Q&A: Mike Haze on EVO, handling losses and his rapping hobby

Michael “Mike Haze” Pulido is a veteran smasher, playing Brawl and Melee since 2008. With Brawl out of the picture, Mike has spent his time in SoCal training his Fox in Melee, taking out names like The Moon, Plup, ChuDat and Chillindude, eventually leading him to being ranked 40th on the Melee It On Me Top 100 list. Mike is also known for his popular Twitch stream, YouTube channel and the ability to rap from time to time.

Slingshot’s Dylan “C.C.” Cooke was able to catch up with Mike at EVO 2016 to talk about EVO, handling losses and the state of Melee.

Dylan “C.C.” Cooke: For a player of your skill, do you prep for pools at majors in any way?

Michael “Mike Haze” Pulido: Pools are always tough, but with the lack of rigorous seeding from EVO it definitely made them a lot scarier. Players are always improving, so you definitely have to ensure you’re playing your best even in early rounds of pools. I don’t do anything special to prepare for pools; I just make sure I feel comfortable with all aspects of my play and mentality. I feel like if I’m playing well there’s not much that can stop me. Prepping for pools will consist of just working on rudimentary tech and making sure I’m thinking clearly.

DC: Did the best-of-three format change your mentality at all before the tournament?

MP: The best-of-three format did make me think about my counter picks and comfortability on stages a lot more. I spent a lot of time playing on my weaker stages vs. Marth, as I feel he has better stage choices in a best-of-three. I spent a few hours on Sunday morning practicing against Marth on Yoshi’s and Fountain to ensure I was comfortable.

DC: How did you feel about your Round 2 pools having to fight three notable SoCal players despite being from SoCal yourself?

MP: It felt pretty bad. The best part about nationals is playing against new styles and new players and I unfortunately did not get that opportunity. It was especially disheartening since I had just played CDK the week prior at SSS where he beat me 3-1. Needless to say I did my homework (especially since I know he was in my Round 2 pool) and won the set.

DC: Can you tell me about your emotions and thoughts about your game with Colbol in top 32?

MP: Playing Colbol was a flurry of emotions. I was up 2-0 in sets going into my match with Colbol, and those two were pretty one sided. I went in overconfident and I feel that was my downfall. The pressure of the match got to me pretty early on in Game 1, and despite clutching it his gameplay continued to improve throughout the set while I wasn’t able to clean up. I’ve been working on mentality for the past few months and it has definitely improved my overall gameplay. I’ll continue to take the necessary steps to make myself more comfortable at nationals.

DC: How do you handle your losses? What kind of motivation does it give you?

MP: Losing is never easy. I won’t say I am never disappointed with my play or losses, but I never dwell on them. After every loss I take time to try and understand why I lost and take mental note of crucial errors or adaptations I could have made. After every event I go home and analyze my matches to see what I could have done differently. You grow from your losses as much as you grow from your wins.

DC: With EVO now over, what were some of your favorite moments?

MP: Grand finals was probably my favorite moment. I was rooting for Mango the entire tournament so it’s unfortunate he lost, but that doesn’t change the fact that grand finals was very well played. Both Armada and Hungrybox had excellent adaptations and impressive play throughout both sets.

DC: Do you have any future goals for competitive Melee?

MP: I try not to set objective goals too often as it makes me set expectations for myself which I generally don’t work well with. My only goal is to play my best at tournaments and work my hardest when training.

DC: You’re quite known for the work you do outside of Melee, can you tell us a bit about that?

MP: Outside of competing I have a few other hobbies, my main ones currently being streaming and rapping. Streaming goes hand in hand with my goal of becoming the best as Smash takes a lot of work outside of tournaments to become good and to stay consistent. I’ve started full time streaming again and it’s already been a blast. Rap has been something I’ve been doing on the side for a few years now too and it’s something I want to take more seriously as time progresses. I’ve found opportunities to combine both of my passions with Smash raps and on stream freestyles so that’s been a blessing. Who knows, maybe I’ll drop my EP in the upcoming months.

DC: As always thanks for talking with me. Do you have anything for the people at home?

MP: I just want to say thank you to every person who roots for me and believes I can continue to improve. It’s truly motivational knowing people believe in me and it makes this journey easier when I have support.

Cover photo: facebook.com/dunacat/, used with permission.

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