A few words with some of the MTLSF scene’s most prominent players.
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are solely those of the writer, and do not reflect Shoryuken.com as a whole.
It was my pleasure this summer to meet Chi-Rithy and other members of the FGC from Montréal, Canada while attending Evo 2016; as I was impressed by both their gameplay and how friendly and approachable they were, I set out to get more information on these Street Fighters and their scene, possibly one of the toughest and most active in Canada.
It was Chi-Rithy (in the feature image above, with EG|Justin Wong to his right) that first caught my attention–as Canadian players go, he’s certainly a rising star: getting more attention with his high Street Fighter V placements. He took first place in Street Fighter V at DreamHack Montréal 2016:
— DreamHack Canada (@DreamHackCanada) August 14, 2016
He also took the top spot at Canada’s Cineplex/World Gaming Street Fighter V Championships:
Chi-Rithy also placed 13th in SFV at the recent Brooklyn Beatdown, sharing the rank with RZR|Xian and Evo 2016’s SFV champion RZR|Infiltration, and beating out top players including GGP|Kazunoko and BST|Daigo Umehara.
But of course, Chi-Rithy is not the only significant player to emerge from Montréal’s Street Fighter scene! I reached out to six of MTLSF’s most prominent personalities to conduct a written interview; I asked each of them the same questions, and compiled the answers to gain a detailed look into what it’s like to be part of this vibrant and competitive community. The first three I will feature here in Part 1 are Richard “Snafoo” Tuok, Rami Rammal, and Chi-Rithy himself.
Responses have been edited for clarity.
mushin_Z: You’re all born and raised in Montréal; how long have you been involved with the MTLSF scene?
Richard “Snafoo” Tuok: I’ve been with the MTLSF scene since 2009, when SFIV came out.
Rami Rammal: I started going to MTLSF weeklies in 2010, during the Super SFIV era.
Chi-Rithy: I’ve been in the scene since 2006, and still active.
mushin_Z: How long have you played Street Fighter games? How did you get started?
Snafoo: My first SF was SFII on the Super Nintendo. I didn’t play Alpha/CvS/SFIII, I didn’t know they existed back then, since I was a kid and I didn’t go to arcades. My brother bought me SF EX and X-Men vs. Street Fighter on the PSone, and I played it a lot by myself. When SFIV came out I didn’t have a PS3 nor an Xbox, so I spent a lot of time playing at the arcade. I did this until the PC version came out.
Rami: I started playing casually when I was 4. I didn’t know there was such a thing as competitive Street Fighter until 2010. One of my friends I used to go to school with told me there would be a tournament in Montréal; back then I was only playing online and thought it’d be a good way to measure myself against the best players in town.
Chi-Rithy: I’ve been playing Street fighter games since I was maybe 3 or 4 years old. I am now 26. My family was a huge influence for me, in terms of getting into the SF series. My older brother brought me to every arcade in Montréal, and each one of them had an SFII machine. He also bought a Super Nintendo with SFII Turbo–and sometimes my mom had nothing to do, and would play with us when she was bored.
mushin_Z: What is your favorite game in the Street Fighter series, and why?
Snafoo: My favorite SF would probably be Capcom vs.SNK 2. In around 2005, I started going to the arcades a lot when I started college, and I would always watch people play CvS2. I liked everything about the game; the grooves, music, character art, and character choices. I remember this one time player 2 was trying to chip player 1 with Joe’s tempest super, but player 1 just defended enough (k-groove) to survive and kill him off with his own super. I’ve never saw anything like that before. Turns out player 1 was FreddyLoCo, an OG player.
Rami: I would have to say that SFIV is still my favorite game. I feel like exploring training mode back then had a more direct impact on your performance. The game was less accessible than SFV, but I still liked it better.
Chi-Rithy: My favorite game ever is Street fighter III: 3rd Strike. It was the first game that introduced me to the competitive scene–thanks to the famous Justin Wong vs. Daigo Umehara moment–and I still find the system to be complex and exciting to watch, to this day.
mushin_Z: Do you prefer a fightstick, pad, or hitbox?
Snafoo: I play on fightstick because I find it easier to execute moves over a pad. I’ve never tried a hitbox.
Rami: I used to play on pad back in IV, but then switched to an arcade stick.
Chi-Rithy: My main choice would always be a fightstick.
mushin_Z: Who do you main, and why? Is there a character you wish was selectable in Street Fighter V, but isn’t (yet)?
Snafoo: I main Dhalsim in IV and V. Local players here have a very aggressive style, so I decided to take the defensive approach and zone them over slugging them. Eagle would be pretty cool to see in SFV, or Sagat.
Rami: I main Rashid, at first it was a running gag since we’re both Middle-Eastern. But I was able to mold him to my playstyle. He has the offensive tools I look for in a character, very cool character design as well. And also because my main in SFIV is still not available: Akuma.
Chi-Rithy: My main character is Chun-Li, and she has been my main in most Street Fighter games as well. She is quick and agile, which suits my style. I’d like to see more characters from the Street Fighter III series, such as Oro.
mushin_Z: What’s your best match-up, in your opinion? Worst?
Snafoo: Zangief would probably be my best match-up. He has a tough time to go through Dhalsim’s limbs, and the grey life prevents him playing too patient. I think the worst is Balrog because of his dash punches. They cover a lot of space and it’s in his favor for every trade. He has also a great comeback factor with his V-trigger.
Rami: Best match-up: Dhalsim; worst match-up: Chun-Li or Karin.
Chi-Rithy: Chun-Li’s best match-up would be characters who have a hard time getting in, such as Birdie or Laura. Her worst match-ups would be against herself and Cammy, I still consider them to be 5-5.
mushin_Z: Where do you usually play?
Snafoo: I usually play at my friend’s house that lives nearby on weekends. Every Tuesday I try to go to the weekly hosted by Mixed Virtual Arts [Tatsumaki Tuesday]. Sometimes I will play online Battle Lounge with other friends that live further away.
Rami: I usually play on Tuesdays at MVA where we have our weeklies. Or at home in training mode.
Chi-Rithy: I play at the gaming lounge/LAN center named Mixed Virtual Arts.
mushin_Z: What can you tell us about Mixed Virtual Arts as a venue?
Snafoo: MVA is a venue that holds twelve PC stations. They sell drinks and give away free snacks at every SFV weekly on Tuesday. The venue is very cozy; there are sofas near the entrance along with a big projector that shows the match on stream. They also provide a venue for other games such as Smash, anime games, Overwatch, etc.
Rami: It’s a breath of fresh air for the Montréal scene, a lot of new players, great venue.
Chi-Rithy: It offers PC stations where you can play multiple games other than SFV, and offers drinks and snacks with a nice-looking lounge! Please check them out if you ever visit Montréal!
mushin_Z: Do you play online? Your thoughts on online competition?
Snafoo: I don’t play as much online because most of my sessions are done locally. However, I find the competition is very good once you reach Platinum League.
Rami: I haven’t touched online for SFV in about 3-4 months, I usually find all my tech in training mode and practice offline, in a tournament-like environment.
Chi-Rithy: I used to play online a lot, but it doesn’t compare to offline play and having matches with people face-to-face. It can be a good learning tool for unfamiliar match-ups.
mushin_Z: In your opinion, who are the players to watch in the MTL community?
Snafoo: I’d say the two players that stand out for me in the MTL community would be Chi-Rithy and Rami. Both placed in the top 50 at Evo this year.
Rami: Chi-Rithy and Snafoo.
Chi-Rithy: The players to watch for mainly are the veterans Snafoo, Rami, Lord Jimmy Bones, Jedah, Yomi, and the new kids on the block such as Coton, FluxWaveZ, Paco, and Bootsy.
mushin_Z: How has the Montreal FGC impacted your experience with the game? Has your own skill improved through interaction with the MTLSF scene, and has involvement with MTLSF increased your enjoyment of fighting games?
Snafoo: The game is more fun because I play with people that share the same passion as I. Victory has more impact because everyone is trying their best to win. My skills have definitely improved since I joined the scene back in 2009. There’s a lot of OG players, they’ve been playing back in 2000 in the Alpha/CvS/SFIII era. Without them I would be nowhere near the level I am today. I’m a very competitive person, so being part of a fighting community makes fighting games more fun. Everyone wants to be a winner.
Rami: The people in my local are most likely the reason I enjoy playing on a competitive level. They’re all my friends, close to a “second family” kinda thing. We’re all very competitive people by nature, we share everything we find about the game and we’re all levelling up together, so it’s always great atmosphere. The OGs from the MTL kind of molded me to the player I am today. I owe it all to these guys. I don’t think I’d say I enjoy fighting games more necessarily, but I learned to enjoy more and more the competitive aspect of it.
Chi-Rithy: The MTLSF community has been amazing in terms of support since I was 16, and I treat them like family. Without MTLSF, I wouldn’t even be here right at this moment. My skills have improved drastically since then. It made the game more enjoyable, since you fought better players and made new friends
mushin_Z: Has any particular player acted as a mentor, or a rival for you?
Snafoo: Back in 2009 the scene was quite different, it had the arcade feeling where if you’re new, no one is going to help you. This one player named Rameo would help me when I started playing the game in the arcade. He mentored me through all of vanilla SFIV and Super Street Fighter IV. All my friends within the community, I consider them rivals. Shout-outs to Chi-Rithy, Rami, freddyl0c0, TJ, Yomi, Lord Jimmy Bones, Panko, Heero (always dodging tournies!).
Rami: Chi-Rithy, Snafoo and freddyl0c0 are probably the players that impacted me the most. They taught me a lot about fighting games when I was getting started; they helped me improve a lot in a very short period of time.
Chi-Rithy: I had a mentor that taught me the concept of zoning, footsies, and movement in general. He goes by the handle PTS One.
mushin_Z: How would you describe Tatsumaki Tuesday’s atmosphere and competition? How well do you usually do?
Snafoo: Most of the players at the weekly are new to the scene, so I try to help them by giving tips and tricks. We range about twenty to thirty-five players participating in the weekly in average. I usually get top 3 in the weekly.
Rami: It’s always a good weekly, same core of people every week but new face every now and then. I usually rank pretty well, but it’s very hard to stay consistent in SFV, so it can go from 2nd place to 8th or 9th.
Chi-Rithy: The Tatsumaki Tuesdays have been great, especially for SFV. It allowed us to have weekly tournaments to push ourselves, and we see new faces with massive potential. I usually take 1st place, but sometimes Snafoo takes some weeklies as well.
[Tatsumaki Tuesday is streamed regularly on the Mixed Virtual Arts Twitch channel.]
mushin_Z: What major tournaments have you attended? Have you traveled to tournaments outside of Canada?
Snafoo: The biggest major I’ve attended in SFV was Toryuken. I have not yet attended any majors outside of Canada for SFV.
Rami: Outside of Canada, I went to CEO and Evo.
Chi-Rithy: I’ve been to major tournaments since the 3S days. I have traveled through many areas around North America, Europe and Asia.
mushin_Z: How well have you placed? How would you describe the experience of traveling to compete?
Snafoo: I believe I got 9th place, losing to Justin Wong and PR Balrog. Because of my competitiveness, travelling to compete always excites me. I want to know my skill level and get new experience to grow as a player.
Rami: I didn’t do so well at CEO, I lost early in pools. But had a very close set against Snake Eyez, last round last game. At Evo I did pretty well, I got 33rd. Lost to Sako (Chun-Li) and Lud (Chun-Li) It’s always exciting and different, because knowing your local scene is something. But competing against complete strangers is the best way to truly measure a fighting game player’s skill, in my opinion.
Chi-Rithy: If we count 3S, SFIV and SFV, my rankings went from taking victory at some tournaments, and placing as low as in the top 64. Traveling to compete is the best, since you are there to see how you match up with some of the best players, and you get to meet people that share the same passion.
mushin_Z: How often do you encounter players from other cities in Montréal? Do they fit in easily while visiting the MTLSF community?
Snafoo: It is pretty rare to see other players from other cities passing by Montréal. Usually it is the Toronto players that pass by from time to time. Due to the long history of rivalry between the two cities, many Toronto players are friends, so they crash at a friend’s house when they visit and the same goes when we go to Toronto. We get along really well!
Rami: Not very often, aside from the Toronto events. We’ve known the Toronto community for a while, so we all get along pretty well.
Chi-Rithy: The FGC is a big family and you usually get to see the same faces you know, if it’s a big major tournament. The MTLSF community is very welcoming, and we get to show you places around the city, hang out and have a few drinks besides playing SF. Most people from out of town have an awesome time here in Montréal.
mushin_Z: Are there any players from outside Montréal you see/compete with regularly?
Snafoo: I haven’t travelled much this year, so there are no players outside of the city that I compete with regularly.
Rami: Probably all the players from the Toronto scene since the SFIV days, Italdan, Blitzman, and all the Toronto crew.
Chi-Rithy: The MTL and Toronto scene have been rivals since forever, and we are one big family when we go up against Americans and Internationals.
mushin_Z: Do you stream?
Snafoo: Currently I do not stream, since I don’t really play online that much anyway.
Rami: I don’t have a stream yet, but it’s a work in progress. 🙂
Chi-Rithy: You can see me stream from time to time at chirithy .
mushin_Z: What games other than Street Fighter are you into, and why?
Snafoo: I’m a big fan of esports, so I watch any competitive video games such as Counter Strike, DOTA2, LoL, fighting games, Starcraft 2, Hearthstone, Overwatch, etc. I like to play RPGs too, but haven’t played one lately. Hit me up on Twitter @SnafooMTL and suggest RPGs for me on PC/PS4!
Rami: I’m into competitive trading card games, Force of Will, and Cardfight Vanguard. They’re just really fun in general, also makes you work a lot on getting reads on people. Some of my close friends also have been into TCGs since forever, so I just tagged along.
Chi-Rithy: Currently, I’m in love with the Dark Souls series, since it’s an unforgiving game, it punishes your mistakes and it actually has footsies!
I proceeded to inquire a little further into Chi-Rithy’s recent tournament experiences.
mushin_Z: How you felt about your placement in Evo 2016 and your matches against EG|Justin Wong and LI Joe?
Chi-Rithy: At Evo, I felt that I placed around 49th, which is alright compared to previous years–I am usually one match away from top 16. I felt pretty confident vs. Justin Wong since I know how he plays and I’ve beaten him before. My match vs. LI Joe was an eye-opener, since he got the read on my fireball game pattern and made me whiff grab, which he punished really hard. It made me want to improve on my defence.
mushin_Z: At the Cineplex/World Gaming Street Fighter V Championships, what was it like moving from an online qualifier into a live tourney, and how stiff was the in-person competition?
Chi-Rithy: For Cineplex, I had no expectations at all. It went from an online qualifier to a spectacular live tournament. The energy and ambiance from the crowd was amazing. I took a few seconds to look at them, and it made me realize how far the FGC has come and how appreciative that I was at that position. The competition felt strong, since it featured some of the best Canada has to offer.
mushin_Z: SFV Chun-Li’s getting a lot of flak lately for being overpowered–if not top tier, then just outright broken. As a Chun main, what do you think? Is that reputation deserved?
Chi-Rithy: Sometimes, it takes time for a metagame to be developed, especially for a fighting game. In this case, Chun-Li is considered to be the number 1 character at this moment, with which I heartfully agree. However, as the game evolves, I think many counters strategies will be available against her. As for her being overpowered, I don’t think she is currently. She would win every single major tournament, which is not the case.
mushin_Z: DreamHack Montréal 2016–were you confident going in? Were there matches/moments you thought you were about to be knocked out?
Chi-Rithy: I was pretty confident going into Dreamhack Montréal since I knew and had faced most of the players that were present at the event. The only match I was concerned was against CountBlack, since he beat me in tournament before and has a dangerous Laura.
[Many of the matches from Tatsumaki Tuesday, and some from DreamHack MTL 2016 can be viewed on the MTLSF YouTube channel.]
mushin_Z: After winning DreamHack, what’s your mindset approaching Canada Cup 2016?
Chi-Rithy: Going into Canada Cup, I am mostly excited to face players from all around the world, and represent Montréal and Canada to its finest!
That concludes Part 1 of my look into the MTL scene–unless you’d like to also check out this video of Chi-Rithy going first-to-5 with The Beast at Brooklyn Beatdown. The technical play seen here demonstrates clearly how much time and effort these players are putting into this game:
Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of this interview set, featuring Lord Jimmy Bones, WoolieWoolz, and FGC commentator JakyoManor! Learn the origin of Tatsumaki Tuesday, what it’s like to be an “FGC mom,” and how Lord Jimmy Bones got started on Super Street Fighter II Turbo–and more.
Lord Jimmy Bones