No. 1 Cinderella Run of All-Time: Wobbles at Evo 2013, Pt. 1

In the final edition of the Top Cinderella Runs of All-Time, I reached out to Wobbles to write his account of the run for this website. The following is written by him, with accepted edits from me. This will be the first part of a two-part conclusion to my underdog run series.

It’s been a while since I sat down and reflected on Evo 2013.

I got second. That was pretty sick. I was in winner’s side of grand finals with all five gods present, had some awesome highlights and it was Melee’s return to Evo after six years of absence. All of that is crazy.

I also meant for it to be my last tournament. I just felt done with Smash going into it and wanted to move on. I hadn’t achieved everything I wanted in the game, but my obsessive drive was fading. I was 25, turning 26 a week after that tournament. I had never finished my bachelor’s degree, worked intermittent restaurant jobs and made money at locals. I had issues with depression, anxiety, focus, health – all of that. I felt my life was legitimately not going where I wanted it to go.

Melee has this way of eating your attention. When you start thinking about it, the giant puzzle of the whole game, you can get sucked in and forget about almost everything else. If you catch the Melee bug, it’s hard to balance it with the rest of your life. It becomes your life, for better and worse.

So, at the time, I picked Evo to be my last Smash tournament, and I went into it with one main resolution: have as much fun playing the game as the day I first picked up an N64 controller and played Super Smash Bros 64, more than 14 years before. I wanted to enjoy myself with all my heart, even if I went 0-2.

But I didn’t just want to mess around. I wanted to compete with all my heart too. I really wanted that tournament to encapsulate what I loved about Smash. It wasn’t only about the fun, the silliness or even the Nintendo characters that were part of games I played growing up. Smash was an embodiment of my competitive drive. When you and three friends play with items on and go to Hyrule or Pokéfloats, eventually you want to take it to Final Destination for a one-on-one to really settle that question: “who is the best?”

I didn’t have plans to win Evo, do well or make it out of pools. I wanted to put that out of my mind, as much as I could. I wanted to have just one tournament where I got to compete without obsessing over my results; to throw everything at it and celebrate the mixture of fun and competition – the fun that had me wanting to do better, the desire to do better that motivated me to practice and the practice that got me to compete.

Evo 2013 was going to be my celebration of that. A lot happened that weekend.

After my first three matches, my bracket run hit the big names that people recognize. It looked something like this: Wizzrobe, Eggz, Fiction, Lord, Shroomed, Mango, PPMD, HBox, Mango, Mango. So I’ll try to tackle that in order.

To try and keep that mindset, the whole “don’t worry about whether I win or lose” thing, I tried not to think about who I was going to play that weekend. If you’re going to win a tournament and you don’t want it to be about bracket luck, then you’ve got to have an attitude of “beat whoever comes my way.” So unless you plan to do research or get specific gameplans ready, stressing about upcoming opponents doesn’t help you much. I at least knew that I would possibly play Wizzrobe and Eggz, because people told me and asked me what I thought. My answer was “I tried not to think about it at all.”

Wizzrobe

Wizzy, at the time, was not the Falcon behemoth that you know and fear today, but he was on the list of up-and-comers really worth respecting. Falcon can be very rough for ICs, especially if he is methodical and hits hard – these are both traits that have come to define Wizzy’s play, so this could have been a serious roadblock for me.

I did not spend a lot of time dwelling on it though. I was lucky enough to live in Dallas at the time that Darkrain did, a few years before, so I had some serious high level Falcon practice; not only that, I had just faced Westballz and Mango at Kings of Cali 2, both playing Falcon. The Westballz set was a close 3-2, while Mango was a close 0-3 (check the videos! For real, they were close games, just not a close set). This gave me a broad range of recent Falcon styles to draw on.

As it turned out, Wizzy did not have much ICs experience. We talked a lot about the matchup afterwards and rewatching the video, I can tell that even though I played a bit clumsy, he was giving me lots of room and respect that let me work out the knots. He also wasn’t sure when and where to move in to close out stocks, especially against one IC, and that gave me room for extra credit when I only had one climber left. You can tell that games started close, but I crept ahead. Games centered around stray hits and pokes generally don’t favor the fast faller, since they’re the one more likely to die from random hits and bad DI. So I won 2-0 and moved on to Winners Finals of my pool to play Eggz.

Eggz

Despite everything I said earlier about not wanting to dwell on winning or losing at Evo, I am (and, as far as I can remember, always have been) hyper competitive. It is an endless struggle to keep that part of my mentality balanced when I play anything, even a game I’m touching for the first time. So as my blood got pumping and I hit winners finals of the pool, I started to worry. A fast and competent Fox can always give the ICs trouble, and Eggz was a long-time competitor.

Fortunately for me, Eggz was also not on point with his punishment game against ICs. He also chose to adopt a full-hop heavy style, which can be nightmarish for the ICs, but since game one was on Fountain of Dreams, that actually complicated things for him. Without securing Nana kills, shine spikes or giving me enough ground-based pressure, the basic risk-reward shifted heavily in my favor. There were points where I just full-hopped out of shield and it gave me free hits or escapes from pressure. Without a strong punish game from his end (too careful, too up and down) and me getting stray hits that turned into early kills, it was a double 3-stock. I advanced to day 2, ready to play Fiction.

Fiction

This was, in a couple respects, my worst match of the event.

First of all, Fiction very nearly sent me into loser’s bracket, in a game three, last stock scenario. Second, I got my angriest of the whole event in this match and broke my promise to myself. Third, that anger lingered going into my next match against Lord.

I started the set by chatting with him in a friendly enough way, because we both had been Wario players in Brawl (key difference: he actually succeeded). We joked a little about getting camped, and I initially felt calm. This was going to be a friendly tournament match! Very cool.

Things went downhill by the end of game one though. He was adopting a similar full hop method that Eggz did, but he was executing with more precise spacing. Moreover, he was capitalizing on the splits a lot better, shining Nana and (if memory serves) the game ended in my favor with a close one-stock. Then he said something about wobbling being stupid and lame, and I tilted.

This has always been a sticking point for me, even when I stopped wobbling as much later in my career. Wobbling is pretty stupid, game-design wise. It’s not fun for me to do, it’s not interesting for me to do. But competitors use the tools they are given, regardless of the character. Foxes shine spike you and chaingrab each other. Falcos laser camp you. Marths use their disjoint to avoid ever letting you get close, Jigglypuffs rest you and Peaches crouch-cancel and down-smash. It’s your job as a competitor to overcome the opponent’s strong tools by using your own.

When people complain selectively about something being lame, but have nothing to say about their own relentless use of their own strong tools? When the Fox player is camping the top platform, fishing for shine spikes and doing his absolute best to avoid ever letting me interact with him so he can never lose? That’s fine! He’s trying to win! Characters, strong tools, patience, competition, victory, etc. When he complains that I don’t let him go when I finally catch him?

That enrages me.

So I went into game two on absolute tilt and he three stocked me very quickly. This is where I feel like I really let myself down.

I jumped immediately into game three without taking time to calm down or think about what happened. I can’t remember any details about game three, except that I won on the last stock because he missed an out of shield action and I grabbed him. He complained, I called him a name or something and I moved along feeling insanely disappointed in myself.

Lord

This feeling carried over into my match with Lord. He had very limited ICs experience, but he played a solid neutral and hit hard. He was one of California’s hidden bosses and the fact that he’d made it this far meant it wasn’t just hype. He was also super nice, which makes me feel even crummier that I couldn’t find it in me to enjoy the match.

Game 1, he gets the first stock, but then I wobble him four times. It’s a very silly game to watch. The second game is significantly more competitive and rewatching it, I have thoughts very similar to what I thought during the match. “Man, Lord is smart and adapting. He’s mixing up his offense and defense well, so that he doesn’t lose openings from camping too hard, but he doesn’t just attack predictably.” Then I notice my Sopo KO second stock, giving me a lead, and think “dang, precise spacing on the dash-dance grab, tech-read, AND an up+b call-out? Nice.”

He falls into a blizzard-grab and a zero percent wobble after that. Sucks, but his fault for doing a hail-mary knee into a desync. I’m up two stocks to one, I get a lead, he drags it back, and so far this is a really competitive match. Then I flub an edgeguard, he hits me off the level, and I SD, going for a belay cancel and accidentally throwing an ice-block. In that moment, I was transcendentally salty. I started thinking “man, he’s gonna win now and I deserve to lose.”

And again, that is the sort of thing I did not want to define my Evo experience. Though in retrospect, I’ve figured out exactly why it hit me so hard.

I try to enter tournaments mentally prepared to go 0-2. I try to go in mentally prepared to get four stocked. Something that I don’t prepare myself for, however, is coming close to victory and screwing up. I don’t think about what it will feel like to screw up at the clutch moment, what it will feel like to almost have what I want and lose it. When I talk to myself about being prepared for the worst? Just doing bad isn’t the worst. If I’d gone 0-2, I could say I was messing around or wasn’t feeling well.

But losing like that? In that moment, with everything going your way, you expect things to keep going your way. The sudden reversal hurts more than having a negative expectation confirmed. You aren’t prepared, and who are you going to blame? You were right there, at the finish line, and for some reason, you couldn’t cross it.

Rewatching the face-cam though, I can’t really see the disappointment. I look mildly annoyed, at worst. I might not get less salty or angry as time goes on, but I definitely manage it better. On average, anyhow.

You can tell by my play in game three though! I miss multiple opportunities to close out a stock and he ends up getting the first one. Then, I just wait on that respawn platform for the entire duration. I can’t remember what I was thinking, but I remember feeling drained. After I land, I move around like a sad spaghetti noodle for a second or two… and then something happens.

I start playing sharp. Not perfect, but rewatching, I’m actually impressed with myself. I don’t do things I expect myself to do. I do better stuff, safer stuff. Less panic, less rushing and my next two stocks have pretty cool finishes, if we’re being honest. Next one is another blizzard-grab into wobble, and I’m up three stocks to one. He takes the next stock, but you can see me digging for that SoPo kill, dragging every interaction out, forcing him to burn more and more mental energy just to eliminate my single climber. That still won’t make the match even. Then, instead of doing something impulsive on the final edgeguard, I just calmly wait, stand, wavedash, grab, wobble.

I’m pretty embarrassed by how I handled my own emotions in the Fiction match, but looking back, I am proud of the end of the Lord set. I remember feeling the wind sucked out of me by my SD at the end of game 2, but also how I unexpectedly managed to dig in and keep up my play. You can also hear me say “you are very smart” to him, because I wanted to compliment his general mixups, his adaptations and still feel positive.

After the fact though, I felt kind of empty. I went and sat and tried to get my head together. I knew I was most likely going to play Shroomed. We had played at KOC2 a few months before; the first set went 3-1 his favor, then I won the runback in loser’s bracket 3-1. He also 2-0’ed me at Genesis 2.

Shroomed

While I was sitting down, trying to find some focus and energy, one of my fellow AZ players came over and tried to cheer me up. It wasn’t really working at first because I was too stuck in my own head, but then I realized I was rejecting the attempt of somebody to make me feel better – all while I was trying to feel better. I was surrounded by friends! I was playing my favorite video game. I had made it far in this massive tournament. Everything was fine. Why was I mad?

My thoughts cleared up. I got up. I walked around, talked to friends, warmed up, and played. And truthfully, I can’t remember much about my match with Shroomed. I just tried to focus and enjoy myself. Rewatching, I got a lot of very cheeky grabs. He got the lead, I wasn’t quite punishing his downsmash out of shield as well as I should have, but I’m mostly just glad that I didn’t seem to let it bother me the way it had at G2. I made up for it with some cheeky grabs and that seemed to be enough.

Winning that match put me into a top 8 winner’s qualifier against Mango – or, put another way, I had just cemented my spot in Melee’s top 10.

Thank you to Wobbles for contributing and accepting edits. The second part will be coming soon.

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