Have you ever had a “demon?” Be it a vice, a character in a game, a math formula, or a player, we all eventually come face to face with something or someone that tests our ability to think, change, or take an ass-beating. Sometimes you can overcome it, and it goes away forever. Sometimes it comes back. Sometimes, you beat one demon, only for another to take its place.
It sucks… it isn’t fair. But, that’s life. That’s competition. That’s the potential for growth.
It is hard to have a year better than the Tekken community did in 2017. With the long-awaited console release of Tekken 7, regions outside Southeast Asia, North America, and Europe were finally able to get their hands on the newest installment of the Tekken series. Having just wrapped up a storybook ending to the Tekken World Tour Finals, there was one more event left on Tekken’s calendar: Mastercup.
This weekend, I had the privilege of attending Mastercup 9. This was my 2nd Mastercup, but I wanted to share my experience at one of the most iconic Tekken tournaments in the world.
The World’s Greatest Tekken Team Tournament
Just as we think of Cooperation Cup for 3rd Strike, or Arc Revo/Toushinsai for Arc System Works titles, Mastercup is one of the premier Japanese tournaments for Tekken. With this year’s Mastercup 9 event, the Tekken scene celebrated the 10th anniversary of this historic 5V5 team tournament series (although other entries in the Mastercup series over the years have used other tournament formats). Like many other title-specific Japanese FGC events, Mastercup is a festive gathering of competitive players, casuals, artists, adults in costumes, and fans. This year, Mastercup was held at Tokyo Big Sight’s TFT Hall, the same venue as last month’s Toushinsai!
For 10 years now, the Mastercup series has consistently seen increased entrants and activity with each tournament. However, it was this year that Mastercup finally crushed the 1000-player mark, with over 220 (5 player) teams registered!
At the heart of the Mastercup series stands tournament organizer Masakari Jin. Along with Mr. Matsuda and his staff, Masakari Jin is one of the many regional community leaders and driving forces behind the success of Tekken in Japan over the years. As he runs between cabinets directing pools and matches, he surely feels the same sense of pride all TOs do when they overlook a packed ballroom of visitors from all over the world. No doubt, it was his hard work that brought Mastercup to the heights it has achieved. Mastercup has risen as one of the largest open bracket team tournament events not only in Japan, but the world — and this has great significance in the post SBO Tougeki era Japanese FGC.
The tournament ran from 8:00 AM to almost 11:00 PM. As one would expect from a tournament of this size, there were many awesome moments and matches throughout the day. In case you missed it, I wanted to cover the high-impact moments of the tournament.
Much like other team tournaments in Japan, matches are played in FT1 single elimination brackets. During the early stages of the bracket there are dozens of matches going on at once, and only a small percentage are streamed in their entirety.
However, one match in particular got everyone on their feet: when newly-crowned Tekken World Tour 2017 Champion, Qudans, had to step in for the “Qudans Force” against Shake, a Gigas player from the Yokohama area. When they saw the brackets, no one expected team “Benkei Police 24 Hours,” composed of 5 Gigas players, to push Qudans’s team to the brink. Yet, there they stood, with Shake threatening a one-character-victory with a character many people feel is underwhelming in Tekken 7.
Just like that, the TWT 2017 Champion’s team fell after Shake found some counter-hits, and made good reads on Qudans’s movement.
Once the initial blocks were finished, the tournament proceeded to the second phase: the wildcard stage. Here, teams that previously lost in their blocks, are given a chance at redemption. The catch is: both teams only send one player to represent them and fight for a chance to move on in the bracket. The winner of the wildcard stage is given the last spot of top 8.
After a series of wins in the wildcard bracket from the veteran Chikurin and Noroma, the Jack player from Kyushu who turned a lot of heads this year during his performances on the Tekken World Tour, the Kyushu based Team “Global Glory” was able to clinch the wildcard spot. With this, the 8 team finals were decided.
The first match of top 8 pitted the remaining Korean team, “Well Played,” against team Global Glory. It was in this set that we saw one of the beautiful qualities of these massive team tournaments in Asia: the potential to showcase local hidden talent. Watch as Keisuke runs through more than half of the Korean team (including Knee and Lowhigh!) with his Kazuya.
After Keisuke finally falls, Chikurin tags in, scores a win, and calls for the anchor of Team Well Played, Chanel. Like their match in pools of the 2016 Tekken King of Iron Fist pools match, Chanel emerged the victor. With all of Korea in Chanel’s backpack, the next challenger from Team Global Glory was Feng player, Mafuyu.
With Mafuyu scoring some loose hits and landing his throw to close out the last round, the Korean team fell in first round of top 8 to Global Glory.
Cut to the other side of the top 8 bracket, where Team Yamasa was playing a controlled game. However, in order to make it to grand finals, they would have to overcome a recent demon of theirs. Check out Yuu getting his revenge on Tarisu Cutter, avenging Team Yamasa’s losses to him at Toushinsai and Pre Evo Japan: Sai (In both of these events this year, Tarisu Cutter beat Yuu, Nobi, and Take at one point or another).
With this, Team Yamasa would emerge from this end of the bracket after defeating one of their recent demons in tournament. They would move through their next match with little struggle, riding a high wave of momentum and confidence to the Grand Finals.
Back to the other side of the bracket, where Team Global Glory would face the team that put them in the wildcard spot after beating them in round 2, Team Anti-Benkei. Team Anti-Benkei is actually a recently sponsored Tokyo-based team named “Team Walker.” Not willing to let this second chance go wasted, Team Global Glory sends their hottest player, Noroma, in first. Noroma makes quick work of Bryan specialist, Bakusho. Anti-Benkei would then send Pre-Evolution Japan 賽 [sài] runner up, Kagemaru, to face Noroma. From here, Kagemaru showed glimpses of the same kind of tournament stamina and mental fortitude he displayed at 賽 [sài] (where he fought all the way through losers from his round 1 match of the tournament, ultimately getting 2nd place). Kagemaru showed some awesome movement, staggered offense, and strong reads to take down Noroma and Keisuke. He would then fall to Mafuyu. This would bring 賽 [sài] champion, Amiigo, to the stage, where he would challenge the remaining members of Global Glory for the right to face Team Yamasa in the Grand Finals.
With Amiigo’s win over Thai Curry, the grand finals were set: Team Yamasa vs Anti-Benkei. After 15 hours of tournament play, Basho and Battsu took their seats and prepared to face off first. However…
Aside from a tight finish on Kowashiyashiro’s Steve (who got 3rd place at 賽 [sài]), Battsu executed more than half of Anti-Benkei with little struggle. Down to their last member, Kagemaru sat at the cabinet. Though he had beaten Nobi and Take during his loser’s bracket run at Sai, this was a completely different task. For everyone in the venue, it was inconceivable for him to run through the most celebrated team in Japanese Tekken (plus Nishi Shinjuku and Battsu). At this point, any pushback from Kagemaru was simply delaying the inevitable… right?
Team Yamasa had already won. When they beat Tarisu Cutter, they avenged their loss at Toushinsai a month prior, and with no other clear threats to the team on that level, they won Mastercup 9.
Were this an ordinary tale, maybe the story would have ended that way.
Sometimes we overcome one demon, only for that void to be filled with another.
Through sheer determination, Kagemaru revealed his true self on that stage. With each passing game, he became an even greater force of nature. Beyond even a demon, he had become… a DEVIL.
(Corny, but come on! It’s Tekken, after all.)
By the time Yuu stepped up to the cabinet, Team Yamasa had already accepted what was about to happen. The expressions on their face had completely changed from just a few moments before. At this point, everyone in the world was rooting for Kagemaru. It felt like everything he wanted to do, just worked, and every gamble he made, hit. His high-low game, reads, and tempo — everything just flowed.
And with that last slide in 3, Kagemaru closed the books on what was one of the most exciting tournament finishes in Mastercup history. He put his entire team in the Jansport, and carried them over Team Yamasa to win Mastercup 9 in dramatic fashion.
1st Place: [Team Anti Benkei]: Basho (Bryan); Amiigo (Jin); Kowashiyashiro (Steve); Manba (Katarina); Kagemaru (Josie)
2nd Place: [Team Yamasa]: Battsu (Hwoarang); Nishi-Shinjuku (Feng); Yuu (Feng); Nobi (Dragonov); Take (Kazumi)
10 More Years
Mastercup 9 was the perfect bookend to what has been a historic and almost fairy-tale year for the Tekken scene. For longtime veterans of the series, the atmosphere feels like a return to the feverish days of Tekken Tag Tournament or Tekken 5/5:DR. From the long-awaited console release, to a 1200-player Evolution showing, to an incredible World Tour (with increased support and sponsorships, thanks to companies like Twitch and Nissin Cup Noodles), to Mastercup 9, it feels like everyone has their eyes on this game. The most promising point of these events is how they have motivated people to pick up Tekken 7. It’s particularly refreshing to see players who are generally new to fighting games take the plunge into 3D through Tekken 7.
After 10 years of Mastercup, and finally crushing the 1000-player mark, what’s next? At the end of the promotional video shown during the closing ceremony, we were given a glimpse of what is to come from Masakari Jin and Mr. Matsuda, as they unveiled the teaser for Mastercup 10. Given a growing fanbase and the momentum of a console release (with continued support from Bandai Namco), we should expect nothing less than a bright future for the scene.