As 2019 comes to a close and Smash Ultimate enters another stage of its lifespan, let’s take a headfirst dive into one of the best sets of the year before we break into 2020. And while there was an incredible amount of great sets throughout all of competitive Ultimate this year, perhaps one of the best took place at a local.
Yes, you heard that right. A local tournament played host to one of the best sets of 2019.Between all of the major tournaments and star-studded events, two titans of the game clashed in a video game store in Texas back in early January. Now, 361 days later, it’s safe to say that it’s stood the test of time as one of the competitive scene’s finest displays of talent.
On January 4, Austin “Awestin” Cornelius and Jestise “MVD” Negron met at the fourth installment of Ultimate Shockwave. And while they ended up playing three sets against each other in bracket, one being winners finals and the other two occurring in grands, it’s the epic 9 game finale that we’ll be tackling today.
The two had met just a few hours earlier in winners final. Awestin took that set by a score of 3-2, but not after being pinned against the wall in game 4. Regardless, the two crossed paths again in grand finals, and the thought of even topping the set they had played earlier in the night didn’t feel remotely possible.
And now, the stage was set for a pivotal moment in Ultimate’s young history. On one end of the spectrum, you had the incredibly talented MVD, not only seeking redemption from his earlier loss that night, but, aiming to make a statement as one of the best players in the world. Keep in mind that he had won Don’t Park on the Grass just a few weeks earlier and was already grabbing plenty of eyes. On the other end of things, Awestin was a local legend who held down the Dallas area with ease. He had already won 2 of the first 3 Ultimate Shockwave events and was looking to add another notch to his belt. Things couldn’t have felt more storied. It was a classic case of the Local Legend vs. the Outsider. The storied and traveled Pro vs. the King of his own castle.
If the match was worth anything, it was a solidification of talent and meaning – regardless of the scale.
Both players were looking to define something that night, and the early landscape of the game hung in the balance. For a moment, there was nothing more important in the competitive scene than the set that was about to take place.
MVD got off to a quick start. After finding himself tied with his opponent at 0% and 1 stock, his Snake bombarded Awestin’s Ness with a flurry of fist and flame, racking up a consecutive 90% to close out game 1. He secured his victory with a signature Downthrow-Uptilt combo, and it was looking like the seasoned vet had adapted to Awestin’s gameplay. Perhaps that winners finals set was a fluke.
However, Awestin quickly answered, taking the series to Yoshi’s Island and capturing a victory in the process – even with an extra stock in his back pocket to boot. Still, MVD showed that he was capable of a 2-stock victory of his own in game 3. He refused to relent to Awestin, racking up ~250% worth of damage over the course of two stocks while only taking just about 90% of his own. In game 4, things were looking like MVD might actually walk away from the grand finals with a 3 stock before resetting the bracket, but Awestin managed to come back and tie the game up at one stock apiece. But one Snake uptilt later, the bracket had been reset after all.
To start the second set, Awestin continued to struggle. Another 2-stock victory for MVD threw the series to a fresh 1-0 in the Oklahoma representative’s favor. However, this time, instead of counterpicking to Yoshi’s Island, Awestin took his opponent to Battlefield – but the result did not differ. MVD took another game – 4 in a row now at this point – and all the momentum that Awestin had built up heading into the set had evaporated over the course of the past 20 minutes. MVD had taken a 2-0 lead in the reset, and had beaten Awestin in 5 of the last 6 games.
However, in game 3, the Smash gods intervened, as Awestin closed out the game with a Pk Thunder 2 that you can only see to believe. And he wouldn’t squander the blessing, either. All he needed to do was take the wind out of MVD’s sails just once and the ball would be back in his court.
He took game 4 in convincing fashion, forcing a game 5 that could easily go down as one of the best games of the entire year. It started out incredibly methodically, with over 45 seconds passing before either player had been hit for 50%. In a set that had proven to be explosive and fast paced, a slow, more thinking-focused start to game 5 definitely raised a few eyebrows. If anything, the skittish nature of the first minute of this game showcased just how important this contest was to both players. It was time to relax and let the other guy make the first mistake.
And it was Awestin who would make that mistake and lose the first stock, walking directly over a carefully placed C4 from MVD. Initially after that, MVD tacked on 44% of extra credit, and would have racked up more if it weren’t for the beautiful use of PSI Magnet from Awestin. Over the course of his second stock in game 5, Awestin had taken just about 100% worth of damage – and healed it all back. Every piece of extra percent that MVD had put on the board throughout that stock was erased, and the momentum once again shifted in Awestin’s favor. In fact, throughout the entirety of the set, Awestin healed ~560% with PSI Magnet. If there’s any one thing to take away from this set gameplay wise, it’s that statistic right there.
But that didn’t stop MVD from gaining momentum again. He took the game back to even as both players had well over 50% tacked onto them on their last stocks, and as both players creeped into a last-stock-last-hit situation, Awestin was able to capitalize on the chance with a dragdown-fair into back throw combo, completing the reverse sweep and ultimately winning the set.
In the most formative stages of competitive Ultimate, this 30 minute epic served as the greatest set the game had seen at that point. Even now, the battle remains near the top of the list. And while the two would form a rivalry over the course of 2019, meeting on 19 more occasions throughout the year (with MVD holding the all-time head-to-headin his favor by a score of 12-7), nothing has quite topped the performance they put on back at Ultimate Shockwave 4.
Photo Credit: Nintendo, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Tourney Locator