Team Razer and Grapht's Keita "Fuudo" Ai and Joshua "Wolfkrone" Philpot qualified for the playoffs after a grueling day of play at the ELeague Street Fighter V Invitational.
Group C was arguably the toughest collection of talent in the entire ELeague competition and it showed in every match. Echo Fox's Hajime "Tokido" Taniguchi and Team Razer's Kun "Xian" Ho squared off in a tension-filled set to start off the show and did not disappoint. It was a back-and-forth series that went to the last round of the last game where Tokido won the last standoff with a jab.
Tokido qualified for the group semifinals after besting Splyce's Ryan "FilipinoChamp" Ramirez, 3-1, in a crushing set that saw his Akuma nearly use every offensive tool available for the approach.
That left just FilipinoChamp and Xian fighting for the final spot in the group semis. FilipinoChamp played an immaculate neutral game that saw Dhalsim stay in the middle of the screen instead of full screen. Xian struggled, both with composure and the matchup, to get in and deal consistent damage against his slippery Dhalsim opponent. But Xian relied upon his character's ability to come back through the V-Trigger mechanic and crawled into a deciding fifth game. FilipinoChamp fell under the pressure of Xian's momentum during the last round of the last game and lost the set. Xian joined Tokido in the semis, joining Fuudo and Wolfkrone.
In the semifinals and finals, the matches grew in intensity. The "pool of death" lived up to its name with each and every set -- with the exception of Tokido against Wolfkrone -- was down to the wire.
Wolfkrone suffered defeat in his first set against Xian, but ran through Tokido to earn his rematch. Although Wolfkrone led 2-0 in both meetings, Xian tied it up to force a decisive fifth game. Wolfkrone turned up his offense in the rematch and overwhelmed the slower pace of Xian to take him down.
Xian was the hard-luck loser of Group C. Every match he played in went down to the final moments of the set and none of his losses were convincing defeats.
Fuudo, on the other hand, was otherworldly. Whether it was the neutral whiff punishes, the spectacular corner pressure, or the creative hit-confirms, his play as on another level. This was his group to lose and he showcased why he's one of the greatest players in Street Fighter. Fuudo should enter the playoffs as one of the favorites to take it all.