When we write fighting game history, 2021 is going to go down as the Year of Gear. The bold presentation and fortuitous timing of Guilty Gear: Strive has brought the hard-rocking franchise from the fringe of the FGC into the mainstream. And the willingness of Arc System Works to remodel some aspects of the core system has invited many new Guilty Gear players to make Strive their entry point, mixing it up with anime veterans on more even footing.
With all that momentum it was inevitable that GG:ST would make it onto the CouchWarriors League circuit as our newest featured title. Last month’s Battle Arena Nightclub was the first opportunity for players to pick up ranking points on the Strive leaderboard. But even that clash of Melbourne’s finest turned out to just be an appetizer for August’s CWL Online event – the first real chance to see who could stand supreme in this new game at the national level.
Sunday, July 11th saw a year of pent-up competitive energy unleashed from a highly unusual venue. Inflation Nightclub and Entertainment Complex has been a party fixture on Melbourne’s King Street for decades, but they’d never seen anything quite like the crowd of 240+ FGC diehards hollering over the noise of the venue to celebrate a knockout blow.
With a brief window to take advantage of lowered COVID restrictions but no way to facilitate a full-sized major, an event was planned to carry on the spirit of BAM in the best available venue, and thus we got to enjoy #BANC – Battle Arena Nightclub 2021.
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.
The pivotal final month of Saturday online events for CouchWarriors League 2020 has delivered a barrage of top-flight competition, with three games having concluded their ranking seasons so far. The last two weekends were a study in contrasts; Smash Melee was reduced to a victory lap for an unstoppable champion, while Tekken 7’s overall season winner wasn’t decided until the very last blow!
This strange, abbreviated but intense 14-event season of CouchWarriors League SFV came to a head on Saturday with the final CWL Online for the year. Doubled ranking points meant stakes were high, with the ladderboard leaders desperately holding onto the cash bounties attached to their top 3 spots. Even those well outside the top 3 were playing for keeps, since reaching the Grand Final here would be enough to earn another shot at the money in next month’s Season Finale. The competition has been fierce all year long, but now the finals atmosphere was palpable as players busted out pocket picks and some elite ringers showed up to snare qualification.
Another weekend has passed, and the last CWL Online event for the month is in the books. With only one more event left on the schedule for each game, October represented the last real chance for any new names to show up and make a tilt at qualification for the Season Finale. Players whose qualification was already locked in were still there at full force as they battled tooth and nail for top placegetter payouts.
This weekend also saw a bit of league rules weirdness, as players in the South Australian scene seemed like they might have grabbed an extra chance at those prizes. Capitalizing on their relative freedom from COVID-19, the locals took this chance to finally restart their “Cheese League” ranbat series, which in an ideal season would have been the main way for SA players to earn their CWL points.
While it’s a terrific sign that we have players getting back into offline play, CouchWarriors quickly clarified that there were no extra points suddenly up for grabs as a result – to be fair to players in other states, it would still be CWL Online or bust!
The 2020 CouchWarriors League is well onto the home stretch, and halfway through October competition we can really see who is pulling ahead among the top contenders for each game.
Both the Street Fighter bracket on the 3rd and the Melee competition on the tenth pulled 24 attendees, giving us short but extremely fierce tournaments. It seems like after the initial boom of contenders entering following the double-points announcement, we have once again crunched the numbers down to just those players with the most points, or the most self-confidence. Read more
Things have been heating up in Australia’s fighting game community all month, and it’s not just good spring weather. Tournament registrations are up, prize pools have been raised, and even in embattled Victoria there are signs that coronavirus is slowly receding – giving us hope of holding CouchWarriors League events in person next season.
This excited atmosphere was heightened further in the Smash Ultimate scene, as the successful Cospendium Open series decided to merge its remaining event schedule with existing CWL monthlies. With the stakes having risen twice already since August, it’s no surprise that this weekend’s Ultimate tournament was even more hotly contested than the last one.
The quality of competition improved as well; there were plenty of ranked names among the 125 who entered. Yet again, we enjoyed seeing proven winners clash with the brigade of fierce, up-and-coming competitors who have made their own names during this year’s online tournament blitz. And quite often it was the latter who triumphed!
As we covered in our last report, the leaderboards for the inaugural CouchWarriors League had been shaken up by the announcement this year’s remaining tournaments would offer double ranking points. The Tekken 7 race was already close; now it was virtually open season.
Despite the heightened stakes – further amplified by this event’s inclusion under the official PAX Online banner – the spike in registration witnessed in other CWL Online events this month didn’t materialize. This bracket saw a bump in quality rather than quantity – Naveed “Kanga|Chand NY” Iqbal signing up for his first CWL Online event of the season, while “Moose” from SA entered for the first time since April. Two of the very best in the nation, the double points incentive had finally forced them to pick up the sticks again in defense of their leaderboard rankings.
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.