The FGC Recap is back with another look back at the weekend that was in the FGC. Dreamhack Austin, the first Dreamhack event on US soil ever, held no shortage of fantastic fighting game moments. Thaiger Uppercut was a surprising revelation in regards to character diversity and some new names in the scene that made their mark. Let’s get things started with a look at Street Fighter V Crash and the potential for the runback against Infiltration by Tokido.
Team Topanga, comprised of Taniguchi “Tokido” Hajime, Hayashi “Mago” Kenyro and Momochi Kosuke continued their dominance in the weeks-long Street Fighter V Crash with powerful performances from Momochi (reigning EVO Champion) and Mago both to take a Semifinals bracket victory (3-1) over Lee “Infiltration” Seon-Woo and Team Razer. Team Topanga, much as they had in earlier rounds, never needed to call upon their anchor, Tokido, as Momochi and Mago both handily dealt with the competition. Team Razer, bounced down to the Loser’s bracket clawed back against Team Daddy’s Going in the bracket final.
Eyes all around the world were fixated upon the competition (though it was a bit late if you were in North America tuning in as the event was broadcast from Seoul, South Korea) as it meant the possibility of the runback between Tokido and Infiltration. Justin Wong might be dominating within North America right now but so far this year the three biggest majors, Final Round, NorCal Regionals and Red Bull Kumite, were settled with the two best players in the world duking it out. Tokido has gotten better each time yet Infiltration has managed to hold him off every single time.
Team Razer is not to be taken lightly, though, as it contains former EVO champions with Infiltration (2012), Ai “Fuudo” Keita (2011) and Kun Ho Xian (2013). Topanga may have taken the weekend’s top spot but Finals are still left ahead and it is doubtful that Mago and Momochi will be able to take care of all of Team Razer by themselves two weeks in a row. The world will be waiting for the showdown between Tokido and Infiltration.
Eita Wins First Asian Major of the Year
Thaiger Uppercut delivers year after year. This year, despite a smaller field than usual (due to Street Fighter V Crash Semifinals the same weekend), was no exception though some of the names might not be as familiar to newer followers of the scene. Dogura, GO1, Gackt and some that are EVO finalists and well-known names such as Gamerbee or Marn. The field of 90 competitors was lean and mean over in Bangkok, Thailand but the hype was as explosive as ever.
Hiroyuki “Eita” Nagai has been around for a while though he might not be a household name. His Akuma play in the Street Fighter IV days was second only to Tokido and Infiltration. The field might not have been as voracious as usual due to other events but it still held plenty of landmines for Eita to step on as he rolled into Grand Finals. The biggest takeaway from Eita, a long-time shoto player, and his usage of Ken can be found in the way he plays. The Trinity (Julio, brenttiscool and Chris T) from North America tends to play with a much more aggressive style whereas Eita’s approach is far more measured. The character is top-tier, no doubt, but nuance can be found amongst players around the world. Eita made use of this drawn back style to bait his opponents, corner carry them and bring the pain.
One of the other surprises from Thaiger Uppercut? His opponent in Grand Finals. Laura, considered among the lowest tier characters in the game, was represented well in Grand Finals by Kevin “Saunic” Souvanheuane from France. His play with Laura was aggressive, making use of her shorter buttons to bait out unsafe moves. His downfall, however, came in the form of that Volty Line command overhead that leaves her at a severe disadvantage. Eita saw his opportunity and punished Saunic thoroughly for the move every time he attempted it. Ken doesn’t need much time to setup corner carry combos and the like but Laura’s Volty Line overhead left her at a -7 and that means combo city for shoto players. Eita did a lot of work with Hadoukens (the shoto player’s poke) to bring out the EX Bolt Charge thus leaving other big openings for combos and mix-ups. His showing at the tournament was strong nonetheless as his Laura deftly defeated the likes of many of Asia’s best.
The Top 8 wasn’t quite as diverse as what we saw at Northwest Majors 8 as nor Birdie or Chun-Li players made it as far but Laura in the mix made for some interesting sets that are well worth watching.
Hail to the King
Evil Geniuses’ Justin Wong continued his winning ways this past weekend at Dreamhack Austin. Justin is, without a doubt, the most recognizable name in North America when it comes to fighting games and this weekend proved why. The kid has still got it. The second week in a row showed a few things. The most important among them? Consistency. Wong consistently wins the battle in regards to spacing, hit confirms and smart play. The other thing? His Karin is scary. He currently sits at second place in the number of points earned for the Capcom Pro Tour global leaderboard though he’s already qualified for both the North American and Latin America regional finals. This is a new game and a new day, for sure, and Justin Wong will continue to be part of the conversation moving forward into Evolution 2016 and beyond. He is, bar none, the best player the United States has to offer and it has been a while since the scene has seen this sort of confidence and play from Wong.
He’s known as one of the Gods of Marvel as his numerous accolades in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 will attest but he summed up his approach to Karin best with this tweet:
I love SFV. It's so fun… I'm just really happy that I can love KARIN like how I love STORM. It's the best feeling
— Justin Wong (@JWonggg) May 9, 2016
No one is playing Karin at the level that Wong is currently. It will be interesting to see, moving forward, just who can stop him. Haitani has beaten him before but it was easy to see that Wong’s time with the character hadn’t really paid off yet. His biggest threats to dominance this past weekend were both Dhalsim players in Eric “Rylander” Tew and Panda Global’s Ryan “Fchamp” Ramirez. Fchamp was one missed Critical Art from bouncing the seemingly indomitable Wong to Loser’s finals. If nothing else it seems that not only is he playing well but the Wong Factor is in full effect. He always claws his way back into matches and the few times he was down this past weekend he always found a way back to victory. CEO 2016 will likely be the next battleground of major international competition in June and it should be one hell of a show.
His teammate, Ricki Ortiz, surprised many by playing through the entire weekend as Nash as opposed to her usual go-to pick of Chun-Li. It was a rough ride heading into the last day but she pushed back into Top 16 and took down some of the Trinity of Ken players along the way. Texas local, Ultra Arcade’s Jun “Saionide” Hun, was the only Ken she wasn’t able to cut through.
Top 8 was the usual group of pros along with Saionide and a name from way back, Ryan “Fubarduck” Harvey. The arcade owner and occasional pro player made a strong showing at DH Austin with his unpredictable R. Mika play. The other big surprise? Another Frenchman made a big impact this weekend with Laura as Melty’s Wilfried “Will2PAc” Jean-Baptiste also made it through the gauntlet of big names. A big weekend for France all around with both he and Saunic making Top 8 in both of their tournaments.
Mang0 Slays His Demon
The killers were assembled. Some of the Gods of Smash were in attendance including, among them, Mang0 and HungryBox. The boisterous crowd that grew over the course of the weekend could be heard chanting the names of their favorite players in other sections of the Austin Convention Center. This was, however, a moment of redemption for one of the best players in the scene, Mang0.
It has been a while since Cloud Nine’s Joseph “Mang0” Marquez has made it to the mountaintop (January 3rd to be precise) and his constant rival, Liquid’s Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma, has stood in his way numerous times. The road to that final showdown was not easy for the Fox/Falco player especially since he ran up against Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman and was thoroughly trounced the first time out 3-0. His determination was unwavering and his execution only got better as the tournament rolled on. He cut a swathe of destruction through Lucky, Wizzrobe and exacted his vengeance upon Mew2King in Loser’s Finals.
Mang0 reset the bracket, eliciting cries of “Mang0! Mang0! Mang0!” from the crowd. Was it going to happen? Was “Mr. Second Place” as he was becoming known going to beat his demon, Hungrybox, and walk away Dreamhack Austin champion?
It came down to Game 5 with Hungrybox down to a single stock. Hungybox’s attempt at zoning Mang0 out was read with the greatest of ease and a quick toss into the air and into an up-air combo secured the win. D’Ron “D1” Maingrette’s commentary was so spot on in those final moments before Mang0 secured his victory, “He’s done it! Get your MangoUSAs out, because he’s finally done it!” The demon was slain and victory was achieved while the jubilant Mang0 was moved to tears. It’s about damn time, Mang0. EVO is two short months away and the throne is up for grabs. Wizzrobe’s 4th place was a strong showing for the young player and Mew2King continues to be a force who is poised to breakthrough again. July cannot come soon enough where all bets are off in Vegas at Evolution 2016.
That does it for this week’s edition of the FGC Recap. What did we learn? Well, Justin Wong is nigh unstoppable, Smash is always hype no matter what the venue, Eita might be a name to watch for going forward and you can’t ever count out a good Laura player. The Asian leg of the Capcom Pro Tour continues this coming week with Melbourne Battle Arena while America gets a break from their consecutive CPT ranking events. We’ll be back next week with a full recap of the festivities. Until then, FGC, stay free.