As many of you recall, I picked Xiao Hai as one of the players who should make Capcom Cup 2018 after his lackluster 2017 on the Capcom Pro Tour. It was obvious that Xiao Hai was way off his game in Street Fighter V — following ELEAGUE, he fell way off the wagon, with no major results to speak of. Most of this could be attributed to his increased focus on —The King of Fighters XIV — with his aim to win Evo 2017 in the game and compete in the Asian Indoor Games.
2018 saw interest wane in the title, and Xiao Hai began to renew his focus on Street Fighter V. He was able to accrue a large amount of points, putting him just inside the upper half of seeding. He’s struggled to find his way into the top 8 before at Capcom Cup; will this year be his to capture?
Better Sting from the Bee
One thing that has never been questioned about Xiao Hai: his reaction time is unparalleled. As one of the few people that can routinely whiff punish even within the worst of lag in Street Fighter V. While many things could be attributed to him conditioning people to give him desperate things to react to, it is one of many things that impresses me about Xiao Hai’s play.
It is also worth noting that he has a high-level understanding to put him in the midst of top echelon players by simply playing at tournaments. This is typically the most he gets to play, as China’s internet is still not conducive to him being able to achieve high-level play online. This forces him to actually use training mode if he needs to lab things out when he gets a chance, and actually put his theories into practice in tournament situations. This level of preparation — and his ability to take full advantage of it — is hard to rival.
This is a player who won The King of Fighters ‘98 at Canada Cup using only one hand, and won Sailor Moon S at the same event over yours truly — resetting the bracket on me after I put him into Losers Bracket in top 8 — after first playing the game two days before the event.
The Previous Fuudo Issue Rears Its Head Again
But one of the issues I have with Xiao Hai is the fact that he hasn’t taken a tournament of note — in any game, even — since 2016 at SoCal Regionals. Yeah, his wins at Canada Cup are great, but outside of Sailor Moon, his competition was overall outclassed.
But given his renewed focus in Street Fighter V, you would think that he would win something at some point. His year started out with losses at Ranking Events, and ended with him several times being on the cusp of a win at Premier Events. But losses at CEO, Canada Cup, and SoCal Regionals makes you question him. CEO saw him as runner-up coming from Winners Bracket, and the latter two saw him coming out of Losers Bracket, with only one of them creating a reset bracket.
A Glint of Hope
One thing that could truly make people think Xiao Hai has a shot is his development since his worst losses. At CEO, he lost in Grand Finals twice to Fujimura, only to finally beat him at Canada Cup. He also struggled against Justin Wong at the same event, only to re-adjust and beat him handily in the runback.
While he couldn’t topple Tokido’s reign of terror, he was able to keep it down to the last game, last round of a reset bracket. And given that I’ve said that you learn more after a narrow loss than a close victory, this could be a great learning experience for Xiao Hai to topple some of his toughest bracket mates.
The Casual Problem
One thing noted about Xiao Hai is he refuses to sandbag. He only seems to know one gear. So while he is playing casual matches against people, he unleashes the full brunt of his power, given them an open book to read against him.
Case in point: Problem X. During DreamHack Montréal, he played a long set with him after top 16 was determined, where they both used the exact characters they would later use in the top 8 against each other. While Xiao Hai did well in the casual set, Problem X obliterated him in tournament. Problem X later commented that the set they played the day before helped him see what he could exploit to beat Xiao Hai. So, this becomes a major problem in your training if you don’t hold anything back.
Xiao Hai’s focused, but it could take a miracle to pull it off. He hasn’t been clutching out tournaments that he needs to, and people are starting to figure out how to play against him. He still struggles against the likes of NuckleDu, and the field only gets tougher as he has to spent the bulk of his time playing theory fighter by himself.
While he could easily make top 16, he needs to have some new things figured out in his vacuum of training mode before he heads to Vegas.
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