Jason "ANTi" Bates might not have been to as many tournaments as some of the other top Smash 4 pros, but he also hasn't dropped out of Top 8 at a major in almost a year. The Mario main has picked up several more characters over the last few months, and he says he's ready to get in gear and clear the two biggest names off his hitlist: ZeRo and Nairo.
Before this Top 8 appearance at Get on My Level 2016, ANTi sat down with theScore esports to talk about the recent Bayonetta nerfs, Mario's singles and doubles potential, and what he thinks he needs to fix in his own game.
What do you think of the Bayonetta nerfs?
They were definitely needed, but in my opinion, they were a little over the top. She was good, but she wasn't that overwhelming. She hasn't done that much on a national scale; not many top players actually used her, so we don't really know how strong she could have been. But it was definitely a good call to nerf her, because tournaments were getting kind of ridiculous with all those kills at early percents.
Do you think she got hit a little too hard then?
They kind of made her diagonal down-B completely useless. That was a big part of her toolkit. They could have done something else. They don't have to make it combo into the Up-B and then you die at 20, but make it useful in another way. I don't know exactly what to do, but add a use to it. A character should have all their moves do something that benefits them.
Yeah, her Afterburner Kick was sort of her key move.
That's her bread and butter right there. If she hits you with two of those, she combos into two Up-Bs and it killed you at 20 percent, that's a game changer right there.
So, you and Ally took doubles at GOML using a double-Mario team. Do you think that's a solid duo?
I think double-Mario might be a Top 3 team, because Mario is a small character and he combos very hard. So if you have two Marios in the field at the same time, they can combo opponents into each other's moves, like Up-Air into Back-Air, Back-Air to Back-Air, Up-Air to Up-Air. It's like a ladder, and it kills really quickly too. Double-Mario might be a really good team. Nairo and Mew2King are no slouch, and we 6-1'd them. So that's a dominant win, and Grand Finals was kind of a wash.
Does Mario do a little better in doubles with Cloud's doubles potential nerfed?
The thing with Cloud is that he's very easy to gimp, especially versus Mario. Mario has his Cape and his F.L.U.D.D. to gimp Cloud. So if Cloud doesn't have a character like Sheik to save him off-stage, then Cloud is useless, kind of.
So overall then, how do you feel about the game's balance right now?
I think that the Bayonetta nerf was a big tool in making the game more exciting to watch for the viewers and the streamers and all that, but I think now Smash 4 has reached a state where we can work on our own characters. No character right now is super overpowered. We're just waiting for it to grow, for the money to be poured in, with sponsors and all that. Now we're at the stage where we should play our game and focus, stop complaining, just work.
It's interesting that you say it's about working your characters. You've been using a few characters at this tournament — what's the development like for you?
I try not to only use Mario, because I feel like Mario isn't that strong of a character in singles. Because he is very linear, and if you just play keep away and keep him out the whole time, he struggles. So I try to pick up multiple characters, so I have a whole arsenal of characters for counter-picking in every matchup. That's my thing. Mario, I feel like he's around 13th, 12th on the tier-list, in my opinion. People think he's higher, but I think my little opinion is a little more reliable.
Everyone always says their own character is the worst, huh?
Exactly. Some people think their characters are very good, like ESAM, but I also think that Pikachu is not a good character either.
What do you think of the game's meta right now? Where is it at?
Right now I feel like the metagame is going to be about developing a strong neutral and keeping your opponent at the edge. The players who I think specialize in keeping their opponents pinned down on the edge and they're very consistent are Larry Lurr and ZeRo. Those two players, they'll keep you pinned down by the ledge the whole game, and you can't really get up. If you get up, you're taking percent. I feel like the next step is everyone else has to get their ledge game perfect like that.
Where do you see yourself in that meta?
There's a few things I have in my head that I want to work on to be a stronger player and more consistent. I'm already pretty consistent but I need to develop a stronger ledge game. Tie my opponents down by the ledge so they can't get up. I also need to work on not dropping combos. Sometimes my mind is there, but my hands aren't. So I just need to work on saying, "Alright, take a deep breath, you have this combo. You have this kill right here so just stay focused and close it out."
It's interesting that you say your mind is still sharp even when you drop a combo. Do you find that dropping combos tilts you at all?
No, usually I have very strong mental prowess, to be honest. When I play and I drop something, I just try not to let that happen again. Like, I slap myself on the wrist. "Don't do that." That's why, when I drop a combo, I just buckle down and think, "Alright, whatever, move on." That's all you can do at that point, you can't dwell on the past. I definitely think players who can do that, who don't get frustrated off of one mess-up, they're going to be stronger in the current metagame. It's all about in-game strength and mental strength.
What's your competitive goal in 2016?
I want to just defeat as many top players as possible, I'm playing as an unsigned player, so I'm just trying to take them all out and prove to them that "you guys are signed, but I'm better." The hit list right now is TSM ZeRo and Liquid Nairo. That's pretty much it for Smash 4, because it's only two players sponsored by big teams. But everyone else is trying to get them too.
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.