ESC: Avalon M in review

Avalon M, the Dutch Melee qualifier for the European Smash Circuit, took place on October 3 at the usual Avalon venue, “De Patio” in Zoetermeer. Being the first Avalon dedicated solely to Melee, the tournament quickly drew the attention of the European Melee community and hit its attendance cap of 128 players in a week to become the largest Dutch Melee tournament so far. With clear tournament favourites such as Armada (two Avalon wins) and Ice (four Avalon wins) unable to attend because of The Big House 5, the circuit points were up for grabs. Since the list of attendees included the entire Dutch and French top 5 and German top player reaper, it was anyone’s guess who would take home the gold.

Two players in particular seemed to have their sights set firmly on first place: French Jigglypuff main Tekk and Dutch Sheik main Amsah. As the top seeds for the tournament, the two were expected to meet each other in winners finals. Tekk, who had beaten Amsah two weeks before at Dreamhack London to secure fourth place, felt confident in his ability to win the tournament, but was surprisingly sent to losers by reaper in winners semis. “I was aiming for the win this weekend and felt pretty confident, maybe to a fault”, Tekk commented afterwards. “I honestly felt out of touch with my playstyle during this tournament, which is kind of hard to explain. I was disappointed, but only in myself, because to be honest I didn’t prepare properly beforehand, while I know reaper has been playing non-stop since Dreamhack London. Losing pulled me back to earth, you could say. It’s good that it happened, I see it as part of my path.”

Tekk was eliminated by reaper twice for a third place

The path to becoming a top player has high highs and low lows. It takes time to develop the consistency of a player like Armada, and on the road towards that consistency you may find yourself winning over a higher ranked player one weekend, only to lose to a player ranked below you the next. Although he managed to beat Tekk this time, reaper himself had a disappointing 25th place finish at Heir II the Throne last August. Showing the resilience that is required to compete at the highest level, he came back in full force and has since taken sets off of several players that outrank him, including Ice and Professor Pro (who himself managed to beat Hungrybox only two weeks earlier at Paragon Los Angeles).

Now facing Amsah in winners finals, reaper was looking for another win that had eluded him for a while. Having played five sets against Amsah in the last eighteen months, all of which he lost, the statistics were not in reaper’s favour. “Sheik has always been a hard matchup for me”, he mentioned after the tournament. “In the past three tournaments I lost twice versus Overtriforce and once versus Amsah.” Despite his best efforts reaper was unable to prove the statistics wrong, losing winners finals to Amsah 3-2.

Reaper played a close winners finals against Amsah, taking him to the last game

Amsah was now waiting comfortably in grand finals while the other remaining players competed in losers for a chance to face him. The old school Sheik player is still a hard nut to crack for any player that is not a Jigglypuff or Ice Climbers main, or a member of the European top three. Overtriforce, himself a veteran of the game, only ever managed to take one set off of Amsah years ago in his home country Spain, only to be bested by Amsah at the same tournament in grand finals. Other European top players, such as Professor Pro and Android, have never taken a single set against him. Amsah can be considered a gatekeeper to the European top three, although it is clear that people are stepping it up and he himself needs to practice to stay relevant.

As Tekk made his way to losers finals by eliminating fellow countryman Salepâte (fifth place) and Dutch Fox main Zgetto (fourth place), Amsah warmed up for grand finals by playing against Jigglypuff in friendlies. After what happened at Dreamhack London, his Sheik and Fox were ready for revenge. Unfortunately for Amsah it turned out not to be necessary, since reaper defeated Tekk in losers finals as well. Although Tekk ended the third game with a well timed rest, reaper was not fazed and took game four to secure the set win. Curiously, reaper did not implement the pivot forward smash technique that has been successful for Marth in the Jigglypuff match-up in the past, instead opting to go for wavedash to forward smash or back throw to forward smash instead, which are easier to execute, but can be avoided with proper DI. Since Tekk’s DI seemed a bit off at Avalon M this strategy worked well for reaper, but one can’t help but wonder if the outcome of the set would have been different had Tekk been able to consistently DI out of reaper’s throw set-ups. When asked about the pivot forward smash reaper said: “It is not in my repertoire yet, I actually like how I play now, but I will implement the pivot forward smash in the near future for sure.”

Imperfect and Fauster commentated many matches throughout the day alongside local talent including Aqua, Tiersie, Jim Morrison and KasparV

With Tekk out of the way, reaper was looking to adapt and give Amsah a run for his money. However, it turned out to be Amsah who had adapted the most, solidly beating reaper 3-0 to win the tournament. To a certain extent it is Amsah’s trademark: when he plays you in tournament twice, he usually plays better the second time. It happened to Ek after Amsah’s famous comeback at The Renaissance of Smash 3, to Ice at Avalon VI and to Zhu at HFLAN. It happened to the author as early as 2005. In an attempt to break this pattern reaper pulled out his Fox in game three, but by doing so he only played into Amsah’s hand and lost the game with Amsah having three stocks left. Despite being double-eliminated by Amsah, reaper is determined to break the Sheik match-up. “I have a newcomer Sheik in my town and I will make him grow, so he can help me to get better at the match-up”, he said. “In addition to that I’ll find some new crazy reaper stuff.”

The top 3 of Avalon M

Avalon M also featured a rare out-of-country appearance by Cyr, the French Samus main considered by many to be the best Samus player in Europe. Before Avalon M, his only other tournament outside of France was Avalon IV last year. Curious about this somewhat mysterious player, we asked him why he doesn’t travel to international tournaments more often. “Because sloth is definitely my sin”, he answered with a sense of self-reflection. “I am famous in France for my laziness. I am such a princess. I need comfort and I hate long trips. I like to eat healthy and sleep well and it is really impossible during tournaments. I bring my own food to local tournaments sometimes.” Cyr also mentioned the costs of travelling as a reason for him not to travel more.

Since Cyr finished third at Avalon IV, losing to both finalists of that event, Amsah and Tekk, he was hoping to place in the top three once again. “I would only accept losing against Amsah and Tekk at this tournament, because Jigglypuff is a really hard match-up for Samus and because Amsah is just better than me.” Unfortunately the seeding did not completely agree with Cyr’s analysis and he ended up losing to Amsah in winners quarters. He did take the first game on Yoshi’s Story, which appears to be his favorite stage even though Samus’ exceptional recovery is not as useful on a small stage.

After his set with Amsah, Cyr ended up winning a close 3-2 set against Dutch Peach main and Avalon TO Marc, who recently returned to Melee after a one-year break. “This guy got me well”, Cyr commented. “He pretends to be a TO but in fact he is a real gamer. I was so surprised by him. Peach is not really common in France. It is definitely not my best match-up but not my worst either. I feel I have really underestimated Marc and I promise him to play better next time.”

Cyr and TO Marc played a close set that could very well have been the longest of the tournament

For his last set of the tournament Cyr played against fellow Frenchman and Marth main Salepâte, who he considers to be a rival. Having played with Fauster for years, Salepâte knows the Samus match-up well, though Cyr feels confident in the Marth match-up too, owing to his experience against French Marth main Aska. Although Cyr took a 2-0 lead, Salepâte managed to bring the set back and win it 3-2. While Samus mains are probably used to playing long sets, Cyr’s two long sets in losers (which combined took almost an hour) may have had an impact on his ability to focus towards the end.

Cyr ended up placing seventh. Considering the competition it was not a bad performance by any means, but disappointing to him nonetheless. “My last Avalon I got third place and I beat some good names in the game, but this time I am relatively disappointed. I was really confident against all opponents besides Amsah and Tekk. Adam, Zgetto and Remen hate Samus and fear me, I guess. I was confident about Jeapie too. This guy is good and he plays Captain Falcon, which is a hard match-up for Samus, but I guess he doesn’t know it, plus I got him at Avalon IV. Finally, there is reaper. I have never played against him, but I really feel confident with the Marth match-up. So yes, I feel I could have done better.”

The French top 5, immortalized in picture by reaper after the event

Avalon M ended up being another successful edition in the Avalon tournament series, and another successful qualifier for the European Smash Circuit, the rankings of which now feature several players competing for second and third place (far behind Armada, who has a solid lead after winning the first three qualifiers). Collecting a thousand points thanks to his first place at Avalon M, Amsah managed to almost completely close the gap with Tekk (second place), who now only has a 75 point lead over Amsah (third place). For placing second reaper received 800 points, boosting his rank in the circuit to fourth.

With three qualifiers remaining, several other players, including Professor Pro (tied for fifth), Ice (tied for fifth), Trifasia (sixth) and Overtriforce (seventh) are still in the running for a top three placing. Since two of the three remaining qualifiers (Eclipse in Norway and BEAST VI in Sweden) will likely feature heavy competition from players from the United States, a lot may depend on the results of Òssom Fights, the Spanish qualifier that will take place in Barcelona from December 11 until December 13. Before that, Eclipse, the Norwegian qualifier, will take place in Oslo on November 14 and 15, and the circuit will conclude with BEAST VI in Gothenburg in February.

The next tournament in the Avalon tournament series will be Avalon U, which will take place on the 7th of November in the usual venue and will be dedicated entirely to Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. It is also a qualifier for the European Smash Circuit. The next Melee only Avalon will take place on January 9th, 2016. If you would like to stay up to date about future events in the Avalon tournament series, consider following Avalon on Facebook.

The Avalon TOs show no sign of slowing down

Thanks go out to reaper, Tekk, Cyr and Amsah for their input. Pictures captured and edited by Joeri.

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