This time it was the NorCal Regionals Street Fighter 5 trophy that Infiltration won, one week after winning at Final Round. The win netted him nearly $10,000, only slightly less than he took home for his Final Round.
With his two Pro Tour wins and his victory earlier this month at MagicStick Cup, Infiltration has won every Street Fighter 5 tournament he has entered thus far. Fans are already comparing this year to 2012, which was when Infiltration dominated Super Street Fighter 4 AE 2012 and Street Fighter x Tekken in a way few could hope to replicate. That year, he won Evo 2012, the Street Fighter 25th Anniversary tournament, and nearly every tournament in between in both games.
Infiltration did not win the Capcom Cup berth at stake at the event as he had already earned one at Final Round. Thanks to a new rule, his win means that no player earned direct qualification to the year-end event via NorCal Regionals. Instead, an additional player will qualify for the year-end championship via points on the tour’s global leaderboard. The highest finisher who had not already earned a spot through a Premier event—Tokido in this instance—would be awarded the berth under last year’s rules, but with 256 points in just the first month of the season, Tokido is likely to qualify for the field anyways
Evil Geniuses’ Justin Wong took home third place, which is the highest finish from an American player on the 2016 tour to date. Martin “Marn” Phan, the Vietnamese player who won fans over with his incredible run through the Pool of Death on Saturday, finished fourth. A pair of American players, Julio Fuentes and Liquid’s Du “NuckleDu” Dang, tied for fifth place. Majestic’s Haitani Tetsuya of Japan and Evil Geniuses’ Ricki Ortiz of the United States tied for seventh to round out the top eight.
Much like last week, Infiltration and his incredibly-mobile Nash seemed untouchable for most of the event, as he dropped just one game over his final six sets. He scored 2-0 victories over Brentt “Brenttiscool” Franks, Marn, and Red Bull’s Takahashi “Bonchan” Masato on Saturday to reach the top eight. Once there, he scored a 3-0 victory over NuckleDu, a 3-1 win over Tokido in the winners’ final, and a 3-0 win over Tokido in the grand final.
While Infiltration coasted to the grand final, Tokido nearly fell short. After his loss to Infiltration in the winners’ final, he had to face Justin Wong in the losers’ final. Wong dominated the set’s first two games with his oppressive Karin pressure and was able to bully Tokido into the corner almost at will. Wong won the first round of the third, but dropped a big combo in the second round which allowed Tokido to answer with a huge combo of his own and win the round. Wong dropped another key combo in the third round, and Tokido turned that opportunity into a game win. The momentum swung firmly into Tokido’s favor at that point and he was able to rattle off two more wins over a shaken Wong to advance to the grand final.
But the real star of the show was fourth-place finisher Marn.
Marn was one of 52 players who registered for the Street Fighter V tournament at the event itself as opposed to registering online before the event. Instead of spreading those players throughout the bracket, those players suffered a unique punishment: all of them were put in one randomly-seeded Pool of Death. The Pool of Death, which had more than twice as many players as any other pool, became the talk of the event, and Marn became the talk of the pool by winning it. His final victories came over Hayashi “Mago” Kenryo of Mad Catz and Kenneth “K-Brad” Bradley of Marn’s former team, Evil Geniuses.
Marn’s performance in the Pool of Death wasn’t the only reason fans got behind him. His play with R. Mika was incredibly entertaining throughout the weekend. It was alternately described as wiley, unpredictable, random, and dumb. He relentlessly pressured his opponents, no matter what they tried to do to dissuade him from trying to go in.
“He is just going to move forward,” said commentator David “Ultradavid” Graham during the broadcast. “You’re not going to teach him not to do that.”
Marn put on a show outside of the game as well. He constantly mugged for the cameras and his opponents between rounds and games. He had silent conversations with nobody in particular, kissed the butt of his R. Mika bead-sprite necklace after a close round win over NuckleDu, got into a ‘can-you-top-this’ poking battle with Mago, and threatened to take off his shirt during his match with Ortiz.
His run continued after surviving the pool. He lost to Infiltration—as did everyone else who faced him—but rattled off victories over Winterfox’s Gustavo “801 Strider” Romero, Godsgarden’s Inoue “Kazunoko” Ryota, and Team YP’s Anton “Filipinoman” Herrera to reach the last eight of the tournament. He then scored wins over Ortiz and NuckleDu in two of the most entertaining sets of the night before falling to Wong 3-0 in the losers’ semifinal.
The tournament, entertaining as it was, ended on a series of dream-crushing moments. Wong eliminated Marn to end his dream run. Wong let a win—and a chance to end a run of 20 straight Premier events without an American winner—slip through his fingers. Then Infiltration killed the hopes of those hoping to see a new champion.
And just like everything else he’s done this year, he did it in dominating fashion.