(F3|alucarD and Brian James, via Jason Laboy and Youmacon Gaming @Youmacon 2015)
Editor’s note: Some responses have been slightly altered for clarity. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the interviewer and interviewee; they do not reflect Shoryuken as a whole.
I first met F3|alucarD in 2007, competing in a small eastern Michigan regional tournament. We were playing 3rd Strike–he was Dudley, I was Urien–and I was on the verge of winning the set. I landed the knockdown and all I needed was one more hit, but despite my best efforts he clutched-out a comeback by shattering my Aegis Reflector set-up with an unpredictable reversal Rocket Uppercut super. I remember grumbling loudly, “are you SERIOUS?!” as my health bar depleted to zero and he moved on to losers finals.
As I watch Antwan “alucarD” Ortiz compete today, almost 10 years later, on the top 8 stage at DreamHack Austin or EGL Dallas, and any given NLBC grand finals, I’m reminded of that same fearless, calculating gameplay that took him to the grand finals of a small forgotten regional tournament in nowhere-Michigan almost a decade ago.
Antwan “alucarD” Ortiz with Aris @SCR2015, courtesy of Chris Bahn & PVPlive
Zach “Sultan” Chouikh: Let’s start from the beginning. What was your gateway into the FGC–how and when did you get involved with the Detroit FGC specifically?
Antwan “alucarD” Ortiz: My gateway into the FGC was Brian James. He introduced me to the fighting game community in 2007. He was solely responsible for me getting into the MIFGC also. He took me to locals, he allowed me to practice with his squad, and of course he took me to my first major which was Seasons Beatings.
ZC: What was your first fighting game and who was your first main character?
AO: My first game ever was SFII on SNES playing with my father. I didn’t have a main character back then as I didn’t know what a “Main” was. We had all the systems so when SF2:CE came out on the Turbo Graphix 16 I was old enough to take a liking to a character, and it was Sagat. As far as competitive gaming, SFIII: 3rd Strike was my first and I mained Q because he was similar to Balrog.
ZC: On the topic Balrog, I know you’re excited for his return to Street Fighter V. Do you have a fantasy moveset, or playstyle? How would the Balrog of your dreams play and look?
AO: Yes I’m definitely excited for Balrog! I really just want him to have an overhead option again. He doesn’t have to have a command grab even, but a simple overhead low mixup. As far as appearance, I just want him to have his hooded outfit from SFIV.
ZC: What draws you to your main characters in fighting games? You’re known for maining a commonly considered weak character in Ultra SFIV, Hugo. You also played Sagat and Boxer exceptionally well. Considering the fact that you had higher-tiered characters at your disposal, what motivated you to primarily play a character like Hugo who struggles to compete?
AO: For me to main a character I have to like how they look. We have to be similar in some type of way. Yes I mained Hugo in SFIV, mainly because of the nostalgic factor he has with me because of 3S. I had to endure 6-7 years of SFIV without a grappler that I like. So when he was announced it was almost automatic for me. But honestly I thought Hugo was very strong in SFIV, like everyone else he had some rough matchups but overall I think he could hold his own against 90% of the cast.
ZC: You’re sponsored by Flipsid3 Tactics. How’d that come to be? What doors have been opened for you because of that opportunity?
AO: I was referred to Flipsid3 Tactics by Christopher “Ninja CW” Harris. He had been following me for quite some time (he told me later). I had no idea actually that he even cared about who I was or who FlipSid3 was at the time. He convinced FlipSid3 to pick me up because Dana and him were interested in expanding their focus into the FGC so he brought me up. Chris is the manager of the FGC division and his word carried some weight. We ended up meeting at Evo 2015 and the rest was history. FlipSid3 Tactics has given me many opportunities and because of that I have earned several sponsorships, trips traveling across the world, and meeting so many important people like the CEO of Zowie Vincent Tang. It has really been a blessing for me.
F3|alucarD’s clutch Birdie play at NLBC, courtesy of Team Spooky.
ZC: You’re known for your Necalli, but you also started competing with Birdie recently. Do you feel like Birdie compliments Necalli’s weaknesses, or is there another reason for using Birdie? What’s your opinion of Necalli? Many players in Japan reportedly felt early on that he’s the best in SFV, where would you place him and why?
AO: Yea that’s exactly why I chose him, I feel Birdie can deal with certain matchups a little better than Necalli. I personally feel that Necalli has a weak neutral game as opposed to Birdie who I feel controls neutral very well. I feel that Necalli is a very strong character, in the range of 6-10. He does well against most the cast, but the characters with very good neutral and good zoning capabilities give him the most trouble. Although in [V-Trigger] I feel that he is the best character in the game, hands down. It’s just too hard at the moment to safely build V-Trigger without losing 50% or more health.
For those who've asked:
— F3 alucarD (@313alucarD) May 12, 2016
ZC: You were competing and placing in MKX in 2015, but you seemed to back away in 2016. Have you shifted your focus completely to SFV, and what are your opinions of MKXL?
AO: Yea my team wanted me to focus more on SFV more so than MKX. When MKXL dropped I was already so in love with SFV that I really had no interest in returning to the game. I love the game, though, as well as the scene and I do miss competing in it. My main focus at this point in time is to qualify for Capcom Cup 2016.
ZC: On the subject of aiming for that Capcom Cup qualification, what tournaments are on your calendar for 2016? Any dream trips you haven’t made yet?
AO: Well for certain, CEO, Evo, and the rest of the DreamHack tour. I would love to go to Japan, hopefully SFV will take me that far.
ZC: What motivated your move from Detroit to NYC and how do you like the competitive environment on the east coast?
AO: The NY FGC actually motivated me into moving. They were insanely strong in SFV, and I knew that if I practiced with them that I would be just as formidable in the new game. Dana Kawar is the one who brought it up and had the idea. She felt I could be the best in New York long before I even thought I could. I love the NY scene and they are like my second family now. They welcomed me very easily and we have built friendships since.
ZC: Was your family supportive of the move?
AO: My family has always pushed me to do what I love. My father was the one who got me into FGs in the first place, we still spar to this day. But yea they’ve always encouraged me to make something of myself in the FGC.
ZC: You travel often, what’s your favorite experience on the road, and which tournament experience has been your favorite so far?
AO: My favorite experience on the road are the fans, free. I absolutely love when anyone comes up to me and asks for pictures, autographs, etc. It’s really amazing and refreshing for me. To know that I have inspired so many people to do something positive that I love to do, gives me the feels. I always wanted to be the pro that was down to earth and always friendly to everyone. That’s the type of champion I wanna be remembered as. Right now my favorite tournament experience was DreamHack Austin. It was a total new experience for me. Having all of eSports in one big convention center. 4 floors of games and gamers. It was absolutely amazing. I spent a lot of time at the Zowie exhibit there, fantastic people who gave me even more courage to travel and be the best I can be.
ZC: You recently noted on Twitter that you’re training 6-8 hours a day and intend on winning a major within the year–you’ve gotten pretty close more than once–what’s your training regimen look like? Do you play mostly online or off? How much time do you spend in the lab and what do you do?
AO: Right now yes I am training a ton. I split up my time between online matches, training mode, and of course offline casuals. Sometimes the hours fluctuate within the 3 separate groups. Somedays I may allocate 3 hours to training mode, and others I may choose to do an hour of training mode and the rest casuals. Because I often practice defensive scenarios in training mode. Mainly because I feel that SFV is all about making good decisions. In a high-level match, your decision making will be the determining factor of whether you win or lose. So if you can capitalize on your opponent’s incorrect decisions in the most optimal way, then that will definitely increase your chances of dominating the competition. But overall at least 6 hours of gameplay of some sort. I’ve even streamed for 11 hours one day on top of other practices. So it gets pretty extensive, I must Rise Up.“
ZC: 10 years ago alucarD was 10 years younger, living in Detroit, bodying a scrubby Urien in Howell, Michigan at a 30-man tourney. Today you live in NYC. You’re a sponsored player traveling the world doing something you love–playing fighting games competitively. People you’ve never met want your autograph. It sounds surreal. Does it feel that way? Could a younger Antwan Ortiz imagine his hobby would take him so far?
AO: It often feels surreal. Recently I’ve found myself pausing at events and just embracing the atmosphere. Really soaking it all in. Because yes, it definitely feels surreal to me at times. A younger Alu would have never imagined that it would turn out like this. From my dad waking me up at 3am on school nights to play SF half awake to traveling around the world competing against the absolute best players, it’s definitely a dream come true.
ZC: I think that concludes our interview, before we sign off, any shout outs you’d like to make?
AO: Well of course I would like to shout out my wonderful family back in MI. All of my friends at home as well, I miss you all. I would also like to give a special shout out to Flipside Tactics, Sennheiser Gaming, StatsHelix, and Zowie by BenQ. You guys are amazing and have supported me unconditionally.