Tonight on The Fray, Brokentier founder Paul “Koogy” Kugler announced the newest addition to his sponsored team: Armando “Angelic” Mejia, who most recently made waves with his recent third-place finish in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 at Evo 2013. I spoke to Mejia about his fighting game background and his plans for the next competitive season, and to Kugler about the decisions behind the newest team addition.
Patrick Miller: Lots of people saw you on the Evo main stage for your incredible UMvC3 performance, but might not have known you from before, so tell me a little bit about yourself. When did you start playing fighting games? Is this your day job?
Armando Mejia: I started playing fighting games since I was little, but playing them and knowing what to do in them are two separate things. I think I am the only guy I have ever heard of who played all the VS games, starting with Marvel Super Heroes, but didn’t know how to do a fireball motion consistently until 2-3 years ago! I think I just loved the crazy characters and pitting them against each other, and since I have a brother who also liked them, it really helped foster my love for them.
I started getting more serious into fighting games with the release of Super Street Fighter IV. I had been playing Vanilla against my own friends but felt that I wanted to take them a bit more seriously. I knew that even though I could beat up on my friends I was probably garbage against a real player. I also wanted to learn playing on a stick because to me a stick was the sign of a Pro! Thanks to a bunch of awesome AZ guys, I got put in my place very fast, and quickly started integrating with the real Arizona FGC. I think it took me about 6 months of going to ranbats and tournaments to finally not go 0-2! All of these failures were actually extremely helpful however because it let me know exactly where I was at, and from there I could move forward to actually learning the game and fighting games in general.
After that, the rest is just practice-tournament-practice! Before BT I had a few months where I wasn’t affiliated with anybody, but for a long time before that I was part of Team Hazmat from Arizona. It started as a group of friends and grew into something a bit more when they got to stream ReveLAtions. I ended up parting ways to pursue other interests, but I definitely appreciate what they did for me. Besides that, I’ve been fortunate enough to have been sponsored via donations and charity from various people from the AZ community so I would like to say I was also sponsored from my own scene as well!
As for work: I had been working full-time at a financial printing company for a few years, but I was laid off months back. I will be going back to school to finish my degree and also possibly work in the coming months. Stay in school! I also have been doing digital/graphic design for a number of years, so sometimes I do freelance work.
PM: You didn’t win Evo, but you certainly got close. What are you planning on working on or changing around for the next competitive season?
AM: I think the biggest thing I can do right now is to just keep playing without stopping and try to push my team further and further. I want to play faster, react faster and overall have better mix-up decision making. I am a firm believer in the line “If you are smart enough, all you need is 1 mixup to win the game”. Justin Wong is the best example of this, with his simple vanilla mixup carrying him so far because of his amazing mix-up decision-making.
I’ve been telling myself since a year ago that I will probably be playing this game for a long time, so since then I have made sure to constantly try to react to everything in the game. I feel reactions carry you really far because there is something like a million combinations (I’m sure Viscant knows the real number) and it’s going to be impossible to know match-ups, so you have to rely on reactions. It has helped me in tons of situations, especially when I go out of state.
PM: In hindsight, is there anything you think you could have done in your pre-Evo preparations that would have left you with a better chance to win it all?
AM: I always practice as much as possible, for as long as possible, with whoever is willing to play with me. I remember going to a major without sufficient practice in the past, and the entire time thinking, “If only I had practiced more…”. This has become the basis for my preparations for evo and all other majors.
In hindsight, could I have done anything more for Evo 2013? Absolutely not. I did the best I could with the time I had with the people present at the time. I practice insanely hard to make sure I don’t have regrets!
PM: Tell me, what’s the difference between playing as a sponsored player vs. an un-sponsored player? Does it change the way you think about the game?
AM: While I haven’t entered my first tournament yet with the BT tag, I already feel far more pressure now from myself than when I was just “Angelic”. Before, I had nothing but my name on the line when I played, but now I represent an entire team, company, and brand, so I have to make sure I excel in every aspect required of me as a sponsored player. Even if these things are not expected of me, it is my personal belief that I should use this amazing opportunity to do amazing things for my sponsor, as well as provide the best results possible at everything that I am asked to partake in.
I also know of all the amazing things Brokentier does for the fighting game community, so in a roundabout way, if I successfully promote my sponsor, I also can potentially bring more for the community. Naturally, I will be getting more and more practice now, as I start to travel more often than before. Regardless of how good your scene is, eventually you need to start playing people out of state to really start improving, so more travel means more leveling up. This is all thanks to Brokentier who helps me out in a myriad of ways, too many to describe! I cannot begin to start thanking Koogy for this amazing opportunity.
PM: Do you already have a pretty strong relationship with Paul and the rest of the BT team, or is this a fairly new group for you?
AM: I think it’s safe to say that me and Paul(Koogy) are good friends, namely because I have gone to him for advice countless times. He is very experienced when it comes to plenty of matters and I have found his advice priceless at times. He has never been too busy to answer questions and I can never thank him enough!
Little known secret: He beat me in the very first UMVC3 Ranbat we had! HE NEVER LETS ME LIVE IT DOWN. Likewise, I love picking Viscant’s brain on tons of Marvel-related items, and had some nice team money matches paired up with Clockw0rk. I’ve hung out with much of the BT team numerous times, and look forward to hanging out with them more in the future. They are all pretty awesome guys!
PM: Why Shuma?
AM: I’ve always been a huge fan of Shuma-Gorath since I first saw him in the earlier VS games. Here was this weird tentacle monster thing going nuts on people, turning into a ball and stuff, and shooting out eyeballs! That was really cool and unique to me already, and then you give him the coolest level 3 in the game?! I was incredibly sold on trying to play this guy. The Chaos dimension is still my favorite hyper move to this day!
However, even though it might seem like all fun and games, trying to actually play Shuma was hard. Very hard. Quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in a video game was pick up this character and try to take him all the way. I didn’t have a ton of videos to work with, the Shuma-Gorath SRK forums were kind of dead, and I had no players to watch replays of. Every time I had a problem and wanted a solution, I had to just sit in training room and think of one. Every time I wanted a mix-up or an anti-air or an option-select, I had to lab it up and find it myself. Thankfully now there is a lot more Shuma going around, especially from Japan, and these guys are pumping out more videos, but in the beginning it was almost a nightmare.
One of the things I said prior to the release of UMVC3 was, “If they put Shuma in this game, I swear I’m going to main him and take him to Evo!” Wouldn’t you know it? Capcom loved him enough to have him in the game. That made me ecstatic, and even though it took me a long time to really start maining him (I played Dante/Sentinel/Dormammu in Vanilla), I definitely feel I have kept true to my claim — even if I did say it as a joke.
Immediately after Evo finished, while cleaning up I managed to have an amazing conversation with Seth Killian in regards to Shuma’s history in the VS series! Awesome moment for sure. Besides all of this, Shuma is actually not a bad character. I would rank him on the border of Mid-Midtier and High-Midtier. His assist is top 5 in the game, and his mixup and damage IN THE CORNER are insane! Midscreen… not so much, with his terrible methods of approach. I think I got lucky that he had so much potential with him, I don’t think I could have done the same with others like Phoenix Wright or Hsien-Ko (Don’t lose hope!).
PM: I’m curious, what do you think about Wolverine on point? Do you plan to stick with him, or are you feeling other options? It seems to me that he’s not getting any new fun tech compared to other characters…
AM: Wolverine is a character that is all about efficiency. I play him because of how well he works, and because to me, he is the best vessel for the type of rushdown I like: ruthless, leaving you no room to breathe. I have said for some time now that I think the best team for Dorm/Shuma is actually Firebrand/Dorm/Shuma, which I do now play on the side, but I feel that I am better at reacting, reading and opening people up with Wolverine. Firebrand can get extremely technical really fast, and I need far more time to play with him before I can main him (I will never drop Wolverine, but ideally would like to use both) but you do see me use him from time to time (Curleh West, Team tournament at TRB).
Ultimately, the decision for what point I play is all based on who abuses Shuma the most, and I firmly believe the best characters that can use Shuma are Wolverine, Firebrand, Vergil and Morrigan (not surprised by the last 2) and for now, I have little interest in playing the latter.
PM: Planning on picking up any side games, or are you sticking to UMVC3? (I see you play Dota 2 — not gonna go eSports on us, are you?)
AM: Before fighting games, I actually used to play DotA 1 competitively for a long time in Leagues and Inhouses, so the itch to go eSports is pretty strong, especially after TI3 (I’m a huge Na’Vi fanboy). But, ultimately the decision is that fighting games are the right choice, since I have more fun, and it’s easier to work with just myself as opposed to getting a team together.
I will be sticking with UMVC3, but the game I look forward to the most is definitely Guilty Gear Xrd. I loved MVC2 and GG growing up, but I didn’t really know how to play them. When MVC3 was announced, I took it as my chance at an equal starting line and took off as fast and as far as I could. I am hoping for the same for this new generation GG Xrd game and will be going full blast when it comes out. I dabble in most fighting games too though, and know how to play AE, KOFXIII, SFxT, and Melty Blood, but in terms of competitive I really only do Marvel for now.
PM: Dream match time: If you could play a FT10 set with any fighting game player in any game, who would it be?
AM: Hah! I want to play Mike Ross in UMVC3 so I can say I am better than him in DotA 2 and in Marvel!
Now on to the Q&A with Brokentier founder Paul Kugler:
PM: So, the money question: Why Angelic?
Paul Kugler: Armando’s a great friend of mine, and has constantly encouraged me to push Brokentier to the next level. He’s also a relatively new-school player, which shows that BT is a team with an eye not only to the past but also the future of gaming. Angelic has been proving himself with each event to be a dominant player in the UMvC3 scene, and his ability to formulate interesting strategies with unique characters is a huge plus. Finally, even with his successes I feel he still has plenty of untapped potential, and I think sponsoring him will help him get to the next level.
PM: Was he on your radar prior to his third place finish at Evo 2013? Was that the tournament that made you want him on team BT?
PK: Absolutely. I’ve been cheering for him since SoCal Regionals 2013, when he got 7th, and when he beat Chris G in pools 3-0 at Final Round I knew he had tapped into something special. However, I didn’t think he was ready to be sponsored; that is, until his performances at Curleh West and Evo. After watching his strong sets against PR Balrog and Cloud805 — complete with solo Shuma victories — in Vegas, I made a decision to get him on the team.
PM: BT has kind of an interesting set of players on its roster; what is it that makes you want to add someone to the team? Do you pick players based on their own individual merits or is there an overall theme or idea guiding your ideal BT team?
PK: I pick players that I want to see at events and who create a fun and inviting community for everyone, because that’s what I want Brokentier to be: a brand that anyone who likes fighting games can enjoy. If I enjoy watching a player play; they’re friendly and positive; and they have life goals beyond gaming, I’m interested in helping them get more exposure and having them become a part of that movement.
PM: With Guilty Gear getting back into the game and your previous GG background, think you’ll be sponsoring any GG players? (I know there’s at least one out there who’d love a BT sponsorship…)
PK: Why sponsor others in GG when I’ll just beat them? All joking aside, BT is always looking for the right players to carry our banner, it just depends on the timing and the players themselves. I’ll say it’s a definite maybe.
PM: On a related note, do you have any further plans for expanding the BT team?
PK: I have ideas but right now I’m working to revise how the current team operates and perfect that model. I didn’t do a great job of working closely or motivating the team in the past, but the signing of Angelic is the first part in the reimagining of Team Brokentier. I can’t go into details about how things will change going forward at the moment, but I believe what I have in the works will help make BT the greatest team in the FGC.