Six months ago – in another lifetime, it feels like – I broke the news of a new competitive league being organized to unite the nation’s best fighting game players. Then, COVID-19 blew up the tournament calendar.
But it didn’t stop people playing. Despite the central importance of face-to-face contests in FGC culture, and a general mistrust of online play thanks to sloppy netcode in top titles, the CouchWarriors League bounced back by moving its contests online. Instead of each region holding its own monthly ranking battle events (ranbats), the new format involves one unified national tournament a week, cycling between the four major titles included in this year’s CWL.
It’s been a drastic shakeup to the predicted points race. There are notable players who simply don’t participate in online events – and others, such as members of the Perth FGC, who can suddenly join in as they never could before. And players who were previously able to rely on a steady stream of points from dominating their regional events are now forced into direct competition with their interstate rivals if they want to advance. This massive shrinkage in available points is emphasized by a pre-season ruling that online events would only award half the points of offline tournaments!
The narrowing path to victory is tough on the competitors, but it has led to a race as fierce and tense as we could have imagined back in February or March. Months of competition between state champions has allowed the biggest talents to prove themselves, but can they rake in enough precious points to secure overall victory?
As Snowball resumes regular coverage of the back half of the 2020 CouchWarriors League, let’s take the chance to quickly catch up on who’s still in the race.
Street Fighter V: Champion Edition
The race for Street Fighter glory proves to be a truly nation-wide affair this year. QLD and VIC are joined on the leaderboard by SA players from Cheese League, and Travis Styles is a one-man (ORDER) army for the state of WA. In fact, his placement on the ladder here does Travis an injustice – he has made a clear case for himself as the dominant player in the CWL ever since the switch to online made it possible for him to compete in monthlies.
Apart from a stumble in the grappler-dominated May tournament, Travis has completely dominated these unified online events, mixing it up freely between Chun-Li and his lethal, disciplined Balrog. Xavier “DS|Somniac” Nardella has been his most consistent competition, able to force Travis onto Balrog and taking him close to defeat many times… but Travis’s focus and clutch factor has proven the difference maker.
Despite this run of victories, Travis still has his work cut out for him if he wants to chase down the top 3. With so few points on offer, even a single setback – as he suffered in this month’s CWL event, crashing out early while Somniac secured 1st place – undoes months of hard work.
But at least Travis has been able to get to grips with his East-coast rivals this year. If we stick with online tournaments and he keeps winning at this pace, his rise to the top will be hard to deny.
Been awhile since I won one of these, gotta keep up the practice! https://t.co/XJc2se118D— DS_Somniac (@Somniacs) August 1, 2020
The rest of the field has some more work to do to re-establish themselves as threats, but if we return to physical ranbats there’s going to be many more points to share around and things would be wide open once again. Somniac has been grinding the new online tournament scene and is keeping his outlook confident heading into the back half of the season.
“We’ve all been living in strange times lately with a lot of adjustments to be made, but luckily there’s a consistent flow of online Couchwarriors ranking battle tournaments every month to look forward to.
“I’ve had some close games against Travis but overall my results haven’t been the best, looking to double down on the next month’s tournament and take out the big W so I can secure points for the end of the season and come out on top!”
Tekken’s leaderboard hasn’t yet seen the online performers of recent months catch up to the offline winners from the first few months, although Kun-Mo “FAM|Gun_Mo” Yon is getting close. This is in part because the CWL online events for Tekken have been a lot more even, with many different players getting involved in the placings. Given another few months, we would see more and more of those online warriors rise up into the top 10.
In huge comeback, during LF runback, @daitooka reverses the result from last match over @Gun_Mo93!— CouchWarriors (@CouchWarriors) June 20, 2020
He moves into the #CWLeague June #Tekken final
Daitooka vs JMKayz up next: Watch:https://t.co/8PI72ah0rz pic.twitter.com/MCtujjbrNe
It’ll take a while to catch up to ranbat kings Naveed “Kanga|ChandNY” Iqbal and Cheapies, however. So far neither have supplemented their points from January & February with finishes online, but if they do join the fray it should be easy enough to defend their spots well into the business end of the season.
Barring some online majors to infuse points into the scene, I would expect to see those two stick around – but the pack of players trailing them better watch their backs!
Smash Melee is a mature game with a skill ceiling somewhere above Earth’s atmosphere. It makes sense that a game like this would feature exaggerated skill differences, even within the nation’s elite players.
Still, what Josh “DS|Sora” Lyras has been doing in the scene is ridiculous. In the 7 CWL events he has been available to enter this year, he has won 4 handily (including Phantom, an interstate major), dropped from a 5th while cruising in winners, and came 2nd in the other two, including a fantastic grand finals upset by Miles “LGC|DonB” Dobney in June’s CWL.
So with such an intimidating record over the last 6 months, it makes sense that Sora (who has also been playing under the tag “Joshman”) is the favourite to take out the Melee title in CWL. His huge lead over most of the field seems insurmountable while every event is worth half points, while his only close rival on points, Davox, is 0-5 against Sora in tournament play.
However, recent innovations in Melee netplay may have long-reaching implications over the second half of the year, as locals can now run reasonable sets against international players and the potential to level up is higher than ever before. Hopefully Davox, DonB and other respected players can use the chance to take the next step and make Sora sweat a little.
There are a few factors which make this Smash Ultimate leaderboard particularly weird to look at. Firstly, Phantom 2020.
The Smash scene was the only community to get a serious national major to fire prior to the pandemic shutting down all physical gatherings, and the double CWL points handed out there speak even louder considering we’ve only managed 1 event per month since, each offering half of what the January ranbats did. US-based Mario god Rasheen “MVG|Dark Wizzy” Rose jaunted over, swept Phantom, and left our shores again; this sole finish has been good enough to have him STILL tied for 2nd halfway through the year. At least he’s probably not getting any more points this season… (unless?!?)
Won the Australian major Phantom 2020!— ⚔️ MVG #BLM | Dark Wizzy ⚔️ (@Dark_Wizzy_) March 8, 2020
Was a B tier, so that’s my 2nd PGR event win 🙂
Feel like i was able to overcome my nerves and play like myself, and that’s something ive been working on so im happy
ALSO SINCE I WON IM GOING TO SUMMIT WOOOOO
There is also a complete divide between our top offline players from the first part of the year and those putting up results in CWL Online monthlies; 7 of our top 10 haven’t garnered a single point since March, and Josh “Kanga|Ghost” Francis only grabbed a 3-point finish in April before falling silent. Sebastian “GZ|SebPro101” Poli-Tabone is the big exception – but despite collecting the absolute maximum points available between March and July, he’s only tied for 4th.
The other points from those events have been shared across a raft of young, hungry online players – but the pickings are too slim for them to show up on the top 10 yet, despite the clear talent on display.
Quibbling about points awards aside, SebPro has legitimately been on a massive run of form since April, taking out several other online events and generally looking extremely solid. I would expect him to only challenge for the top spot faster if we came out of Isolation tomorrow; whenever the next Smash major lures the rest of our leaderboard to fight him will be an exciting stream to watch.
And that’s where we stand heading into the back half of the CouchWarriors League 2020! Even with fewer tournaments on overall, the CWL Online events mean that every state has its top players competing every week, and we get to regularly see interstate matchups between players who normally meet just once or twice a year!
You can always check the live CWL rankings for each game here, while full results for past events (and signups for the next month!) are found on smash.gg. Make sure you check out the streams for each game this month and watch the new Aus FGC hierarchy emerge!