Battle Arena Melbourne 9 (BAM9) kicks off tomorrow and is set to be the largest fighting game tournament ever held in Australia. With BAM being a Premiere Event on the Capcom Pro Tour, we will invaded by an army of international invaders coming for the Street Fighter V crown such as Daigo Umehara, Razer Infiltration, Razer Xian, Echo Fox Momochi, Fuudo and many more. Who will defend the Victorian shores from these overseas insurgents as well as the armies from interstate and how has the metagame and player rankings changed since the last major?

Let’s ask some of the top players and community heads, and also get some insight on Street Fighter V at BAM.

Last year’s top SFV for BAM was quite an international cast featuring the likes of Xian, Mago, Momochi, and the winner Haitani.

For Street Fighter V, we’ll get two different perspectives. We’ll start with one of the most known players in Australia: Duong “ZGnoud” Nguyen is one of Melbourne’s two sponsored SFV players for Dark Sided. Then we’ll jump over to three of the young guns of the new generation of the Melbourne fighting game community: Zedd, Martyken, and Ed “619” Bituin to hear their thoughts.

Muttons: ZG, Who are the strongest challengers for BAM from Melbourne?

ZG: I think potential wise Zedd is up and coming. He’s becoming stronger and stronger. A face that we haven’t seen recently is 619. He is very strong as well.

The two darkest horses right now in Melbourne: 1) ROF. He’s a Melbourne guy that just came back from one year teaching in Korea.

Ah the Birdie player!

ZG: He is very, very strong. He can definitely have some upsets. He was training with Korea’s finest, he can definitely be a threat.

And of course we have Mr Nooblet here. He’s Singaporean but he’s currently studying in Melbourne right now. Every chance that he gets with school holidays he goes back to Singapore and plays games, and every time he comes back he gets stronger and stronger.

Because he’s training with the likes of Xian, Gackt, Leslie.

ZG: Interestingly, not many people know – just before he came back for this semester, he actually entered a tournament in Singapore, where he beat everybody including Xian. He actually sent Xian into losers’ bracket with the score 2-1. And along the road he was undefeated. He beat Gackt, he beat Dixon, the top 3 or 5 strongest players in Singapore. And I played them in SEAM, they are very very strong. This guy he actually beat them all, got all the way to grand finals, Xian reset the bracket at 2-1, and then won again at 2-1. So it wasn’t free. This kid Nooblet here is a huge threat.

Who do you think are the strongest challengers from interstate?

ZG: I don’t know if some of the stronger players still take the game as seriously as before. I know BKsama is having a resurgence of dominance in Sydney but at the same time I’m not actually sure how he feels about the game. When he first heard of the balance changes he wasn’t very happy.

From what I’ve seen, the usual top 3 is Dailou (David Dinh), BKsama and Xavier (SpaceGhost).

One more- I think the dark horse in Sydney right now is definitely KG. I hear his name a lot.

With his Nash? But KG doesn’t really travel right?

ZG: Not Nash, his Boxer. And Boxer in this season is very explosive. So he’s definitely a huge contender.

What about other states?

ZG: If Adelaide travels…and I hope he does, Dookie will be a strong contender. I heard he switched over to Cammy. Very strong player. He’s a bit of a stylish player but at the same time he’s very strong when he wants to be. When he doesn’t want to rely on …dirty, unclean play I guess you could say?

Queensland doesn’t play anymore, they’re just coming over to support the scene, which I appreciate- shoutouts to Queensland! There’s one player who still plays and he’s definitely a threat- his name is Panda. He’s very strong and he plays Ken. Before Baxter retired, he came into the scene and he beat Baxter and a few other top players to get to the top. And he’s pretty much won every single QLD major since then.

I expected him to make top 8 at SXC last year but he kind of choked I suppose, maybe it was nerves. But I expect him to do a lot better.

Also I guess I shouldn’t count New Zealand as interstate but the top players from New Zealand are coming down are quite formidable.

Who are your top picks from New Zealand?

ZG: Everyone knows about Waza and Mason, but people that they don’t know are the new blood: these guys are taking over the scene now, in my opinion they’re the strongest in NZ. They’re from a little group called the Salt Factory, one guy Zarzob…

Jamie right? He stopped playing Chun right.

ZG: He stopped playing Chun and he’s actually playing Cammy now. Very very strong Cammy. They’ve levelled up a ton, absolutely a ton.

Skyfall used to be the number one top player in New Zealand and Tingcos used to play Mika in Season 1 but he’s playing Ibuki now. Sky is playing Ryu but…you know Ryu..[sucks in season 2] so he’s also playing Urien. He’s kind of happy of how things are reverting back in the 2.5 patch with the anti-air uppercut.

There’s one more from New Zealand, he actually just won the BAM qualifier- Ironsol. He used Zangief to beat everybody. What’s the deal with Sol- whoever has that tag Sol is always so strong. When I played him last year in New Zealand he was the closest guy to beat me. Very strong and smart player.

How has the state of play changed since the last major and with the new season 2 changes?

ZG: First of all, things got a lot more optimised. People have optimised their meaty timings, their throw loops. So sometimes you will still get hit by wake-up jab, but more often than not that’s because they are delaying their meaty in case of a reversal. But since people are very optimised with their meaty game so it’s more difficult to steal a round doing stand jab into V-trigger.

Another thing is, back in season 1, I could count less than seven or eight people tops in Australia that could properly apply the jump back option select…

The removal of jump back option select is going to be huge. People that rely on it a lot like you and Somniac are going to be affected a lot… (Note: The 2.5 patch was pushed back)

ZG: Especially if you already play a character with already limited defensive options in a game with already limited defensive options in general…it’s pretty huge.

Let’s hear from the new generation: Zedd, Martyken, and Ed “619” Bituin.

Muttons: How do you think the SFV scene and player levels have changed since the last major? You guys used to play a lot, you guys even play new characters now.

Zedd: I think some players have dropped off.

Does Falco play that much anymore?

Zedd: He…rarely plays yeah. I never play him online.

Which players have gotten much stronger?

Zedd: I think Peter. [From Victoria]

Reepuplzorg? Even though Mika got nerfed? I guess he’s been playing a lot.

Zedd: And I think Dookie. [From Adelaide] I think Dookie is taking over Adelaide now instead of Falco.I actually play Dookie online a lot – he’s playing Guile now.

Ed: I think I actually dropped off a lot as well! I stopped playing as much.

What made you stopped playing? Real life stuff or you not liking the game as much?

Ed: Probably a bit of both, yeah.

Didn’t your character get buffed? (Rashid)

Ed: Yeah he sort of did. But there’s something about V which I find it hard to grasp. I think it’s what everyone is saying: everyone sort of plays the same. And it’s hard to put your own personality into the character.

I mean this is the guy who plays Rashid, the guy who plays Modok and Frank West in Marvel…wacky characters.

Ed: [Laughs]

Top Victorian threats?

Everybody: Somniac for sure.

Zedd: And ZG.

And how do you think Som has changed since the last major. Do you feel it’s the character changes since season 2…or you think he’s gotten a lot better.

Ed: I think he’s gotten a lot better but the character changes are just a bit of added extra. But he’s definitely improved a lot.

(To Zedd) But I noticed the last two ranbats you beat him right?

Zedd: Yeah.

I remember a few months ago you told me Somniac was like your biggest hurdle at the moment. But now you’ve broken through it twice – what was the difference?

Zedd: After every time I verse him, I go to the lab and I find out tech.

Do you watch the match or you just remember what happened?

Zedd: I just remember what happened.

It’s mainly the Devil’s Reverse that I lose to the most. That’s what gives him the biggest advantage. My tech with Necalli to beat it was to use EX DP as soon as I see the Devil’s Reverse. So you can’t even cancel into the second flying part.

Because your EX DP goes very far out and very quickly right?

Zedd: Yeah. It goes very diagonal so I hit him before he gets to do anything.

So it’s a universal counter. Once you see the flash you just do it straightaway. And that takes advantage of one of your biggest strengths – the speed of your reflexes (and youth :P)

Zedd: Yes.

You use your reflexes a lot when you play- I don’t think I could use this strategy.

Ed: I’m always on autopilot all the time [laughs]

Zedd: Plus what helps me – is I use audio. When you hear Bison make the “ugh” sound. That’s the only move that makes that sound, so I just EX DP right away.

Who else is a threat besides Som and ZG from interstate?

Zedd: I know BKsama is back to the top…he can play so many characters.

Last season Yunus dominated in Sydney, what about this season?

Martyken: The usual names that keep appearing, BK, Dailou, KG.

KG’s a big X-factor with his Boxer.

Martyken: Not many people outside Sydney know: he’s like a fundamentally sound player. Even in Super Turbo with his Boxer. If he takes a game seriously, he’s a big, big threat.

I remember his Super Turbo (ST) Boxer. I also remember on the I Don’t Even Podcast podcast (Sydney FGC podcast) he was saying that he was hoping to play Daigo at last year’s OHN in ST…

Martyken: ‘Cause that’s the game he had the best chance of beating Daigo in – ST.

What I find very interesting: I feel that Sydney players feel a bit more…counter-picky than Melbourne players. What do you guys think?

Martyken: I’m gonna say that Sydney – they know how to win. They pick who they need to win. They don’t muck around. They might muck around a little bit, but when it comes to serious tournaments, results and stuff like YSB- the characters you see at YSB is top-tier. Not all of it is top, but the regulars definitely use top tier.

Martyken: Can I just say: Zedd’s gonna do well at BAM.

Yeah! He’s too modest to to talk about himself. How old are you now Zedd?

Zedd: 21.

How old is Ed now?

Ed: Turning 20.

You’re turning 20? Oh my god the new generation!

Battle Arena Melbourne 9 takes place on May 12-14 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. It will be a 3 day event with features such as: official afterparty, huge pot and prize bonuses, artist alley, cosplay competition,

BAM9 is a Global Premier Event on the 2017 Capcom Pro Tour and will feature international guests such as Daigo Umehara and Razer Infiltration and Xian for SFV and Nakat from the US for Smash. BAM9 will also feature a Tekken 7 pre-release tournament, a Tekken 7 New Challengers tournament, international players such as Saint and JDCR and the Tekken Pass: free entry to play on over 40 Tekken 7 machines all weekend.

For more information visit: Website or Facebook