CouchWarriors League 2021 – The Season So Far!
Get ready for the next battle – because CouchWarriors League is back for 2021!
Rising from the ashes of last year like a wakeup shoryu, Australia’s first unified fighting game circuit has begun a fresh season, now with more games and more events to compete in!
With monthly ranbat events in four state centers and the revamped CouchWarriors Online Series, there’s a huge expansion in the amount of season points available – which seems destined to produce a much tighter title race in each of the five featured fighting games.
That’s right, five: Tekken 7, Street Fighter V, Smash Bros. Melee, Smash Bros. Ultimate – and making its return to the national circuit, DragonBall FighterZ! Each game will award prizes for its monthly and seasonal champions, as well as providing seeds for the eventual CWL Finale playoff bracket.
That’s all a long way down the track, however. This CWL season only started in March, as local ranbats made a triumphant return in several states. It was a great moment for friends and rivals who had endured last year’s lengthy hibernation, the perfect way to kick things off in 2021: offline.
The CouchWarriors Online Series also made its return that same month, ensuring wi-fi warriors from more far-flung locales still have a chance to shine. These ranking events are set to run every month from now til December, with a few extra points to grab at majors along the way.
Here’s a quick preview of the fierce competition on display in CWL 2021:
Arguably the most even and exciting CWL game from last year, Tekken 7 will only get hotter with the return of offline events. Reigning champion Naveed “Kanga|ChandNY” Iqbal only played in a couple of offline events last year, but is set for a much more active defense at this year’s ranbats. Pursuing our King of Iron Fist are a slew of state champions and character specialists, including narrow runner-up Harlem “Harlem” Barriball, South Australian stalwart Cheapies, the constantly-evolving Chris “Stuckles” Stuckey and the deadly veteran Dee-on Grey. There’s also likely to be another year of strong finishes from the FAMILY stable of players who nearly monopolized 2020’s Online Series: Raphael “FAM|Daitooka” Batskos, Kun-Mo “FAM|Gun_Mo” Yon and Jack “FAM|CottonSock” McCallum chief among them.
So far though, we’ve seen the early points snapped up by a few intimidating dark horses. Ji “LuckyBox” Fagavao took 1st and 3rd at the two Victorian ranbats to lead the current standings over a man he beat at the March event, Zyzz. But Zyzz has proven untouchable online, securing both Online Series 1st places for Tekken to add to a podium finish at ranbat. Should they falter, the always-exciting King specialist Hangman Kid and the entire FAMILY stable are nipping at their heels.
STREET FIGHTER V
Australia’s SFV scene has been dominated by a handful of elite performers from the outset, familiar names trading wins back and forth across balance patches or personal streaks of form. The 2021 CWL looks set to showcase another round in this sumptuous multi-way rivalry after a remarkably even 2020 season. That title was won by the electrifying Akuma play of Ervin-Jason “pahnda” Garanovic, whose late-season hot streak carried him through such worthy adversaries as Xavier “DS|Somniac” Nardella and ORDER’s Balrog god, Travis Styles.
Those three between them carried off a fair chunk of the available podium places last year, but they were not the only names to stand out from the pack. The masterful instincts of Fraser “FREESER” Johnson were good for several Online Series trophies, while the highly-decorated Christian “ORDER|ROF” Dedalija came good on the home stretch after a quiet year, including a deep run to Top 4 in the Finale. Intimidating cameos from killers like Kevin “GG|bksama” Nguyen, Reagan “TB|GhostChips” Kelly, Yuvin “GG|Rumours” Manadeniya and Peter “Rupps” Barron ensured a steady supply of fresh matchups in Top 8s year round.
All these players will be back – and for the most part better off with a more regular practice and competition schedule to keep their eye in. Will we see character switches to reflect the broader 2021 metagame? Which of the hopefuls will emerge in these first months to set the pace? ROF and Pahnda seem to have picked up where they left off with dominant victories in their respective states. But Somniac and Rupps seem to have made the most meaningful opening moves, by taking top placements in both offline and online tournaments through March – a difficult standard to maintain, but one which would net a clear points edge if they can keep it up.
SMASH BROS. MELEE
Few communities exude passion like the Smash Melee playerbase, who continue to keep their game alive and thriving into the post-pandemic era. But despite a large and healthy scene, there is some real stratification among the elite players at a national level. Josh “GZ|Sora” Lyras has dominated almost every bracket he’s touched over the last few years, including last year’s Finale. A handful of worthy challengers can go toe-to-toe with the big man, and he has been humbled at the end of some remarkable sets, but nobody was able to threaten him consistently in CWL events.
For his part, Sora seems to be sizing up a choice faced by many local gaming greats over the years. Denied the next step into international competition by simple tyranny of distance, he has instead channeled his love of Melee back into the scene around him; trying his hand as a TO, gamepad-customizer and commentator. He’s far from retired, however, and the return of live events may be just what we need to see Sora motivated and defending his CWL championship!
Hoping to steal that crown will be a dedicated pack of top players, seeking to punish any weak outing by the #1 as they did in 2020. Jacob “GZ|Sock” Waddell and Miles “LGC|DonB” Dobney were the ones to expose Sora last year, but players like Skeleduck (aka GnomeDome) and Davox have had some strong sets of their own and could also snatch some wins this season. We’ll likely be waiting for our next major LAN to see all the best players in one bracket – but I’m certain the fireworks will be worth the wait.
SMASH BROS. ULTIMATE
Despite everything, 2020 may end up in the books as a breakout year for Australian Ultimate. The increased focus on netplay put the spotlight on impressive young talent like Chris “chizzL” Nguyen; that group then steadily improved their results over the course of the season. Andrew “Khami” Mantineo posted maybe the most showstopping run of the whole CWL when he won the September bracket, while Aiden “SG|Dura” Scalza made his mark incrementally, becoming a reliable Top 8 fixture within a single season and being rewarded with a sponsorship for his 2021 campaign. An even more dramatic storyline belongs to West Australian rookie Fryd Ryce. After first deciding to enter tournaments in July, Ryce finished December with 4th place in the Finale and victories over a host of big names in Ultimate.
But there’s been a cloud hanging over this young group: how will their performance hold up offline in 2021? The best benchmark for the growth of such online rookies has been Sebastian “GZ|SebPro101” Poli-Tabone – one of the few PR-ranked players who remained fully active in online Ultimate through the lockdown period. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Seb dominated the CWL Online Series all year, holding down the new blood alongside Andrew “Kanga|Shadrew” Isokangas.
Dura did get some revenge by bundling SebPro out of the Season Finale. But beating the gatekeeper only allows you to approach the top echelon of Ultimate; it doesn’t admit you membership to the club. CWL 2020 winner Joshua “Kanga|Ghost” Francis, Bradley “GZ|DD” Kun, Jonathan “Kanga|Jdizzle” Douglas, Nick “MOD|Extra” McKenzie, and Liam “M|Aluf” Aluf (among others) re-established the pecking order at the 2020 Finale. Other than Fryd Ryce’s big run, the rookie crew’s response was disappointing. But the new season will offer a new slew of opportunities for such players to upset the PR pecking order.
Top DBFZ competitor and streamer RaptR exemplifies the natural hype of his game
Breaking onto the CWL main stage in truly improbably fashion, this revived national competition for DBFZ exists solely by the hard work and advocacy of the playerbase. The game seemed to have faded from relevance, but a core group of diehards have maintained their own community hubs and tournaments to keep their favourite fighter alive. And now their passion has paid off, with DBFZ coming back to the CWL!
I checked in with TO and community artist Aura to hear more about this DBFZ revival and the dedicated playerbase behind it:
What does it mean to have DBFZ on the CWL?
The partnership with CWL means the ability to provide consistent prizes to the community as well as provide more stakes to our weekly tournaments once a month. CWL is giving players something to look forward, and something to break up the monotony of the same weekly tourney all year-round.
How has the community kept spirits up prior to this announcement?
The community is quite tight knit, with many players becoming friends with each other and spending time with each other outside of FGC events. Our staff also do an amazing job at keeping the community safe and welcoming as well as provide the community with fun events. The community across OCE are dedicated to their offline scenes and provide setups for these events.
What has evolved in the DBFZ metagame since it was last a part of CWL?
We started small and scattered but ever since the establishment of the OCE DBFZ discord and our reoccurring tournaments it has brought in more and more players. Across the almost two years that the server has been up we have grown from a small community focused mainly on Victoria to a large region wide community spanning in all the states and New Zealand.
Who looks good for a championship run in 2021?
We have a lot of up and coming new bloods who are challenging the old gods in this game. Players such as the_racoonisme and Novix are proving themselves to being strong opponents despite their experience and age. The older players are still putting up a fight though with players such as Sendo, Nolbie and Agent consistently providing results with some slowly rising in the ranks such as RelatingBeef and Kassette. These are players to be watched as they can be a wild card that pulls a clutch win against established players!
So with all that said, you’re now officially caught up on the new season of CouchWarriors League, and the state of Australia’s top fighting game rivalries for 2021! Or perhaps if you decided to just skim read the piece, you’ll at least have this as a reference when you’re settling in to watch the May ranking events on Twitch. Make sure to check out the CWL website for up-to-date rankings in every game, and sign up to our newsletter to get all the dates and details for each month’s ranking events!