While a massive turnout made ULM Smash Conference 5 significantly different from the other tournaments this fall season, the final matches were nonetheless familiar.
Fighting their way through an impressive 72-man bracket, Christian “Axis” Thibodeaux, Aaron “GroundOwl” Cole, and Devin “EJ” Caffarel finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respectively, just as they did at Tech Central 6 two weeks prior.
Organized by Paul “10 Piece” McGee, USC5 was the largest installment to date of the free-to-enter series on the campus of ULM.
The event culminated in another Grand Finals showdown between Axis and GroundOwl, the fourth total set of the season between the two.
Unlike their final match at TC6, Axis did not need all five games to put away Monroe’s champion. He instead sealed first place in 3-0 fashion, two games with Greninja over GOwl’s Olimar, and the last with Marth over GOwl’s pocket Fox.
Interview Spotlight: EJ
Related: EJ vs. TRiST video
After Boozer-ing his way to another impressive 3rd-place finish, EJ spoke with me briefly about his experience at USC5.
“This is a very nice venue with very nice people,” he said. “Tons of nice competitors in the area, it’s good to see a lot of people traveled out. Holding this many people in here was great TO’ing.”
After a few rounds of easy wins, EJ went through a gauntlet of players on the North LA preliminary Power Ranking.
“I really enjoyed my games against the PR members,” he said. “I freakin’ love DB-Stand’s gameplay. TRiST was a lot of fun to play against – I love playing people who know their characters so well. Shoutouts to Nin as well, our match was really fun too.”
The one PR player EJ could not overcome was GroundOwl. Facing the Olimar main in Losers Finals for the second time in a row, EJ went deep into his character list. After his Bowser was two-stocked game 1, he switched to Falco and, that failing, to Samus.
“The Bowser/Olimar matchup is pretty trash for Bowser,” EJ said. “Bowser is pretty reliant on grabs, and Olimar’s pivot grab range and ability to zone Bowser out just lets him destroy me. I was trying to figure out what pockets I had that I could probably work on in the future to apply into another set where I would meet up with him again.”
Related: Preliminary Power Ranking
Of the seven current North LA PR players to attend USC5, five of them made it to the Top 8.
Damien “DB-Stand” Boyd held it down for the PR in his first tournament of the season, finishing in 4th place. The Pac-Man and Mewtwo player took solid wins over Absol and SirLegend, among others. He was ultimately double-eliminated by EJ, falling 1-2 and later 0-3. DB-Stand is reportedly retiring from competitive Smash 4, with USC5 being his potential farewell appearance.
Coming in tied for 5th overall and 2nd among Monroe players, Andrew “SirLegend” Cole won four straight matches before conceding victory to his brother GroundOwl in winners semifinals. He then fell 3-0 to DB-Stand in a rare Pac-Man ditto.
Tying with SirLegend for 5th place was Tristine “TRiST” Czaska, a Sonic main who received Honorable Mention status for the preliminary season. TRiST’s hedgehog had quite the bracket run (pun oh-so-very intended), speeding through (you’re welcome) solid opponents like Friend. TRiST was sent to losers by GroundOwl, and his bracket eventually ended in a losers quarters match against EJ.
Rounding out the PR players in Top 8 was Matt “Absoltastic” Brandl, whose masterful King Dedede led him to victories over such notable players as Sketchy, Nickels, and Burst. His round 2 set against Burst may go down as the most exciting early-round contest of the season. Absol was sent to losers by Axis and was ultimately eliminated by DB-Stand.
That Thing that Happened
DB-Stand and Ramsaur, 1st and 3rd on the preliminary PR respectively, were unfortunately both sent to losers bracket earlier than expected. These developments forced these two North LA Smash veterans to fight each other just to qualify for Top 8.
Because DB-Stand is essentially the only regional player who Ramsaur has yet to defeat, this set was a personally important one for Ramsaur. It started well for him, as his Diddy Kong took a commanding game 1 victory over DB-Stand’s Mewtwo.
What happened next has been more widely circulated and discussed than anyone would have guessed at the time. After executing a glide-toss banana to F-smash for what would have been the winning KO, Ramsaur, as he is wont to do, instinctively paused the game after his smash connected.
DB-Stand took the opportunity to insist the rule on pauses be observed. The rule basically says that, unless the TO intervenes, a player who pauses mid-match can be forced to lose a stock. DB-Stand invoked the rule and Ramsaur lost his stock, and thus game 2.
A visibly dejected Ramsaur quickly dropped game 3 and the set, dying early on both stocks. He finished tied for 9th place.
Two things about this match are fact: DB-Stand was going to die from Ramsaur’s F-smash, and Ramsaur paused when he shouldn’t have. The rest are opinions, and they have already been discussed at length. I only included a section on this match due to its importance in the tournament, not to stir up unnecessary controversy.
Following USC5, the North LA TO’s decided to make removal of the pause feature a requirement at future tournaments.
Two players earned PR consideration and a page on this site with wins over current PR players at USC5.
Victor “Saint Johns” Anderson, a ULM player wielding Corrin, unleashed the mighty power of the dragon to defeat Ramsaur 2-0 in winners bracket. The set ended with a mighty Corrin counter to kill Ramsaur’s Mario at 58%.
Saint Johns was able to break into Top 8 for the second time this season, finishing tied for 7th just as he did at TC6.
Qwesi “Burst” Sims, a Doctor Mario main hailing from Monroe, had an impressive showing at USC5. After narrowly falling to Absol in round 2, Burst was able to take down Nin 2-0 in losers round 5. He amassed 5 wins down in losers bracket before finally falling to Saint Johns, finishing the night tied for 9th place.
We look forward to seeing what these two players can do as official “Contenders” through the rest of the season.
Interview Spotlight: Absoltastic
After finishing tied for 7th, Absoltastic took a few minutes to break down his challenging bracket run.
“My bracket today was not easy in the slightest,” he said. “I never got let up. Everyone I fought was either someone I knew or someone I have been wanting to play for a while. I started out against Burst’s Doctor Mario, which went to game 3. Round 2, Limen’s Toon Link went to game 3 as well. Then Sketchy’s Link, and then Axis.”
Absol was sent to losers 0-2 by Axis.
“I had never played him in bracket before,” Absol said. “That threw me for a loop. And then in losers I went up against Nickels’s Duck Hunt and Sheik. Unfortunately, he SD’d, but he’s always one of those very interesting players to fight. He comes mostly from Melee and PM, and a lot of those players play very differently and are a lot more consistent with random techniques that you wouldn’t expect.”
Absol ultimately fell to DB-Stand in Top 8.
“I lost to DB-Stand’s Pac-Man, whom I have never played before,” he said. “It was a learning experience for sure, especially game 3 when I inhaled the trampoline, which I didn’t know was an interaction that could happen.”
Despite still wanting to rack up as many wins as possible, Absol said for now wins are not the most important goal.
“At the forefront for me right now is trying to improve as much as I can as a player,” he said. “Mostly right now that means trying to pick up other characters. So my real goal this season is to take a notable set off someone with a character other than Dedede, even if it’s only one or two games out of that set. I’m never dropping Dedede ever, but I’m really trying to get proficient with another character.”
Unfortunately, trying to write this article put me in some killer Witch Time. By the time I had time to write this, two more Tech tournaments have come and gone.
The next tournament for the region is yet another Tech biweekly, Tech Central 8 on October 15. The third Tech Central of the season, this tournament will be another opportunity to see if anyone can stop the onslaught of the Tech freshmen from Slidell. Be sure to come out!