Monday, August 27, 2007

Evo 2007 pool play report

Saturday at Evo was pool play. This is where the unwashed masses fight and jostle for the chance to make it out of the pools, and into the 64 man tournament that determines the ultimate winner of the event.

One of my biggest fears was not making it out of the pools. I originally thought there would be eight pools of eight, and that you would need to make top four of your pool to qualify. I didn't think that was so bad. Then I found out that the pools were much bigger! My pool had 17 players! That meant you had to be in better than the top 25% of the pool just to get a chance to play in the "real" 64 man tournament. Yikes. With strong players like Gian (Evo 2005 champion) and Ohnuki (SBO 2007 champion) unqualified, that meant it would be very easy to get knocked out in the pools!

With my pool size, I needed to win three straight games to qualify. In a double elimination tournament, wins in the winners bracket are twice as valuable as wins in the losers bracket. It's a long, tough slog to go through the losers, because even though half the field is being eliminated each round, you're getting half the winners backet injected into your field each time as well. So the more you win early on, the easier your road will be. I won my first two games against players I didn't know. I used Boxer and Claw -- I switched about evenly between the two so as to make my main pick unpredictable. If it came to a character switch, I would pick Boxer if my opponent was Claw, and Claw if my opponent was Dhalsim.

I've played a lot of Boxer vs Claw, so I knew the matchup well. You have to be very patient, and never ever lose your charge, or you will get wall dived to death. You can either fierce headbutt the wall dive (gets you safely out of range but does no damage), or you can kick rush him as he is going for the wall. My second opponent told me later he had an "uh-oh" moment when he saw me doing the kick rush :). If Boxer doesn't know about those two things it can be a very rough match.

My third match came up, and this was for a qualification. It was against Jet Phi, a tournament organizer and a player that had appeared at the first seattle tournament at Preppy's house that I went to several months ago. At the time, I had won a very close set to win the tourament. His honda had beaten my Boxer several times during the set. I checked the bracket -- if I lost to Phi, I would have to face and defeat Jef Perlman, a classmate of mine from MIT. I said hi to Jef.. I hadn't seen him in ten years! We joked that we could form "team MIT" with David Sirlin for the 3-on-3 team tournament. We never got a chance to ask Dave if he wanted to do that, but the team tournament never happened anyways so it didn't matter. I had played Jef a lot at the MIT arcade, but it was all on alpha 2, never on Super Turbo, so I didn't know how good he was. With that in mind, I started my match against Phi.

I knew that Phi was a honda player, so I went with Chun Li. Now my traditional characters for tournaments have always been Boxer and Claw, but during my time in Japan I studied under the apprenticeship of Akishima, the best Chun Li in Tokyo. I had been hoping to get good enough with her that I could play her in a tournament. I feel that Chun Li has a very big advantage over Honda. As an aside, I later saw Seth Killian pick Honda against a Chun Li! Strange, since I think Honda has such a disadvantage. I asked him about it, and it sounds like a lot of US players think Honda wins that fight! My strategy against honda with Chun is to throw jab fireballs, and use low roundhouse to hit him if he jumps. If he's at a range where I can't throw a fireball (too close), I jump back with forward kick, which hits his torpedo and his superman. Jump straight up fierce works well too. The main danger is ending up in the corner, where one jump in can mean death due to ochio throws. This is a match where Chun can easily perfect Honda. I stuck to my game plan, but Phi suprised me by using jump roundhouse to hit my low roundhouse when he was jumping over my jab fireballs. This was not good, because my whole plan centered on this. I went to my plan B of jumping back with forward, but although I could do about 50% of his life with this, I ended up getting killed by ochios. My game plan didn't work because without the low roundhouse to do a significant chunk of his life and knock him down, I wasn't making it difficult to get me in the corner.

After my loss, I thought a bit. Should I stick to Chun, or switch? I knew Phi could beat my Boxer, since he had done so before at the aforementioned tournament. I went with Boxer, because at least I knew my gameplan with him, and I didn't want to have to figure out a second plan with Chun Li on the fly.

My Boxer plan is to again play very defensively. Stand jab and low strong hit his torpedo, and I use jab rushes to do blocked damage. I stay charged and headbutt any jumpins. I'm even happy to trade with low fierce if I'm not charged. The main fear is that he will superman from close range, and cross me up, which hits the buffalo headbutt. If this happens you have to jump back with strong, but that won't work in the corner since you don't jump back far enough. So, as usual, you have to avoid the corner. I was sobered by my first loss, so I played very carefully and won with a perfect in one of the rounds.

I had qualified, and better yet, won my pool! Next was the main tournament, which would be 32 pool players like me, and the top eight from each of the four Evo Regional tournaments. Before I wrap up this post, I want to mention the amazing performance of Nate "XTG" Montes. He never heard his name called in his pool, and was given a second chance where he had to play against Japan's KKY in his first game. KKY is a dhalsim player, and Nate plays Zangief exclusively. This is pretty much an impossible matchup. Nate lost, and was at the very bottom of the losers bracket. Nate climbed his way up, winning an astounding SEVEN MATCHES IN A ROW. His last match was against Ino, a Guile player from Japan. There was a huge crowd around Nate's game, and time after time, he was down to almost no life when he would get his opponent in the corner and kill him with a spinning pile driver. Nate made excellent use of what I like to call "grappler fear". Basically every one of Zangief's moves is easily countered, but a good player will make his opponent so afraid of one move (like a jumping splash) that he will hit with another move (like a walk up piledriver). You could palpably feel the terror of his opponents as they sat in the corner, trying to counter every move precisely. Nate would eat several low forwards from Ino, and then jumping splash twice in a row. This is something Guile can easily defeat, especially a player of Ino's caliber, but Nate had him so terrorized that it worked. The cheer from the crowd when Nate won was deafening. Congratulations Nate! You were really amazing.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on winning your pool, Julien!


Deezo said...

Once again, supreme inspiration. I am gunning for top 2 in this next ranbat season, and these evo blogs definitely hype me up.

airthrow said...

Congrats on doing so good Julian! Seattle is really headed towards becomming to ST what Nebraska and Toronto used to be to 3S (or maybe still are, I don't follow 3S).

I think HD rebalanced mode REALLY needs to make Cammy more playable. She's just PATHETIC in ST, which is unfortunate cus IMO she's a rather cool character.

My ideas for Cammy:
-Cannon drill (the QCF+K) should go under fireballs, her hcf+P move for going through fireballs sucks SO BAD and she really has no good way to handle fireball characters other than walking up and pressing MK, which gets blocked and she's at square one. Watch how many James Chen matches where he loses with Cammy because she just can't get in, even with his Jedi-like patience.

2. Her normals have awesome PROPERTIES, but suck-ass range, maybe giver her slightly larger hitboxes.

Also in the remixed version IMO they should completely remove O. Sagat and just make New Sagat more playable OTHER than stupid game-stopping fireball whoreage.

And to be honest I wouldn't mind if they just removed Blanka from the game period due to his grimyness.