So 2012 has come to a close with the very last SNL of the year.
I had been really excited about this SNL because I have been practising a ton of Marvel in the last few weeks. Been getting home and grinding training mode 3-4 hours a day, 4-5 times a week. I also have been making more of an effort to play people in Marvel as well, trying to up my travel to Shadowlogic to three times a week for Marvel casuals. (I refuse to play Marvel online.)
I’ve optimised most of my stuff and openers. I finally feel confident in my Spencer in one aspect: getting full optimised TODs off any hit, be grapple or throw or low L. In my hands he finally feels like more of a fully fleshed out character. So coming into this SNL, instead of my usual pessimism I felt really eager to compete, and had a good feeling I might actually do well this time.
…And I went 0-2.
I was really upset afterwards- it felt like all this hours and hours of time I’ve sunk into the game recently hadn’t mattered at all. Still a pot monster after all.
In my first match I got bodied by William’s Zero on stream. And I was really upset at myself during the match.
Firstly, it’s Zero. I find it so hard to actually land a hit on Zero.
So when I landed that elusive and all-important hit, I somehow managed to choke up the combo at least two or three times. And just when I was seething at myself for the drops, I actually succeeded in killing Zero in one game- only to fail at defence by getting opened up by the decidedly less scary duo of Taskmaster and Spencer. I realised after my drops I had gotten so angry that I started to make very impatient and unsafe decisions- pretty much desperately trying to hit Zero with reversal armour piercers and umegrapples. They didn’t work. I got lightning looped and mixed-up upon incoming into more lightning loops. It was at this point that Kevin yelled from the crowd “Balanced character!” And he’s a Zero player!
Did I get perfected yet again on stream? I can’t even remember.
I also remember walking up to the stream station, and everyone knows I hate playing on stream. I remember people trying to cheer me on with a “Let’s go Muttons” before my match, and even though I tried to keep my face stony with my game face, I actually felt pretty encouraged inside.
But after I lost my match, I shook hands with William and walked straight off the stream station trying not to look anyone in the eye. I made a beeline for a setup- I wanted to quash some of my considerable salt by grinding on some combos in training room, specifically the ones that I had dropped.
I sat down and spent twenty minutes saltily running through my BnBs- I dropped every single one. I was looking at my hands in disgust- all those hours in training room and you can’t give me a single completed BnB now? So my little exercise had the reverse effect- I ended up exacerbating my frustration instead. I just remember staring at my hands so hard, so mad at myself.
Ali aka EX3555UM came by- I had to play him in tournament now. I rolled my eyes in my head- can’t even do a single combo in training mode, how am I gonna win a tournament match? I decided to not go for my fully optimised stuff and just go for really basic stuff instead. (Since it’s Ali’s team of X-23, Akuma, Strider, my basic combo will still easily OHKO all his characters anyway.)
I did okay, and was less fimble with my execution, but still made a lot of crucial errors, and even got happy birthday-ed in the decider.
Ali seemed to have a different strategy as well. Usually when he would get a hit with his X-23, he would do some shitty damage combo, save the meter and knock me down to try to reset me again with Akuma assist.
This time he would hit me and TAC into Akuma and go into Akuma’s two bar combo which actually does good damage and killed my Spencer a bunch of times. He explained to me how my team’s damage scares him, and that’s why he broke from his reset-heavy-saving-meter-for-Strider style to kill my Spencer when he hit me.
That makes sense to me. In all honesty, my Spencer’s still probably my weakest character, but losing him does take away my access to ridiculous levels of damage. Doom still does okay damage-wise, but it’s generally a lot less meter efficient without Spencer.
So that was it. I was out. I was less salty though- Ali with his jovial character and jokes somehow cheered me up despite him beating me.
I still would have liked to do better, especially for the last SNL of the year, but as I saw William later beat Toxy and Fish to win the whole thing, I wondered to myself: perhaps I should’ve been a little kinder to myself.
It’s time to grind harder.
I played a little with Shadowfox, who tried to educate me on my deficiencies- namely an incompetent neutral game with Spencer, losing all day to upbacks and vertical moves from upback positions AKA Helm Breakers. Bad assist range timing, and no missiles. Too much horizontal zips (though I’ve been trying to cut back.)
That and I guess all my optimised Spencer stuff will actually take a while to sink in. Whereas I have done Doom forward throw into combo maybe a hundred times already, I’ve probably landed my new air throw TOD or my new wire grapple TOD less than five times in total on real people. I should just give myself more time for my training room stuff to cement itself into my matches.
So it’s just a matter of time, and improving my neutral game with Spencer. I’ll try to work harder and not be a pot monster by OHN time.
As for AE….which is funny, because it’s the game I’m NOT practising…I actually feel my anti-air powers coming back to me.
I have been especially terrible in that department the last few months due to not practicing and not going to the arcade at lunchtime anymore (I have fallen into a new lunchtime habit- lunch with the office ladies). But I think there was a turning point…I think it was last Friday when I played a long set against Dave’s (AKA Bosslogic) Bison.
It’s funny- it takes me so long to warm up my anti-air. After playing Dave for about thirty games, I finally turned the corner and was able to relax my brain while playing footsies and looking where Dave was standing- I was able to relax my focus just enough to have enough brain juice left to identify the jump and DP it.
Bison is such a bogey character for me- so being able to DP him consistently really drove my confidence up and even got me tiny win streaks on Dave. In situations where I would previously be blocking, such as him jumping at me when I was in the corner trying to block his scissors kicks, him jumping over my normals during footsies and crossing me up- I was DPing him. It felt really good.
The effect sort of continued on, where I felt my anti-airs were returning to their “prime levels”. In my casuals with Yo Hammed I was even DPing that annoying DeeJay knee drop too.
I played another long set with another Bison player at HQ this SNL as well, and he was really jumpy, much more so than Dave. I really have to say- dragon punching the shit out of Bison feels really, really good. Not that that is anything to be proud of- with Bison’s floaty jump I should smack it every time. But to me, because I traditionally have always done badly against Bison and probably have some sort of deep-seated psychological trauma at this point, it really does give me a gigantic mental boost.
I think I need to keep a jumpy Bison around me and play him every time before tournaments to give myself that extra anti-air brain juice!
So, AE. Despite my lack of practice, I have also recently been getting in some long sets that have been really good for me. Playing Sol, Dave, Louie, Yo Hammed, etc. Sol in particular has taught me a lot about Cammy, and how much tougher the Dee Jay match is for Ryu if the Dee Jay player actually plays the match correctly. (Less slides, lots and lots of LK Sobat to stuff cmk, can’t fireball freely because of EX Sobat, followed by un-DPable ambiguous crossups.)
I think my first match was against Jon- another Ryu mirror. Shit, I thought to myself. Please don’t let this long streak of losing in the mirror…don’t let the saga continue.
And…surprisingly I won! It was really close.
But overall I didn’t feel too worried or threatened even though it went down to the last round. It’s funny. Whenever I win a round in a dominant fashion, I normally go on to lose the next round decisively, usually with a couple of bad decisions. I don’t know why I can’t maintain the momentum.
It’s like I win, and I think to myself- I won…now do I stick to what I’m doing or try to mix things up to keep him on his toes? And I kind of half-assedly flubber between the two and typically get jumped in or get baited into a DP twice and lose the round really quickly. But overall when the match was being played on the ground I felt like I was in control. I really have to thank Kilok for training my Ryu footsies- I think I’m much more confident and assertive with my footsies now, especially compared to a year or two years ago. Especially my whiff punishing- it used to be non-existent but it’s now actually quite threatening and a big part of my game. It also is a great source of enjoyment to me- every time I whiff punish someone with a sweep I get an intense shot of joy to the spine. And it’s all pretty much thanks to Kilok.
So I beat Jon…next up was Ali.
Ali came up and did a good job of diffusing my tension, joking “I planned it this way, set up the brackets to play you Muttons”, “Time for your revenge for Marvel”, “Weekly ritual, mate”…and the last part is definitely true. I freakin’ play Ali and Burnout every week. Burnout in particular eliminates me from Marvel almost every week.
So we play, and I’m much more relaxed. Against Ali, I know he doesn’t play that much AE anymore, and he just wants to Demon me as much as possible. So if I look out for it and try my best to NOT get demoned, I should be fine.
So I play on the ground, and I know he wants to focus through my fireballs and Demon me, so I mix in a healthy dose of EX fireballs. That plus a couple of big openings- forward fierce his focus into FHP cHP DP, get a few DP punishes, and I win 2-1. He even tries a focus through+Demon though my fireball the last round, but thankfully I still have my “anti-Ali” radar on and simply jump back over the Demon and sweep him for the win.
Additionally, he kept trying to bait out my DP with his demon flip dive kick, but I just block, being grateful that he doesn’t crossup tatsu more or empty low crossup, because those would be hitting me for sure. GGs Ali.
Okay, at least I haven’t gone 0-2 in AE too. I tell myself in relief.
But I have to play Heavy next! I haven’t seen Heavy in a long time. In a runback from BAM, history pretty much repeats itself and he makes quick work of me in two straight games.
At least we got to sit down afterwards and have a nice long set. Even though I didn’t manage to take a game, I got close a few times- and more importantly I learned a few things about the matchup and myself.
Firstly- my blocking is ASS. Now I really respect how tough it is for Daigo to constantly walk up and block those point blank range machine gun tiger shots from Bonchan, because I sure eat a shit ton of them. And of course, the occasional tiger knee and “Kara DP just cos’ he can” from Heavy. I eat them all.
But after ten or so games, I manage to improve my blocking significantly. I think I just need to play the match more. I haven’t played any Sagats in the lifespan of AE because, well, even Bluehouse the land of the Sagats is now the land of the Ryus. And Heavy who would be my primary source of Sagat practice doesn’t really come out to locals anymore. Playing Heavy really does improve your reaction blocking and your walk-blocking though.
I was actually happy with my anti-airs for once. I got quite a few on Heavy who likes to test the waters, especially against me. That plus my improved footsies was what was going my way against Heavy. I was the one mostly pushing him into the corner- it’s just that I lacked that “critical edge” to take me home. I needed to make a couple more “big reads”. They mostly were going Heavy’s way in the clutch, or in the deciding rounds. Be it a guess jump over a fireball or a Kara DP into my low forward, Heavy was consistently landing his big reads when he needed to. To his credit he’s really good at that- and I was slowly starting to make some reads of my own and jumping in on him a few times, but he had to play Toxy soon after and that was the end of our set. But GGs Louie, it’s really good to play you, I can feel the effects on my game almost immediately.
I had to play Kevin AKA Burnout next. Playing Kevin is really interesting- he’s switched to Guile recently. The first time we played, I felt that I could fireball and push him back into the corner pretty easily. He would do a lot of sonic booms followed by back knee. At the time I didn’t say anything because it was in tournament, but I was happy he was doing so many back knees, because he was doing half my job for me by cornering himself. And I won the first one handily.
The second time we played, I felt he had improved and it was not as easy to push him into the corner anymore. I still felt things were going my way as I still won the first game the same way, but the second game I was thinking to myself: “Okay I’ve put a lot of pressure on Kevin in the fireball war so far- I think he might risk a jump with his round opener.” Just as I was thinking that exact thought the round started and he fucking jumped in over my fireball for a Phat combo. I gave myself the biggest mental facepalm ever, but he quickly seized the momentum to take two short rounds. I gathered myself and the third game was pretty close but I eventually pushed him into the corner again…
I was really looking out for the inevitable Flash kick as I was applying a lot of pressure… and he flash kicked! I blocked it and went for the easy as pie max non-forward fierce punish- cMP cHP DP and I felt the sweet sense of victory flowing through my veins…
I fimbled the cHP.
My DP flew up into the sky, Kevin got up and gave me a cMP flash kick, and was now on the other side.
After all that life loss and struggle to get him into the corner and to bait out a flash kick…he now had the lead and was out of the corner. Fuck. As Loki would say, I managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Kevin used all that new real estate to walk back and go sonic boom sonic boom boom boom, and I lost.
Kevin laughed afterwards in a “what are you doing” kind of way and patted my shoulder consolingly. GGs Kevin, I said, half-tearfully. So that was the story of our second game.
So! This third game would be our runback. And my chance to avenge myself for my mega-choke.
The game started out with the usual fireball war. Right away I noticed Kevin was holding his ground a lot better. I was being a little impatient and jumping when I shouldn’t, whereas I almost entirely stayed on the ground the first time we played. I guess that’s a sign of his fireball game outpowering mine. Eventually I got him into the corner…but WTF! He did a ton of normals and threw a ton of sonic booms when you would normally expect the guile player to be more defensive. I put him in the corner but he KOed me instead, what the fuck?
I shook my head in disgust. That was stupid of me. I gave him too much respect in the corner, trying to bait flash kick and whiff punish. I should be more aggressive and not let him normal me to death when HE’S the one in the corner.
So we played on and I made some more minor fimbles such as letting Guile jump in on me. Eventually, I had him in the corner again. Pressure, pressure, walk forward…low forward…and then he flash kicked it for the win.
Kill. Me. Now.
Burnout was laughing and I was mad salty.
Okay, last game, try not to fimble too much. I was doing slightly better, but not really mixing up my frame traps. I kept going for semi-tight tick throws and Kevin was teching them all. I think I was too respectful, or perhaps wary of his reversals since I had already eaten a particularly soiling Ume-Flash Kick. I should have just disregarded that in my head and just gone for my delayed counterhit setups. A nice juicy cMP would’ve gotten me a solid knockdown and some good pressure.
In the end I had him in the corner again. I had given up a lot of life getting him there. I wanted a knockdown so I could get some pressure going. He had pushed himself slightly out of the corner with some aggressive sonic booms. My response to his pressure was an EX fireball.
He did Sonic Hurricane.
Inwardly, I was happy because I saw that the EX fireball was gonna hit him, and most probably kill him before the Ultra hit me. And that’s what happened- he got hit by the EX fireball, was wreathed by flame, while the Ultra nicked me…the Sunflash KO screen came out, obscuring our life bars.
I looked at Kevin- wait, who won?
The flash died down.
The Ultra had hit me before the EX fireball had hit him, probably ahead by a single tick or two. I had really thought it would’ve been a double KO, it was that close.
Kevin shook my hand happily. GGs Muttons, he said.
That it was Kevin, that it definitely was.
So I hung back and watched a bit of the top 8. That Ryu player I beat earlier went on to beat Kevin and got 5th place overall. If I had beaten Kevin that could have been mine!! And if I had beaten Jon in the runback maybe even top 4. That would’ve been a nice way to end the year, especially considering how I did in Marvel.
One can dream.
But the reality is: you got Flash Kicked bro.
But it was a good SNL, when I got there at the start of the day I was pleasantly surprised to saw Kechu playing 3S with Pyro! OG legend right there. Good to see him at the HQ.
And there were plenty of new faces, even Will and his Spencer buddy are relatively newish. There were like four or five new faces for AE that I hadn’t seen before. I got to play a Seth player, the aforementioned Bison player and even had a mini Dee Jay gauntlet with Yo Hammed and Mike. Along with my sets with Igor in Super I must be pretty close to being the most practiced Ryu player in the Dee Jay matchup in the world at this point
There was also a new Ryu/Sakura player, I think his name was Paul/John? My apologies if I have your name completely wrong!
Even though he wasn’t feeling completely comfortable because he normally plays on an octo-gate at home, we still managed to get few games in before I had to go play in tournament. I was happy to teach him some Ryu stuff; the basic cLK+cLP, cLP+cHK OS, delayed backthrow to block quick reversals on wakeup, the backthrow dash dash crossup ground tatsu, and some whiff punish spacings in the Ryu mirror.
I guess I do have some practical use after all. I might not be a very good player or be able to drive internationals around, but I do have a lot of useful technical stuff in my brain that I’m perfectly happy to impart to beginners.
He had brought his son along as well, and that was really cool. Maybe one day I will have a baby Ryu too. (Meanwhile the real Father Ryu Kilok has just had baby twin girls. Damn.)
So after I was out of tourney I hung around for casuals and let people feel up my brand new HBSF30 silent buttons that Phil (Plaasia) was kind enough to order in and install for me and a bunch of guys.
I really like them, they are considerably quieter than my old Sanwa buttons. Somniac says now people won’t be able to hear his buttons during a tourney match, but my main reasons for appreciating the buttons are, shall we say, related to the happiness of my spouse.
The first time I tried them out they actually felt really weird- it’s really interesting to see how much our sense of feel is related is to the sound we hear. Xavier showed me how the difference was simply psychosomatic- when you press a normal Sanwa button and a silent button slowly down at the same time, they feel pretty much identical. It’s just when you are whacking them hard and there’s no TAK TAK TAK sound that your brain tells you there’s something wrong with your buttons!
It’s really weird and interesting. It does takes you a while to get used to them, but I’m pretty happy with them now, and should probably order a few more as backup buttons.
We were going to do my favourite SNL activity: the after-tournament dinner! But the place we were intending to go to, a sharp sounding place called Naked For Satan, was closed. Bugs was the one who suggested it, a Spanish place on Brunswick St. (Andrew, as you would expect, was buttered by the name.) But damnit, it was closed
Still it was good to see the guys and get some games in, even if I managed to suck in tourney again. And the ride home was a hoot with Bun, Fish, Ross and Duy aka Phero. The Ross and Duy comedy combo really cracks me up!
Good times. It has been a great year of fighting games, grinding, fun and tears, drama and lots of man love. Also, big thanks to the Shadowloo staff for putting so much time and money into running the HQ and the SNL events! I’ve enjoyed the new venue quite a bit this year.
Looking forward to next year! OHN should be fun