Qualifier 1 review: Frost topples Mickey; Stacks stays winning

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MoM | Frost reacts after his win against AP | Mickey in the Grand Final of Qualifier One on 25 January 2020

A tournament that started three hours late thanks to a host of technical issues ended in sheer excitement at the DeCodEd Africa space, with defending TEKKEN 254 Circuit champion AP | Mickey failing to win a tournament for the first time since we began running them in November 2017. He fell in the Grand Final at the hands of MoM | Frost, who recovered from a loss against Mickey in the Winners' Semi-Final and fought his way through the losers' bracket to earn his first tournament win.

The day also saw the beginning of the Kenya Kombat Circuit for Mortal Kombat 11, with FTG | Mr Stacks continuing his winning ways after having finished top (by some distance) of the Rampage Invitational series in 2019. He took down RMP | Baraza in the Grand Final, coming back from losers' side to reset the bracket and eventually claim the victory.

TEKKEN 254 Circuit

The top 3 players from Qualifier One of the TEKKEN 254 Circuit (left to right): AP | Mickey (2nd), MoM | Frost (1st) and WTCH | DVK (3rd)

With the two-division system in use for Seasons 2 and 3 done away with and the pool stage format shifting from round-robin to double elimination, Qualifier One began with most of the newer players heading home early. Hassan_Ngutu got the farthest among the newcomers, eventually losing 2-0 against T-Vets | Battousai in the losers' side of Pool 2.

Former Challenger Division player Ghost (previously known as The Night King and, before that, Kafikan) notably came close to victory against WTCH | DVK in Pool 1, winning two rounds in their final match before conceding a reverse sweep and dropping to the losers' bracket. Ghost and DVK both eventually advanced to the Top 8 from their pool alongside Xstar and SU | Darktempest, while Frost, Mickey, WTCH | PR1EST and TUG | Furious Monkey made it out of Pool 2.

The Winners' Semi-Finals saw DVK and Mickey move past Xstar and Frost respectively, with both sets ending 2-0 after close second matches. In Losers' Round 1, Darktempest dispatched Ghost in dominant fashion, while Furious Monkey called on Leroy Smith to beat PR1EST in a close set.

Both now down in the losers' bracket, Frost had to work hard to eliminate Darktempest, while Xstar also laboured to get past Furious Monkey in an exciting set. Xstar was forced to face Leroy Smith yet again in the Losers' Semi-Final, but couldn't weather the storm this time as Frost advanced to the Losers' Final in a 2-0 win.

What those at the venue expected to be a tense Winners' Final between DVK and Mickey, having met at tournaments numerous times before, ended up a relatively one-sided affair as the latter dominated proceedings with Ganryu. DVK looked bereft of ideas the entire set and hardly got a look in with Jin, succumbing to a 3-0 loss that left Mickey in a good position for the Grand Final. Switching to Miguel for the Losers' Final, DVK looked livelier against Frost's Bryan but couldn't do enough to get the win, with Frost riding his run of good form to earn himself a runback against Mickey.

Things were looking dicey for Frost early in the Grand Final as Mickey held firm to go 2-0 up, seemingly on his way to yet another tournament win. Having lost the first round of the third match, Frost showed resilience to turn things around and win three rounds straight. This turn of events seemed to spur him on and spark a vicious comeback; Mickey found himself one round away from winning the tournament in the remaining two matches, but just couldn't close them out as Frost dragged him down to the losers' bracket for a reset.

The encore performance was an entirely different story as Frost rode his momentum and marauded through the first match with three straight rounds. A seemingly flustered Mickey switched to Alisa, a character he has much more experience with in Tekken 7, but Frost wouldn't have any of it and ran through Mickey three rounds straight yet again, forcing Mickey to switch back to Ganryu. Frost made it eight rounds straight in total to earn tournament point in the third match before Mickey showed signs of life, fighting hard to pull a round back, but it simply proved to be delaying the inevitable as Frost held on to claim his first ever tournament win on the Circuit.

Kenya Kombat Circuit

The top 3 players from Qualifier One of the Kenya Kombat Circuit (left to right): RMP | Baraza (2nd), FTG | Mr Stacks (1st) and SWG | Sultan (3rd)

The Kenya Kombat Circuit saw its first 8 competitors take center stage on Saturday, kicking off with an upset as Mr Stacks suffered an early drop to the losers' side thanks to a 3-2 loss at the hands of Bobgranthill, who himself was sent to the losers' side by Baraza in their Winners' Semi-Final. Sultan and MeTa | Josephmarc_FGC faced off in the other Winners' Semi-Final after getting past WTCH | PR1EST and Rattlar respectively, with Sultan scraping his way into the Winners' Final in a close 3-2 win.

In the losers' bracket, Mr Stacks marauded past Zizu and then Josephmarc_FGC in consecutive 3-0 wins, while Rattlar eliminated PR1EST but could not manage to best Bobgranthill. A runback in the Losers' Semi-Final saw Mr Stacks get the win this time round, beating Bobgranthill 3-1 to advance to the Losers' Final.

The Winners' Final proved to be somewhat of a mirror of the same encounter on the TEKKEN 254 Circuit, with Baraza seemingly cruising past Sultan with Liu Kang to go 2-0 up, prompting Sultan to switch from Noob Saibot to his listed main, Shao Kahn. The switch seemed to be paying off as Sultan won two straight rounds to make it 2-1 in the set, but Baraza remained resolute after losing yet another round in the fourth match to come back to win the set.

Sultan stuck with Shao Kahn to face Mr Stacks' D'Vorah in the Losers' Final, making for an intense start to the set as Mr Stacks had his win in the first match cancelled out in the second. With the score standing at 1-1, Mr Stacks seemed to flip a switch as he showed dominance to win the next two matches and proceed to the Grand Final, winning three rounds to Sultan's one in total.

Baraza was left looking out of sorts early in the Grand Final as Mr Stacks claimed two quick match wins, prompting him to switch from Liu Kang to Frost and try to muster a comeback. The switch intensified the encounter as Baraza pulled a point back with a win in the third match, but eventually could not tame Mr Stacks as he forced his way to a bracket reset with a 3-1 win. Baraza showed fight in the reset with his Frost to force a final round in each of the first two matches, but just couldn't close them out; Mr Stacks showed dominance in the final match and kept his composure in the second round, staving off a comeback from Baraza to claim maximum points and the tournament win.