The fighting game community (FGC) has some of the biggest personalities and most dedicated players in all of esports. The granddaddy of all fighter titles, Street Fighter, is still cultivating a strong following after 30 years thanks to unbelievable matches and narratives that become the things of legend. It’s stories like Daigo parrying all of Justin Wong’s Chun Li super from Evo 2004, or LI Joe being the only American to place top eight at Evo 2016 that demand the respect and attention of the esports world.
So, too, is the case for Joshua “Wolfkrone” Philpot. Recently signed to Circa eSports, the Laura master placed 13th at both Evo and Final Round 2017. But it hasn’t just been his skill that’s had people talking. His ongoing feud with Evil Geniuses’ Kenneth “Kbrad” Bradley has dominated professional Street Fighter V conversations for much of the year.
I had a chance to catch up with Wolfkrone to get a better sense of what he’s all about. Indeed, substance and character run deep in the Street Fighter community, and there are as many approaches to to the game as there are pro gamers. Come time for Evo every summer in Las Vegas, however, you might find that dubious. As tightly knit as they are, social media becomes flooded with “party” posts that always come under scrutiny.
“What sets me apart from the rest is that when I am at a tournament, my objective is to stay focused on winning the tournament,” Wolfkrone says. “I’m not trying to find a clique, or to get drunk and party. I take tournaments very seriously because winning means everything to me. Being in the scene for many years, I’ve seen players lose sight of their true purpose.
His strong work ethic has paid off, netting him a first place finish at Youmacon on 4 November over F3’s alucarD. He also caught the eye of Circa eSports, who recently parted ways with their former Street Fighter V player, Long “LPN” Nguyen. Now that he’s sponsored, Wolfkrone will have even more time to practise and travel to compete in next year’s Capcom Pro Tour.
“Wolfkrone is one of the most professional, respectful guys I’ve spoken with,” says Marc Leikach, CEO of Circa eSports. “I feel like people judge him off one incident, but he’s honestly one of the nicest people around. I’m surprised so many people don’t like him.”
The incident Leikach mentioned happened back in the March preliminaries of ELEAGUE earlier this year, in what would become one of the most infamous trash-talk sessions ever recorded at a professional match. After defeating Kbrad in a set, Bradley explained his loss, going on to say that Wolfkrone is a good player, but “as a person, I just don’t like him.” Wolfkrone’s response is still being felt to this day: “Who gives a f—?”
Perhaps even more comical is that there were security guards on stage just in case there was an altercation following Kbrad’s “popoff” in Wolfkrone’s face that occurred at Final Round 20 just days before. People have referred to this as the “WWE narrative” since everything was very much akin to a professional wrestling storyline to that point.
The two have gone back and forth on social media for awhile now, and sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether they actually dislike each other, or if it’s all for show. Wolfkrone’s take might surprise some people.
“There’s no ‘bad blood’,” Wolfkrone says. “If you are a gamer who runs your mouth about me, trying to belittle my accomplishments on a huge platform like Capcom Pro Talk, calling me overrated etc., I don’t care who you are. You’ll find yourself in the same situation. It’s a rivalry, so I’d say it’s just a competitive thing.”
A lot of those who say Wolfkrone is overrated tend to pull people into conversations about his character of choice, Laura. She received a lot of changes in season two that many consider unnecessary or overpowered.
“My opinion on Laura at the moment is that she’s worse than her season one iteration because she got increased hurtboxes on a lot of her important normals (simple moves without complicated inputs),” Wolfkrone says. “It feels like I am gambling because more hard reads are required since there is no more auto-timed, frame-perfect setplay. She definitely is not as advantaged as before because players can mash jab on her oki approaches (aggressive advances on characters who are getting up from a knockdown) now. I believe people are overreacting. Laura is good, but she has faults that a lot are ‘blind’ to or don’t want to acknowledge.”
All one has to do is look at recent results to see that he’s not far off base. In the last three widely-recognised premier events, there was only one Laura player who placed in the top eight, and that was Gustavo “Strider” Romero at Canada Cup back in October. That’s not to say that Laura is a weak character, but her tools obviously haven’t attracted many pro gamers, that’s for sure.
You can watch Wolfkrone compete at Red Bull Battle Grounds in Boston this weekend, 18 to 19 November.