A Look Back
This past year has been a wild ride for me. After graduating college last Spring, I worked in an ER with a relatively moderate amount of traveling for smash, with some great performances such as 1st at House of Paign 15, 3rd at Pat’s House 3, and 5th at the Twitch Invitational. I was ranked 26th for the 2017 MIOM Top 100 List, though the beginning of 2018 wasn’t so hot. I did fine at Genesis, losing to S2J and Wizzrobe to get 17th, and I won See Me On Lan, beating Slox and KJH (with a silly Fox ditto ending to win GFs), but I did pretty badly at Full Bloom 4, Smash Valley 7, and Flatiron 3, with losses to Ginger, Hax, AbsentPage, KJH, and Swedish. I had some diamonds in the rough, though, with 1st place finishes at Fight Pitt 8, Boss Rush: lloD, and Xanadu: End of an Era. In the middle of April, however, after this string of tournaments, I made a drastic change to my lifestyle: I quit my job. By this point, I had been accepted to one of my dream medical schools, and so I decided to take the summer off to play smash full-time, and boy has this been one hell of a summer.
Summer of Smash
I’ll start off by saying that I was finally able to start attending weekly Xanadu’s again, even if it meant traveling through horrendous traffic. I’m happy to say that I am still undefeated at Xanadu weeklies, including a 9-consecutive-week-win-streak. The competition hasn’t been too tough, considering Junebug and Zain rarely go (and the one time they did was when I dodged Zain twice thanks to June), and I’ve had a chance to start working on my Yoshi, who I still hope to one day co-main with Peach (Yoshi is the future!!). The Xanadu metagame has become pretty cancerous, as the top seeds these days are all campy floaties, to the point that I even started advocating for a ledge grab limit, but we’ll just have to see if the floaty streak continues.
As for larger tournaments, I started my “Summer of Smash” with a respectable 2nd at Pound Underground, losing to Zain twice, who had just returned from an amazing Summit performance. He has definitely become much more difficult to hit since his Summit grind, and I actually haven’t taken a set from him since then, which is unusual, as we used to pretty consistently trade sets. My next big tournament was pretty disappointing, though. At GOML 2018, I barely lost to Shroomed in winner’s, and then I barely lost to Slox in loser’s to get 25th. I wasn’t too sad about losing to Shroomed, as each time I played him I kept getting closer and closer to beating him, and losing last hit meant that I’d likely beat him the next time (and spoiler alert: I did). Losing to Slox was heartbreaking though, as throughout game 5 on FD, I missed SO many dashbacks for the chaingrab, partly because GOML used Vanilla instead of UCF, and mostly because I realized I had never really practiced the chaingrab, and so of course I wouldn’t be consistent at it. The worst part about that loss was missing out on the Top 24 bracket the next day.
Smash ‘N’ Splash 4, the next tournament, salvaged my performance at GOML. After an early loss to Duck, I defeated Bladewise, Shroomed, and Lucky to get 9th. As I mentioned before, I knew my win on Shroomed would happen eventually, and my preparation finally paid off. Omega III, though, was another disappointment. I lost to iBDW and Junebug to get 9th, which stung for many reasons. 1) Trifasia was one of the special guests at this tournament, and he beat both iBDW and June after I lost to them, which means I’ll never hear the end of people claiming he’s better than me. 2) My record against June is SO skewed in my favor (something like 40-10) that losing to him at a regional hurts. 3) Once again, I barely miss out on Top 8. My main excuse for my poor performance at Omega was the ridiculous heat inside the venue, and I know it should be a learning experience, but honestly I don’t know how to counteract a hot venue. There’s only so many layers you can take off lol.
Up to Omega, my performances were all over the place. In fact, there were some really annoying patterns I noticed.
The first was that I consistently BARELY missed out on making the next stage of bracket. For example, I placed 9th at Smash Con 2017, Smash Valley 7, Flatiron 3, SNS4 (both Melee and PM), and Omega III, barely missing out on Top 8 for all of these, as well as 25th at GOML, missing out on Top 24 the next day. For all of these tournaments (except for the loss against Hax at SV7, which doesn’t count considering he uses a B0XX lul, and the loss to S2J at SNS4 because of Falcon), I lost Game 5 last stock, meaning I was so close to moving on. A lot of these sets were comebacks by my opponents, especially Zain at SSC and Swedish at Flatiron, indicating that I didn’t put forth enough mental effort to secure my win and make it into the next part of bracket. These types of losses made me think that I don’t play with the “right to win,” a quality that Scar/Toph mentioned that Armada had during Summit. It was frustrating barely missing out on the cut for all of these tournaments, as Top 8’s were the venues with the most hype, exposure, and pleasure.
The other pattern I noticed was that most of my brackets involved either upsetting a Fox and a Sheik that are both better than me, or being upset by a Fox and a Sheik that are both worse than me. This pattern actually has been alternating chronologically since Smash Con. I’ll show you:
Smash Con: Wins on Druggedfox (Fox) and Swedish Delight (Sheik)
Twitch Invitational: Losses to SFAT (Fox) and Shroomed (Sheik)
Genesis 5: Wins on iBDW (Fox) and Captain Faceroll (Sheik) (Not upsets but still)
Flatiron 3: Losses to KJH (Fox) and Swedish Delight (Sheik)
Pound Underground: Wins on Darktooth/Kaeon (Fox) and Junebug (Sheik) (Not upsets but still)
GOML 2018: Losses to Slox (Fox) and Shroomed (Sheik)
Smash ‘N’ Splash 4: Wins on Lucky (Fox) and Shroomed (Sheik)
Omega III: Losses to iBDW (Fox) and Junebug (Sheik)
The pattern is a little cherry-picked, but you get the idea. I didn’t realize this pattern until after Omega, so it definitely wasn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’d like to think the 9th place curse was more likely a self-fulfilling prophecy, but to be honest, for some of those sets I didn’t even know where they were in bracket, so that might not be likely either. These two patterns might just be pure coincidence, or at least they were until I made the realizations that they existed. So, I had to put an end to them.
CEO 2018 was a step in the right direction. I admittedly had a very lucky bracket, as Leffen dropped out for DBFZ, and I was seeded to take his place in the bracket. My opponents were no pushovers, though, as I had to beat Syrox and $mike to make it into Top 24, and Fox and Falcon are arguably my worst matchups. Syrox is scary, as he is known for his infinite waveshines on Peach, but I beat him last year at Big House and was able to do it again at CEO. $mike was my real concern, as Falcon has been historically my worst matchup, and Peach has been historically his best matchup. I’ve only played him once before in January of 2017, where he kinda destroyed me, so I was pretty scared to play him again. Fortunately, before I had to play him, Ryobeat showed me a new way to deal with Falcon’s SHFFL’d nairs: Subfloat Uair. This changed everything, as SHFFL’d nairs from Falcon has literally shut down almost everything Peach could do for YEARS. If you watch any of my past sets against top Falcons (most notably Wizzrobe and S2J), they literally spam nairs in my face because it’s so hard to deal with. This new uair was a direct counter to those nairs, however, which made me really excited to try it out. In my set against $mike, he didn’t use SHFFL’d nairs as much as I expected, but whenever he did, my subfloat uairs worked like a charm. Towards the end of the set, he even stopped approaching with aerials at all and instead resorted to dash dance camping, but I managed to pull through in the end with key turnip throws and make it into Top 24.
From there, I lost 3-0 to Zain, which I guess was expected. I had a sizable lead during both games 2 and 3, but I threw both of them away. If I had won that set, I would have made it into Top 8 Winner’s Side, which would have broken the 9th place curse, so maybe in my head I didn’t think I deserved that. I’m not sure if I would have been able to win on either of Zain’s counterpicks, but I think I could have at least taken a game. Either way, in Loser’s side, I just had to win 1 set to make it into Top 8. Fortunately, for the first time seemingly ever, the universe gave me a good matchup: Ice Climbers. Army defeated Hugs the round prior, so I just had to beat an ICs to make it into Top 8. This was huge for me, as if I win, I break the curse and place Top 8 at a national. If I lose, then the curse continues, and even worse, I lose to an ICs for the first time in something like THREE YEARS. Army took game 1, which I kind of expected, as top ICs are usually pretty tricky to figure out. Thankfully, I won the next 3 games, which meant I made it into Top 8.
The production for Top 8 was easily my favorite part of the tournament. I had the opportunity to walk into a screaming arena with Katy Perry’s Firework blasting behind me and climb into a BOXING RING to play my favorite game in the world. I lost a close game 5 set to SFAT, which wasn’t too disappointing, as the set was a lot of fun. The most disappointing part was the ending to the set, as I was about to do this super super super sick combo on BF, but SFAT tech-Usmashed my AI Uair, so the world didn’t get to see the best combo ever. But alas, I walked away with the curse broken and a Top 8 at a national finally under my belt.
The Even Bigger Breakthrough
I felt pretty great going into Even Bigger Balc, as my curse was broken (or at least one of them was). Junebug and I were actually flown out to this event in California primarily for Project M, as EBB was the biggest PM tournament of all time, but the Melee tournament looked very stacked, too, with SFAT, S2J, Westballz, Hugs, and more in attendance.
In PM, I defeated Jose V (one of the best Nesses) and Techboy (the best ICs and one of the favorites to win the tournament) pretty handily in winners. In WQs, I had to play Sosa, the 1st seed, who plays Wario, aka “Super Puff.” I think he, as well as most of the PM community, expected him to destroy me, especially considering how bad the matchup is, but he won a close game 5 set. I hadn’t played a good Wario since, well uh, Sosa himself at Evo 2016, so it took me a while to regain my bearings in the matchup, and I think I’ll stand a much better shot at him the next time we meet. In Loser’s Bracket, however, I had to play Envy, who plays Ike, to make it into Top 8. As you might have heard, I hate Ike with a burning passion. I think he’s easily Peach’s worse matchup in PM, and even a monkey could play that character. He’s pretty much Captain Falcon with a sword that combos AND kills, so I’m sure you’d understand my frustration. I actually played really well that set, but of course, I lost game 5 last stock to barely miss out on top 8 (I guess my curse was broken for Melee but not PM). I actually wasn’t too tilted, though, as I was happy with my performance. My lack of tiltedness proved very useful, as I immediately had to play in Melee Top 8 after my set with Envy.
Before I get into EBB Melee Top 8, a little backtracking: I started the day with a clean 3-0 against Squid. I was scared to play him, as Falco is probably my 3rd worst matchup after Fox and Falcon (or maybe even tied with Fox for 2nd worst), but I played really really really well that set. Afterwards, I was expecting play HugS, but he was upset by Captain Faceroll. When I sat down to play Faceroll, despair started to cloud my mind as I realized I potentially had another Sheik+Fox bracket (as SFAT was still somewhere in the bracket) and that I was on the wrong side of the pendulum (having just beaten Drephen and Bones (yes Falco but close enough) two weeks before at Smashadelphia). I won games 1 and 2 solidly, but he won game 3 handily and I could feel my grasp on the set slipping. As he started game 4 with a commanding lead, I fortunately was able to kick myself back into shape and convince myself that I had the “right to win,” barely winning game 4 and ending the set with a sigh of relief. This was big, as I made it into Top 8 on winner’s side, again avoiding the 9th place curse.
So now back to starting Top 8 immediately after losing to Envy in PM. I had to play SFAT, who I had literally just lost to the weekend before at CEO. I knew exactly what changes I needed to make to beat him, though, and it worked! Big changes were better mixups on shield, not letting him pressure MY shield, better spacing around his nairs/drills in neutral, better spacing around his bairs when I was cornered, and cleaning up my edgeguard game. I was actually really proud of my offstage game, as my drift was clean and my aerial placement was amazing. I actually noticed a parallel between my progress against both SFAT and Shroomed: I kept getting closer and closer to beating both of them until I beat them both 3-1. I’m excited to see how I do against both of them in the future now that they might start taking me seriously 😉
After beating SFAT and making it into Winner’s Finals, I had to play against my worst nightmare: Captain Falcon. S2J was the 2nd seed of the tournament, and seeing how Westballz got knocked out really early and some of the other top seeds dropped out, S2J cleanly landed on the other side of WFs. S2J and I have a pretty funny rivalry that started with the insane ending at the Twitch Invitational. After that, we consistently traded destructive sets. He 3-0’d me at Genesis, I 2-0’d him at Flat Iron, and he 3-0’d me at SNS 4. I was pretty frustrated after our SNS 4 set, because as I mentioned before, it felt like he literally would push me into the corner with SHFFL’d nairs right outside my dash attack range, and then destroy me with a heavily-falcon-favored mixup in the corner (grab, stomp, uair, etc) that led to a kill each time. This time, though, I had an answer to the nairs: Subfloat Uairs.
In our Winner’s Final set, I got SO much mileage off of Subfloat Uair. I was actually surprised by how much he kept trying to use his nairs considering I’d use his nairs as an avenue through which I would start my own combos, as FC Uair leads into so much on falcon. He barely won game 1, and I barely won game 5, continuing the pattern before of trading sets (although this one wasn’t as destructive as the ones prior). S2J ended up making it back into Grand Finals, and hilariously enough, the streak continued, as he won Set 1 convincingly and I won Set 2 convincingly, putting our current record 4-3 in my favor. This was a huge huge huge breakthrough, as not only did I have the best placing of my career (having 3 top 10 wins in a single tournament and WINNING it), but I broke the Sheik/Fox curse (beating Faceroll/SFAT) and I won 2 sets against a FALCON! The only way this win would have been sweeter would be if I won Set 1 of GFs, ending the alternating-set-streak against S2J, but I guess I can’t have everything just yet 😉
The Good Stuff
EBB was overall an incredible experience. This was, again, my best placement ever, and it shows that my hard work is playing off. I’ve been practicing my punish game on Fox ever since I dropped all those CGs vs Slox at GOML, and I’m getting closer and closer to the touch of death, as seen during Game 4 against SFAT where I almost 4 stock him. Also, I’ve only just begun theorycrafting subfloat uair against falcon and it’s already doing so much work against a top 10 player, so I have high hopes for the technique in the future. Falcons will develop counterplay to subfloat uair, but the important part is that the tech forces mixups, which is exactly what Peach needs to stay in the metagame. I might even say that this tech miiiiight remove Falcon as Peach’s worst matchup, but only time will tell.
Outside of my performance in the tournament, EBB was just fun. It was great to be at a large PM tournament again, as I can’t even remember the last time I entered a national in which PM had more entrants than Melee. The tournament was ran extremely well, and I had such a gracious host for the entire weekend. The heat was pretty miserable, but I miss California already. And lastly, the support I received after the tournament was extremely overwhelming. Even though I was from a different region, I was welcomed and congratulated by so many people, both from the Melee and PM communities. My social media has been blowing up all weekend by my lovely supporters, and I honestly can’t thank everyone enough for helping me make it this far.
The Bad Stuff
One thing I was pretty frustrated about was the audiences of my IRL matches throughout the weekend. I’ve had pretty bad experiences with PM crowds in the past, probably because the PM community still sees me as a Melee player trying to invade their game (even though I’ve been playing PM wayyy longer than the vast majority of them). The most notorious example was when I got 3rd at Smash ‘N’ Splash 3 last year, where the midwest PM crowd hated my guts, to the point of not making a single sound during my set against Phresh except for the one time he took a stock. Yes, I ELEVEN-stocked him, and the only time they cheered was the one time I died. Even when I (admittedly rarely) compete in PM within MD/VA, I still feel like an outsider, as I guess I’m no longer part of the PM in-group here, and so I’m often cheered against. This past weekend was no different, as throughout my various PM sets (especially vs Sosa), I once again felt like an outsider, as the majority of the crowd seemed to be cheering for my opponents. Don’t get me wrong: I very much appreciate the support I do receive, especially from my MDVA brethren. I just wish that everyone watching appreciated my gameplay, especially considering I have a background as a classical musician, and so audience reception of my performances was always one of my primary concerns.
People not cheering for me is nothing new, though, as I face discrimination as a floaty player all the time. The thing that irritated me the most was actually Twitch Chat. I get negative feedback from Twitch Chat all the time, about how my character is lame, I get carried by my character, blah blah blah, again nothing new. However, this weekend, after I beat S2J in Grand Finals… for the first time ever, EVER, I was boo’d. Only in Twitch Chat, mind you, as the IRL audience was outstanding, and only by a minority of people within Twitch Chat. But still, as a performer, being boo’d by anyone after such an incredible performance stings. I can tolerate disappointment for your favorite player losing, or complaining about a character you don’t like to see winning, but booing? Unacceptable in my opinion, especially if the reason you’re booing is because you don’t like the outcome of the event. I complained about this to Rishi, who of course said to just ignore it and move on, as most of the Twitch chat dissenters are irrelevant, but I consider my gameplay as if it were an orchestral performance, and so I guess I take “boo-ing” a lot more seriously than others might. Also, I recognized some of the boo-ers as people that are more than just irrelevant Twitch chatters, so I’m hoping that we don’t continue down this toxic path and instead learn to support our favorite players and express our dissatisfaction in healthier ways.
I am still in shock that I won Melee at Even Bigger Balc. Especially after a mediocre start to the year, I can end my Summer of Smash with such an incredible performance. And when I say “end,” I unfortunately do mean “end,” as EBB is probably my last big event for a while. I’ll be starting medical school in a few weeks, so I’ll be preparing for the big transition until then. I’ll still be entering locals, and will likely go to Short Hops at Xanadu on 7/21/18, but I’ll unfortunately be missing out on all the big August events, including EVO, Shine, and Smash Con. I’ll try to sneak away for at least one of those, but no promises. Even though I’m sad my melee career is being put on a halt for a moment, I am very excited to start a new journey in becoming a doctor. If you’re wondering what kind of doctor I want to be, then just know that maybe one day I’ll be the designated doctor for the smash community 😉
Alright, thanks for reading! This was a long one but there was a lot to cover, as I’ve been busy competing instead of writing haha. As always, please let me know if you have any questions, and feel free to send me your thoughts on anything I’ve talked about in this post!