With WTFox 2 signalling the final big tournament ahead of Evo 2016, it’s now time for everyone to make their predictions and place their bets before the big tournament weekend that lies just around the corner. For other games, this may be fairly easy, but if the past few tournaments have taught us anything about Smash 4, there are absolutely no guarantees of placing high. CEO was a prime example of just how volatile Smash 4 can be and with Evo only seeding top 32 and pools being even larger than the ones at CEO, expect to see many more top players drowning and sleeper picks charging on through to top 128.
However, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Between Evo 2015 and 2016, Smash 4’s meta has changed drastically, thanks to the addition of new characters, new techs and players starting to master the engine to create high speed and high damage combos. Of course, Smash 4 will always be behind its energetic older brother but the general pace of matches has increased overall, bar a few matchups which send everyone to sleep. This speed increase has been aided by the abandoning of custom moves, which was a major point of contention surrounding last year’s Evo, with many top players complaining about these moves overcentralising the meta and making the mid-levels of play a question of who picks the most broken custom character set. Luckily, the reign of Wind Kongs and Trip Sapling Villagers is over, with customs being dropped unanimously after last year’s Evo, never to return to competitive play again. Twitch chats everywhere will probably breathe a sigh of relief at not having to watch a Villager ditto where both players camp behind a sapling and wait for the other to run in and trip up.
Speaking of reigns being over, Evo 2016 is taking place after TSM|ZeRo’s tournament dominance has ended and competition has widened massively. As mentioned earlier, the last couple of tournaments have shown just how inconsistent Smash 4 is as a whole, with top 10 ranked players not even making it to top 64 while hidden regional bosses are able to take down those who are tipped to be the next big thing. While we do finally have a global ranking in the form of the Panda Global Rankings, it will be very much a relic of a bygone time after Evo. Everything is currently in flux among the top 25, with players like Zinoto having breakout performances and surging up the rankings while players like ZeRo have to contend with the rest of the pack finally challenging him after a year of being uncontested. Rather than having our ‘Gods’ or whatever Smash 4’s equivalent is, the top level of players has only increased, as more and more people are being able to compete with the upper echelons of Smash 4, which makes every tournament so exciting as anyone could come out of the shadows and deliver that deathblow to knock a top flight player out of the whole competition. Moreover, anyone who is anyone will be attending Evo, making those pools absolutely full of potential sharks and future champions. No one can afford to be complacent, especially with the incredibly wacky seeding that’s currently in place at time of writing, which places someone like Ally down at 31st position and has players like Tweek and Larry Lurr facing off in round 1 of pools.
Similar to actual player rankings being in flux, the current character ranking in Smash 4 is up for as much debate. If you have had any real contact with the Smash community as a whole, you know we love our tier lists, but at present, no one can really decide on who are the top 5 or top 10 characters in the game. This is mainly thanks to the DLC fighters like Cloud and Ryu who were either not allowed in the tournament or were added after Evo 2015 and proved to be some of the most powerful combatants on the roster, shaking up the established order and knocking some characters down the list. Combined with patches which have nerfed characters like Sheik and Bayonetta (who had her 2 tournaments of fame) or buffed less popular fighters like DK and Ike, it’s impossible to give a definitive tier list. People are also reconsidering top tiers that were previously dominating like Zero Suit Samus, despite many of these characters featuring somewhere in top 16 at almost every tournament. There are so many viable characters in Smash 4 and match up knowledge seems to be the weak point of many top players, so low tier heroes do have the chance to do well if they run up against a top player who simply does not know what someone does. CEO was a clear example of that, with Bowser Jrs and Palutenas being able to take on Diddys and Ryus to cause huge upsets. Having a roster of about 2 or 3 characters to use seems to be the way forward at the high levels of play, as seen with players like ANTi, Dabuz and Abadango having secondaries or pocket characters to call upon in times of strife but character specialists have been doing equally well, as seen with Zinoto, Mr-R and Hyuga making high placings using a single character. This year’s top 8 will be incredibly interesting, seeing if the noted counterpickers place higher than those who are dedicated to a single character.
Just looking back at the top 8 from last year’s event, my prediction is that only 4 of the players present there will actually make it back for this year’s finals, based on current results. So much has changed in a short space of time that I could quite easily reorder top 25 and still miss out some players that could reach that level of the tournament. Seeing as this is the case and most of you reading this know about players like ZeRo, Ally, Nairo and Dabuz, I’m going to list 8 players who didn’t appear in last year’s top 25 but could quite easily make it this year. 4 of them will be American players and 4 of them will be Japanese, seeing as Japan are really bringing out the big guns to take the Evo crown this year. All of the following players have the potential to go far, so keep your eyes peeled and maybe put them on your fantasy bracket if you’ve got a spot spare.
7SeS|Saj (USA) – Last of the Umbra Witches
After the lauded 1.1.6 nerf which focused only on Bayonetta, it was expected that many players would drop the character and switch back to their previous main or join the growing army of Cloud players. Some players did stay the course though, learning that even after the nerf, the Umbra Witch was still a force to be reckoned with. One such player is Saj, a Bayonetta and Peach main from Florida who has been placing regularly in top 16 of majors like Pound and CEO, even with a nerfed Bayonetta. On his CEO run, Saj was able to beat Nietono, DJ Jack, ESAM and Jtails before falling to False, just before reaching top 8. His Peach is no slouch either, defeating ANTi at Smash the Record 2015 and achieving 7th place. For his efforts, he was recently sponsored by Seven Seas eSports, allowing him to fly out to Evo and to represent Bayonetta at the biggest Smash 4 tournament in history.
Kamemushi (Japan) – The Super Fighting Robot
In contention for the world’s best Megaman, Kamemushi is one of Japan’s heavy hitters, regularly placing within top 8s of most tournaments he attends and currently ranked number 1 on the Umebura Power Rankings for Smash 4. After winning KSB 2016, defeating the likes of Komorikiri, Nasubi and 9B, Kamemushi won a trip to an American Smash tournament of his choice and of course, he picked Evo 2016 to show his Megaman off to the world. His next tournament win at Umebura 23 displayed his confidence, stating that he would win Evo just like he did Umebura. Kamemushi’s overconfidence can be his own worst enemy though, as he then went out at 97th place after sandbagging with random characters at Sumabato 11. He did go on to win the Amateur bracket mind you, only going Megaman during grand finals to please the stream. His Megaman is infamous for its Z-Drop Metal Blade shenanigans, which shred opponents’ shields and lead into devastating jab lock kill setups. His style of Megaman is different to ScAtt, who is known for its solid defense, using Leaf Shield to edgeguard opponents and slowly build up damage with the Mega Buster. This different style of Megaman, along with Kamemushi’s cockiness could lead to some interesting matches during pools and I would not be surprised if this robot makes its way to top 8.
Wrath (USA) – Sonic’s the Name, Patience’s my Game
For a character known for their speed, Sonic is infamous in Smash 4 for slowing the pace of a game to an absolute crawl when played defensively. The current pioneer of the defensive Sonic is Wrath, a 14-year-old player from Georgia who has been taking names and causing a fair amount of stream rage at recent tournaments. Getting his start in tournaments around Georgia and being a regular player and high placer on SmashLadder, Wrath rose to prominence after a stellar performance at Momocon, defeating Ally and best Bowser LordMix to eventually get 3rd place. He then made 13th place at CEO, defeating C3PO and even taking a game off ZeRo in his losers run, before being dispatched by the current number 1. While his Sonic may not be to everyone’s taste, Wrath is clearly playing to win, and if his defensive Sonic does the job, it’s up to the rest of the world to learn how to deal with a shielding hedgehog. Out of the Sonics attending Evo, which includes both notable Japanese Sonics KEN and Komoriki, it will be a sight to see how Wrath’s Sonic stacks up against others spin dashing their way to Las Vegas.
DNG|Nietono (Japan) – The Travelling Monk(ey)
As opposed to other Japanese players who have been practicing for Evo back home, Nietono and doubles partner Umeki have been travelling around the USA in the last month or so, training up against American players in readiness for Evo. Japan is a region known for its inconsistency whenever it travels westward but like fellow world traveller Abadango, Nietono seems to be finally warming up to the US metagame and placing high in both Japan and America. At the last 3 Umeburas he attended, Nietono placed 3rd each time; he followed up this feat by placing 3rd at APEX 2016, defeating Tweek, Marss and Mew2King before losing to CLG|VoiD in Losers Finals. Clearly having an affinity for the number 3, Nietono placed 13th at CEO, defeating fellow teammate Umeki, as well as Master Raven and TheReflexWonder before losing to Saj in a very close 3-2 set. While the days of the Hoo-Hah may be behind us, Nietono’s dominating stage control with the banana make it very hard to mount a defense against his Diddy, should he gain the momentum.
PG|Trela (USA) – The World Warrior
While his performance at CEO looked more like Dan rather than Ryu, Trela should not be counted out in the run up to Evo. If anything, his failure to make bracket has only inspired the Texan Ryu to fight harder and learn those tricky matchups that caused him so much trouble last time. Despite all that, Trela’s resume should not be overlooked, placing 1st at the last 3 tournaments he entered before CEO and defeating top players like CLG|VoiD, FOW, eLevate’s Larry Lurr and Vinnie to name but a few. His recent posts about improving on Facebook and Reddit show that this world warrior wants his home state to improve too, so expect a determined Ryu to be taking the stage on Evo weekend.
HIKARU (Japan) – The Smash Sumo
A crowd favourite from Japan, HIKARU hopes to win one for heavy players everywhere, through his use of grapplers DK and Bowser. His DK is no slouch, coming 3rd at Sumabato 10, outplacing players like Komorikiri and Shimitake, while defeating notable Wario Natsubi on his way to 3rd. His Bowser is equally as formidable, covering certain matchups with the King of the Jungle just can’t deal with. I’d love to see an exhibition between DKWill and HIKARU for the title of best Donkey Kong in the world. Either way, I hope HIKARU puts on a show for us heavy players and gains some more fans over the course of Evo 2016.
dT|ANTi (USA) – Counterpicking Champion
And now to the two big contenders out of this group of 8. Starting off with the US hopeful, we have Dream Team’s ANTi, fresh off his victory at CEO and ready to ride the momentum all the way to Evo top 8. Known mainly for his Mario but having a Diddy, a Zero Suit Samus, a Rosalina and a Cloud to bring to bear whenever he needs to, ANTi is ready for almost any matchup that someone could throw at him. Much like fellow teammate Dabuz who just took first place at WTFox 2, his sponsorship has only improved his play and increased his drive to win, with his sights being firmly set on the Evo title. However, he has been causing some friction with other Smashers as of late, most notably with fellow Mario main and Twitter monster Ally, who had some choice words about ANTi’s recent behaviour at CEO. Whatever the situation between the two, it should make for some interesting viewing should they meet in bracket during Evo. You might want to have Twitter ready after the fact.
Ranai (Japan) – Murabito Master
The sleeping giant of Japan, many were reminded of Ranai’s attendance at this year’s Evo after Komorikiri stated he was teaming with him during the doubles side event. He has been in semi-retirement as of late, choosing to focus more on Street Fighter V rather than Smash 4 and his results show this, placing 9th at Shots Fired 2 and KSB 2016. Having said that, Ranai has not competed in a tournament since April so we have no clue if the man has been in the training room practicing his Villager or his Ryu. He is the great unknown out of the Japanese contingent attending Evo, as he could perform like he did at Genesis 3 or he could buster out due to his inactivity, especially since the meta is growing so rapidly. Even so, Villager is a character that is rarely seen in top 32s of most nationals, so matchup inexperience could still carry Ranai to that top 8 spot. Who knows, we could see him in Street Fighter V’s top 32 instead.