ELeague’s toughest Street Fighter V group returns to action Friday and this might be the most intriguing week yet.
When Yahoo Esports ranked the four groups and predicted finalists coming from each group before ELeague started, we had no idea how the game and the players would evolve. It’s been two months and Victor “Punk” Woodley and Yusuke Momochi advanced to finals as expected in Group A. Yet struggling veteran Daigo Umehara found his competitive identity just in time for he and Eduardo “PR Balrog” Perez to punch their tickets to ELeague Finals.
Also in that time, Ho Kun Xian went top tier and won Capcom Pro Tour Premier Event Final Round. If I had known over a month ago that was his plan, I probably would’ve changed my prediction. Then again, I didn’t expect Joshua “Wolfkrone” Philpot to dominate like he did, despite marking him down as a dark horse in Group C.
I don’t want to be the guy changing his predictions (though if you want to give me a mulligan, I’d surely take it.) But I do want to re-examine Group C, knowing what we know now.
Ai “Fuudo” Keita and Xian are both playing at a very high level. As mentioned previously, Xian won Final Round and finished third at DreamHack Austin. Fuudo has come in second and third place at Final Round and NorCal Regionals, respectively.
If I were to re-do my prediction for Group C’s finalists, I would have gone with these two players. Not that I don’t believe in Wolfkrone but he hasn’t been seen since March when Kenneth “K-Brad” Bradley hit him with the most glorious pop-off ever at Final Round and when things got awkward with the security guard and post-game interview during Group C’s Preliminaries.
He doesn’t appear to travel beyond the Midwest to compete so we don’t really know how he’s held up since his last ELeague appearance. Most top Japanese players still don’t have Laura in at the top of their character tiers. Will his Laura be as much of a surprise to the Japanese players as it was before or will they have studied the match-up, and more importantly, Wolfkrone harder? Wolfkrone might be more of a dark horse than ever in this Regular Season round.
Meanwhile, we haven’t seen a lot of Joe “MOV” Egami either. Last we saw, he was still holding down the fort with Chun-Li when so many players had moved on to other characters. MOV got the most out of Chun-Li in Season 1 (making top 8 at Evo 2016 and Capcom Cup 2016) so it isn’t all that surprising to see him maximize what he can with the character in Season 2. The question is if it’s enough against this group.
He survived by going 3-4 in Preliminaries and he will have to play Ryan “Filipino Champ” Ramirez again. Their first meeting in ELeague went in FChamp’s favor 2-0.
FChamp has been pretty active on the CPT since his ELeague debut. He went to France to compete in Ultimate Fighting Arena, a CPT Premier Event, instead of West Coast Warzone. It was a gamble because he hoped to place high enough to earn more CPT points than if he were to actually win a Ranking Event. It paid off as he finished in third place. Unfortunately, he followed that tournament up with consecutive 33rd place results at NorCal Regionals and DreamHack Austin. Life is hard for a Dhalsim player in Street Fighter V, even if you are the best Dhalsim in the world.
Xian versus Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi will be an interesting match. Both players made character switches and have seemed to settle into these. Akuma has incredible potential thanks to his high damage output but his low health might be a little too problematic, even for one of the greatest Street Fighter players ever.
Tokido has been fairly consistent with his results but he also had less than stellar results during ELeague’s Preliminaries, finishing with a 3-4 record. But one of those three wins came against Xian. Tokido also took fourth at Ultimate Fighting Arena, losing to FChamp, and ninth at NCR.
I expect this match-up to be one of the most entertaining, and maybe stressful with how patient both players are.
No matter what happens in the first round of matches, someone is going to have to play Fuudo and Wolfkrone. Fuudo continues to show R. Mika is still a very viable character thanks to his great footsies honed by years of play with Fei Long in Street Fighter IV. I see no reason why he can’t advance to ELeague’s Finals.
Wolfkrone is a 50/50. He might be the safest pick because top international players just haven’t figured out to deal with a high level Laura. But I have a feeling whoever he gets will be much more prepared for his Laura shenanigans. I’d still give Wolfkrone the nod because he has proven he can compete with the best on any given day.
Tune in today on the ELeague Twitch channel at 6PM ET for the first round of Group C Regular Season action and 10PM ET on TBS and Twitch to see who will take up two of the last four spots in the Finals.
Michael Martin covers SFV and the FGC. Follow him on Twitter @Bizarro_Mike.