In prior years, Problem X has always been on the cusp of greatness without actualizing it. This year saw the actualization of what we’ve surmised for years: Problem X really stands true to his name, and is now the man to beat coming into Capcom Cup.
After struggling to etch his name on major after major, he went on a tear in 2018, and took the title at Evo 2018 to prove himself as one of the best in the game. Will he follow up his biggest success with an even bigger one at Capcom Cup?
The Character Problem
One of the things that has always seemed to hold back Problem X in the past has always been his choice of characters. In 2016, his pick of Alex held him back, with the character impeding his progress in the bracket. 2017 saw him make more tournament-conscious decisions in the characters he played, but he was still having more knee-jerks between Bison and Birdie that didn’t work in his favor.
This year has saw him much more stable, not only in characters picked overall, but match-up by match-up. His strong M. Bison play from last year only improved in 2018. Dropping Birdie has also been a step in the right direction for him, as the character was not much of a complement of his true main. And with his Abigail, he has proven that these two characters have — more often than not — been the right mixture of styles to put him through some of the toughest brackets.
Further, we have seen less bad picks from him in tournament than ever before. Even through Evo, he used Abigail for the most part until he made top 8 until switching to Bison — a head-turning decision that he had seemingly calculated to throw off players who may have instead prepared for the Abigail pick. He has hardly had a misstep in this aspect over the course of the season, thus assuring the public that his decision-making skills have improved dramatically.
The Experiential Problem
One of the other things that I addressed last year was that his tournament experience — as well as his best finishes — primarily hinged on European tournaments, which I’ve argued could be a historically weaker region to compete in. Mousesports|Problem X might have been listening, as 2018 saw him travel more than ever before.
Not only did he travel, he was close to grabbing a medal at every locale he invaded. From Toronto, to Washington, to Texas, to Montréal, to Vegas, he has made a mass amount of top 8s that weren’t just within his home region. This meant playing players he had less of an opportunity to play against, thus forcing himself outside of his comfort zone in order to really dig to find answers on the fly, instead of merely relying on experience against opponents he would have played time and again in Europe.
I feel like playing against talent outside of the same guys you face in every tournament you’ve already been to cannot be underestimated as a training tool. Not everyone has the same tendencies, and being able to react to new players using new tactics can be equated to sinking or swimming when you have to learn from it. Problem X found himself swimming, and I feel like he has only become more dangerous of a player for it.
The Few Remaining Problems
The one thing I worry about is that Problem X had to expose everything he had in the take at Evo to take the victory. Let’s face it, regardless of how well Problem X did, and how much he deserved his title at the end of the day, he had to face some of the most cerebral players in the game in Tokido and Fuudo on his way to the title. And in Grand Finals, it wasn’t necessarily the runaway set that you’d hope for in showing yourself to be the most dominant player.
Tokido gave him one hell of a match for the entirety of the set, even after a nail-biting reset. And Tokido always seems to come back stronger from any loss he’s handed. Problem X could run into him, so what if Tokido is ready? What if anyone who’s had the misfortune of coming up against him this year has done their homework?
Further, what about players like Justin Wong, NuckleDu or Fujimura that he has struggled with over the season? Just like everyone else in the tournament, he’ll have to do his own fair share of studying to prepare himself for his biggest demons, while also trying to stay one step ahead of the people who view him as their demon.
There isn’t any reason Problem X cannot win this tournament. He has a great blend of characters, the ability to counter-pick players over match-ups, and has been on the grind to put himself in a great position to win.
But I feel like he’s going to have to play far more above the rim than he already has. Bison is one of those lesser-played characters in top 8. Given his stature, players will be taking the extra time to study his play in order to prepare. Further, Abigail has been a known problem for a while, with players dissecting the character to find ways to make him less so.
For his sake, I hope he has been saving up some tech beyond what we’ve seen out of him in order to catch players off guard.
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