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Analysts Desk: Week 10 Recap

Welcome back to another Smash Bowl MMXXI recap! 

This past Sunday, Group B2 played in the “Sami Singles” ruleset, which favored faster, high-stakes games by using one stock, a two-minute timer and Yoshi’s Story as the only legal stage. The sets were played in a best of 9 format rather than a best of 5. The ruleset was created by Sami “Druggedfox” Muhanna for Super Smash Bros. Melee, and has been adapted to Smash Ultimate. 

The bracket didn’t quite go as seeded, with Edgar “Sparg0” Valdez advancing to the Final Stage through the winners’ bracket and one of the group captains, Eric “Pandarian” Lund, advancing through the losers’ side. 

The first match was Pandarian against Eric “Mr. E” Weber, a matchup Pandarian had chosen using his status as captain. Before this set, Pandarian had a 1-0 record against Mr. E in 2020. Pandarian won the first game somewhat handily and looked to win the second after pushing Mr. E off stage. However, Mr. E reversed the situation by jumping up from the ledge and using Lucina’s counter to beat Pandarian’s forward smash, netting him an early stock and tying up the set. He carried that momentum over the next few games, going up 3-1. During game five, Pandarian switched up his strategy and began starting each match as Ivysaur instead of Squirtle, which let him take another game. The rest of the set was much more even, with back-and-forth games being exchanged. But Mr. E already had a convincing lead, and that lead let him win the set 5-3.

On the other side of the winners’ bracket was Nicholas “Ned” Dovel and Sparg0. The set began with back-and-forth exchanges for the first few games, but then Sparg0 took a convincing 4-2 lead. Ned opted to use the same strategy as his fellow Pokémon Trainer main and began starting each match as Ivysaur. He won the next game with a convincing lead, and made a massive comeback during game eight to tie 4-4. However, Ned wasn’t able to carry his momentum into game nine, and Sparg0 took the set 5-4.

In winners’ finals, Sparg0 started the first game with a reverse edge guard, using Cloud’s forward aerial spike to take an early stock from Mr. E after he went off stage for an edge guard. In the next game, Mr. E played much safer near the ledge and tied the score. During game three, Sparg0 was set up for a kill using Cloud’s limit charged projectile, but one of the Fly Guys on the stage blocked his attack. However, he was able to use the confusion to bait Mr. E into whiffing an attack, allowing him to take the game and go up 2-1. Throughout the rest of the set, Mr. E began losing patience, and Sparg0 caught him in unfavorable situations. While Sparg0 was on match point during game eight, he put Mr. E off stage and waited for him to come back. In a desperate move, Mr. E tried to get back on stage using Lucina’s shield breaker, which Sparg0 interrupted with his own attack, netting him the stock and a spot in the Final Stage. 

In the first losers’ bracket match, Pandarian and Ned opted to avoid the Pokémon Trainer ditto. Instead, Pandarian went with Mario, and Ned used the newly released Sephiroth. Pandarian quickly went up 2-0, but after losing game three, he switched to Pokémon Trainer. The switch seemed to pay off after he took game four, but Ned answered back with two more wins, tying up the score 3-3. However, in the next two games, Pandarian began switching to
Charizard earlier, changing up the pace of the match and allowing him to take the next two games before Ned could find his footing. 

The losers’ finals set was a rematch of the first winners’ bracket set between Pandarian and Mr. E. Pandarian started the set with Squirtle, much like their first set, and took the first game. Mr. E had a large lead in the second game, but Pandarian won with an off-stage reversal, much like Mr. E did in their first set. At this point, Pandarian went with the same strategy he used in their previous set and started with Ivysaur instead of Squirtle. However, this worked to his detriment, and Mr. E tied the set up 2-2. From here, Pandarian stuck with Squirtle again and took the next two games. Mr. E started focusing on controlling the center of the stage and punishing Pandarian’s attempts at reversals while recovering, bringing the set to a ninth game. In the final game, Pandarian went back to starting with Ivysaur and immediately landed a huge combo. He switched to Charizard to try and get the kill, but Mr. E used Charizard’s slow speed to run circles around him and even up the game. Both were playing safer than before, and Pandarian was careful about his recoveries. Mr. E recognized this, and started going for dangerous edge guards. After missing an off-stage kill, Pandarian punished Mr. E’s recovery with an up throw, ending the game and advancing him to the Final Stage. 

Moving on to Group B3 next week, the ruleset they’ll be using, “Nearly Legal,” is deceptively average. Each match requires items and stage hazards to be off like a standard ruleset and includes three stocks with a seven minute timer.. However, as the name implies, the stages aren’t quite legal. The ruleset uses five neutral and four counterpick stages, all of which are close to being legal, but either have better alternatives or small issues that prevent their usage in the standard ruleset. 

Also, calling back to early discussion and debates from the game’s release, the Final Smash meter will be turned on, which will allow players to build Final Smash attacks as the match plays out. Additionally, Zelda, Peach and Daisy are banned in this ruleset, as they were deemed too strong with the Final Smash meter. 

Enrique “Maister” Hernández Solís is the first captain of this pool, coming from Group A3, which used the “Phone a Friend” ruleset. While he hasn’t competed in a singles ruleset in any Smash Bowl matches, Maister certainly isn’t lacking in experience. He’s currently ranked eighth on the Wi-Fi Warrior Ranking and sixth on the Panda Global Ranking. As a Mr. Game & Watch specialist, he’ll likely pick his main for the entirety of the group. This may put him at a slight disadvantage, as Mr. Game & Watch’s Final Smash attack does not guarantee a kill on hit and could be avoided on some stages with unconventional platform layouts. 

Maister’s first opponent is Tanner “SKITTLES!!” Jordan, a Young Link specialist who advanced through the losers’ side of Group A8 after beating Samuel Robert “Dabuz” Buzby twice. Group A8 used the “Squad Strike” ruleset, so Skittles was forced to switch his character after every game. While a demonstration of strong performance with multiple characters won’t mean as much in a ruleset where one is encouraged to use their main, it’s worth noting that Skittles won every game he played in Group A8 using Young Link. His strong projectiles will likely help him on the unorthodox stages, and he has the advantage of a Final Smash attack that will likely kill on hit. However, it’s worth noting that once his Final Smash meter is full, he won’t be able to use arrows anymore, which could negatively impact his neutral game.

The other captain of Group B3 is Noah “Sharp” McCulley. He advanced through group A6, which also used the Squad Strike ruleset. He’s also shown prowess with a wide variety of characters and is known for his Sheik, Joker and Zero Suit Samus. Given the ruleset, the most likely character pick would be Joker, since he’s considered one of the best characters in the game due to his wide variety of strong tools. On top of that, his Final Smash is strong thanks to its long range and ability to guarantee a kill past certain percents. 

Sharp’s opponent is Eric “ESAM” Lew, a player who was also in Group A6. However, despite being seeded to play against Sharp in winners’ finals, ESAM lost his first set to Kelsy “SuperGirlKels” Medeiros, who he later beat in losers’ finals to advance to Stage Two. ESAM is a Pikachu specialist and often considered the best in the world at the character. Based on rankings alone, he would be the favorite to win. However, Sharp has actually won both sets the two played in 2020.

Given the ruleset’s mostly standard format, it’s likely that the matches this week will play out similarly to a standard match. Under that assumption, Maister is most likely to win due to his positive records over Sharp and ESAM. While his record against ESAM is only one win across one set in the entirety of 2020, his 10-0 record against Sharp is much more impressive. Even if Maister loses to Skittles round one, he’ll have to play against one of the two in the losers’ bracket, so he’ll likely advance to the final stage either way.  

With that said, Skittles is somewhat of a wild card. He made massive upsets in Group A8 after double eliminating Dabuz, and he has no record against any of the players in Group B3 in 2020. This could be his chance to start 2021 by getting on the board against some of the best players in the world. 


You can watch the action Next Sunday, January 17th 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.