An Analysis of Why Churnwalker is the Coolest Hero in any MOBA Ever

Hi there Vainglory people! You may remember me from an article last week praising the Vainglory new player experience as compared to Heroes of the Storm. I’m very new to the game, but I’ve been playing and analyzing MOBAs since the early days of League of Legends. Ordinarily, most of my content focuses on esports, as the name might suggest. However, today I just wanted to share a bit about why I’m having so much fun just experiencing Vainglory as a player. The answer begins and ends with Churnwalker.


First of all, look at this guy! He looks so cool. His design perfectly matches his kit and playstyle. In game, he has a deep menacing voice and a hunched, lurching walk. This is something dangerous. You don’t want to mess with him.


His hooks drag behind him, a constant reminder of what could happen to you at any moment. Everything about the character embodies what he wants to do in game–catch people and destroy them.

The Perfect Hook Kit

Every MOBA has a hook character. You throw the hook, it pulls one enemy into your team, and you all burst them down. Miss the hook, and your character is effectively worthless. However, no hook character has ever fully committed to that last bit quite like Churnwalker. His second ability and ultimate cannot be activated at all unless you have a hooked target. If you miss the hook, Churnwalker is literally worthless. He has no secondary crowd control, no wave clear whatsoever. It’s land the hook, or stand there like a big dumb idiot.

If his hook functioned like every other hook in every other MOBA, this would be horrible design. However, Churnwalker takes that potential downside and turns it into rewarding gameplay. Landing a hook leaves it stuck in the enemy dealing damage over time. As a lane supporter, this creates a really interesting and threatening playstyle. once you land the hook, you just need to lurk menacingly near your opponent and you create constant value. Then at any moment you can pull them in, stun them, and do the whole team blowup thing.

This would be cool if it was all Churnwalker did, but his hook goes even a step further. When you land a hook, the cooldown is immediately refreshed. You have no limit on the number of targets you can hook. This encourages you to get deep into the enemy team and land a hook on every single one of them. Landing a hook is one of the most satisfying things in any MOBA, and Churnwalker tells you “dude, that was super fun, want to do it again right now?!” I’ve never played a character that rewards skillshot accuracy to this degree. Miss and you get to stand there slapping uselessly at your foe. Hit the hook, and suddenly you can become the biggest threat on the battlefield. Everyone is taking periodic damage, his trait is spreading that damage around, everyone gets pulled into a clump for easy burst damage, and then just as they try to escape they all get stunned. His kit rewards a much more active playstyle. It isn’t just about lurking in a bush hoping to land the hook to get a pick. You absolutely have that ability, but in a teamfight you offer so much more.


There’s a lot to like about Vainglory, but Churnwalker’s design convinced by that a MOBA on mobile can create unique, compelling characters with rewarding gameplay, and offer a completely new experience.


Smash 4 Stockholm Syndrome

As it always does any time Bayonetta performs well in a tournament, the Smash 4 community has been set ablaze with discussions of banning, the death of the game, and so on. These discussions range from reasoned discussions all the way to wacky conspiracy theories. While hypotheticals, tips on sdi, and ban discussions are fun on Twitter, I’ve grown a bit tired of seeing the same discussions swirl around with zero resolution, so I wanted to take a different approach.


See, part of the issue with these discussions is that we waste so much time debating aspects of the “Bayonetta problem” that are irrelevant due to several irrevocable truths. I want to approach each truth in turn, and then discuss a solution that I see too few people exploring.

Truth 1: There will never be a Smash 4 patch

This is the easiest truth for most people to accept, but I still see a few pointless comments about Nintendo needing to balance the game. The Wii U has been abandoned, and rightfully so–there’s a new console out there. No one at Nintendo cares about the balance of a game on a previous generation console. They will not release a patch for Smash 4 under any circumstance. It would be a complete waste of developer time and resources

Truth 2: There are Viewers who Like Bayonetta

One of the biggest arguments we see in favor of banning the character is how she affects viewership. However, I think it’s important to acknowledge that there are actually people who enjoy watching Bayonetta. She intrigues people outside of Smash 4, especially in the wider FGC. Go back and read any social media reaction during the Smash 4 finals at Evo in 2017. Prominent FGC figures were popping off at the combos, the sudden kills, and the movement of the game’s flashiest character. There may be a vocal portion of the entrenched community who dislike watching Bayonetta, but we have absolutely no true data to suggest that attendance or viewership will radically suffer as a result of more consistent Bayonetta appearance in Top 8.

People citing the drop after Fatality lost need to stop. People tune in specifically for stuff like Captain Falcon. There will always be more viewer interest when a mid- or low-tier hero makes a run, especially one as fun to watch as Falcon. If you want to make this argument, you need to chart at least 6 months of viewership data across multiple tournaments and compare all factors, not just “was there a Bayo”.

Truth 3: Bayonetta is Difficult to Play at Top Level

The top 20 players on the PGR are REALLY good at Smash 4. To suggest that any player who consistently performs well purely because they play Bayonetta is lazy, ignorant, and rude to not only the Bayos, but the players who have worked hard to learn the matchup. There’s absolutely no denying that Bayonetta is strong, probably the best character in the game by a meaningful margin. That fact does not invalidate the amount of practice, commitment, knowledge, and skill required to actually make top 8 at an A- or S-tier event. Playing the character may give a player a small boost and get them further than they would get with a lower tier character, but that is true in literally every fighting game. Top tiers will always be a thing, if you can’t accept that you’re in the wrong genre. Disparaging a player for picking a strong character only shows your own ignorance of how fighting games, and the esports industry as a whole, function.

Truth 4: Bayonetta Will NEVER Get Banned

This is the most pointless argument in the entire smash community. It’s too late to ban the character. There are too many organizations that are too prominent in the Smash 4 TO space, many of whom have deep pockets and little interest in catering to the whims of the community. Evo would never ban the character, Dreamhack won’t ban her, CEO likely wouldn’t ban her–it isn’t going to happen. Having separate rulesets for different tournaments would segment the Smash 4 community even further. It would cripple the effectiveness and influence of the PGR, confuse newcomers to the scene, and ultimately be worse for the game than players who dislike her simply losing interest in following the scene. If you want Smash 4 to succeed and grow, banning a prominent character is the last thing you actually want.

Truth 5: Smash 4 isn’t Going Anywhere

There is no new Smash game on the horizon. If a new game gets announced at this year’s E3, we still won’t see the release of the game until at LEAST the end of 2019. For over 12 months minimum, this is the game you’ve got. There will be no bans, no patches, no fixes to stages, no new DLC characters, no changes to the game. You’re playing Melee now–your choices are to mod the game yourself, or play it as is.

Arguing any of these truths just doesn’t matter. This is the game as the developers chose to make it, and they’ve moved on to new things. As Smashers, we’ve always had to make up our own rules since we chose to play games that were never intended for competitive esports. However, we can only do so much without actually changing the code of the game. We already tried that with Project M, and we know how that goes. There won’t be a widely accepted, tournament standard Project 4–what you see now is what you’ve got.

Your problem is very similar to what the competitive Hearthstone community has faced for years. You adore competing in a very specific type of game, and you’ve sunk money and time into mastering the game, growing within its community, and establishing your knowledge of the competitive scene and the game itself. Just like every Hearthstone player, you’ve ultimately got two choices–accept it or leave.

Hearthstone players have accepted that the game will always have wacky RNG effects that can change the outcome of a million-dollar tournament. Those that couldn’t deal with that fact have moved on to other card games. The ones that stayed have altered their expectations, and learned how to find a fun competitive experience within the game the devs made, rather than the ideal game they’d prefer. That’s where you’re at with Smash 4 now. The game isn’t going to change. Bayonetta is going to be in every top 8 for the next 12-18 months, maybe even the next several years if Nintendo somehow doesn’t have a new Smash in the pipeline for the Switch yet (unlikely, but not impossible).

See, in other games, you only have to deal with a meta for so long. Patches come, new characters are released, bugs are fixed. That isn’t going to happen for Smash 4. So, your complaining is never going to change anything. As a result, you have to look deep inside yourself and decide–do I want to play and watch a game where Bayonetta is the best character, and multiple Bayos consistently make top 8? If the answer is no, then you’re going to have to find a new game. The Smash community is wonderfully welcoming, no one wants you to leave, and I know many of you don’t want to leave either. For so many Smashers this game and this franchise are a core piece of your identity. It sucks that the game has changed in a way you don’t like. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of the world we live in. Adapt, change your expectations, or find a different game to play.

This is a point I almost never see brought up, I think in large part due to just how fundamentally entrenched most Smashers are in their scene. I watched the same thing happen with so many Hearthstone players. They hated the game and longed for another more competitive and balanced experience, but never even considered quitting to play Magic or Eternal. There are no other games like Smash 4, sure, but the platform fighter genre is growing every day. Go try out Rivals and Brawlhalla, check out some more traditional fighting games, step away from the genre completely for a few months and allow your emotions to recover, then approach the situation with fresh eyes. You are not trapped by Smash 4. No one is keeping you here. You’re free to leave at any time. If you aren’t having fun, or you don’t want to learn to deal with Bayonetta, there are a hundred other great games out there where she doesn’t exist.

At this point, if you stay in Smash 4 and still complain about Bayo, you only have yourself to blame for your misery. If you can’t leave for whatever reason, you’re going to have to find a way to enjoy a game where she’s the best character. Armada had to make a similar choice earlier this year. Hungrybox finally surpassed him as the best player in Melee, and he had to realize finally that Puff was always going to be a part of his tournament life. If he wanted to have fun playing Melee tournaments, he’d have to find a way to have fun playing against Puff. Be like Armada and find the fun in your game. Or don’t, and find a new game to play. Either way, whining about Bayo only hurts your community, so you need to move past it one way or the other.


Whatever your decision, it’s entirely yours and deserves respect. Stay with Smash 4 and embrace your new witch overlord, or move on. Instead of arguing about Bayonetta or complaining about her, discuss how to embrace what Smash 4 has become, or talk with your friends about taking a break and playing a new game. Any other decision will just keep you trapped in a cycle of negativity, which seems real pointless when the whole point of video games is to have fun!

New Rivals of Aether Organization Brings a Touch of Class to Esports

At Genesis 5, six of Rivals of Aether’s greatest players took to the Sunday stage to fight for the title of RCS champion. among those players we saw the familiar jerseys of organizations like Panda Global and T2 Esports. However, two players in the Sunday finals were wearing the jerseys of a brand new organization, Tuxedo Esports. With 4th- and 5th-place finishes at the most prestigious RoA tournament in history, Tuxedo has already established itself as a powerful brand in the competitive Rivals scene. I caught up with player and co-owner Billy “LBO” Dunmire to discuss the origin of his new organization as well as their plans for the future.


Live It, Breathe It, and Now Own It

For those familiar with competitive Rivals, LBO is a familiar name. The Zetterburn master has been taking names and producing strong results since the early days of the game’s esports scene. However, LBO never intended to be a top competitor when he picked up Rivals of Aether for the first time.

Having played Starcraft 2 and League of Legends at a high level, he had proven to himself he could be a strong competitor, and had even run Starcraft tournaments. Searching for a break from the competitive grind, he picked up Rivals of Aether. “I started playing Rivals to stay more casual and not get invested.”

While LBO’s plan to stay casual may have failed completely, his competitive career has seen nothing but success. He was quickly picked up by Burrito Esports, and made a splash at several high profile tournaments in 2017. This was where the idea to form his own organization began.

“When sponsors started entering Rivals, our crew and others got people picked up by sponsors so we got a firsthand glimpse of the business side of everything. Over time we found ourselves saying, ‘we could do this and more.’ Eventually we just had to take the leap.”

Suit and Tie

LBO explained that the name of his new organization started with his co-owner, Ryan “Cupz” Belcher. “Cupz is a big fan of penguins. We explored that route of naming but we aren’t a hockey team so it didn’t fit. We wanted to stand out from the crowd and not go for some intimidating scary name meant to sound tough. So I took the penguin idea and went with Tuxedo instead. It’s classy, but our mascot could still be an awesome penguin.”

Whenever a new game begins to develop a competitive scene, new organizations will inevitably sprout up. However, there are two critical factors that set Tuxedo Esports apart from the crowd. First, both LBO and the team’s first signed player, Dolphinbrick, are elite competitors within the scene. This allows the brand to launch with immediate credibility within the Rivals community. However, what’s truly encouraging about Tuxedo is that fact that the organization launched with multiple sponsors.

Brand deals and sponsorship are critical to the sustainability of an esports organization. LBO has already secured partnerships with, a gaming and popculture news and review platform, as well as Iello Games, a titan in the board game industry best known for King of Tokyo, winner of a myriad of industry awards. LBO explained that his preexisting relationship with both companies helped convince them to get on board with Tuxedo Esports. “I write for N3rdabl3 and already have a running relationship with those guys so it’s an easier sell when they already know you’re competent in what you do,” he said. “I also do contracting work for Iello and regularly spend time with the higher ups there as well.”

This networking and salesmanship, combined with the team’s already-impressive competitive resume should have Rivals fans excited about the future and security of the organization. The competitive excellence combined with business savvy closely mirror the origin of one of the biggest names in all of esports, Team Solomid.

Looking to the Future

Despite his new business endeavors, LBO has no plan to stop competing any time soon. “I figure it’s no different than working in your own store,” he explained. “You cut down labor costs and get to handle the business from both ends.”

In between tournaments, LBO and Cupz are hard at work preparing to expand their brand into other games. While the team obviously wants to recruit top talent, they have a much clearer vision for what they want in a Tuxedo Esports player. “Our main priority is to pick up players that are grinders before getting sponsored,” said LBO.” DolphinBrick has been a top player and a super hard worker before ever getting sponsored. Shizblacka, our streamer, was scouted for a month before we decided to go with him. He streams constantly and he did so without a sponsor.”

He went on to explain that above all else, the team is looking for players who display a strong work ethic. They are open to signing teams and players from any game, so long as they can meet those strict requirements.

For more on Tuxedo Esports, be sure to follow them on Twitter. You can also follow LBO directly. My thanks to LBO and the entire Tuxedo Esports crew for the opportunity to learn more about their organization. Having interviewed countless owners of esports orgs, I can confidently say that Tuxedo has all the prerequisites to be a powerful force in the industry.


For more Rivals content, check out the Genesis 5 preview series I did over on the Rivals website (featuring LBO and Dolphinbrick), or check out the Ranno fanfiction I wrote last year.

2017 HGC All Pro Awards

2017 was a remarkable year for the HGC. We saw brand new teams like Roll20, Team Freedom, Expert, and Beyond the Game rise up to challenge the established elite in their region. Europe shocked the world at the Midseason Brawl, and Korea retaliated by once again claiming the World Championship at Blizzcon. With the 2018 HGC less than a week away, it’s time for one final look back at the 2017 season.


Today, I’m proud to announce the winners of the 2017 Community All Pro awards. The All Pro award is an extremely prestigious award in traditional sports, recognizing the very best player at each position–the elite among the elite. In an ideal world, this would be an award distributed by blizzard, voted on by every player in each league. However, since that doesn’t appear to be a thing, I took it upon myself to do a community version, so that players in each region could receive some level of recognition for their incredible skill. These players showed that not only could they succeed as members of a strong team, but that their individual skill surpassed every other player at their position.


Before we unveil the All Pro teams, let’s meet voting panel:


CavalierGuest–Head Coach of Gale Force Esports (voting on NA, EU, KR, CN)

Moonprayer–Esports Writer for (voting on NA, EU, KR)

Bahgz–Co-host of Trollin HGC (voting on NA, EU, KR)

Khroen–Pro Player for HeroesHearth Esports (voting on NA)

DBSmiley–Staff Writer for HeroesHearth, and all-around smart human (voting on NA)

GranPKT–Pro Player for Tricked esport (voting on EU)

Casanova–Pro Player for SpaceStation Gaming (voting on NA)

LiqiudGG–Host of Trollin HGC and The Nexus Trolls (voting on NA, EU, KR)


My thanks to everyone for their time and their votes. One final note–the pro players were not allowed to vote for themselves. With all of that out of the way, here are your 2017 All Pro teams.



Tank: Tsst

Honorable Mentions: The votes were fairly split between Noblesse and Tsst, but MVP Black’s frontliner tipped the scales by one vote.

Support: KyoCha

Honorable Mentions: merryday received several votes as well, but Kyocha ultimately edged out the nomination.

Offlane: Rich

Honorable Mentions: None.

Primary Ranged: Reset

Honorable Mentions: sCsC received one vote, but Reset was the overwhelming winner of the award.

Flex: Jeongha

Honorable Mentions: The votes were fairly split between KyoCha, Sake, and Jeongha, but ultimately the latter took the win.

MVP: Noblesse

While Tsst received more votes in the Tank role, Noblesse was the overwhelming favorite as the Most Valuable Player not only for his talents in game, but also his stellar transition to the coaching role.



Note: I reached out to every community influencer I could think of who follow the scene in China. Only CavalierGuest was willing to provide his insights on the region. So, the following are his votes. 

Tank: Misaka

Support: Alooffool

Offlane: Wind

Primary Ranged: qianxiao

Flex: MelodyC

MVP: 619



Tank: Breez 

Honorable Mentions: None.

Support: SmX 

Honorable Mentions: Bakery received a single vote, but SmX was the overwhelming winner of this award.

Offlane: Wubby 

Honorable Mentions: None.

Primary Ranged: POILK

Honorable Mentions: It should be noted that most of these votes were collected before Gold Club, so POILK was still able to win the vast majority of votes while still a member of Zealots. Snitch and NiC received a single vote each, but every other vote went to POILK.

Flex: adrd

Honorable Mentions: Snitch and Schwimpi each received a nod, but it was the adrd’s drafting skills combined with his hero pool that gave him the majority win.

MVP: Inconclusive

Every voter had a different nomination for EU’s Most Valuable Player. So, congratulations to:

Quackniix, Zaelia, Wubby, Schwimpi, and adrd.


North America

Tank: Justing

Honorable Mentions: There was a single vote for Fury, but every other vote went to Justing.

Support: Jun

Honorable Mentions: Two votes were given to each of Buds and Killuzion, with the remaining majority going to Tempo Storms longtime support.

Offlane: Goku

Honorable Mentions: None.

Primary Ranged: Daneski

Honorable Mentions: Votes were spread across the board in this category, going to Prismaticism, Fan, Kure, and Khroen. However, the tie was ultimately broken in Daneski’s favor. Again, most of these votes were collected before Daneski’s debut with Roll20 at GCWC.

Flex: Psalm

Honorable Mentions: Cattlepillar, Glaurung, Nazmas, and CauthonLuck all received a single nomination, but the name that emerged multiple times belonged to the passionate Kerrigan play of Psalm.

MVP: Goku

Kure, Glaurung, and Justing were all mentioned by the voters, but the Most Valuable Player in North America was overwhelmingly Goku.


Congratulations to all of our 2017 All Pro teams. I’m hoping to do this again with a larger voting panel at the end of Phase 1, so if you’re a pro player or content creator, be on the lookout for a message for me towards the end of the split! Look for all of these players to make their 2018 debut as the HGC kicks off this weekend!

More than a Masher #2: Playing Actual Humans

Welcome to the second edition of More than a Masher: my journey from total FGC noob to competent tournament player. If you missed the first issue, be sure to check it out before continuing the adventure!

This week saw a ton of progress, and I was finally able to measure myself against other players! Let’s get into it.

More Time on the Stick

So, as I mentioned last week, I got my first-ever fight stick, and I’ve been playing through the Skullgirls tutorial to learn some basic fighting game concepts, and get my hands used to the mechanics of using the stick. After a week of practice, I’ve become much more consistent with my basic combos in training mode. Then, something interesting started to happen.

skullgirls training

I specifically have avoided looking up the most optimal combos online. Once DBFZ is out, I’ll likely spend very little time in Skullgirls and so I’m not concerned too much with optimizing my Filia to take on the ranked Skullgirls ladder. I figured it would be better to just focus on getting the basics as mastered as I possibly could, since I’m entering the entirety of fighting games from the most beginner level. I’ve got a basic ground-to-air combo that cancels into a super, and a simple crouching poke combo to use in neutral. My thought was to get both of these to the place where they always came out when I wanted them to in any situation. However, as i would sit there practicing the combo again and again, a little voice started whispering: “I wonder if I can squeeze another hit in before the super.”

Instantly, I would start experimenting with different buttons, seeing which would combo, seeing if I could cancel into the super a bit later in a multi-hit move. I ended up adding like 3 hits to the string, and let out an involuntary “that was awesome!!” the first time I executed my new combo. This is especially interesting because I’m not an explorer in video games. When I played League of Legends, I didn’t want to make up my own builds, I just went online and found the best build to copy. I’m sure eventually when I’m playing DBFZ I’ll eventually want to look at optimized damage, but I’m genuinely surprised by how much fun it is to just experiment in training mode.

Here Comes a New Challenger!

My hope with this series is to get it up on the weekend, or at the latest on Monday of each week. However, this week I knew I wanted to make sure I included a few of my first experiences playing online against actual humans. Up until now I’d only been doing the tutorial, having fun in training mode, and occasionally playing arcade mode just for fun. I knew I needed to actually play against some real humans to see how my training would hold up in real combat.


So, I reached out to my buddy Windows, who is a top level Rivals of Aether player. He hasn’t won any Skullgirls tournaments or anything, but he knows the game well and has the mechanics of a pro level fighting game player. As I expected, most of our games were a complete stomp in his favor. We played about 20 games, and I think in total I took about 5 rounds. I discovered two things during the first 10 or so games as I was getting absolutely obliterated:

  1. My neutral game was awful. The buttons I was using in Arcade Mode, it turned out, were easily punishable by a competent player who knew what I wanted to do. I felt like I was actually blocking pretty well, but whenever I threw out a move in neutral I immediately got blown up.
  2. Pushblocking is incredibly important. He played Fukua, who has a combo she could use while I was blocking that ended in an armored command grab. There was no way to block and punish the string. This being my first live match, however, I completely forgot that pushblock was even a mechanic in the video game. Over and over I would just eat this combo and either attack into the armored grab, or just sit there and eat the throw. I think by the end of the session I had calmed down enough to think about pushblocking, and even successfully did it once or twice.

I also learned that, while my combos were not optimal, I could execute them about 70% of the time during a live match. Before I spend a ton of time adding to the combo, I want that number to be as close to 100% as possible. I have watched enough high level FGC to know that everyone drops a combo from time to time, but right now I feel like I will learn more by having reliable combos and playing live matches than i will from spending all of my time in training mode learning combos I can’t actually use against a real human.

To contrast my experience playing Windows, I managed to get a session in with my good friend LiqiudGG, who is a content creator in the Heroes of the Storm scene. He’s an old school fighting game player, but hasn’t really spent any time playing Skullgirls, so his specific mechanics and combos were nowhere near Windows’ level. Again we played about 20 games, and this time I won every single game. To me, this said that my time learning the game is actually translating to some actual skill. During this session, I was also able to actually pushblock whenever I wanted to.

My last takeaway from both of these sessions is how incredibly fun both sessions were. Windows obliterated me in nearly every game, but each time I managed to land a solid combo, or actually take a round, it was exhilarating. By contrast, my games against Liqiud were fairly stompy in my favor, but I still really enjoyed being able to execute combos and dictate the pace of the match. At the end of both sessions I just wanted to play more. As it turns out, not only are fighting games really cool to watch at high level, they’re also super fun to play!

Thanks for reading this week’s installment of More than a Masher. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to play the DBFZ beta, so we’ll have to wait for launch before this series has any actual FighterZ content to it. However, I hope you’re enjoying the journey as we lead up to release day. This week I’ll be looking for more online Skullgirls matches and I’m going to start learning a new character. To follow along with that process, or to play some games, be sure to follow me on Twitter. See you next week!

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More Than a Masher #1: The Journey Begins

DBFZ Pro Circuit Idea: Quest for the Dragon’s Wish

More Than a Masher #1: The Journey Begins

Welcome to a brand new series that I am insanely excited about. Each week I’ll be chronicling my journey through Dragonball Fighterz going from total FGC noob to tournament competitor.

For those that don’t know me, let’s get some quick background. I have been a professional writer in esports for about 7 years now. Most of that time has been spent working in MOBAs like League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm. In 2016 I started to follow Super Smash Bros (Melee and Smash 4) and watched the Street Fighter finals for Evo that year. I instantly fell in love with fighting games and have absorbed every bit of content I could over the last 18 months. When DBFZ was announced, I knew it was my chance to break into the FGC as a content creator.


Aw yea, ready to get stomped on by so many stronger people!!!

The only problem was, I’d never touched a fighting game before. Sure, I owned Marvel 2 on console and mashed some buttons with buddies, but I was never an arcade kid, and knew nothing about the tournament scene. My college time was devoted to World of Warcraft, and after that came League of Legends. If I were to start covering Fighterz, I knew I would eventually need to attend tournaments, or play with people online. The moment I sat down, I would be exposed as a total fraud, and lose any credibility as a writer in the scene.

So, I resolved two things. First, that I would be open from the start with the community. I know esports, and I love fighting games, but I am still learning the history and lore of your incredible community. Second, that I would commit myself to becoming a competent player, and share that journey with you. I’ve set myself a goal to attend CEO in 2019 and make it to top 32 get out of pools (changed back to my original goal based on some helpful feedback). Hopefully I’ll feel confident enough later this year to attend a few events, but I have no idea where to set my expectations yet. It will all be part of the adventure!

With introductions out of the way, let’s get into the first week of my training–how to prepare without the game!

Get a Stick

Starting this process, I knew the first thing I’d need to do was invest in a good fightstick. I play on PC and have an Xbox controller, but after trying out Skullgirls and Street Fighter 4, I figured out three problems very quickly:

  1. My Smash Bros. instincts kept taking over when I was under pressure. I wanted to use the triggers to grab and shield. It was incredibly difficult to get my brain to use them for hard punch and hard kick, let alone EX moves.
  2. I couldn’t crouch block. Having a fully circular pad for the joystick, it was really hard to get my hand to naturally find the right spot where normal crouch became crouch block.
  3. I literally could not shoryuken. It didn’t matter how  much I practiced the motion, I would get a fireball or absolutely nothing almost every time.

Now, both of these are obstacles that could be overcome with practice. However, I’m already so far behind, and felt that a fightstick would solve both issues, instantly pushing me ahead days, if not weeks, in my muscle memory training.

So, I used some cash from Christmas to get myself a Qanba Q1. Y’all, I love this thing so much, I don’t even know how to describe it. First off, look at the thing–it’s gorgeous!


My precious….

It instantly felt more natural. Within 5 minutes of opening the box my wife had the thing cracked open and we were figuring out how to replace the square guard with the hex that came with it. Now with 8 clear directions, my hand can find crouch block with little trouble. After two tries I could also do the shoryuken motion successsfully and consistently. Executing combos felt so natural, the buttons felt good to press, I’m having more fun just practicing combos in training mode than I have with any game in the last five years. Now that I had the right equipment, it was time to learn how the heck you play a fighting game.

The Skullgirls Tutorial

After seeking some advice on Twitter, I was informed that the best instruction available was through the tutorial in Skullgirls. So far, I have zero complaints. Everything was easy to follow for a beginner. It teaches you the very basics from block mixups to throw techs. I got stuck for about a full day on the throw tech lesson–for some reason I just could not get the timing down.

skullgirls tutorial

I enjoy practicing with Filia. She’s much less….distracting than most of the cast.

That tutorial ended up being a bit too overwhelming to pass, but I had already decided I was not going to skip any lessons. Instead, I took myself over to training mode. I had watched a lot of videos from the Super Couch Fighters where they used training mode to have the CPU repeat recorded actions. This seemed like the best way to practice timing my tech.

It took some doing (the recording system wasn’t super clear about when I was recording the CPU’s inputs or not so I had lots of dead time) but I finally got a solid series of throw mixups input that I could train with. After about 30 minutes of repeatedly practicing my techs, I started to figure out the timing. Then it was back to tutorial to pass the lesson.

At this point, I’m most of the way through the tutorial. Rather than try to burn through it all quickly, I’ve been splitting my training time between three things:

  1. The tutorial itself
  2. Practicing combos in training mode to get used to the mechanics
  3. Fighting CPU opponents to get used to blocking.

At this point I can pretty consistently beat the CPU on Normal difficulty. I’ve been maining Filia as she feels pretty straightforward and her combos into supers are pretty easy to execute. The only character I can’t beat reliably so far is Peacock. I have not yet figured out an answer to that darn airplane/car combo. She puts too much stuff on the screen. I’ve put her to the side for now, and I’m focusing mostly on confirming the combos I feel confident with.


Behold the true face of evil

The biggest problem I’ve seen so far with my training method is that I get so comfortable doing the same full combo over and over again that I end up doing a super even if I drop the combo somewhere in the middle, wasting a bar and getting blown up. Hopefully splitting my time between training mode and CPU fights will even out mastering the mechanics with judging when to complete the full combo.

The last thing I’m focusing on right now is a strange habit I’ve discovered when doing combos that involve a command input. Most of the time I find that my finger wants to hit the button twice. If I’m doing quarter-circle back + HP, my finger hits the HP when I start the motion, and again when it finishes. If I pay close attention this doesn’t happen, but in the middle of a fight it usually leads to a dropped combo.

Overall at this point I actually feel really good. I feel like I’m progressing smoothly with only 7 days of practice. There’s still plenty of mechanical things I can work on in Skullgirls that should set me up to better focus on character-specific things once DBFZ comes out. Above all else, I still can’t believe how much fun I’m having. I know I’ll get destroyed, but I want so badly to play against people. No one in my circle of friends cares at all, but I just want to talk about my progress. More than once I’ve found myself giggling after I figure out a way to extend my combo with a few more hits. Tokido was right–fighting games really are great.

Thanks so much for joining me on this journey. For updates in between releases in this series you can follow me on Twitter. Let me know what you’ve been doing to train, or just to survive the agonizing wait until the game drops.

DBFZ Pro Circuit Idea: Quest for the Dragon’s Wish

Greetings DBFZ community! I’m really excited to be releasing my first article for this exciting new game. For those that don’t know me, I’ll introduce myself a bit since you’ll be seeing much more of me over the next year. If you don’t care about that and just want to read a cool tournament idea, scroll down to the horizontal line.

Briefly, I’ve been an esports journalist/blogger for 6 years. I used to write for Riot Games covering League of Legends, and have since gone freelance focusing on Heroes of the Storm and Smash Bros. My content ranges from match analysis to player interviews to industry news and speculation. I fell in love with the FGC during LI Joe’s run at Evo 2016, and have been looking for a title in the scene to add to my content pool when Dragonball FighterZ was announced. Having loved DBZ forever, and it being a brand new IP in the scene, I knew this was the game I had to commit to. While I’m new within the FGC, I’m an esports writing veteran and hope to bring my experience and knowledge of other scenes to bear in helping the DBFZ scene grow and prosper.

Essentially, this idea sprang from the following thought: Battle for the Stones was a neat idea that was ultimately a huge letdown…what if it were done well? The idea of themed qualifiers that affected a final event was really interesting, but the power for each stone was poorly conceived and affected the integrity of the tournament as a championship to cap the first wave of Marvel Infinite competition. My goal with this tournament idea would be to create a themed qualification, but leave the competitive integrity of the finals intact. I think DBZ has a perfect theme for this in the Drabonballs. The quest to get a wish granted is what drove the first arc of the Dragonball manga, it seems a fitting theme for the first tournament circuit. Here’s what I propose:


Qualifiers: Search for the Seven Balls

Seven tournaments in 2018 would be identified as holding one of the seven Dragonballs of Earth. As the balls are usually scattered across the world, ideally these would be spread out to tournaments in Japan, Europe, the US, Latin America, etc. The winner of each tournament would earn a ball, and automatically qualify for the finale. Players may only have one Dragonball, so just like Battle for the Stones, if the winner of a tournament already owns one of the Dragonballs, the runner up would earn the qualification. The eighth and final spot would be given to an online qualifier, representing a lone challenger trying to collect all seven balls for themselves.

Finale: Collect all Seven

Unlike Battle for the Stones, the Dragonballs will not give any advantages. This is a tournament where the greatest fighter in the world will have their wish granted.

The tournament will operate as a standard double elimination bracket. When you are defeated in the upper bracket, you will surrender any and all Dragonballs to the player who defeats you. When we reach grand finals, the player on the winner’s side will already have all 7 balls, and only need to defeat one remaining challenger before they can complete their wish.

It will likely be underwhelming to only have a top 8 as the entire event, so ideally a few additional players will be flown out to play some themed exhibitions during the day–good guys vs bad guys, saiyans vs humans, that sort of thing. After grand finals, a winner will be determined, and they will have assembled all 7 Dragonballs, ready to summon the dragon to make their wish.

The Prize: Your Wish Has Been Granted

For winning the tournament, the champion will receive a significant prize pool, ideally 100k or more. However, they’ve also collected the Dragonballs, so they get to make a wish.


This is where I think a number of sponsors can be brought in, and the player should be given a choice between four wishes, just like the mechanic in the game. These could be things like a new car, a lifetime supply of a food sponsor, some sort of amazing vacation package, the chance to record an announcer pack for the game, etc. It could be really amazing to see someone win the tournament, popoff, get handed a giant check, and then have to bring the Dragonballs to the center of the stage, recite the incantation, and see Shenron pop up on a big screen. The player asks for what they want, and then the dragon’s voice booms out: “Your wish has been granted”.


Personally, I love invitationals and closed tournaments in fighting games. Open events are wonderful, and Evo is something special strictly because of the sheer number of entrants, but I think there is something special about a smaller event with huge stakes. It creates interesting storylines, a connective tissue for the fans throughout the year, and provides a unique entry point for casual observers. I have extremely high hopes that Dragonball Fighterz will become a stable in the FGC, and I think as a new IP it deserves a unique method to crown its champion.

Jschritte on LATAM’s payment delays: “I’ve already had to loan money to a lot of players in LATAM”

Most HGC fans will be familiar with the Red Canids, the scrappy underdogs from Latin America who show up to every LAN with pride for their region and a passion to compete. You should also know the charismatic face of the team, Juan “Jschritte” Passos. At the end of the 2017 season, Jschritte left his family, his friends, and his region to fight for a spot on a North American HGC team. Now a member of Spacestation Gaming, the muscle-bound flex player refuses to forget his home region, and the struggles his former peers still face.

red canids

On December 13th, Jschritte put out a tweet stating that players in Latin America had not received payment for seasons 3 and 4 of the Copa America tournament series. Over the next few weeks, he would continue to keep this issue in the conversation with tweets (one of which would lead to a front-page Reddit thread) and an interview with Trollin HGC. In preparation for that show, I reached out to Juan to clarify his concerns with the state of Latin America, and get more details regarding the late payment issues. Today, I want to outline what I learned from that conversation, and hopefully shed some light on the struggles facing the competitive scene in LATAM.

Before we get into it, there are a few things to note:

  • This article represents only Jschritte’s statements and views. I have reached out to Blizzard for comment, but have not heard back.
  • The purpose of this article is not to stir up a witch hunt, or to attack Blizzard. At no point did Jschritte accuse Blizzard of any wrongdoing beyond a lack of communication and follow-through. He is not accusing Blizzard of any malicious intent, greed, or discrimination. I want to make that VERY clear. This is an issue of infrastructure and communication, not wickedness.
  • Late payments are a very common issue in esports, but that does not mean that they do not hurt the players involved, especially in a minor region without salaries or stable infrastructure. Just because something is common does not mean we should ignore it.

What is Copa America?

Latin America does not have a true HGC league format like the major regions. There are no salaries from Blizzard, no standard regular season and playoff structure. Instead, they have a tournament series called Copa America. This series consists of four yearly season. Winning these tournaments qualify teams for international competitions, and prize money is paid out to the top four teams in each season. At the end of every season, prize money is distributed as follows:

  • 1st place receives $5,000 USD
  • 2nd place receives $3,000 USD
  • 3rd and 4th place each receive $1,000 USD

As provided by Jschritte, the Copa America rules state that payment for each season will be made within 90 days of the conclusion of that event.

copa rules

It is this clause, and it’s lack of fulfillment over the last three years that has caused so much frustration for the players of Latin America.

Where’s My Money?

Despite this 90-day window, Juan told me he has not received payment for Copa America 2017 Season 3, which concluded on July 3rd. He said that while late payments have been common since 2015, this is the longest it has taken to receive his prize money. In previous years, the delay usually averaged three months. This is especially concerning to Juan given what the LATAM players were told at the end of last season.

According to Jschritte, Blizzard stated that the issues with late payments in previous years were a result of mishandling by the company Blizzard contracted to run Copa America. They had switched to a new company for the 2017 season, and expected the problem to be resolved. Instead, as Jschritte explained, it is now worse than ever.

In addition to the delays, the sporadic nature of the payments raises another concern. Juan and his Red Canids teammates received their funds from seasons 1 and 2, but there are still teams waiting for their payments from the first season of 2017. Competing in any esport at the highest level in your region requires a significant sacrifice of time and energy, and as a result many players are forced to either rely on prize money to support themselves, or put less time into the game in favor of a more stable income stream.

Jschritte has been impacted by both sides of the issue this year. He explained that, when Red Canids qualified for the Phase 2 Western Clash this year, many of his teammates had not touched the game in two months. “They refused to play this game without [receiving] money,” he said, “and they couldn’t survive waiting for the goodwill from Blizzard to pay us.”

With a popular stream back home and additional prize money from international LANS, Jschritte was able to survive and stay committed to HOTS despite the late payments, but other players were not so fortunate. “I already had to loan money to a lot of players in LATAM,” he told me, “because they sent [messages saying] they don’t have money to eat or to pay internet bills.”

The Buck Stops with Blizzard

While ESL is contracted by Blizzard to run Copa America, Jschritte places all of the responsibility for the payment issues squarely at Blizzard’s feet. As he explained on Trollin HGC, Copa America is part of the the Heroes Global Championship, which is ultimately run by Blizzard directly. To Jschritte, their decision to subcontract portions of the global series does not remove their responsibility to make sure everything runs smoothly and that players are properly compensated.


As Juan explained, the issues go beyond just late payments. The way that Blizzard LATAM have responded to his inquiries about the issue were not acceptable. He expressed frustration with the company’s lack of communication and professionalism whenever he has approached them about his concerns.

While Jschritte and the others want the short term issue resolved, and their prize money paid out in full, this is not a one-time issue. He repeatedly stated that this has been an ongoing problem since 2015 where payments were delayed and communication with Blizzard was less than ideal. The players in Latin America don’t just want their money, they want infrastructure change. Jschritte echoed their frustrations with battling a company of Blizzard’s size every year just to receive their prize money. In short, his requests are simple:

  1. Pay every player what they are owed for the 2017 season.
  2. Explain in detail why payments were so delayed, and what steps Blizzard is taking to address those specific issues for 2018.
  3. Put systems in place to prevent late payments from reoccurring next year.

A huge thanks to Jschritte for taking the time to educate me on the LATAM scene and on this issue specifically. For more on Latin America, and easily the most inspirational posts in the scene, be sure to follow him on Twitter.

If you haven’t yet, I would also love it if you took a look at the most recent episode of my new series, Entry Level Esports. This week we actually discussed minor regions and how they can try to catch up to the dominant regions like Korea and EU.

Interview with Bakery: Third Ban

Preparing for my big third ban article (which you can see over on HeroesHearth) I reached out to James “Bakery” Baker for his thoughts on the matter. As an outspoken advocate of increasing the number of bans in competitive Heroes, Bakery shared way more insight than I could fit into the article. Because those thoughts still deserve to be seen, I’ve included the interview in it’s entirety here. Enjoy!


How would you respond to the concerns that there aren’t enough supports or tanks in the game yet?

I feel like most of the concern over Support or Tank chokes in a 3 ban system are at best exaggerated and at worst intentionally misleading. Theorycrafting a situation where one team uses both of their opening bans on Supports, and the other team saw that and thought they should also ban out supports, and then neither team picked a Support in the opening 5 picks, and then both teams banned out two more supports is pure insanity. Realistically you would need 4 viable solo supports, solo ranged damage, and solo tanks. This would account for two opening bans and first pick. Anything more than that is a welcome addition. Even if there were not 4 viable Heroes at times, I do not think that downside outweighs the benefits that a 3rd ban would bring. I believe that we do have 4 viable Heroes for each of those core roles, and I believe that now is the time where 3 bans can work for our game.

Why do you think a third ban is better at the start of the draft rather than mid-draft?

There are 3 main reasons I believe a 2nd opening ban is superior. The first is because I feel the first phase of the draft is where most of the improvements should be concentrated. If you read Twitter or Reddit, you’ll see plenty of people talking about how every game is the same Heroes. Statistically, that’s not true, we have high Hero diversity both in terms of % spread and number of Heroes picked. However, it is true that the first phase of the draft is very often the same from game to game, and even team to team. I feel that a 2nd opening ban would shake things up a bit. The second reason is about oppressive Heroes.

Right now I want to see Garrosh banned every game, he’s just too frustrating to play against and watch, but currently the tradeoff to banning Garrosh every game is that the draft becomes incredibly stale when it happens. I want to give teams the freedom to play around with bans against Heroes with Garrosh, while still being able to flex their other ban to a power ban, target ban, or just another annoying ban.

The third reason is related to time constraints. Heroes of the Storm has an issue where not enough of our audience and players are interested in the draft phase. Despite that, the draft is almost as important as the game itself. We also have the shortest game time of almost any drafting game out there. I believe the target of any draft changes has to be to shorten the draft as much as is possible. If our third ban was added in the middle, that has the potential to add another 60s of draft per team, as both teams will need time to discuss and adapt. If the bans are at the start, the chance of a team already knowing what to ban is much higher, and the amount of things that they need to discuss is much lower, which means we could shave up to 2 minutes off of the draft in some situations by placing the ban at the start instead of in the middle.

Do you think Blizzard should delay adding a third ban to HGC until they can also put it in the client, or is this important enough to move HGC drafting out of the client?

I don’t think the benefits of a third ban at this short notice outweigh the positives that drafting within the client bring, and the negatives of separating the competitive experience from the Hero League experience. We’ll have to see what the HGC schedule is like for 2018, but as soon as there is sufficient time for the teams to adapt and Blizzard are able to get it in the client I would love to see these changes.

Thanks so much to Bakery for sharing his thoughts. Check out the full article here, and be sure to catch the latest episode of Entry Level Esports


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What We Learned GCWC Recap Day 7: True Pacifist Ending


What We Learned GCWC Recap Day 7: True Pacifist Ending

The group stage is now over. The teams have all faced each other and the seeds are set going into the bracket stage. We saw some really interesting games today, some heartbreaks, and one of the cleanest games in the history of HOTS esports.


With groups at an end, we will move into a very interesting elimination phase of the tournament that will feature the new support nerfs patch. If that is news to you, or your unclear as to why that change will have such a monumental impact on the tournament, that means you haven’t watched my new show, Entry Level Esports! We aired the pilot episode this week where I broke down all aspects of the situation. Check it out. Don’t worry, this is the last time I’ll plug it, cause it stops being relevant after today!


Today was supposed to be a pretty simple day for Fnatic. Get the 2-0, go home, prepare for the new patch. However, in Game 2 SPT decided to ruin that plan. The surprise Jaina and Sonya caught Fnatic off guard. There are a few key points to examine in this draft. First, SPT fully targeted Breez with their first ban and first pick, taking away Anub’arak and ETC. These moves put Fnatic’s tank on Arthas, which just did not have the typical Breez impact on the game. He made a great tactical play in one fight to zone away Valla, but throughout the game the Arthas was just unable to provide the necessary peel to keep Mene up long enough to win the long fight.

Second draft takeaway was another pick for Mene’s Kael’thas. Fnatic have made it clear throughout this group stage that they have little interest in putting Mene on support. We’ve seen BadBenny’s Rehgar multiple times, and each time it has been just a bit lacking. Likely we’ll see Fnatic move away from double support completely in the new patch. However, there have been reports that Tassadar is even more powerful on the new patch than he is now. Will Fnatic try to flex a Tassadar onto Mene or Benny, or will they be forced to first ban it in every single game of the bracket phase?


Hey look, the second best team in the tournament went 2-0 against the worst team in the tournament. Behold my in-depth analysis!

There really isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been discussed. Everyone on Dig have crazy deep hero pools, the new players are working out great, and I think this team is favored against Ballistix going into the bracket stage. One last thing on Dignitas–go watch Game 2 of this series. Just watch the sheer control and patience out of the EU squad, even with a kill-focused composition. This is a really unique game in HOTS that deserves to be watched. Also Wubby was on ETC, which is neat.

Roll20 Esports

I don’t want to write this section. These games were a bummer. I think Roll20 went into this event with a phenomenal, realistic mentality, but this series had to hurt. The team is very clearly still exploring some stylistic options, and hopefully they’ve collected some good data from these matches.

Game 2 isn’t really worth talking about too much. Justing was a bit off his game and the team just couldn’t close out the first kill in a fight to snowball their teamfight comp. It happens to every team–it happened to Dig in their match against KSV. If one of those kills are actually realized, this is an entirely different game.

However, Game 1 is really interesting. Again, Roll20 controlled the early game, got some really flashy picks, and set themselves up in amazing position to win. And then one by one they lost fight after fight until they ran out of time. What’s really interesting is how little impact Goku’s Leoric had in the mid-late game. Leoric dying is often fine, but only if those deaths create value. None of Goku’s deaths created value. Whether that was misplay on Goku’s part, or problems in the rest of the roster, I’d have to watch the game again to fully comment. All I can say is that I really disliked the pick, particularly with March of the Black King over Entomb. Hindsight is always 20/20, and Goku very clearly had a plan, but that plan never worked out. Credit to CE for investing in an early Dehaka pick to try and get R2e off balance.

Again, the bright spot for Roll20 is that they can consistently control games against anyone up until the late game. The second they break this lategame curse, they will be a strong international contender.We’ll have to wait and see what happens now that they have a moment to collect themselves, learn a new patch, and come back fresh in the lower bracket next week.

Last point to make on Roll20–if you think any of what’s happening this week to Roll20 means that they won’t be the overwhelmingly best team in NA, you are very mistaken. They are playing against the very best teams in the world, and playing them close. The practice they are getting now is so much greater than every other team in NA. They are getting issues exposed that they can correct before the season even starts. Especially with the new patch coming in, Roll20 have such a huge advantage over the rest of NA going into 2018. Meme all you want, but don’t pretend for a moment that this still isn’t the strongest team NA has seen in over two years, possibly the best NA team ever.

Good new to anyone who was concerned, there’s now no excuse to keep Roll20 at 5th in the power rankings. We have a very clear picture of how these rankings play out now. Unfortunately, none of that means anything at all because there’s a giant patch between us and the bracket stage, and all the teams get a fresh start to find new strategies to surprise their opponents.

  1. KSV
  2. Dignitas
  3. Ballistix
  4. Fnatic
  5. CE
  6. Roll20
  7. SPT
  8. BTG

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