Last weekend saw players from around Europe assembling in Gothenburg for BEAST 7, the continent’s largest ever Super Smash Bros. tournament. While not having as large an international presence as at BEAST 6, this year’s event saw some fierce fighting between European juggernauts as fighters from all nations try to desperately stop Mr. R from taking yet another continental event. The tournament also raised some serious questions about the future of Europe’s three stock format, as well as potentially ushering in a ban of a certain blonde haired swordsman to stop stagnation in doubles. Where it may not have had the dramatic highs of BEAST 6, BEAST 7 marks an important landmark for the growth of the European Smash 4 community.
Sweden’s Really Feeling It!
Famous within the host nation but relatively unknown outside of the frozen north, the real breakout of BEAST 7 was M, the Shulk main from Stockholm. Despite many considering Shulk a mid-tier character at best, M’s command of advanced Shulk techniques like MALLC and SADB made the Monado master look like a serious threat. M did not drop a single set on his way to top 8, defeating players like Finland’s best Little Mac ZartZu and third seed for the whole event Glutonny.
His first match in top 8 was against the breakout player from BEAST 6, the Dutch Greninja iStudying. With the home crowd on his side, this match was a gruelling five game series, with the momentum switching as frequent as M’s Monado Arts. However, with precise use of the Smash Monado to get kills as early as 70% from center stage, M was able to clutch out the win over iStudying and guarantee a third place finish for Shulks everywhere. To see a Shulk perform that well in a major outside of Japan is quite a sight, so expect a new wave of Swedish Shulks coming out of the woodwork soon.
M’s following sets were less successful, with Mr. R mopping the floor with him before you could say Monado. While lack of match up knowledge may work on other players, Mr. R’s Sheik didn’t even give M’s Shulk the chance to get into the groove and establish a lead. This continued into M’s final set with cyve, with the German Diddy flinging the swordsman around the stage like a ragdoll. Even a hasty Sheik pick could not break through the German defence, with M earning a respectable third place and becoming a beacon of hope for Shulk mains everywhere. Hopefully, he’ll have a vision of how to beat the top tiers for BEAST 8.
The New Blood and the Old Guard
As the nation with the second most players in the BEAST top 64, the UK was poised to make quite a showing on the podium. Even though UK number one Ixis was not in the trenches with his fellow countrymen, a mix of new blood and old guard threats like BEAST 5 winner J. Miller and the UK’s best Sheik DAT|Ho were set to place well in the final 64.
By Top 12, only three UK players remained: J. Miller, Aperture and DAT|KillerJawz. Miller was soon taken out by iStudying in Winners’ and was then eliminated in a very close set with Spanish Palutena/Fox player El_Pitikla. With KillerJawz and Aperture left, it was up to the combined forces of the Brawl old guard and the new blood brought in by Smash 4 to defend the UK’s honour in Top 8.
Aperture–widely regarded as the UK’s second best Sonic and a potential successor to Ixis–has seen amazing growth over the past year or so, racking up wins against some of Europe’s best players in tournaments both in and out of the country. For KillerJawz, BEAST 7 was his first tournament entry in over two years, having retired from competitive Smash to act as a teacher for UK players on the come up. Despite his absence from bracket, his Mewtwo is regarded as one of the best on the continent, with some calling him the UK’s hidden boss.
Aperture was coming into the final bracket with some big wins under his belt, having defeated ZartZu and top Peach Meru on his way to top 8. Unfortunately, starting in Losers’ made for a short-lived run, as his Sonic could not outwit the psychic powers of S1, Europe’s best Ness. With a great seventh place finish, it was up to KillerJawz to keep the hopes of the UK high. Having defeated third seed Glutonny to get into Top 8, it was his turn to get revenge on El_Pitikla for knocking out fellow old guard player J. Miller.
Despite some nerves in game one and innumerable air dodges, KillerJawz’ Mewtwo got a foothold and was able to avenge Miller with a 2-1 victory. His next game saw him fight cyve’s Diddy, which is a notoriously bad matchup for Mewtwo. Starting off with secondary Robin did not go well, forcing KJ back onto Mewtwo for the rest of the set. While he did take a game, the psychic cat could not overcome the mischievous monkey, sending the UK’s last representative out at fifth. It seems ever since Miller’s win at BEAST 5, the UK is stuck with fifth place finishes, with ED|wilksy15 also finishing off the UK’s bracket run at fifth during BEAST 6. Hopefully, third time will be the charm and the UK will finally break through to the final four in 2018.
Yet for all the low tier heroes and returning old players, the Dutch still reign supreme when it comes to European Smash. With the Netherlands’ top three players in top 8, it was more the matter of who would draw the short straw and face Mr. R first in his race to yet another first place win. Dutch blood was spilled in an over 30 minute long set between iStudying and S1, with iStudying having to face cyve in Losers’ Semis in order to fight M.
The lone German combatant would not relent though, 3-0ing iStudying and M on his way to fight Mr. R in Grands. In a repeat of many European finals seen across for the past two years, Mr. R took the whole event, only dropping one game to fellow Dutchmen Meru in Top 64. With a win in doubles as well, Mr. R made yet a mint at BEAST for another year. Let’s make sure some US or Japanese players make it out to BEAST 8; this constant winning is getting a bit tedious–though Mr R’s consistency is both impressive and laudable.
Serious Cloud Cover
Speaking of tedious, doubles at BEAST was an overcast affair with almost every single match of Top 8 containing at least one Cloud. Both Winners’ and Grand Finals had three Clouds feature, resulting in the same strategy of the double Cloud team camping Limit while the other racks up damage and gains Limit that way. With several of the people playing Cloud having him simply as a pocket character for doubles, it raises the question whether he should be banned in order to increase team diversity.
It’s different to seeing double Fox in Melee, where that team relies on some level of previous training and co-ordination in order to dominate; players can pick up the double Cloud team and do well with little to no practice. Camping Limit automatically slows down the pace of matches, his Limit specials allow for easy kill setups off of a throw and there is almost no reason not to pick Cloud in doubles, as he works with every other character. With Smash 4 doubles not having the same level of reverence as Melee doubles, there is a severe shortage of dedicated teams who choose to use team compositions other than Cloud and another character.
In order to keep interest alive in Smash 4 doubles, I do feel a discussion has to be had about Cloud’s future in the format. There are several characters in Smash 4 who have massive untapped potential in doubles, but Cloud’s overwhelming strength is causing a fair degree of stagnation. Whether this comes as a soft ban on double Cloud teams or a complete restriction on the character remains to be seen, but action does need to be taken to enliven Smash 4 doubles.
The Death Knell of Three Stock
Along with Texas, Europe has been the bastion of the three stock format. With players citing that it doesn’t make games that much longer, it is better for the player experience and that good TOs should be able to account for the extra time, most EU events ran three stock with no issue. Initially, I too was a champion of three stock, clinging to the notion that “oh, the extra stock will encourage aggressive play, rather than encouraging camping.” Having been in the audience for Top 8 and watching the hype drain rapidly from the room over the course of each long set, I think it’s time three stock was put to bed.
Even the two sets that were best of three in Top 8 took over 9 minutes, with iStudying and S1’s Losers’ Semis set taking just over 33 minutes. That set for me will live on in infamy as the single set that cemented three stock as a failed experiment. Neither Ness nor Greninja are particularly campy characters but when each match is over 6 minutes long, you have a definite problem with your rule set. Unforeseen circumstances had already put the BEAST schedule behind by about an hour, with the Smash 4 Top 8 adding another hour and a bit onto the run time. There were also no real delays in terms of getting the Top 8 matches ready to go, the rule set itself just causes things to lag behind.
When there is already a negative stigma of Smash 4 being a slow game, this Top 8 only helped reinforced peoples’ misjudgements of the game. While two stock, best of three is a little on the short side, I feel two stock, best of five strikes the happy medium in providing players the ability to adapt over a long set, while not boring spectators to tears.
While the lack of non-European players and the three stock issue diluted the hype somewhat, BEAST 7 acted as a suitable milestone for the continued growth of the European community. There is a still a long way to go before more players can even challenge Mr. R’s continued rule of the continent, but the mid to high level of competition is heating up with every passing event. If Europe keeps improving at its current rate, BEAST 8 will not be one to miss.
1. eLv|Mr. R (Sheik, Cloud/Netherlands)
2. pM|cyve (Diddy Kong, Bayonetta/Germany)
3. M (Shulk, Sheik/Sweden)
4. iStudying (Greninja/Netherlands)
5. BYOC|S1 (Ness/Netherlands)
5. DAT|KillerJawz (Mewtwo, Robin/UK)
7. Aperture (Sonic/UK)
7. El_Pitikla (Palutena, Fox/Spain)