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Monday, July 27, 2020

I Played in the Mario Tennis Aces North American Open July 2020. Here's What Happened

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Plus, if you want to continue being in the Mario Tennis Aces scene...

A large portion of my Saturday afternoon was spent playing Mario Tennis Aces, as were some of the days preceding. Why? As I wrote about last week, there was the BIGGEST EVER Mario Tennis Aces tournament to play, the Mario Tennis Aces North American Open July 2020! It was administered by eSports tournament platform Battlefy and officially sponsored (and funded) by Nintendo of America.

How big is big? 1,328 players registered for it (and 774 of them actually checked in, for a 58% participation rate). That dwarves the 100-on-the-best-day-sized tournaments that the Mario Tennis Aces community has managed to put on by themselves. More on that community later on in this article. 

Just to be a bully (and KoopaTV staffer and ARMS fan Heavy Lobster specifically told me, “Stop trying to shit on ARMS.”), compare that to the largest ARMS tournament ever held, also from a Battlefy-Nintendo collaboration: 880 players registered and 620 showed up. It's an impressive 70% participation rate, but a much smaller tournament. Also consider that ARMS was being distributed for FREE during the tournament, while Mario Tennis Aces was full price with no special promotions going on.

The ultimate winner of the tournament was Angie, also known as the best Mario Tennis Aces player in North America, who had a winning streak that went on for over a year. I should note that is a big difference between the Mario Tennis Aces community and, say, the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate community: The Mario Tennis Aces community, as niche and small as it is, was very open and welcoming of this tournament. It actually had a lot in common with their actual rulesets, so the top players did almost all go and participate. But when Nintendo sponsors Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournaments, the vast majority of the competitive community doesn't bother to show up. 

Anyway, the whole top 8 got 2500 My Nintendo Gold Points. Was I in the top 8? ...Well, of course not. But I had a pretty interesting journey through the tournament that wildly exceeded my expectations, and it probably will exceed your expectations as well:

Mario Tennis Aces North American Open July 2020 ROUND 1

As you may imagine, 774 is not a bracket-friendly number. For some reason, Battlefy chose to put every entrant into one giant bracket (which is a disaster to scroll through) of 1024 spots instead of separate it out into 8 mini-brackets of 128 spots each. The latter matches their approach for the ARMS tournament, and also lends itself to the “top 8 players all get the same prize” idea. By putting everyone in the same bracket, there's no reason for a player, once they do get into the top 8, to actually try. With 8 mini-brackets, you have to be the winner of the mini-bracket for a prize.

Anyway, regardless, there were a lot of “Byes” in Round 1, also known as a dummy player that you get an instant win against. I was not fortunate to get a formal Bye. Instead, I got matched up against an individual named Ynot_5tark. However, even though Ynot_5tark did check into the tournament an hour before it started, they did not check into the actual match. After waiting five minutes, I automatically got to move on, since I did the hard work of showing up.

Round 1 complete!

Mario Tennis Aces North American Open July 2020 ROUND 2

It took almost half an hour for my Round 2 match to begin, since my two potential opponents—Branpod and MJROshaun—apparently took a very long time. Eventually, I got the notification that I would be facing Branpod.

The way the online for Mario Tennis Aces works, you must friend request all of your opponents in order to join their room. Nintendo Switch friend profiles let you know, if a setting isn't blocking the information, how many hours a random person, a friend, or you have played a game. How much of the game has Branpod played? He chose to hide that information. But I quickly figured out he's a Princess Peach player.

Now, I don't know anything about match-ups in Mario Tennis Aces. I choose my characters between Lord Bowser, Koopa Troopa, and Paratroopa, just based on how I feel and with the knowledge that Koopas are all excellent at tennis. (Strangely, Kamek is dead last on the tier list.) So game 1, I picked Paratroopa on the Marina Stadium (Clay) court (weak ball speed, normal ball bouncing) versus his Peach, and, uh... Here's what happened:

Mario Tennis Aces results Paratroopa lost Peach won
The game mode is “first to 7 points wins”. Peach got 7 points, while I got... 0. I didn't score once.

Yeah, I got completely pwned. This is the ultimate “I'm way over my head.” moment. Sets in the tournament are best of 3 games, and it was a single elimination tournament. I felt like I had one more game left, and it'd be like another 0–7 loss, and that'd be the whole tournament for me. Not much of a good KoopaTV story, but in-line with my expectations of me not being very good at this game.

So, expecting to be destroyed again, I picked Koopa Troopa, and we went to the Marina Stadium grass court (fastest ball speed, normal bounce). The results were...

Mario Tennis Aces results screen Koopa Troopa won Peach lost
Not only did I win, I won BIG-LEAGUE.

Wait, eh? Game 2 was the complete opposite of game 1. Instead of getting 0–7'd, I 7–0'd Branpod. I don't know what happened, or how I managed to completely reverse my tilt and put it on him. I guess I just learned from my Ace Attorney experience and did a TURNABOUT. (You can get those skills right now for 50% or more off, by the way. Sale ending soon.)

Feeling SUPER-EMBOLDENED, I stuck with Koopa Troopa into Game 3, with Branpod sticking with Princess Peach. We went to Marina Stadium (Night), featuring a fast ball speed and a strong bounce. I accumulated tons of energy from the first point (in my favour) thanks to sub-optimal Trick Shots from Branpod, and I snowballed the rest of the match with a 7–2 victory! Even if Branpod ended up earning more energy than I did by the end, Koopa Troopa just has really nice drop balls that Peach couldn't catch up to.

I felt great! Onto Round 3!

Mario Tennis Aces North American Open July 2020 ROUND 3

My next opponent was named Nick-kun. I should mention that I ended the tournament with 50 or more hours of Mario Tennis Aces play. Nick-kun, who did show his play stats, had 95 or more hours. Oh boy. He was more experienced! He also admitted to me that he was feeling nervous about the tournament, while I was feeling psyched due to the previous round.

Our first match, I picked Paratroopa and he picked Benjamin Hunter's trained ape. We went to Marina Stadium (Grass). He started with a 4–1 lead, but then I kind of just went nuts. I brought it up to 4–2 with a Return Ace (score a point by returning his serve and then he misses after), and then I got it to 4–3, 4–4, 4–5... 4–6... game 1 ultimately ended with a 5–7 victory.

Mario Tennis Aces results screen Paratroopa wins Donkey Kong loses
I hope Benjamin Hunter himself is doing alright, since I gave up on trying to play Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney in French.
At least I can answer, “I don't know what became of his ape.

Game 2 (at the clay court) was even more lopsided, with me getting 7 points to his 2 points. He used his Special Spot and depleted his energy to get that second point, and he ended up with no energy to Trick Shot himself and return Paratroopa's technical shots that were at the very sidelines of the court afterwards.

Competitive Mario Tennis Aces is a lot like edgeguarding an Elwind-ing Robin player in Super Smash Bros. You can get them in a loop where they keep recovering, but they're constantly playing defensive. Eventually, they just don't have the resources left to preserve their points.

Mario Tennis Aces North American Open July 2020 ROUND 4

I'm in ROUND 4! YIPPEE! I'm doing much better than expected, having made a huge TURNABOUT in Round 2, and beat a guy who had around twice as Mario Tennis Aces experience as I did.

And then... my next opponent was this guy:

Toaster! Nintendo Switch friend code Bowser Jr. Mario Tennis Aces professional
This Toaster! fellow... is no ordinary Mario Tennis Aces player.

I remarked to Toaster!, “wtf You have 1630 hours or more?” He replied, “yes i like this game”. Now, mind you, I'm going from facing a random nervous guy with 95 hours of experience to facing this confident professional with 1,630 hours of experience.

I then learned from panicking in the tournament's dedicated Discord server that “toaster best jr in the world” and then later that the description is “not an exageration”. Apparently Toaster! has stuck with Bowser Jr. for “a long time”, even after Bowser Jr.'s dramatic nerfs from early on in the game's lifespan, while many other players have abandoned Bowser Jr. I guess through sheer determination and keeping at it, I'm facing the top Bowser Jr. player in the world—a sort of irony that I'm facing against the Koopa that I won't even touch.

Well, he annihilated me in game 1 at Marina Stadium (Night), 7 points to 2 points, Bowser Jr. to Bowser. He had much better Energy metre management than I did, and it did not help me that my claw slipped on my Pro Controller and I accidentally did a Special Shot to waste what metre I had barely scraped together.

Mario Tennis Aces Bowser Jr. Toaster! wins North America
I'm not really sure how Toaster! got 4 wins in the room before facing me.
I guess he got a Bye in Round 1 and never quit his room from Round 2 (two wins) through Round 3 (two more) through me.

I exclaimed to Toaster! in the match chat, “I GOT A POINT”, to which he nicely said, “nice. you got some good points on me!” (I got the bare minimum to make “points” plural.)

Perhaps out of pity, in Game 2, he switched over to Birdo while I switched to Koopa Troopa, and I saw the only Marina Stadium hard court of my tournament (normal ball speed, strong bounce strength). He was dominating the points early on, but I got a nice (lucky?) racket break on him to get my first point when he had four points. I extended my trailing point count to two points as he got six points, but not wanting to go down without a fight, I got two more points, for a 6 to 4 score. Could I make a comeback with slick moves like this?

...Of course not. Our entire set was over in a matter of ten minutes.  He got the final point, and that was that. He had immaculate Trick Shots and knew where I was going to end up using my Special Shot before I even knew. That likely comes from his many hours of experience, even though I THOUGHT I was doing clever, unpredictable mix-ups!

I was out in Round 4. Toaster! ended up losing in Round 7. My placement was good enough for 65th place; Toaster! got a tragic 9th place, just below getting My Nintendo Gold Points.

Mario Tennis Aces North American Open July 2020 bracket Koopa#5969 Toaster!
You can see my humble beginnings on the left-side red circle, and where I ended up on the right-side of the screenshot.

To this day, Mario Tennis Aces still gets me very sweaty and perspiring—much more so than Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It's very thrilling to play, and I'm happy I got to return to it while beating my expectations. It was a good use of my afternoon, for sure.

What's next for Mario Tennis Aces?

What happens next? Well, there isn't immediately another announced official tournament for Mario Tennis Acestoday Nintendo announced an August 2020 tournament for ARMS, which I expect will have far less registrants than 880 because the game won't be offered for free this time.

That leaves the fate of Mario Tennis Aces play to fall back to the community, which really wants to use this opportunity to be open and welcoming to anyone interested in the game. You can check the Mario Tennis Aces Club Discord here, as well as their Twitter over here. They want to manage the ENERGY from the tournament and use it as momentum for their grassroots. I hear they hold weekly tournaments as well, including doubles mode, as well as brackets and opportunities for both amateurs and professionals!

Will Ludwig add Mario Tennis Aces to his regular gaming line-up? Quite frankly, he doesn't think he can juggle two competitive multiplayer games simultaneously (along with all of his other life duties, like running KoopaTV and being a responsible prince of Koopa Kingdom), and he is not about to give up Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for Mario Tennis Aces, even if the latter gives him euphoria that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate often is not able to match. Ludwig wonders if this article will be dated and there might be an even BIGGER Mario Tennis Aces tournament in the future!

If you thought this article had too much Ace Attorney in it, then note that KoopaTV considers Ace Attorney and Mario Tennis Aces to be incredibly intertwined.
The next tournament is on September 19, 2020. Same structure/rules/prizes. Ludwig can't play in it, though.

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