2012 - YEAR OF THE PELICAN
The original Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (now known simply as Vanilla) was no more. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was freshly released and significantly transformed the landscape of characters and techniques that would define the competitive scene. One aspect that it didn't change (with few exceptions) were the players and regions that dominated from the beginning of Marvel 3. Two such players would soon find sponsorship with Team Afterglow Elite (AGE), the esports division of Performance Designed Products (PDP) who are best known to gamers for their Pelican branded controllers and game accessories. This duo's unique success and frequent scandals would soon become a major focus of the Marvel community, providing endless drama and entertainment throughout the year and beyond.
The second installment of the Curleh Mustache invitational tournament once again returned to NYC at the tail end of January. The best players from across the Northeast battled it out to be named the very first Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 champion. Entrants included everyone from hot up-and-comers like RayRay to living legends like Eddie Lee. However, the player who made the biggest impact was none other than Chris G, along with his new, infuriating team of Morrigan / Doom / Akuma. Morrigan's endless Soul Fist fireballs coupled with Doom's infinite supply of Hidden Missiles made the relentless rushdown of MarlinPie's team seem almost obsolete in Grand Finals. This relentless barrage of projectiles was reminiscent of the old "Spiral sword trap" pioneered by Duc Do in Marvel 2 and even inspired the commentary duo of Chris Matrix and IFC Yipes to cut an impromptu EP including "Zoned Out" and the famously remixed "Local Battles | Chris G Theme Song." However, despite Chris G's oppressive innovation, MarlinPie adamantly persevered until he took the decisive final game with an extraordinary Amaterasu comeback. Following the relief of his grueling victory, even MarlinPie joined in on the fun by mocking Chris G's endless projecting spamming. But the long string of 2nd Place finishes wasn't over for Chris G, who lost to Justin Wong in the Grand Finals of Winter Brawl 6 just one month later.
The first international tournament for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 took place in March at Final Round XV in Atlanta, Georgia. A small but passionate contingent of Japanese players traveled to Final Round as members of the FinalRoundBats crew, a kind of informal fighting game club organized by Georgia native and Tokyo resident Scott Popular. The soon-to-be-infamous leader of this group was Kusoru, who mysteriously adopted the name Ageojoe for this tournament, perhaps to highlight his unique proficiency with the seldom used character Viewtiful Joe. Kusoru is a play on the Japanese word "kusoge" that literally means "shit game," but the term is often used to describe games that are "loveably bad" rather than worthless dreck. The Capcom Vs. series is comprised of games commonly referred to as "kusoge," and Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is no exception. Professional Japanese fighting gamers like Daigo and Mago famously tried then quickly dropped Marvel 3, due in part to the game's lack of arcade release and historic reputation for being massively unbalanced. Meanwhile, obscure fighting game enthusiasts like Kusoru glommed onto Marvel 3's wacky menagerie of tricks and funny characters, and after practicing in loud bars and cramped apartments with likeminded fanatics in Japan, Kusoru boldly stepped into the lion's den at Final Round to test his mettle against the best Marvel players in the world.
Following the changes in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, many previously successful Phoenix players dropped the once-indomitable character in favor of more consistent anchors like Akuma or Wesker. One of those rare Phoenix loyalists was none other than Filipino Champ who quickly discovered that his beloved bird had her share of hidden flaws as exposed by the cheeky ingenuity of Kusoru. Overwhelmed with excitement from defeating FChamp, Kusoru mugged for the camera with his personal copy of Sengoku Basara X for the PlayStation 2, a game that makes Marvel 3 look fair and subdued by comparison. The hilarious spectacle of Filipino Champ's demise instantly established Kusoru as a kind of renegade genius, flipping every certainty and convention the USA had established upside down in the span of a single game. On finals day, Kusoru's newfound reputation proved genuine when he defeated Mihe (even at the language select screen) and IFC Yipes in Winner's Finals. By the end, PR Balrog remained the last "great white hope" for North America to triumph over Kusoru in Grand Finals and reclaim their beloved game from foreign conquest. Even Kursoru's playful antics seemed to antagonize PR Rog, as if competitive Marvel was serious business undermined by Kusoru's easygoing attitude. In fact, it was Kusoru's cheerful composure and not PR Rog's nervous intensity that prevailed in the crucial fifth game of Grand Finals. After his unlikely triumph, Kusoru was immediately engulfed by the unrestrained elation of his teammates. He had just won a historic victory, not only for himself but also for his country, and despite the legend of his exploits persisting year after year, this would prove to be Kusoru's first and final tournament on American soil.
To this day, Kusoru has yet return to the USA despite finding success and riches at Final Round XV. He explained his reasons quite clearly in the days following his return to Japan, but the complete truth of his motives can only be pieced together from second hand accounts and suppositions. The story goes that numerous Marvel players were understandably salty at Kusoru's victory, and in an effort to save face (and perhaps recoup their losses from ruinous betting) vigorously challenged Kusoru to money matches right after the tournament ended. While this practice is common in the Marvel community, and is usually taken as a sign of grudging respect, it was completely antithetical to the humble and congratulatory nature of Japanese gaming culture. Kusoru probably felt insulted, even threatened by this rabid insistence to play for money. After all, fighting games were a passion, not a profession. Until quite recently, Japanese fighting game tournaments had little to no cash prizes due to strict anti-gambling laws. The thought of playing video games for a living is still a foreign concept in Japan, even after the explosive rise of esports in Korea and China. All this meant that Kusoru had little context to understand how winning a silly, insignificant game he played for fun would inspire such resentment and hostility. When Tokido became the first foreign player to win a major Marvel tournament, there was a predictable amount of moaning and chagrin from the audience, but it quickly gave way to a respectful acknowledgement of his achievement. After all, Tokido has an unparalleled pedigree of mastering every kind of fighting game; it was only a matter of time before he won something named Marvel. But Kusoru was a different matter. Here was a lighthearted enthusiast who had no interest in any kind of macho posturing or pretend thuggery that had plagued the Marvel scene since the early arcade days. He didn't venerate Marvel 3 (in fact, he didn't even respect it), but he loved it with a kind of unpretentious purity that made all the wannabe professionals and crusty arcade snobs look ridiculous by comparison, and they all hated him for it. To put it simply, Kusoru is the very antithesis of esports and in that single quality he is also one of the greatest Marvel champions.
A few weeks later, Filipino Champ bounced back from his famous defeat at Final Round XV to win Norcal Regionals 10. Chris G was also in attendance, but the "West Coast hex" proved too strong, as he was forced to settle for a disappointing 9th Place finish. This seemingly minor event proved to be the first of many times that Chris G would lose to mid-tier players with reckless playstyles and unconventional teams. His streak of falling short in Grand Finals continued at the third Curleh Mustache invitational tournament in NYC, where MarlinPie once again prevailed, perhaps due to Chris G's lack of confidence in his new Morrigan team. However, Chris G's good fortune would slowly improve in April as he won Power Up 2012 (the footage of which likely vanished into the own3d.tv ether) and Civil War 4, two modest yet prestigious East Coast regional tournaments. His performance at Civil War 4 was especially impressive, where he not only won Marvel 3 but also Street Fighter x Tekken and Skullgirls as well. All told, Chris G placed in the Top 8 of all seven games at Civil War 4, and it was around this time he became recognized as one of the very few multi-fighting game masters.
In early May, MarlinPie would finally exhibit his skill and showmanship on the global stage at Shadowloo Showdown 2012 in Melbourne, Australia. The Top 8 was an eclectic mix of international talent including Japan's Tokido and Australia's Antman. However, it was MarlinPie's distinct mix of savagery and style that stole the show, defeating Justin Wong twice with little struggle, before turning lose his dog of war (and storms, and lightning) on Filipino Champ in Grand Finals. FChamp had narrowly beaten MarlinPie in Winner's Finals by winning three straight games after being down 2-0, an all too common phenomenon in the Marvel scene known simply as "The Classic". But MarlinPie seemed unstoppable in the first set of Grand Finals, taking it in three straight games. FChamp answered back with two wins of his own in the second set, forcing MarlinPie to win three more games without fail, which he did in spectacular fashion to the delight of the raucous Aussie crowd. Not only did MarlinPie deftly reverse "The Classic," in doing so he also won the most prestigious tournament of his Marvel 3 career.
Also in May was Season's Beatings: Summer Slam, the first expansion of the Season's Beatings tournament series in Columbus, Ohio. It featured Noel Brown's first "major" tournament victory and one of Viscant's last impressive tournament performances, but the real significance was that it established the new tournament standard of first to 3 out of 5 games for every match of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (Final Round XIV being a lone aberration). This practice continued at the Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament 8 in Chicago, Illinois where Chris G finally returned to form by defeating Viscant, Justin Wong, Flocker, Dieminion, and Brightside (an obscure, Midwestern Spiderman player) to clinch his first major victory in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. A palpable sense of relief was evident in Chris G's expression after the final game, as though the pain of chronically falling short at the critical stages was finally over.
The road to EVO 2012 reached full intensity in June at East Coast Throwdown 4 in Morristown, New Jersey. Not only did this event feature one of the strongest Marvel 3 tournaments of the year, it also staged the first major high-stakes exhibition in Marvel 3 history between the East Coast prodigy RayRay and the West Coast hustler Fanatiq. Ever since the old Marvel 2 days, Fanatiq was considered by many to be something of a walking joke. He placed well in major tournaments but was never a threat to win them. He used a control pad when hulking fight sticks were considered a necessity by arcade elitists. And he mostly made a name for himself by challenging mid-level fighters to high-stakes money matches, the most notorious of which had a reported purse of $50,000. While Fanatiq had some modest success in Marvel 3], his greatest strength remained his ability to goad lesser opponents into costly show matches. So it was with great fanfare and considerable excitement that RayRay accepted Fanatiq's challenge with the whole East Coast behind him and over $2000 on the line only to collapse in catastrophic fashion. Scores often fail to tell the whole story, but when you lose 15-5 as RayRay did, there's nothing else to say except that you got bodied.
Not to be outdone, the Marvel 3 tournament at ECT 4 was immensely stacked with dramatic marquee matchups. Chris G vs. Combofiend featured some of the most intense and thrilling play of the tournament, including a demonstration of new Morrigan technology and a nail-biting conclusion in the final game. Filipino Champ debuted his new Dormammu team against MarlinPie so as not to replicate their last encounter at Shadowloo Showdown. Afterwards, he decisively eliminated Chris G in a match that would prove highly influential on Chris G's preparations for EVO. But the biggest surprise of the tournament was Fanatiq's extraordinary performance in a contest crowded with seasoned killers. Having already collected his winnings from the exhibition along with a brand new sponsorship deal with Team AGE, Fanatiq had nothing left to prove that weekend. No one could question his skill or success, and yet on finals day he possessed the same unbreakable focus that he'd maintained against RayRay. For Fanatiq, it was as if the exhibition never ended. Perhaps the tournament's $3000 pot bonus had some influence, but regardless of the motivation, Fanatiq played out of his mind, defeating IFC Yipes, Filipino Champ, and Justin Wong to secure his undefeated path to Grand Finals. Meanwhile, RayRay was on a mission of redemption. Having fallen into the Loser's Bracket early, he battled a withering crucible of opponents including IFC Yipes, MarlinPie, and Combofiend who was narrowly beaten by an unbelievable X-Factorless comeback with Sentinel. RayRay then defeated Filipino Champ with such shocking dominance that FChamp simply conceded. The only obstacle remaining between RayRay and his fated rematch with Fanatiq was none other than the inexorable Justin Wong. While RayRay was propelled forward by the forces of divine providence, Wong remained firmly grounded in his years of well-weathered experience. Just as he had done countless times in Marvel 2, Justin Wong played the spoiler to the aspirations of the underdog and sent the hopeful crowd home angry and dejected. Despite the palpable lack of excitement, Justin Wong still had business to attend to in Grand Finals. Not only was there a heap of money at stake, but Wong was determined to put his new anti-Morrigan team of Spencer / Frank West / Vergil through their paces before EVO. Fanatiq's icy concentration was equally tested in the first set of Grand Finals when Justin Wong engineered two soul-crushing come from behind victories with Level 1 Frank West. Against all odds, Fanatiq regained his composure and convincingly defeated Justin Wong in the final set 3-1. Between his exhibition, the pot bonus, and a new sponsorship, Fanatiq had one the richest paydays in the history of Marvel 3 and forever cemented his legacy as one of the greatest Marvel hustlers.
CEO 2012 in Orlando, Florida provided the final testing ground for many players looking ahead to the EVO world championships. Among the most successful was Chris G, who experimented with two brand new anchor characters. In his rematch with Filipino Champ, Chris G swapped Akuma with Hawkeye to better contain Dormammu. The strategy worked, but Chris G's new propensity for tagging in characters to counter bad matchups would ominously foreshadow a looming catastrophe. Justin Wong's anti-Morrigan team once again served him well, dismantling Chris G in Winner's Finals. After besting Flocker in Loser's Finals with his trusted Akuma anchor, Chris G switched to Vergil in his Grand Finals match against Justin Wong. This was Chris G's tournament debut with Vergil, and though he demonstrated some proficiency with the character, a crucial drop in the final game sealed the result in Justin Wong's favor.
Mere days before EVO 2012, IFC Yipes took his Curleh Mustache invitational tournament on the road to Southern California. The best players from every corner of the West Coast (including a few international guests) battled it out to join the growing pantheon of Curleh Mustache champions. Despite the strong competition, there were also moments of playful showboating like when English globetrotter Zak Bennet performed the flashiest combo ever landed in a Marvel 3 tournament. There were surprising upsets as well, such as when Socal sleeper Infrit eliminated the reigning EVO champion Viscant. Infrit was especially adept at countering Phoenix, a skill that would later serve him well at EVO. However, the rivalry that defined Curleh Mustache West involved a swagalicious Filipino Champ and an unassuming San Diego veteran Dios X. After losing all four characters to a lone Sentinel in the last game of Winner's Finals], FChamp was clearly irate, but that burning vigor shot him past Justin Wong in Loser's Finals and straight into his much desired rematch with Dios X. After barely resetting the bracket in Grand Finals, FChamp convincingly won the final set to become the first West Coast Curleh Mustache champion. Not content with titles or prize money, FChamp took special satisfaction in demeaning his opponent who nearly beat him twice that day. This wasn't the first time that FChamp insulted his competition and it wouldn't be the last, but his childish and petty behavior at Curleh Mustache West firmly established his reputation in the Marvel community as a bully and a villain.
Evolution 2012 in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada provided a number of exciting new firsts for the Marvel community. This was the first world championship for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and the first EVO to be live streamed on twitch.tv. Texas madman Jan completed the first TAC infinite combo in a major Marvel 3 tournament to the delight of many curious spectators. TAC infinites would generate far less excitement in the months and years to follow as they became integral (and widely scorned) components of the Marvel 3 metagame. Also, little-known Chilean nomad Kane Blueriver made his first appearance at EVO as the victim of one of Combofiend's many patented come from behind victories. Despite the frustrating loss, Kane maintained a strong vision and passion for his goals in Marvel 3 even when they appeared laughably ambitious. This core determination would prove his most valuable asset in the years of competition yet to come.
The top 8 finalists for EVO 2012 again included Justin Wong, but this time in the Loser's Bracket, as he had fallen to Combofiend earlier in the tournament. Wong's first opponent in Top 8 was none other than Chris G, who lost to Flocker off-stream and was eager to earn his runback. Both Wong and Chris G played a variety of teams since Ultimate premiered, and their various schemes to counter one another collided head-on in their crucial elimination match. In a shocking turnaround, Chris G picked his original Wesker / Ryu / Hawkeye team against Wong's anti-Morrigan squad. Despite dropping the first game, Wong refused to switch. It was only after his second loss that Wong reconsidered and picked his standard Wolverine team. But now he was hopelessly behind in the counterpicking war. Chris G switched back to his Morrigan team in Game 4 and secured the set with a thrilling Dr. Doom comeback, sending Justin Wong home for the second year without an EVO title. In the Winner's Side, the scrappy contender Infrit made short work of Flocker, setting up Chris G for his coveted rematch. Also in Winner's Bracket, Filipino Champ and Combofiend took the new counterpicking meta to its ultimate, maddening conclusion; every game ended with a trip to the character select screen. But despite being ahead in the counterpicking war, Combofiend faltered in the final game by attempting to time out FChamp's aggressive Phoenix. In the Loser's Bracket, Flocker substituted his trusty Hawkeye anchor for Strider in the hopes of containing Chris G's elusive Morrigan. However, Chris G once again proved Flocker's better, shattering his EVO hopes with a methodical Akuma turnaround. Chris G's battle with Combofiend was equally lopsided, despite a trademark Spencer comeback from Combofiend in Game 3. Winner's Finals saw the unlikely pairing of Infrit vs. Filipino Champ. Despite never performing on such a grand stage, Infrit played with spectacular poise and quickly won over the boisterous EVO crowd. Unbelievably, Infrit defeated Filipino Champ in the final game and secured his position in the Winner's Side of Grand Finals. FChamp would now have to defeat Chris G in Loser's Finals if he wished to be crowned EVO champion.
The match between Filipino Champ and Chris G at EVO 2012 would prove pivotal in the forking trajectories of their respective Marvel careers. As the commentators astutely noted, whichever player won this battle would be hugely favored to win the tournament. While counterpicking teams had already proven successful for these players, this match took that strategy to the micro level. Each character was considered to have a direct counter on the opposing team, and both players tagged them in whenever possible to maintain their advantage. These competitors fought brilliantly and ferociously, bringing their match to the final game. It was there, having gained a commanding position, that Chris G was tragically felled by his second "EVO curse." Instead of accepting Morrigan's death, Chris G tagged his healthy Dr. Doom into a deadly situation, losing both characters and his best shot at EVO glory. Invigorated by Chris G's charitable loss, FChamp persisted with his Dormammu team against Infrit, taking the first set of Grand Finals without losing a single game. The contrast between these two players was never more striking than during the brief intermission that followed. While Infrit sat stone-faced and reflective, FChamp was busy riling up the crowd with his silly pantomimes, feeding off their hatred like some evil cosmic being. It's a role he clearly loves to play, though all that noisy energy can quickly turn around on him, as it did in the second set against Infrit. With FChamp's every loss the cheers for Infrit grew louder, and with every win the jeers for FChamp followed suit. It went back and forth this way until the fifth and final game when Infrit's reservoir of Marvel mojo ran dry and FChamp seized the advantage, as all great winners do. In that moment, Filipino Champ lived up to his name and became the first world champion of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
The East Coast Marvel scene once again disappointed at EVO, but at least they had a fun summer tournament series waiting at home to lift their spirits. Summer Jam 6 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania featured a healthy mix of strong regional talent and a few traveling challengers. Chris G was already over his epic EVO blunder and comfortably returned to his usual pattern of domination. Surprisingly, it was IFC Yipes who played like he had something to prove. Despite a legacy of tremendous success in Marvel 2, Yipes had yet to achieve a satisfying performance in the year and a half since Marvel 3 released. After losing badly to Chris G in Winner's Finals, Yipes easily breezed past Fanatiq to stubbornly challenge Chris G yet again in Grand Finals. After a brief character crisis in Game 1, Yipes persisted with his "Sparda Bros." squad and proved their worth by finally prevailing in the first set over Chris G's relentless Morrigan onslaught. But Chris G was in no mood to capitulate, even to a crowd that was vigorously in Yipes' corner. He took the first two games of the final set, requiring Yipes to win three straight games in return - a challenge few could manage against a motivated Chris G. But in the end, Yipes' motivation proved superior. His ruthless pressure and clutch decision-making were just enough to upset Chris G and claim his first, well-deserved Marvel 3 championship. A consummate gentleman, Yipes silenced his own victory celebration to graciously praise his opponent. But the genuine and beautiful character of the man was never so apparent than during his emotional post-match interview. Not only was Summer Jam 6 a story of heroic endurance, its final match was one of the great demonstrations of skill and character in the brief history of Ultimate Marvel 3.
While Yipes epitomized the virtues of respect and dedication, other less honorable behavior was exhibited on the West Coast at a tournament better left forgotten. In a moment of inspired comedy, Marvel miscreants Filipino Champ and Fanatiq began a spontaneous contest to see who could give the most insincere, self-centered apology. Despite being the world champion, FChamp's arrogant demeanor and narrow EVO victory seriously undermined his assumed position as the undisputed #1 Marvel player. Eager to legitimize his newfound status, FChamp agreed to a feature exhibition with Chris G at Season's Beatings: Ascension in Columbus, Ohio. This heavily promoted "Grudge Match" aimed to settle one lingering question: Was Chris G's colossal implosion at EVO merely a fluke, or was Filipino Champ simply the better player? In the final days of September, Filipino Champ put his EVO title on the line to battle Chris G for the only title he really cared about — to be known as the best in the world. To make this wager, FChamp ventured deep into enemy territory, surrounded by a hostile East Coast contingent of haters, hecklers, and wannabe troublemakers. Despite the tremendous pressures, FChamp performed admirably, alternating streaks of victories with Chris G until the score was equalized 9-9 in their race to 15 wins. This crucial 19th game would prove the pivotal moment of the series and provide Chris G with his ultimate redemption. In a situation eerily similar to his infamous EVO blunder, Chris G fought FChamp's final character with a terminal Morrigan and a healthy Dr. Doom. Rather than repeat his fatal error, Chris G allowed Morrigan to die and entrusted victory to his anchor Doom. But FChamp's Dormammu proved impervious, withering Chris G's Doom down to a mere pixel of life. Then, incredibly, FChamp neglected certain victory by stopping his energy pillars to conjure a larger, more impressive spell that Chris G deftly avoided. He then confused FChamp with an unexpected Foot Dive, then landed in time to grab Dormammu and combo him into death. Despite laughing off the loss, FChamp was certainly shaken. He could only scrounge together one final win before Chris G's inevitable 15-10 victory. Gracious in defeat, Filipino Champ shook Chris G's hand at the end and told him, "You're the best." For most, the Marvel 3 tournament that followed was of diminished importance, and there was little surprise or jubilation when Chris G effortlessly won his most prestigious major. However, there was one obscure incident at this event that prefaced a much larger story. During a team exhibition billed as "USA vs. The World," Chris G saw fit to troll the international players with a bizarre mixture of goofy teams and aggressive indifference. When Chilean newcomer Kane Blueriver defeated one of these motley crews, he stood up and demanded that Chris G pay him some basic respect by playing his real team. Stunned at being called out on his flippancy, Chris G reluctantly returned to his Morrigan team and proceeded to get stomped by KBR in the final game. For Chris G it was just some negligible event soon forgotten, but for Kane it was an important step on his journey to become a champion.
While the exhibition at Season's Beatings was presented as a "Clash of the Titans," Canada Cup 2012 seemed to suggest those were nothing more than paper giants. Chris G had just been christened the undisputed best Marvel 3 player in the world and even secured a new sponsorship deal with Team AGE. Everyone expected a continuation of his victory lap from Season's Beatings, but instead, Chris G stumbled spectacularly at Canada Cup, falling to the frequently overhyped Joker and even Ricki Ortiz, who claimed to never practice nor care about the game. Coincidentally, Filipino Champ also underperformed at Canada Cup, but at least he was upset by a slightly higher caliber of players. FChamp suffered the special embarrassment of losing to his own team as piloted by Tokido and was finally eliminated by Canadian hero BeeBall in three straight games. It was also here that PR Balrog premiered the team he would soon make famous: Wolverine / Doom / Vergil. This new lineup allowed PR Rog to make quick work of Justin Wong in Winner's Finals and nearly sweep him again in the first set of Grand Finals. With his back to the wall, Justin Wong unexpectedly swapped in Iron Fist and actually managed to fluster PR Rog, especially in the final game when a valuable lesson was taught about the importance of good sportsmanship. Regardless of Wong's Iron Fist shenanigans, PR Rog soon recomposed himself and won the final set of Canada Cup 2012 with little difficulty.
Youmacon Battle Opera 2012 was a new tournament series that emerged from an annual anime convention in Detroit, Michigan. It attracted considerable Marvel talent and featured a standout performance from the indelible IFC Yipes. Though Yipes had recently found success with his "Sparda Bros." squad at Summer Jam 6, he determined to play every match of Youmacon with an unfamiliar team: Nova / Spencer / Strange — better known as Team Nemo. Following EVO 2012, Combofiend was eager to improve his Nova / Spencer / Hawkeye team and soon discovered that storied Japanese fighting gamer Nemo had already done the work for him. The inclusion of Dr. Strange (a floaty, highly-technical character seldom used by anyone) allowed the team to kill most any character in a single, elaborate combo — quite a novelty at the time. Combofiend shared his findings with Yipes, and all three players soon began collaborating and sharing technology on twitter. Eager to give his newfound team a test run, IFC Yipes entered Top 8 with a sizeable handicap and lost his first match against Filipino Champ. The high level of execution required for Dr. Strange combos put Yipes in some very precarious situations, but his familiarity with Spencer carried him through the rough moments, as it did in his elimination match against Justin Wong. In his rematch against Filipino Champ, Yipes gave up on Dr. Strange combos altogether and played the team in a conventional rushdown style that harkened back to his old Marvel 2 days. By the time Yipes arrived in Grand Finals to face PR Balrog he was finally comfortable with the Dr. Strange loops and after barely resetting the bracket even displayed hints of brilliance with Dr. Strange on anchor. When Yipes secured the final set to win Youmacon, he rightly celebrated his unlikely triumph. Defeating Filipino Champ, Justin Wong, and PR Balrog in a single tournament is a feat few could ever equal, but doing so with an unproven team was the exclusive achievement of IFC Yipes.
The Curleh Mustache invitational tournament returned to NYC in late November with much anticipation and elaborate publicity. Chris G was once again in attendance and finally joined the growing throng of players ditching their beloved anchors for the diabolical power of Vergil. Despite cosplaying as some kind of goofy neon ninja, Chris G was all business in Grand Finals, neatly dispatching Noel Brown to claim his first Curleh Mustache championship. His success continued one week later at Northeast Championships 13 where he battled IFC Yipes in Grand Finals. Despite running his Morrigan team for the entire tournament, Chris G switched to his rusty old Wesker / Ryu / Hawkeye lineup, a move that smacked of brazen disrespect for Yipes. Only after Yipes convincingly reset the bracket did Chris G retreat to the security of his legitimate team, and by the end of the final set, it was Yipes who began to question the efficacy of his own characters. Though he already found tremendous success with Team Nemo, Yipes was anxious to duplicate his triumph over Chris G at Summer Jam and finally acquiesced to the those who demanded he return to his familiar team. The final game was a an ugly calamity for Yipes, and Chris G only had to sweep up the mess to claim his victory.
At year's end there was a fortunate (and unfortunate) windfall for Combofiend. Capcom USA proudly announced he was recently hired as their new community manager, effectively ending his illustrious Marvel 3 career while still in his prime. Although no one could fault his good fortune, there was a modest sorrow about seeing such an incredible talent hang up his bionic arm before the expiration date. Though he remained passionate and involved in the Marvel community for years to come, Combofiend became the first (but sadly, not the last) great Marvel 3 player to leave his beloved scene for greener pastures.