Pack leader - Silent Wolf still inspires Fox players after a decade

Silent Wolf competes at Paragon 2015. Provided by Jonathan Tayag

Opportunities come, but the only way to seize them is to be ready when they arise. It's easier to be ready when you never stop honing your craft.

Otto "Silent Wolf" Bisno, 25, has been at it for over a decade, and things are starting to come together, just as many had hoped. He's making appearances at some of the most exclusive events of the year and has joined the roster of Team Secret at the start of this month.

"It really has been a long time coming. He has been one of the biggest innovators," explained Oscar "Lovage" Nilsson, esteemed veteran and commentator. "Ask any Fox player out there, and in some way, they were inspired by Silent Wolf. He is as good now as he has ever been, but I feel like people are finally giving him the credit he deserves. He doesn't really promote himself as much as other players online, or on social media, so it's harder to garner attention as a player up in Washington, especially when compared to California. But he's the signing that made me the most excited, because he deserves it. He's seriously put in the work since 2005, and never really stopped. Maybe a short hiatus or two, but nothing longer than six months--you knew he'd be at the next major event, if possible. You have to respect the grind."

Silent Wolf's name resonates throughout the community because of his results now, but many don't quite understand the influence he has had on the scene. The modern era has a proliferation of GIFs and Oddshots that are dissected as soon as a set finishes on Twitch. Bisno was heralded during an era where he created exhibition videos that showcased his prowess with Fox. At one point, releases such as Zelghandi, All Systems Go, Active Artwork, and Revolution had people mashing refresh on Smashboards, eagerly awaiting details of a new project. Far more than just entertainment, they helped shape how many approach and evaluate the toolkit that Fox has, particularly the more technical and execution heavy aspects of the character.

"Back then, I feel like I had a lot of influence on people," Bisno said. "I was always trying to find new variations in techniques involving shines, and trying to claim all that as my own. I feel like I influenced a lot of people, just because I would see people doing stuff like frame-perfect shine double lasers and wave-shine turnarounds when nobody else was really doing that before. Now, I don't know. I'm not the most technical Fox nowadays, so I don't have that same kind of influence, nor is there the same presence with tech skill videos and combo videos."

Just as there was a paradigm shift in terms of how content was presented in Super Smash Bros. Melee, there was a shift with how Bisno approached his own gameplay.

His goal wasn't to be the best player in the world. Rather, he wanted to let the world know that he was the most technical player.

"He definitely had a change of heart in 2007," Nilsson recounted. "I remember him once saying he was watching Jason 'Mew2King' Zimmerman play at FC Diamond and he realized that it is almost a waste of time maximizing tech skill when being good is such a better goal. I think he got inspired by the people who were at the top of it then, Christopher 'PC Chris' Szygiel and Mew2King especially. He still has this style that's really unique. With his movement, the second you see him, you know he's the one playing just by watching. He doesn't really necessarily do superfluous fancy stuff in tournament--it's just his own style of doing everything."

Of the 16 people attending Smash Summit 2, Bisno was one of the handpicked attendees, and seemed to be lacking confidence that he would be one of the participants if he had to try and garner votes from the community.

"I feel blessed for actually not having to go through the voting process to get into the tournament," Bisno said. "Kevin 'PPMD' Nanney and William 'Leffen' Hjelte couldn't make it, unfortunately. I, and many others, wish they could have been here, but I was lucky enough to take Leffen's spot after he realized he couldn't show up, and I feel extremely grateful for that. If it came down to me being in the voting process, I wouldn't have really pushed for myself to be the person to go and to ask for people to vote."

"Ask any Fox player out there, and in some way, they were inspired by Silent Wolf."

He made the most of it. Throughout the weekend of Smash Summit 2, when he wasn't sitting at a CRT with another attendee, Bisno was usually spotted with a smile, relaxing on a couch with a plate, or in the middle of conversations with the other attendees. Some of the chats were theory-crafting, discussing match-ups, situations, and how to maximize any and every chance he got.

Just as many were just talks about life, catching up with the other competitors.

"Everyone that I'm the closest with in the community happened to be at this event," Bisno said. "Just being able to hang out with them, and practice against any high level match-up I want to is amazing. I wanted to use this tournament as an opportunity to grind out a couple of match-ups, and I really did dig into the Falco match-up above all else, which was one of my goals. Other big tournaments are a blast, but you can't always get the games in with the people you want. There are so many setups, but they're always full of people, and people in line that want to play, so you can never just play that one person you really want to get practice with. In an atmosphere like this, you can just pull aside that one person and really get that training in."

The ability to have that practice at his fingertips is one that he had to take advantage of. SoCal is a stark contrast from the Pacific Northwest region he calls home. Players such as Theodore "Bladewise" Seybold and Steven "FatGoku" Callopy can provide challenges, but the region is missing a multitude of characters at a high level--let alone at the pinnacle of the game; the days of the rising stars regularly traveling from British Columbia, a region that was once known for having a myriad of skilled Falcos, are over.

Besides, there are very few Falcos like SoCal's Weston "Westballz" Dennis.

"I had Westballz first round, and that was rough," Bisno recounted. "I felt like throughout the set I got progressively better in the match-up against Falco, and against his Falco in particular, but it still wasn't enough to figure him out and adapt. It is just such a hill to climb when it's so foreign to me at this point. A big part of it is Weston in particular, but a lot of it is just dealing with Falco in general, and figuring out how to really deal with his crazy offense, and finding openings in the neutral game, which is probably the most difficult part of the match-up. He's a devastating player, because if you mess up, you just get destroyed and it can be demoralizing at times. It's difficult to try and find out new things in a match-up while balancing looking for those things, trying to stay safe, and still dealing with the player in front of you."

He wouldn't take a match against Westballz in that set. Instead, he retreated to the kitchen for a bottle of water, and went back upstairs to the practice room. His next set would be the last minute addition to the event, James "Duck" Ma.

"I played Justin 'Plup' McGrath for a little while before I played Duck, just to get used to the Samus match-up again," Bisno revealed. "Duck was really difficult, and one of the reasons for that is that his main practice partner, or someone he plays in tournament a lot, is Kalindi 'KJH' Henderson and he's similar to me. He's a very technical Fox, loves to rely on ledge-dashing a lot to get his openings, so I feel like a lot of my game was well scouted, or he was used to certain situations. I had to try and think of new stuff while I was playing him, and he was just a lot more prepared for it than I was."

" It's difficult to try and find out new things in a match-up while balancing looking for those things, trying to stay safe, and still dealing with the player in front of you."

It'd be another loss for him, but the lessons attained were far more important than the number of matches won or lost.

Sunday evening, shortly after Armada claimed victory, Team Secret's Smash acquisition left in the night, heading back to Washington so he could make his classes in the morning.

"I graduate the end of this upcoming fall," he added. "Geology and paleontology are my focus. I love science, I love working outside, field work--not just staying inside and working in an office. It's just really interesting to me. It has to do with the geologic time scale, and periods of time that were eons ago--it is all very interesting to see what kind of creatures lived back then, what the world looked like back then, and how much you can really infer from all the evidence that's around us today."

What's the future of Otto Bisno? He hopes he'll be on digs, in order to help define the past.

The future of Silent Wolf? He's looking to show that he is far from a fossil. He's still evolving from event to event. Eleven years strong--there's far more he wants to accomplish.

"It has been really easy to stay motivated for the most part, just because I've met all my best friends through the community, and they also are really into the game," Bisno concluded. "Basically, you're hanging out with your friends. What else are you going to do but play the game that you guys love, and being reminded of how you first met?"