While Dragon Ball FighterZ prepares to celebrate its first birthday, Bandai Namco is getting ready to conclude the game's first esports season. This weekend is the Red Bull Final Summoning, a two-day event that will crown the first Dragon Ball FighterZ world champion. Sunday will see an eight-person tournament play out, the season's Saga winners colliding with the winners of Saturday's four (!) Last Chance Qualifiers. There are hundreds of hungry DBFZ players hungry for a chance at the Top 8 and a chance at the $10,000 grand prize.
Among them is Echo Fox's Jon "dekillsage" Coello. While dekillsage is recognized in the world of Super Smash Bros., it is Dragon Ball FighterZ where he has found the most success. And with his track record that includes a rare tournament win over teammate Dominique "SonicFox" McLean, dekillsage is among the favorites to score a Top 8 slot. Prior to the weekend's tournament, Shacknews had the opportunity to chat with dekillsage about his DBFZ play, how the scene has progressed, his thoughts on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and more.
Shacknews: You're set to take part in the Dragon Ball FighterZ Last Chance Qualifier this weekend. How are you approaching this tournament?
Jon "dekillsage" Coello: I'm approaching this like any other tournament. I've practiced for it. I know my opponents. I'm just going to play the way I always play. I'll try not to get nervous. I think that's the big thing. I'll just try and beat everyone and qualify.
Shacknews: What do you feel has changed about the competitive DBFZ meta since the game released almost a year ago?
dekillsage: About a year ago, it was about jailing the opponents, putting them in a block string, and doing 50/50 mixups. You guess high, you guess low, maybe a throw here or there. At the moment, the meta has turned into... you land a hit, you snap the character, and by doing so, you remove probably the strongest options in the game. You remove guard cancel, you remove tagging, you remove DAC [dash attack cancel], and your assists are locked out.
People will snap and then do multiple mixups and pressure the opponent. And there's no real strong counterplay, because there's no defensive options anymore. So the meta has turned into that. You'll be seeing a lot of that.
Shacknews: You're one of the few players to hold a tournament win over your teammate, SonicFox. I want to take you back to that day, all the way back in April, and ask, how did you approach that matchup?
dekillsage: I knew that if I played super patient and took it hit-by-hit that I had a good chance of winning. At the time, I felt like my characters actually beat his. I just played really well that weekend. I played it really patient, I focused on the neutral, and I won most of the encounters.
Shacknews: Do you still feel confident in that matchup, should you two meet again at any point this weekend?
dekillsage: We've both changed teams since then. We've played completely different teams and the patch has completely changed the way the game is played. I think his team beats mine, but I have an okay chance, as long as I get the first hit. I need the first hit to win.
Shacknews: There has been uncertainty and rumors regarding the future of Dragon Ball FighterZ esports, with tournaments being cancelled in recent months. Is Dragon Ball FighterZ something you want to stick with, regardless of how that situation plays out? Or is this is something like Marvel Infinite, where you need to move on to where the money is?
dekillsage: I want to still keep playing it and I think it will be fine. But if it becomes more of an Infinite... the only reason I stopped playing Marvel Infinite is because my scene stopped playing. No one wanted to play it anymore. If people still want to play, I will keep playing Dragon Ball, no problem. But if everyone stops playing, then I will have to move on.
Shacknews: You've also gotten into Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. You've been a Smash player for a long time. What do you feel is the current state of that meta?
dekillsage: The current state of the Ultimate meta is that it's super aggressive. Smash 4 was really defensive, the movement was limited. But this game is more open, so if you're aggressive and you're fast, it's really hard to deal with right now. So you'll see players rush people down and it's basically asking the opponent, "Do you know how to deal with this?" If the answer is no, then you win.
Shacknews: There seems to be a new top character every week, like Snake or Palutena. Is there a character you feel is underrated?
dekillsage: I think Wolf is underrated, at least in the United States. The character's neutral is super strong. His damage is really high. His kill potential is super good. And nobody really talks about him that much!
Greninja is the exact same thing. Super fast, high damage, kills, just super strong.
Shacknews: What are your thoughts on the stage rotations for Ultimate. You've seen the stage list for Genesis 6. Do you believe that's an ideal list? Or are there stages you'd rather see included or banned?
dekillsage: I think the Genesis stage list is pretty poor. Castle Siege is really weird. It doesn't feel like a competitive stage. It feels like something more for the spectators, who enjoy the chaos that it'll bring. Stages with slants I'd like to see go. I think the stages with slants aren't fit for competitive play. But the other stages that are legal are fine.
Shacknews: Are you among those who feel Lylat Cruise should be banned?
dekillsage: I think it should be banned. Not for the reasons other people think, but I do think we have enough stages now that we don't need it anymore. Slants just mess with characters, so I'd rather just not have it.
Shacknews: I actually want to take a bit of a left turn and ask about your work with XO Academy. You're working as a coach. How did the collaboration come about and what is it about XO Academy's mission statement that speaks to you?
dekillsage: So Persia [Samantha Hancock] messaged me asking me if I wanted to help her by being a coach. She had this idea to get more women playing fighting games and just improving their game. I love to teach. I don't get to do it very often, so I said this seems like a good thing to do and I'd love to be a part of it.
Shacknews: You like to teach! So what is the primary difference between dekillsage the coach and dekillsage the player?
dekillsage: My focus as a coach is to teach people how to learn from their opponents, their mistakes, and how to practice correctly. As a player, my only focus is how do I beat them as fast as possible. But as a coach, I don't want them to always come back to me. I want them to be able to just learn from me and go on their own and continue to learn from there.
Shacknews: What are your biggest goals for 2019?
dekillsage: I want to overcome some of my rivals in Dragon Ball FighterZ, like HookGangGod [Eduardo Deno]. I really want to start beating him. I want to keep doing well in Dragon Ball tournaments, in general. Since I started competing, I've only not made Top 8 three times. Every other tournament, I've been in Top 8. That's really good, so I'd like to keep that up.
I want to grow my stream some more. I love to stream. I love my community. Those are my main goals right now, at least competitively.
The Dragon Ball FighterZ Last Chance Qualifiers begin later today at 10:30AM PT live on the Dragon Ball FighterZ Twitch channel. Those looking to follow dekillsage can find him on Twitter and follow his stream on Twitch.