Analysts Desk: Week 13 Recap
This past weekend, the Final Stage of Smash Bowl MMXXI concluded with the last eight competitors fighting for glory.
The final players were placed into a single-elimination bracket. Those who advanced through the winners’ side brackets of their Stage Two groups were given the advantage of choosing the ruleset they would use in their round one sets. Those who advanced through the losers’ side were able to veto this choice up to three times.
After the grueling bracket full of best-of-seven sets, Edgar “Sparg0” Valdez, the young prodigy from Tijuana was the last player standing. Sparg0 earned nearly every prize available throughout the entire event, totaling $4,250.
The first set of the tournament was between Darius “Laid” Hill and Yezre’el “Yez” Askew, or at least it would have been had the two not decided to use the “Phone a Friend” ruleset, which introduced two more players for a standard doubles match. Laid chose Jourdan “Ribs” Ribeiro as his teammate, while Yez picked Mauricio “NoSmo” Pernudi.
In the first game of the set, Laid’s team controlled the pace of the game and won with a three-stock lead. In the game that followed, Yez pulled a complete reversal and focused on taking stocks while NoSmo tacked on damage. Yez won game two after taking all six stocks with his Ike. Hoping for another reversal, Laid and Ribs went back to the same stage they just lost on, but the advantage stayed with Yez, and he went up 2-1. Going into game four, Laid switched his character from Wario to Lucina, a more well-rounded pick. This change was what the team needed, as they proceeded to win the next three games, taking the set 4-2.
The second set was between Noah “Sharp” McCulley and Eric “Pandarian” Lund. The two had settled on the “Nearly Legal” ruleset, which Sharp had played in Group B3. The ruleset uses stages that were considered for the standard ruleset but didn’t make the cut because they either had small problems or better alternatives. This ruleset also enables the Final Smash meter, which largely dictated the pace of the matches.
The first two games of the set were between Pandarian’s Pokémon Trainer and Sharp’s Wolf. Sharp had used Wolf during Group B3 after experimenting with his other characters, but Wolf’s Final Smash proved to be one of the best in the game and helped Sharp make two different 3-0 comebacks two weeks ago. He used his experience to give himself a 2-0 lead, so Pandarian decided to change his strategy. He counterpicked Sharp by going to Warioware, one of the smallest stages in the game, and picking Incineroar, a character with the potential to take stocks much earlier than most others. This strategy was often cited as the reason for banning Warioware in the standard ruleset, so it seemed like this would be a free game for Pandarian. However, after whiffing a Final Smash and self-destructing, Sharp took another game, putting himself on match-point. Pandarian used this same strategy again and avoided making the same mistakes, putting him on the board far too late into the set. Now with counterpick advantage, Sharp chose the final stage, and Pandarian went back to Pokémon Trainer. After a close game, Sharp took the set 4-1.
In the second half of the bracket, Sparg0 and Enrique “Maister” Hernández started the trend of using the “Reverse Mains” ruleset, in which each player picks the others’ most used character. Maister is known as the best Mr. Game and Watch player in the world, so losing that advantage would likely hurt him in this set.
During the first game, it seemed that Spar0 wasn’t too experienced with Mr. Game and Watch, as he was making some poor choices during the neutral game, while Maister was much more comfortable with Cloud, Sparg0’s main. The pace of the match quickly shifted, as Sparg0 reversed nearly every advantageous situation that Maister found himself in and took the first game. While Sparg0 wasn’t good at playing Mr. Game and Watch, he knew all of Cloud’s weaknesses in the matchup, and exploited them perfectly, even going as far as to parry strong attacks in high-risk scenarios to get the best possible punish. Sparg0 dominated the set in with a 4-0 victory.
The next set was another Reverse Mains match, between Myles “Myles” McKenzie and Luis “Lui$” Oceguera. Myles would be playing Falco, while Lui$ played Yoshi. During the set, one of Lui$’s friends in the stream chat said that they consider getting Yoshi in random matches a free win, and that seemed to be the case from the first game. Myles managed to pull a complete reversal of momentum in the second game, tying up the score 1-1, but he couldn’t maintain this for the rest of the set. Lui$ ended up winning with a 4-2 victory.
Inround two of the Final Stage, the standard competitive ruleset was now thrown into the pool of usable rulesets, although it was never picked. This time around, players each selected eight rulesets to ban, and one ruleset would be randomly selected from the remaining options. Coincidentally, the first ruleset selected was Reverse Mains, for what was now the third time in a row. The two using this ruleset would be Laid and Sparg0.
Having to follow this ruleset put Sparg0 in a familiar situation. He was forced to use another unorthodox character, this time Pac-Man, against Cloud. However, unlike his match with Maister, he seemed much more comfortable with Pac-Man, hitting multiple combos using specific items that Pac-Man spawns. Sparg0 won the first game, and Laid managed to make some impressive plays with his Cloud to tie the score in the next game. However, Sparg0 quickly caught on to Laid’s strategy of focusing on Cloud’s Limit Charged attacks to secure kills, and used his knowledge of the character to narrowly avoid death throughout the set. Sparg0 won the next three games, advancing to the finals and knocking Laid out of the tournament.
In the last set before the finals, Sharp and Lui$ competed using the “Squad Strike” ruleset, in which each player selected seven characters to use throughout the set. They could only use each character once, even if they won the previous game. This ruleset gives a sizable advantage to the loser of each match, as they can counterpick the opponent’s limited character pool. However, this didn’t come into play, as Sharp won with a surprisingly dominant 4-0 victory. He even won the first game using his Sheik, who he had lost two games with in Group A6, which also used the Squad Strike ruleset.
In the final match, the two players settled on the “Sami Singles” ruleset, in which each player has one stock, the only stage available is Yoshi’s Story with hazards turned on and the timer is set to two minutes. This ruleset also uses a best-of-nine format rather than a best-of-seven.
Sparg0 played this ruleset in Group B2, where he advanced through the winners’ bracket. All of his sets in Group B2 were close, with his first set against Nicholas “Ned” Dovel going all the way to game nine. However, this set was nothing like that. Sparg0 won the first game against Sharp’s Joker, prompting him to switch to Sheik. Sparg0 made quick work of Sharp’s Sheik in the next two games, putting him up 3-0. At this point, Sharp made another switch to Wolf. For Sharp, Wolf was his strongest character throughout Smash Bowl. Every set he won at this point, aside from his last set with Lui$ had him win at least one game with Wolf. He even made two 3-0 comebacks with him in Group B3. But this time, Sparg0 was ready for it. Sparg0 went up 4-0, and Sharp made one more switch back to Joker, but that led to a repeat of game one. In an incredibly dominant set, Sparg0 won Smash Bowl MMXXI with a 5-0 victory of Sharp.
While this was the end of Smash Bowl MMXXI, it won’t be the end for Smash content! Next weekend, Gridiron Gaming presents Gridiron Clash, an eight-man invitational spanning two days and two coasts, hosted by Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma.
This Saturday, the East and West Coast players will compete in their own round-robin pools, which will determine the final bracket for Sunday. The top two players of each pool will advance to the winners’ side of the final bracket, while the bottom two players will advance to the losers’ side.
The East Coast pools will begin at 1:00 p.m. ET and consist of Eric “Mr. E” Weber, David “LeoN” Leon, Samuel “Dabuz” Buzby and Sharp. The West Coast bracket will begin afterward at 5:00 p.m. ET, and will consist of Spencer “BestNess” Garner, Jestise “MVD” Negron, Leonardo “MkLeo” Lopez Perez and Sparg0. Sunday’s final bracket will begin at 1:00 p.m. ET. The action will all take place on Hungrybox’s Twitch channel.
Writer’s Note: This article was written in collaboration with Andrew “PracticalTAS” Nestico, Data Analyst.