2015

2015 - YEAR OF THE UNDERDOG

For the first time since its release in 2011, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was no longer considered the hypest fighting game around. Ultra Street Fighter IV and its impending sequel received most of the attention from players and spectators in 2015. The year also yielded several new fighting games that threatened to push the dwindling Marvel community further out of the spotlight. But Marvel players are nothing if not resilient, and many strongly embraced their new underdog status like a superhero standing proud in a silly costume. With most of the Marvel masters retired or inactive, a new generation of top contenders burst onto the scene in dramatic fashion. Many had been toiling away for years in their laboratories perfecting characters and teams that were previously considered useless. But time and again they proved that tireless dedication trumps lazy talent in the grimy world of Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

Kumite in Tennessee 2015 first arrived in the early days of January. Cloud805 fought admirably but was again deprived of his first tournament victory by Justin Wong in Grand Finals. The Curleh Mustache invitational returned to the East Coast for the fifth time and reinvigorated the languid Marvel scene with some much needed hype and drama. For the past several months, a rising star in the New York scene named Cosmos was upsetting the newly arranged hierarchy in the Northeast. His impressive mastery of Morrigan / Doom / Vergil and vaguely aloof demeanor was eerily reminiscent of the estranged despot Chris G. Though he seldom attended major tournaments, Cosmos arrived at the Curleh Mustache and began to settle some long-standing scores, beginning with his convincing victory over Flux in Winner's Bracket. Tensions were running high throughout the set and there was no love lost between these bitter rivals by the end of it. Later on, Cosmos officially put his name on the map by narrowly defeating RayRay in Winner's Finals and easily shutting him out in Grand Finals. Not one for false humility, Cosmos dismissed the supremacy of New York's finest by casually proclaiming, "I don't even play this game much."

Winter Brawl 9 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania further upset the established order when RayRay, Flux, and Coach Steve were eliminated from the tournament before reaching Top 8. This event also featured the incredible return of MarlinPie, a legendary veteran who had been missing from the Marvel limelight for over a year. After barely losing to Cosmos in the Winner's Bracket, MarlinPie mowed down an impressive lineup of young guns that included Randomfiend, JRosa, and Punisher. After fighting his way back to Cosmos in Grand Finals, MarlinPie did his best to wrangle the cocky greenhorn. But Cosmos steered clear of MarlinPie's final ambush and magnificently won his second consecutive Marvel tournament.

The first major Marvel tournament of the year took place at Final Round XVIII in Atlanta, Georgia. Many remarkable upsets and unexpected triumphs took place that weekend, beginning with Chris G's pair of shocking losses to Terry Bogard and Strider extraordinaire Marvelo. Chris G swiftly exited the tournament in 17th Place, his worst Marvel 3 result in many years. Other legends continued to fall — like Justin Wong, who was upset in pools by the Midwestern maniac Eyeconic. Although Wong was later eliminated by Cloud805, he did manage to achieve a respectable 5th Place finish. Meanwhile, the next wave of Marvel killers continued putting in work, including a new Japanese hopeful from Team Black Eye named Takumi. His slick Magneto and crafty Vergil carried him all the way to 5th Place, an auspicious debut at one of Marvel's most challenging events. But the player who truly eclipsed the competition at Final Round XVIII was the mellow marksman and Starburst nutritionist Terry Bogard. His impressive list of casualties included RayRay, Chris G, JRosa, Clockwork, and Cloud805, who Bogard bopped twice in Top 8. However, Filipino Champ's vast Morrigan experience gave him a firm advantage over Bogard in Winner's Finals and Grand Finals. Despite having to settle for 2nd Place, Terry Bogard proved his sensational run at Curleh Mustache South wasn't a one-off performance.

The rearrangement of the Marvel pecking order continued into early April at Norcal Regionals 2015. Clockwork barely edged out Filipino Champ in Top 16 and overcame a 2-0 deficit to take down Chris G in the Winner's Side of Top 8. Unfortunately, Clockwork couldn't complete his hat trick on all three eternal masters and was finally tripped up by Justin Wong in Winner's Finals. In Loser's Bracket, Chris G deftly skated past FChamp and charged headfirst into his dicey rematch with Clockwork. This time, Chris G operated with cold precision, sticking it to Clockwork 3-1. Justin Wong had his guard down in Grand Finals and was quickly powder slapped by Chris G's anchor Magneto team. However, Wong managed to save face by firmly checking Chris G in the final set and netting himself yet another NCR Marvel trophy. Sadly, there was no glory left to spare for PR Balrog, who only managed a discouraging 9th Place finish and never again entered another Marvel 3 tournament.

Despite being a modest regional event, Northwest Majors 7 had some of the finest and closest Marvel 3 matches of the year. Filipino Champ improved his record against Cloud805 by narrowly prevailing in the Winner's Side of Top 8. Also in Winner's Bracket, Chris G had his NCR runback against the unwavering Justin Wong. Despite switching back to anchor Vergil, Chris G couldn't pin down Wong's swooping Storm and eventually lost the set 3-2. In Winner's Finals, Wong stifled FChamp's smoldering Phoenix and diligently fought his way to a suitable 3-2 victory. The world warrior Kane Blueriver made his yearly pilgrimage to the USA just in time to attend Northwest Majors 7. Kane had a long history of success at this tournament and maintained that prosperous legacy by mercilessly scraping Chris G 3-0 in Loser's Bracket. Despite his shocking triumph over an undisputed master, Zero players like Cloud805 continued to be Kane's kryptonite and doomed him to a frustrating 4th Place finish. Cloud's rematch with FChamp in Loser's Finals laid bare the terrifying endgame of Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Down 2-1 and facing elimination, Cloud landed a Dante infinite that lasted an entire minute and allowed him to delay the arrival of Dark Phoenix indefinitely. Not even FChamp's furious mashing could spare him from his ignominious fate. From there, Cloud smoothly wrapped up the final game and walked off with the series. Despite arriving from the Loser's Bracket, Cloud projected a smug confidence towards Justin Wong in Grand Finals. In the deciding game of the first set, Cloud had an insurmountable lead over Wong's X-Factorless Storm. But Wong refused to concede the set and nearly mounted a classic turnaround until he was finally cut down by Cloud's shimmering Z-Saber. Eager to accent his initial victory, Cloud needled Wong by taunting, "Nope, no Wong Factor." Unfortunately for Cloud, this was a grave mistake. Just like Beetlejuice or Candyman, merely uttering the name of Wong's eponymous power is enough to make it manifest, as it did in the deciding game of the second set. For the third time running, Wong ruthlessly deprived Cloud805 of his first championship title.

In early May, Japan held its annual Marvel vs. Capcom 3 championship at KVO 2015. A talented Zero / Dante / Strange player named Cross made a huge splash by taking 2nd Place just behind the seasoned veteran Mabushin. Nemo only managed a 5th Place showing in Marvel, but went on to win the much more prestigious Ultra Street Fighter IV tournament at the same event. The following week at Texas Showdown 2015, Justin Wong lost his winning rhythm by falling to Chris G in Winner's Finals and RayRay in Loser's Finals. Recalling Wong's EVO subterfuge, RayRay surprised everyone by fielding a radically different team against Chris G in Grand Finals. Though RayRay had never utilized Zero or Dante in a major competition, he played so naturally with these characters that even the mindful commentators were discombobulated. RayRay proved his pocket picks were more than gimmicks by clutching out the final game of the first set with his stylish anchor Dante. Chris G was left scratching his head over this odd scenario, but the second set of Grand Finals gave him another chance to convalesce. Slowly but steadily, RayRay's novel advantage eroded, providing Chris G with a decisive 3-1 victory and his first Marvel championship in almost a year.

May was an eventful month for the headstrong vagabond Kane Blueriver. He made his first stop north of the border at Toryuken 4 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. After defeating RayRay in Winner's Bracket, Kane lost 3-1 to Justin Wong in Winner's Finals. RayRay eliminated Kane 3-2 in their ensuing runback, but still suffered a clean sweep at the hands of Justin Wong in Grand Finals. Kane and Wong clashed again the following weekend at Combo Breaker 2015 just outside of Chicago, Illinois. This new tournament series debuted as the official successor to UFGT and continued the rivalry that began the previous year between Kane and Wong. Their thrilling showdown in Winner's Finals was the kind of wild free-for-all where Kane Blueriver thrives. But Wong barely managed to contain the madness and settled the series 3-2 in his favor. By the time Kane returned for Grand Finals his personal X-Factor had evaporated, allowing Wong to casually mop up the final match 3-1. But there was more than failure and disappointment for Kane Blueriver that month. The end of May saw a sudden revival of one of the oldest and most historic fighting game tournaments. Midwest Championships 2015 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee featured various Marvel hopefuls, including the cosmic controller known as Full Schedule. He and Kane Blueriver kicked off the event with a feature exhibition that Kane ultimately lost 10-8. Kane's dissatisfaction was obvious by the end, but he learned some useful lessons from this defeat that served him well in the subsequent tournament. When Kane and Full Schedule met the following day in Winner's Finals, Kane had already prepared a winning strategy. By doggedly snapping in Full Schedule's anchor Amaterasu, Kane avoided the rabid turnarounds that hounded him during their exhibition and eventually wrapped up the series 3-2. In the first game of Grand Finals, a howling mistake by Full Schedule allowed Kane to chase down Dr. Doom and unleash a devastating reversal with all the vigor of a pugnacious boxer. Kane went on to bury Full Schedule 3-1 and fiercely relished his success at becoming a genuine Marvel 3 champion.

Leading up to the pre-EVO season, Filipino Champ publically announced that he was ready to "move on" from Marvel vs. Capcom 3. This was a painful blow to the Marvel community since FChamp was one of the only professional players who still appeared to love the game. Thankfully, this new change of direction didn't stop FChamp from entering the next major Marvel tournament. Socal Regionals 2015 missed its intended date in early May due to unforeseen issues with the venue. While the event was later rescheduled for October, the tournament organizers hosted a pair of prelude events to compensate players who had already planned to attend. The first of these events took place in early June and featured a small but distinguished selection of West Coast Marvel talent. Though Justin Wong was in attendance and hadn't announced any plans to neglect Marvel, he opted to commentate rather than participate in the tournament. Filipino Champ kicked off Top 8 by kicking over Cloud805 in Winner's Bracket. Meanwhile, Clockwork didn't have it so easy in his Winner's Bracket match with Paradigm. After going down 2-1, Clockwork demonstrated his unique versatility by putting Dr. Doom on point instead of Vergil. He further proved his proficiency with all three characters by closing out the deciding game with a haphazard Strider comeback. In Winner Finals, Clockwork went berserk on FChamp's Dark Phoenix and narrowly closed out the series 3-2. Down in Loser's Bracket, Chris G masterfully schooled his Socal rivals Cloud805 and Paradigm. In Loser's Finals, FChamp fought passionately with Dormammu but only managed to snag a single win against Chris G. After falling to Clockwork earlier in the tournament, Chris G finally earned his coveted runback in Grand Finals. But Clockwork came out swinging and completely flustered Chris G from the very outset. After three quick games, Chris G's fate was sealed by a lethal swipe of Clockwork's mighty ninja dagger. For years it seemed like Clockwork would remain forever trapped within his doomed Marvel 2 legacy. But after probing every option and taking every loss in stride, Clockwork finally captured his first major Marvel 3 championship.

East Coast Throwdown 2015 in Morristown, New Jersey arrived the following week and brought together some of the region's top Marvel competitors. RayRay offered up his unproven Zero team against Cosmos in the Winner's Side of Top 8, but Cosmos wasn't as easily flummoxed as Chris G and only dropped one game before walking off with the match. Things got more troublesome for Cosmos when he encountered a real Zero player in Winner's Finals. Flux was itching to avenge his defeat and subsequent dismissal from the last Curleh Mustache tournament and thrashed Cosmos with relative ease 3-1. In Loser's Bracket, Kane Blueriver ran into a human landmine from New York City named Scamby and was quite literally blown up in the final game of their explosive set. Scamby even took his match with RayRay down the wire, but was eventually defused 3-2. When RayRay returned to Cosmos in Loser's Finals, he stuck it out with his regular lineup and viciously stomped Cosmos 3-0. But RayRay still couldn't seal the deal in Grand Finals, narrowly falling to his friend and teammate Flux.

The pro wrestling theatrics of Community Effort Orlando reached dizzying new heights in 2015 thanks to the everlasting hype of Marvel vs. Capcom 3. In the Winner's Side of Top 8, the hometown hero Full Schedule was staring down a toothpicking Texan with a folding chair known as "the world's most dangerous man" (or simply, Jan). Full Schedule's high-performance eyewear and boldly affirming outfit evoked the uniform of a rock-steady professional, but a string of amateur blunders allowed Jan to easily give him the business 3-0. Chris G settled his feud from Northwest Majors 7 by sweeping Kane Blueriver in Top 16, but still hit a stumbling block against Jan in Winner's Finals. Jan was long considered "the thinking man's Kane Blueriver" due to his mindful play with big body characters and demonstrated that acumen by closing out Game 4 with an unblockable finisher. A stray hit in the final game turned into a huge payoff for Jan who then landed a hellacious pipe on Vergil's noggin to carry the series 3-2.

Meanwhile, Full Schedule was busy fighting his way out of Dante's Inferno where fallen challengers like Terry Bogard had their final shot at redemption. Over the past year, Full Schedule had become the new face of Florida Marvel, and all the heavy hopes from hundreds of Floridian crowd monsters came to rest on his slender shoulders. Cheers of "YES! YES! YES!" jovially echoed the trademark chant of one pro wrestling superstar following Full Schedule's victory over Terry Bogard. The infectious chant grew ever louder after Full Schedule's wholesale dismantling of Flux, especially from a well-coordinated cheering section known simply as "Florida Boyz." By the time Full Schedule finally reached Chris G in the Purgatorio known as Loser's Finals, his staggering inertia had all the force and frenzy of a runaway juggernaut. But unlike the fictional crusaders these players put into battle, Full Schedule was both the hero Florida needed and deserved. His superhuman performance had Chris G on the ropes by Game 4, and the thrilling knockout blow brought the whole venue to their feet in celebration. Full Schedule had finally reached the gates of Paradiso where the only adversary standing between him and eternal Marvel glory was the methodical man in black.

From the moment Chris G was subdued, Jan turned on his heels back towards the squared circle where he sat comfortably on the Winner's Side of Grand Finals. Unlike their previous bout, Full Schedule played like a man possessed and took an early lead by chipping away at Jan's hulking characters from afar. This tactical changeup stymied Jan and allowed Full Schedule to quickly reset the bracket 3-1. By now the audience was united into a single bellowing behemoth that aimed to collectively push Full Schedule over the top. After dropping the first two games of the final set, Jan finally took a timeout and "The Big Body Coalition" assembled for a much-needed strategy session. But no amount of last minute brainstorming could deliver Jan from the clutches of Full Schedule's fabled infinity gauntlet. A quick mix of calamari in Doom's colossal blender brought the final set to a clean finish and earned Full Schedule his first major Marvel 3 championship. The crowd erupted into a frenzy of jubilation as friends and training partners swarmed Full Schedule with hugs and kudos. Even the camera operator appeared to faint from overexcitement, giving the scene a kind of ascending triumph you only see in cheesy, feel-good sports movies. But there were moments of down-to-earth emotion as well. Full Schedule's longtime girlfriend was overwhelmed with joy for his hard-fought success, and even the champion himself was brought to his knees with elation. CEO 2015 sought to emulate the larger than life pageantry of professional wrestling with musical intros, elaborate stages, and gold-plated championship belts. But unlike those athletic soap operas, the achievement and engagement created by great fighting game competitions will always prove far more real.

Surprisingly, Full Schedule's dramatic triumph wasn't even the most noteworthy event at CEO 2015. Though he failed to impress in the tournament proper, K-Brad's electrifying entrance and stunning payoff got the crowd popping for the Top 8 of Marvel vs. Capcom 3. This well-delivered tribute to the great "Stone Cold" Steve Austin quickly went viral and even made headlines at traditional sports websites like ESPN and Bleacher Report. But the greatest validation came from Steve Austin himself who genuinely commended K-Brad without any subtle sneering at the notion of professional fighting gamers. Most hilariously, K-Brad was officially branded a "professional Marvel player" by the mainstream press just when he was struggling to maintain his reputation in the Street Fighter scene. It's like the saying goes: Some are born with Marvel, some achieve Marvel, and others have Marvel thrust upon them.

In spite of Jan's 2nd Place finish and his own recent success, Kane Blueriver started to doubt the long-term viability of his big body characters. With an eye on the future, Kane began training with PR Balrog's team of Wolverine / Doom / Vergil and first put it to good use at Undefeated of the Southwest 2015 in Tempe, Arizona. After making his way to Grand Finals from the Loser's Bracket, Kane surprised Cloud805 by choosing his auxiliary Wolverine team. It was a desperate gamble that reminded of RayRay's failed attempt to Zero in on Chris G at Texas Showdown. But Zero players like Cloud were one of the few remaining cracks in Kane's super armor, and Kane was determined to fix this crippling flaw. Unbelievably, Kane's rickety trio of top tier mercenaries defeated Cloud805 in both sets of Grand Finals. Though the footage from this fairly recent event appears to have been lost, those who watched it live remember the impact of Kane's audacious curveball. One week prior to EVO, the Curleh Mustache tournament series returned to Southern California for its 4th West Coast installment. Cloud805 carried out his own experiment by starting Dante instead of Zero against Chris G in Winner's Finals and Grand Finals. Though there were promising results from this trial run, Cloud still lost both matches 3-2. Chris G capped off the final combo by slapping his buttons with authority and savored his small victory with a winning smile. For the first time in many years, Chris G finally appeared ready and hungry to win his first Marvel 3 EVO title.

Thousands of the world's top fighting game competitors descended on Las Vegas, Nevada in late July for the 2015 Evolution world championship. Although Marvel vs. Capcom 3 stole the show at the previous EVO, many felt this would be the last significant year for the waning Marvel community. Hoping to inspire peak competition, Justin Wong used his own funds to put bounties on the three remaining Marvel masters (including himself). Little did he know how well this scheme would work. On the opening day for Marvel 3, Kane Blueriver was matched against the Norcal Viper player K-Beast in pools. After getting blown up in the first two games, Kane went to the character select screen and highlighted his backup Wolverine team that served him well at Undefeated 2015. After a few pensive moments of hesitation, Kane reconsidered and soon returned to his tried-and-true lineup of big body characters. In an alternate universe, the opposite choice at this singular juncture would certainly produce a radically different tournament. Kane went on to carry the three remaining games on the backs of his dependable team and ferociously popped off in celebration of his successful decision. Later in the bracket, Kane fatefully crossed paths with his personal Marvel demon, Justin Wong. Despite having the first game more or less secured, Wong made a dangerous assist call that Kane brutally exploited to steal back Game 1. After losing the next two games, Kane grabbed a clever move out of thin air that barely avoided Wong's Ice Storm and galvanized the crowded mob of spectators. With the series tied 2-2, Kane got up from his chair and took a moment to gather his thoughts. He stood there shaking with nervous intensity while Wong sat steady as a rock. Even though Wong was the defending champion, it was obvious which player longed the most for this victory. After a few steadfast pumps of his arms and a brief, angry war cry, Kane was fully fired up to surpass his most challenging foe. At the end of the deciding game, Kane made a crucial read that Wong's anchor Akuma wouldn't attack on wakeup and landed a command grab that emphatically closed out the series. Within seconds, Kane was overrun by a throng of supporters from the USA, Latin America, Japan, and even the outer reaches of the universe. After a lengthy celebration, Kane looked off into the distance and uttered "uno mas," focusing on his last remaining match to qualify for the Winner's Side of Top 8. Unfortunately, Kane's final opponent was Takumi, his fellow Black Eye teammate from Japan. Despite the overwhelming thrill of victory, Kane was genuinely remorseful after defeating his young protege. But this sorrow soon gave way to a pleasant rush of relief and elation. Chants of "Viva Chile!" and "KBR!" moved Kane atop his chair to address the crowd like a campaigning politician. By the end of his passionate revelry, Kane was reduced to tears. But unlike his pitiful breakdown at Capcom Cup, these were tears of satisfaction and joy. To send off this momentous day of Marvel, Kane expressed his love and gratitude to all the viewers at home who had shared in his miraculous journey to the top.

But Kane Blueriver wasn't the only foreign challenger to shatter expectations at EVO 2015. There was also the shocking return of Frutsy, that loveable Mexican longshot from EVO 2012 who endeared himself to the world with his wacky team and homemade fight stick made of wood and tangled wires — a makeshift weapon of ingenuity and devotion lovingly emblazoned with encouragements from his friends at home. This year, Frutsy bested an array of Marvel luminaries including K-Brad, GC Yoshi, Nemo, and Full Schedule to quality for the Winner's Side of Top 8. The Japanese sensation Cross put his skills to the ultimate test during his run in with Chris G in Winner's Bracket. After Chris G narrowly closed out the first game, he was clearly anxious at the thought of losing this match. As one astute commentator noted, Chris G had been sent to the Loser's Bracket in the two previous EVOs by a pair of wild card Zero players. Not looking to repeat that unfortunate history, Chris G took a very long break to collect himself before the fifth and final game. However, Chris G's nerves still got the better of him. A panicked X-Factor deprived Chris G of the vital resources he needed to prevail, allowing Cross to comfortably take the deciding game. This stunning defeat rocked Chris G to his very core, and it was a cold minute before he finally stood up and moved on into Loser's Bracket. Though Cross later lost to RayRay 3-1, he also brought forth a second "EVO curse" that evening. This time, Cross eliminated Clockwork in 9th Place in order to qualify for the Loser's Side of Top 8. Although Clockwork remained stone-faced in defeat, the sad look of his good friend Killer Kai conveyed all of Clockwork's inner heartbreak. Most tragically of all, due to a massive influx of Smash Bros. players and poor management by the EVO staff, many of the most important and exciting Marvel matches weren't streamed at all. These weren't unknown challengers putting on exceptional shows, we're talking marquee matchups featuring the last surviving masters of the game. Filipino Champ was eliminated off-stream by Flux and Clockwork. The defending champion Justin Wong was eliminated off-stream by Chris G. And Chris G himself was eliminated off-stream by his Japanese doppelganger RF. By the end of it all, Chris G was so devastated by his loss that he broke down into a naked display of anguish and sorrow that betrayed just how much he yearned to be crowned world champion.

For the first time in its five year run at EVO, there were no masters in the Top 8 for Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Instead, a new breed of domestic talent and international hopefuls squared off to obtain their very first world championship title. Or, as the introductory song put it so prophetically, "I see a million gamers rise to the generation. I'ma fight from the bottom. I'm taking it to the top. Yeah, this is my world." That "world" only included three players from the USA, three more from Latin America, and two from the game's "homeland" of Japan. RayRay and Apologyman were the two remaining favorites for the USA, and their matches in Top 8 were by far the most entertaining and competitive. In the Winner's Side, Apologyman barely edged out RayRay to take the series 3-2. After quickly sweeping Frutsy, Kane Blueriver brought out his best against Apologyman in Winner's Finals. Kane nearly went down 2-0 off a clutch turnaround by Apologyman's anchor Doom. But Kane's confidence was unshakeable, and he surprised Apologyman by coming in swinging with his lumbering Sentinel to steal back Game 2. In the 4th game, Kane mounted an impressive Sentinel comeback that he almost sabotaged with an overzealous Hard Drive. However, Apologyman waited too long to punish this mistake, allowing Kane's Sentinel enough time to block Super Skrull's full-screen attack. Just one basic combo was enough for Kane to win the match and move on to Grand Finals. When RayRay and Apologyman had their rematch in Loser's Finals, Apologyman once again appeared to have the upper hand. Game 1 featured one of the best showdowns in Marvel 3 history between Apologyman's Doom and RayRay's Sentinel. This tense and protracted duel lasted over a minute before RayRay finally cracked under the pressure. In Game 4, Apologyman orchestrated an elaborate reversal that ended with two clutch reads on RayRay's Doom. But RayRay came back strong and won the final two games of the series with authority. While Apologyman sat despondent at his loss, RayRay was already looking ahead to Grand Finals and assured his assembly of supporters "I'm gonna win."

Kane Blueriver had never been in such a favorable position to win a major Marvel 3 tournament. Though he had traveled the world and trained for years to reach this climactic moment, the enormous weight of being one match away from a world championship is enough to make any player crumble. But Kane had already endured the most crushing defeats and doubts and humiliations along his quest for Marvel glory. Each one of these harsh experiences had steeled his resolve until he could sit with purposeful serenity on the grandest stage of competition. Kane Blueriver did nothing bold or exceptional during his Grand Finals match. He played the same steamrolling style of Marvel that he had thousands of times before. In fact, it was his ability to play normally, even automatically and without regard for the overwhelming stakes that demonstrated Kane Blueriver's truest excellence. At the beginning of Game 4 with Kane leading 2-1, the anxious crowd began to chant "USA! USA! USA!" The surreal reality that a foreign player could become the Marvel world champion after 15 years of dominance by the USA suddenly terrified many onlookers and only increased the burden that RayRay was demanded to carry. With flawless conviction, Kane Blueriver landed the final hit that sealed the series and finally realized his implausible dream of becoming the EVO world champion for Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Kane emerged from his trance-like state and stumbled into the open arms of his proud friends and compatriots. A long procession of well-wishers soon arrived — some who had helped Kane many times along his way and others who only wished to shake his hand one time. Kane was eventually coaxed over to the award ceremony where he was presented with his well-deserved prize. But as soon as he held his trophy aloft in triumph, Kane looked around tentatively and asked the tournament organizers for a microphone. After being flatly denied, Citizen Kane took to the front of the stage and delivered perhaps the greatest victory speech in the annals of esports. Although it wasn't heard by anyone except those immediately before him, at least one amateur videographer recorded Kane's immortal words, "This shows Marvel is not America's anymore. But, it's not Chile's either. It's for both, and for Mexico, and for Japan, and for everyone. Marvel is for the world because Marvel lives!"

Immediately following his historic EVO victory, Kane Blueriver received massive attention and acclaim from around the world. However, reactions from many top members of the US Marvel community were far less congratulatory. These comments ranged from the salty, to the nasty, and even the blatantly personal. Even if Marvel 3 was no longer "America's game," these players could have easily held their twitter tongues or at least pledged to defeat Kane next year. Instead, they publically trashed the very game they'd devoted years of their life to playing and some even vowed to never compete again. It was a foul epidemic of sour grapes and one of the most disgraceful spectacles suffered by the Marvel 3 community. Thankfully, PR Balrog soon emerged as the unlikely voice of reason. Though he was known for his own checkered past, PR Balrog set a much-needed example of how to handle any result with dignity and respect. One seemingly minor event at EVO involved a high-stakes money match between Filipino Champ and Dual Kevin, an up-and-coming Deadpool player from Indiana. Deadpool was long considered a suicidally bad character in the Marvel 3 competitive scene, but Dual Kevin's respectable 15-10 loss against FChamp was a much closer score than most expected from the young challenger.

Following in his mentor's footsteps, Takumi decided not to return home after EVO and instead couch surfed his way to various Marvel 3 tournaments around the USA. The first stop on his cross-country adventure was the second prelude tournament for Socal Regionals 2015 in late August. Unlike the first installment, there were no famous faces at this event. Still, Takumi put in a solid performance and narrowly came in 2nd to the mustachioed dynamo from Las Vegas RyanLV. Although neither of these players were well known at the time, both would become recognized as elite competitors in the season to come. The following week, Takumi made his way to beautiful San Juan, Puerto Rico for First Attack 2015. After defeating Ranmasama in Top 8, Takumi went on to upset Chris G 3-1 in Winner's Finals. In Grand Finals, Chris G made the necessary adjustments and reset the bracket on Takumi 3-1. But Takumi struck back with sublime virtuosity and evened up the final set 2-2. The deciding game of the tournament produced one of the most nail-biting finishes in Marvel 3 history. Even after he was presumed dead by the commentators, Takumi held fast to his last sliver of life and chipped away at Chris G's final character with only seconds remaining. The crowd began shrieking and hollering at the long, unbroken tension of this thrilling climax. Down to a single pixel of life, Takumi audaciously charged forward but was grabbed out of the air by Chris G and finally taken down. Chris G instantly leapt out of his chair and stomped the stage in celebration. The delighted audience burst into a roaring round of applause — not just for Chris G, but for Takumi as well, and most of all for the indestructible hype of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 that firmly refused to die. This was Chris G's first satisfying victory after his soul-crushing defeat at EVO, and his success continued at The Fall Classic 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Chris G came back from the Loser's Bracket to win the event, while Takumi had to settle for a modest 4th Place finish, having lost to Chris G and Noel Brown. Unlike Chris G, who rediscovered his love for Marvel following his EVO failure, Justin Wong wasn't ready to return to the game and declined to enter the Marvel 3 tournament at The Fall Classic.

The world champion Kane Blueriver traveled to Japan shortly after EVO but returned to the USA just in time to attend Socal Regionals 2015 on route back to his native Chile. SCR 2015 finally took place in mid-October after several frustrating delays and featured many top Marvel competitors from the West Coast and beyond. However, it did not feature the EVO champion Kane Blueriver, who oddly neglected to enter the tournament. Instead, Kane hung around the venue chatting with his friends before shuffling onstage to commentate Top 8 in a kimono. Filipino Champ was eager to back up some of his post-EVO posturing and traveled from Northern California specifically to fight Kane Blueriver. When he learned that Kane wouldn't be competing, FChamp challenged Kane to an exhibition to which Kane allegedly replied, "I have nothing to prove.". FChamp later defeated Cloud805 to win his first Socal Regionals championship, but that result was quickly overshadowed by the controversy surrounding Kane's curious behavior. Many felt that Kane was refusing to honor the duties of his title, and his actions only appeared to validate those who questioned the legitimacy of his EVO victory.

At the end of October, the trigger-happy whiz kid Dual Kevin traveled to New York City for Defend the North 2015. Dual Kevin smoked RayRay 3-1 in the Winner's Side of Top 8 before setting his sights on Punisher in Winner's Finals. After winning the first two games, Dual Kevin was in a prime position to carry the match. But tournament nerves are often the downfall of tenderfooted young guns, and not even Deadpool's tricky teleports were enough for Dual Kevin to dodge "The Classic." Punisher literally "defended the north" by coming back three straight games and keeping the best in the Midwest out of Grand Finals. In Loser's Finals, Dual Kevin shot ahead of RayRay 2-1 and was already gunning for his impending rematch with Punisher. But RayRay wouldn't go down without a fight and narrowly clutched out an unbelievable victory that abruptly equalized the series. Although Dual Kevin initially laughed off his misfortune, he was soon sighing and looking around aimlessly as if stuck in a daze. Predictably, the deciding game was a cold-blooded massacre and Dual Kevin capped off his promising run with a dispiriting 3rd Place finish. In Grand Finals, the newest hot shot from New York City didn't fare much better against RayRay. Punisher lost both sets of Grand Finals, while RayRay once again reclaimed his preeminence over the Northeast.

RayRay traveled even farther north the following week to attend Canada Cup 2015 held just outside of Toronto. The well-coordinated BeeBall was Canada's last remaining heavy hitter in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and sought to avenge his thorough shellacking by Filipino Champ at the previous Canada Cup. When these two rivals met in the Winner's Side of Top 8, BeeBall easily strong-armed FChamp's Dormammu squad. Down 2-1, FChamp called in his cardinal bird from the bullpen, but not even Phoenix could bring the heat against BeeBall's crackerjack Frank West. One quick catch was all it took to give Phoenix the golden sombrero and reduce her to nothing more than a bumbling mascot. BeeBall kept swinging for the fences in Winner's Finals and eventually landed the final hit that dispatched RayRay 3-2. In Loser's Finals, FChamp was killing it with his Phoenix lineup but a bush league error in the deciding game allowed RayRay to steal the series. When RayRay made it to Grand Finals over FChamp, many were expecting an easy cleanup for BeeBall. But the Canadian hopeful had an early slump and struck out in the first set 3-1. BeeBall took a short breather to rotate his hat for maximum power before slugging it out with RayRay in the final set. Though he didn't play a perfect game, BeeBall managed to defeat RayRay 3-1 and became the first ever Canadian Marvel 3 champion. The joyful crowd surged with excitement and regional pride. Soon the winner was mobbed by everyone from Jason Voorhees to Canada Cup's founder and patron, Lap Chi Duong. When all the revelry was over, BeeBall breathed a sigh of relief that he'd finally clutched one out for Canada. One former Marvel player turned commentator summed up the momentous event with this incendiary analysis: "America got bodied!"

On the same weekend as Canada Cup, another "classic historical battle" went down at Youmacon 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. Chris G finally encountered his East Coast pretender Cosmos in the Winner's Side of Top 8. Unsurprisingly, Cosmos received a royal beatdown and was banished to the Loser's Bracket following his 3-1 battering. But Cosmos escaped his inglorious exile and returned with a vengeance to contest Chris G once more in Grand Finals. This time, Cosmos rose to the occasion and reversed the previous score to claim the first set of the series. However, Chris G proved resilient and firmly took the first two games of the final set. It appeared like yet another devastating turnaround from Chris G, but unlike the multitude of challengers who had fallen before him, Cosmos refused to surrender. In Game 4, down to nothing but his anchor Doom against Chris G's entire team, Cosmos outmaneuvered Chris G's superior arsenal by diving footfirst into danger and snuffing out the two remaining powder kegs before they were even lit. Chris G was nearly overrun in the deciding game, but his loyal servant Vergil valiantly held the line until only Morrigan remained for Cosmos. In a fitting bit of poetry, Chris G was betrayed by his own queen when Cosmos felled the final knight to win Youmacon 2015. Not since the dynasties of Justin Wong and Filipino Champ had Chris G been conquered in both sets of Grand Finals. With this exceptional victory, Cosmos had officially dethroned Chris G and confirmed himself the new reigning king of New York.

Nothing better exemplified the seismic disruption of the Marvel 3 competitive scene than Northeast Championships 16, the last major fighting game tournament of the year. Several established killers like Noel Brown and Cosmos drowned early on in pools, while rising stars like Dual Kevin and Takumi met equally unworthy ends. Not even battle-hardened legends were spared by the new breed of bloodthirsty Marvel warriors. Clockwork was upset in the first round of pools by an unknown brawler called ThePersaudKid and eliminated before Top 8 by the Chicago heavyweight Joey D. The most shocking victim of this lethal riptide was also one of the year's strongest competitors. After leading 2-0, Chris G lost three games straight to Maryland upstart PZPoy and was eliminated in pools by the lavishly named Prophete. Despite the sea of famous corpses, there were some well-known players who survived the maelstrom to reach Top 8. Ranmasama had one of his best showings in years and made it all the way to Winner's Finals before losing to RayRay 3-1. In Grand Finals, Ranmasama came back with a hard-hitting approach and reset the bracket 3-1. RayRay was left reeling at the prospect of yet another painful washout but soon found his second wind and pulled away in the deciding game to finish off the series. After a long procession of 2nd Place finishes, RayRay had finally obtained his first major Marvel 3 championship.