12 Rounds With the Champ: Interview With Noble | Sol!

Jon “Sol” Lackey first broke into the Super Smash Bros. scene early in 2015, making waves with solid performances in his home state of Florida and quickly ascending in popularity to be nearly universally recognized as the best Little Mac player in the game. His innovative techniques and unique playstyle helped shape the character as we know it today.

These accomplishments are only made all the more impressive when one learns that Sol bumped into the Smash scene nearly by accident. Although he was previously familiar with the Smash series, he’d never been interested in the game from a competitive standpoint until Smash 4. He had little to no knowledge of what the community was like or just how strong the competition could be.

“At the time I was especially impoverished, to the point where I often couldn’t afford to eat,” he recalls. “So being a man with no common sense, I decided I wanted to spend my last $5 of food money on a tournament, thinking that the odds of me winning (or at least doing well enough to place on the money) justified the risk of me losing that money. It’s not something I’d advise other people to do, I’m not saying I should do the things I do — but I do.”

The tournament turned out to be a small local being held by no other than Melee tournament legend Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma, who was trying to boost the game’s scene early into its development. Sol recounts the tale of meeting Hungrybox for the first time:

“It’s actually pretty embarrassing, ‘cuz I didn’t know who Hungrybox was at the time, so I arrive there and I’m like:

‘Hey! Hi, is this your tournament?’

‘Uh, yeah.’

‘Cool! So, what do you do for a living?’

‘... I play Smash.’

‘Oh, neat! Maybe if I do well I’ll do that too!’

And of course, as you would in that situation, he kind of looks at me incredulously and just goes, ‘Yeah, good luck with that.’ We ended up getting along really well after that, but it’s ridiculous to think that at any point I approached him like that. ‘Oh, yeah, I’m gonna win this tournament, look at how easy it must be!’”

In all fairness to Sol, he wasn’t entirely wrong when he told Hungrybox he could play the game professionally, even if it wasn’t exactly in the way he’d imagined. Sol would go on to meet Tommy “Ryo” Janky in bracket, who at the time was gaining recognition as one of the leading forces pushing Ike’s meta. Although Sol ended up losing their set, Ryo was impressed enough by his play that he struck up a conversation.

“You should’ve seen his expression when I told him I’d only been playing for a week or two.”

Sol and Ryo would go on to become friends, and it was through Ryo’s insistence and encouragement that Sol found his passion for Smash 4. “I think it really hit me how much I’d loved the game after the tournament wrapped up at around 2:00AM, and I still accepted Ryo’s invite to go over to his house and play some more. From that point forward, I started playing from 40 to 60 hours a week.”

Although Sol has been less active as a player over the last few months, with his focus having diverted to other games along with growing his stream and his brand, he’s everything but done with Smash and remains heavily involved in the community. “I’ve always been very community-centric and focused on the interaction between people and their bonds more than the tournaments themselves. That hasn’t changed. It’s not something I think I can ever stop being invested in.”

The full contents of the interview can be found up next.

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Notsuchabadguy: What drew you towards the series as something more than just a casual hobby?

Sol: The character selection was part of it. The moment I saw the trailer for Little Mac, I knew he would be my main. I’m a passionate guy and I tend to follow what my heart tells me more than what wisdom dictates would be the best option, so as soon as I saw him I knew that was the character I wanted to master.

I trained as a boxer for a year and I’m very passionate about the sport.
Punch-Out!! was one of those games that I could never beat as a kid and I’ve always idolized underdogs and their stories. It all came together as a perfect cocktail and incentivized me to push that character inside the game.

N: What do you think about Little Mac and his place in the meta right now? Is he living up to his potential?

Sol: You know how they say loving someone is loving all of their faults? Yeah, I feel the same way about my characters. In my opinion Mac is underrated, at least by PGR standards. I don’t see him as being 45th or 46th, more like around 36th. But I like to think of myself as a realist when it comes to characters and acknowledge their flaws and their problems, and Mac certainly has a plethora of them to keep him away from top-level competition.

I’ve seen some optimistic views on his placement. J.a.p.a.n. (the player) has told me multiple times he believes Mac is literally the best character in the game, which I can’t really vouch for. The Mac community as a whole has very wide estimates for where the character ranks: Some people think he’s bottom ten, some other people think he’s top ten, which is… bizarre to me, because I don’t see it going either way.

N: Besides yourself, of course, who’s your favorite Mac player to watch?

S: I have four Macs in the running for that position: pk1ng, Vash, bt.yamado and Wonderbread. They’re all very inspiring and creative players that I’d recommend anyone interested in the character look up. They took the prototype I’d layed out for Mac and pushed his meta in very different and sometimes very interesting ways.

bt.yamado is more of an air-Mac and exceptionally creative, WonderBread is very patient and has some intensely solid fundamentals in the neutral, pk1ng is incredibly creative with his baits and Vash as a whole is probably the most aggressive top-end Mac player besides myself, which is… rare. Defensive Mac is more common, probably more optimal, but aggressive Mac is just more fun. The truest secret boss of them all however, is Ryo. Believe it or not.

N: You’ve become very well known, even outside of the Smash community, because of some outstanding feats you’ve performed in other videogames. I actually saw that you broke the world record for the Cuphead speedrun less than a day before this interview.

S: Oh, yeah, fun story about that: I broke the world record for that game — and I’d been practicing in different ways, through sections, trying not to take damage, stuff like that — but I’d never actually committed to a full speedrun.

And I broke the world record in my first attempt. Not only at that particular speedrun, but at any speedrun ever.

Obviously, I didn’t expect to do that. I so much didn’t expect it that I wasn’t even recording! I was utterly flabbergasted. Who goes into a speedrun, and thinks “Oh boy, I’m gonna get my first practice run down and beat the world record, whoopdeedoo!”

Fortunately, I managed to get on stream the next day and beat my previous record, which was great and I also thinks helps prove that I was telling the truth when I said I beat it the first time around.

N: Besides this you also completed the world’s first damageless run in Cuphead, you’re a prominent competitor in the ARMS community, and that’s all without mentioning your accomplishments in Smash — what do you think drives you to achieve so much in these games? Is it something you get for everything you do?

S: It’s mostly about passion, and I can’t dredge it up for just about anything. I consider myself a creature of whim, and the downside to that is that if I don’t have an instinctive drive for something, I have a very hard time bringing myself to care about it. But when I do have it, I’m motivated to do it at a very high level because I don’t just view it as a game, I see it as an art.

N: Going back to ARMS for a bit, where you think the game is going? Does it have life as an eSport?

S: I think the game has life in it’s own community. I haven’t been active as of late because there haven’t been any locals to attend and there haven’t been a lot of majors featuring it. So the game’s tournament life does have some problems in it’s startup, but I think the game as a whole is fantastic and has a lot of potential: It’s well designed and balanced, and has a lot going for it with it’s character, flavor, mechanics and execution — just phenomenal, all around.

The fanbase is grassroots, so it’s growing slowly, but steadily. I’m not actively looking to pursue a career through it right now, but I think it’s absolutely a possibility for the future. If you look at the names that are already prominent, like Catfight, JayNite and Resolve, they show that there is an interest and that the game does have a community. It’s just in a growing stage, and I dislike the idea that it’s dead in the water because it wasn’t Smash 4 levels of huge upon release.

N: As we mentioned before, you’re a very diversified and accomplished gamer. What would you say is your proudest achievement yet?

S: Man, that’s… hard. Not to be arrogant, but at this point I’ve done so much that it all… kind of blurs together, in a way. I learned blindfolded Punch-Out!!, I 1v5’d a team in DOTA 2, I was the best competitive player for Gen-5 Pokémon in my city back in the day, but… it’s so tough to choose.

I think one of the crowning achievements of my career was winning
ARMS saga and SDCC 2017, both of which were pretty large tournaments for ARMS and its community as a whole. ARMS saga was the first Major of any kind that I ever won, which makes it all the more meaningful to me.

Then with Mac as a whole, I think achieving the label of #1 Mac and being referred to in ZeRo’s best player video as “the father of competitive Mac”, which... I believe still stands, right? Fatherhood doesn’t shift away.

And then lately these world record runs I’ve been doing in
Cuphead, I consider them to be on par with my other accomplishments as well. You mentioned I did the world’s first damageless run, but added to that is that I also did it first regular, first in expert and first glitchless (current patch), which is only made better by the fact that to-date no one else has recorded proof of even achieving damageless, so I’m the first and thus far the only.

N: Recently, as an incentive to raise funds for the Saint Francis Homeless Shelter, you consumed a vial of pure capsaicin, which is the active component of chili peppers that we distill to create pepper spray. For reference, it has a Scoville rating of 16,000,000. Just... why? Why and did you regret it?

S: First, you’re gonna have to learn a thing about me. Pain is an old friend. I am a masochist. And I’m not saying that in a jokey or cutesy way: I enjoy pain, I’m literally a masochist. That’s the first thing you have to understand.

Second thing, to give a better sense of scale; Capsaicin is about sixteen times hotter than a ghost pepper, which I’ve also eaten. It’s three times hotter than military grade pepper spray. To say it’s the active component of spice isn’t quite right to me: It’s the raw, chemical derivative of what heat is when we taste spicy food, so it is the purest edible substance of heat. I’ve trained for this for years, do NOT do this at home. Do NOT emulate this act.

As to whether or not I regretted it, not even remotely. Actually, if you go through the video where I consume the capsaicin, there comes a point… somewhere after I threw up — because capsaicin just wrecks your insides, it’s meant to — where the pain began to translate into an emotional high. In no shortage of terms, I unintentionally got high from the pain and I actually was in a state of euphoria. All the better that it could go to a good cause and make a difference for people in need.

So, I cannot say that I regret it and in fact I’m actually doing it again soon, January 6th at 6pm EST on my twitch channel www.twitch.tv/fightsolfight.

N: What are your plans for the immediate future, in regards to your career and the content you produce?

S: A lot of people have been wondering (scarfarmy) where I’ve been in regards to the Smash scene, because I’ve been significantly less active. I haven’t quit, I haven’t stopped or anything like that. I’ve made a point to push back into it, just at my own pace. Early into 2018, I plan to live in Japan for a couple of months. I’m taking the opportunity to attend EVO Japan and participate in ARMS and Smash 4 and shake off the rust with a new community, really get back to my roots from the bottom up.

My world record was briefly clocked in at first but it has since been surpassed a few times so I may get back to it when I find the time. Right now, people are questioning if the things that I want are ultimately attainable — which is good. I like pushing those boundaries, trying to do the impossible.

I’m also looking forward to getting the new
Dragon Ball FighterZ when that comes out. Just like with Mac, I already know that I’m passionate about it. It’s being made by one of my favorite fighting game companies, ArcSys: I’ve been a Guilty Gear fan all my life (but it’s not where my name comes from, that’s a coincidence), and taking that same level of design and mechanical application and pushing it onto a brand as recognizable as the Dragon Ball IP makes me think that game is going to be huge.

N: One last question, for my fellow Smashboards writers and for the people of the community. For your fans: Sol, what did you find at the top of the mountain in Get Over It?

S: Well… I am not allowed to say. I signed an agreement, after all! I said that I wouldn’t stream it, I wouldn’t spread it and I am an honest man. But I’ll tell you what, maybe I’ll get over the mountain again, for fun.* And you know what I’ll say to the people asking that question?

Get over the mountain. Whether it be in that game, or the obstacles impeding you as a competitor, or as a person.

(A/N: *Sol has since climbed the mountain more than 50 times.)

N: Thanks Sol, we appreciate it. Anything else you’d like to say to your fans, before we wrap up?

S: Who I am has been fairly consistent through the years: I’m a challenge junkie, I’m a masochist, I’m an eccentric and a bit of an oddball. Although that might not have changed, what I have done, what I have played - has changed significantly over the course of the last couple of years, since my rise in popularity in the gaming community. A lot of my accomplishments have been made possible through the support of Noble Esports, and I am blessed to work with them every day. Please check them out at Noble.gg!

Last but not least, to my truest fans, thank you for sticking with me through everything that I do: I know that I switch very frequently between passions and whims because, again, I am a whimsical guy. Ultimately, it always comes back to the community: I’m no one without the support of the people behind me, the people that watch my stream, those that message me and keep up with me in social media, the friendly faces I see at these majors — it’s all you guys, and anything I have I owe to you.

Also, PS. TTN.

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Smashboards would like to thank Sol for his time and patience while giving us this interview. Those who wish to keep up with him can follow him on Twitter, tune into his Twitch to watch him play, or check out his Youtube channel for archived footage.

Also, tune in for his second charity stream supporting Puerto Rico’s hurricane relief fund this 6th of January, in which he’ll once again ingest a vial of full capsaicin, this time with no bread or milk to relieve him from his pain. We wish him the best of luck in his attempted survival!

Credit to @SB_K0KE for the thumbnail image. Thanks to @CSO_Yink for her help editing the article.

For more player interviews, check out my previous articles with Girthquake and Mew2Queen.
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Definitely one of the leading heads of Mac's metagame, this man is amazing.

FYI: I actually consider Mac in between the placements he mentioned: at 43rd at the very top of low tier (basically the same placement as the official list, but has moved to low tier as a result of his glaring air weaknesses). Definitely not bad, considering that ZeRo and others considers him easy bottom 10 even with Mii's included.