By The Dark Gentleman
“You have to have self confidence.”
Hello Smashers! This is part two of my interview series, Philosophy Corner with The Dark Gentleman, hosted by The Smash Writers. After a great interview with Jigglypuff master Wangera, I next spoke with stylish pro TR3GTheZ. We were also fortunate to be joined in our discussion by veteran commentator Jimmy Joe. Below are the best snippets, paraphrased, from our 1 hour interview.
Dark Gentleman: So, just a basic question so we have these for background for anyone getting introduced to you…when did you actually start getting into Smash?
TheZ: As a childhood game, Smash 64 definitely over Melee and the other ones. So there’s definitely the nostalgia factor as far as I’m concerned. As a competitive thing? I discovered Kalliera, the online netplay client around 2007. I was actually 12 years old back then. Advanced techniques were already a thing then, and there were a fair amount of players who could actually use them. I would even call it a competitive scene although there weren’t any tournaments back then. My first actual console tournament was August 2013.
Dark Gentleman: What was the name of that first tournament?
TheZ: It was “Smash til you Crash 4” in Montreal. It had Revan and SuPeRbOoMfAn. It had a carpool with Mew2King and Sensei and they actually crashed [their car] on the way there. I got 3rd place – I lost to Revan and Boom. After that tourney, I never lost to Revan again at a major.
Dark Gentleman: Since you brought up your matches with Revan, I wanted to ask about that rivalry. I know you two have had close matches such as your set at G3. Is it much different competing against someone you are close to, like a teammate, then an out of region player?
TheZ: Oh, definitely. Playing someone you’re close to, obviously they should play like the people from around town and such. That’s a very generalized statement but just in North America as a whole, there’s a very developed meta game. The closer you get to a region, the more the players from that region make use of a lot of techniques that aren’t used in other regions.
Jimmy Joe: I think what TDG was asking about, and something I’m personally curious about: do you find it easier or more difficult to play against people you know well on a personal level?
TheZ: I think there are two ways to look at it. When you play someone you’re familiar with, you know what to expect. The factor of “unknown” is a lot less present in terms of character selection and general habits. But playing someone you know nothing about, especially if they know nothing about you then it’s a neutral situation. If I play tacos in bracket, I’ll be scared because he knows what I do. But playing someone from Japan who might even be at a higher level, I’d be probably more comfortable because they don’t know what to expect from me.
Dark Gentleman: Going into some of those matches against players you don’t know as well – when you approach the neutral, are you looking to pick up their habits more or is it about exerting your will and your game plan on them since they don’t know your style?
TheZ: The latter, definitely. A lot of it would be kind of trying to overwhelm the opponent. Not sure how to phrase this – I would say in a scenario when you know nothing about the other player, you’ll often take a step back and you won’t be as offensive. Often in that scenario, I would expect my opponent to sit back and try to analyze. You don’t want to give them the opportunity to do that. You want to run in as soon as there’s an opening. You don’t want to hesitate ever, I think the ball is in the court of the player willing to throw out the hit first.
Dark Gentleman: Whats the toughest set you’ve ever played in?
TheZ: Including those I’ve lost? The toughest set was definitely me vs Boom, at SuperBoomed. But as a set when I wasn’t character locked, I think against Wizzrobe at SSC. I sometimes felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. Straight up. Against other aggressive players, I can sort of understand what they’re doing and I am able to counter whatever they’re throwing at me. But Wizzrobe has a very textbook play style that he has mastered. If you play aggressively or by feel it does not work because playing by feel is directly countered by that textbook style. That’s why I have a lot of trouble figuring him out.
Jimmy Joe: I think that’s a very accurate assessment of Wizzrobe. Seeing his matches against Revan shows exactly what you’re saying because Revan is such an analytical player and Revan was able to pick him apart. But your style is so different from Revan’s that Wizzrobe style may counter yours.
TheZ: I call [what Wizzrobe does] “walling” which is where he will always be in a position to counter as many possible options as he can. It’s defensive definitely and its going to be based around the more likely approaches that I can throw. Especially because he plays Yoshi, with parry and double jump armor, he can afford to take a hit and counter. Comparing Wizzrobe and Revan, they both play textbook style, but a textbook Yoshi is tougher to handle than a textbook Kirby.
Dark Gentleman: So how would you describe your own style? If you were writing a rankings bio on yourself, what might it say?
TheZ: Oh, I never thought about that to be honest! Very “on the spur”. It’s all very “on the spur”.
Jimmy Joe: I’m not familiar with that expression but I’m guessing its like ad-libbing?
TheZ: Like on the spur of the moment. There’s not much fore thought usually.
Jimmy Joe: I think that most people consider you a very stylish player. Do you think that when you are playing a match, are you are thinking about being stylish?
TheZ: I’m definitely not thinking about it. There are some simple things I don’t like doing like America comboing with Falcon. But playing as Fox or any other character, I will usually do whatever I think will work in that moment. I would use the word “experimental”. Usually in friendlies, experimentation leads to having more options. You will be able to use a move in tournament that you used as a past improvisation you did in friendlies. I encourage people to experiment. If you play friendlies – don’t play standard, always try something new so you can expand your options for the future.
Dark Gentleman: On that topic, what are your thoughts on how to improve at this game? I know some people hit plateaus. How do you keep raising the bar?
TheZ: There are two fundamental things I believe you need to not plateau. First: you have to like the game. I know that sounds weird. Some people play a game they don’t like because they want to be good at something or they want to win the money at the locals. You can not get truly get good at this game if you don’t like it. That’s very important. The other point is, you have to have self confidence. Not to go over the top and be cocky. It’s important that you walk into a set, lets say against Boom. Be realistic, you will likely lose. But you want to put up a fight to the best of your ability. If you’re playing someone much better than you then you have to do your best, and if you’re playing someone closer to your level you have to believe you can win. Tournaments nerves are a big thing. There are some players who are very good and have a lot of potential, but lose to players who have more confidence. It’s very important that people walk into a set with the mentality that they’re playing against a human. There will be mistakes and there will be openings. No match is absolutely unwinnable.
Jimmy Joe: What would you say about practicing? How do you practice? Can everyone get technical with practice and can that help tournament nerves?
TheZ: The direct counter to tournament nerves is playing console with people. At weeklies, smash fests, or other places with an event type atmosphere. I don’t practice as much as I should anymore. My current practice is just online play. I would recommend using online play for match up knowledge and everything mental.
Dark Gentleman: I’m personally interested in the fine line between what’s more important between playing to win and playing to have fun. I ask everyone about this and I get a different answer every time. I’m curious what your thoughts are about that.
TheZ: They are not mutually exclusive. Ultimately, you have to play for fun. If you play to win, even if you get money and make a living etc…if it’s taking a toll on your life, you probably shouldn’t do it. I’m pushing this a little, but its important to have fun. However, I don’t know a lot of people who play just for fun, except Isai. You want to play to win if you want to improve.
Jimmy Joe: Some people enter a set and they’re not trying to win but the idea of fun for them is to do something like landing one Falcon Punch combo in the match.
Dark Gentleman: How do you feel personally about it as TR3GTheZ?
TheZ: As TR3GTheZ I play to win. I just so happen to have fun doing it. Hopefully that’s the case for everyone. This game is extremely fun. Whether I play online or in tournament, it’s always fun. The only thing I don’t have fun with is doubles without the SK rule set (no teams with Pika-Pika or Pika-Kirby). Just my two cents.
Jimmy Joe: Whoah…The Z getting his own agenda out there.
Jimmy Joe: What’s your goal for 2017?
The Z: My goal is to be the best. I don’t necessarily practice for it as much as I should. A lot of it can be attained through kind of a mental thing. A lot if it is just composure.
Jimmy Joe: How far away do you see yourself from a player like Boomfan?
The Z: In terms of in game abilities, very close. Not far at all. Then again, the composure factor and stuff like that ultimately dictates the winner. Boom is a lot better than that I am.
Dark Gentleman: Boom has this ultra confidence that I identify with my competitive background in fight sports. We see this with champion fighters. Boom, when he plugs into the match, he seems to know he will win. Losing doesn’t enter his mind. It’s what you said about confidence but taken to the fullest extreme.
The Z: Yea and that effects a lot. There’s no denying Boom’s incredible talent at this game. It’s very almost…inhuman. But I do think that with more time I could get to that level.
TDG Conclusion :
Talking to TheZ gave me a ton of perspective on next level play. The first thing you notice is how much he simplifies seemingly complex concepts. I think a lot of players over think the challenge of improving at this game. TheZ cuts it down to two main thoughts: you have to like the game and you have to have self confidence. I love that outlook, because he is saying the rest will come with experience. TheZ does not try to style when he plays, style is the product of his “spur of the moment” play. He plays how he wants, and the results show.
What excites me the most is the stylistic variety TheZ brings to the competitive scene. In a game characterized by overtly defensive play, he shines using an aggressive style. We discussed this in depth, comparing his “spur of the moment” decision making to the tactical Yoshi main Wizzrobe’s defensive strategy, and the complete mastery of Boom. This got me thinking about how, on a deep level, the game opens up so much room for personal expression.
The main take away however, is that TR3GTheZ loves Super Smash Bros. 64. You can tell from his answers the passion he has for the game. I think that passion is a big part of what makes him such a formidable opponent.