It’s that time again, backdash-lovers. Evo 2018 is around the corner, as is another year of Tekken 7 on the main stage. Last year, we wrote a comprehensive guide for who, and what, to look for if you haven’t played Tekken 7. If you still wold like a quick primer on why this game is fantastic, here’s last year’s post. This year’s spectator guide will focus exclusively on the players of 2018.
The great thing about Tekken 7 is that there is a whole world full of exceptional players, simply too many to talk about in one post. We’ve chosen two players to analyze from each region of the Tekken World Tour to highlight. Here’s some big names to consider when thinking about who might win Evo 2018:
If you haven’t kept up too much with Tekken’s tournament scene since… ever, then the most important fact that we need to get out of the way is that South Korea runs shop. The Evo 2017 champ was Hyunjin “JDCR” Kim, and if (for whatever reason) he doesn’t win it again, then a quick glance over at the TWT leaderboard shows he has plenty of fellow countrymen ready to take his place. Globally, the top 7 players are all Koreans, 4 of which are either former TWT world champs or Evo champions. The safest bets for who will win Evo this year are, in our eyes and statistically, these players below:
Hyunjin “JDCR” Kim
The Case For: JDCR finds himself with the same opportunity he denied his teammate Jinwoo “Saint” Choi of at last year’s Evo: if he wins Evo 2018, he will be the first Korean to win back-to-back Tekken games, and only the second player to have done so at all in the world. (The first? America’s Christopher “Crow” Villarreal in ’05-’06. It’s been over a decade!) So there’s a lot of pressure on JDCR to not just win, but to make history. His robotic and calculated playstyle has frustrated players around the world for years, and when we talk about tiers, its usually been based around his tournament performance and opinions on the game. It’s hard to rule out the man that is at the very center of every Tekken conversation.
The Case Against: The longer Tekken 7 stays out, the more familiar everyone becomes with JDCR’s main weapon of choice, the tournament-standard pick of Dragunov. Though JDCR has other characters in his pocket (like Heihachi, for example), he’s been turning in somewhat inconsistent results at several tournaments lately, including a shocking 9th place at Combo Breaker and a recent complete shutout against Kkokkoma at VSFighting 2018. One has to wonder if the Dragunov over-saturation in worldwide tournaments has finally caught up with him.
Jay Min “Knee” Bae
The Case For: Knee is our odds-on pick to win Evo 2018. He’s dominating the TWT leaderboards far beyond any other player, and he’s easily the most appropriate foil for JDCR this year. Knee has the same precision and refined power that JDCR posesses, but plays a much wider selection of the cast. He’s not above pulling out a character no one has seen him play before, nor is he unwilling to take next-level risks. A grand final between Knee and JDCR, given JDCR’s victory at Evo 2017 and diminishing returns in the shadow of Knee’s TWT rise, would be the ultimate bookend to this story arc.
The Case Against: Knee’s biggest weakness is also one of his strengths: he frequently plays against other South Koreans and he’s incredibly well-traveled. This isn’t a weakness unique to him, but for someone whom is dominating the tournament scene at the moment — and for someone whom seems to live and breath Tekken to the point that he can random select against most of the world and win — it’s a struggle to think of anything other then this: the best players in the world right now are all in South Korea, and they all know Knee better than anyone else.
Ah, America. Time and time again America has been hovering in the shadow of South Korea, always threatening overtake them in Tekken and always falling just short on the world’s largest stages. At one point in time this was easy to write off thanks to S. Korea getting blessed with the game two years before the West — but time has passed and America’s performance has only improved against Koreans, so there’s never been a better time for these players to prove themselves. Like Korea, America has more than their fair share of players that can jump to the top — JimmyJTran, SperoGin, Speedkicks, JoeyFury just to name a few — but these are the two we’re most intrigued to see take a win at Evo this year:
Hoa “Anakin” Luu
The Case For: Anakin has easily been one of, if not the, strongest and most consistent players in America. He has a wide working knowledge of the cast, but tends to stick with safer tournament picks (Jack, Paul). He also has wins under his belt against the Koreans — easily the most important thing you can say about any player from here on out on this list. Consistency alone will always make Anakin a favorite, but the real question is: does he have a secret weapon ready to get himself over the finish line?
The Case Against: Anakin can be a bit of a risk taker — perhaps it’s no surprise the man willing to throw away his TWT spot in 2017 to learn more about Tekken is also the same man willing to throw a debugger at point blank range. Sometimes these gambles pay off big, like when he pulled out said-debugger in his win above against JeonDDing. Sometimes they don’t. Either way, Anakin is a must watch in the tournament, if for no other reason to see this experienced veteran play from the heart.
Terrelle “Lil Majin” Jackson
The Case For: 2018 has been a fantastic year for Lil Majin. This can be most clearly seen in his unbelievable losers bracket run at CEO 2018, defeating Rickstah, Shadow, P. Ling, JimmyJTran, and Korean Pro Dimeback. Momentum is on his side — and as one of the best King players in the world, the crowd probably will be, too. (This completely unbiased author certainly will be.)
The Case Against: He’s a King main ’til the bitter end, and if his opponent has experience versus his character (or just has a pocket Ling Xiaoyu) then Majin has an uphill battle. This might be referencing 2017 Majin too much, though — if anything, his godlike run in losers bracket showed that he’s been working hard to make up for some of King’s flaws in top tier play.
Europe is the true wild card region, rarely-if-ever interacting with players in America or Korea during their tournament season. This doesn’t make them weaker — Tissuemon’s blistering performance made this incredibly clear when he took 4th at the Tekken World Tour 2017 — but it does make them perhaps the hardest region to predict. They also have the strangest character meta of any region, with several top players picking odd mid tiers like Lili, Asuka, and Akuma. Nothing makes the odd character ecosystem of Europe more clear than this fact: There are no Jack players in the top 10 of Europe’s TWT 2018 leaderboards!
Shimon “Tissuemon” Kawai
The Case For: If Tissuemon attends Evo 2018, all bets are off. He’s the current EU Points leader and a tournament veteran dating back to Tekken 5. He has defeated Korean legends Help Me and Knee in older games. There’s no reason to think he can’t do again; particularly since his main, Master Raven, is a character not well-represented in the tournament scene.
The Case Against: Tissuemon proved with his 4th place finish during last years TWT that he is above most players — but floundered when he ran into JDCR and Saint. His biggest hurdle is the same from that event — he’s got to progress past the top tier Koreans. As good as he is, part of his problem is that he simply drops too many combos — a huge minus when his character depends entirely on her absurd damage output. There’s also mounting evidence that Tissuemon, despite his point lead, is slipping in the EU as well — longtime rival Asim, for example, was finally able to overcome Tissuemon at VSFighting 2018 this past weekend.
Kane “Kaneandtrench” Heartfield
The Case For: If Kane is able to make it to Evo 2018, he will be a dangerous wildcard like no other. One of the world’s best Yoshimitsu players, he’s shown that he can handle the best players in the world, despite few tournament appearances. He has a brutal combination of wits and gimmicks that are difficult to prepare for. Kane is always my favorite for pulling upsets and blowing people’s minds in the process with his unorthodox style. And if Yoshi isn’t enough, rumour has it Kane has a Miguel now…
The Case Against: Yoshimitsu’s stock falls considerably after you know the setups that are coming, and there’s at least one Korean that Kane has famously run into and fallen against: JDCR. It wasn’t a total blowup, but you have to think that if JDCR was ready then, time has only made him stronger in this match-up.
So, are you ready to see some Tekken history? Evo 2018 will take place August 3-5, 2018 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada.