The 2018 ELEAGUE Street Fighter V Invitational began in dramatic fashion with Group A on Friday as Echo Fox|Tokido and CO|Dogura fought through one of the event’s toughest groups to capture the two playoff berths. In a Group A with 2 Evo champions, 2 Evo runner-ups and the defending Capcom Cup champion, there was no doubt the competition would be fierce.
The pressure of being the defending Capcom Cup champion is clearly not lost on RISE|MenaRD, who had the most passionate moment of the Group A competition when he quit playing before the full ending of his elimination match with Dogura. The Japanese Urien player has won their last three sets, going back to last week’s Combo Breaker, where he eliminated Mena to earn a spot in top 8. Playing with a weaker Birdie in season three Mena has still produced results, but he may be developing a personal demon in Dogura.
Speaking to Shoryuken before the tournament, Mena said he appreciates the opportunity to prepare for invitational events like ELEAGUE.
“At versus say Akuma, in an open tournament you might say I’m going to study the tools that Akuma has, because who knows? Maybe I’ll fight an Akuma on the road to top 8. But this event format we know exactly who we’re fighting, so it’s not just Akuma, it’s Tokido’s Akuma, it’s a big advantage in my opinion.”
SonicBoxx|JB was the only player in Group A with no Capcom Cup experience, having earned his way into Group A on ELEAGUE’s The Challenger reality show competition. He adapted quickly to the big stage, earning a spot in on the winners side of the elimination bracket with a 3-2 record in the round robin. However when it was time to play for keeps, JB struggled to find his footing, losing 3-0 to both Tokido and Dogura.
“I see it as basically any other event,” JB said before his matches. “I don’t look at the level of players they are, I just try to believe that at some point I can be at their level. I practice all the same, I wont be afraid or anything like that. I feel confident coming into this group.”
ARES.RB|Luffy impressed with an undefeated showing in the group’s round robin phase, scoring multiple perfects; but he failed to capitalize on the top seed in the elimination bracket. Sticking with R.Mika for a third year, Luffy proved that the Rainbow Bomber still has what it takes to compete at the game’s highest level, even after her fall from popularity last season.
In contrast to Mena, Luffy said he didn’t want to over-prepare for ELEAGUE. “You know the openings you know the match-ups, but then it’s Street Fighter V,” he told SRK. “So I prepare against the match-up but against the type of player that can change their gameplan really quickly, studying how they play might be a double-edged sword. Like yeah, I know he’s going to play like this, but he might change because he knows I’m studying. For me I think it’s better to not study at all and just go by the flow.”
CYG BST|PR Balrog had the toughest day in Group A, going 0-5 in the round robin before being eliminated by Dogura in the bracket. PR Balrog is still making the adjustment to Akuma as his main character, and with the Group A participants already preparing for Tokido, he was left with a mountain of match-up experience to overcome. As a veteran of American Street Fighter, Perez said opportunities like ELEAGUE are an important platform for professional players.
“In an open bracket anything can happen, and I feel like open brackets are good for newer players. But to show the pro player’s skill, I feel that invitationals are amazing because we can prepare for each other. You can see how much the player has prepared, how much hard work the person has put in. So I think overall, there should be a few more [invitationals], because there’s just three or four. It’s important for us as professionals because we can actually show what we can do.”
Regarded by many as the most consistent Street Fighter V player in the world, Echo Fox|Tokido came out of the gate looking strong, beating SonicBoxx|JB and ARES.RB|Luffy to qualify for the ELEAGUE playoffs from the winners bracket; though Luffy’s R.Mika showed some cracks in Tokido’s defense, he will surely remain one of the favorites to win the whole thing.
After starting the round robin with a 1-4 record, Dogura ran the gauntlet in the elimination bracket to claim a playoff spot in losers. Speaking to Shoryuken before the Group A matches, Dogura said he was most concerned about Tokido in the group, as Tokido’s Akuma frequently beats him in casual matches. Luckily he was able to qualify for the playoff without having to face off against the defending Evo champion.
Next weekend we’ll see Group B — Echo Fox|Punk, Echo Fox|Momochi, NVD|Phenom, CYG BST|Fuudo, 801 Strider, and Commander Jesse — fight for two of their players to reach top 8 on June 8th.
Sources: interviews; ELEAGUE