The first fortnight of September has kicked off the endgame for CouchWarriors League 2020, with the national FGC organiser announcing that the remaining events on its tournament calendar would award double the normal ranking points to top 8 finishers!
This change goes some way to addressing the unexpectedly low number of points available this season after COVID forced a switch to monthly online events. Now you can imagine a chance for almost anyone to make a late run at top 16 – the cutoff point for invitation to the $2000 season finale event!
The new points bonus looks to be most impactful for the leaderboards in Street Fighter V and Smash Bros. Melee, which were the first two games contested for the month. These points races have been static and lopsided all season, with interstate rivals Joshua “GZ|Sora” Lyras and Davin “Davox” Mai dominating Melee while Ervin-Jason “pahnda” Garanovic and Xavier “DS|Somniac” Nardella were holding it down in SFV.
These players amassed their lead in the first months of the year while full points were still available at offline events, and then have continued to put in enough work over the monthly CWL Online events to remain above the reach of their competition. Will a few months of double points give in-form players like ORDER|Travis Styles or Jacob “Sock” Waddell the chance to reel these frontrunners in, or will they just lift their game to match the higher stakes? These September online events were our chance to find out.
Street Fighter V
The first sign of change following the end-of-season announcements was an immediate boost in turnout. Not only were the player numbers higher than they’d been since the first month of lockdown, but we were blessed with a concentration of national-level talent which left this feeling more like a major. Half of the current top 10 for CWL were here to defend their spots, including all of the top 4 – Somniac, panda, Travis, and his ORDER teammate Christian “ROF” Dedalija. There were other threats too – CWL Online standout Fraser “FREESER” Johnson; perennial majors contender Kevin “GG|Bksama” Nguyen; top 16 players John “ZEDDD” Le, Taylor “syo” Waugh, and Michael “AwildLLAMA” Kalugin; and a real dark horse in Tasman “GG|Waz” Stoker, dipping his toes into another game after years of unmatched dominance over Australia’s Mortal Kombat scene.
Just looking back on my results these last few years
I’ve won 27 tournaments in a row in Australia… (MKX, I2, MK11)
THATS ACTUALLY RIDICULOUS!!
— Waz (@Wazminator) September 4, 2020
Despite this insanely stacked field, the existing CWL top 4 were able to run the gauntlet and meet at the end of Winners Bracket – with one exception. Seeding threw ROF and Travis Styles together a round early, perhaps due to ROF’s intermittent participation in CWL Online, and Travis took out the ORDER mirror 2-0. This left room on the other side of the bracket for Peter “Rupps” Barron, the remaining top 10 ranked player, who fended off a challenge from Freeser to make it into Winners Semis.
Travis Styles demonstrates a typical eye for punishes as he dismantles teammate ROF
Somniac overcame Rupps to make Winners Finals, where he has often run into Travis in past CWL Online events. But this time pahnda handled the dangerous West Australian for him, giving Somniac a chance to lock in a Grand Finals appearance without needing to squeeze past his tournament demon. But pahnda was on some impressive match-day form, hitting the kind of offensive reads which can make Akuma look busted.
Somniac got sent down to Losers Bracket despite some impressive rounds, where he found that Travis had again been removed from his path, this time by Rupps and his Mika. Maybe we’ll see Somniac and other likely season finalists picking up pocket grapplers of their own to neutralize the otherwise ultra-consistent ORDER star? Somniac shook off Rupps a second time only to suffer an even mightier beatdown in his Grand Finals rematch with pahnda.
The Queenslander, while ultra-consistent, hadn’t placed above Somniac in a single event this year – so to crush the Darksided veteran 3-0 felt like an impressive breakthrough, and had the commentators nearly speechless. This was also pahnda’s first outright win at an event since March, and his first against interstate competition for 2020. It couldn’t have come at a better moment, as the double points reward slingshots him into a 1st place tie with Somniac headed into November. Travis also finally drew even with ROF after months of chasing, and Rupps leapt up into 5th place on the leaderboard.
Like SFV, Melee also saw an outpouring of extra players motivated by those extra CWL points. There was also an extra incentive for going for the prize this month; overall leader and clear national #1 Josh “GZ|Sora” Lyras was taking the month off to practice with his new B0XX controller. Since has missed only a single Grand Finals in CWL Online Melee this season, any would-be rivals had to make sure to seize this opportunity.
Finally investing time in learning the B0XX, probably gonna stream my practice sessions so I don’t go insane not being able to SHFFL anymore (thank you anonymous man who built this for me xx) pic.twitter.com/1swrv8LDEN
— Sora (@LilTrickshot) September 9, 2020
Several did, with top 10 competitors like Jacob “GZ|Sock” Waddell, Miles “LGC|DonB” Dobney, dice|Nangs and Gerard “smopup” Salonen carving their way through the field. Smopup looked to have a slight edge, especially after defeating his only higher-ranked rival present, Sam “Auro” White, in Winners Quarters. But a game as mature as Melee is full of surprises, and instead the Queenslander was smashed 3-0 in the next round by Connor “McCloud” O’Neill’s Peach. McCloud, who had only been able to score a single CWL points finish back in February’s SA ranbat, also managed to take a set from Sock as part of his run, but ran out of steam against DonB in Winner’s Finals before falling to 3rd. It’s still a terrific effort that should leave McCloud just a point outside that critical top 16 cut with several CWL events still to play!
Meanwhile, Sock took on DonB in Grand Finals after successfully exacting revenge on McCloud in Losers. With their single past meeting being a high-stakes win to DonB (at this year’s Phantom major) this felt like it could go either way. Both players had won CWL Online before and both were definitely in need of the points to try and get into the top 3 rankings for an end-of-season cash prize. Both were satisfied to lock in for the true 20XX Fox ditto over a possible 6 matches. It was time for some High Level Melee alright.
Sock looked characteristically solid in the early going, beating out DonB consistently in the neutral and finishing games with a clear stock lead to secure the reset with momentum to spare. But from the first game of the second set DonB turned things up a level, showing off a veteran’s knowledge of the ditto and manipulating Sock with help from the Yoshi’s Island platforms. It was still close enough to go to last-game-last-sock, but unfortunately for Sock he did not have the benefit of a spare set to readjust, and DonB’s Legacy-coloured Fox took the tournament!
Despite moving up into the coveted 3rd place overall for Melee, Sock was left doing some soul searching at the end of the day. It certainly stings to have gone so close and then fallen short as he did – but he’s still within striking distance of Davox and Sora if he can use this as inspiration to win the next two CWL Online events. It would be one hell of an upset to see, but again – you never count anything out in Melee.