The Doc Kids
Evo 2013 ushered in a new generation of players, expanding the scene by more than tenfold its size. Between the media hype of the event itself and the release of The Smash Brothers documentary a few months later, there was enough interest in Melee to spark a constant rise in player numbers. Affectionately referred to as “doc kids”, the players who began in this time are getting to the point where they are serious tournament threats.
Shepard “Fiction” Lima once theorized that a really talented player could reach top 100 status with three straight years of directed effort. It has been three years since Evo 2013, and a small handful of players are reaching that level. While none of these players are quite at the level of the seasoned veterans, that does not mean they aren’t worth paying attention to. Similar to how NCAA basketball is a raw, unpolished street fight in comparison to the sleek and crispy NBA, these players are the star attractions of a generation which will soon be taking names.
This series of articles is about them, the Doc Kids to watch out for.
Faceroll: A derogatory term suggesting that the person doing the ‘facerolling’ can beat their opponent by rolling their face on the keyboard to defeat their foe effortlessly
When we talk about ‘Doc Kids’, one name stands as a shining example above all the rest: Griffin Williams a.k.a. Captain Faceroll. He is far and away the most successful player to begin in the summer of Evo 2013, with set wins over Squid, Kels, Dart!, Alex19, Mike Haze, Kira, Lucky, Westballz, Silent Wolf, KJH, and scores of others. He has taken two scenes completely by storm, first his native home of Chicago, then the titanic region of Southern California. He is one of the most talented, motivated, and commendable players the newest generation has produced, and it was my great pleasure to sit down and learn how this young upstart thinks about the game and his progress.
Among the notable wins I just listed, there is one glaring and crucial trend: out of his ten most notable wins, nine of them play space animals. He has beaten many others of course, including ORLY, Trail, Vro, and HugS, but Faceroll has proven himself one of the best Sheiks against Fox and Falco, two of her hardest matchups. Faceroll is doing one thing in these matchups that he thinks no other Sheik even attempts: perfect reaction tech chasing.
He has gone beyond simple regrabs, and along with the 20GX Falcon players has implemented crouching over a foe who has missed a tech. Normally, skilled opponents miss a tech on purpose, expecting the Sheik to jab or double jab; skilled spacie players can smash DI these hits upwards to either escape from the followup or to open up a counter opportunity. By implementing crouching into his tech chasing, Faceroll is able to cover everything on reaction without giving his opponent the ability to escape.
Doing this requires frame perfection multiple times in a row, and the dedication required to master single-frame inputs up to ten times in a row is nothing to shake your head at. Faceroll has nevertheless made this a cornerstone of his play even though, as anyone who has played in a tournament set can attest, frame perfection is difficult to achieve when the pressure is on.
Faceroll was not always the tech chase monster he is now. Just like everyone else in our scene, he has an origin story of how he came to this game. As a young child, he and his three siblings played free-for-alls for days on end. He knew nothing about the competitive scene, nevermind any advanced techniques, although humorously they still played exclusively on Final Destination. It wasn’t until Apex 2013 that the competitive scene caught his eye; he stumbled upon a twitch link to the stream, and although he didn’t actually devote any time to learning competitive techniques or looking up tournaments yet, he was inspired to dust off the Cube and play some casuals for old times’ sake. Had Melee (and Armada, for the early Faceroll was a Peach main) not caught his eye, he might not have paid attention to the events surrounding that summer’s Evo. As it is, the Spirit Bomb, stream cease, desist, and subsequent reinstatement, and Mango’s monstrous loser’s run spurred in Faceroll a decision to take the game seriously and begin actually competing.
His first tournament wasn’t for Melee at all; it was for Project M, which he erroneously believed was the bigger game. His first tournament, EXPosure 2 in Oak Park, IL, took place on August 2013. He was one of the first people to arrive at the venue, and has fond memories of playing against Kirk and Rat, the latter of whom beat Mew2King in the Project M winner’s bracket at The Big House 3, and the former of whom actually won that event. Like so many others before and since, it was like turning on a lightbulb: once he had a taste of tournament life, he was hooked.
Shortly after this tournament, he made the switch to Melee, exclusively as a Sheik main. In his first year, there were absolutely roadblocks; his first rival, a Puff player named Snex, forced him to try out a Fox counterpick in an effort to counter the matchup.
Like many players, Faceroll eventually came to understand that this was a detriment to his progress as a player. Indeed, when asked what advice he would give new players, one of the strongest endorsements he had was sticking to a single character and mastering it. This comes from an experienced and practiced Faceroll, however. The one who left Chicago for UC-Irvine in the Fall of 2014 was neither an old hand nor graduated from the scrubby phase all players go through in their rise to the top. When he lost, it was due to an inherent imbalance in the matchup. Puff and the Ice Climbers were a plague on his mindset. Yet he was placing top 8 in his locals, so he felt ready to take the giants of SoCal on head-to-head matchups.
Arrival in So-Cal
As you might expect, arriving in Southern California for his schooling at UC-Irvine put that flame out very, very quickly. He was consistently three- and four-stocked by most of SoCal’s PR, and learned how big the gap truly was between him and the top. Initially disheartened, Faceroll soon overcame this and acquired everything he needed to “get good”, in a manner of speaking. Where he had no sensei or elder player to learn from in Chicago, he was soon taken in under the wing of Kira, who at the time was building his Sheik into the chain-grabbing, tech-chasing monster that would take 5th at the NorCal tournament I’m Not Yelling! He also developed a close rivalry with fellow UC-Irvine student and Melee player Squid. The two have since gone back and forth, and currently occupy neighboring spots on SoCal’s PR.
His first out-of-region test came at the aforementioned NorCal tournament I’m Not Yelling, where he competed alongside the UC-Irvine crew as a part of The Melee Games. He recalls this tournament for two reasons: he performed very well in singles, taking out AZ Shiek player Forte Freak and taking PewPewU to last hit, last stock in two consecutive games. More importantly, it was his first encounter with a boisterous and emotionally invested crowd. I’ll let his words do the talking:
“Here I was, a freshman in college, still 18 years old, playing melee for slightly more than 1 year, not even close to being ranked, and there were people I respected and knew jeering me...I had seen these people on streams and idolized them in a way, and they were being rude and they didn’t even know me. I also wasn’t even good so it was insane having to experience all of that. I know now that it wasn’t really personal, and that’s kind of just how crew battles and region vs. region stuff works, but it felt personal to me at the time.”
UC-Berkeley upset the heavily-favored UC-Irvine, and went on to win the Melee Games finals at Super Nebulous 3 in New York City a few months later.
This tournament would provide the foundation for Faceroll’s rock-solid mental game. Most players struggle when playing against a known or a top player; they spend too much time in their own head, concerned about what a win might mean, that they lose track of the game and their tech starts to slip. For a player like Faceroll, who banks so much of his success on frame perfection, this was unacceptable. He developed a complete confidence in his play, and his merciless heckling at the hands of the NorCal crowd made all other pressures fade away in comparison. While his mindset leaving Chicago was definitely founded in scrubby habits and behavior, his first year at UC-Irvine sharpened it into a threatening presence. He sums up his healthy mindset with the following:
“I think the most important part about melee is belief in yourself. This is a very mental thing, but 'hesitation is the seed of defeat'. If you don’t try and implement the techniques that will lead to victory, how could you ever hope to be the victor? ...Also I think it’s important to never worry about the small things. There will always be another tournament, there will always be another ranking period, there will always be another set, it’s fine. If you blow it, then you blew it, that’s all there is to it. (that rhymes and I kind of wish it didn’t). In my life I definitely am very relaxed as a person. There is no reason to worry about things, in my opinion. If something is going wrong, then you can attempt to fix it, but becoming distraught doesn’t help anything. If you’re in a bad spot, it’ll get better, no reason to let it ruin your life or your mentality”
That doesn’t mean he’s perfect by any stretch. He acknowledges that he’s developed a bit of an ego, and also begrudgingly admits that he isn’t very thoughtful when he plays. He calls his neutral gameplan “full of cheese”, abusing crouch cancelling at every possible opportunity and taking full advantage of Sheik’s potential zero-to-death punish game.
This is likely the reason he has such a great track record against fast fallers, but struggles mightily against Puff, Ice Climbers, and Peach. When he goes up against a better, more experienced player, he will lose a majority of neutral interactions. In fast faller matchups, this is okay; a single neutral win for Faceroll means a stock loss for his opponent. But in floatier matchups, he can’t rely on his tech chases and zero-to-death punishes, and instead has to try and fight a war of attrition against a more skilled opponent. He is working on incorporating a better neutral game into his play, but other players have theorized this can only come with time. Time is certainly the only thing that can tell.
As of now, Faceroll is poised to place on MIOM’s top 100 ranking at year’s end, but he’s not done there. He has been honed by California’s best, and is now setting his eyes on the top. With wins over Westballz and Lucky, Faceroll confidently believes he is capable of beating any space animal on the planet, and eagerly awaits the day he has to play Mango, PPMD, or Leffen in bracket. He is one of the rare Sheik players who believes she is actually underrated, saying that her low spot on people’s tier lists is due to misconceptions about her matchups versus floaties and that her ability to reaction tech chase is a myth.
He is out there proving that incorrect, and although he still struggles in floaty matchups, he is trying to demonstrate how busted Sheik can be at the top level. His ultimate goal is to be the best in the world, and to that end he has a message for everyone in his way:
“Anyone on the top 100, including at the very top: I am not afraid of you.”