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Analysts Desk: Week 6 Recap

We’re back again with another Smash Bowl MMXXI recap! 

This past weekend, we saw Group A6 compete using the “Squad Strike” ruleset, in which each player begins each set by selecting a pool of five characters, and they’re locked into playing only those characters for the entire match. They can only use each character once per set, so even if they win, they have to switch to a different character from their chosen pool. This was the second time this ruleset was used, and it’s going to be used again in Group A8 during the final week of Stage One. 

The final results were somewhat unsurprising, with Eric “ESAM” Lew, the first seed of Group A6, advancing from the losers’ side, and Noah “Sharp” McCulley, the second seed, making it out from the winners’ side. However, there were still some major upsets and exciting sets in the early rounds — specifically, the first match of the day with ESAM and Kelsy “SuperGirlKels” Medeiros.

The set began with ESAM taking a 2-0 lead, knocking out SuperGirlKels’ Yoshi and Sonic, two of her best characters. For game three, SuperGirlKels chose Isabelle, who is often considered one of the worst characters in the game. She went up against ESAM’s Samus, another character who isn’t particularly strong but can be powerful in the hands of someone like ESAM, who has played her in every Smash game since Brawl. Despite this, SuperGirlKels managed to take the game and put herself on the board, and into another bad matchup with her Kirby against ESAM’s Ike. After taking ESAM’s second stock and bringing both players down to their characters’ last life, she did a quick zero-to-death combo to finish the round. She brought  ESAM to game five, where she beat his Mii Brawler using Link, advancing to winners’ finals.

On the other side of the bracket, Sharp fought Pedro “Prodigy” Alonso, a player often considered to be a character specialist with his Mario, and one that wasn’t expected to put up much of a fight considering the ruleset, which limits him to one game with his main. Despite this, he brought the set to game five, with several of their matches coming down to the last hit. During game four, Prodigy was up 2-1 and could’ve ended the set if Sharp hadn’t managed to sneak in an up smash using his Wolf at what seemed like the max distance the move would connect. During game five, Prodigy held on to his chance at victory for as long as he could and lived to 170% on his final stock, but Sharp was able to keep his cool and close the game out with a forward air from Zero Suit Samus (ZSS). 

He then went on to play against SuperGirlKels in winners’ finals, which he won 3-1. Surprisingly, the only game Kels won this set was against Sharp’s Sheik, often considered one of his best characters. 

In the losers’ bracket, ESAM played against Prodigy. This was the only set in which someone changed their character pool between games, with Prodigy swapping out Palutena and Wolf for Wii Fit Trainer and Mr. Game and Watch, the latter of which he didn’t get the opportunity to use, as he lost the set 3-0. ESAM was very dominant this set, ending game two with a confident off-stage kill as Min Min, and never using his main, Pikachu. Perhaps Prodigy was saving his own main, Mario, for ESAM’s Pikachu, as he didn’t use him either. 

Carrying the momentum from his set with Prodigy, ESAM won his losers’ finals runback against SuperGirlKels with a final score of 3-1. SuperGirlKels managed to take another game off of his Samus using Link, but ESAM won the match between their mains right after, and managed to adapt to her Kirby with his Mii Brawler.

Next week, Group A7 will be competing in the “Sakurai Says” ruleset, the first and only time this ruleset will be used in Stage One. Each match will be played using the default ruleset: a timed match of two and a half minutes, with items set to a medium spawn rate. Stages will be selected at random, but every character is available, and character counterpicks work the same as a regular set. To compensate for the shorter games, each set in this match will be a best-of-seven rather than a best-of-five. Also, if the match goes to sudden death, the players will have to play it out, rather than the win going to whoever has the lower percent at the end of the game. 

The first seed of this group is Spencer “BestNess” Garner, a player who lives up to his name as one of the best Ness players in the world. He’s currently ranked seventh on the Wi-Fi Warrior Ranking (WWR) and 43 on the Panda Global Ranking (PGR). While he’s not the highest-ranked player in this pool on either ranking, he has an incredible lead in terms of experience, entering nearly 100 online tournaments this year alone. While his experience is impressive, his performance is also solid, as he’s ranked within the top eight at most of those tournaments. 

The second seed, Brian “Cosmos” Kalu, is the highest ranking player in this group, ranked fifth on the WWR and 23 on the PGR. He’s been a mainstay name in the Smash scene since his strong performance in Smash 4, and he hasn’t slowed down with Ultimate or the transition to online tournaments. He also might have an advantage in this ruleset, with Inkling’s smaller hitbox and fast speed potentially allowing him to get to items faster and run out the clock once he gets a lead. 

The third seed is Andrew “ScAtt” Huntley, a Megaman player ranked 40 on the PGR. He’s also known for his strong Snake secondary, giving him two characters who require proficient item use, which could give him an advantage. However, he’s the weakest player in this group in terms of online experience, with no ranking on the WWR and very few entries into online brackets.
In the fourth spot is Yezre’el “Yez” Askew, an Ike main who’s been making waves this year in online brackets. While he hasn’t entered as many brackets as BestNess, he’s managed to get ranked at 36 on the WWR and has had consistent placings among the tournaments he’s entered. 

It’s hard to make predictions in this ruleset, as items can easily skew a match in someone’s favor seemingly at random. However, the advantage in each match will likely go to whoever can utilize the items best, and as previously mentioned, Cosmos and ScAtt are the most likely to benefit from them. It should also be noted that BestNess has played against both Cosmos and Yez this year and has positive records against both of them. He’s currently up 2-1 against Cosmos and 5-2 against Yez. While it’s difficult to know how much the items will affect the gameplay, it’s clear that BestNess has quite the advantage going into most of his sets. 

You can watch the action this Sunday, December 13, 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.