Sorry I haven't posted in awhile. I've been hunting for a job by day and playing League of Legends by night, and on top of that haven't had much to talk about.
Recently though (especially with Nice Shot Hugo coming up, which I'd like to attend if possible) I was thinking a bit about Smash and something I'd like to talk about.
Not too long ago, I went to a Cali tournament and actually took second. I beat Lucky for the first time in two years, beat Zhu in tournament for the first time, and made it to Grand Finals against Mango where I even managed to win a round. Hats off to the TOs for letting me infinite, because I'm pretty sure it didn't hurt.
In fact, having it legal helped in more than one way. Obviously, I got to KO all my opponents off grabs, and that was certainly useful. More importantly though, it put massive pressure on my opponents not to mess up and not to give me grabs. This meant they were playing very safe, cautious, and kind of campy (which isn't an indictment, I support camping wholeheartedly provided it actually wins you the match).
I like playing against cautious players. First, I have relatively poor reflexes, so I don't handle rushdown very well. Second, because they take their time attacking me, I can take my time to figure them out, and come up with plans and tricks. When very technical Foxes and Falcos and Falcons rush in on me and don't give me room, I tend to panic and make dumb mistakes, both technical and mental.
The fear aura generated by the infinite gives me a big boost. It kept Lucky and Zhu from shield pressuring me into the ground. It gave me breathing space, and like most people, I enjoy breathing.
But not Mango. Mango has a few characteristics that are integral to making him the best player. The first one is that he's very aggressive, but he's not stupid about it. The poker term would probably be "tight aggressive." If he has an advantage, he pushes it. If he doesn't, he waits until he does. What distinguishes him, however, is that he pushes almost EVERY advantage he gets, regardless of how subtle or intangible it is.
Second, Mango is utterly confident in his play. He doesn't get shaken up. He rushes me down knowing he's not going to miss an L-cancel or space badly, and so he can continue to attack without giving in to the fear aura of an infinite.
Third, Mango is efficient. If there's a way to KO you, he does it. Right there. No messing around, no middle-man, pure destruction factory direct to you. At least, most of the time since fourth, he has a sense of humor and likes trying weird stuff, which is part of what makes him innovative and hard to read.
Fifth, he's hard to read. Sixth, he reads most players like a book. This is what interested me the most; Mango can combine technical rushdown with mind-games to a level no other Smasher can. Ken was not particularly technical in his time, and while M2K was incredibly technical, fast, and precise, most players agree that he tended to follow plans and formulas over adaptations. PC Chris was the most Mango-like of the three, in my opinion.
My strong suit, as a player, is my ability to read people. I tend to guess right a lot more than I guess wrong, and I play a character where a good guess can yield a stock, so that kind of covers the efficiency aspect too. What's better is not many IC tricks require a lot of tech skill (contrary to popular belief). Which isn't to say I don't mess up; my tech skill is terribly inconsistent even doing the most basic stuff.
Mango is really, really, really, really hard to read. Based on the people I've played, Mango is in the toppest of top tiers, mentally speaking. In the arena of reading people and being hard to predict, the only player I would place close to Mango is Chu Dat (right now, I know a lot of people would clamor for Armada, but this is based on who I have played. I would totally believe it though).
Anyhow, playing against somebody that smart, fast, and efficient is... very unusual. I think against Mango I played some of my best Smash ever, because at times (very few times mind you) I felt like I was keeping up. I was linking as directly as I could into the mind of my opponent trying to see his intentions and his patterns, and most of the time I came up blank. Nothing. I didn't even have the faintest idea of what he wanted to do, or when he planned to do it. Every now and then though, something clicked, and it landed me a grab.
Not much else to say, really. I could have had a second game from him, but I botched a ledge CG that would have linked to an infinite and earned the last stock. After that though, it was more or less over. I really hope I get the opportunity to play him against at NSH this month, assuming I go.