With the release of Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade edition and a new legion of gamers rising through the ranks, EVO 2011 is looking pretty damn interesting. With the big, pre-EVO tournaments out of the way it’s time to start making some predictions. I’m only going to be making predictions for Street Fighter IV, mostly because Marvel vs. Capcom is such a high octane game that upsets happened too often to actually place rankings.
Similar to how characters are ranked in “tiers” in a fighting game, I’ve also organized these competitors into “tiers” as well. Enjoy, and please do make comments underneath if you disagree with my listings or have something to add so I can contact the editor and have them put in!
NOTE: I take into consideration only tournament results after CEO and ReveLAtions 2011 because that’s when the US players got their first taste of Super Street Fighter IV AE.
Daigo Tier – Daigo Umehara
This was the easiest of the bunch honestly. Every fighting game fan either enthusiastically or reluctantly accepts that Daigo Umehara is the favorite to win EVO 2011. There simply isn’t enough you can say. He has the cleanest execution, plays the best character in the game at the highest level, and his mind games are worthy of Hannibal Lector. High ranking players such as Justin Wong and Mike Ross will seem to make headway against “The Beast”, only to be crushed when Daigo makes the slightest, almost undetectable adjustment. The only two US majors he entered in (ReveLAtions and NorCal Regionals 9), he dominated in spectacular fashion much to the disgruntlement of US fight fans.
Barring an epic meltdown, chances are that Daigo Umehara will win his 3rd straight EVO championship and the Street Fighter IV title will have remained exclusively in Japan since the game’s release in 2009.
A Tier (MadCatz tier)- Mago, Tokido
Mago’s place in this tier is obvious; he has long since been considered the second best Street Fighter player in the world and one of Japan’s “Five Gaming Gods”. His Fei Long and Sagat are the best in the world by leaps and bounds and his battles against Daigo are legendary. He made the finals at ReveLAtions 2011 against Daigo, and I see no reason that he shouldn’t do it again at EVO. The one thing worth noting is that Mike Ross upset him at Shadowloo Showdown. Some sites claim that it was the most significant event heading into EVO but I disagree: Mago was already in the loser’s bracket at that tournament and I believe he was having a bad tournament to begin with. If his Fei Long begins to breakdown, Mago also has his unbelievable Sagat which ran over Ricky Ortiz at ReveLAtions.
Tokido, however, is an entirely new addition. Last year, Tokido was a very talented but ultimately shaky Akuma who ended up losing to Floe (of all people). This year however, Tokido is on an absolute TEAR; he beat Justin Wong and Arturo Sanchez and won CEO 2011 and placed in the top 5 at Shadowloo Showdown while winning Marvel vs. Capcom 3 at both tournaments. The young man (I believe he’s only 24) has gone from being AN Akuma to THE Akuma. His vortex and mix-ups have set a new standard for how Akuma should be played and few have managed to prove otherwise. The only reason I don’t have him one tier up is because many sources indicate that Akuma is horrible against Yun and Yang, the highest ranked and most popular characters in the game. Since Daigo uses Yun and will probably be a finalist, Tokido’s only hope of winning is if someone manages to eliminate Daigo before finals.
B Tier- Mike Ross, WolfKrone, Infiltration
Mike “The People’s Champ” Ross is the shining example of what happens when you dismiss popular trends. His character E. Honda was the highest ranked character before Arcade Edition’s release, and was riding a wave of success in which he beat Daigo the previous year and placed top 8 at EVO last year. With the AE release however, Honda was nerfed and fell drastically in the tier listings and I figured Mike would switch characters. Instead he stuck with E. Honda and in my opinion, has drastically improved his game. While everyone was busy complaining about how overpowered Yun and Yang were, Mike Ross simply adjusted his strategy. He played a masterful turtle game, baiting such skilled players as Marn and Justin Wong into attacking him with their Yun and Yang before countering with powerful combos. He defeated the famed Mago in a similar fashion. Call me stupid, but I believe Mike Ross is the most likely American player to win EVO simply because his mental game has reached a new level.
WolfKrone is America’s equivalent of Tokido; he proved at EVO 2010 that he was very talented but he never quite reached that next echelon of contenders. Well, WolfKrone is now the no. 1 seeded player going into EVO and has absolutely terrorizing the American circuit. FlashMetroid had a slight edge over him last year in the contest for premier C. Viper player, but WolfKrone has surpassed every standard to become the best Viper in the world. NOW, even though he is the no. 1 seeded player there is a reason that I don’t have him ranked in the top tier. The fact is that in both tournaments in which Daigo and/or Mago was present, he caved under pressure and failed to win the tournament. However, Japanese players have a LOT of trouble with Viper (who is uncommon in Japan) and WolfKrone gave Mago fits at ReveLAtions. Will his head match up to his game? Only time will tell.
If Tokido is THE Akuma, Infiltration is the man right behind him. With all the hype surrounding Tokido, it’s easy to forget that Infiltration was the man who eliminated Mike Ross handily at EVO last year and that he got to the finals of NorCal Regionals and took a game off Daigo. It should be noted that Infiltration plays a different style of Akuma than Tokido; Tokido relies heavily on his godlike vortexes to smash his opponents while Infiltration is happy to play a far better rounded game. While this means that Infiltration has a lot more versatility during his games, it also means he struggles a lot earlier than Tokido because Tokido can usually overwhelm the majority of his opponents with his vortexes.
C Tier- Justin Wong, Ricky Ortiz, Gamerbee, Hsien Chang
People are probably surprised that I have the two previous EVO finalists in the “C” tier. Simply put, they are in a slump.
Justin Wong was handily beaten by Tokido and Mike Ross at CEO, and lost to Mr. Naps and FutureChamp at NorCal. The last 2 losses are VERY concerning. Mr. Naps played Evil Ryu . . . a relatively low tier character who was being played by a relatively unknown guy. FutureChamp is a talented teenage Fei Long but if Justin cannot beat FutureChamp there’s NO way he’ll be able to beat Mago who is the BEST Fei Long. That being said, the US players were still rather inexperienced with AE by the time NorCal came around and it’s fair to say Justin was still learning the ins and outs of Yang. He’s definitely been in a slump, but the fact is that Justin Wong is Justin Wong means that not giving him a chance to win EVO would just be stupid.
Ricky Ortiz is another guy who seems to have hit a hitch in the road. At NorCal Regionals he was DOMINATED by Mago in the loser’s bracket . . . by Mago’s secondary character Sagat. At NorCal, Ricky was beaten both times by Infiltration . . . who was ALSO using his secondary character Ryu. It’s very discouraging to see Ricky being handily defeated by two people who will definitely be going deep into the EVO tournament. As much as it disgusts him, he may need to resort to picking up Yun or Yang to defeat the new generation of fighters because his Rufus just isn’t cutting it.
Gamerbee wouldn’t even by on this list if not for Shadowloo Showdown; he was beaten by Mike Ross and Arturo Sanchez at CEO 2011 and it seemed as though with Adon’s jump nerfs (he doesn’t get up as quick as he used to) and his Akuma behind Tokido and Infiltration that he was doomed to being eliminated early in the tournament. However, he then placed 5th at Shadowloo Showdown which I believe had a talent pool that cannot even be matched by EVO. So why is he so low on the tier list? For starters, he’s never proved that he could win EVO; he’s upset Justin Wong but has now caved twice to Mike Ross in major tournaments. Not to mention that Tokido SMASHED him at Shadowloo.
In contrast to Justin and Ricky, Hsien Chang’s place in this tier indicates his rise through the fighting ranks. Unlike Marn or Floe, Hsien Chang seems to be a natural with the twins and I think he’ll be the US’s top Yun in no time (assuming he already isn’t). He actually took a game of Daigo when they played at NorCal, which speaks volumes to his ability when he can beat Daigo in a mirror match. I won’t lie, the only reason I have him placed this low is because his success has been so recent; there’s a good chance that he could ride his momentum into EVO and take out some big names along the way.
D Tier – Arturo Sanchez, PRBalrog
Arturo Sanchez is in a similar boat to Mike Ross in that his main character (Dhalsim) got nerfed heavily but he’s done surprisingly well with him, making it to the finals of CEO 2011 beating out Banana Ken, Gamerbee AND Mike Ross along the way. It seems that will all the focus on rush-down characters, zoning characters like Dhalsim and Sagat give players fits and I think Arturo is the best Dhalsim in the business. So why is he ranked below Mike? Two reasons, the first of which is that Dhalsim fails MISERABLY to Yun and Yang (as proven by the Filipino Champ vs. Daigo concept match). Second is that Mike has catapulted his potential result at EVO by out-grinding Mago at Shadowloo Showdown. Arturo’s biggest wins were in Super, and he has nothing to match the magnitude of Mike’s progress.
PR Rog is honestly my first real gamble of this list. Since the release of AE, he seems to be struggling to adjust to the new characters and gameplay. However, Rog has the pedigree; he is 2nd seed coming into EVO and he’s apparently been practicing close to 8 hours a day. His Balrog is still reminiscint of Gootecks back in Vanilla Street Fighter IV, and with PR Rog’s talent and dedication I have no doubt that his Yang will soon be a force to be reckoned with. Think of Rog’s selection on this tier as . . . an indication of future success.
E Tier- Marn, Floe, Vangief, anyone who uses the twins
At this point, I really don’t feel like analyzing their individual results. Marn and Floe are talented with Yun and Yang and Vangief is Vangief and Latif is a very talented Viper player who will undoubtedly give the foreign players fits. In the end however, none of these guys are people you can take seriously to win EVO. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Marn and Floe and everyone in this tier, but I can’t rank them any higher because they simply don’t have the level of game necessary to threaten the players I’ve listed above them.