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Analysts Desk: Week 1 Recap

The first week of Smash Bowl MMXXI has concluded with group A1 of stage one playing out this past Sunday. Here’s the weekly recap, and what you can expect next week:

Group A1 consisted of Luis “Lui$” Oceguera, who advanced to stage 2 from the winners’ side, Edgar “Sparg0” Valdez, who advanced from the losers’ side, Randy “RFang” Fang and Aaron “Aaron” Wilhite, who have both been eliminated from the series. The ruleset they used, which was determined based on a snake draft with a randomly selected order, was Randoms, meaning each player had to use random characters and pick random tournament-viable stages each game. 

Throughout the short bracket, there were 25 games played total and 35 unique characters used. Most were only used once, with the exception of Fox, Corrin, Greninja, Mewtwo and Pikachu, who were all rolled twice, and Rosalina and Luma, who was played three times. 

Unfortunately for the players, there were only two games in which a player got one of their mains, both of which happened during Sparg0 and RFang’s first match on the winners’ side of the bracket. In game one, RFang got Palutena, one of his commonly used characters, which helped him secure an early lead in the set. After winning game one, RFang got Young Link, his second most commonly used character behind Pichu. However, he didn’t actually win this game, as Sparg0’s Corrin just barely edged him out in a last stock match and tied up the set 1-1. Sparg0 ended up winning the set 3-1.

Despite the ruleset, the deciding factor of each match seemed to be adaptation rather than luck. In game one of the winners’ finals set, Lui$ used King K. Rool’s large nair to cover Sparg0’s low recovery with Daisy. After conditioning Sparg0 to start recovering high, he ended the set with a blunderbuss to catch his jump.

Later that same set, Sparg0 was down two games to zero going into game three. After his Wario lost two quick stocks to Lui$’s Little Mac unanswered, he evened up the game by switching to a more aerial-based game plan and tacking on damage with falling nairs and tilts. He closed the comeback with a ledge roll into waft, completely reversing the edge guard Lui$ had set up.

We won’t see Lui$ or Sparg0 again until January, when stage two starts. Next week, we’ll move on to group A2 of stage one. The players in that group are, as seeded, Kolawole “Kola” Aideyan, David “LeoN” Leon, Eric “Pandarian” Lund and Darius “Laid” Hill.

Group A2 will be competing in the “Squad Strike” ruleset. Each player will pick five characters, which will be revealed at the beginning of each set. For the duration of that match, they may only use those five characters, and they cannot use a character more than once, regardless of who won the previous game. Stage picks and counter picks will work the same as they would in a standard ruleset. 

This ruleset will heavily favor those who have more experience with multiple characters. Interestingly enough, most of the players in this group are specialists who don’t often stray from their main, so the ruleset won’t heavily favor anyone in this group.

This pool is expected to go as seeded, with Kola making it out from the winners’ side, and LeoN making it out from the losers’ side. Kola is currently ranked #1 on the Wi-Fi Warrior Ranking (WWR), which will give him a clear advantage, despite being lower on the 2020 Panda Global Ranking (PGR) than most of his competitors in group A2. Online tournaments are an entirely different playing field than offline brackets, and for Kola, it’s his homefield.

Kola is also in good shape when it comes to the ruleset. Unlike everyone else in the group, who all specialize in one character, Kola dual mains both Roy and Cloud, which guarantees him two solid character picks. He may also pick Chrom, who is similar to Roy, but not enough to be placed on the banlist with echo fighters like Richter and Dark Samus. He’s also used Snake in over 100 games in different online tournaments.  That may be another one of his picks, which would help round out his character pool by adding a strong zoner. 

LeoN, the second seed, mains Bowser and has a much lower WWR placement at #73. However,his strong offline results pre-COVID make up for that, placing him at the #28 spot on the PGR. However, he has very few recorded tournament games where he’s used as secondaries. He’s used Bowser in roughly 85 percent of his games in online tournaments, but in the remaining 15 percent, he’s mostly used Hero, Bowser Jr. and Banjo.

Pandarian, ranked #57 on the WWR and #33 on the PGR, is the third seed. He’s known for his Pokemon Trainer and has similar data to LeoN when it comes to his frequency of using secondaries and pocket characters. We can expect to see Wolf and Mario based on other online tournaments.

As for Laid, the fourth seed, he has the most to prove in group A2. He’s a Pac-Man specialist, currently ranked #37 on the WWR and unranked on the PGR. He’s used Marth and Lucina in a few online tournaments, and both characters are just different enough to be legal in this ruleset. His unorthodox main and basic secondaries may give him an edge when it comes to counterpicking.

You can watch the action this Sunday, November 8, at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT on Thunder Gaming’s Twitch channel:

If you’d like to see the bracket, or learn more about the rulesets and format, you can check out our page:

Writer’s Note: This article was written in collaboration with Andrew “PracticalTAS” Nestico, Data Analyst.