Eli “The” Curry’s Top 10 UMVC3 Matches of 2016
2016 will be remembered as one of the most ridiculous years on human record. From celebrity lives, sports curses, even average perception, many things ended with a thunderous crash in the year of 2016. It would have made sense, and been quite fitting if Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 met its end as well.
Thankfully, nothing could be further from the truth. Perhaps the climatic moments, Chris G’s triumphant exclamation after felling KBR at Evo (and the special guest appearance of The Ghost of Marvel 2 after the ceremony) and the whimpered bang of Zero’s buster as Jibrill swept the East Coast at NEC were simply too perfect an ending. After all, if Marvel 3 has been anything in the 360/PS3 era, it has been ultimately unpredictable.
Thankfully, 2016 is not an end. Instead, it heralds a near perfect port of Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom to PS4 (and eventually Xbox One and PC), and will also usher in a brand new title, Marvel vs Capcom Infinite. 2017 looms as a defining year for the fighting games, and Marvel will stand proudly on that precipice, but before we get to speculation about the Infinite, let’s look back at 2016’s greatest matches.
A note, this list by no means exhaustive, almost all of these matches are the best of show in incredible Top 8 Sunday’s, I’ve merely curated ten that I feel stand out, either through impressive play, emotional investment, or their historic context, almost all of these matches involve tear inducing amounts of all three.
But before that, a few honorable mentions.
Panda Global|Coach Steve vs Net Battles|Dual Kevin, NEC17
First thing I’ll admit up front, you will see these two again and again throughout this list. They are also two of my favorite people in the world. I don’t apologize for any of that. At the same time, part of the reason for favoritism stems from the fact that both Kevin and Steve know how to put on a show. Patience, confidence, execution and optimization, when Top 8 level players, piloting teams that they created and made famous, clash, the results are often spectacular. And this 3–2 nail biter is no different. This match just misses the list because it wasn’t on stream and was also during pools. It’s also not the best match either of these two played this year. But as far as old-fashioned trash talk and gritty drag-out FGC qualification matches, oh yeah, it belongs.
Gwinnet Brawl|Dapvip vs Marvelous Essentials|Merkyl
If you’re a fan of Marvel, you may want to watch this match because it’s an absolutely ridiculous application of endgame theory. If you’re not a fan of Marvel, you may want to watch this match to confirm that UMVC3’s endgame agenda is a shattered mess of infinites and impossible situations. Back to back perfects, X-23 mirrors, IRON MAN? Yeah, actually. One touch to TAC to 300%? Pretty standard. Totally unfair. Mid-tier at best. ‘Sho is pretty tho.
Now, onto the list proper.
10. NB|Dual Kevin vs MC|GCYoshi (Frosty Faustings, January, Chicago)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxMJLmBjwjY&list=PLCk-1xZqJhWAWBEr1u8_LhWEvTiSo1lHd&index=7 (Match starts at 1:36:35)
Sentinel starts with an S. Sentinel’s S ends with a bang. That also describes the entirety of this set. Grand finals, both sets going 3–2. I was there, I was tired, I felt kicked. Kevin got kicked, repeatedly. Then thrown, and in front of a Midwest crowd desperate for him to land a hit and secure a victory for the Lakes on our own turf.
Kevin’s meticulous style has only a few natural predators, but never one quite as scary to watch as Jason “GCYoshi” Wang’s combination of patient play and reckless abandon. There’s nothing quite like having someone dash at you without a sense of fear or concern as to whether it works out or not. Watch at your own risk.
9. IHeartJustice vs PG|Coach Steve (Evo, July, Las Vegas)
I don’t know if Javier “IHeartJustice” is a big wrestling fan, but I can comfortably say that he played 2016 like every tournament was Wrestlemania. With classics against RayRay, Cloud, and FChamp, Javier routinely stepped onto the big stage with a confidence and ability that far outstrips the theoretical potency of his team. In reality, he stole the show across the country against the biggest and best names of the FGC. It might seem surprising then, to see him debut so far down. As I mentioned, I tried to weight towards matches that were streamed as part of the Top 8, this match against Panda Global’s Steven “Coach Steve” Delgado was neither, at the same time, it’s everything we know hype to be about. The personal history of these two, at Evo no less, already made it a marquee matchup, that the two decided to play at a pace and level that had to be seen to believe was another, that it was recorded perfectly in the midst of all that action? Exceptional.
8. Apologyman vs PG|Filipino Champ (Evo, Las Vegas, July)
I take theoretical points off of this match because it isn’t the best match these two have played, not in Top 16, at Evo, or where Vineeth “Apologyman” Meka won the set, but I also feel like adding the same amount of props to the fact that these two consistently bring high-level play and the most intense anticipation out of each other when they play. Whether it’s because Vineeth has mastered a style of play that somehow feels rigid and unpredictable, or because Ryan “Filipino Champ” Ramirez can literally calm the tempest of any player he gets an extended look at, neither player ever looks comfortable in their sets. At the levels the two have reached, it always creates a spectacular show of tension, with Top 8 of Evo on the line, this was quite a moment to behold.
7. KillerKai vs Apologyman (Southern California Regionals, Orange County, October)
HOT ASIAN ALERT.
Sorry. Eliver “KillerKai” Ling is a professional actor and fighting game veteran, he deserves more than that. Still, too often we only think about those titillating moments wherein he contemplates taking off his shirt, and the…distracting results thereafter. The punchline of those jokes is that shirtless Eliver rarely wins the set, because the powerup only lasts for a couple of games, that he did it down 0–2 made for a classic setup, and instead the well-toned veteran and a game Meka delivered a classic set, one that should be remembered well by both sides of the perennial NorCal/SoCal rivalry.
6. NB|Dual Kevin vs. Evil Genius|NYChris G (Evo, Las Vegas, July)
I take my capacity as a writer seriously, so seriously that I am going to say that, yes, the match where my little brother defeats the best Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 player ever in a set to qualify for Top 8 of the world championships isn’t my favorite match ever, and that it isn’t even my favorite match of the year. Part of that is an attempt to show you that I am capable of objectivity, the match is spectacular, but there’s something off about Chris’ performance, and when you know that he would avenge this loss the next day in Top 8 along his road to the championship, a little of the rose fades. Regardless, I watched my little brother fell a titan he had been pulverized by in consecutive months, and that was amazing and it made me cry tears of joy and excitement. But I can be honest and say that this isn’t my favorite Dual Kevin match, most of those were played long ago, online in a pair of rooms somewhere in Indiana, before I knew about the FGC and before we knew how good we could become. But that’s already more on this than is appropriate. Kev did good, I’m proud of him.
5. EchoFox|Justin Wong vs. Circa|Jibrill (Combobreaker, Chicago, May)
Justin Wong. Watching this video stands out because if you understand the proper context of his name, Justin Wong, you can read the tide of a match and the reaction of a crowd, but if you’ve actually felt the weight of that name, if you’ve heard the veterans of the community talk in glowing praise about Justin’s abilities, you understand in a different way just how much he means to what the fighting game community has become. Justin is a miracle, he is beyond the scene and is the scene in ways that we don’t fully understand just yet.
That’s what makes his matches with Gabriel “Jibril” Lam, a true young gun (he turns 17 in 2017) who has risen to the top of the heap several times, so fun to watch. If Jibril feels especially overwhelmed, it’s usually hard to tell. He does such an excellent job of fighting from the positions of power he creates for himself, the push and pull of these two wound all throughout 2016, and I’m excited that they will continue into the future. But there’s nothing like a classic JWong comeback, and unfortunately for Gabe, he played the fool’s role in this one to a tee.
4. IHeartJustice vs. PG|Filipino Champ (Absolute Battle 7, Dallas, August)
I say again. Javier Morales was a fucking Wrestlemania in a body. I don’t know how he managed to do it, I can’t explain the mechanism behind his matches this year, how he secured victories over Cloud and Champ and Steve but not RyanLV or Terry Bogard, I’ll just say that the best matches aren’t always won by the same person. We remember how we felt watching them, if they mattered, more than who won. This match didn’t matter because of the winner, it mattered because it was the second time at that point in 2016 that Javier pushed a well-known player to the end of their rope, except this time he finished them. If he can do that consistently, and Javier fully believes he can, this match will always be remembered as the closing statement on any argument about whether IHeartJustice was real or not.
3. R7|RyanLV vs EG|NYChris G (Undefeated, Phoenix, February)
Speaking of Ryan “LV” Romero, this is his first and only match on the list. Primarily because a successful match for RyanLV involves not playing until the game is neatly in hand, partly because he wasn’t out and about as often as we would like, but few players are, including Chris G for large portions of the year. We should still appreciate the matches we have, and this, the first of three times the two clashed in 2016, will be one of the more notable ones. Both because Ryan somehow made a crowd hero of Chris, and also because the two successfully pushed the limits of a 3 out of 5 set, you have to buckle in to this match, even as it seems to drag more out of you than it could possibly return. But just when it seems like the fire will die out, well…You remember there’s a Phoenix.
2. PG|Filipino Champ vs KaneBlueRiver (Winterbrawl, Philadelphia, February)
I will not get into what made this match all of what it is, I don’t like bullying, and I don’t like arrogance. There was enough of both, enough animosity and foolishness to make this match equal to most Greek Drama, but I’m not a gossip columnist, and I’m not invested in who deserves to be treated like what. I will tell you that Ryan Ramirez is better at Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 than most humans have ever imagined being at anything, and he got there by breaking every single rule against human effort and ability we’ve known about. His pride is usually the easiest story, and his skill is second to very few people, this day it was Nico’s, but more than that, FChamp wants to be the best, and he wants you to know that he got it by doing something you are simply not willing to do.
Will, however, is one of the things that Nico “KaneBlueRiver” Gonzales possesses in spades. Often to his detriment, Nico believes in doing what he believes he should do, and his unique perspective on success and purpose has clashed with the greater FGC as often as Champ’s has, even if under the radar. Regardless, these two have a style that makes their clashes epic, and when it meets in grand final’s of a Team Sp00ky stream with Michael “IFC Yipes” Mendoza commentating, it is high theatre, an epic worthy of a standing ovation and…well, meteoric highs and lows.
Watch Ryan dance, watch Nico smash, behold a clash of titan and god, behold spectacle as it was meant to be seen, with light and pomp and fury. If anything came out of that weekend in Philly, and the weeks preceding it, it was one hell of a show.
- GB|Darius “Dapvip” Patterson vs UA|”Terry Bogard” (Kumite in Tenessee, Memphis, January)
Yes I commentated this match, now hush up and trust me. The fighting game community is large, it is diverse, and it is currently thriving in a way that had never before been imagined. From basements and arcades to stadiums from Las Vegas to Orlando and Atlanta in between, the FGC has built a spectacle out of simple gumption. This community thrives because we will it to, period. If anyone, ever, tries to argue that the legacy of the FGC isn’t built on a very simple and dedicated desire to play, and play well. Show them this match. The simplest and most honest thing I can say about this match, beyond the fact that it is an absolutely gut-wrenching display of heart and stubbornness, is that it mattered. Not to the greater community at large, not to a global ranking system, and not to a pair of teams or sponsors. Did Atlanta want Darius to win? Yes. Did SRK include this in their rankings? Yes. Is Ultra Arcade still firmly in Terry’s camp? Yes they are.
But this match was about those two individuals, that moment, and getting one win by any means available. I would call it desperate, except that implies that these two ever reached beyond themselves. The majesty of this match for me is that they didn’t, they played within themselves, they pushed to a core of discipline and practice that is simply impossible to see in a public, common forum. They played with an ability that only comes out at a point of utter need, when someone comes across a status or accomplishment that they will not live without. And they fought with a tenacity that only comes when you realize you will only accomplish that status by taking it from someone else.
Yes, better players played better matches for bigger stakes in 2016. That’s all true, there were bitter and more personal rivalries settled for the world to see, that’s true. And I will watch Chris G and Justin battle at Evo and in Grand Finals of tourneys around the country all day, I’ll watch Champ’s immaculate heel work clash with KBR’s simple, efficient power. Sure.
But if you ask me what mattered, what match was simply great, this was it. A couple of folks at a console playing for nothing more than the chance to play again tomorrow. If the FGC is ever anything, that’s what we are.
Happy New Year. We start all over again at Kumite in Tennessee this Friday, the 6th of January 2017, I’ll be there, and I can’t wait to see what all the new year brings.
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