It was in high school that my angsty self would yell at my brother and his friends for playing Super Smash Bros in our basement. Little did anyone realize that one of my brother's awesomely good friends, Michael "EmuKiller" Silbernagel, would disrupt the entire competitive Smash community through his first place SKTAR 3 domination. I got to talk with him about the tournament, the E3 invitational, and his thoughts on Mewtwo's OP talks.
Kt Sagona: It's crazy hearing you called a dark horse because in the very small outlets that I know you in, you were always considered a consistently solid player.
Michael "EmuKiller" Silbernagel: Well I guess it depends on the scale of things. In Melee, from 2006 'till about 2009, I played, but I was really bad. I was basically a pot-filler. I showed up and got destroyed. And then I went to school at Rowan University, and met a very good Marth player called LOL Master. He's the one that really got me to cross the bridge to the next level of Super Smash Bros, where you're actually thinking about what your opponent is doing, what your opponent is trying to do. So college really helped me get better at the game, although I was still bad at Melee because the skill set is so high. This past August, a friend of mine, old school North Jersey Melee player, I was watching videos of him from Major League Gaming 2006 where he plays PC Chris, that's what got me started. He said to me "Hey, I'm going to go back into tournaments, do you want to carpool?" And so I went into playing Melee competitively, actively since then.
So for Melee, the game is so well understood, that everyone's good at it, and it's really hard to get good. That's what makes it exciting. And Project M is a game that feels like Melee, so Melee players have a bit of an edge because they have the technical skill, but they have all of the new characters, they threw some of the Melee aspects out the window, so you really have to adapt to what these new characters can do.
It's almost like when I played Mew2King and ESAM, they have better fundamentals than me. They're the pro players from other games, while I'm a good-not-great player of Melee. But compared to all of the newcomers, I have that Melee experience that I can take these new techniques and apply them to my gameplay which has pretty good fundamentals. So I'm not the most innovative Mewtwo out there. There's two others from Tri-State that were a big inspiration for me with the techniques that they developed, but I managed to not get hit and moved fast, and that's about it.
Kt: I have to ask...True or false. Mewtwo is OP.
EmuKiller: He is, in my opinion, right now the best character in the game. But when I say that, I think he has a lot of even match-ups, and I think he has a lot of hard match-ups. But even though they're hard, it doesn't mean they're not in Mewtwo's favor. The way the game works, you can see from the top 16 results, it's not like you can pick Mewtwo and you'll get free wins. That's not how the game works. All the characters hit so hard, all the characters have so many different tools. And even though you have that, you still need to take into account the better player wins.
That being said, when I play CT ZeRo, ZeRo beats me 60 percent of the time. And I'm sure there are other players that could have beaten me. The game is balanced enough that you can't complain about tier lists. But while I do think Mewtwo is the strongest character in the game right now, when you throw around all these words like "broken"...that's just what the community hears, ya' know? [laughs] They see two Snakes in top eight, and they say "Snake's broken." [Project M] has been out for years. I remember playing it in 2011, that long ago. It's had that long of a time to develop. It's just a matter of knowing that Mewtwo has a lot of things that don't feel like Melee, so it takes a while to learn the match-up.
Kt: It seems like a lot of people really welcomed your victory.
EmuKiller: Yeah, the crowd was amazing. That was definitely the most exciting part about the tournament. When I play at local tournaments, I'm having people root against me, 'cause they see what I do, they see the techniques I have, and that's all they see and think "Wow, Mewtwo is really strong." The way I can move around the stage, the way that I can go offstage and hit people. At the local North Jersey tournaments, the only time I've lost was to CT ZeRo, and he's obviously a really strong player, but otherwise I make the character look imbalanced.
But once you play on a national level, everyone from your region, they want to justify like "Alright, I get four-stocked by EmuKiller, that makes me feel better while he three-stocks Professor Pro -- best European, best player from the U.K." So the whole crowd behind me is amazing.
Kt: So you think that there's a lesson there for people trying to get into any of the Smash games?
EmuKiller: I would say the big thing is the best mindset you can have is that the better player wins. Even if something cheesy happens, if you suicide, you see something unexpected, take that as a lesson and improve because of it. Don't lose to something gimmicky and say that you're the better player because it was just a gimmick. Just play with the golden rule that the better player wins. Don't care about matchups, don't care about how or what happened in the match, just think that you lost because you got outplayed, and that will help you improve as a player.
Kt: When did you first come up with that mentality?
EmuKiller: LOL Master, who I played with at Rowan University. The first time I started getting into the competitive scene, going to tournaments with him, I would keep talking like "Alright, How do you feel about the Marth vs. Peach matchup?" And he said to me, "Tier lists, matchups, they only matter at the highest level of play." And even then...matches change when good players show up. So to the end, every game is just the better player wins. Having that mindset really helped me reflect on my losses. The only thing that you should blame your losses on is yourself.
Kt: I mentioned to my brother that I was interviewing you. He asked "Why do you have such bad manners in tournament?" [laughter]
EmuKiller: It helps me relax. I was having so much fun. I don't know. I don't know why I do it, I just think it's really fun. You're being recorded, there's money on the line, this person flew here from Europe, or they flew here from Florida. But just having fun helps you relax. So much of the game is playing on reaction. The entire time you're playing, you're watching your opponent's character, you're not watching your character. You're waiting for your opponent to make a mistake and to go in and get free damage. So being able to relax helps you not make as many mistakes. And it was the first time I was playing in front of such a big crowd, so it was so awesome to hear them chant my handle, and to, ya' know...
Kt: WOOP WOOP WOOP WOOP
EmuKiller: [laughter] Once I realized that they were doing that, I said to myself, "I'm going to go grab the ledge for a while." I'm never going to have this chance ever again. Like, who knows if I'll ever travel to any nationals? So I want this to happen. You can see it in the first match vs Mew2King, I just camp the ledge...I was just onstage, and I just kept saying "Go to the ledge, go to the ledge..."
Kt: And you can tell that it got you a kill or two by it...
EmuKiller: Definitely, you can tell that Mew2King gets affected by a crowd. Everyone does. I'm pretty confident that in all of my recorded matches, maybe not Armada, you can see a moment when I give my opponent a stare mid-match. I'll stare at my opponent and not look at the screen, just to get in their head. It's just fun. When everyone's claiming, "Mewtwo's OP, he's so different," it's just fun to be the villain. I'll just talk myself up a lot. At locals, I'll do this thing like a WWE interview where you talk so much shit that is so unfounded, I and just accidentally happen to back it up.
Like this entire tournament, I was saying that "Oh, yeah I'm going to beat Armada up. I'm going to beat Armada." And then I do, and it's amazing. That was my one goal. And then PinkFresh, a Lucas player from Maryland/Virginia, reminded me that about a month ago, during friendlys -- I didn't even enter the tournament -- I jokingly said to a guy, "Yeah, I 'm going to win SKTAR." And then the rumors go crazy like "You know EmuKiller said he was going to beat Armada and said he was going to beat this tournament a month ago. I heard he's such an asshole." Stuff like that just circulates everywhere. It's really funny to see how fast rumors spread.
Kt: But you never thought you could beat Armada?
EmuKiller: Armada is obviously such an incredibly strong player, but when I saw that we were in a round that would only be best of three, I knew that was in my favor. Because the longer the set goes, the more time he has to learn the match-up. And I knew ahead of time that he also had no Mewtwo practice. There was no Mewtwo players in Europe at all. So playing Armada so early in the bracket really helped me a lot.
Kt: So do you think these matches would have had the same turnout if they happened again tomorrow?
EmuKiller: Tomorrow, yes. Two weeks from now, no. I don't think so. Mewtwo's upB, what people say is his strongest aspect, it's actually slower than Fox or Falco's sideB as far as when the attack comes out. So, if you watch my game vs Mew2King, you'll see that on the reaction the teleport, I know how to react. I'm standing still waiting for it. It's such a good approach option, it's just what Mewtwo should do. And ZeRo, my practice partner, knows this and beats me. But Armada is really good, he learns so quickly that if he learned how to handle my teleport, I'm convinced he would beat me.
So when I played Mew2King...he was...a little narrow-minded when it came to the new tools Mewtwo was given in Project M. So before Mew2King started our match, I said "You're going to 6-0 me with six different characters," and he said, "No, listen, you put in time to [Project M]."
So I think after our game, Mew2King is going to see a lot of what I do, emulate it and then kick my ass with it.
Kt: What do you think of the E3 invitational?
EmuKiller: I think it's awesome. It's what I was expecting. The video came out while I was with CT ZeRo. I actually asked him to pause the rules to guess what they were. I said it would be free-for-all, items on, only top one advances...
Kt: That's pretty damn close.
EmuKiller: I'm really excited. When I saw the commentators and the big names from the smash documentary and smaller local players. I also screamed like a schoolgirl when I saw the Gamecube adapter. That was the best part [laughter].
I wasn't going to get the WiiU controller with its half-frame of lag or whatever it is. Why would I want to hinder myself? The adapter is definitely awesome. It's exactly what the community wanted. I'm looking forward to seeing it at E3.
Kt: I guess I don't need to ask who you're going to root for.
EmuKiller: Yeah. CT ZeRo. He's also the favorite, so it could be a total 3v1. It's not Hunger Games; this is Battle Royale, so you'll see a lot of backstabbing going on, I'm sure. Who knows? He's going to have to camp so hard to not die.
Crismas, she works so hard as a great New York player, I want her to win, too. I hope PeachyHime does well, too.
Kt: So I think Milktea is also going to the invitational. I have to ask what you think of the whole her vs. Nicole blogging shenanigans.
EmuKiller: I think realistically, this has been an issue in other fighting game communities, as well. I think the Smash community is very friendly. Yeah, there are guys who go out of their way to flirt with girls, because there's like five girls there. But in the end, they're being friendly. The attention girls get, it's going to happen when the ratio is one-sided.
Nicole's article, I was scared the entire time. She was so blunt with the language she used. But I think she was trying to be that blunt to send a message that not all girls feel that way, that there's another side to the coin. I don't want to say it's gender inequality, but in the end it's not something that I've experienced, so I'm pretty apathetic. There are people in Smash form so many different backgrounds. Rich kids, poor kids, people from other countries...adding gender is just one more difference to add to the list.
Kt: What are your expectations for Smash 4?
EmuKiller: I think it's great how aware of the competitive community [Masahiro] Sakurai is. At first I was concerned and had no faith. But while it's not back to Melee movement, it's definitely back to being this flashy, combo-based game that can reward aggression. It's a new game, it's going to be fun. I think in the end Melee players will try it, but even if they can make money off of it, Melee won't go away soon.
Kt: What characters are you looking forward to seeing during the invitational?
EmuKiller: Greninja looks cool, mostly because he looks really fast, his projectiles, range... he looks like a really cool character. Lil Mac is going to be cool, but I don't know who is going to pick him because of how bad his recovery is. Hopefully he gets picked because I think he could be really strong. Otherwise, I hope Metaknight makes it back into the game, he's one of the characters I was more excited about in Brawl. He's essentially Jigglypuff with a sword.
Kt: Final question - what's your favorite meme of your tournament status?
EmuKiller: Oh, my gosh. So this is insane. Some incredibly poorly written rap song was made about my tournament performance. Once I saw that, it was unreal. The Goku/Vegeta fanart was cool because that was the first thing I saw when I went home. A friend that I didn't even know who was watching [the tournament], he sent me that. So that was unreal - I have fanart? But someone else sent me a minute-long rap song. I'm so proud of it. I have a theme song. It was amazing that someone sent it to me.
Kt: Well congratulations on your win! I'm glad to hear that all that Smash playing started with my brother in your basement.
EmuKiller: Look, it is a hobby. First and foremost, it's a hobby. There's two, three people that can do that for a living and continue to for the next five years. it's just really cool when you compare it to other people's hobbies. When I see others good at art, sports, music, whatever it is, this is some way to classify how good I am to them. I can say that I won money on an international level, and that's exciting.