Samuel "Dabuz" Buzby has been considered one of the top three Super Smash Bros. for Wii U players in the world almost since the game launched. But the landscape has been shifting. The two players always considered to be just above him, Gonzalo "ZeRo" Barrios and Nairoby "Nairo" Quezada, have been slipping, while Dabuz has stayed consistent. Dabuz took third at CEO 2016, then first place at WTFox 2, where he finally defeated ZeRo in tournament.
Now, going into EVO 2016, Dabuz is the second-seeded player in the bracket. He's the man to beat, but his enemies have their work cut out for them. The Rosalina and Luma master has been busting out his pocket Olimar more and more lately, confounding his opponents.
After his victory at WTFox and before heading off to EVO, Dabuz sat down with theScore esports to talk about Olimar, the competitive landscape, and what he thinks about EVO's schedule.
Editor's Note: This interview was conducted before the final revisions to the Smash 4 bracket at EVO.
What do you think of Smash 4 right now? How do you feel about where the meta and general balance are at?
The game is really in a good spot. Ask any top player, and generally there's kind of a consensus that Diddy Kong is the best, followed by Sheik and Cloud. Then there's the next tier of characters, like Fox, Mario, Rosa.
There's an idea of where the balance is at, but at the same time, a lot of people think that Diddy may be the best matchup-wise. He loses a lot of matchups slightly and goes even with most characters he doesn't dominate, while Cloud might have better matchups, but he loses worse to Sheik than anything Diddy Kong loses to, and that's bad.
We don't really want this game to see any more nerfs. We want low characters and mid-tier characters buffed at the moment. That is where the balance should be headed, and that's a really good sign.
So, we’ve seen you bust out a lot of Olimar recently, particularly at CEO and WTFox 2. Why bring out Olimar again after so long?
Part of it is just because the general level of character strength at the top has dropped. If I played Olimar before the Sheik nerfs, it wouldn't be worth it. All those characters who were really good being nerfed a little helps him a lot. But also it's just matchup knowledge. People don't know Olimar! When was the last time you went to a tournament, thinking to yourself "Dang, I really need to learn the Olimar matchup." That doesn't happen!
It's a gimmick. It's a really good gimmick, because I've played the character for almost a decade in Smash games now. I feel like I'm the best player using the character, and I play him the best at the top level because of that knowledge and my skill level.
But I don't think he'll be a good pick forever. I think that five years into the meta, if the game's still around and still growing, and people actually know all their matchups, even weird ones, he won't be a viable pick.
What characters do you think are in the top tier right now?
No order, just looking at the character select screen right now. Obviously Mario, Rosa, Diddy Kong, Sheik, Zero Suit. People are going to question this, but I think Marth is a top-tier character. Mr. E is kind of getting to the point where he's competing with top level players, Pugwest has the same thing. We see Leo in Mexico, who used to be the best Meta Knight, is using Marth and doing really well. He's the first top-level player to pick up the character.
Fox and Sonic are also top-tier for sure. I think Villager might still be top tier. Depending on what Ranai's placement is at EVO, we'll see if the character is still top tier or not. I think Mega Man is top tier. If you look at Kamemushi play in Japan, he's been kind of destroying the entire country with our favorite Blue Bomber. We'll see at EVO, but I think Mega Man is a borderline top-tier character.
Mewtwo of course is top tier. I think Ryu is is overrated but is still top tier, but I'm biased because Rosa beats Ryu. Cloud is definitely top tier, Corrin may or may not be. His theory is really good, but his results are lacking. I also think Bayo is very underrated right now. I think she's the new Diddy Kong, where she got nerfed and people are underestimating her, but she's already showing signs of growing and being strong.
Why Mega Man? What do you think makes him potential top-tier pick?
Initially Mega Man was really good in most matchups, but the Sheik matchup just kind of made him irrelevant. If you were having trouble with Mega Man, you could go Sheik. Even though that matchup is still bad for him, Kamemushi is beating all the Sheiks in Japan.
I feel like Mega Man is the Brawl Olimar of Smash 4. His strength is his very consistent neutral and as players get better with Mega Man, they're going to learn to leave less holes in their neutral. He's going to be harder to hit, and then I think he'll hit a point where people will almost perfect his neutral, so just fighting him and getting hits will be a huge hill to climb.
He also does well against Diddy and Cloud, the two most common characters at top-level play right now, which is super good for him.
You’ve said that you feel the top tiers as they stand now are relatively stable. Why do you think that is?
I think the reason for that is solely because this game doesn't have much advanced tech. Obviously it has optimized combos, setups, stage positioning, it has all this stuff, but there isn't much as far as you can find in terms of crazy movement tech. Perfect pivoting is a thing, but most of the movement is sort of like that. Sliding around, turning around, little things like that. Nothing crazy. I think that harms the game in terms of how much it can evolve in the future, because it ends up just being about how to optimize the tools our characters have that we already know how to use.
You’re well known for keeping extensive notes and studying them during matches. What do you keep notes on? Is it character information, player notes?
My notes are basically just a culmination of everything I know about a matchup. Like, my notes go over things like, how the neutral should be played for both characters, how the advantage is played, how the disadvantage should be played, stages, gimmicks. There's a lot of gimmicks in this game, and if you don't know them, you can just get caught off-guard. It's very easy to forget when there's 50-something characters and all these gimmicks. So I really try to focus on things that are very easy to forget but shouldn't be forgotten.
Like, for example, you play a Samus and she can kill you with up-B at really early percents with rage. And she can do dash attack up-B as a gimmick, and most people won't know this. I shouldn't forget that, I can play around it. That kind of stuff is a huge chunk of my notes, all the things I should know, so I don't forget about them because I haven't played the matchup in a few months. The more I know a matchup, the less I have to know the player.
Do you find then that Smash 4 is more character-oriented than player-oriented?
I think that's every fighting game ever. Characters have a set of tools, it's not like player X has a forward-air that is ten percent longer range than player Y using the same character, or has a different combo. No, they have the same exact tools. Of course I have to know the player a bit. But when I know what a character can and can't do, and I can play around that specifically, fighting the player becomes more about what they like to do with their 50/50s, what setups they like, what their mentality is. It's kind of just knowing what things they favor more with their character.
Going into EVO, how do you feel about the competitive landscape?
Chaos. Simple chaos. It's so....ughhh I hate it! ZeRo is losing to all these people that you don't think he should lose to, but at the same time he's still beating people and placing well. At the same time Nairo is positive versus every player in the Top 10 except for ZeRo, but then he loses to Hyuga and Zinoto at CEO 2016. Top 10 players are losing to non-Top 10 players, but then people like me are pretty consistent against all the non-Top 10, but still struggle versus higher-ranked players. It's weird, because depending on who runs into who, anything can happen with the bracket.
I don't see that changing anytime soon, with how everyone's meta is advancing. So yeah, it's honestly just chaos. At this point if you get Top 16 or Top 8 at a big tournament and you can do that consistently? That's good, because most people can't even do that.
I know a lot of people aren’t happy with how the brackets and scheduling have turned out for EVO. How do you feel about it?
So to be quite honest, I don't like how EVO is running things. "Oh, we're gonna do all of Round 1 and 2 pools in one day, potentially finish at midnight and then start Top 32 at 8 a.m." 8 a.m. is annoying, but that's manageable I guess, but finishing at earliest 10:30 p.m., that is atrocious. You need time to, you know, sleep, eat, wake up in the morning. You need a break. Players need that time to get ready for their matches. The fact that we're not going to have a good break is just atrocious! You can't expect us to play at our best.
I think it's going to be a big issue, and it's kind of why I'm going to look at EVO's results with a grain of salt, because of that schedule. I don't like it. I think CEO's schedule was amazing. They had three days obviously, but I think Smash needs three-day events. It needs special attention from these bigger events because of how big a game we are.
The seeding itself is also kind of awkward. I made a joke that I was kind of being honest about, that if you took the Top 32 seeds and shuffle them randomly, that would be fair seeding.
How does it feel getting that second seed at EVO after being considered part of the “Top 3” for so long?
It's weird, because there's a big target on my back. I just beat ZeRo, I probably have the highest level of consistency. Even though my peak results aren't as amazing as some players, my low results are probably the best right now. So I have a huge target on my back, and everyone in my bracket is looking at me right now.
It's a blessing and a curse, because the people who go in fighting me, they're scared, because obviously I'm me. I'm a player that can overcome Rosa's worst matchup against Abadango. I overcame the Meta Knight matchup against someone who plays Meta Knight for the Rosa matchup specifically. The fact that I can do things like that is scary to people, because they know I'm prepared for them.
But, anything can happen. Honestly, I don't feel more comfortable because I have second seed. I'd actually feel more comfortable if I was 16th seed and players didn't look at me much, because people would be more aware of other players. Hell, some people think I'm number one right now, which I don't agree with, but that just shows the perception at the moment.
What do you think has changed? We’ve had patches before — why is this such a volatile shift?
There's no optimal character choice or strategy. So, obviously, before the Sheik nerfs, there was no reason not to play Sheik. If you wanted to win, she was the best character, hands down. Obviously there were other good characters, but you could never go wrong with Sheik. Before the Bayo nerfs, same thing, unless you were playing Diddy Kong maybe. Before Cloud nerfs, same thing. Now there is no optimal character choice and it's so hard to know who you should pick and who your opponent is prepared for. You have to be ready for 15 characters now. You have to know these matchups specifically. A lot of the time you want to counter-pick to a character, not because they're the most optimal pick, but because if you don't know the matchup and your opponent does, you're screwed. If you can counter-pick with a matchup your opponent won't know, then you're both on an even playing field.
Whatever you run into you have to be prepared for, and everyone wants different things. I think any of the Top 16 players could win EVO, based on the bracket they get, but any of them could get 49th if they get a really bad bracket.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.