Interview with HW Valoraxe, KI Champion at Combo Breaker

Welcome back to the StreamMe Interview Series, readers! Today we get to meet up with HW Valoraxe, the United Kingdom’s hero and champion of Killer Instinct at this year’s Combo Breaker tournament.

There was a time where that was almost not the case, however. One of the event’s outstanding moments this year was his Grand Finals set with UA Wheels, who had practically the entire crowd behind him due to the fact that he was powering through a disability to defeat a growing stack of pro-level players (he’d also qualified for last year’s KI World Cup where he finished in the Top 8). In the third game, Valoraxe hesitated to detonate Cinder’s bombs and chose to jump backwards instead, only for Wheels to rush in and recapture him with a shadow leaping slash to keep himself alive. A video of that awesome comeback can be seen in the interview.

However, Valoraxe managed to recover his competitive mindset quickly after the big choke. Many expected Wheels to build upon his newfound momentum, but Valoraxe shut it down and claimed the title of Combo Breaker’s KI Champion, much to the delight of the UK FGC. That set will likely go down in history as one of the KI community’s best moments, regardless of the outcome.

As I point out in the interview, Combo Breaker 2017 marks the first occasion where a Killer Instinct tournament in North America was won not by an American, but by an international. Granted the game’s tournament history is magical as it is, but with Valoraxe’s win, we may very well see the beginning of a new chapter for the players, one where vastly different regions continue to bring new layers of gameplay to the table. Will the Americans seek revenge in an effort to reclaim their pride, or will the internationals throw us for another loop?

We’ll get our answer to that question later this month! Valoraxe has confirmed that he will be in attendance for CEO 2017 to continue his streak in Killer Instinct, though sadly he won’t be able to join us at the Mandalay Bay for this year’s Evolution Championship. Nevertheless, he and the entire KI scene are prepared to give us a show!

Many must have asked themselves the question, “What was going through Valoraxe’s mind during his time at Combo Breaker?” Well, in this interview I sit down with him to discuss both the event and his run through Team TDB’s King of the Ring mini-series. As a side-note, he is one of the finalists for KOTR and will be present this Sunday to compete for his share of a $500 pot bonus along with glory. More details to come in a future post soon.


JagoBlake: Welcome to the StreamMe Interview Series, Valoraxe, and congratulations for your victory at Combo Breaker! Would you like to introduce yourself to the readers?

HW Valoraxe: Hello, lads and lasses, Valoraxe here! Best Cinder in the World, and Punch Fighter champion of Combo Breaker. I don’t speak American, but they can’t speak English either, so it balances out quite well!

JagoBlake: What inspired you to play Killer Instinct competitively?

HW Valoraxe: Honestly, I’ve always wanted to try and compete in video games. A mixture of life, education, location, and lack of opportunities stopped me from giving it a shot. The idea came to me after watching EVO 2015; Domi’s run with Cinder was impressive, and I wanted to prove, that next year at EVO, I could hang with the best players.

As I was introduced to the UK Fighting Game scene, I noticed that there were not many players competing against the top guys. Those that could didn’t travel, and the rest either did not want to, or were not up to the same standard. So, my mission changed. Instead of trying to show that I could be one of the best, it became me representing the UK. I wanted to prove that the UK could produce contenders, and that we deserve to be as much in the lime light as other countries, such as the USA or Japan. I competed at EVO 2016, and despite not making the Top 32, I managed to garner future opportunities for my country, and could at least go home and say “at least I didn’t drown in pools”.

JagoBlake: As you and I know from our time as KI players, the game offers a highly diverse roster that presents a unique approach to the fighting game genre. So of all the characters in the game, what drew you to Cinder?

HW Valoraxe: Cinder was the first fighting game character I ever played. About 20 years ago, my older sister had a friend who owned the original SNES Killer Instinct cartridge. Sometimes, I had the chance to play on it, and the character I always enjoyed playing was Cinder. I thought Trailblazer was the coolest special move ever, the rock music on his stage was awesome, and I was rooting for the character to win his freedom, despite being a convict. When Killer Instinct was released on the Xbox One, I had always hoped that my childhood fighter would return in a new light; Cinder didn’t make the cast of Killer Instinct Gold (I never played the arcade versions of the game growing up), and I hoped Iron Galaxy’s incarnation would do him justice.

Then I saw the Cinder Trailer. The theme (amazingly done by Mick Gordon and LittleVMills), the special moves, the attitude. It ignited a fire within me to finally go get an Xbox One and play the game. I didn’t care if Cinder was considered “low tier”, or if his playstyle didn’t suit mine (which actually didn’t at first, I always thought I played more powerhouse characters), this was MY character. I have used Cinder since Day 1 of getting the new Killer Instinct, and have been a Cinder main ever since.

JagoBlake: Care to talk about your HW team a bit? I believe your tag stands for “Hollywood?” Any connection to Hollywood Sleep, the man who coached you at CB? 😉

HW Valoraxe: Built and named by the man himself. Hollywood is essentially a team of aspiring players recruited by Sleep, whose goal is to level up to the point where they can compete to a professional standard. It is not a sponsorship, or an official e-sports team, but more like a clan led by the best in the business. With him, there are a good number of Hollywood members that have performed well in tournament, be it offline or online.

  • YungTate is arguably the most successful member, besides Sleep and myself, making Top 8 at both Combo Breaker and Frosty Faustings this year, whilst also making Top 24 at the KIWC!
  • Hologram made Top 32 at KIWC with a dominant streak in online tournaments. Most notably placing 3rd in Kombo Klash Online (losing only to Sleep and Amenty), and 2nd in the Kross Up finale.
  • Zipstar (but we call him ZipMasterFlex!) made Top 8 at Texas Showdown, and was only gatekept out of last year’s KIWC Top 32 by Domi.
  • Freeky Jason has made quite an impact with his Kan-Ra. He proves that the character is still deadly in the right hands; taking out LetalisVenator Winner’s Side at Combo Breaker and making Top 24.
  • DaaChronicle has done quite well, though he has yet to make a proper impact offline. I am confident he will, some people just hit their stride later than others.
  • Finally, the coach, MackMane. Very strong player, but hates Cinders. We get along swell…

Despite none of us being sponsored, the fact we have achieved so much is astounding. I have no doubt that Hollywood will continue to be a threat, regardless of what game each member will pursue into the future.

JagoBlake: Now for one of the biggest questions in this discussion…your match with UA Wheels. He reset the bracket, but you adapted tremendously well and forced him to switch away from Gargos. What followed was possibly a match that would go down in KI history as a comeback that would rival Sleep vs UA MyGod at EVO 2015. What was going through your mind when that moment happened?

HW Valoraxe: “Why didn’t I pull the trigger?”

Wheels was in chip range, and I didn’t press the button that would’ve won me Combo Breaker. I saw that the timer was low, and decided to time him out. I was focusing too much on the timer, that I forgot about the health bar. I made a massive tactical mistake, and it nearly cost me the tournament. I also missed my recapture in the preceding juggle before backing off. If it had landed, I would’ve won then and there.

In the end, nerves beat brain. I made game-making mistakes in those moments, and I will have to live with that.

JagoBlake: In spite of the comeback, you played the next match as if it never happened and proceeded to win Combo Breaker. I must ask – and I mean this as a compliment – how were you able to regain your composure so well? Very few players can say they’ve done likewise.

HW Valoraxe: I just took time to cool off. Sleep helped me in this department. I just basically spewed out my frustrations, and what I was thinking to Sleep. Once the moment passed, I reset my mind, and went on to Supreme Wheels in the final match. Sometimes a coach isn’t there just to give you advice, sometimes he’s simply your friend that’s there to pick you up when you’re down. You know what you need to do, but you just need to say what you’re thinking to someone you trust, so those negative thoughts don’t cloud your judgement when you need to get back and do work.

JagoBlake: I am open to being corrected here, but I believe you are the first international player to win a Killer Instinct bracket in North America. Do you feel this will impact how people enjoy the game for the better or for the worse?

HW Valoraxe: I hope it will drive the Americans to perform better. A foreigner came across the world, to play against them at a game they were the best at, and defeated them on their own turf. There are three things they can do in this situation. They can give up, toss around blame, but not get anything done. They could continue playing, shrug off the loss, but open to the same mistakes in the future. Or they can learn, adapt, and maybe feed fire back into their competitive veins! A foreigner beat them at their game. Are you going to let me do it again?

As for the UK (and Europe), I hope my performance will inspire them to go abroad for these international tournaments and fight. Just to experience it for themselves. If they perform well? Fantastic, you made yourself into a real contender. If they didn’t, well it was a fun holiday, right? Don’t think “I’ll go next year”, because that opportunity might not be there next year!

JagoBlake: Any future events we can expect to see you at, regardless of the games you’ll enter?

HW Valoraxe: I am attending CEO 2017. Unfortunately, I’ve used up a lot of my holiday allowance from work to attend the biggest Killer Instinct events this year, so I will probably be unable to attend other big events such as EVO. Expect me to come back across the pond with a vengeance 2018.

However, you can catch me at VSFighting this August in Birmingham, which is effectively the UK’s EVO. Amazing atmosphere, great venue, and was host to last year’s Kombo Klash England!

JagoBlake: Now let’s discuss King of the Ring! Would you like to describe your experience in the mini-series since its first week?

HW Valoraxe: King Of The Ring is ran by The Dutch Brawlers, so I knew their online tournaments would run smoothly. Europe has never really run a series of tournaments, but it seems to have gone well minus a few hiccups. It is a chance for many online warriors to show their stuff, and win some cash on the side! Win-win for anyone into Fighting Games.

JagoBlake: As one of the finalists for the King of the Ring finale (which is happening on June 11th), how confident are you in your chances of victory?

HW Valoraxe: My victory at Combo Breaker might weigh on the minds of my fellow European competitors, gasps of “did Valoraxe achieve his final form” circulate the air. However, I do feel that I play much better in an offline environment, so I can’t reach my full potential in this tournament. I believe my chances of victory will boil down to whether I can get my momentum started. If I start strong, no one can stop me.

JagoBlake: The fact that SlenderCashew has gone undefeated in King of the Ring thus far (save for the instances where he was dropped to Loser’s Bracket) marks him as the biggest threat on everyone’s radar. What are your thoughts on his road through King of the Ring?

HW Valoraxe: He has done well. His playstyle frustrates opponents, which all plays into his favor. Being an online tournament, everyone is more hot-blooded; the desire to engage, get stuck in, and C-C-C-C-COMBO BREAK early is a strong factor. Slender has only competed online, and seems in his element here. Whether he can maintain his performance offline is another beast entirely…

JagoBlake: Would you like to describe the process you undertake when preparing for tournaments?

HW Valoraxe: Just relax. Get some offline casuals going, if you have time, lab the matchups you struggle with. I feel there is more pressure on me to succeed than other competitors, and to deal with that, I just relax and #PlayKI

JagoBlake: If The Dutch Brawlers were to host another season of King of the Ring alongside StreamMe, would you participate? Speaking hypothetically, of course.

HW Valoraxe: Of course! The Dutch Brawlers are a beacon of the European community; giving us opportunities online and offline! I am more than happy to assist them in future endeavors should they ask.

JagoBlake: Has your time in the KOTR series motivated you to look into StreamMe’s broadcasting services? If so, what are your thoughts?

HW Valoraxe: I don’t stream much (heck, I’ve only recently done a couple of fun streams on twitch), and I am not sure I could maintain a schedule in order to utilize their broadcasting service. However, StreamMe has done a good job supporting FGC franchises funding prize money into online tournaments (Mortal Kombat X, Guilty Gear, and Killer Instinct), and I hope to see this continue.

JagoBlake: With all the new fighters having come out this year, 2017 is shaping up to be a year where the genre can truly shine. Any plans to pick up other titles?

HW Valoraxe: Well, Tekken 7 has really caught my eye. I enjoy playing Street Fighter V in offline locals, so maybe I can actually LAB matchups now if I get it! Injustice 2 looks interesting, but I need to properly play the game in order to actually special cancel from strings to do big combos. Don’t own any of these games yet, but I have a PS4 now, so who knows…

JagoBlake: Are you excited for Eagle’s addition to the roster? Do you plan to play him?

HW Valoraxe: Eagle’s addition was a long time coming in my opinion. I am surprised Iron Galaxy went with the “Hunter” archetype (archer with mecha-animal assist), but I am interested to see how Eagle plays. I probably won’t pick him up competitively, but I will definitely get the character. Just to see if he is heat-resistant…

JagoBlake: Let’s say Killer Instinct were to receive a fourth season. What are you hoping to see from it?

HW Valoraxe: From a competitive POV: Just a tidy up, the game is pretty well balanced, but could use some tinkering. I personally hope for a new Grappler or Half-Grappler archetype; since we have more Zoners now. 

From a fan POV: Cinder as the new CEO of Ultratech. PUNCH FIGHTER FOR EVERYBODY!!!!!!

JagoBlake: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us! Have you any shout-outs you’d like to give?

HW Valoraxe: Shout-outs to The Dutch Brawlers and StreamMe for supporting Killer Instinct. My teammates in Hollywood, including Sleep for being in my corner, and inviting me to join the team. Shout-outs go to the local FGC scenes in the UK! Manchester Battle Arena, Turbo Tuesdays Kirkcaldy, and Electronic Dojo to name the big supporters for Killer Instinct.

However, my biggest shout-out goes to the Nottingham Robin Hoods. They were the lads who introduced me to the FGC, and gave me that fire to compete not just for myself, but for everyone back home! Sheriff, Hoods, I have said this many times, but I will repeat myself. Thank you for everything you did for me, I will always be in your debt.

Remember kids. Keep Calm, and Fight On!

Thanks again to Valoraxe for taking part in the discussion! Please follow him on Twitter and make sure to tune in to CEO and King of the Ring to enjoy his mastery of Cinder!

And now, a question for the readers…would any of you like to see a post-CB interview with UA Wheels as well? Let us know your answer by tweeting to StreamMe’s Twitter account! Until then, stick around for more interviews coming up!