ELEAGUE Street Fighter V Invitational Group D Highlights
There's no doubt that Group D of ELEAGUE's Street Fighter V Invitational was the most talent-rich and explosive group of the entire tournament. Appropriately dubbed the "Group of Death", Group D proved to be a veritable gauntlet for all of its fighters -- regardless of their pedigree.
The group featured not only some of the FGC's most decorated fighters and fiercest up-and-comers in players such as FChamp, Fujimura, Infiltration, and iDom, but it also featured two of the five Japanese fighting game gods: the legendary Daigo and infamous Haitani.
Going into the night's featured matches, seasoned vet FChamp and relative padawan iDom found themselves on the outside looking in, eliminated in the lower bracket by Haitani.
Yes, the field was so fierce and full of carnage that even Haitani found himself in the lower bracket to start things off. But would the initial bracket stay that way? Of course not. Here's what went down in featured play.
Daigo vs. Infiltration (Guile vs. Menat)
Coming into the match, both Daigo and Infiltration had played very well in the group's round-robin play. Daigo had gone 4-1, while Infiltration had found his balance and finally found his balance, beating the field sans Daigo and Haitani.
Operating a bit out of his comfort zone, Daigo began the match using more normals than specials in order circumvent what could be devastating reflections from Infiltration's Menat.
Both fighters were slow to use their critical arts, letting each game play out defensively for the early rounds. Each fighter pecked at the other, with infiltration's Menat keeping Guile's power at bay, forcing Daigo to resort to a few booms and a lot of normals in Game 1.
However, Infiltration came storming back at the beginning of the second game to body Daigo's Guile. Employing patience and tight air-to-airs, Infiltration won the second game with an absolutely insane combo into critical art for a whopping 40 hits.
Moving into Game 3 and Game 4, Infiltration proved a fierce and worthy adversary for Daigo, pushing the legend to the limit and forcing him to adapt his playstyle. Intelligent play put Infiltration up 2-1 going into Game 4. But Daigo wasn't going to go down that easily.
Tying things up 2-2 going into Game 5, Daigo completely changed the way he played Guile. Going from nearly all booms (so, so many booms) in Game and Game 4, Daigo nearly dropped booms entirely to focus on jump backs and normals.
The tactic worked in Daigo's favor, catapulting him past a pesky if powerful Infiltration and into a rematch with Fujimura. Infiltration would go on to face Haitani in the lower bracket.
Haitani vs. Infiltration (Akuma vs. Menat)
Much like Dogura and Momochi before him, Haitani had blazed his way through the first two challengers in Group D's lower bracket. He was on fire coming into his match with Infiltration, and he was going to be a very, very tough opponent for the recently defeated fighter.
If round-robin history repeated itself, we'd see Haitani getting the best of Infiltration. But is that how it would play out?
As things got underway, it looked as if it actually would. Haitani quickly -- and handily -- won the first round of the match's first game. It was a fast, 23-second victory that stunned the crowd, put Infiltration on the defensive, and ultimately gave Haitani the first game.
Down 1-0, Infiltration wasn't about to get bodied and sent home so easily. Settling in, Infiltration weathered the Haitani storm, making the legend play in the neutral and dodge what seemed like relentless orb volleys from a strategic Menat. Several key reflects and a clutch critical art pushed Haitani to the brink -- and gave Infiltration his first victory of the match.
Things played out similarly in Game 3, putting Infiltration up 2-1 going into a critical Game 4. Where once it looked like Haitani's choice of Akuma -- a character he had only recently began playing -- would pay off, the chances of a character other than Necalli getting him to the Invitational's playoffs grew smaller by the second.
Ultimately, Haitani's play just wasn't enough. A slippery Infiltration forced several huge misses from the fighting game god, while an impenetrable defense meant that even the attacks that did land often did minimal damage.
Infiltration was a changed player in his bout with Haitani. Where he taunted Daigo, showboating with Menat between hits and games, none of that was to be found against Haitani. Infiltration had settled in -- and that was very scary for whoever was set to face him in the coming matches.
Daigo vs. Fujimura (Guile vs. Ibuki)
Fujimura had proved his dominance over Daigo earlier in the night during round-robin play to secure the number one seed. Calm and collected, Daigo sought revenge -- and a straight path to the Invitational's playoffs on July 13.
Playing on the training stage, it looked early one very much like a training match with Daigo bodying Fujimura in Round 1 of the first game. Continuing that dominance through the second round, Daigo easily took the first game, with Fujimura looking like a shadow of his recent self.
However, it was a tale of two games. Not to be sent home so easily, Fujimura collected himself and entered the second game of the match with a renewed fire in his eyes. It what proved to be an exact mirror of the first game, Fujimura this time bodied Daigo to even things up 1-1 going into the third game.
As play went on, the respect each player held for the other began to shine through with surgical defensive play and even a few crouching stare downs where both Fujimura and Daigo sized up his opponent before moving in with fierce, calculated attacks.
Not to be outdone by his opponent, Daigo mixed things up in Game 3 to throw off the surging Fujimura. Where he once was using booms and baby booms to cause confusion and ward off his opponent, Daigo tweaked his strategy to employ devastating EX flash kicks and precision air throws to go up 2-1.
I'm not even going to try and describe the match's epic fourth game. You'd be better to watch it right here.
Ultimately, though, Fujimura's rally wasn't enough to push him past the Daigod. The latter moved into the Invitational's playoffs while the former dropped down to the lower bracket to face Infiltration.
Fujimura vs. Infiltration (Ibuki vs. Juri/Chun-Li)
For the second time in the tournament, a 5-0 round-robin one seed found himself in the lower bracket -- and on the brink of elimination. Fighting for his life, Fujimura had his work cut out for him as he entered play against Infiltration. Despite his win over the South Korean player earlier in the night, nothing was a given in the Group of Death.
Things started fast and furious with Infiltration's Juri wreaking havoc on Fujimura's Ibuki right out of the gate. But the surprise pick by Infiltration wasn't a match for the tenacity and superior play of Fujimura and Ibuki. Well-timed neutrals and a ravaging shuriken stunned Infiltration and put Fujimura up 1-0.
In what some saw as a desperation move -- and one that was ill-advised considering Infiltration's acuity with other characters -- Infiltration switched things up going into Game 2 by picking Chun-li, a character that he hadn't had much success with earlier in the night.
Much like it had proven to be a bad decision against Fujimura's Ibuki in round-robin play, the choice was a bad decision once again. Having only been playing Chun-li for three days, the unfamiliarity with the character showed as Fujimura obliterated Infiltration in the second game of the match.
Despite getting utterly destroyed in the previous game, Infiltration chose to stick with Chun-li and show why he was so committed to the pick against Fujimura by netting two victories in a row to take game three.
But the power of Fujimura ultimately proved too much for Infiltration. Like a toddler still learning to walk, Infiltration simply made far too many mistakes that left him wide open to boomeranging shurikens.
Fujimura advanced to the playoffs, breaking the one seed 5-0 curse that dethroned Luffy in Group A.
ELEAGUE'S Street Fighter V Invitational is a five-week competition that pits some of the world's best Street Fighter pros against each other for $250,000 in prizes. Now that the Invitational's group play is finished and the playoff bracket is complete, be sure to watch the final matches on ELEAGUE's Twitch channel, as well as TBS, on July 13.
Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more coverage of the tournament, as well as Street Fighter V, as it develops.