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Analysts Desk: Week 8 Recap

Welcome back to another Smash Bowl MMXXI recap!

We’re officially finished with Stage One! This past Sunday, Group A8 competed using the “Squad Strike” ruleset, which made its third appearance in this stage. In this ruleset, each player begins every set by selecting five characters. The players are locked into using only those five characters for the entire set, and they can only use each character once, meaning they have to switch characters after every game, even if they won. 

The final players to advance to Stage Two were Gabriel “Epic_Gabriel” Romero, the group’s second seed, and Tanner “SKITTLES!!” Jordan, the fourth seed. Surprisingly, the first seed of the pool, Samuel Robert “Dabuz” Buzby, one of the favorites to win the entire tournament, was eliminated by Skittles.

The first set of the day was between Dabuz and Skittles. The set began with a zoning battle between Skittles’ Young Link, his main, and Dabuz’s Dark Pit. Skittles won this game after tacking on percent using Young Link’s various projectiles and ending each stock with strong aerials and smash attacks. Surprisingly, Skittles didn’t often confirm off of any of his projectiles to take Dabuz’s stocks. Instead, he threw bombs at Dabuz’s shield or popped him up into the air with tilt attacks to force a response from Dabuz. He then tried to read Dabuz to punish those responses. He did this throughout the entire set, which went back and forth but ended with an interesting match between Skittles’ Steve and Dabuz’s Sephiroth. This was the first and only appearance of Sephiroth in the tournament, as Dabuz didn’t include him in any of his later rosters. The final set count was 3-2, in Skittles’ favor. 

On the other side of the winners’ bracket, Epic_Gabriel played against Dawson “Big D” Perron, an Ice Climbers player. Much like Skittles in the previous round, Big D started with his main and went up against Epic_Gabriel’s Palutena. Big D exhibited impressive matchup knowledge, waiting for opportunities to punish some of Palutena’s slower tools, like her neutral special, and netting massive damage off of each hit. While he started to falter near the middle of the game, he got back into the game and took the first round. However, the following rounds weren’t as clean for Big D. He lost the next match to Epic_Gabriel’s main, R.O.B., and then faced what may be the MVP of the week—Epic_Gabriel’s Ryu and Ken. Epic_Gabriel used Ryu’s fireballs to prevent Big D’s King Dedede from setting up any of his projectiles, and then his Ken demolished Big D’s Wario before it could even charge waft. With that, Big D was knocked into the losers’ bracket, where he would face Dabuz.

In winners’ finals, Skittles took the first game off of Epic_Gabriel in a close match with both of their mains. The next game, which was Skittles’ Steve against Epic_Gabriel’s Wolf, also went down to the wire. During the last stock, Skittles couldn’t manage to find the kill and shifted his focus to crafting diamond tools.  As soon as he found an opportunity to do so, Epic_Gabriel  caught him with a back air that, with the added knockback from rage, won him the game. The next two games were similar to Gabriel’s set with Big D. Although they were much closer, Skittles couldn’t overcome the shoto gauntlet and lost the set 1-3. Interestingly, the entire set was played on Pokémon Stadium.

The first losers’ match, Dabuz vs. Big D, seemed like it was decided by counterpicks. Rather than starting with Ice Climbers as he did against Epic_Gabriel, Big D went with Mario, arguably the best character in his pool in terms of tiers. While he didn’t win the game, it allowed him to save his Ice Climbers for Dabuz’s Palutena, a matchup he’s already shown proficiency in during his earlier set with Epic_Gabriel. After Big D won that game, he picked Dedede, but Dabuz had saved Olimar, a character who can ignore much of Dedede’s stage control. With the stage pick of Lylat Cruise, which has odd angles that affect Dedede’s projectiles and plenty of platforms for Dabuz to escape to, the game ended with a two-stock lead from Dabuz. The last game seemed close, but Dabuz closed it out with a zero-to-death combo on Big D’s Captain Falcon.

The final match in the losers’ bracket was a rematch between Skittles and Dabuz. Their starting strategy swapped this time, with Dabuz picking his main, Rosalina, right out of the gate. Rather than starting with Young Link, Skittles went with Wario, which is a matchup they played in the fourth game of their winners’ set, which Dabuz won. Despite playing in a different stage, Dabuz took this game, putting him in the lead. However, Skittles tied it up the next game with another familiar matchup between Dark Pit and Young Link. Much like last game, their first set determined the winner. In game three, things started to look different. Skittles went with Villager, who wasn’t in any of his character pools before this set. He lost to Dabuz’s Olimar, putting him down 2-1. Dabuz went with Palutena for the next game, and Skittles answered back with Steve, leading to a game five. 

The two were forced to use their final characters, Min Min and Toon Link. In the first set, the two played a game with Min Min and Link, with Dabuz winning handily. At first, it appeared that was going to happen again, with Dabuz immediately taking the lead. Skittles was able to even up the stock count, but it seemed it was too late. Dabuz had forced Skittles off stage, and he tacked on over 100 percent as Skittles tried to get back to the ground. However, Dabuz couldn’t get the kill, and Skittles began to mount a comeback. Calling back to his playstyle in their earlier set, he focused on tacking on percent with projectiles and didn’t get many follow-up attacks. Instead, he waited for the moment when Dabuz was forced to respond to his ranged pressure and ran in with a smash attack, clutching the final stock and eliminating Dabuz from the tournament. 

With that, the final group of Stage One is finished! Smash Bowl will continue next year on January 3, with the first group of Stage Two. Before then, let’s take a look back at the competitors from Stage One.

In Group A1, the top two seeds, Luis “Lui$” Oceguera and Edgar “Sparg0” Valdez, fought a close set in winners’ finals, and Lui$ came out on top. Sparg0 won his loser’s set afterward, allowing him to advance alongside Lui$. Group A2 saw the opposite, with the third and fourth seeds, Eric “Pandarian” Lund and Darius “Laid” Hill, advancing without ever having to play each other.

Group A3 played their sets in a doubles format. Enrique “Maister” Hernández moved on from the winners’ side with help from his partner, Arturo “Joker” Ocho, and Eric “Mr. E” Weber advanced from losers’ with the assistance of Salvatore “Zomba” DeSena.

Group A4 was another doubles pool, featuring heavy hitters Leonardo “MkLeo” Lopez Perez and Jestise “MVD” Negron. Surprisingly, the former advanced through losers’, and the latter was knocked out entirely. In a massive upset, Myles “Myles” McKenzie advanced from the winners’ side with the help of his partner, Rasheen “Dark Wizzy” Rose.

Moving on to the latter half of Stage One, group A5 went back to the randoms ruleset. Nicholas “Ned” Dovel pulled an upset over Tyler “Marss” Martins in winners’ finals. Marss managed to make it out of the losers’ side after a close set with Joshua “Pelca” Bedoya, whom he beat handily earlier in the winners’ bracket. 

Group A6 used the Squad Strike ruleset, the same as Group A2 and Group A8. After losing a close set in his first round, Eric “ESAM” Lew found himself in the losers’ bracket, where he clawed his way out to advance to Stage Two. On the winners’ side, Noah “Sharp” McCulley won two close sets to advance as well.

Finally, group A7 used the “Sakurai Says” ruleset, the only one in the group to do so. In a massive upset, Yezre’el “Yez” Askew, the fourth seed of the group, made it out from the winners’ side, while the first seed, Spencer “BestNess” Garner, advanced from the losers’ side.

Since there will be no matches next week, there won’t be arecap either. Instead, the analyst’s desk will share a preview for Stage Two and make predictions on the matches scheduled for Group B1. You can also look forward to a special episode of Smash Bowl’s weekly podcast, Coin Toss, on January 30, which will feature Smash Bowl casters (also known as the hosts of the Blast Zone)! 

You can watch the action Next Sunday, January 3rd at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT on Thunder Gaming’s Twitch channel: https://www.twitch.tv/thundergamingla

If you’d like to see the bracket, or learn more about the rulesets and format, you can check out our smash.gg page: https://smash.gg/tournament/smash-bowl-mmxxi/details

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

Louis Pagillo is a freelance journalist and competitive Super Smash Bros. player