Josh 'Sora' Lyras will be the first Australian competing in a Smash Summit tournament. (Photo: CouchWarriors/Twitter)

Josh 'Sora' Lyras is bringing everything uniquely Australian to Los Angeles for invitational Super Smash Bros Melee tournament Summit 12.

For the first time in the history of the tournament series, there’ll be an Australian playing Super Smash Bros. Melee at a Smash Summit.

Summit 12, which kicked off in the early hours of Friday morning, is the pinnacle of invitational tournaments for the Smash series.

It’s been run since the first edition in November 2015, typically once every six to eight months.

The tournament is a showcase of the best of the best going head-to-head in what is a more intimate, closed-off event. Smash tournaments are normally completely open to the public to either enter or spectate, admission fee notwithstanding.

Summit is contested between just the 16 players who qualify, are invited, or build up enough crowdfunding to get there.

Josh ‘Sora’ Lyras was the first of those crowdfunded players who earned his place, qualifying on the morning of Monday, November 29.

In the case of getting there in the first place through crowdfunding, your gameplay comes second to your campaign. If you can eat a whole, raw onion, or go 10 rounds in the ring with an open flame, it doesn’t matter how well you know the Fox/Puff match-up.

A Fox main, Lyras is currently Australia’s number one ranked Melee player.

While strictly not the first member of the Australian scene to go to Summit, with Aussie-adopted New Zealander Te Tuhi ‘Spud’ Kelly invited to Summit 8, he’s the first born-and-bred Australian.

Despite being one of the biggest names in the Australian Melee scene, even he didn’t expect the level of support and funding he received from all across the country.

“It was so amazing, honestly,” Lyras told The Inner Sanctum.

“The amount of people who sent me direct messages saying ‘I’m sending over my votes now, I hope you do well’. It took a lot of organisation too, to be honest.

“There’s something called a ‘spirit bomb’… the strategy for the voting is you save your votes in your back pocket until the last minute, and then you drop all your votes all at once.

“It’s really hard to organise that… the voting closed at 7am for Australians and 12pm for Americans, it’s a lot harder for us. But everyone was really cool.”

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The Summit voting system operates through a shop system, where prospective invitees earn votes through people buying merchandise. The more money a player can convince voters to spend, the more votes they get.

With voting set to close at 7am AEDT, but 12pm PST, the American majority Lyras was running against had the upper hand.

Keeping his cards close to his chest, he devised a strategy to ride out those final nervous hours.

“I was like ‘if you let me order the items for you, I can just have the votes on my end. So I can wake up, and you can stay in bed, but you can still support me’,” Lyras laughed.

“Everyone was so cool about that… it’s annoying to have to do it through someone else, but they understood how important it was.”

A key theme in Lyras’ campaign was showcasing a particularly Aussie style of humour. The American scene steals all our jokes anyway, he laughs.

His luggage includes a green and gold one-piece powerlifting uniform, kindly donated by friends. His grandfather makes a hilarious cameo in one of his campaign videos.

“That’s going to be our representation,” Lyras said.

“It does honestly mean a lot to me to be able to represent a region I truly care about. These guys… even though we’re not the strongest region in terms of raw gameplay and placings, I think we probably have one of the best scenes in the world in regards to the warm feeling of community.

“All the states are so connected. You can go from WA to Victoria and it doesn’t feel like you’re not among friends, it feels like you’re at home.

“New South Wales has recently had a resurgence with our last tournament, and that was one of the best tournaments I’ve ever been to, it was so amazing, just the community vibe.”

Taking on the big guns

Though he’s had the chance to take on some of the best in the world before, the group of players Lyras will come up against at Summit will be the most concentrated calibre of talent in his competitive career.

Wizzrobe, Hungrybox, SFAT, iBDW, Mango, Zain, Leffen, aMSa, Magi. Lyras will face the best Fox, Falco, Jigglypuff, Captain Falcon, Yoshi and Marth players in the world.

Before the pandemic, Lyras admits that he may not have come across as confident as he does now. He’s taken the time to work on his playing mentality, learning something out of every game and set.

Part of that has also come from his signing with esports organisation Mindfreak, who he has represented since September. They’ve supported him both financially and mentally to get to this point.

“I’ve been blessed enough to be able to get a good sponsor with Mindfreak as well who’ve been super supportive with it,” Lyras said.

“You can call me delusional, I think I am, but I think I can beat anyone.

“I don’t sit down with someone ever and think, ‘right now, I can’t do this’. Anything can happen in a set of Melee, there’s so many factors that go into it. Has the other guy slept well, is the other guy nervous, is the other scared? How am I feeling, am I nervous, am I scared?

“I feel like there’s levels in the game where once you’re this tall to ride the ride, you can beat anyone, the chances are just probably lower. I think I’m past the threshold where there’s no one in the world I can’t beat.

“It is a bit delusional, but I think it’s honestly better to go into a set thinking you can do anything, rather than already being lost, being defeatist about it. There’s no point.”

Lyras (R) playing a set against Armada (L). (Photo: CouchWarriors)

Part of heading over to Los Angeles for the biggest tournament of his life is going to be accepting the reality that be may go out in straight sets.

More important to him than ever is getting to express the love for Melee and his region as best he can.

“Losing is going to be really interesting to feel again,” Lyras said.

“I haven’t lost in over a year now. That’s going to be interesting to relive. Everything I’m saying here could be all talk, I don’t know.

“I don’t want to prove myself, I don’t really care about [that], I think a lot of people in the scene know I’m playing the game for the love of the game.

“I don’t really want to cement my legacy before I go out, like that’s [not] the whole point of this. I could lose every single set at Summit, I wouldn’t care. I could win the tournament at Summit, I would care a lot, but… the high of winning the tournament wouldn’t have an equal low of losing completely.

“The low is nowhere near as bad as it used to be when I started competing, and I had all my emotions and my heart on my sleeve.

“Now… I’m just confident that I’ve done my best to train. I’ve put in the hours every day studying as best as I can in a smaller region. If that’s not enough, that’s just not enough.”

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