Swiss Smash in the COVID-Era #10: AG Benji

“Swiss Smash in the COVID-Era” is a series of interviews with some of the best players in Switzerland, figuring out how they are dealing with the “COVID-Era” (from March 2020 until the present days of 2021) and its absence of offline tournaments and how they are preparing for the return of offline events in the foreseeable future.

AG Benji

Benji (@BenjiSSB) is a Wario player from Füllinsdorf (Basel-Land), playing for Arctic Gaming. He was ranked 11th on the 2019 Swiss Smash PR. He continued strong in 2020 where he usually placed in the Top8 with his worst placement being 9th place. Despite the recent Wario nerfs he’s still confident in his character and looking forward to take some names in the upcoming offline tournaments.

How did COVID affect your private life?
I finished my military service right before COVID and then had a hard time getting back into Smash, especially mindset-wise. That’s just what military does to you. Another thing that kept me busy was my goal to become physiotherapist and getting into university. Becoming a physiotherapist is quite difficult in Switzerland. There are a ton of applicants but only a limited number of people are accepted, and I was lacking some of the educational parts, so that put a lot of pressure on me. I had to invest some time to catch up in that regard while also working on the side to earn some money. I didn’t manage to get into university last year and finding a job also became more difficult with COVID, so I had to put Smash aside for a bit. I got into university this year and will be starting in September, so now I have more time to get back into Smash, but I’ve also started playing another game.
Looking back, I think my somewhat “unintentional” break really helped me. I had a break from competing all the time. It also gave me an opportunity to look at the game differently. Before, I was so invested into the game that I couldn’t see the big picture anymore, and therefore, some of the issues with my play. Now I have a fresh outlook on the game.

Is it Rocket League that you started playing now? I think I saw you post about it on Twitter.
Yes, it is. Me and a friend got into Smash because of SaintThief (now called LapisLazuli) during school. My friend stopped competing at some point and recently we discovered Rocket League and have been playing together for a while now. It’s an amazing game, maybe even harder to master than Smash. Knowing that there were no offline events, Smash lost a bit of its priority for me and so I was looking for something else, something new. Who knows, maybe I will compete in both in the future (laughs). Arctic Gaming does have a Rocket League team after all.

At the start of the year, you were streaming some Smash, mostly Quickplay. It’s not like you haven’t been playing at all. What did you play mostly?
Towards the end of 2020 and start of 2021 I still played a decent amount of online, analysed my gameplay and continued to improve, despite it only being online. I mostly streamed me playing other people from grinding Discords or if nobody was around then I just played some Quickplay. I think I started playing Rocket League around the time when the Wario nerfs happened. But as I said earlier, I think it was a good time for me to take a bit of a break. The Wario nerfs didn’t bother me that much, but of course it’s still a nerf compared to before. But I think it was good for the overall game balance. The break also allowed me to look at Wario differently, compared to his pre-nerf version.

Did you play offline at all?
I played offline once. I went to TheComet’s place where a few people gathered to play a bit. I was a lot of fun, but I wouldn’t consider that a practice session. Outside of that I didn’t meet up to play offline because of COVID, of course.

Karpador64 started playing Wario too. Are you getting some serious competition for “best Wario”?
I haven’t seen him play yet, but I’m curious. I don’t think there’s going to be much competition for me. He’s an amazing player and maybe even has a decent amount of knowledge about the character, but in terms of fundamentals, how you play Wario in general and in a competitive environment, I don’t think he can compete with me yet. For now, I don’t think he’ll be the better Wario player. As a player overall is a different topic. But everything’s still up in the air. You can’t really judge that from playing each other in a ditto or something, there need to be a few results first.

Considering the Wario nerfs, did you look at some recent offline Wario gameplay, like Glutonny’s runs in France? Looking at his gameplay, he seems to play around Waft differently. He’s using it a lot less as a confirm and more to cover options.
It was obvious that a waft nerf was going to happen at some point, it was too strong. You could be in a last stock scenario, at 130%, and you knew that you only needed that one opening to win the game. I felt somewhat bad for being “carried” in that way, but the others told me that this was just how the game worked. I think the nerf is challenging and also exciting. You can still get an up-air waft confirm, it’s just harder to hit. The same goes for up-tilt waft, you need to get the right hitbox and percentages to true confirm, especially full charge waft. So you’re right, it’s more of a situational tool now, allowing you to abuse your advantage state and cover a number of options. But Wario’s mobility is still broken, you can still camp, his neutral-air is still good, you still have a floaty drift. That puts the waft nerfs into perspective. He’s still broken and that’s why I think it was a balanced nerf overall.

You’ve still played against Steve online, but we also got Sephiroth, Pyra&Mythra and Kazuya very soon too. How are you going to learn all these new matchups? Some might become relevant in Switzerland.
When Sephiroth was released, I was actually still playing and I also played him myself, so I’m familiar with him. Sephiroth obviously wins on range in that matchup, but Wario can still get in because of his aerial drift when Sephiroth uses a laggy move. And you can always camp and charge waft if you want to. I have played a bit against Pyra&Mythra, but not enough to feel super comfortable in the matchup. But once again, I’m not scared, Wario’s neutral is really good. When in doubt you can always play campier and figure out the matchup as the game plays out. This kind of playstyle works really well in Switzerland anyways, until like Top15, as people don’t seem to be aware how valuable such strategies are.

What’s your opinion on Kazuya? (This was pre-release)
It’s another character from a fighting game, all of which play somewhat similar. To some extend I feel like Nintendo hasn’t been as creative lately considering the additions of Ken, Terry and now Kazuya in Ultimate. And Ryu was a DLC in Smash4. But that’s just my opinion. I just hope he’s not going to turn out like Terry, I don’t like playing against him. It’s pretty frustrating with the auto-turnaround that grants them free punishes where another character would’ve not gotten one. But that’s the character I guess, you just have to deal with it. I’m still excited though. Surely there’s going to be some nice combos that could also be hype to watch in tournaments.

If you could choose the last DLC character for the Fighters Pass, who would it be?
Tough question… I just don’t want anything similar to Steve. It’s just annoying to play against that character, especially online. There are some cool things about him but hiding behind blocks and mining is just not very interesting to me. Something like Rayman would be a sick addition. I’ve also thought about Waluigi, but I don’t think that will ever happen, especially because of the Assist Trophy. Maybe one of the Kongs from the Donkey Kong series, they could have an interesting moveset and would also be another “old” character, considering when the games came out.

You’ve been playing for Arctic Gaming for a while now. How was the last year for the team and you?
We didn’t talk to each other that often and that’s something we want to improve on in the future. Because of that we sat together in a call during COVID and discussed a few things and as soon as offline events are back, we’re going to discuss our future together and what we’re going to do.

Where would you place yourself on the upcoming PR?
I’m not entirely sure. I think most players have continued to improve during the lockdowns. Before the second lockdown I was a Top10 player for sure, considering my placings. I think I will definitely have to motivate myself a bit to get back into grinding and striving for improvement. I’ve been playing a lot of Rocket League and having tons of fun there, so I have to adopt a two-pronged approach where I also grind Smash. There’s a good chance that the first offline event I’m attending will bring the hype back and push me in that regard. My break allows me to look at things differently, maybe seeing some new things in my gameplay that I can improve on which I haven’t seen before or didn’t think mattered much. My goal is definitely to remain in the Top10. I know I have the potential and talent to perform at that level or even higher if I dedicate myself to it.

You start your studies in September which is going to affect your time management. How do you plan to make everything work?
My goal is to go to a lot of tournaments before I start studying, in case I don’t have much free time afterwards. In the beginning I’ll just have to figure out how to manage all these things at the same time and when I get time for Smash and tournaments while keeping up with my studies. My career is definitely more important than Smash though. It’s a hobby to me and you really shouldn’t put it above anything work-related in my opinion. But I want to continue playing and competing.

A lot of Swiss players are planning to travel abroad in the near future when everything is stable again. What about you?
I’m definitely up for it. In Smash4 I went to two tournaments abroad and placed well too. I think tournaments abroad are cool because you’re representing your country and the people at home are watching and cheering for you and you get to see different people. I hope I can make it happen before September, because it might get a bit more difficult to find time for a tournament abroad when I’m studying. Such a weekend is quite an investment of both time and money.

Can you give me 3 players you would keep an eye on when offline events are coming back?
Because I haven’t been following everything too closely in the last few months I’m mostly going to judge based off of what I know about people from the past and their potential and ambitions. I think it’s mostly going to be the same people as before. My eyes would be on established players like Destany (@mYiDestany), Kepler (@KeplerSsb), Karpador64 (@Karpador64), Jaka (@Jaka_SSB) and DeepFreeze (@DeepFreezeIV). There could also be some hidden bosses that have been grinding a lot behind the scenes like SickBoy (@SickBoySSB) and Neo (@NeoSSB_) who could become quite dangerous.

And finally, do you have any hot takes or some banter for the Swiss Smash community?
I think the Swiss Smash community has to be ready that a sick Wario is coming back. They should know that Wario is scary and that I’m a scary opponent to face too. They shouldn’t underestimate me and be ready. Maybe I’m even playing better than before due to my break allowing me to take a new perspective on the game.

If you want to see more of Benji, you can follow him on Twitter or try catching his stream on Twitch where he’s streaming Smash and Rocket League.

Updated at: 14.02.22 (16:46)
Created at: 01.07.21 (11:53)
Created by: Yomi