Team Razer’s Kun Xian Ho had a tumultuous year in 2016. The former Evo champion — notorious for taking lower tiers to their competitive limits — was taken to his own limits by his character of choice: F.A.N.G. The decided bottom tier of the game did not do him any favors on the circuit — while he was able to reach Capcom Cup last year, the handicap issued by F.A.N.G limited him to just making top 16 of the event.
Armed with a new main in Ibuki and early success on the Capcom Pro Tour with a win at Final Round XX, Xian looks far more poised than last year to take it all. But is he strong enough to do so?
Quality Over Quantity
While I have discussed players’ tournament schedules before, Xian is one of the least-traveled players on the Capcom Pro Tour this year. Listed on his results are a grand total of seven Capcom Pro Tour events. Of those seven tournaments, he has won four of them. Outside of the win at Final Round XX, he has won events in two other regions, including Europe (VSFighting 7) and Asia (Thaiger Uppercut). This already shows poise to take on various regional stylings, as he was able to take victory in England over the ever-aggressive Luffy, and took the Thai event over the mix-up-heavy Oil King.
It is also worth noting that out of these seven events, the only time he placed outside of top 8 was at Evo, where he finished in the top 64. It’s also worth mentioning that off of the CPT circuit, Xian was able to take two events, including China’s LAN Story Cup, where he faced off in Grands against Tokido, who was at the time the hottest player on the circuit. Even in the non-circuit events he has played in, he has chosen quality over quantity, and has provided a ton of the former to offset the latter.
The Original Ibuki
While Yukadon may enjoy a higher seed than Xian, don’t let that deceive you. All the griminess that has been Ibuki’s modus operandi over this year was found in Xian’s play starting with his win at Final Round. Xian has always done well with characters that have solid mix-up potential — even his initial play with F.A.N.G showed glimpses of it. His Gen was notoriously hard to read, as his wall dive mix-ups were always on point.
While Ibuki may have different tools, Xian has found his own way to keep the mix-ups coming. But one thing that is often understated about Xian, that needs to be discussed, is his patience in the neutral. While a lot of focus was on his setups in Street Fighter IV, you cannot talk about his Evo championship without talking about his ability to wait for the hit, occasionally fishing with low strong to confirm into Super. While Ibuki has a plethora of gimmicks and mix-ups in Street Fighter V, you can’t rely on this alone. If you watch Xian, he is one of the most patient players in the neutral zone, and definitely so when you consider other high-octane Ibukis.
But to top it off, Xian is one of the best at working Ibuki at all ranges. He understands when to throw Kunai at long distance, and when also to safely reload. He understands not only when to bait at close range, but how even to force huge mistakes from his opponents. This makes him far more dangerous that most people will give him credit for.
The Danger Zone
Xian’s biggest issue going into Capcom Cup is himself. He has been perpetually known as streaky. At some points he’ll be hot, at some points he’ll be cold. While he had successes and failures on the CPT last year, and much of it could be attributed to the difficulty he faced using F.A.N.G, last year was not the only year he faced issues of waxing and waning performance. While 2013 saw him at the top of the heap for the former half of the year, he struggled beyond Evo. He waxed and waned throughout 2014 and 2015, and that’s something that is always in the back of your mind when you think of Xian.
Granted, the only sign you could take of his waning performance this year is his Top 64 finish at Evo, but he soon bounced back with a win in a CPT online ranking event against a legion of Singaporeans. He was also able to win LAN Story Cup and VSFighting 7—all after Evo. If that was his waning, he is still waxing. Perhaps his commuted schedule is his answer to his streaky play—recharging his batteries instead of grinding tournaments every weekend.
A Possible Character Switch?
We all know Xian’s most loved character is Gen, and a carrot has now been dangled in front of him. Zeku — albeit having moves similar to Guy — bears a striking resemblance to his former main with two stances. Naturally, Xian has gravitated to the character, and is trying to bring him up to task online.
This could be either the greatest move ever, or the worst idea he’s ever had. While it’s obviously something to consider for next season, bringing it out now — untested in tournament play — could be disastrous. It could also possibly put people off guard, much like his change to Ibuki did early in the season. He has just over a month to do it, so it’s a question to how much time he puts in and how seriously he plans to bring Zeku out in Anaheim.
Xian is not to be slept on. He could truly be on pace to put together a strong full season — he has the character to do it, and he may finally have the confidence to do it. He certainly is confident enough to not feel like he has to prove himself week in and week out.
The only big issue right now is which character he’s going to pick. I do believe he is the best Ibuki on the planet, but if he is in the midst of a character crisis and tries to pick Capcom Cup to test drive Zeku, it’s hard to bet on him.
I’m of the belief that he’s smart enough to not do so right now, so if all goes well, then Xian could take this event. But with his performance this year, it would be an odd experience to not see Xian at least make top 16 — no matter his choice of character.
Check out our prior articles in the Capcom Cup 2017 Player Analysis series!