There is no rest for the weary on the Capcom Pro Tour.
NorCal Regionals has become an Easter weekend tradition over the past few years, but this year’s unusually-early Easter means that the event falls just days after Final Round in Atlanta. Those hoping to apply what they learned from the first major international Street Fighter 5 tournament won’t have much time to improve their game between events. This is especially true for American players, who were shut out of the top four placings at the Atlanta event.
The field may be a bit smaller this week—just under 350 registrants as of Thursday compared to 1,024 at Final Round—but the field is all killer and no filler. This weekend’s field includes the last two Capcom Cup champions, three of the last four Street Fighter 4 Evo champions, and 11 of the top 16 points earners on last year’s Pro Tour. It also includes many dangerous players from both Northern and Southern California who are feared locally even though they might not be as well-known internationally.
With so many great players in action, there will be plenty of questions to be answered when the Pro Tour event begins on Saturday at 10am PT/1pm ET on the Capcom Fighters Twitch channel.
Here are three of the biggest questions about NorCal Regionals heading into the event:
How well will the Pool of Death work?
The debate about how, or if, events should handle last-minute registration has raged on for quite some time. John Choi, the lead organizer of NorCal Regionals, announced a novel approach to encourage players to pre-register: all players who register for the event at the door will be placed into one pool. The move piqued the interest of fighting game fans was announced back in February, but the struggles faced by this past weekend’s Final Round means that the approach to the Pool of Death will receive nearly as much attention this weekend as its results.
The players who do enter this pool will have their work cut out for them. In an interview on Best of III earlier this week, Choi said that the number of last-minute entrants could reach more than 100. Not only will the pool will be deep on quantity but quality as well, as Gon “Poongko” Lee-Chung and Ryan “Filipino Champ” Ramirez have announced plans to register at the door. If that weren’t enough, the pool winner’s first match in the last 32 of the tournament will be against the winner of Pool 15, which could very well be Final Round champion Lee “Infiltration” Seon-Woo.
Will any of the other pools be any easier?
Pool 16 might be the official Pool of Death, but there will be no easy roads out of pool play. Twelve of the other 15 pools feature a player with a top-eight finish in the Street Fighter IV series at Evo. Pool 15 might be the toughest of the bunch. Besides Infiltration, the pool includes Brentt “Brenttiscool” Franks and Ryan “Gootecks” Gutierrez, both of whom already have top-eight finishes on the Pro Tour this season.
The rest of the pools are loaded as well. Eduardo “PR Balrog” Perez and Anton “Filipinoman” Herrera, two of the three highest-placing American players at Evo 2015, are both in Pool 5. Pool 13 features Takahashi “Bonchan” Masato and Justin Wong, who finished fourth and fifth respectively at NorCal Regionals 2015. Du “NuckleDu” Dang, who finished third at last year’s event, could face a unique challenge: his final match in Pool 10 could be against Momochi “ChocoBlanka” Yuko, and his first opponent in the next round could be ChocoBlanka’s husband, reigning Evo champion Momochi Yusuke.
Can NorCal defend its home turf?
Besides Kappas, PogChamps, and BibleThumps, one of the most common sights in Twitch chat for Pro Tour events the past couple of years has been “Land of the Free.” NorCal Regionals will crown its champion on Sunday, 532 days after the last American player won a Premier event on the Pro Tour. Fans hoping to see that streak end will be hoping for a much better showing than Final Round, where American players were shut out of the top four places.
But national pride is not the only thing at stake this weekend. Northern California has been one of the strongest fighting game regions in the world, with Gootecks going as far as proclaiming the region to be the strongest in the world for Street Fighter 5. They’ll be desperate to prove that right this year, as no NorCal player finished in the top eight of last year’s tournament (Justin Wong, who tied for fifth last year, moved from SoCal to NorCal since last year’s event). NorCal will have plenty of talented players who will try to change things this time around, including PR Balrog, Ricki Ortiz, Long “LPN” Nguyen, and Hooman “HooDaMan” Ghahremani.