Justin Wong has been known to be “accursed” at Capcom Cup. Prior to 2017, he went 0-2 in every Street Fighter V tournament at the event. It was almost as though Justin was unable to perform with the immense amount of pressure an invitational event provided. Last year changed all of that, as he managed to improve on his meager results at Capcom Cup. Taking a set over Haitani, he was able to improve his record to 1-2. Now, with the winless monkey off of his back, can Justin go further in the bracket this time?
This year, Echo Fox|Justin Wong has corrected his biggest mistake. Once known to be one of the most passive players on the circuit, his turtle style had always frustrated his opponents into submission. As of Street Fighter IV, Justin made a dramatic shift in his play style, becoming highly-aggressive with his Rufus play.
This transferred over — to his detriment — in Street Fighter V with Karin. Being unable to play her in a passive style, he had to continue a rushdown style of play that didn’t fully suit him. It often appeared that Justin would be perplexed on how to deal with scenarios just simply based on being consistently outside of his comfort zone.
That began to change as of March, when Canada East Championships first saw him using Menat full-time. Finding that she had all the options to play a passive, spacing-based game, Justin’s stock rose. This character has fit him in a way that we haven’t seen in a long time.
With only a handful of exceptions — once at Toryuken, and another time at DreamHack Montréal — Justin has rarely strayed from his newfound main. But when he has — picking Falke against Problem X, or picking Karin against NuckleDu — he has had calculated reasons for doing so that ultimately worked out.
Wong Is Factoring Out
And this shift in his playstyle has led to him having his best season on the circuit ever. Where Justin had so often failed this year, he was able to find success.
While he had been able to take Ranking events last season — and continued to do so this year, winning Toryuken for the second year straight, as well as winning DreamHack Austin — he had failed to take down Premier after Premier event over the course of Street Fighter V. This changed this year in a twist of near déjà vu.
At DreamHack Montréal — now a Premier event — Justin found himself once again up against NuckleDu, in an epic battle of character picks and counter picks. As opposed to last year, he came out on top, clinching his first Premier event of his circuit life. With 99% of his play stemming from his immaculate zoning game with Menat, it shows how far the character can take him. And, in the unlikely event it doesn’t pan out, he can switch off to his more-aggressive Karin should he need to go that route. The two polar play styles that he is now capable of makes him an extra threat, compared to the one gear that we typically expect of him.
But the problem I feel for Justin is how he’s been able to follow up his performance, in Montréal. While we were proven emphatically last year that the run-up to Capcom Cup is not the penultimate indicator of success at the big dance — Dogura won Canada Cup last year, and yet was unable to crack top 16 — it shows where your strengths and deficiencies lie. And there’s been some cracks in his defensive walls.
At Canada Cup, he had one of his closest sets ever against Xiaohai to put him into Losers Bracket. While as of the time of writing Capcom Fighters has yet to upload the matches, several crucial rounds came down to the clock, with Xiaohai losing simply by misjudging the lifebar by a pixel and losing. The runback on Losers side, however, proved to be far more convincing, as Xiaohai just dominated Justin.
Similar happened at North American Regional Finals, where NuckleDu — having cut it close at DreamHack Montréal against him, brought out a brand new character in G to take two quick games off of Justin’s Menat. This shows that when players know how to counter his defense with the right aggression, Justin still falters.
This led Justin, at least in the case of NuckleDu, to play far more aggressive. While it worked in the short term, this only sent Du back to the counterpick game, once again edging him out. So while Justin has been working on his approach to the character, this linear style of play per character is actually a detriment.
The reasons why Sako and Infiltration have done so well with Menat is that they have two gears to their play. They can play aggressive, then hang back and frustrate you in trying to approach them. Justin only tries to frustrate you in your approach. When you have figured out an approach, you’re sitting pretty. This means the biggest thing Justin has to work on is finding new approaches to his character.
Justin may be on a tear this year, but he’s still going into a lion’s den facing players who have faced him before. If they’ve already figured out how to deal with his style of play, it’s going to be hard for him to surprise them unless he finds a gear he hasn’t had before with Menat. Even trying to go off of Karin to achieve this will only telegraph the style of play he wants to achieve out of the gate.
Barring this, Justin is going to be facing an uphill battle at Capcom Cup. Yes, he may be on the somewhat weaker end of the bracket with Verloren, and will likely see himself improve on his 1-2 record this year. To take it all will take a crazy amount of preparation before he plays everyone in his Vegas backyard.
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