Written by: Stephen "Sajam" Lyon
While Group A of ELEAGUE showcased the up-and-coming talent of the FGC, Group B houses a list of its most fabled veterans. Despite the long history of competition between all the players, the state of this group is in a largely unpredictable place. Many people expected the Puerto Rico native PR Balrog to be a top seed, but Red Bull’s Snake Eyez had a surprising 2nd place finish in the group stage. Even since these competitors played back in the group stage, they’ve had some polarizing tournament results as well. With that being said, let’s make some predictions about how the group will play out.
Of all the competitors left, long-time legend Daigo Umehara surely has the hardest path. His first opponent is fellow Japanese countryman Eita, who absolutely demolished Daigo in a 2-0 during the group stage. Looking past that, the only player left of his five possible opponents - whom he has defeated - is Snake Eyez. Unfortunately for the Beast, he wouldn’t face Snake Eyez until after playing two separate opponents who both got the upper-hand during group stage. As we all know, you can never truly count out Daigo Umehara, but when factoring in the remaining competitors alongside him learning a brand new character in Guile, there is a lot to worry about.
As for Eita, he is probably the biggest wildcard remaining in the group. He narrowly avoided clinching the 2nd place spot to Snake Eyez, and has had one-sided matches both ways with many of the players left in this bracket. Despite this, Eita could have a very strong run here if he has been preparing well. Since group play, Eita is the only player who hasn’t been traveling during the break. If this time was spent analyzing his opponent’s tournament play, he’s likely to have come up with some strong strategies against the competition.
Gamerbee comes into this as the dark horse, and my personal pick with a strong chance at clinching a top 2 spot alongside PR Balrog. With 2 top 8 finishes at Capcom Pro Tour Premier events in back to back weekends, and a respectable 4-3 record in group stage, the Taiwanese native has good momentum headed into the group playoffs.
Much like Daigo Umehara, who Justin has many famous matches against, the odds are looking a little tough for him. The Echo Fox player has defeated only one player left in the field, Umehara himself, and his results since the group stage of ELEAGUE have been lower than the standard Wong is held to. Despite all of this, Justin Wong is one of the absolute best players in the world at adaptation, and with some time to prepare, has a chance at still clinching a spot.
Despite the 2nd place finish in group stage, I am slightly concerned for Snake Eyez. Although he had a strong showing at the recent Capcom Pro Tour Ranking event West Coast Warzone, he had a less than desirable 17th place finish the following weekend at NorCal Regionals. Finishing 5-2 overall in the group was impressive, but I think it was largely due to the reclusive nature of Snake Eyez in the last six months. He had the element of surprise in both gameplay and character choice by debuting a very strong and prepared Akuma. With the element of surprise gone, I’m slightly worried about his ability to finish the group with a top 2 performance.
Finally, the 1st seed in the group, PR Balrog. Heading into the group, I was supremely confident in him going out in the top 2 and was still impressed by his play. He has a combination of strong character match ups, and really sharp play, even by his standards. With a respectable 13th place at NorCal Regionals, which put him above many of the group’s remaining players, PR Balrog is sitting in a strong position headed into Group B. Given that he avoids playing Snake Eyez, the one player who defeated him in group stage, Eduardo has an extremely strong chance of making it as the top seed here.
All things considered, it’s still very difficult to tell who will make it out of the group. There are some extremely strong players still alive in this bracket and plenty of room for them to close out games they lost in the original group stage. We saw that in Group A, as players could show up and look extremely impressive, but still end up going home outside the top 8. With that said, this group is filled with absolutely legendary competitors, and there’s so much room for surprise this Friday.