Interview with New Top 100 Melee Player RCS | KPAN
Mon 16th Apr 2018 - 7:00pm
Kevin “KPAN” Pan, a Falco main, is the newly ranked #85 on SSBMRank 2017. He hails from Georgia, is #3 on the Georgia Power Rankings, and plays for Recursion. I spoke with KPAN about his history with competitive Melee and his thoughts on the current meta.
What was your introduction to competitive Melee?
KPAN: In college, I played a lot of 64 with my friends, and I was pretty much the best player. We just played free-for-alls with items and I ended up watching Isai on YouTube because I wanted to see what else I could be doing. Just in the recommended videos on YouTube, I saw Taj’s “ShadowClaw.” That Mewtwo combo video was just the hypest thing I had ever seen so I ended up seeking out competitive Melee players in Atlanta while I was at Georgia Tech. I started playing in August 2012. I was a Mewtwo main for a couple months but I soon switched to Falco.
What do you think drew you to Falco?
KPAN: I honestly don’t really know. It’s kind of weird how people find their mains. I don’t really remember much about my thought process and it’s not like I watched videos of a lot of different characters to determine my main I just ended up picking him and liking him. I think at that point I didn’t even consider Captain Falcon because he was too hard to handle, same with Fox. Don’t really know too much about why I picked Falco. I’m glad that I did though.
You’re from Georgia, where the Smash scene is a little bit smaller than some other area. How do you think that has affected your progression as a player?
KPAN: I think that it’s a handicap to be from a region where there are less good players, but fortunately the first few years that I was playing I was in college and Druggedfox was an inactive player but he attended Georgia Tech and he ended up coming out of retirement while I was there. I was really fortunate to have practiced with him, but I do think it’s a handicap to not have as many top players as SoCal I guess. There’s less exposure, less experience, less fests in general to go to practice.
Let’s talk about your Big House run, that was your biggest tournament of the year. You 2-0’d Captain Smuckers and iBDW, and you beat mayb and Professor Pro. Were you feeling confident going into these sets or were you more surprised by your wins? What do you think enabled you to go on this run?
KPAN: I’ve always been confident about who I can beat so I would not say I was surprised at all. I was confident that I could beat them, but I was also in a mindset of uncomfortableness. Around that time period, I dropped out of Shine and I wasn’t sure about Big House because I was having some relationship issues and I was just in a mindset of constant stress. Performing under stress is something I kind of got used to in 2017, and I think it managed to get me to focus on the game even when there was pressure at the end of the set. I was able to just focus on the game itself and not let outside things hamper me. It’s kind of a weird answer because I’m saying that outside stuff made me stressed out and that the stress, in turn, made me focused on the game.
Rewording my answer a bit, it was a weird experience where I was under an incredible amount of stress but I wound up not crumbling. It’s kind of like cross-country or running extensively where after you pass your breaking point you stop caring about how your body is functioning. I got a second-wind kind of, because I was dealing with stuff on the outside. Once I got into the game, there was no problem buckling down and being clutch.
It seems that a lot of Falco players have been struggling at the top level as of recent. Why do you think this is and what do you think the solution is in terms of things top Falcos need to work on at this level?
KPAN: I think that the meta has changed especially in some matchups and one of those is Falco. I think that people got away with certain interactions that involve laser aerial and I think it worked in the past because people were very unsure of what would happen after laser. Since that’s dramatically changed, people have understood the spacings at which it’s interruptible and spacings at which it’s not interruptible. Falco now is forced to play mixups further in order to be rewarded with a solid hit.
Some trends that I see in high and mid-level play with Falco is that they’ll have a relatively good situation where they have the Fox or Sheik locked down, the laser is out, the opponent has to deal with it, but the Falco missteps the interaction right after the laser and either gets shield grabbed or out-spaced with a move. That kind of makes Falco just have to work three times as hard to get the same amount of openings. That’s the main thing that I see, it’s really revolving around what lasers do.
How do you tend to practice solo? Do you make a lot of use of tools like Netplay and the 20XX Training Pack?
KPAN: I got Netplay this past weekend and I was a little disappointed by it. I was kind of expecting it to not be that great, but it’s really hard to just practice as if it was a real tournament environment because of the lag. I feel like I’m making different decisions on Netplay, so I don’t really treat it as good practice. It’s something that I do for fun once in a while. For solo practice, I really took to heart various PPMD posts. I think shadowboxing is a really good idea, so something that I do is just go into a map and just move around and imagine what could happen. I think developing imagination is a really important concept. It’s not just for creative combos, it’s really for creating a blueprint of what is involved in a match.
I feel like Melee can be broken down into three segments. I treat it as a memory game, a rhythm game, and a fighting game in that order, and I feel like if you can’t remember things and if you don’t have rhythm then there’s no point in trying to fight the opponent. There’s just a lot of building blocks that sum up into an actual interaction with the opponent. I try to practice strings of movement and strings of attacks, and I try to recall what happens in matches and see how that could be applied to a match.
What’s your favorite matchup to play?
KPAN: It depends whether it’s friendlies or tournament. My favorite matchup in friendlies is to play Falcon Falco as Captain Falcon. I think it’s a really really fun matchup. There are very distinct styles between the two characters. In tournament, I think Falco versus Fox is probably the best for me. It’s not even that I think it’s my best matchup, I just think it’s comfortable to play. The way it plays out in tournaments is that a lot of the high-level players that I am up against play Fox, so it’s like a recurring theme. I have a lot of experience in that, and I like fighting people who are slightly better than me, and it’s a really fast-paced matchup.
What would you say is your hardest matchup at the moment?
KPAN: I think I’m more well-rounded than a lot of players, but I would say Marth is something that is really difficult for me. I’ve made a lot of improvements recently but I would still say Marth is probably my weakest matchup by a little bit. I don’t think I’ve fought any Marths in my good tournament runs. I’m trying to think back to playing Marth at nationals and I guess I just got really lucky and haven’t played too many. I have lost to The Moon four times in 2017. Almost every game has gone to the last stock but I haven’t taken any games. That’s probably the one thing I’m working on and struggling with the most.
What players if any do you think you take inspiration from with your gameplay?
KPAN: I kind of have to separate that into two answers because I have to talk about the Falcos that I look up to and then the other players. I used to watch a lot of Canadian Falcos. Blunted Object comes to mind. Those players I thought at the time were high level but not at the very top, but it was very interesting watching them play. I think my style is more similar to them than PP or Westballz or Mang0.
I would say out of the top level Falcos, PP was my first top player crush I guess, just for his dominance. I think Mang0 is easier to copy and learn from because what he does is more internal on his side of things whereas with PP, his gameplay reflects more of what he knows about the opponent, and that’s not something that is easily modeled if that makes sense. He definitely plays to his opponent in a way that Mang0 doesn’t. And then in terms of other players that were big inspirations but not necessarily Falco mains, probably Druggedfox since he taught me a lot. I’ve seen a lot of his characters, and they’re all really hype. And then I also like Lord a lot and I like n0ne a lot, and those are Falcon players but their style is really pleasing for me to watch and learn from.
Do you think you took anything from Druggedfox’s Falco or just his other characters?
KPAN: I definitely took some stuff from his Falco, but with him, it was more discussion based. I’ve learned a lot just from asking him questions and seeing where the conversation goes, seeing what he’s thinking of in response to what I’m thinking of. He doesn’t have too many sets of Falco on YouTube, like I’ve seen him versus PewPewU and MacD and Silent Wolf enough times, but since he moves from character to character it’s not like I’ve studied his gameplay videos as much as other top players.
Everyone wants to beat everyone they can obviously, but if you had to pick anyone in particular, who would you say is next on your hitlist? Are there any players or matchups that you want to see yourself improve against?
KPAN: I do want to improve versus Marth for sure, I want to be competitive with every top level Marth main. As far as hitlist goes, I don’t really think of Melee like that. My goal is to just progress further and further at all the big tournament that I go to. It depends on the scheduling but usually by the time that day two gets to the evening time, I’m not as cutthroat or ruthless as I am at the beginning of the tournament, and I wanna change that. I wanna be able to be playing my best at 6 PM day two of Big House 8 or whatever. So it doesn’t really matter who’s sitting next to me or who I’m fighting, I care a lot more about how I perform internally, just on my side.
Anything else you want to add?
KPAN: Shoutouts to Druggedfox for being a really good teacher. I don’t know if you’ve seen his coaching tweets, but I think that’s gonna take off because he’s actually taught a ton of players kind of behind the scenes. I’m pretty sure he taught Wizzy a ton in 2014. Shoutouts to Colbol and Kupo! Shoutouts to my roommates who willingly play melee with me on occasion. Shoutouts to my sponsor, Recursion, for continuing to support me and the local scene.
You can follow KPAN on his Twitter, @RCS_KPAN.
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