Crew battles have settled regional rivalries throughout Super Smash Bros. Melee's history, and this weekend the northern California scene is looking to restore its good name. Michigan Smash major The Big House 6 on Oct. 7-9 will run its second annual regional crew battle tournament, featuring eight crews from the US as well as Canada and Europe.
A crew battle is a competition between two teams of five players each where players take turns playing one vs. one matches. The winner of a match carries over his remaining stocks, or lives, to play the next person on the other crew. The process is repeated until a team runs out of players. The team with players remaining is deemed the winner.
In recent years, NorCal has established itself as one of the strongest regions in the world, featuring players such as DaJuan "Shroomed" McDaniel and Zachary "SFAT" Cordoni along with a slew of players that routinely finish in the final brackets of majors. Despite their talent, they failed to live up to high expectations at last year's crew exhibitions by losing in the first round to Canada's crew.
Team NorCal started strong, gaining a three stock lead as Roustane "Kage" Benzeguir was the only player left for Canada. Kage needed to take a total of seven stocks, including four of Shroomed's stocks, to advance into the next round. The circumstances looked grim, but Kage stepped up to the challenge as he defeated Kyle "dizzkidboogie" Athayde's Ice Climbers and then proceeded to dismantle Shroomed in embarrassing fashion to steal the victory. Cheers roared as a fan proudly waved a Canadian flag in the crowd and NorCal drifted away with their heads down.
A Year of Redemption
A year later, NorCal seeks redemption after that disappointing first-round exit. Fortunately, they come with a much stronger five-man lineup as Kevin "PewPewU" Toy and Michael "Nintendude" Brancato join the likes of dizzkidboogie, Shroomed, and SFAT. Although NorCal had a large pool of players to choose from, they included two Ice Climbers players to take advantage of the "no stage bans" rule, giving them a strong counter-pick on Final Destination. Not everyone agrees with their lineup decision, but, as SFAT explained, "I feel that our core four players, PewPewU, Nintendude, Shroomed, and myself, are the strongest and Kyle has improved so much over the past year and has proven himself with his crew battle performances at Shine 2016."
More importantly, SFAT felt that PewPewU was the missing ingredient from last year's crew. SFAT remarked, "Unfortunately, PewPewU couldn't make it last year to The Big House 5, but he's our glue guy and makes sure that we are mentally positive. When I play with him in doubles, he's always the player that keeps our heads in the game. We didn't have the right mindset for last year's crews and I felt that was a big reason why we lost."
With a lineup that has four top-20 level players, team NorCal comes in very confident. Crews such as SoCal, Florida, and Europe also come in with stacked five-man lineups which would give any competition some pause for thought. SFAT gave his assessment: "I believe that Europe looks a little weak and I'm most scared of Florida, but we have the pieces to beat any team as long as we make the right decisions in our-counter picks."
It will be a tall order for NorCal to defeat Florida, which has Evolution Championship Series 2016 champion Juan "Hungrybox" Debiedma, fellow Melee "god" Jason "Mew2King" Zimmerman and Justin "Plup" McGrath. SoCal is also fearsome, with "god" Joseph "Mango" Marquez along with an all-star lineup of top-20 players. Europe offers its finest in "god" Adam "Armada" Lindgren and potentially William "Leffen" Hjelte. Regardless, NorCal's positive mindset is arguably the most important trait to have for crews as players need to adapt quickly while not succumbing to the pressure of the roaring crowds and cross-regional trash talk.
Despite the competition, Shroomed believes that his region will come through. He quipped, "We can win, one hundred percent, as long as SFAT and I do our parts against the other gods when we face them. We all have to pull our weight, but we can do it."