2014

2014 - YEAR OF THE WOLVERINE

The Marvel vs. Capcom 3 scene would face many difficult setbacks in 2014. With no official support or promise of any future updates, Marvel would suffer from declining entrants, diminishing prize pools, infuriating infinites, and an ever-narrowing metagame. However, this would also be the year of some of Marvel's greatest triumphs. Like the plucky wolverines from that laughable cold war exploitation movie, Marvel players fought vigorously to preserve their grassroots community from the ever-encroaching influence of "esports." Loyalty was now synonymous with poverty, and anyone looking for an easy payday from fighting games was quick to leave the Marvel scene behind. All that remained were a devoted gang of loyalists who played for pride and prestige above all else.

A new regional tournament series called Defend the North debuted that January in New York City. EVO champion Flocker again proved no match for Chris G who took Winner's Finals and Grand Finals without dropping a single game. Apex 2014 in Somerset, New Jersey once again featured an impressive Marvel vs. Capcom 3 tournament. Chris G made the surprising decision to run his now-ancient Wesker / Ryu / Hawkeye team in Top 8. Whether he was attempting to complete IFC Yipes' "Wesker Challenge" from last year's Apex or was just tired of easily winning every tournament is unknown. What is known is that Chris G lost spectacularly to both Flocker and Flux in the early rounds of Top 8. For the first time since EVO, Justin Wong finally got a taste of redemption by dominating Flocker 3-0 in Winner's Finals. In Loser's Finals, Flocker himself got revenge on PR Balrog for his frustrating defeat at REVO 2013. Unlike their previous match, Flocker put up a much better fight against Justin Wong in Grand Finals. However, Flocker's haphazard play in the final game allowed the fearsome "Wong Factor" to activate, securing Wong both the match and the championship. Another new tournament series emerged later that month: Kumite in Tennessee. This time Chris G was all business, defeating Justin Wong 3-1 with his standard Morrigan team in the Winner's Side of Top 8. Fellow teammate PR Balrog also got the better of Wong, trouncing him 3-0 in Loser's Bracket. However, even PR Rog's savage aggression couldn't subdue Chris G in Grand Finals. This tournament proved to be Chris G's final championship as an East Coast player. Following the tragic death of his close friend and roommate Remix, Chris G unexpectedly relocated to Southern California. It was there he joined (but never fully allied himself with) the same regional scene as Justin Wong, Clockwork, and numerous other strong competitors.

Back on the East Coast, Winter Brawl 8 provided Flocker with yet another opportunity to break his streak of 2nd place finishes since becoming EVO champion. He showed considerable promise by finally defeating Justin Wong 3-0 in Winner's Finals. But as expected, Wong returned with a vengeance and trounced Flocker in both sets of Grand Finals. Also in February, Nemo won the suggestively-titled Japanese Marvel tournament G-Cup over fanatical Captain America cosplayer Niceboy. In early March, Capcom announced the creation of the Capcom Pro Tour, a year-long tournament series that would promote the forthcoming Ultra Street Fighter IV expansion and culminate in the 2nd annual Capcom Cup championship. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was noticeably absent from Capcom's bold esports initiative and was no longer mentioned in connection with the Capcom Cup. Players saw the writing on the wall, and thus began a slow but steady exodus of talent from the neglected Marvel scene to the newest and most lucrative installment of Street Fighter IV.

Despite the slew of bad news, March proved to be a historic month for the Marvel 3 competitive scene, beginning with Socal Regionals 2014. Despite Chris G's sudden relocation to Southern California, he neglected to enter this major Marvel tournament. Fortunately, just about every other top contender from across the nation managed to attend, making this one of the biggest and most prestigious events of the year. Apologyman, the unknown sensation from last year's SCR, would make yet another huge splash beginning with his early match against East Coast phenom RayRay. Their extraordinary set began quite normally with RayRay capturing an early 2-1 lead. Apologyman then stole an unlikely victory in the final seconds of Game 4 that equalized the series. The final game appeared to favor Apologyman, but a rare malfunction with the game disc meant the game had to be replayed from the beginning. After a short delay, RayRay caught a fortunate double kill that left Apologyman with nothing but his anchor Super Skrull. After an impressive rally, Apologyman's Skrull was finally caught by RayRay and would have died had RayRay not dropped a very basic combo and then another one just seconds later. A maddening scramble ensued where both players made unbelievable errors until Apologyman finally landed a Hail Mary super to win the game. RayRay was understandably furious. Not even an innocent conference chair was spared from his wrath. True to his name, Apologyman was visibly regretful of the result, but even this unjust victory was yet another vital step on his path to become an official Marvel player.

In the Winner's Side of Top 8, Apologyman once again encountered his nemesis from last year's tournament, Filipino Champ. This time, Apologyman had finally earned FChamp's begrudging respect. This meant that FChamp had been rigorously studying Apologyman's unblockable setups and demonstrated they could (in select circumstances) be escaped. It also meant that FChamp was willing to swallow his pride and counterpick with Dormammu when he was down in the set 2-1. However, not even his beloved fire lord could protect FChamp from Apologyman's relentless pressure that locked down the final game of the series. In Loser's Bracket, FChamp faced yet another demon from his past. Cloud805, the dark horse from EVO who upset FChamp in Top 8, had finally left the abysmal online scene to sharpen his skills in preparation for the 2014 tournament season. Now he once again stood in the way of Filipino Champ's path to Grand Finals. But this time FChamp was well-prepared and deployed one of his provisional Morrigan teams against Cloud. Both players found early success, but Cloud's showstopping anti-Phoenix tech tilted the advantage squarely in his favor. After putting Cloud on ice at the character select screen, FChamp returned to his usual Phoenix lineup with Dr. Doom and narrowly survived Cloud's tricky Dante shenanigans in Game 4. Despite being evenly matched for most of the series, FChamp managed to fluster Cloud in the deciding game and finally redeemed his embarrassing EVO defeat. In Winner's Finals, Killer Kai proved to be a worthy opponent for Apologyman. Despite losing the first two games, Kai fought back tenaciously and nearly won the series in a heart-pounding duel between the two remaining characters. Unfortunately, Kai's battle with FChamp in Loser's Finals was far less competitive.

So it happened that the two standout characters from last year's SCR — the hero and the villain, if you will — were fated to meet once again in Grand Finals. Unlike their match earlier that day, Filipino Champ played cool, calm, and collected, even when Apologyman was spitting hot fire. A disastrous miscalculation in Game 3 gave the first set to Filipino Champ, who circled around the stage like a shark smelling blood in the water. This was the moment of truth for Apologyman. Very few players could ever recover from such a colossal blunder, especially at such a critical moment. Fortunately, Apologyman was able to compose himself after receiving advice and encouragement from his cohorts. The second set of Grand Finals began with a sudden return to form for Apologyman. His confident play and brazen showmanship galvanized the supportive crowd and propelled him ahead in the series 2-1. Not even another desperate switch to Dormammu could save FChamp from Apologyman's unstoppable momentum. Their final exchange pushed FChamp to the breaking point where Apologyman's superb discipline finally won him the day. Not only did Apologyman finally complete his miraculous journey that began at the previous SCR, he also become the first new player to win a major Marvel tournament in over a year.

Just two weeks later at Final Round XVII, a dispute over extra buttons nearly sabotaged the debut of Marvel 3's newest and most promising maverick. In the early rounds of the tournament, Filipino Champ was steamrolled by an obscure challenger from Florida named Full Schedule. Interestingly, this wasn't the first time that Full Schedule had bested FChamp. However, it was the first time that it happened on stream, causing FChamp to be roasted mercilessly on social media. Later that evening, FChamp's crony Goldenboy Neo rationalized his own loss to Full Schedule by insinuating that Full Schedule cheated him with an illegal "macro program." In the fighting game scene, macros refer to any external program that presses multiple buttons or directions in a given sequence. In Full Schedule's case, his controller was modified with buttons that corresponded to each diagonal direction on his joystick and nothing else. They weren't used to "automate" any move or technique, they merely provided shortcuts while performing difficult hand motions. Whether you consider this cheating or not, the tournament organizers were none too pleased with the situation and demanded that Full Schedule detach his auxiliary buttons the following day.

When Full Schedule finally arrived to fight Chris G in Top 8, IFC Yipes made light of the controversy by suggesting the unsponsored Full Schedule was secretly sponsored by Thanos. Meanwhile, everyone else was curious to see if Full Schedule could reproduce his stellar performance from the previous day without the aid of his extra buttons. Unfortunately, his detractors appeared vindicated when Full Schedule bungled an easy kill and lost the first game as a result. With little opposition, Chris G swept the series and many spectators were quick to dismiss Full Schedule as yet another fraud exposed. Amusingly, Chris G himself was mauled once again by PR Balrog in Winner's Finals. In Loser's Bracket, Full Schedule faced yet another formidable opponent in Justin Wong. Once again, Full Schedule botched a critical combo in the first game but managed to recover with an audacious gambit that shocked everyone, even the typically stoic Justin Wong. Full Schedule remained astonishing and performed yet another clutch turnaround to steal away Game 2. Despite dropping the third game and losing early in the fourth, Full Schedule rebounded yet again, leading to a tense and protracted battle with each player's final character. After a lengthy series of stray hits and tense evasions, Full Schedule made a perfect read on Justin Wong and finally prevailed with a devastating counter move. The crowd went ballistic, and even Filipino Champ was visibly shaken over his upcoming runback with Full Schedule. But despite a valiant effort by Full Schedule, including a brazen fake-out on Phoenix, FChamp finally prevailed 3-1. Although Full Schedule was rendered mortal without his extra buttons, he proved his talents were genuine and even won Filipino Champ's guarded respect.

Loser's Finals provided yet another classic chapter of Chris G and FChamp's storied rivalry. With the match tied 2-2, FChamp made a daring switch to his Morrigan team and could have succeeded had he not choked as he often did against Chris G. Not even Phoenix's resilient healing field could prevent her premature death and FChamp's frustrating elimination. In Grand Finals, PR Balrog appeared confident enough to avoid the anticipated 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Chris G. The set began favorably when PR Rog came out swinging and clawed his way to an early lead in the first game. However, Chris G's counterattack proved overwhelming for PR Rog who instantly caved to anchor Morrigan's ferocious onslaught. Unfortunately, PR Rog never regained the initiative and thus became yet another infamous victim of Chris G's trademark double shutouts in Grand Finals.

Two weeks later, a modest Norcal regional tournament called Alpha Clash X provided several moments of redemption for some long-suffering Marvel masters. It all began when PR Balrog had his first runback with Chris G in the Winner's side of Top 8. Chris G was experimenting with different anchor characters throughout the tournament. But when his pitiful Strider was easily dispatched in Game 1, Chris G quickly returned to his regular squad. A prolonged Vergil vs. Vergil standoff in the third game proved just how evenly matched these players were, but PR Rog eventually prevailed and went on to take the set 3-2. The other Semi-Finals match in Winner's Bracket featured Filipino Champ's first rematch with Apologyman since SCR. Unlike their last encounter, FChamp fielded Magneto / Doom / Morrigan to better contain Apologyman's dangerous Firebrand. Despite FChamp's middling Morrigan, his approach proved effective as Firebrand had little to no impact throughout the set. Instead, Apologyman was forced to live or die by the winding fists of his wild anchor Super Skrull. Skrull turned the tides of Game 1, but failed in Game 2. FChamp's Morrigan was doubly effective in Game 3, as she is one of the only characters who can escape Firebrand's unblockable setups. However, FChamp's team still perished to Apologyman's frenzied Super Skrull. Game 4 proved insurmountable for Apologyman, leading to a fifth and final game. This time it was FChamp's turn to orchestrate a reversal with his dependable Dr. Doom and earn his sweet revenge on Apologyman. FChamp then went on to quickly sweep PR Balrog in Winner's Finals. In Loser's Bracket, Chris G again toyed around with anchor Strider, but Apologyman refused to play nicely. Even after swapping Vergil back in, Chris G was down two games and facing elimination. But Chris G refused to submit, and quickly recovered to win the last three games with authority. Chris G switched things up again in Loser's Finals, putting Magneto on anchor against PR Balrog. Despite running a glorified B-Team, Chris G dominated to such an extent that PR Rog abandoned the final game with two of his characters still alive. Perhaps emboldened by his performance against PR Rog, Chris G persisted with anchor Magneto in Grand Finals against FChamp. Surprisingly, Chris G managed to win the first set with no anchor Vergil and no hidden missiles. One commentator called out Chris G's apparent sandbagging, but nothing persuaded Chris G to change his team. In the deciding game of the last set, both players fought intensely during the final seconds, but FChamp's well-protected life lead gave him the crucial edge to win it all.

Another substantial tournament took place on the same weekend as Alpha Clash X. The ID Global Tournament 2014 debuted as South Korea's newest and most impressive fighting game event. It was the latest bold endeavor from Cafe ID, the gamer cafe and amateur fighting game team that shocked everyone by winning The King of Fighters XIII at EVO 2012 over the heavy favorite, Bala from Mexico. Cafe ID's fervent ambition to promote themselves and the game they loved inspired them to host their own major tournament for KOF XIII and a few other popular games like Street Fighter IV and Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Most impressive were the staggering pot bonuses for each game, including over $5000 for Marvel 3. A plethora of international talent from across Asia descended on the tournament, including many of Japan's top Marvel players like Nemo and Frieda. This even included Kane Blueriver, who was training extensively in Japan following his embarrassing breakdown at Capcom Cup. Also in attendance was Justin Wong as North America's sole Marvel representative. Since Wong and Nemo never faced each other at Capcom Cup, a rematch of their previous exhibition was scheduled for this event.

Like something out of Enter the Dragon, elite competitors from across the globe all converged on the "mysterious" Jeju Island to enter a highly-suspicious tournament organized by an eccentric fighting game enthusiast. Fortunately, no one in attendance was sliced to pieces with a metal claw, save for those unfortunate enough to fight Justin Wong in Marvel 3. One of those hapless victims was none other than Kane Blueriver, whose hopes and dreams were cut short by Wong's ferocious barrage in the deciding game of their set. Because of Nemo's salaryman schedule, Wong was informed their exhibition could only occur at the end of the first day before the Marvel tournament had concluded. Since Wong was most intent on winning the lucrative tournament, he was very reluctant to play Nemo beforehand with nothing but pride on the line. But Wong is never one to disappoint his fans and eventually agreed to fight Nemo in yet another race to 15 wins. Unlike their last encounter, Nemo's performance was abysmal. The Dr. Strange loops he usually completed with mechanized consistency were often dropped, leading to Wong's impressive but unexciting 15-9 victory.

Wong's misgivings about the exhibition proved correct when he and Nemo met the following day in Winner's Finals. Unlike the night before, Nemo was crisp with his loops and clutch with his anchor Spencer. Astoundingly, Nemo crushed Wong 3-1 and secured his favorable spot in Grand Finals. In Loser's Finals, Wong was forced to vanquish Frieda, Japan's #1 Zero player. Wong had already defeated Frieda earlier with little effort, but this time Wong was clearly on tilt. A howling mistake in Game 1 allowed Frieda to mount an impressive comeback, as did another major blunder by Wong in Game 4. But Frieda committed his own share of unforced errors, allowing Wong to finally prevail in the fifth and final game. By the time Wong made it back to Nemo in Grand Finals, both players recognized the enormous stakes of their final match. The ample payout was heavily weighted in the winner's favor, while runner-up would only walk away with a pittance. This disparity of fortunes spurred the killer instincts of both competitors. They appeared more evenly matched than before, and each game had moments that nearly went the other way. Game 4 had more near misses and chance reversals than you're likely to see in a whole match. With the series tied 2-2, Wong's back was against the ropes and the only thing standing between him and defeat was his trusty anchor Akuma. In situations like these, opponents are often petrified by the dreaded "Wong Factor." They play defensively, hoping to buy time and maintain their lead. Wong feeds off this weakness and exploits their passivity with lethal mixups. So when Nemo's helpless Dr. Strange came in against Wong's devious Akuma, Nemo did the unthinkable and just kicked Akuma right in the face. No respect was given for the fabled "Wong Factor," and Nemo was made notably richer as a result. Meanwhile, Justin Wong was reduced to yet another victim of Nemo's hustling prowess that thrice got the better of America's best (and Fanatiq). As an added bonus, Nemo also became the first foreign player since Kusoru to win a Marvel 3 tournament against top international competition.

Although Nemo had dropped Street Fighter IV some two years prior to focus on Marvel 3, he made a sudden return to Ultra Street Fighter IV when it finally debuted that April. Despite being out of practice, Nemo quickly caught up with the competition and soon became the #1 ranked player in Japanese arcades. This marked a slow but steady transition by Nemo back into a Street Fighter player. Although he never gave up on Marvel completely, as more money and opportunity shifted towards Street Fighter, so too did Nemo. Meanwhile, Chris G continued to get the better of Justin Wong in the Winner's Finals and Grand Finals of Texas Showdown 2014. Back on the East Coast, Chris G's sudden departure had many hungry contenders vying to be crowned the new king of the region. Predictably, RayRay soon emerged as the strongest candidate when he prevailed in the Grand Finals of Civil War VI over the up-and-coming Coach Steve.

Later that April, an impressive array of Marvel talent collided at Norcal Regionals 2014. For the second time since moving out west, Chris G failed to enter a major Marvel tournament in his region. This meant Chris G couldn't defend his first West Coast title from NCR 2013, thus enticing many promising competitors to aspire towards their first major victory. Among these hopefuls was Kane Blueriver, who finally returned to the USA following his long excursion in East Asia. His early loss to Socal undertaker Paradigm provided all the amusement and hard-hitting action of a great pro wresting match. Another dramatic contest involved fearless veteran Clockwork and meek newcomer Apologyman. Despite controlling most of Game 1, Clockwork was unable to contain Apologyman's rampaging Super Skrull. After trading blows back and forth, the series was eventually tied 2-2. Chaos reigned in the final match, and despite Apologyman's superb defense, Clockwork's smothering persistence finally prevailed. Emboldened by his performance, Clockwork proclaimed himself the new hotness to all the viewers at home. Unfortunately, this roaring confidence wasn't enough to bother Cloud805 who calmly snuffed out Clockwork 3-1. But Clockwork refused to cool his jets, and went on to fight one of the wildest matches of the tournament against Marn. After going berserk in the first four games, Marn attempted to psyche Clockwork out by summoning his inner eight year old. Marn's shenanigans appeared to work, as the final game devolved into a crude slugfest. However, Clockwork's unique brand of madness proved superior in the end, eliminating Marn and keeping his own tournament hopes alive.

In the Loser's side of Top 8, Apologyman fought a taxing battle with Maryland native and noted money launderer K-Brad. Ever since K-Brad burst onto the scene in 2012, he was best known as one of the top Street Fighter IV players in the USA. However, K-Brad also developed an enduring passion for Marvel vs. Capcom 3. By the time NCR 2014 rolled around, K-Brad has transformed himself from a Marvel novice into a legitimate threat. This progress was evident when K-Brad went up two games over the much-lauded Apologyman. Only a masterful recovery in the third game managed to save Apologyman from an unexpected shutout. Though Apologyman was able to rally and steal back the series, K-Brad had finally established himself as a bona fide Marvel player. Cloud805 was also put to the test when he faced Justin Wong in the Winner's side of Top 8. Though Cloud dropped many combos throughout the set, he also made a brilliant gamble in the final game that paid off immensely. Stealing a page from Wong's playbook, Cloud805 wisely ensured his victory by simply running away and playing lame. In the first game of Winner's Finals, Cloud triggered Filipino Champ by raining on his parade with a devilish anchor Dante. It was a bold move that stung Filipino Champ, causing him to hammer on his stick with volcanic rage. Unlike their previous bout at SCR, Cloud had a kill or be killed attitude and shredded FChamp like a million dollars was at stake. FChamp just couldn't escape Cloud's crazy vortex and probably longed for a cold shower or a spa session after his brutal stomping. Over in Loser's Bracket, Justin Wong forged a chain of clean sweeps over Apologyman, Clockwork, and Filipino Champ on his path back to Cloud805 in Grand Finals. Despite prevailing in their last encounter, Cloud just couldn't muster the fortitude to defeat Justin Wong when it mattered most. The critical moments between glory and obscurity are what define champions, and few fighting gamers shine brighter in that haze of uncertainty than Justin Wong.

Though NCR was the second major California tournament that Chris G eluded, he also made sincere efforts to join his new Socal fighting game scene — often to his detriment. Unlike in New York City, Chris G frequently came up short at the weekly tournaments in Socal and thus surrendered his long-cultivated aura of invincibility. Even standard killers like Paradigm suddenly appeared to have Chris G's number. This "Socal Slump" continued into late April at the local UGC Tournament of Champions hosted by the Ultimate Game Center. Despite low attendance, Chris G only managed to finish 4th place in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, behind Paradigm, Cloud805, and Justin Wong. Fortunately for Chris G, the footage of this event appears to have slipped down the twitch.tv memory hole when the Ultimate Game Center closed in late 2015.

In mid-April, it was announced that Nemo, Tokido, and Abegen would be attending Northwest Majors VI in Des Moines, Washington. Immediately following NCR 2014, Filipino Champ and Apologyman enlisted the aid of IFC Yipes to train them extensively against Team Nemo. Apologyman was especially eager to learn the matchup prior to his scheduled exhibition with Nemo. This provided quite the advantage since Nemo couldn't learn the intricacies of Apologyman's team from Japan's smaller pool of Marvel talent. Despite the contrast in training regiments, Nemo and Apologyman proved evenly matched in their exhibition. Only a clutch comeback by Apologyman with his anchor Doom prevented the final game in their race to 7 wins. The following day, there was a minor but notable event that transpired between PR Balrog and Kane Blueriver in the early rounds of the tournament. During the third game of their set, PR Rog tried to punish Kane's reckless attack but was countered by another, even more reckless attack. You can actually see the disgust and frustration on PR Rog's face from losing to a player many considered brainless and mediocre. Then it happened again a few seconds later, and this is the moment where PR Rog probably lost all remaining love for Marvel 3. Of course, there was more to it than just one salty episode. While his prospects and achievements continued to rise in Street Fighter, they simultaneously declined in Marvel. Losing to Kane wasn't proof that PR Rog was a lesser player, but it exposed the perils of devoting yourself to multiple fighting games. Those who play professionally have an obligation to their sponsors and themselves to excel, and Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is not a game that you win by playing casually or relying on your innate intelligence. Though PR Rog didn't give up on Marvel 3 overnight, this moment marked the beginning of the end for one of the game's original masters.

Later that evening, Filipino Champ and Nemo had their much-anticipated runback from Capcom Cup in the Winner's Side of Top 8. FChamp began the match with his Phoenix team, but returned to Dormammu after Nemo's manhandling of Phoenix in Game 1. Ever the showman, Nemo almost lost the set in Game 4 by taunting FChamp rather than finishing him off. But pride often precedes the fall, and Nemo was quickly tripped up by FChamp in the final game. Also in Winner's bracket, Apologyman and Kane Blueriver staged a sensational bout that fervently animated the capacity crowd. Kane narrowly prevailed 3-2 and popped off like The Incredible Hulk during his post-match celebration. Unfortunately for Kane, not even superhuman strength was enough for him to conquer Filipino Champ in Winner's Finals. In Loser's Bracket, two of the nuttiest players from their respective regions collided when Nemo battled PR Balrog. Peak insanity was achieved at the end of Game 2 when PR Rog's anchor Vergil came back from the dead to wreak havoc on Nemo's entire team. Only a shortage of X-Factor spared Nemo from total destruction, as he went on to subdue PR Balrog 3-1. Elsewhere in Loser's Bracket, Tokido proved even less prepared than Nemo was to fight Apologyman. Sadly, this loss marked the end of Tokido's impressive Marvel vs. Capcom 3 career. From that moment on, the only games that remained important to him were Ultra Street Fighter IV and The King of Fighters XIII.

As fate would have it, Nemo and Apologyman crossed paths once again that weekend. This time, their tournament lives were at stake in a crucial elimination match. As the commentators sharply observed, Nemo had recently upset Justin Wong at IGT 2014 after losing their preceding exhibition. This pattern appeared to repeat itself when Nemo finally managed to escape Apologyman's unblockable setup in the second game. However, an exceptional feat in Game 3 provided the turning point of the match and the highlight of the tournament. Nemo managed to stun Apologyman's two remaining characters and had the presence of mind to delay his combo long enough to pick up both of them. This was optimal play on Nemo's part, but the way his Dr. Strange slowly floated across the stage made the whole sequence appear like the most stylish showboating imaginable. This uncanny display of skill and swagger whipped the crowd into a frenzy and powered up Nemo to vaporize Apologyman in the final game. Nemo's "reconnaissance" on Apologyman proved just as effective as it had against Justin Wong. In Loser's Finals, Nemo had the unfortunate duty of fighting his teammate and training partner Kane Blueriver. Most everyone was eagerly-awaiting Nemo's runback with Filipino Champ in Grand Finals, but Kane stubbornly refused to roll over. Despite seldom getting the upper hand in all their months of sparring, Kane played the spoiler by eliminating his friend and mentor Nemo. The dream matchup was officially dead, killed by a over-ambitious upstart that few believed in, and all that remained for the frustrated audience was to sit and watch the final match in polite indifference. Of course, there was nothing polite about the way Filipino Champ tormented Kane Blueriver throughout the set. At various points, FChamp teased and goaded Kane's helpless Haggar, as if scolding Kane for playing such pathetic characters. To the surprise of no one, FChamp dominated Kane Blueriver 3-1 and earned himself yet another symbolic victory over Nemo.

In order to attend Northwest Majors VI, Nemo had to miss out on KVO 2014 in Osaka, Japan. Though Frieda ultimately triumphed over Mabushin in Grand Finals, the player who really stole the show was 3rd Place finisher RF. His staggering proficiency with Morrigan / Doom / Vergil made considerable waves in the Marvel 3 community abroad. One week later at East Coast Throwdown 2014, Justin Wong once again got the better of Flocker and Kane Blueriver, thrashing them both 3-1. However, Wong continued to struggle against Chris G and his second-rate Magneto. In Grand Finals, Wong only claimed a single game during his latest defeat by Chris G.

Near the end of May, the Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament in Chicago, Illinois had its tenth (and final) installment. UFGTX brought together top Marvel talent from across the nation for the first time since Final Round XVII back in March. This tournament also reversed the misfortunes of several long-suffering players. The lingering thorn in Chris G's side was finally rooted out when Chris G pulverized Paradigm early in the tournament. However, Chris G himself was trampled by PR Balrog's stampeding Vergil in the Winner's Side of Top 8. Justin Wong avenged his loss at Final Round by eliminating Full Schedule (and his extra buttons) with a convincing score of 3-1. This resulted in yet another epic confrontation between Justin Wong and Chris G in the Loser's Bracket. The fifth and final game had opportune moments for both players, but Wong's failure to kill Morrigan ultimately doomed him to a modest 4th Place finish. Chris G then went on to face his longtime punching bag RayRay in Loser's Finals. This was their first encounter since Chris G left New York and RayRay had assumed the throne in the Northeast. Chris G aimed to reassert his dominance by fielding a slapdash team in Game 1, but RayRay easily pummeled each blundering character with impunity. Chris G continued to flounder in Game 2 and squandered a massive lead despite returning to his regular squad. By the third and final game, RayRay was so confident in his supremacy that he styled on Chris G's inferior Magneto while gracefully sweeping the series 3-0. The shade cast by Chris G's incessant "collusion" (meaning: "unprofessionalism") continued to loom over the beginning of Grand Finals between RayRay and PR Balrog. Luckily, RayRay managed to reinvigorate the crowd with one of his notorious Sentinel comebacks. However, PR Balrog remained undaunted and eventually overwhelmed RayRay to earn his first major victory of the year.

A second, highly-unorthodox Marvel 3 tournament also occurred at UGFTX and had extraordinary significance for the winner (though perhaps no one else). Ever since Marvel 3 was abandoned by Capcom and hopes for a much-needed balance patch were officially dashed, Marvel players had experimented with balancing the game themselves in a manner not unlike the Smash Bros. community. One proposal drew inspiration from the MOBA genre and involved banning certain characters or teams that had become oppressive or ubiquitous. A variation on this idea was finally tested as a side event at UFGTX. Similar to a blind auction, every player banned one character in the dark before each stage of the tournament. This introduced a certain element of risk and metagaming to every choice. Popular characters like Zero and Vergil could be banned multiple times, while strong but inconspicuous characters might not be banned at all. The result was that "low-tier heroes" like Justin Wong still had most of their regular characters or all of them in the case of Kane Blueriver. Therefore, it was hardly surprising when these two unhindered competitors faced off in Winner's Finals and Grand Finals. What was surprising was that Kane narrowly managed to win both encounters, thus becoming the first and only champion of the non-existent fighting game "Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom X." Even though he failed to make Top 8 in the official Marvel 3 tournament, Kane felt genuinely proud of his accomplishment and even boasted on twitter about it in his own oblique way. Whatever the merit of his victory, this proved to be a catalyzing event for Kane. After many trials and failures, Kane had triumphed over Justin Wong and basked in the cheers of his supporters. Even if it wasn't completely real, Kane was finally able to play the role of a champion.

In early June, IFC Yipes finally brought his celebrated tournament series to the Southwest with the Curleh Mustache South edition. Over 40 players from across the region (including Mexico) competed for the privilege of being crowned the newest Curleh Mustache champion. Although the tournament included many familiar faces, one memorable name rose about the rest. An obscure online player from Texas named Terry Bogard made his tournament debut at Curleh Mustache South. Despite losing early on to the infinitely annoying Scrubeks, Terry ran an impressive gauntlet in Loser's Bracket that included Scrubeks, JDog, Pony, Jan, and Ryan, taking him all the way to EVO champion Flocker in Grand Finals. Despite his lack of tournament experience, Terry played with supreme confidence and remarkably outclassed Flocker in the first set. Not wishing to be shown up by a cocky nobody, Flocker traded in his beloved Hawkeye for a more versatile Dante in the final set. Similar to the last EVO, Flocker finally ended Terry's Cinderella run by cutting down the crowd favorite in the last set of Grand Finals. Although he fell just short of the finish line, this wouldn't be the last time that Marvel players heard and cheered the name Terry Bogard.

Later that month at Community Effort Orlando 2014, the aforementioned Scrubeks had the tournament of his life, defeating Apologyman and Flocker on his unlikely road to Top 8. Not content to rest on his laurels, Scrubeks came back from an 2-0 deficit to upset Justin Wong, putting the energetic southern crowd up on their feet. However, Chris G proved immune to Scrubeks' crazed mojo and clinically disposed of him in Winner's Finals. Down in Loser's Bracket, Justin Wong clobbered Flocker 3-0 and earned himself a rematch with the human Jamming Bomb, Scrubeks. This time, Wong carefully avoided most of Scrubecks' booby traps and deftly charted out a decisive victory. For their last encounter before EVO, Justin Wong and Chris G appeared to pull out all the stops in Grand Finals. Chris G's crummy Magneto was finally dismissed for a well-tempered Vergil, but Justin Wong boldly seized the initiative and swiftly charged ahead to an early lead. The second game concluded with a masterful duel of aerial zoning that barely ended in Chris G's favor. From there, the momentum shifted heavily towards Chris G, who promptly closed out the series 3-1.

Just one week before EVO, IFC Yipes once again hosted the West Coast edition of his signature high-rollers tournament entitled Curleh Mustache Norcal. This event featured a new installment of the escalating rivalry between Filipino Champ and Apologyman. In Winner's Finals, FChamp's Morrigan struggled to suppress Apologyman's Firebrand as she had in their last encounter at Alpha Clash X. After losing two games straight, FChamp reluctantly swapped in Dormammu but could only muster a single win before dropping the match 3-1. In keeping with Curleh Mustache tradition, Grand Finals was first to 4 out 7 games and greatly favored the most adaptable player. When FChamp returned to face Apologyman in Grand Finals, Dormammu remained his weapon of choice. However, after finding himself down in the series and facing elimination, FChamp ultimately entrusted his tournament life to Morrigan's steady stream of Soul Fists. After equalizing the score, FChamp pulled ahead in the deciding game and gloated over Apologyman with a quick display of mid-combo teabagging. The bracket was soon reset and with everything turning in his favor, FChamp abruptly called for a second coin toss. Up until now, Apologyman had been flipping coins with his opponents in the hopes of securing his favored starting positing on the Player 1 side. The reasoning behind this unusual demand was that some of Firebrand's more advanced techniques require hand motions that are more physically natural in one direction than another. FChamp lost the coin flip at the beginning of Grand Finals, but since a new set is technically a "second match," FChamp was right to call for a second toss that fittingly reversed Apologyman's previous fortune. Whether this new metagame of musical chairs had any effect on Apologyman is uncertain. What is certain is that FChamp beasted in the final set, winning four games straight and leaving Apologyman looking like a kid who just lost his lunch money.

The 2014 Evolution world championship shone ever brighter amongst the glitz and glamor of Las Vegas, Nevada. For the fourth year running, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 proved to be the crown jewel of this illustrious tournament. Although entrants and enthusiasm for Marvel 3 were just beginning to wane, the levels of hype and competitive excellence achieved in this tournament formed the magnificent apex of Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Throughout the 2014 EVO season, Chris G continued to dismiss EVO's significance for reasons that remained achingly opaque. Though Chris G once again attended EVO under protest, it wasn't long before his recurrent "EVO curse" finally caught up with him. About midway through Winner's Bracket, Chris G ran into the renegade daredevil Marn. Though Chris G was heavily favored, the games he won were not earned but gifted to him by way of Marn's erratic generosity. Both players dropped key combos in Game 4 which severely undermined Chris G's confidence leading into the final game. Marn stumbled magnificently in Game 5 but refused to surrender his momentum. At the last critical juncture, Marn's squirrely genius stupefied Chris G who yet again was exiled to the Loser's Bracket by an unlikely vanquisher. Elsewhere in Winner's Bracket, Kane Blueriver's newfound success wasn't enough to intimidate a fully powered Justin Wong who quickly took the series 3-1. Also in Winner's Bracket, Apologyman earned a fateful runback with Filipino Champ who once again depended on his passable pocket Morrigan. There was a moment in the 4th Game where Apologyman appeared to have an insurmountable lead and was about seal the match. However, Filipino Champ seized his last remaining opportunity and perfectly executed the optimal combo to pull ahead in the final second. The dramatic juxtaposition of FChamp's elation with Apologyman' s despair told the entire story, one that soon ended when FChamp easily walked away with the final game. Lastly, Chris G once again escaped the treacherous Loser's Bracket by defeating Kane Blueriver, IFC Yipes, and Angelic to finally secure his anticipated spot in Top 8.

The next evening on the final stage at EVO, Justin Wong began where he left off last year by defeating Flocker while riding high on the passionate roars of a supportive crowd. In Loser's Bracket, Chris G outperformed his previous day of disappointments by sweeping aside Marn, Flocker, and RayRay on his unbroken path to Loser's Finals. By now, only three matches remained between three determined finalists: Chris G, Filipino Champ, and Justin Wong. These three matches fought by the three eternal masters of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 form a fitting trifecta that represents the best this game has ever been played. In Winner's Finals, Justin Wong continued his runaway rampage of hype by bowling over Filipino Champ in Game 1. Wong almost repeated his feat in Game 2, but a clutch reversal by FChamp's Magneto evened up the score. If someone ever tells you that Marvel 3 is a brainless combofest devoid of mindgames and fundamentals, just have them watch the third game of this match. The precise spacing and aeries footsies in Game 3 are immaculate, and Justin Wong's novel suppression of Dark Phoenix is simply brilliant. However, Wong's battled-hardened Akuma was no match for Phoenix in Game 4, leading to a tense and crucial final game. Whoever lost would certainly face a highly-motivated Chris G in Loser's Finals, and the feeling in the air was that whoever won this last game would probably win the tournament. With so much at stake, Justin Wong again found himself with nothing but a lone Akuma standing between him and the Loser's Bracket. FChamp quickly found a stray hit with Dark Phoenix and could easily convert it into a kill. At this exact instance, Wong's fate was no longer in his hands. Despite this, Wong still believed that victory was possible and did the only he could — input the proper counter and pray that FChamp dropped his combo. It sounds obvious and almost trivial to perform such actions when looking at this moment from a cold distance. But possessing that basic sense of correct action in the face of certain demise is exactly where countless competitors fail. Only the greatest champions retain their wits and give themselves every chance at victory that luck affords. Even if their persistence never pays off in a thousand fruitless tries, there will always be one special moment when it matters, and Wong was ready.

After FChamp's stunning defeat to Justin Wong, he took a moment to compose himself before sitting down to face Chris G in Loser's Finals. Without hesitation, FChamp selected his Magneto / Dormammu / Doom team that had served him well against Chris G in the previous months. An odd incident occurred in Game 1 where Chris G input the wrong move with Dr. Doom and failed to finish off FChamp's Dormammu. Thus began one of the most extraordinary comebacks in Marvel 3 history, except it was mercilessly cut short by typical Vergil nonsense. Things took an even more comedic turn in the next game when both players engaged in a teabagging duel in lieu of fighting to the bitter end. Despite the unexpected levity, both players were eager to pull ahead in the pivotal third game. Chris G once again had a commanding lead quickly disintegrate to FChamp's dastardly anchor Dormammu. Remembering Chris G's propensity for raw tagging, FChamp orchestrated a brilliant trap to snare Vergil. He then followed up with another perfect read, but FChamp failed a basic conversion and lost himself the game. Just like countless times before, FChamp had committed a grievous error that gifted Chris G an undue victory. Despite being visibly shaken, FChamp rebounded instantly and dominated Game 4 to once again equalize the series. Things looked very favorable for FChamp in the first half of the final game. With Vergil down and Morrigan being whittled away by Dormammu, Chris G preemptively activated X-Factor and essentially handed the game to FChamp. Despite amassing an incredible lead, FChamp suffered a series of misfortunes that greatly eroded his advantage. First of all, FChamp counter activated his own X-Factor with little reason. Although this wasn't strictly a mistake, it only maintained a slight advantage and could have provided a more powerful resource later on. After both X-Factors were expended, Chris G went on the offensive and managed to trap FChamp's Dr. Doom in the corner. It was there Chris G executed one of the most beautiful and deceptive Shell Kicks of all time. By now, FChamp was really feeling the pressure and desperate to keep his dying Magneto alive. He utilized two super moves to safely swap in Dormammu, but tragically performed the wrong input. Not only did FChamp lose vital damage on Morrigan, he also lost all of his super meter. It was here that FChamp's utter lack of resources finally proved fatal. Although FChamp fought one of the best matches of his Marvel 3 career and almost emerged victorious, only Chris G earned the honor of fighting Justin Wong for the Marvel 3 world championship.

The EVO Grand Finals match for Marvel vs. Capcom 3 appeared like something written or destined rather than achieved by a volatile concoction of luck and skill. It featured the two most dominant names in Marvel vs. Capcom history — one old and one new. The veteran Justin Wong was undoubtedly the hero. Not only did he embody the beloved Marvel legacy, he also defied convention by staying true to a team he loved that many considered lacking. Opposed to him was Chris G, the young paragon and reluctant villain. Many people resented Chris G's defensive playstyle and worried that a boring bombardment of projectiles winning EVO would essentially kill all hype and interest in the game. There was also the residue of heartache and frustration from last year's EVO where Justin Wong came so far and fought so hard only to stumble at the final step. People wanted Wong to win it all, and everything appeared to fall perfectly into place for him this year. But Chris G had built a career on dashing the hopes and dreams of many able competitors, as he often did to Wong throughout the previous year. For Justin Wong to finally claim his ultimate victory, he would have to summon forth some extraordinary scheme or effort to succeed where so many had failed before. As it happened, Wong was fully prepared to do exactly that. For the first time in all their numerous encounters, Wong started Storm and not Wolverine against Chris G. While Wong's usual game plan was to ferociously maul his opponents, Chris G had proven impervious to this strategy. Therefore, Wong elected to return to the evasive style that was his signature from the old Marvel 2 days. Wong was committed to fight lame with lame while Chris G appeared utterly blindsided by the daring gambit. If Chris G has one crippling weakness, it's that he's often slow to adapt to novel characters or tactics. Wong masterfully snikt this Achilles' heel in the first game and ran away with the momentum. But there was more to Wong's performance than mere disruption. Game 2 featured a graceful ballet of advance and retreat that ended with one of the closest and most intense time over victories in Marvel 3 history. Although Chris G finally managed to collect himself and prevail in the third game, it was already too late to mount a full recovery. By now the crowd was poised at a fever pitch, and every advantageous move by Wong was punctuated by their mounting frenzy. Even the commentators refused to remain impartial during the final, frantic seconds. With one magnificently fired ball of lightning, Justin Wong finally fulfilled his destiny to became the Marvel vs. Capcom 3 world champion. Wong was overwhelmed with emotion and celebrated by performing the barrel roll felt 'round the world. Although Wong won many titles and championships over his long fighting game career, this was certainly the crowning achievement for a player that many still consider "the king of Marvel."

The first notable Marvel 3 tournament following EVO was the aptly named First Attack 2014 in Cidra, Puerto Rico. Justin Wong continued to employ his "Storm First" strategy to great effect against Chris G in the Winner's Side of Top 8, taking the set 3-1. However, Wong's teammate PR Balrog wasn't so easily dispatched and narrowly prevailed over Wong 3-2 in Winner's Finals. Chris G secured his runback with Justin Wong and made the necessary adjustments to decisively sweep Loser's Finals 3-0. When Chris G encountered PR Balrog in Grand Finals, it followed the usual pattern where Chris G quickly reset the bracket and looked to easily close out the final set. However, with two games down and nothing to lose, PR Balrog refused to submit and rallied back to win two hectic games that evened the series. In the deciding game, PR Rog had everything going in his favor and it would have been wise to hang back and play cautiously. But that was never PR Rog's style. Instead, he charged ahead maniacally and landed the final hit that won the tournament, sending the cheerful hometown crowd to their feet. Later in August, Capcom announced a minimum prize pool of $50,000 for Capcom Cup 2014. This was a considerable upgrade to the meager payouts of most fighting game tournaments and further incentivized players like PR Balrog to neglect Marvel 3 for the bounty of riches up for grabs in Ultra Street Fighter IV.

Summer Jam 8 in historic Philadelphia, Pennsylvania kept Marvel 3 squarely in the spotlight at the end of August. Cloud805 made his first excursion to a Northeast tournament and was given top billing for his feature exhibition against the New York up-and-comer (by way of Philly) Coach Steve. Both young players had suddenly risen in stature over the past year, and supporters from their respective regions were eager to prove which one was superior. Unfortunately for Coach Steve and the excited East Coast audience, the exhibition quickly turned into an execution. Throughout their brief race to 10 wins, Coach Steve proved no match for Cloud805 and could only muster two meager victories before his inevitable capitulation. Coach Steve was visibly distraught by the result and was quickly swarmed by a mob of friends eager to console him. Meanwhile, Flux stormed onto the stage to defend Coach Steve's honor by challenging Cloud805 to a second impromptu exhibition. This dramatic turn of events was quite unexpected considering Flux's recent feud with Coach Steve that culminated in a notorious grudge match that Flux lost in spectacular fashion. However, Flux had his own history with Cloud805, and there was also the matter of regional pride at stake. Even if Flux had mixed feelings towards Coach Steve, he wasn't about to let him be humiliated by a West Coast pretty boy. Unfortunately for Flux, his own exhibition went just as disastrously and ended quickly in Cloud's favor 7-3.

The Marvel 3 tournament on the following day was slightly less riveting if only because so many important matches occurred off-stream. Cloud805 lost early in the Winner's Bracket to the other East Coast sensation RayRay. Even more shocking was the fact that Chris G failed to make Top 8 for the first time in years, losing to Flux and IFC Yipes in matches that were deemed too unimportant to stream. In Top 8, Flux prevailed over Coach Steve and eventually earned his place in Grand Finals. Meanwhile, Cloud805 danced his way through Loser's Bracket by defeating Yipes, RayRay, and Coach Steve before once again confronting Flux — this time for the championship title. Unlike their previous bout, Flux played with unremitting focus and finally earned redemption by annihilating Cloud805 3-1. An explosion of emotion soon followed both on and off the stage that brought the highly-charged event to a satisfying end. Cloud805 once again failed to close out his first major tournament and also became yet another casualty of winning an exhibition at the expense of a championship. Also that weekend, Filipino Champ took Shadowloo Showdown V in Melbourne, Australia over the new Japanese heavyweight RF. Although FChamp was always one to extol the USA's supremacy in Marvel, he did offer some genuine praise to the talented runner-up. This intercontinental clash served as a fitting warmup for Filipino Champ's upcoming rematch with Japan's premiere Marvel player.

Despite being in top form for both Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Ultra Street Fighter IV, Nemo wasn't able to attend EVO 2014. Thankfully, he was able to accept an invitation to West Coast Warzone 4 in Orange, California at the beginning of September. It was there that Filipino Champ finally accepted Nemo's challenge for another high-stakes exhibition. Unlike Nemo's previous money matches, this event was well publicized, well produced, and played in full public view just prior to the Top 8 for Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Over $6000 and was on the line between these two competitors, not to mention the added stakes of their personal and regional reputations. The long race to 20 wins began favorably for Filipino Champ who exerted full control of the first three games with his trusted Phoenix team. But Nemo wasn't about to be pushed around, and even gave FChamp a piece of his mind after a clever timeout on Phoenix in Game 5. After Nemo equalized the series 4-4, FChamp changed his Dr. Doom assist from Plasma Beam to Hidden Missiles. This new tactic appeared to be working until Nemo blindsided FChamp with a Dr. Strange kick on incoming, just like he did to Justin Wong at IGT 2014. With his lead in wins rapidly diminishing, FChamp traded in Phoenix for Dormammu with the hopes of upsetting Nemo's comfortable rhythm. Although this ploy succeeded at Northwest Majors VI, Nemo's wily anchor Spencer was given free reign to strong-arm FChamp's entire team into oblivion. When the exhibition reached its halfway point at 10-10, FChamp finally acquiesced and returned to Phoenix with Dr. Doom's Plasma Beam assist. During this brief lull in the action, the commentators prophetically pondered the final score. Despite the changeup, Nemo impressively constrained Phoenix and even broke into a celebratory dance after finally taking the lead 11-10. But Filipino Champ reminded Nemo of his thorough Phoenix prowess by winning with a mindful read rather than the overwhelming power of X-Factor. Reclaiming the lead 13-12, FChamp continued to exploit Nemo's refusal to block low even after Justin Wong's EVO victory turned going low into a fighting game meme. Even if his fundamentals were lacking, Nemo kept the series close with his superhuman Spencer recoveries. One of these insane comebacks managed crush all four of FChamp's characters without X-Factor to tie the score at 15-15. However, FChamp finally managed to contain Nemo in the following two games. While Nemo sat ruminating at the character select screen, Justin Wong candidly revealed what it's like be "Justin Wong". Tales of fandom aside, Nemo's brief meditation paid off handsomely when he earned the first perfect victory of the match. FChamp responded immediately by experimenting with Doom's third and final assist, Molecular Shield.

Throughout the lengthy set, Nemo threw away several easy wins by failing to land his well-rehearsed Phoenix mixups, thus allowing FChamp to pull ahead 19-16. Now Nemo was required to sweep four straight games in order to win the exhibition. With no room left for error, Nemo finally began completing his setups. After losing two games in a row, FChamp was beginning to feel the heat and tried to suppress Nemo by switching back to Doom's Hidden Missiles assist. But Nemo remained unfazed, and soon the Socal audience was cheering for Nemo's heroic comeback. Just as predicted, the score was evened up at 19-19 with thousands of dollars resting on the result of one final game. Ever the consummate mindgamer, FChamp used this critical moment to take his allotted five minute break. Nemo's rampaging firestorm of momentum was effectively put on ice. While FChamp retreated to his posse of cohorts to formulate a battle plan, Nemo stood alone on stage and tweeted about his surreal circumstance. After a generous five minutes elapsed, FChamp returned and revealed the consensus of his meeting was to pick Dr. Doom's Plasma Beam assist. The final game began with a spectacular grab tech by FChamp, followed by an equally clutch TAC break by Nemo. A nervous scramble ensued where Nemo lost Nova but landed an incredible Impact Palm on Magneto while coming in with Dr. Strange. Nemo then dispatched FChamp's Doom, but still had to contend with a fully stocked Phoenix. After Nemo lost Spencer, it all came down to each player's final character. FChamp's Phoenix pressure was relentless and quickly caught Nemo trying to fight his way out of the corner. After a few quick reps of Phoenix fire, Nemo went down in a blaze of glory that bestowed FChamp his final payback. Although Nemo was the foreign challenger, FChamp's small entourage accounted for most of the celebrating. To his credit, FChamp was unusually gracious towards Nemo. There was hugging, handshaking, and even bowing between the longstanding rivals. During his post-match interview, FChamp elaborated on his heartfelt respect for Nemo until he felt the sudden urge to count his winnings on stream. With the final score and deciding game so achingly close, this exhibition didn't provide a definitive answer as to who was the better player. But if any one factor tilted the final result in FChamp's favor, it was certainly the exceptional depth of his roster. While Nemo sustained the same team and general game plan throughout the series, FChamp was a master of trial and error. With a mixture of guts and guile, FChamp managed to swap out his team twice and change assists five different times along his winding road to victory. Even if FChamp was less of a natural talent than Nemo, he willfully surpassed this limitation with all the ingenuity of a master strategist.

The Top 8 for Marvel vs. Capcom 3 immediately followed up this sensational exhibition. Though it lacked the impressive stakes and exceptional skill of the previous contest, the tournament did feature some intriguing drama in its own right. After exhausting every physical and mental resource to win the exhibition, FChamp couldn't fight at his usual peak against Angelic. Though their Winner's Bracket match came down to the wire, a lapse in judgement in the final moments allowed Angelic to steal the series. Emboldened by his success, Angelic went on to defeat Apologyman in Winner's Finals after coming back from an 2-0 deficit. This impressive turnaround was the first major setback for Apologyman who had managed to shutout Nemo earlier in the tournament. After trudging the long path through Loser's Bracket, Nemo fatefully collided with Filipino Champ for one final rematch. In opposition to his previous success, FChamp started off with his Dormammu team. His frustration was evident after going down 2-1, so FChamp once again depended on his favorite bird to carry him the remaining distance. This fervid relationship was put to the test in Game 4 when FChamp refused to let Phoenix endure a precarious mixup. By preserving Phoenix without a full super meter, FChamp was forsaking her second life and staking his own on the slippery glass canon known simply as Jean Grey. Despite holding her own against Nova and Dr. Strange, FChamp's Phoenix was only mortal and couldn't survive the bionic haymaker from Nemo's anchor Spencer. This lead to a tense showdown between each player's last remaining character. As the final seconds counted down, Nemo refused to sit on his winning lead and risked everything to chip out Filipino Champ. Tragically, Nemo was just one pixel shy of killing Doom, and FChamp seized the opportunity to turn around his certain elimination. After coming so close and losing so much that weekend, Nemo was understandably tilted during the final game. An unfortunate assist call by Nemo gave FChamp all the advantage he needed to run away with the series. Even Nemo's last, desperate resistance was mercilessly crushed beneath Dr. Doom's tyrannical boots. Though he remained a gentleman to the end, Nemo had finally reached his breaking point.

Loser's Finals featured an exciting EVO runback between Filipino Champ and Apologyman. FChamp's Morrigan continued to harass Apologyman, who almost had one of his trademark implosions at the end of Game 3. Fortunately for his sanity, Apologyman was able to recover and popped off after pulling ahead in the series 2-1. FChamp staved off elimination in Game 4 by orchestrating a brilliant come from behind victory with Dr. Doom. As usual, the disposition of these two players couldn't have been more contrastive leading into the final game. Ultimately, FChamp's defense proved impenetrable and he flaunted his confidence at the end by finishing off Apologyman in style. By the time he returned to battle Angelic in Grand Finals, FChamp was fully recharged and ready to scrap. After getting demolished 3-0 in the first set, Angelic had the ingenious notion to offer up his dodgy Firebrand team against a player who just neutralized the best Firebrand in the world. FChamp didn't even bother picking Morrigan and still continued to obliterate Angelic. Not even a return to his usual squad in Game 3 could spare Angelic the indignity of being 6-0'd in Grand Finals. Not only did Filipino Champ triumph in two lucrative Marvel events, he also made Marvel history by finally breaking the long-standing "exhibition curse." Although Nemo certainly lost the most that weekend, he still walked away with a sizeable payout by winning the Ultra Street Fighter IV tournament over the coincidently-named Filipinoman.

One week later, Flux won his second tournament in a row at The Fall Classic 2014 in Raleigh, North Carolina. This event wasn't as well attended as previous years, and PR Balrog was the only Marvel master present — though he only managed to finish 7th Place. Nonetheless, many began to consider Flux the new top contender on the East Coast. At the end of October, Filipino Champ ran into some trouble south of the border at Chaosdimention 2014 in Mexico City. Despite recently prevailing over the best international Marvel player, FChamp was spectacularly upset in Top 8 by an obscure Mexican competitor name Cancun. Though FChamp got his revenge on Cancun in Loser's Finals, another dark horse opponent was lying in wait. A long overlooked Mexican talent named Pony had already reached Grand Finals and was chomping at the bit to put Filipino Champ in his place. Pony's unbridled assault came at the expense of his point character Zero, who suffered a slew of early deaths when Pony chased after FChamp rather than simply whirl away with Zero's laser sword. But Pony's Magneto was the real workhorse of his team and rode roughshod over FChamp with all the command of a civil war admiral. Pony pulled far ahead with two unanswered wins and had FChamp thoroughly outfoxed in the final game. However, FChamp appeared to have serious controller issues by the end and paused the game after venting his frustration. When a player pauses (intentionally or not) that usually triggers an automatic loss. Since Pony had already won two games, he was entitled to claim his tournament victory then and there. But something about taking the win on a technicality didn't sit right with Pony, and he agreed to replay the third game despite his significant lead. It was a bold venture to give Filipino Champ a second chance and not entirely warranted. There's no "fair play" or sportsmanship involved in spotting someone a game when their controller fails. Each player is responsible for their own equipment, and selective enforcement of this rule can lead to brazen deception or undue pressure on honest players to simply "let things slide." However, Pony's motives may not have been entirely charitable. With everything going in his favor, maybe Pony wanted to prove that he could beat FChamp without being gifted a game, or as the impassioned commentator put it, "This is gonna be legit!" Thankfully, Pony brought the match to a thrilling end that inspired thunderous applause from his proud compatriots. Not only was this Pony's most impressive victory, Cancun and other strong regional challengers proved that Mexican Marvel was a real force to be reckoned with.

Even further south, Justin Wong and Kane Blueriver had their first runback since EVO at Gamerbyte 2014 in Santiago, Chile. In Winner's Finals, Kane was leading 2-1 when he ominously fell victim Wong's deadly anchor Akuma. This nearly happened again in the deciding match when Kane dropped the killing blow on Wong's Akuma. Luckily, Kane found the last sliver of damage necessary to legitimately defeat Justin Wong for the first time in his Marvel career. The Grand Finals match between these two fiercely determined players went back and forth in an ever-shifting tide of momentum. Kane took an early 2-1 lead at the beginning of both sets, and both times Wong clawed his way back to a narrow victory. Although his failure to close out the tournament must have been heartbreaking, Kane could take solace in the fact that his record against Justin Wong was finally improving.

In early November, Filipino Champ traveled to the other end of North America to attend Canada Cup 2014 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It was there that FChamp finally avenged his elimination from Canada Cup 2012 by defeating BeeBall in Winner's Finals, Grand Finals, and a 15-7 exhibition that ended with some glitchy trash talk moderated by the legendary "PogChamp." Northeast Championships 15 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania featured a handful of high profile Marvel matchups. Chris G swept Justin Wong in Top 32, but lost to PR Balrog in Winner's Finals 3-1. Justin Wong then repaid the favor by shutting out Chris G in Loser's Finals. PR Balrog went up two games over Justin Wong in Grand Finals, but Wong remained undaunted and stormed back to win three straight games. The second set of Grand Finals began much like the first, with PR Rog forging ahead to an early two game lead. Even the hopeful commentators doubted that Wong could mastermind another flawless turnaround. But a true Wolverine fights to the very end, and Wong embodied that indomitable spirit when he swept the three remaining games to give PR Rog the rarely received "Double Classic." Though neither score was in his favor, PR Balrog put up an extraordinary fight in Grand Finals. Unfortunately, it was also the last great performance of his distinguished Marvel 3 career.

Capcom Cup 2014 closed out the year in fighting games with a pair of earth-shattering announcements. First off was the official unveiling and subsequent live demonstration of Capcom's newest fighting game, Street Fighter V. The second reveal was that Capcom Cup would return in 2015 with a massive $500,000 prize pool. Not only was this a tenfold increase from 2014, it was by far the richest payout ever offered for a single fighting game event. This one-two punch of staggering news from Capcom was basically the knockout blow for the Marvel 3 competitive scene. Capcom then poured salt in the wounds by using hype footage from the Marvel community to sell their newest Street Fighter game while Marvel players were left out to rot.