The FGC Recap returns with a look back at the weekend that was in the fighting game community. A lot of tournament action took place on Memorial Day weekend including one of the best events of the entire year, Combo Breaker. It’s always high production value, and a true melting pot of every imaginable portion of the FGC and Hadou and his crew are to be commended for the job they do each and every year. Before we head to the Windy City and a recap of the annual edition of Combo Breaker, let’s start with Street Fighter V Crash and the Round of 4.
The Runback is Real
The ongoing saga of Street Fighter V Crash is nearly at its conclusion as the Top 4 was whittled down to two teams left standing this past Sunday. Team Topanga and Team Razer are all that remain though this won’t be the first time the two have clashed. Their first meeting in the Round of 8 Winner’s match seemed the perfect setup for the runback the entire FGC has been aching for between Lee “Infiltration” Seonwoo and Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi. It was not to be, though, as Team Topanga’s Yusuke “Momochi” Momochi dominated all three of Team Razer’s elite.
It not only signaled the rise of Momochi again within the new landscape of Street Fighter V, as he ended up taking second at Battle Arena Melbourne 8 and then first place at Stunfest but also showed the Infiltration was human. He could be beaten despite his unbeaten streak in prior CPT Premier events and Red Bull Kumite.
Momochi, before last weekend, was one of the few people on the planet to vanquish Infiltration in tournament play. Team SouthEast, comprised of the less angry Poongko, Gamerbee and HumanBomb, sought to send a message to Team Razer. The team’s leadoff man, HumanBomb got the festivities started with a quick thrashing of Infiltration. Xian stopped Team SouthEast’s march onward until GamerBee stepped up to the plate. It wasn’t long after that Fuudo’s R. Mika took the stage leaving HumanBomb back in the driver’s seat against, arguably, the number one player in the world, Infiltration.
HumanBomb didn’t just beat Infiltration once but twice in the Round of 4, and no one else has been able to do anything close to that this entire season so far. Xian would, ultimately, take the reigns and lead Team Razer to victory once more but the implications are big. Infiltration, seemingly untouchable before this, can be beaten after all. His Nash might be the best in the game, but HumanBomb made the case that his Chun-Li is worth taking note of.
Team Topanga didn’t have much issue dispatching Team Moving Center as the big guns weren’t needed. Tokido took care of the competition handily though he allowed Mago to swap in late to bring home the victory. The stage is now set for the two teams to clash in the Grand Finals set for June 5th. The action will be available at Crash_EN as per usual.
The Trinity Visits Tijuana
Japonawa, another in the Latin American regional tour of the CPT, featured seven different American pros all taking their shot at much-needed Pro Tour points and a spot in the regional finals to the winner. There was, no doubt, a shared strategy as many felt that the gatekeeping might be too strong at Combo Breaker where players such as EG|Justin Wong or PG|fChamp would be present. It was, frankly, a shrewd move that makes a lot of sense as the Capcom Pro Tour season is quite long, and any opportunity for points should be taken.
Top 16 had seven different Ken players vying for supremacy including the Trinity of EchoFox|Julio, Chris Tatarian and brenttiscool. That shouldn’t be too surprising as the shoto is still a juggernaut in the right hands.
Chris Tatarian was the better Ken this past weekend than Julio. There isn’t much more to it than that. The approach of most professional players to Ken is the same with close to mid-range pressure and taking openings via EX-Tatsu when possible. Julio, winner of Texas Showdown, is a fundamentally grounded player, yet he can’t resist going for the throat when he should pull back. Chris Tatarian, winner of West Coast Warzone, plays far more passively, but that usually results in him getting hit on the chin a whole lot more than his counterpart. Ken is, without a doubt, a top-tier fighter. Even Capcom’s ComboFiend (Street Fighter V Associate Producer) admitted he’s the strongest character in the game right now on a recent episode of Capcom Pro Tour Talk. It isn’t surprising to see a bevy of Ken Masters populating a tournament bracket, but one has to wonder what happens when EG|Momochi or Eita square off against the Trinity? Will we see the same results of years past with Asia’s elite mopping the floor with the Americans all over again? EVO keeps getting more interesting by the minute. Congratulations to Chris Tatarian for taking first place and snagging a spot in the Latin American regional finals alongside Justin Wong.
This was, sadly, another disappointing finish for EG|PR-Balrog. Fifth place is respectable, but Eduardo is without a true main at the moment. His Necalli is solid, but he just hasn’t put all the pieces together yet. His character of choice and namesake, Balrog, isn’t in the game quite yet but even then will that be the turning point? We won’t have an idea until after EVO and further down the road to the Capcom Cup Finals.
Chun-Li’s First Major Win
Chun-Li is a character that always gets thrown in the Top 3 of every tier list imaginable for Street Fighter V yet few players in the scene have turned that strength into tournament success. That changed at FFM Rumble in Frankfurt, Germany thanks to GWAK.FR|CCL.
There isn’t much that’s different in CCL’s style with Chun-Li compared to the rest of the Pro Tour. It’s the aggressive style that has come to characterize the route most take though a bit safer. The Lightning Legs managed to shut down the aggressive rushdown of players like Ryan Hart, Halibel, ProblemX and everyone else who stood in Yaunes “CCL” Lazaar’s way. He’s no slouch with 13th at Hypespotting and Top 32 at Stunfest earlier this year but, frankly, nothing was remarkable about his play. It was just better than the rest of the European field that looked awful.
Luffy, on the rise from his finish at Kakutop League 4 with R. Mika, got sent off in a body bag after matches with Ryan Hart and ProblemX in Top 16. Team YP’s Valmaster, a potential dark horse candidate to win at FFM Rumble, limped away tied for 13th place with Cannes Winter Clash winner Mr.Crimson and LLL|MBR and Red Bull’s Luffy as well. None of the supposed European elite, though none made a strong showing at Stunfest, did well at FFM Rumble. Another slide back into potential irrelevance for the EU scene with play like that. North America and Asia will eat the EU boys alive if this keeps up.
Can Anyone Stop Justin Wong?
Combo Breaker, one of my personal favorite events of the entire year, has come and gone and EG|Justin Wong scores another first place finish. That’s five in a row, folks. Five. This is looking like a historic run indeed for the best Karin player in North America and, likely, the entire world. His confirms were legendary; his reads were godlike, and he played at a level that few could touch. His winning was put to the test by fellow EG teammate, Ricki Ortiz, but he handled it with the greatest of ease.
The surprise wasn’t that Justin Wong won again as his Karin is on another level entirely compared to the rest of the USA. Seriously. Level up already, America. The biggest surprise was who finished second to Jwong this past weekend. It wasn’t my pick to possibly steal the spotlight away, PG|fChamp or Ricki Ortiz. It was the pro formerly known as Flash Metroid. Peter “Flash” Susini is currently rocking the best Vega in the world. His tear through the brackets to make it to Grand Finals was nothing short of spectacular.
His decision making is what propelled him to second place and some much-deserved time in the spotlight. Many thought Liquid|NuckleDu might be the end of his run but his switch to Claw Stance and kept things honest with his faster walk speed. The switch to Mika, which has paid dividends in tournaments past for Du, leads to Flash turning away from the Claw to get in close, mix it up and punish with authority. Flash made Vega look like a potential sleeper Top 5 character, and though he had an impossible hill to climb against Justin Wong, he managed to show further flashes of brilliance. Vega, who is not the same as he was back in the SFIV days, really shined this past weekend, and it won’t be surprising to see Flash gain a sponsor by CEO for it.
Elphelt Best Girl?
Lost Soul is an immense talent within the North American Guilty Gear scene. His victory over Japanese god, Dogura, at Final Round earlier this year solidified him as one of the best Elphelt players on the planet. His opponent after the long winding road of Combo Breaker brackets? Panda Global’s MarlinPie. His Nato worked wonders at Toryuken recently but would it be enough to defeat PAG|Lost Soul? The beginning of Grand Finals saw the momentum heavily for the challenger from Loser’s bracket, Marlin Pie. His defense against Elphelt’s shotgun pressure in the corners was impeccable. The beginning game is quickly taken by MarlinPie, who had been playing out of his mind for most of the tournament. His defensive measures continue to work out going into Game 2. Lost Soul’s smart play and his superior neutral game netted a win and lead to some heavy deliberation regarding character choice by MarlinPie soon after.
The brief pause seemed to pay off as MarlinPie stole a round due to a few quick combos and some more crafty defensive plays yet LostSoul immediately answered and one key moment seemed to be a turning point for the rest of Grand Finals. It was such a simple thing to do. Zato is starting to advance with Eddie and Lost Soul tosses down the grenade. That baits the jump which Elphelt immediately air grabs, slam down to an OTG, which leads to massive damage on the combo that follows. A Perfect round for LostSoul and another long pause at the character select right after by MarlinPie. He’s experimented with other characters in East Coast tournaments but with Combo Breaker on the line? Stick with Zato.
There were glimmers of hope but, ultimately, poor execution gave LostSoul all the openings he needed. He not only scored another Perfect but prevented the bracket reset altogether and wrapped up the top spot at Combo Breaker 2016 for Guilty Gear XRD. He was chanting about EVO afterward, and the battle lines are clearly drawn. He wants to charge head on into EVO and take on all comers. Can the Elphelt even the Japanese player base agree is one of the best around takes home the gold for the USA on the biggest stage of them all? Time will tell. Dogura is likely ready to exact his vengeance upon LostSoul in the months ahead at CEO and EVO both.
Justin Wong certainly made headlines with his first place finish in Street Fighter V, but he also made Top 8 in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows of the Wong Factor, but his presence in any Marvel event elevates it entirely. He always puts on a show though he tweaked his usual formula of Wolverine, Storm, and Akuma. Vergil subbed in for this go-round and, perhaps, that was his downfall as the online warrior turned Mahvel rising star, UA|TerryBogard, managed to knock Mr. Wong out of the tournament entirely with his Morrigan, Dante, and Strider Hiryu combo. Typical Morrigan SoulFist action and some quick work made of Vergil 8 seconds in followed by the rest of the team in quick succession.
Terry may have been down in Loser’s bracket, but the latter half of his run through the competition was fantastic. He clawed his way forward through Loser’s side to face off against RF7|RyanLV. The Chun-Li, Morrigan, and Phoenix match is interesting against Terry’s trio but, ultimately, not good enough in the wake of Bogard’s quick reads and decision making. Marvel, within 99 seconds of play, is a whole lot of things. It’s an intense chess match where split-second decisions have to be continually made, and the twitch nature of it makes it far harder to break into than even other fighting games. It is often codified as the “Touch of Death” fighter, and while infinite combos are certainly a thing, there are still so many points within a single match that can lead to ruin or victory. Terry Bogard, representing Ultra Arcade (Shoutouts to Odinson!), made better decisions time and time again against RyanLV.
Could we see TerryBogard bring the pain against EVO 2015 champion KaneBlueRiver? His absence at Combo Breaker this year was a bit odd but, more than likely, due to proximity to Tijuana for him rather than anything else. The outlook of Top 8 would have probably been very different with KBR in the mix. That, however, is what CEO and EVO are for because Mahvel never dies.
Mortal Kombat Still Delivers
Mortal Kombat XL, while having some trouble with gaining more mainstream attention as of late, is still solid as a rock with ESL League play continuing consistently, and the big names in the scene showing out every single tournament. Combo Breaker, the melting pot of the FGC, showcased the game in a big way as it was the only North American qualifier for the ESL Pro League but a damn fine MK tournament as well.
cR|SonicFox is a name synonymous with success when it comes to NetherRealm Studios games. He was nigh untouchable in Injustice and early on he appeared to be just as elite in Mortal Kombat X. He seems to be focusing more on Street Fighter as of late, though. He nearly made Top 8 in Street Fighter V if not for a few poor execution errors, but his work in MKX is still top-tier. SonicFox found himself at a 2-1 deficit, though, as NobleRaptor’s Shirai Ryu variation Takeda was proving too much for his go-to Cassie Cage and his new focus, Alien (Acidic variation specifically). He went back to the classic, Erron Black in Gunslinger variation with the white hat. So smooth. What followed was a tense back-and-forth that can be seen above that showcased Sonic digging himself out of that hole only to have a critical drop in the corner that leads to a perfectly executed corner carry into a reset and another big damage swing that bopped the prodigal son of NRS games right out of the tournament in 4th place. I think Raptor’s friend, vMan, may have been more excited about the win than Noble was.
PXP|AFoxyGrampa, a fierce competitor and force of nature on the ESL Pro League, heading into Season 3 Finals, pitted his Piercing variation Mileena against Orbit.Mtl|Hayatei, a Ronin Takeda took out NobleRaptor before Grand Finals. FoxyGrampa showed a lot of poise throughout Top 8. He hadn’t’ really been tested all weekend before that, but Hayatei pushed him to the edge, though it never showed visibly.
Hayatei’s use of zoning and Takeda’s wakeup options were strong against Grampa’s ferocious Mileena that ultimately came down to one last round and a single overhead from that lead into a massive combo for the win. Denom “A F0xy Grampa” Jones will now move on to ESL Season 3 Finals for a shot at $75,000 and, hopefully, continue his winning ways headed into EVO and beyond. Congrats to the UK phenom.
There’s honestly so much to cover from Combo Breaker alone that there simply isn’t enough space to do it justice. The Killer Instinct Top 8 was impressive with known commodities Rico Suave and Sleep showing out, but lesser known names took the spotlight such as Pink Diamond. Her Maya is ferocious and was fun to watch all weekend, but the show was stolen by BH| Thompxson and Nicky NS, That Ultra finish by Jago over Fulgore to close out the Grand Finals was epic.
SonicFox may have gotten fourth in MKXL and 25th in Street Fighter V, but he thoroughly dominated in the highly underrated gem, Skullgirls. The full Top 8 is worth a look. eSAM took the Smash4 crown while Duck took home gold in Melee with his always sick Samus play. The Smash community wasn’t present as they were at GOML 2016 but the hype was still in the building all the same.