NL got off a late start last year. Having done extremely well on his first foray into the Capcom Pro Tour circuit — by way of merely winning qualifying tournaments to go to events ran by Korean tournament-organizing team Spirit Zero — he showed he had what it took to compete on the highest levels.
Had he been able to make it out earlier, the odds of him earning a spot at Capcom Cup last year would’ve been a near lock: in his short time out, he finished one slot off of qualifying. But with his UYU sponsorship, he took advantage of every opportunity to make sure he wasn’t on the outside looking in this year.
Now, will he take full advantage of his first entry into Capcom Cup by winning it all?
NL’s ability is one of several reasons why people view Cammy as strong, outside of the character’s inherent strengths and repeated buffs. His relentless assault has been one of his most impressive traits over the last year. He’s patient enough to wait to get his first knockdown. But once that’s been scored, you better be prepared to block, because he is never lets up.
He has definitely studied to get Cammy down to a science, and has been perfect on his setups, knowing the recovery on everything. He is one of the best on baiting players to make moves on his dive kicks, only to be met with DPs on landing.
Simply put, no one’s using all of Cammy’s tools better than NL at this point.
Better Than 2017
While NL had a great rookie year, he was unable to clinch titles outside of the Spirit Zero tournaments that got him to CPT events. The closest he got was at SoCal Regionals, where he lost to Fujimura (then still playing under the tag Yukadon).
This year saw his determination to improve on last year’s results come to fruition. Very early on, he captured his first title at Saigon Cup in Vietnam, winning over players such as Fuudo and Bonchan. While a ranking event is still hard to win — doubly so in Asia — people really start to pay attention when you’re capable of taking Premier events, which will always get the best players out.
NL demanded everyone’s attention in May, when he took Combo Breaker’s massive tournament, featuring a top 8 where only one player didn’t find their way into Capcom Cup this year (counting Infiltration’s qualification, which has since been withdrawn). In fact, out of the top 16, only two players did not qualify outright for the event, thus proving the minefield NL had to traverse to net this win. If anyone thought he couldn’t capitalize on his abilities, or even if he was still a tier below everyone else, he made sure to rebut everyone with this performance.
But Evo 2018 was definitely a step backward for NL. His performances up to this point would have made him a favorite in many’s eyes to at least make top 8 at this event. He finished far from that, placing only in the top 128.
And since then, his placings were more sporadic — not to mention his travels became increasingly rare. After Evo, NL was only really seen within Asia, playing in online ranking events and going to Premiers within the region. While he finished runner-up at Esports Festival Hong Kong to Fuudo, that was the closest he got to replicating his success in the former half of the season. And in his last event of the year prior to Capcom Cup, he finished top 16 at SEAM, which is not where you want to fail on your final litmus test prior to the biggest event of the year.
We definitely cannot say he’s rested on his laurels, as his schedule since Evo has been far less abbreviated than other players on the circuit. But his performances has slid. It’s possible still that he’s sandbagging in order to let players think they’ve figured him out. Given that he lost to Fuudo — who he beat in Vietnam — one can only hope this is the case, as it could just as well be that he’s been downloaded, and will have to dig further down than he ever has before to get the win.
Curse of the Top Tier
But he faces the struggle that everyone playing high tier characters experiences. Players are far more exposed to Cammy than any other character on the circuit. Because of this, people have begun to understand how to play against the character. Much like Sagat in vanilla Street Fighter IV, people have spent countless amounts of time labbing up against Cammy in order to not fall to the army of players who will be using the character to their advantage.
When you’re playing a character that has so many entries into Capcom Cup — Xiaohai, CJ Truth, Mago, and Verloren also main the character, with Punk and NuckleDu both bringing out the character as a secondary — you’ll have to play damn near immaculate to stand a chance. But even then, NL has an even more uphill battle, as he has struggled with another popular addition to the tournament: Menat. In long sets, he’s been decimated by Infiltration in his attempts to try to break down and beat Menat. Between Sako and Justin Wong, he may have difficulty getting deep into the bracket.
NL may have had a great first half of the year. He may be saving up for a great end to the year, and was afraid to burn out on travel, knowing full well he had already safely qualified. But the fact is that he’s not been at his best for a while.
It could be calculated, but I have a hard time believing that he will overcome some of the issues listed above in time to take it all. I’d expect him to hit top 16, but he will really have to be at his very best to go any further.
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