UCI players cheer on teammate Robert “PL” Martinez (sitting left.)
On February 16th, 2019, twelve collegiate teams across the Southern California region travelled to Saddleback College in Mission Viejo to compete in the Collegiate Star League (CSL) SoCal Local Qualifiers. This esports organization, which hosts collegiate tournaments for titles such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Rocket League, recently announced their second circuit for Super Smash Bros., switching the previous title on their roster, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate upon release. The February 16th local qualifier featured a five-on-five crew battle event for both Super Smash Bros. Melee and Ultimate. UCI Smash players formed three separate teams to enter the crew battle at Saddleback – two for Ultimate and one for Melee – where universities all over SoCal would compete to earn a spot at the divisional championships in spring.
The ‘crew battle’ is a competitive format unique to fighting games, and even then, the rules are even more fresh and exciting in Smash. Inspired by action anime such as Dragon Ball Z and Yu Yu Hakusho, where characters would participate in martial arts tournaments as a team, crew battles feature teams of up to five players playing in a one-on-one format. The format is such that when you defeat your opponent, you must now fight the next player on that team, and so on until you are defeated. In other words, if Player 1 from Crew A defeats Player 1 from Crew B, Player 1A must now fight Player 2B. In traditional fighting games, players face each other in games that are divided within the game rules by ‘rounds,’ but in Smash, ‘stocks’ and respawning after being knocked off the stage exist in lieu of the rounds format. Because of this, the stakes for Smash crew battles are different than that of traditional fighters: each crew gets a pool of stocks used to keep track of score, and once those stocks are taken, they’re gone for good. That is to say, if Player 1A defeats Player 1B at the beginning of a Melee crew battle, but they lose two of their stocks, Player 1A must now fight Player 2B with a two-stock deficit, while Player 2B begins the game with all four stocks. This can provide an element of depth, strategy, and sheer excitement while watching – and playing – Smash crew battles; while one crew may technically be in the lead by stocks, their current player must compete against any future opponents with a disadvantage. Furthermore, as in other fighting games with crew battle formats, there is also the innate strategy inherent in choosing which players will function as point, middle, or anchors for their team.
As previously reported, UCI’s Ultimate players have been proving themselves as forces to be reckoned with, both at on-campus weekly tournaments hosted at the UCI Esports Arena and at events held elsewhere in Orange County. After deliberating the day before the event, it was decided that the A-team for UCI would consist of the following players: Rafael “Rafi” Guadron, Jovanni Rivera, Dominic “T3Dome” Carone, Jason “Muskrat Catcher” Muscat, and new player Landon “SoulX” Stubblefield. A freshman both at UCI and on the Ultimate crew, SoulX is a skilled up-and-coming Daisy player, with notable recent placings being 9th/30 at the Valentine’s Day 2019 UCI weekly and 65th/408 at 2GGaming’s Heart of Battle regional event on February 9th, 2019.
UCI’s B-team was formed by players who had initially shown up as possible substitutes should any players from the A-team not be able to attend. However, when your author arrived at the event, initially solely intending to report on the crew battles, the substitute players realized that they had a second viable team of five. Thus, the B-team consisted of Sergio “Lt. Surge” Salas, Uyiosa “Uyi” Igbinigie, Cesar “Muffin” Martinez, Robert “PL” Martinez, and Nathan “Lite the Iron Man” Dhami. Apart from myself, every player on the B-team had respectable placements at UCI weeklies, as well as shifting spots on the UCI Smash 4 rankings prior to Ultimate’s release.
As previously stated, there were twelve crews total present for the tournament: UC Santa Barbara, Saddleback, CSU Northridge, CSU San Marcos, University of La Verne, CSU San Bernardino, Cal Poly Pomona, CSU Channel Islands, and two teams from USC were waiting to challenge UCI players. The CSL crew battle tournament was held in a single-elimination format – when one team was out, they were out for good. Unfortunately, the UCI B-team lost in the first round to CSUSB’s team. The A-team, on the other hand, had equal parts luck and skill on their side. Being the second seed of the tournament, the UCI A-team was given a bye, where they awaited ULV’s Ultimate crew. After defeating ULV, they moved on to avenge the B-team by defeating CSUSB with a four-stock lead, moving on to grand finals against Cal Poly Pomona.
The first seed of the bracket, Cal Poly Pomona’s team boasted an impressive roster, with players like Ken “ShiNe” Huang and Enrique “Nano” Garcia placing well at local SoCal events, and Quinton “ImHip” Goodman being ranked 18th in the all-time Socal Smash 4 Power Rankings as Olimar. These stats did nothing to deter the A-team, however, as all five UCI players were talented in their own right. After T3Dome’s Richter fell to Samuel “Arkistor” Weinger’s Inkling, having already respectably earned three stocks for UCI, Rafi’s Bowser began putting in work. Rafi cleanly defeated Arkistor, only losing a single stock, and proceeded to take two more stocks off of Derek “Deck” Wongso’s Ken before finally being taken down himself. Muskrat Catcher then followed Rafi, finishing off Deck with his King Dedede, and took another two stocks off ShiNe’s Pokémon Trainer before he was felled. At this point, it was down to SoulX and Jovanni’s six stocks and ShiNe and ImHip’s four. The UCI A-team sent out SoulX, who promptly cleaned up ShiNe’s final stock and moved on to fight ImHip. In what will surely be considered a historic match by SoCal Ultimate players, SoulX’s smart Daisy play managed to outmaneuver ImHip’s Olimar and eliminate him, securing UCI’s win with four stocks remaining to none. The decision to add SoulX to the A-team crew after long deliberation paid off, with him taking a game off of a top-ranked SoCal player in order to guarantee UCI’s spot in the CSL divisional qualifiers.
After Ultimate crew battles ended, the Melee crew battle bracket began. The Melee bracket was smaller, with only three schools attending the event – UCI, UC San Diego, and Saddleback. Due to the small bracket, the tournament was ran in a round robin format instead of the single elimination style used for Ultimate. In the round robin format, every team is made to play against each other once to see who can earn the most wins. UCI Melee was represented by the following players: Jake “Rig” Song, Maruf Mamun, Eric “Woosh” Chagoya, Bryant “Nixqn” Nguyen, and John “KoDoRin” Ko.
UCI and UCSD’s Melee teams absolutely dominated Saddleback’s crew in their respective battles, with UCI’s Woosh even taking a whopping fifteen stocks from Saddleback’s players by himself. Now, with one point each, the winner of UCI versus UCSD would earn their spot in the Melee CSL divisional qualifier. Towards the end of their battle, UCSD was unable to reconcile the wide lead that UCI had earned, and UCI’s Melee team was able to close it out cleanly, with three stocks to none. The UCI Melee team is already well-recognized for Griffin “Captain Faceroll” Williams, a UCI graduate ranked 33rd in the world on the Melee Panda Global Rankings. Their win at the CSL qualifiers is just another notable victory for an already prolific crew.
In the end, both UCI teams won the CSL SoCal local qualifiers, earning the right to represent SoCal at the divisional qualifiers, held at a to-be-determined date and location this spring. From there, the winner of the divisional qualifiers will be invited to the national CSL championships, held at Smash supermajor tournament Shine 2019 in late August. The winning teams will also be awarded travel stipends for the purpose of assisting them in traveling to the divisional qualifiers.
More information about CSL Smash can be found on their website and social media. ( CSL Twitter / CSL Smash Twitter ) VODs and livestreams for their Smash events can be found on their Twitch channel. Brackets for the CSL SoCal Local Qualifiers can be found on Challonge. ( Melee / Ultimate )
Photos appear courtesy of Aaron “Ghostzy” Mariconda. ( Twitter )