Combo Breaker 2017 provided plenty of opportunities to catch up with some skilled players. Fable|Jason “KidViper” El-Srouji made a name for himself with his exceptional Johnny in Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR-, frequently winning tournaments and even beating the infamous CO|Dogura. His recent addition to a new esports team, as well as a growing interest in a new character, Baiken, made it a must-have interview on the spot at Combo Breaker.
KidViper speaks about Fable, learning Baiken in just under a month, and whom he considers a rising force in the increasingly visible competitive Guilty Gear scene.
Luke “Woocash” Siuty: Tell us a little about how the sponsorship with Fable came about.
Jason “KidViper” El-Srouji: They actually contacted me about three weeks before DreamHack, and we’ve been in talks this whole time. They got a little busy, I got a little busy. Bassem “Bear” Dahdouh [from smash.gg] put in a word for me, so that’s how they came in to me. DreamHack I feel also helped influence them to keep going through with the deal, that’s just how it went.
Woocash: Were you looking to get sponsored, was the proposition particularly attractive?
KidViper: It was definitely both, I definitely wanted to get sponsored again. Fable have what I’m looking for in a team. The big thing is communication. They’re always talking with us and their teammates. It’s very vocal compared to the last team I had. They definitely look out for us players, which is the most important thing for us players and me. And if I feel that you guys do that… that’s what it’s about for me.
Woocash: Can you talk a little about fighting Dogura? You fought both his Raven and his Sin.
KidViper: Going into that match, I didn’t even think I could get two games. I couldn’t make Frosty Faustings earlier in the year, during that time I was at home practicing certain concepts and strategies in case I ever run into Dogura.
I had never played him before that point [DreamHack] in tournament or casuals, so I had to do some things on the fly from what I practiced. Luckily everything went through, went pretty well. He’s super-adaptive, so not only was it was kind of a thrill to see how fast he adapted, but it was also refreshing to me because it meant that I can really see how my strategy works against him. It seems to have paid off really well.
About Sin, I’m pretty comfortable with Sin, I practiced a lot of with Fable|Kizzie Kay and FaultyDefense, and they have two varying styles, so Dogura’s kind of like a hybrid between them in terms of aggression and footsies. That match, as soon as he switched, I was like, I won, it’s over. It’s super comfortable for me.
Woocash: As REV 2 was approaching, and Baiken came out, what were you thinking? Were you eager to play the character?
KidViper: I was very interested in her. I thought, if she is fun, I’ll play her. Most of the time when I choose a character, they have to be fun for me. If I find something really cool or fun, then I’ll play them. Usually it isn’t about character strength. When I watch her, I was like, “yo, this is sick.” How parry works, and the parry really plays to my strengths in some aspects. I’ll definitely play her and Johnny together.
Woocash: Can you share any secrets on how you trained with Baiken? You only had a month, what was your regimen like?
KidViper: Most of my labbing was not particularly on the offensive side, it was more on the defensive end, and neutral. Baiken’s a character who gets stronger as you understand more situations and how to counteract them, so that was my primary focus. Learning how to Guard Cancel Azami is still my primary focus at the moment. Of course, it’s still all new, so I’m not really all too comfortable with it. There are situations that I understand and may be able to recognize, which has made me happy throughout this weekend, that I was able to implement. Offensively, it was pretty straightforward, so I didn’t really practice that.
Neutral was a little work because her buttons aren’t all-purpose. A lot of characters have buttons that can cover multiple options, but with Baiken, every tool she has has a specific purpose. Trying to get used to managing all of that and understanding when to use what was a little work, too. So those were my main focuses, defense and neutral.
Woocash: You’ve watched a lot of Guilty Gear play today [at Combo Breaker], we saw a good variety of characters and people. Who do you see in the FGC as an emerging force to be reckoned with?
KidViper: Well, Kizzie is already on his rise, he’s coming up. Also, daymendou. He’s also on the comeup in his rise. They’re both at this point up there already. Definitely those two. The other one is Hamad. I play with him all the time. I see things that people don’t always see. And finally, he started traveling, and he’s performing like the Hamad that I see all the time. I’m glad that it’s starting to show and hopefully people start seeing it, his strength.
Woocash: Care to comment on REV 2 balance so far?
KidViper: I think it’s OK. They added a few things to each character, changed some characters, but overall, the balance got smaller in terms of character strength disparity. From REV 1, it was pretty wide, the gaps in strength, but now it’s a lot smaller. Overall, most characters did not change in strength all too much. I think the S-tiers are still all the same, except for Millia, who dropped to A-tier. Sin, Johnny, Raven, Zato=1 are still top. Elphelt might have dropped to A as well. Chipp is A, I think. They’re right there, at that border.
As far as new characters, I think Baiken is high-tier in terms of strength, and I think Answer has room to grow substantially, but right now I think he’s high-mid.
Woocash: Plans in the upcoming months?
KidViper: I will definitely be at CEO and Evo. If I have enough time off, I will go to CEOtaku, because right now, these are definitely the three majors for anime for the rest of the year to look out for. When I’m not there, I plan on streaming more and practicing more, trying to prepare myself.
Woocash: Any other thoughts?
KidViper: Keep an eye out for this game. It’s starting to become pretty big, and the level is starting to become pretty high. A lot of matches are starting to truly show the development of the game in terms of how it’s going to play in the long run, since the balance wasn’t changed much. You’re really going to start some nice, high-level mindgames and adaptations, so it will be a lot of excitement to watch over the coming months and into Evo. Definitely look out for this game, please.