Friday, July 1, 2016

The Hadoken Files #002

Combo Breaker 2016: Tournament Analysis

Combo Breaker would be marked as my second major of 2016, and this would the second time I have attended. I wasn’t disappointed when I went there last year and this year it was even better. Between the nice hotel resort and the huge mega center as the venue, I already knew that I was going to have a good time; that is valuable because I knew my state of mind was going to be positive going into my tournament matches. That’s what I’m going to be talking about this time around: state of mind during this major.

Before the Battle

Thinking back, I must say that I was in the best mental state I have ever been. Previously I would mentally prepare myself for tournaments by reminding myself to play carefully and never make a risky decision during tournament play. I would play a lot of casual matches but not really play like myself during tournament play. I often wondered why that was the case. I mean, I didn’t try to play any differently, and looking back at videos of myself it looked like I played well. The difference wasn’t exactly visual but mental. In order to play strong you have to be strong in your head, which means I couldn’t give other players too much respect. By giving them too much respect you let them play their game when, ideally, you want to play your game. Ever since last year I have done a lot better in tournaments by adopting this mentality.

This time around it was no exception, but the feeling I had was kind of different. This time I felt like I was unstoppable and I didn’t know where this feeling of mental sharpness came from. I mean, even the pro players didn’t look intimidating at all and yet I wasn’t ignorant as to how good they are. To be quite honest, I didn’t exactly train too much before Combo Breaker so I’m not sure why I was so mentally prepared that weekend. Maybe it’s because of how well I was doing during casuals, maybe it was because of my tournament experiences or maybe it’s because in my head, I have done all that I could’ve done to prepare myself for it. I’m not really sure which one it could’ve been, but all I knew was that I was going to give other players a tough time.

MKX: Here Comes the Fox

So at 6:00pm on May 27th my MKX pool started. In my pool I had to fight a D’vorah player first. That match wasn’t hard to deal with since I’m pretty familiar with that character. Also the person I fought against still seemed new to the game. They knew what they what they wanted to do but the execution wasn’t really there. I won that match 3-0. The next match I had was the infamous SonicFox. Even against him I wasn’t afraid but I knew to still be cautious. He used Brawler Cassie and I wasn’t all the way familiar with it, but I wasn’t discouraged. During our match I was mainly looking out for mix ups, but I should’ve taken what he said to me into account. Right before our match he said to me, “Just so you know, I’m going to throw you a lot.” That’s exactly what he did, over and over again. I was so concerned with mix ups that he just got free throws off of me. I still put up a fight, but I couldn’t fight back as much as I wanted to. I lost that match 0-3 and got sent to losers.

Once in losers, I fought this Liu Kang / Jax player. Against his Liu Kang it was 1-1 so far. Once I caught on to his play style it wasn’t hard to defeat his Liu Kang. His Jax was another story. He played Wrestler Jax which definitely was strong in the mix up department. With Raiden I couldn’t exactly keep him out, which led me to get hit by highs, lows, and throws, oh my! In the end the results were 1-3. I got eliminated early this time around but I wasn’t discouraged at all. For me I knew that I lost because I didn’t block all the mix ups and tick throw set ups that came my way. I also knew that I didn’t do well because I spent a lot of my time training in SFV. Maybe if I put the same amount of time into MKX as I had with SFV as of late, then I could’ve done better. However there was no time to think it over because my SFV pool was about to start.

SFV: The Fearsome Irish Whip

In SFV I had to play against a Dhalsim player. Dhalsim is my main, and if you know about the Dhalsim mirror match, then you know that the match is a complete toss up since both players have the same goal: keep you out and to take advantage of openings. With this in mind, neither of us could really throw a fireball because the other player would simply teleport and get a full combo off of it. So it really came down to the idea of who had the more “polished” Dhalsim. I say that because I know how to deal with the randomness of a match. It wasn’t hard to deal with this at all, and I won the match 2-0. I played an Alex player next. I wasn’t worried at all because I was familiar with the match up. He played a great game but overall the deciding factor became familiarity. Final score was 2-0. After that I played my winners semi match against OMGitzAndre.

OMGitzAndre played as R. Mika. I hate this match up with a passion because R. Mika has a sort of “all in factor” that makes her intimidating. I feared the Irish Whip with all my life. Once I get caught in that it might as well be all over because she will make you guess between a cross up, a meaty, plus frame normal, a throw or a tick throw and all those options can happen because of one move: Irish whip. The sad thing is that Dhalsim doesn’t have a reversal DP (dragon punch) move to get R. Mika off of you and make her guess. I did well when I fought him but after I got thrown I knew that my worst dreams had come true. Final results were 0-2. Worked my way back up from losers for the rematch and I got it because OMGitzAndre had been sent to losers as well.

I definitely came more prepared because another R. Mika player sat down for some very quick casuals with me to get my mind right in the matchup. At that moment I felt like the whole area was cheering me on. When we played I did way better. I adjusted and kept him guessing, but I made a crucial mistake that cost me dearly. Relatively speaking it was a small mistake, but just big enough to cost me losers finals in my pools. Final score was 1-2.

What Did I Learn?

Hard to say what I actually learned this time around since I definitely played like I wanted to and I actually played really well. However, since I didn’t win the tournament then there is a lesson to all of this. First thing is get comfortable with uncomfortable match ups because doing allowed me to play a lot better than I ever had before. Once I found a way to play comfortably I found myself enjoying the match up against R. Mika. At least, I did until I got Irish Whipped, but let’s move on.

Your mental state is where the true battle begins because without a proper mental state, your game is already lost. I went in there with a mentality that allowed me to play the best I could, not feel discouraged if I lost, and improve my skills on the fly by thinking critically about what I did wrong. Combo Breaker isn’t just a great tournament for show. It’s because when I go there I always know that I’m leaving with something valuable; whether it’s a prize or a lesson learned. This concludes Hadoken File #002 and thank you all for reading!

Nathan Shields PowerUp Founder

Fighting game enthusiast, martial artist, and teacher. Nathan Shields ran three regional events, two of which were part of the Road to EVO Championships in 2011 and 2012. He continues to run local FGC events and supervise the growth of his scene and the PowerUp brand.

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