Esports today is a young industry, used to short half-lives. Teams and orgs constantly rotate out of relevance, players retire young, and the entire lifespan of a top competitive title is shorter than an individual career in traditional sports.
But the Fighting Game Community, birthed in the arcades of the 90’s and nurtured in scout halls and living rooms ever since, stands as the exception.
Australia’s FGC shares that proud pedigree, and boasts some of our strongest international competitors for any esports title. That strength and longevity can be attributed to the tight-knit community of players, who still assemble every week to play their tournaments face to face and train among their peers. It’s a unique atmosphere in the age of online laddering and tightly-controlled pro play, and generates a constant stream of fresh talent across many different fighting game titles.
For the past decade and a half, a grassroots organisation called CouchWarriors have been working to unify those local tournaments and player groups from around Australia, pushing for better cross-promotion and coordination of events at the state and national level. Now in direct control of tournaments across Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia with partnerships in other states, the organisation has announced a new framework for FGC competition – the CouchWarriors League.
This league combines the traditional monthly ranking battle (“ranbat”) events from each local area, and provides a single national leaderboard for four of the most popular FGC titles; Street Fighter V, Tekken 7, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate & Super Smash Bros. Melee. It also incorporates the existing calendar of recognised inter-state majors, tempting players from around the country with stacks of CWL points for making top 8. All of this competition leads into Battle Arena Melbourne, CouchWarriors’ biggest annual event and one of Australia’s only international majors for any esport. The top points leaders for each state will earn sponsored flights to BAM to face the best that Australia and the world have to offer as they battle for the #1 spot.
Getting a head start on the competition
The CWL announcement lays out the season schedule, which covers the first half of 2020. Since we’re already a few months deep into competition, the league is retroactively awarding the appropriate points to players who won tournaments in January and February – so we’re immediately aware of who our frontrunners are, and which players will be grinding to catch up.
Representing the ORDER army, Christian “ROF” Dedalija is the early points leader for Street Fighter V. One of Australia’s most consistent talents for any game, ROF has taken his Birdie to another level over the last six months, winning ranbat after ranbat in Victoria and taking down the CouchWarriors Crossup major in December.
Had the starting points been backdated to October or so, ROF’s lead would look nearly unassailable – as it is, he chose a tricky time to finally drop the invincible act, losing some of his possible points to fellow Street Fighter legend Xavier “DS|Somniac” Nardella in the February ranbat. Somniac, a Bison main, is also within striking distance of ROF on the standings thanks to that clutch win – as are top Brisbane competitors Dale Roy and Wade “WillingFoe” Ballantyne.
The standings for Tekken 7 show a pair of South Australian representatives as immediate threats for the overall points lead. Anna player Cheapies is tied for first place at present, with rival Moose and his Lee close behind. As the clear #1 and #2 in South Australia’s “Cheese League” ranbats, they seem likely to scoop a consistent amount of points every month and stay right at the top of the charts. But the duo have also proven themselves against interstate opposition, with both making top 5 against the field at their hometown major, “Big Cheese”, in 2019.
Their primary competition will be BAM Tekken champion Naveed “Chand NY” Iqbal, representing Kanga Esports, and Chang Seop “Rest” Park, an expat from the hallowed halls of Korean Tekken who intermittently dominates the Queensland scene.
The two Smash Bros. ladders have seen the most early movement for CWL, on account of Phantom 2020 – this month’s Smash-only, Sydney-based major. Dark Sided star Joshua “Sora” Lyras is soaring at the top of the leaderboard after taking first both at Victorian ranbat and then at Phantom.
Wrapped with Phantom 2020. As always the smash scene puts on, if you aient in it… you’re missing out. Catch da buddaz at BAM 🙏 pic.twitter.com/vqoBGT9QL9— OTG SLIWILL 🎥 (@SliWill) March 8, 2020
But Sora he will be looking over his shoulder – not only is top Queenslander Auro breathing down his neck after back-to-back exceptional ranbats, but his main rival is yet to even debut at a pointed tournament for 2020. Te Tuhi “Spud” Kelly, a New Zealander playing out of Perth for Dark Sided, has been by far the best Melee player in the land for years, keeping Sora and others effortlessly in the shadow of his Marth. Sora is working hard, but it’s clear that he can’t consider that gap closed until he is able to win a major tournament over Spud.
Meanwhile in the hotly-contested Smash Ultimate ladder, the top spot initially belongs to Jonathan “Jdizzle” Douglas, who has really come into his own over the last year playing Young Link. While the top level of Ultimate players are relatively even across the country, Jdizzle has shown remarkable consistency and definitely looks a chance to keep the top spot on lockdown until BAM in late May.
Jdizzle’s lead got an extra boost at Phantom – the tournament was won by visiting U.S. player Rasheen “Dark Wizzy” Rose, effectively sucking a chunk of points out of the standings as Wizzy won’t be sticking around Down Under to contest the CWL. Chasing down the Kanga maestro will be tough, but in the running are his long-time doubles bro Bradley “DD” Kun and top Queenslander Andrew “Shadrew” Isokangas.
Last but not least is Dark Sided’s mercurial Nick “Extra” McKenzie, winner of multiple national titles across Smash 4 and now Ultimate with his Game & Watch. While his ceiling of play is among the highest in the country, he gave up the top spot in the 2019 national rankings to Jdizzle and has had a slow start to the year, leaving him well outside the points lead. But if Extra can overcome his yips he will quickly become another hot favourite for the title.
Get ready for the next battle
With the CouchWarriors League off to a running start in its first season, now is a perfect time to join in on these rivalries and narratives and follow the tournament results heading into BAM. Battle Arena Melbourne 12 is going to be Australia’s largest open-entry esports event ever, and feature the world’s most elite players competing in official World Tour tournaments for SEVEN different games. It’s a rare chance to see our best local talent test themselves against the highest standard, and setting the stage to also host the finale of CWL makes things even more exciting.
I’ll be continuing to provide summaries of CWL events for Snowball over the next few months, so you can check back in on our players as the season progresses.
In the meantime, if you want information on BAM12, FGC tournament streams or CouchWarriors events near you, check out the official website.