SetToDestroyX: The Journey
Joseph "WALKMAN" Hamdan
Nov 25, 2017
“There is a whole other level of Splatoon, and you saw it right there” echoed commentator NineWholeGrains as SetToDestroyX won Splatoon 2’s first major LAN, Squidstorm 2017, in a dominating 4-0 sweep over their opponent Komodo. Squidstorm 2017 wasn’t the group's first big stage and will not be their last. In order to understand how they came to be such a dominating powerhouse, we have to go way back to the formation of the team and how they made a name for themselves. Follow how they started as deadbeats and became all-stars. I will guide you through the story of the four players who have become the face of Splatoon 2 as an eSport. I sat down with the team alongside the founder, owner, and CEO of SetToDestroyX, Charlie Watson, to find out how the team formerly known as Deadbeat evolved into the dominant force known as SetToDestroyX. This is their story.
It all started when Greg “Hexen” Papi (team captain for STDx) wasn't satisfied at the end of Splatoon 1 with how the western scene was performing compared to the rest of the world. He felt the only way to truly improve was to play where competition was most fierce, in the online Japanese tournament scene. Papi decided he would form a pickup team with 3 other top players within North America who held like minded goals. He knew of the reputation of both Austin "Penguitt" Whitt (blaster and slosher expert) and Andhy "Power" Alvarez (charger legend) , alongside now former members of the team Wil and Tim, and so he messaged these players to join his pickup. After playing with each other for a short period of time and producing promising tournament results, the group knew they had the ingredients to make a winning team. Thus, Deadbeat was formed.
They quickly made a name for themselves within the small community of Splatoon 1, anyone who played competitively knew and feared them. It wasn’t until one Splatoon 1 U.S. Inkling Open that they received the attention of the casual audience. The tournament promised the winning team a trip to E3 to compete in the first ever tournament of Splatoon 2, the Splatoon 2 World Inkling Invitational. Deadbeat took down every team in their path to achieve that prize. Dropping only a single turf war game throughout the entirety of the tournament.
Deadbeat became Team USA consisting of the players Hexen, Penguitt, Power, and Tim were flown to California to face off against the the 3 other champions in their respective regions. Team Europe, Team Australia, and the favorites in the eyes of many at the time, Team Japan. Team USA had a rough start going 0-2 in their initial sets against Australia and Japan. After calming their nerves they secured a 1-2 record winning against Europe. This was the start to their amazing upset. USA beat Australia in the elimination rounds making it to the grand finals against Japan. In somewhat of a poetic fashion an epic battle between east vs west emerged and all around the pride of America and Japan was shown throughout those watching worldwide. Nearly everyone thought Japan would win, they hadn’t missed a step all tournament and showed no signs of letting up going into the grand finals, but somehow, the underdog that was Team USA pulled through taking the set quite handily in a 4-1 victory. And just like that Deadbeat became the Splatoon 2 World Champions.
Top Left:Team Europe | Top Right:Team Australia/New Zealand | Bottom Left:Team Japan | Bottom Right:World Champions Team USA
For Austin Whitt winning the E3 event not only meant a lot to him in terms of proving the team’s ability to adapt to even the toughest of players in Team Japan, but it was also a major stepping stone in taking Deadbeat to even greater heights. So how exactly did it take them to new heights?
After my talk with the team, they believe that E3 was the event that helped them find their future sponsor and elevated their play to whole new level. “After E3, we knew it was the perfect time to start reaching out to potential sponsors and organizations. Hexen, me, and a couple of friends helped design a professional sponsorship deck that we forwarded to about forty orgs. We had a few reasonable options, but after talking with SetToDestroyX, we knew that there was no one better.” says Whitt.
The team knew this was their shot, they knew their worth and seized the opportunity that was brought before them. During the time of these negotiations, the team was in need of a 4th player. Wil left the team after becoming less active with the game, and Tim deciding to part ways due to disagreements on where the team was heading, left the team in a tough predicament. Tim was a vital player to the frontline of their team, they needed someone who could equally fill his place. Someone who was equally aggressive. This is where Steevy "Kiver" Bokwa arrives.
Papi and Bokwa knew each other from their days as competitive Mario Kart players. Bokwa felt very comfortable playing with the team. During scrims, the team knew that they had something special together despite not practicing previously. Bokwa being a member of another top team at the time, Crème Fresh, he needed to make a decision to stick it out with the team which he felt was becoming a little too inactive for his goals, or pursue joining a new team with his good friend Papi. After reflecting on his decision, Bokwa states “after noticing this synergy, I wanted to push my play further ,and I started to get attached to the team because I felt like I could push my limits even further than staying with Crème Fresh”. He made the decision to join SetToDestroyX and old team openly supported him, knowing how great of an opportunity it was for him. Bokwa holds his time on Crème Fresh as a valuable experience as he still has “many great memories with them and would like to thank them for everything they have done for [him]”, but he did what he thought was best for his Splatoon career and it has since paid off.
(Left to Right) Andhy "Power" Alvarez, Austin "Penguitt" Whitt, Steevy "Kiver" Bokwa, Greg “Hexen” Papi
-Picture credit goes to Poetic of SetToDestroyX
Now that these top players came together to form a team, they were ready to sign with the organization SetToDestroyX, but what made the organization want to sign them? Charlie Watson, CEO of the organization and the one who officially signed Deadbeat, tells me right from the moment he spoke to the guys he knew they were special. “When we began speaking to the players, it was evident they were mature for their ages. They spoke well, had tremendous passion for the game and competition, loved what they did and conveyed they wanted to win. The history and backgrounds of their success in the prior title and up unto the E3 invitational showed they were prominent winners and at the highest level of competition. It was a mix of their character and skill that made us want to sign them long term.” The prestige and character the team had showed in both their gameplay and during the negotiation phases of their contracts stood out from the crowd, and Watson knew he simply had to have them.
Deadbeat built their reputation up to an all-star status within the Splatoon and Splatoon 2 competitive scenes, but with not many organizations looking into Splatoon 2 and other Nintendo franchises it's hard to see what made Watson believe this was such a worthwhile investment. I too wondered what piqued his interest of Splatoon as an eSport and other Nintendo franchises.
“SetToDestroyX likes to invest in many emerging markets. When we evaluated Nintendo and more specific the Switch market, it was understanding that the scene was growing, wanting to push the esports envelop in the Western World and wanted to pump millions into competition over the next 1-3 years. Knowing how crazy the Nintendo Fans and supporters were, how heavy Nintendo wanted to continue building and esports environment and market and then creating new titles and working with hosts and grassfield operations to create and run online and LAN based tournaments, it made sense for us to research the market. After due diligence we made precise decisions to enter Pokken first signing Allister, then Deadbeat and then signed the top 2 ARMS players in the world. We now have cornered the Nintendo Switch Market by having the #1 NA teams/players in all 3 titles, and many would say the world. Having that in your competitive portfolio is great for future investors and sponsors.” -Charlie Watson. Founder/Owner/CEO of SetToDestroyX
Watson and the SetToDestroyX family recognize the loyalty and passion the Nintendo fanbase is known for. They believe it is only a matter of time until more organizations get involved with Nintendo competitive scenes and that tremendous growth is in the future for Splatoon 2. Watson welcomes sponsors of both events and teams in the Splatoon 2 scene, as more sponsors involved leads to bigger prize pools, greater views, and more major events that can be held so that he could send his team out and represent the SetToDestroyX brand. Nintendo franchises in particular he believes are an extremely unique market, in that their games are often family friendly as well as appeal to players of all ages. He believes this may lead to more “non-endemic endorsement deals” because organizations that do not want to associate their image with violent or gore filled video games could turn to Nintendo in order to promote their brand in a culture that best fits their image. With all of this in mind SetToDestroyX and Deadbeat were ready to make a deal to possibly set the dominos in effect and grow the Splatoon 2 scene in ways unimaginable. After contract negotiations were over, in mid August 2017 the two had officially agreed on a deal and Deadbeat became SetToDestroyX’s Splatoon 2 team. While the details of the contract are confidential, I can report two aspects of their deal. First, the deal is long term and that the two have a longstanding relationship ahead of them. Second, that all competitions and expenses of the team are fully funded by the organization. This shows that Watson and his organization not only believes in the potential of the game, but in this select group of four players that have come to make quite the name for themselves.
With their newly found sponsorship it was now time for SetToDestroyX to prove to the world that they earned it, and boy did they ever. Their first major test came from the EndGameTV organized online tournament InkStorm+. Going back to the early days of Splatoon, the InkStorm series was the most prestigious event there was and although targeting mostly a western audience, teams from Japan would often enter to take their claim at the prize money. In fact, the previous five winners of the InkStorm series have all been Japanese teams. SetToDestroyX found themselves in yet another battle between the west and the east. In the grand finals of the tournament they squared up against AlmostKids, one of the prior champions of the series in Splatoon 1. There were some doubts on whether they would be able to beat such a revered Japanese team. After a hard fought six games they silenced their critics and once again proved to be a force to be reckoned with taking the set 4-2. The team appeared flawless in every move they made, showing teamwork on a level others could only dream of. SetToDestroyX became the first non-Japanese team to win an event in the InkStorm series.
The team’s fame and reputation granted them an invitation to the distinguished Platinum cup featuring four of the best western teams and four of the best Japanese teams in a single elimination bracket tournament. Each region (Japan VS the west) would be matched up against each other in the first round. Although the team played the tourney without their full roster, they were the sole western team to make it out of the first round and placed third overall in the event only losing to one Japanese team, while beating two others. Even though the team didn’t win they proved once again that they were one of the best teams globally and could go toe to toe with anyone even without their full team available. Later that very same day, members of the team went on to play day 2 of another major event catered toward western teams, Rise of the Sharks, organized by my very own organization InkTV. Entering as a pickup team they won the entire event taking down an established top team Extermination in the grand finals.
Having shown their dominance online, it was time for the team do it in person, at the first Splatoon 2 LAN event Squidstorm 2017 organized by EndGameTV. The team would travel to the Balance Patch Gaming Cafe in Boston, Massachusetts to compete in a 35 team, 180+ competitor tournament. Squidstorm 2017 is the largest LAN in terms of both players and spectators the competitive community has organized to date. This would be the first LAN event the current roster entered (Bokwa was not on the team during their championship run at E3), it would also be their first time attending a major LAN event representing their sponsor who funded the trip. The team was flown in, including Bokwa who had never been to America before. On day 1 of the event, they were ready to prove once again they were the best. After an early scare in the group stage going down 1-2 against Spicy Kraken Rolls, they quickly turned it around mounting an impressive comeback to take the set 3-2 and according to Whitt it gave them the “kick [they] needed to step [their] game up the next day.”
On day 2 of the event the team started dominating the competition once again, but one thing was different, Andhy Alvarez aka "Power" known for his exceptional charger play had switched to using the NZAP for most of their games. Many watching at home attributed this to the team being cocky and that they weren’t respecting their competition. This simply wasn’t true. “After talking it over with the others I tried out NZAP and after a couple of scrimmages we were confident that it could help whenever I wasn't doing well with charger or for situations in which charger wasn't the best choice. For Squidstorm my charger aim and movement felt completely off so we decided using NZAP was a good choice for most games. With this in mind I'll definitely be using it in future events along with charger.” said Alvarez. The team, specifically Alvarez himself, was not too fond of his performance on day 1. After discussing with his team they felt the NZAP would be of more benefit to the team. The ability to adapt and adjust one’s play style to fit the needs of the team, is a hard attribute to acquire, let alone for someone with hundreds of hours in Splatoon 2 with one weapon class. This is the "Power" of SetToDestroyX’s Splatoon team (pun intended). If you caught the spectacle you already know that the team 3-0’d Komodo in the winner’s finals and then went on to 4-0 them again in the grand final’s after Komodo escaped the loser’s bracket in a thrilling set against Paramoons.
Steevy "Kiver" Bokwa (right) elated after winning Squidstorm 2017
This is just the beginning of the journey for the team, they still have plenty more in store for them in the future. Almost immediately after Squidstorm was over SetToDestroyX officially announced they would be sending the team once again to a major LAN event. On January 19th-21st next year the team is bound for Oakland, California to compete in the Splatoon 2 event at Genesis 5. This LAN is already shaping up to be one of biggest LAN events in terms of top teams competing. Team Olive, perhaps the team’s toughest competition for the title of best western Splatoon team, has already declared they would be flying a full team over from Europe to compete in the event. There have also been rumblings throughout the scene that other top American teams would be participating in the event as well, most notably members of the top teams Neptune and the sponsored InControl Yami. With these teams seemingly entering Genesis 5, the path to victory already seems increasingly difficult compared to their win at Squidstorm 2017 over Komodo. This doesn’t seem to be fazing the group however as indicated by Austin Whitt's response when asked if they would win Genesis 5, “I wouldn’t say we would win easily, but we are confident we can grab another win if we continue to practice hard.”
SetToDestroyX, is now at the pinnacle of their Splatoon 2 careers and show no signs of dropping . The team and organization look to expand the market for Splatoon 2 as an eSport and Genesis 5 is one more platform they plan to utilize to showcase the beauty of the game. Humbled by what has been an amazing experience thus far Whitt hopes that other teams can be sponsored by various organizations and given the opportunity his team has.
Excited for the future I asked SetToDestroyX one last question, if they would consider sending their team overseas to compete in a major event with a large prize pool in either Europe or Japan. Charlie Watson responded “of course we will. We aren't going to sign the team and then not send them to major competitions...we believe in our players and team and want them to compete against the best, wherever that may be. We did just send KIVER to the USA"
Writer’s Note: Throughout the interview process both the players of SetToDestroyX and the organization itself showed me great hospitality and respect and as a thank you I would like to include a compiled list of everywhere you can follow and support the organization.
Main Website: http://www.settodestroyx.com/
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