This year’s Capcom Cup provided a load of surprises. With first-time qualifier Saul “MenaRD” Mena taking it all on the strength of his Birdie, and Victor “Punk” Woodley being the undisputed rookie of the year, new blood reigned strong in 2017.
There were a lot of people on the outside looking in this year, and there are a lot of players, new and old, that should be in the hunt on the Capcom Pro Tour next year. While I only was right on Punk in my picks for the 2017 season, I would still like to give my picks for 2018, on who missed out this year that should be there next year.
Grapht|Seon-woo “Infiltration” Lee (South Korea)
This one doesn’t even need to be questioned. Infiltration makes it in 2018, end of statement. If there were any detractors to what he could do next year, he silenced them by just narrowly losing the last chance qualifier to a streaking Nemo.
If you factor in that Infiltration only dug in to training a month prior to LCQ, you realize how dangerous he is with only a short amount of lead time. Imagine what he will do with a year of grinding under his belt. And dare we say that he is inching ever so close to saying he mains the entire cast of Street Fighter V, much like he claimed to do so in Ultra Street Fighter IV?
Armed with a strong team in Grapht that will be more than willing to send him out all year, and a revived look of confidence that will likely see him back on the circuit full time, there’s zero doubt in my mind that Infiltration will return to full form next year.
UYU|Sim “NL” Gun (South Korea)
Let’s talk about this guy that was almost in Capcom Cup this year. He was previously unsponsored, and made it to the Premier events he attended by winning qualifiers held by Spirit Zero in South Korea. He won qualifiers to maul the world with his amazing Cammy play. That’s how strong he is that he had to prove himself worthy to even go outside of Korea to pull off the feats he did.
His latter 2017 showed that he might be the best Cammy in Korea, over his sponsored training partner Verloren. With him signing with UYU in the off-season, the heat is on for anyone who faces him. It would be an absolute shock for him not to qualify in 2018.
Qanba X Douyu|Zhuo-jun “Xiao Hai” Zeng (China)
This one’s tough to call. He must get into form, and I think it’s time he starts looking to train more outside of China. China isn’t doing it for him, and he doesn’t get the motivation to play hard in the country when the internet is poor and the scene is sparsely populated.
He relied on instincts and reactions alone in 2016 while not fully studying the game, and did well. It was a different ball game this year. He also played a more abbreviated schedule in 2017, focusing mostly on The King of Fighters XIV. A renewed focus and a full travel schedule should make him a threat once again.
Jonny Lai “HumanBomb” Cheng (Hong Kong)
This guy got in on a technicality in 2016, and busted brackets by besting Infiltration in the very first round. He was a solid player on his own right and fell short of outright qualifying for that event by just a few spots.
This year saw HumanBomb travel less and struggle due to the nerfs Chun-Li received. If reports are right on Chun-Li buffs, he already has a fighting chance of making it in 2018. If that proves to be inaccurate, he has another ace up his sleeve in Sakura — the character he used to make top 8 of Evo 2012.
He’ll be a dark horse pick for some, but don’t be surprised if you see him in the bracket next year.
Grapht|Joe “MOV” Egami (Japan)
This was disappointment for many this year. MOV has a huge fanbase of people who love watching his Chun go to work. Much like HumanBomb, a stronger Chun-Li will give MOV a better chance of qualifying. It’s tempting to say that a stronger Chun-Li will give him a guaranteed slot, as he was dangerous this year even with her nerfs.
Derek “iDom” Ruffin (USA)
iDom has been a regular nightmare at Next Level Battle Circuit for a long time, and finally tasted a win at Defend the North.
I feel like getting him out on the circuit more and playing more at the highest level will see him skyrocket in 2018, and we could be looking at him in Anaheim next year.
GAM|Christopher “Caba” Rodriguez (Dominican Republic)
You can’t feel bad about him losing to Brazil’s DidimoKOF at Latin America Regional Finals after Capcom Cup, but Caba is just as legitimate as his countryman MenaRD. He is also one of a scant few Latin American players who has traveled this year, winning First Attack and nearly making top 16 at SoCal Regionals. He also essentially won a teams event at Red Bull on his own merit. The more he is exposed to top-level play, the better — and I think he’s a reasonable guess for this year.
INF|Sean “Imstilldadaddy” Dench (United Kingdom)
I wasn’t fully decided on him, the first time I heard of him. However, his play in the latter half of the year has been nothing short of phenomenal. He was not far off of beating Momochi at Northern Arena Knockout, and lost it on a read he had correctly banked on more often that not.
ISDD is one of the best Guile players right now, and we’ve seen him travel more since being signed by Team Infused. The more he is out on the circuit, the stronger he’ll get, as will his nerves — which typically look frayed by the end of a loss. Time will tell if he focuses on the CPT or Gfinity Series more in 2018, but should he put effort into the former, Dench has a really strong chance of being seen in Anaheim without having to try his hand at the LCQ.
Those are eight picks that I feel like cannot be slept on coming into the next Capcom Pro Tour season. I’m sure everyone will have their own picks — either in agreement or disagreement — with mine, and I would love to hear who you guys choose in the comments below. Now, we wait with bated breath for next season!