With the end of Group D, the group stage of the ELEAGUE Street Fighter V Invitational 2018 is now over and the eight player bracket for the July 13 playoff is set. BST|Daigo and FUDOH|Fujumura will join FOX|Tokido, CYG|Dogura, FOX|Punk, FOX| Momochi, MOUSESPORTS|Problem X and RISE|Smug in the finals to compete for more than $150,000 in prize money.
Nicknamed the Group of Destruction, Group D was likely the strongest among the ELEAGUE qualifiers; FUDOH|Fujimura, BST|Daigo and PG|Infiltration are all in the top 10 of the Capcom Pro Tour global rankings for this year while MERGE|Filipino Champ and FUDOH|Haitani are past Capcom Cup finalists. iDom ended the 2017 CPT season as a North American Regional Finalist.
— FChamp Ryan Ramirez (@fchampryan) June 21, 2018
Daigo Umehara is certainly the world’s most famous Street Fighter player, but he may also, once again, be the best. Since making the switch to Guile last year, Daigo has relied on a stubborn style of fireball zoning complimented by bursts of aggression and almost reckless reversals. Though the character is considered one of the strongest in the game right now, no player on the competitive scene has shown the level of comfort with Guile that Daigo has.
While Daigo and Haitani are considered to be two of the “Five Gods” of Japan’s fighting game community, Fujimura (formerly known as Yukadon) represents a new generation of Japanese Street Fighter players. With first place finishes at Stunfest 2018 in France and Fighter’s Spirit in Korea, Fujimura’s Ibuki remains impressive despite nerfs to the character earlier this year. When asked why he thinks that Ibuki is a rare character right now, Fujimura talked about an overall lack of confidence in the character:
“Well, I’ve been playing Ibuki since Season 2 and I feel very comfortable with this character,” he said through a translator. “I’m one of the select few Ibuki players, so not everyone has enough practice sessions or confidence in this character. It works for me, and I like this character so it’s been really good for me.”
After winning Evo 2016 PG|Infiltration seemed to enter a slump with Street Fighter V; in 2017 he failed to make Top 8 at any Capcom Pro Tour Premier event. But through four premier events so far this year, Infiltration has finished no worse than fourth place. Much of his renewed success has come with Menat, a character he believes to be among the top five in the game.
“Menat is a really strong character in season three, I think she is top five,” Infiltration said during a conference call. “She has so many good tools but she has a big problem. She’s not a good character against the top three characters like Guile, Akuma and Cammy. That’s the only problem.”
Unfortunately that success seems to have hit a brick wall in the form of Fujimura, who has now beaten Infiltration in their last three tournament sets, including a 6-0 Grand Finals reset at Stunfest. At ELEAGUE Infiltration tried to counterpick Fujimura’s Ibuki with Chun-Li but only managed to take a single game.
Haitani made his own switch from Necalli to Akuma for the new season of Street Fighter V and has adjusted quickly. He currently boasts the best record in Japan’s Rage Street Fighter V All-Star League, with a 74% win rate. Daigo is tied for second in the same league with a 65% win rate. Fujimura’s win rate among the Japanese all-stars is just 38%.
But on Friday it was the international players in Group D who gave Haitani the most trouble. After losing a 2-1 set to iDom in the round robin Haitani was forced to make a run from the bottom of the loser’s bracket. He beat Filipino Champ 3-2 and won a runback with iDom before being eliminated by Infiltration.
New York City’s iDom was the only unsponsored player in the group and entered the day as an underdog despite his reputation as one of the best Laura players in the world. iDom can be considered a character specialist and before Group D began Haitani and Infiltration said the young player could be a threat due to unfamiliarity with the Laura matchup. During the round robin phase iDom managed to take at least one game against each player, finishing with a 2-3 record. Speaking to Shoryuken before the tournament, iDom said he got advice on facing international competition from FOX| Punk and RISE|Smug, the two American ELEAGUE finalists and fellow East Coast players.
“They’re at [Next Level] Battle Circuit, they play a lot of internationals, way more than me. It was just like ‘play them like you’re playing against anybody else and you should be good, so that was pretty much my plan,” iDom said.
Despite splitting his time with Marvel vs Capcom:Infinite last year, Filipino Champ nearly qualified for the 2017 Capcom Cup and has refocused his attention to Street Fighter V for this season. Before Group D began Champ said he did his best to prepare for the event with offline matches, but admitted that his character Dhalsim would face a lot of tough matchups within the group.
“I decided to put more focus on the Laura, Akuma, Ibuki and Guile because I have the resources to prepare for those, but I decided not to worry about Menat since I don’t have a Menat player in my area at all to play with. So I just decided to watch videos for that.”
After pushing Haitani to the brink of elimination in a 2-3 loss, Filipino Champ ended the day with an 0-6 set record. On Twitter he said he plans to make a character change and address the flaws in his gameplay. During a conference call prior to the Group stage, Champ said he had already been planning to make a change to Menat.
“I thought about switching, which I ultimately decided to, I was going to switch to Menat anyways,” Champ said. “But I only had two or three weeks when I decided to do that; so given the competition at hand… I don’t think I would have enough time to prepare for the best players in the world with two or three weeks with a new character so I decided to go with Dhalsim one last time as my main character. ”
The ELEAGUE SFV Invitational 2018 Playoffs will be streamed live from Twitch on July 13 at 5 p.m., and the featured matches will be broadcast on TBS at 11 p.m. You can find the full playoff bracket below.