Last weekend, Rosemont (in the Chicagoland area) hosted the last of this season’s Red Bull Proving Grounds qualifying events. The Proving Grounds tournament series sets the stage for the next step: Red Bull Battle Grounds at the Capcom Pro Tour North America Finals, giving the Proving Grounds players a chance to compete with top players from around the world in a 512-person bracket.
These Chicago finals proved to be an exciting event. At center stage, before the “Battle for the Stones” Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite tournament, East and West regions fought each other in a round-robin style tournament. With three people per region, competitors from Philadelphia, Orlando, Toronto, Atlanta, Houston, Montréal (East Coast Group) and Chicago, Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Online (West Coast Group) showed off their skills.
Perhaps surprisingly, since they don’t particularly belong to one region, the Online team, composed of GAM|Dr. Ray, GAM|Caba, and Nephew took the event by storm, losing only to Los Angeles but beating Chicago, Vancouver, San Francisco, and Seattle.
“Caba, is, I think the MVP of our team so far,” Alan “Nephew” Sun said. “He mostly beat team Vancouver, he OCV’d Chicago, he was definitely one of the most important players.”
“Even going into this event, we knew that the top finisher from the East Coast was probably going to be Philadelphia, because they’re very strong,” Nephew continued. “I’ve played them a lot before, so we knew what to expect, so it just came down to fighting well. Our strategy was for me to try and take out Ludovic, the Chun-Li player. I ended up losing though, so Caba and Dr. Ray were able to close out the victory against them.”
The two players from the Dominican Republic in particular, Caba and Dr. Ray, proved dominant in the Grand Finals, beating Philadelphia’s SonicBoxx|Di3minion, SB|JB, and NS|Ludovic. Kevin “Di3minion” Landon was unsurprised that the Online Team were Philedelphia’s opponents in the Grand Finals, as he knew they have very strong players.
“Caba plays Guile, like me, but I also play F.A.N.G and Ed, and I’ve been playing Ed the most,” Di3minion said. “He played the match really well, and Ed doesn’t really have a V-Trigger that can turn the tide just like that. The second set, we were up 2-0. The guy we had to play last, Dr. Ray, used Ibuki and Vega. It’s crazy, because he doesn’t know the Ed match-up that well, but Ibuki is just so good.”
Di3minion also had some interesting thoughts on some mechanics in Street Fighter V and about Ed.
“I mean, I’m not happy. I decided to play a character that they released, and the character just ended up not being that good,” Landon said. “Obviously I made some mistakes in the match, but it’s not that the opponent punished me for my mistakes, the game punished me for my mistakes — miscalculations, I mean. Just the way the game is right now — I got basically screwed over by the game.
“I don’t think my opponent really capitalized on anything I did wrong, though he played the match-up well. Things like counter-hit pushback. It’s funny because people want that to stay. If that stays in the game, they might as well take out [Ed] from the game, because he can’t combo on counter-hit pushback. If the character was more complete, we would have won.”
Other than the mainstage competition, fanned by the constant enthusiasm of an MC, competitors in Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2, Tekken 7, and Street Fighter V participated in “ladder” style events. Sort of like a real-life “Ranked Match” system, by using smash.gg players could queue up for each game. The website would match them with another waiting player, and the winner ascended ranks to get prizes. It was all done via mobile phones.
“I think this venue is awesome for what it is. The bar atmosphere makes it a lot more fun for spectators and players. Having these ladders is a great way to include lots of people, so they can play all day, not just go 0-2 and then they’re done, right?” said Mike “ElvenShadow” Boczar, co-organizer of the Frosty Faustings tournaments, who played in the REV 2 ladders. “The ladder is really fun, and it’s the first time I’ve participated, and I’m really enjoying it. It’s a cool idea. Given what they had to work with, I think it went well. The fact that it’s free is going to allow players normally hesitant to enter a tournament, if they don’t think they’re going to do well, here anyone is welcome.”
Those who have been to other Red Bull events, such as Combo Breaker 2017, have seen some of the familiar drinks the energy beverage company developed, such as “Satsui no Hadou.” As I’ve tried out the ladder system for REV 2, a big plus was a free food voucher for winning the games. There were, however, some problems with the ladder system later as the day went on. My phone told me I was queued; however, my opponent, who received the notification, approached me and we played. The match didn’t count, though, because I didn’t “check-in.” Connection problems, despite WiFi availability, mired the experience. Smash.gg still doesn’t have a dedicated app, so most people had to spend phone battery on refreshing a mobile web browser.
Despite a few small difficulties, the event catered very well to players of multiple games; furthermore, the event was free and completely open to family, friends, and spectators. A strong Chicago-player presence welcomed the traveling competitors.
“It was actually amazing. Today was the first time I actually cried from losing in a tournament. I was so proud,” Rob “RobTV” Burney, part of Team Chicago, said. “Of course, it’s hurting to lose when you’re one game away from getting in the finals, but I was so proud of my teammates and so hurt from losing everything… but I feel amazing, man. When it comes to the Midwest, not that many people know about us. A lot of people look at Cali, New York, East Coast. THE COOL KID93… place him in LA, or NYC, and everyone would know him as one of the best players on planet Earth. But, you’re in the Midwest. That’s why I’m glad we have something like this. Overall, I thought it was amazing. Being the home team, we definitely had an advantage. When you see all these faces in the crowd that you know, it reminds me of how hype we are when we are at our home in Ignite.”
For full results, check out the Red Bull Proving Grounds smash.gg page.
[All photos, including feature, are courtesy of Red Bull/Bryan Lamb.]