Player Profile Interview: Ragu

Nov 27th, 2015
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  1. Moomoo Mumosa here. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I’m grateful for all the work everybody has been doing to improve lately. It’s made for a much more lively and interesting scene, and what brought me to work so hard on these interviews and my newsletters (which I hope you all have appreciated — if not, feel free to give feedback at any time). That’s why it’s my pleasure to bring to you today an interview I recorded in advance of the holiday with the one and only Ragu. Although recently he’s been appearing more vulnerable, Aaron is indisputably the strongest active player in our scene. Godlike fundamentals, remarkable composure…how did he get those things, and what does he see in his future?
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  4. This is Moomoo Mumosa here, and this is the Thanksgiving special! I hope you’re having a warm dinner with your family, cuddling with your cat — or pets, as it were — and maybe even having a jolly old time with your girlfriend. In any case, maybe you’re not listening to this around dinner time, so…I don’t know what that was all about. Alright, whatever, start over — this is Moomoo Mumosa here, Arcade Legacy beat reporter. Today I’m here with a very special guest. His name is Aaron Reichert, AKA Ragu. How are you doing today Aaron?
  6. — I’m doing good; how about you Chi?
  8. I am doing fantastic. There was an S tier bracket today; how’d you do? [Moo note: this was recorded on 11-19]
  10. — I got 2nd, but it really doesn’t feel like it. I was playing some good friendlies, but in general, just not feeling up to par.
  12. Fair enough, fair enough. So introduce yourself, and tell me why you love Melee?
  14. — Well, I like Melee. It was the first Gamecube game I played. I’m 23 right now, so I was, like, in middle school when it came out, and I just liked everything about it. I played Smash 64 quite a bit, but that opening cinematic blew me away, and to this day it just kinda sends shivers down my spine when I see it. I was pretty good at it as a kid, and it just always has a good place in my heart.
  16. I see. So you are a Sheik main, right?
  18. — I am definitely a Sheik main.
  20. Through and through?
  22. — Yup. Cincinnati born and raised.
  24. Started with Zelda, I think?
  26. — I did not really start with Zelda. I saw the Nintendo Power when Melee was coming out that said that Zelda could turn into Sheik, and I freaked out. (Moomoo laughs) That was so cool to me, that a character could turn into another character. So that’s kinda how it stuck.
  28. So let’s some basic questions out of the way. You can give short or long answers for these, it doesn’t really matter. What do you think is your best stage?
  30. — All of them. But my favorite is FD, and everyone thinks that’s really weird, but that’s what I feel.
  32. I see. And why do you think you like FD so much?
  34. — It has fewer dimensions to it. There’s a more straight line to the goal.
  36. Makes sense. So what do you think is your worst stage?
  38. — Definitely not Yoshi’s, because that’s Sheik’s best stage (Moomoo laughs). Honestly, it might be Fountain.
  40. Really?
  42. — Yeah, yeah.
  44. Ahh, Fountain is actually really awkward for Sheik, huh? It’s like kinda weird.
  46. — Every now and then you get a good dynasty tipper [Moo note: usmash tipper], but other than that, I don’t really like it.
  48. I get what you mean. So what’s your most comfortable matchup?
  50. —See, I think about that a lot. It definitely varies from day to day, but it’s probably Marth, and I also think it’s the most fun, and one of the deepest matchups. When it’s not easy, it’s really difficult. It goes from easy to really difficult in a short skill gap, then it becomes really really interesting. The punishes get so important and big. So I think that’s my best matchup and my favorite matchup.
  52. Yeah, playing against Tako is quite a trip, huh?
  54. — Yeah, that’s what I’m basing it off of, mostly.
  56. What’s your least comfortable matchup?
  58. — It’s probably Jigglypuff, even though I have a long history of being good against Jigglypuff and playing lots of Jigglypuffs since I started playing competitively. It’s just that thought that, at any moment, if you’re dumb — if you’re dumb enough, if you let her get you dumb, she’ll kill you in one hit. So that’s always stressful, and that’s probably my most uncomfortable matchup — not because I don’t have experience, just because of the stress it puts on me.
  60. Yeah, I definitely outplayed Nick for a stock, got rested, outplayed him for another stock and then I got rested again.
  62. — Feels good, right?
  64. Definitely feels good, feels great. How about you briefly describe how you play and with maybe what you’ve been working on?
  66. — So I’ll start with the second one first, since it’s the simpler answer. I’ve been actually working on L-canceling, which is not something people work on this late, but for me it is, so I’m kinda working backwards. So we’re doing L-canceling, doing a lot of stuff that I’ve seen you do with the safe on shield aerials and the dashing back. Working on that, some platform movement…the way that I think I play — getting that out of the way, since I don’t play like the stuff I’m working on — I think I play a really defensive, bait-heavy neutral that relies a lot on boost grabs and dash attacks to get openings and get people to commit to their own grabs and dash attacks then punishing. That’s why I like FD, because that kind of goes hand in hand and you can get some really juicy combos on most of the cast when you land an uptilt or a grab.
  68. So jealous; that’s kinda how I wanna play! But anyways…which player do you enjoy playing against the most?
  70. — It’s either Tako or Suidt.
  72. You go fairly even with both those players in friendlies?
  74. — Yeah, yeah. We’ll have days where one of us will be completely dominant, and other days where it’s completely backwards. It’s always interesting to play those guys.
  76. Who do you find most frustrating to play? Doesn’t have to be here…Fizzle?
  78. — I don’t know if it’s Fizzle. Honestly, it probably is people here, since I see them all the time. It’s probably you and Hunter and PAS, the people I have most trouble with today and historically. Just…the Sheik ditto in general —
  80. I’m so uncomfortable with it.
  82. — I’m very uncomfortable with it as well. Anyone can say what they want about my record in Sheik dittos, but I’m kind of uncomfortable — not as uncomfortable as I am vs. Jigglypuff — especially when chain grabs are in play. Some of the kids like to use chaingrabs.
  84. (laughs) Yeah. Who do you think we should be looking out for in A tier?
  86. — Is Burlap in S yet?
  88. No.
  90. — Yeah, it’s definitely Burlap. We should be looking out for Burlap.
  92. He always does so well against you! It’s crazy.
  94. — Yeah, there’s — (exhales) I just beat him up in friendlies but come tournament, it’ll always be like (slap slap) it’ll be a nailbiter. It’ll be the last stock., ugh. Peach, I think it’s a Peach thing. Salt’s gone; hope he comes back, man — if you’re listening —
  96. But Burlap plays so different from Salt, too.
  98. — But…it’s just getting, it’s the range of Peach’s moves. It is the same character, at the end of the day. So I think it’s just that experience, and um…
  100. So there’s Burlap. So who else do you think we should be looking for in A tier? Lots of people have talked about Tomo recently.
  102. — Tomo, (sighs), I have Tomo’s number.
  104. Oh yeah, he’s bad against Sheik.
  106. — Tomo’s got the senpai mentality that Hunter overcame. Hunter lost it; he stopped being my apprentice, so he can kick my butt now because he decided he can. Tomo hasn’t lost that yet, so once he gets there, then I’ll be worried about Tomo.
  108. Okay, so now onto some more Ragu-specific questions. Walk us through your “career”, from the beginning until now. What were your goals when you started playing, and how did they change as you improved?
  110. — So I’m a documentary kid. Me and Collin, AKA PiBs, watched the documentary and then we just started playing in the basement after parties and stuff until 8 in the morning. Eventually, we found on Smashboards Dr. X’s and uhmm —
  112. Overswarm! I remember that. Yeah, I was there!
  114. — Yeah, that was the first time I played Smash “competitively”. That was a lot of fun, and I got hooked, and I started coming to Arcade Legacy. That was probably, what, a year and a half, two years ago, probably? I’ve just been steadily increasing since then. What was the second part of the question?
  116. So what were your goals when you started playing, and how have they changed at all?
  118. — Honestly my goal when I started playing was to get a little better. I was always the best in my friend ground as a little kid, like in high school, and even in Brawl; I don’t claim to be good at Brawl, but…
  120. Sure.
  122. — I just wanted to have fun and get a little better. See who was out there, and see who I can beat. And honestly, it’s probably not that different now. Obviously it’s more specific now that I know who people are, I have set goals, but at the end of the day, so long as I know that I didn’t play terribly…like if I played terribly in a tournament set, I’ll ask, “Hey, can I get some friendlies?” and I’ll feel better after that, just so I know that I played well. So, as long as I didn’t suck *too bad* and I had fun, y’know, those are my goals.
  124. And that’s your trajectory, you’d imagine, for the rest of your…
  126. — I think so. I don’t…like, people make jokes about getting really good and beating top level players. I don’t see that. I like to travel — I wanna go to EVO, and I like going to Shuffle every year — but I don’t want to break out crazy or whatever.
  128. Sure. Actually, you would say that you really started caring about getting better pretty much as soon as you joined the scene, right? Was there any kind of “a-ha!” moment where you realized “Okay, I’m actually pretty good, and I wanna keep getting better”?
  130. — It was when I beat Dr. X. Uber popped off, and uh, hugged Luminoth and Sorasin.
  132. Oh yeah, I remember that! [Moo note: my memory was mistaken; I wasn’t there for that, lol.]
  134. — I didn’t actually consistently beat Steve after that for a long time. It was like a one-off. But that was kinda like, an “a-ha!” moment, where like, “Wow. I could —“, because Steve was a mountain I couldn’t even think of climbing, right, at the time? So that was super fun, and…I guess some other “a-ha!” moments, were when I could wavedash out of shield. Oh, and when I got boost grabbing. When I could see where Sheik teleports with her boost grab.
  136. Yeah, when I showed you.
  138. — Yeah, when I was able to execute my first boost grabs consistently. That was an “a-ha!” moment, and that kinda changed how I thought about the neutral. I felt like I had — that there was more reach in it, and I felt more comfortable. So I guess those were some “a-ha!” moments, and I felt like I should try a little harder…if I can do this every now and then, I might as well put a little bit more effort into it, and see how it goes. That’s probably where I am now.
  140. Next question: you’ve established yourself as the most consistent player in Cincinnati aside from FEAR and Salt. I mean, I don’t think that’s arguable at this point. Why do you think that this is the case, and on the same line of thought, how far do you think the gap is between you and the other S-tiers?
  142. — I honestly don’t think there’s that much of a gap between me and the other S-tiers. I think on a good day, there might be, but on a good day, anyone could be better than everyone. Like, PAS kicked everyone’s butts today, so he had a good day today, and maybe some of us had a bad day. I just don’t think there’s that much of a gap. I guess overall, (indistinguishable) might be on par with FEAR and Salt. Like, before he left, I beat Salt; that was a big deal to me, honestly. I don’t know, I don’t ever wake up and feel like —
  144. You’ve got it in the bag.
  146. — Yeah. It’s not like, “Cincinnati, what are you doing? You can’t touch me”. Everyone very much can. Even people in A — I was in A that one week, before we changed the rule, and I lost a couple games. So it’s not like…I have to try a lot, to beat anyone really.
  148. Right. So there is no broad gap, then, that has to be closed?
  150. — No, I think…and even with FEAR here, I don’t think —
  152. Right, because I beat FEAR. And Steve beat FEAR.
  154. — Nick beat — People are beating FEAR. There’s no…it’s not like Hanky in Columbus. So that’s how I would put it. I think Cincinnati has a really good melting pot of play and character selection, and I think the way that we are playing our weeklies — like, bracketed into different skill levels — is helping that as well.
  156. As a tangent off that, do you think the variety helps us when we play outside players? Like, I know some regions and areas complain about having kinda stale, no variety…here, I feel like there’s a lot of variety in mentality and approach to the game.
  158. — As long as I don’t have to fight Luigigoshard, I feel comfortable. That guy definitely has my number, because I definitely don’t know how to fight Luigi. That’s something I’d like. Also, I’m really glad that Russy is picking up ICs.
  160. Right. I wanna beat Shen!
  162. — Right? He’s doing that, he needs to give us all that good experience…
  164. He got 5th today! He’s getting closer.
  166. — Good, good. I think it’s a good change for him. He can definitely wobble, so now he’s just gotta work on some of that neutral and no-impact landing or whatever that’s called, and that’ll be good for our scene.
  168. I know a great deal of people who say that playing you on your last stock is like playing a different person altogether. I think that actually speaks a lot to your mental toughness and your adaptability. Could you maybe comment on those things? I know a lot of lower level players, they don’t *see* that part of the game. It’s hard for them to see that part of the game, so maybe…talk about your mindset during the game. When you’re behind, when you’re even, what’s your strategy…just talk about what’s going on in your brain.
  170. — So I’ll pull from today’s experiences against PAS. Game 1 sucked — I know that, he knows that — then game 2, I was halfway through, almost done. My second-to-last stock was almost gone, and I took him to his last stock and just got myself in gear. I have these mini “you’re so dumb” moments. “Just win! Just try harder.” I don’t know, I have these small exchanges in my mind. I don’t honestly follow…when the game is playing, I’m not super super detail-oriented. I might notice someone’s patterns with techs a little bit, but I usually have this instinctual gameplan that I go into, and I’m just trying to keep my mental game on point. Does that make sense?
  172. Yeah. So you’re trying to keep yourself so you can execute.
  174. — Right. I’m not worried about what to execute, I’m worried about “stay focused, and the execution will come”. So when…I think when people say my last stock makes me a different person, I think I’m just switching from autopilot to, “Hey, idiot, wake up! Let’s just kinda, play, and see if we can win.”
  176. How did you actually develop that gameplan? I know you describe your learning — I mean, your learning style is very different from me and Hunter’s. Kinda talk about how you learn the game, maybe, and how you develop gameplans, and how you develop strategies.
  178. — I’m not very much of a visual…okay, I’d say I’m visual, but I also need to be very hands-on. So if I see something on stream — if I see Mew2King or Shroomed do something nutty on stream — I’ll understand what happened, kind of, but I definitely won’t be able to replicate it until I put lots of time into it. Like, I’ve seen dropzone fair on a spacie, since the beginning. But it’s actually been relatively new, that I’ve started to implement that.
  180. It’s hard.
  182. — Yeah, it’s hard, because I thought you could just drop down and hit ‘em, you end up just killing yourself. You have to drop down, you have to jump, you have to know these timings, you have to *feel* these things…I’m very much a hands-on person, where if you tell me, “this is how you do it”, I’m not going to ever, ever be able to learn something that way, until I’ve sat down and done it. It’s kind of bad for me when it comes to Melee because I don’t like to sit down in the lab by myself; I’d just like to —
  184. You’d rather play Fallout. (laughs)
  186. — (Ragu laughs) Right now I’d rather play Fallout. If it were Monster Hunter, I’d rather play Monster Hunter, but…I wanna learn in friendlies, right? But then there’s also that stubborn part of me, that’s like —
  188. You’re don’t wanna lose.
  190. — Right. “You’re not gonna lose this friendly, right?” (Moomoo agrees and laughs) “I don’t care who you’re playing against, I don’t care what you’re learning, you’re not gonna take that.“ That’s why I was very downsmash oriented in the beginning; well, I wouldn’t say at the beginning, but at one point when I was starting to get good, because it was simple, you couldn’t mess it up, and and it was *working*. And just because I wanted to learn something else, doesn’t mean…I, I still wanted to win the friendly. So I think I have a stubbornness that kinda keeps me from learning, but when I do learn something, I learn it really well, even if it does take a while.
  192. Sure. So you’re not going to CSC IV, since it’s Cathryn’s birthday.
  194. — Unfortunately…I’ll be there. I won’t be entering. I’ll help out a little. I’ll be there early in the day.
  196. Let’s just ask the second part of the question then. Is there anyone’s performance who you’re really interested in?
  198. — Ahh, I would really love to see Pink Floyd again. (Moomoo laughs). For Melee…you mean, people that I would play at locally, how they’d do at CSC?
  200. Right. Maybe, for example, me or Hunter, our results…like, maybe the better question is, who do you wanna see do well? Who do you think will do well?
  202. — I don’t wanna see Toastbread do well.
  204. Ayyyy!
  206. — And I want to see pretty much anyone else in Cincinnati do well. Because that means that I can go and play against them and learn from — if people get better than me, that’s awesome, because that gives me something to step on, and get up there. So honestly, I want to see, everyone in S, A, B do as well as they can. I wanna see every upset I possibly can…specifically for people who travel here, I wanna see how Reeve does. I remember he and I were pretty even a whlie ago, maybe last CSC and before that, but I think —
  208. He’s gotten a lot better.
  210. — I think he practices with a lot higher caliber players that we have in Cincinnati, unfortunately, and I’d like to see how well he does. I’d like to get some friendlies in with him, as well. Also Jiano and Luigigoshard.
  212. Maybe let’s wrap up this interview. Do you have any advice to newer players?
  214. — Tech skill is important but don’t let it consume you. If you’re getting really bored of practicing tech skill, just ignore it, and kinda like remember to press the button, and then just practice neutral and punish as much as possible because those are fun to practice. You get to hit things when you do that, and then eventually, when you hit what L-cancel or whatever into whatever aerial, or whatever trick you’re trying to do, then it’ll be even awesomer because you already have these punishes you’ve got in your mind, and you’ll have a bar set, then once your tech skill catches up, you’ll see how much better your punishes are. So I’ll say don’t focus on the tech; or don’t focus on any one thing for too long, or you’ll burn yourself out. Just go and play friendlies and just like try to play against a bunch of people.
  216. Last but not least, any shoutouts?
  218. — Mm…I shout out to everyone in Cincinnati, who will probably hear this…I don’t know, who do I shout out?
  220. Your cat, your mom…
  222. — My cat, my mom? (laughs) Shoutouts to my parents ‘cause I told them I would link the stream (Moomoo starts laughing) Thursday at one point. Never have, and they were really excited to watch and see me play, and I’ve never linked it to them. So maybe one day, I’ll link them VODs that I’m really proud of, and we’ll call it a livestream. So shoutouts to them, for possibly fudging the results.
  224. Alright, that’s all I have. It’s ran a little long, but I hoped you had as much fun doing this interview as I did.
  226. — Yeah, I hope someone learns from it.
  228. Thanks for speaking with me today, Aaron. This is Moomoo Mumosa, signing out.
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