it was Saints’ revitalisation that truly gave them the power to win.

Although Splyce did not win the Grand Final, they too deserve huge credit. Reaching the final has further merited their win at Stage One after defeating a string of teams in the losers’ bracket and still showing up in the Grand Final. Bance was crazy with the ERAD this event, scoring multi-kill after multi-kill, while Zer0 made a case for being the best player in the world.

This year Anaheim has gifted us a new rivalry and I fully expect to see a rematch between these two titans in Stage Two playoffs of the World League.


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