ELeague closes out its Street Fighter V Invitational Regular Season with Group D this week, where two more players will earn the chance to compete in the Playoffs on national TV Friday, May 26.
Capcom Cup 2016 champion Du “NuckleDu” Dang and Arman “Phenom” Hanjani are the top two seeds and as a result will await their opponents from the opening rounds of the Group D on Friday. Yahoo Esports predicted NuckleDu and Phenom as finalists in its group rankings. While Group D may not have quite the appeal of previous weeks because of the lack of drama, there are some intriguing storylines still to play out.
Because this is the final group to play in the Regular Season, each competitor will have had roughly six weeks to prepare for their match-ups. The very first match of the day pits two European veterans against each other in a group that, for some reason, featured the only three European competitors in the event. Former Street Fighter IV Evo champion Olivier “Luffy” Hays takes on “The Prodigal Son” Ryan Hart.
Luffy finished ninth at Capcom Cup 2016 and doesn’t appear to have missed a step with a nerfed R. Mika in Season 2. He finished with the same record as Phenom and should be considered the favorite against in this match-up. Season 2 has been more challenging to Ken players like Hart, with some picking up stronger secondary characters -Yusuke Momochi has been playing Ibuki, for example. Hart has dabbled with different characters, possibly to make up for any potential match-up problems for Ken, but he’ll need to be at his strongest to knock Luffy off. Unless Hart has abandoned him for another top-tier character, Ken might be his best option.
This isn’t exactly a Europe teamkill, as the loser will drop into the lower bracket. But whoever winns will have to get through the winner of the match between Chris Tatarian and Zhoujun “Xiao Hai” Zeng.
Both Tatarian and Xiao Hai are emotional players, so this match could come down to who can keep stay the most calm in tight situations. Xiao Hai is a world-class player and he had a pretty big year on the Capcom Pro Tour last year. He won two Premier Events (G-League and SoCal Regionals,) placing second at Canada Cup, and ninth at Capcom Cup 2016. His experience at the highest level makes him a favorite. But he is known to get frustrated at times. If Tatarian can do get under his skin, he has a good chance at coming out on top in this match-up.
The last two standing of these four players face NuckleDu and Phenom as their next obstacles to get into the Playoffs. It’s a daunting task as the young competitors have both had dominant streaks in Street Fighter V. Victor “Punk” Woodley may have garnered all of the recent attention in North America after wins at ELeague, West Coast Warzone, NorCal Regionals, and DreamHack Austin, but NuckleDu is as dangerous as ever with either his Guile and R. Mika. Meanwhile, Phenom is fresh off of a fourth place finish at DreamHack Austin so he should be more than ready to slam dunk the competition with his Necalli.
Whoever comes out of Group D’s Finals will be matched up against Ai “Fuudo” Keita and Joshua “Wolfkrone” Philpot, the finalists from last week’s Group C Regular Season.
The other Playoff matches will feature Punk vs. Eduardo “PR Balrog” Perez and Yusuke Momochi vs. Daigo Umehara.
You can catch Rounds 1 and 2 beginning at 3PM PT on ELeague’s Twitch channel, with Round 3 and Group Finals taking place at 7PM PT on TBS and Twitch.
For more news and information, be sure to check out the Street Fighter V hub.
Michael Martin covers SFV and the FGC. Follow him on Twitter @Bizarro_Mike.