Evo 2018 is shaping up to be one of the biggest iterations of the event yet. A good part of this is thanks to the number of big side tournaments being officially hosted at Evo 2018, drawing in a large number of competitors. One notable company hosting a couple of side tournaments is Team NINJA, who’s doing so for Dead or Alive 5: Last Round and their upcoming Dead or Alive 6. The latter is the second in-development game to get a big side tournament at Evo 2018 — alongside after SoulCalibur VI — and it’s arguably the one with more momentum, considering that it’s following Dead or Alive 5‘s competitive run.
Dead or Alive 5‘s tournament scene, including Team NINJA’s own competitive tour, has fostered a number of great players both in and out of the series’ traditional American player base, including players from Japan and Korea. It’s a credit to the series — and both Team NINJA and the competitive scene — that many of the top players to look out for in this years event aren’t American.
Japan alone is sending three great players to look out for. Among these is Siologica, the winner of the 2017 Dead or Alive 5 Battle Royal. This Gen Fu player is known for making top 8 in just about every tournament he joins, with a calculated playstyle that helps him psyche opponents out. He’s not the only Battle Royal winner coming though, 2015 Battle Royal winner YOSHIMOTO|JC Akira is also flying in. This Akira specialist uses the fear that a good Akira can generate in his opponent to set the pace and generate a lot of momentum. This is a character for whom regaining momentum against is difficult at best, so watching an Akira master at work should be quite a treat.
Joining the two Japanese Battle Royal champions is COMP|TeruRock, the Lei Fang player who also competed at the Battle Royal Grand Final, making it to 5th place. In addition to this, he also made 2nd at the DOA Festival, and is one of the top-ranked arcade players. Finally, the list of Japanese players is rounded out by Tanii. This Hitomi and Zack player is as known for his high-octane — some would say reckless — playstyle as for his consistent top 8 finishes. Definitely a guy whose matches viewers need to look out for.
Now, Japanese players aren’t the only international competition coming into Dead or Alive at Evo 2018. From Korea, we have Play Monsters|Soy who’s made it out to DOA tournaments in North America before, as well as the DOA Festival in Japan. This Helena and Christie player personally considers himself to be only the 6th best player in Korea, though seeing as the other 5 aren’t on the registration list as of the time of writing, he’s their best shot at the event. Meanwhile, from Australia we have CW|Berzerk, a Lei Fang player with a history of finishing in the top 3 of their tournaments. Despite this, he’s never competed in America or Japan, due to being busy organizing tournaments, as such it’ll be exciting to see how he fares at Evo.
Of course, America has a sizable contingent of Dead or Alive players joining — the US is, after all, the home of competitive DOA. To start things off, we have the 2016 Battle Royal winner, FSD|Rikuto. This veteran was actually the first-ever champion for Dead or Alive 5, and the fact that he’s still considered one of the series’ top players shows his dedication to it. His Bayman will be another thing to watch out for in these tournaments. Joining him from Free Step Dodge is Matt Ponton. Matt is known more for organizing and being one of the faces behind the tournament scene, but his Bass and Mai still tend to take him to top 8.
While his more-famous brother has branched out to other fighting games, Mr_Kwiggle has dedicated himself to Dead or Alive 5. Sonic Fox’s brother is considered one of the top 2 players in the US, and one of the best in the world, especially whenever he brings Christie out. He placed 2nd at last year’s Battle Royal, and was also the inaugural DOA Festival champion. The other player considered part of the top 2 in the US is XCaliburBladez. While most people likely know him for playing Dragon Ball FighterZ, Dead or Alive 5 was the game he first made his mark in. This multi-character specialist — using Eliot, Helena, and Alpha-152 — is known for having great strategy, on top of having good reaction and fast adaptation.
Another player known for fast adaptation is CrazySteady, who has been widely considered to be one of the best players from the US West Coast. Aside from winning almost every tournament in the West Coast with his Sarah and Jacky, he also does well when he flies over to the East as well.
UGS is sending a couple of their players over for DOA, Jager and BlackMoonRising. Both of these players have done well in multiple tournaments, oftentimes just shy of actually winning them. Jager is known as one of the few Rig players in the US, and is known for approaching the game very analytically, while being able to adapt to his opponents quickly. BlackMoonRising — who some may also recognize for playing Lucky Chloe in Tekken 7 — is one of the more active players from the Carolinas. Like his teammate, he’s also known for being analytical and being able to adapt quickly.
Rounding out this list is Punishere. Another veteran who’s been active in the scene even before Dead or Alive 5, Punishere hasn’t been as active in offline competition as of late. That said, he still maintains an impressive presence online. As such, he’s another dark horse in this tournament, and likely another player to watch out for.
Of course, the above apply mostly for Dead or Alive 5: Last Round. Since Dead or Alive 6 is an in-development title with new mechanics and properties — and whose build at Evo 2018 will not have every character available — the field is much more wide open. With Japan and other countries outside the US having much more established competitive scenes for Dead or Alive now than they did when DOA5 launched, DOA6 represents the first time the US may lose the lead in this game. Could we see the beginnings of that at Evo 2018? Only time, and a lot of tournament play, will tell.
Shoryuken would like to thank Matt Ponton, Rikuto, and Deathofaninja for their contributions to this article.