The new season of the Capcom Pro Tour debuts this weekend in Atlanta on March 10 at Final Round 20.
The tournament will be the first long look at the new and different trends of Street Fighter V Season 2; it also happens to be the largest gathering of international talent in one place to kick off the year. The winner will take a sizable advantage over the rest of the world in the Capcom Pro Tour hunt with a healthy 400 points. But more importantly, players will get a clearer picture of the metagame after the recent changes to the game.
Here are our top 10 players to watch in Atlanta:
10. BX3.TP-Link's Arman "Phenom" Hanjani
The lone European to make the list is arguably the best from his region. This fearless Necalli player successfully emulated a style that was similar to the monster players dominating the first half of last year's Capcom Pro Tour. Whether it was his inability to be conditioned or his confident pace, he was a player to watch. Give Phenom any character with a reversal and strong offensive options, and he will be a favorite to take down any event. Final Round will be no exception.
9. Echo Fox's Justin Wong
The Marvelous One will look for another fast start to begin his Capcom Pro Tour season. He may be too low on the list as the most famous name in North America, but unfortunately, he plays the same kind of fighting style regardless of seasons, changes or characters. If he can maneuver past the biggest threats in his group -- Keita "Fuudo" Ai, Ryota "Kazunoko" Inoue and Bruce "GamerBee" Hsiang -- he may have a chance to take home the title.
8. Team Grapht's Joe "MOV" Egami
He's no longer a surprise name among the tournament attendees because of his successful 2016 season. The best Chun-Li in the game may be piloting a weaker version of his character, but MOV's track record says ignore it. MOV is a technology monster; although he took time off from the game, his lack of exposure at big premier events is a boon, especially since there'll be less reading material for his competition to study. He's an inclusion to the list because his play style and pace is a nightmare for a 2/3 format.
7. GGP's Kazunoko
Kazunoko may be the surprise on the list with so many flashy names on the tournament lineup, but being the unknown player suits him. The less exposure to his name, the better -- and the results show that he's capable of being a big-time player on the largest stages. Kazunoko may not be the first name that comes to mind when thinking of dominant Cammy players, but he's certainly been able to collect top results regardless of the hype (or lack thereof). He's the biggest dark horse in the field to take the tournament.
6. Evil Geniuses' Ricki Ortiz
Ricki Ortiz belongs on any top list of contenders in Street Fighter V because her run during Capcom Cup was all the proof necessary to solidify her place in the standings. Chun-Li may be nerfed, but Ortiz's unorthodox and aggressive play style will be the best weapon that separates her from the rest of the field. While all the players on this list are superior in all facets of Street Fighter, Ortiz is in a tier of her own when it comes to decision-making and pace control.
5. Echo Fox's Hajime "Tokido" Taniguchi
The demon is coming off a relatively lackluster performance during Topanga League 6 (a group stage exit), but his trump card is still his character choice: Akuma. One of the newest characters in Street Fighter V will provide the best edge for the "Murder Face" simply because the competition doesn't have enough experience playing against it yet. But don't be fooled; Tokido isn't this high on the list simply because of his unorthodox character choice. He's up here because he's become a menace in the online arena. Final Round 20 could be the right stage for Tokido to kick off his momentum in 2017.
4. Echo Fox's Yusuke "Momochi" Momochi
If there were a better technical player with a combination of perfect spacing and reckless reversals, they would be here instead of Momochi. But there isn't, so here he is. The newly signed Echo Fox player is an immediate favorite; if Momochi debuts a new niche character, it only enhances his chances to win big in Atlanta. His unpredictability is what sets him apart from the competition and with the metagame changes to Street Fighter V, he may just take the crown.
3. Team Grapht's Tatsuya "Haitani" Haitani
Last year, everyone was talking about Haitani. This year, the talk is no different -- the Necalli monster recently finished fourth in Topanga League 6 and looked every bit the powerhouse that was heralded before the competition even started. Haitani is this high on the list because he is a definitive lock in the top eight regardless of the field or talent. His mix of comeback ability, decision-making and aggression are all tournament winning traits.
2. Team Grapht's Fuudo
At one spot higher in Topanga League 6 (third place) was Fuudo. The "boy who lived" continues to confuse and crush opponents with his Rainbow Mika. While there were nerfs to the grappler, Fuudo's play style minimized the impact of the changes. He was an Evolution Championships runner-up for a reason, and Final Round 20 could easily be the launch pad for Fuudo's new year.
1. Team Liquid's Du "NuckleDu" Dang
The Capcom Cup champion is the favorite to take down the whole tournament for the same reasons he was at the conclusion of the last season: He has a great mix of characters, perfect grasp of the game's mechanics and a general don't-give-a-damn attitude toward his opposition. You could be the biggest star, but NuckleDu will stay calm, cool and collected in the face of adversity. In addition, Guile was buffed in this version of Street Fighter V, and this is the best player in the world that uses him. The rest is history.