D'Ron "D1" Maingrette on Casting with Prog, Working with Other Casters, and What Nintendo Can Do to Help Smash

Super Smash Bros. has left a footprint in the gaming industry. From casual to hardcore players, there is no exception when it comes to Smash. A veteran caster who has been involved in the professional Smash scene, D'Ron "D1" Maingrette, stuck with the scene in its ups and downs.

D1 spoke with Inven Global after his IGEC panel to talk about his thoughts on Smash, casting with Prog, and thoughts on the future of Smash.

Photo by Robert Paul



What's Currently Smashin'

First of all, there was a recent event called Smash'N'Splash that just passed. Wizzrobe won Melee Singles over Team Liquid's Hungrybox in the grand finals. What's your opinion on Wizzrobe?

My opinion about Wizzrobe the player is that he's a child to people who do not know him may seem introverted. Because of that, if a person is introverted, they have literally nothing to go off of. It leaves you to your own thoughts — whatever you may think based on his appearance.

The moment you see that guy pick up a controller and he starts playing Smash, regardless of what Smash game it is — I saw him play Brawl and 64, he could get Top 8 if he wanted to. At Smash'N'Splash, he broke the Falcon curse — it was a curse that in order for Falcon to win a super major — he has to beat 3 gods in a tournament. Wizzy is totally capable of doing that.

He took down many legendary players in Super Smash Bros. in a meta where so many people were convinced that if you're not top tier, you're probably not going to win. There are even people from outside of Melee that doubted the game and Wizzrobe showed them why people still play the game. He's one of those talented people who doesn't care about the trends. Instead, he carves his own path. He's strong-minded.

Not only did he do amazing in Melee, even when he entered in Ultimate, but he also beat one of the best players, TSM's Tweek. When I saw that, I flipped. Wizzrobe is wicked. Then he managed to get Top 8 in both Melee and Ultimate in the same event.

It's beautiful to see how talented this guy is at such a young age. He's self-motivated. In this day in age with social media, you have many people who constantly get swayed by negative thoughts. They'll play a game and see popular players say something negative and agree. For Wizzrobe, he doesn't take part in these conversations. He grinds, does his homework, and wins.

Knowing your thought process behind Smash as a whole, what are your thoughts on the current state of the scene overall?

As far as Melee is concerned, it is self-sufficient. It's not the first time that any company or tournament has dropped the game from its roster. It continues to live on, no matter what. The love the community has for Melee will keep the game going. We have propped up so many events on our own.

When you think of Smash Bros., it reminds me of LL Cool J with his FUBU brand — For Us By Us. At the end of the day, our community members create our own homegrown brand, then market it to people within the community. If non-endemics want to join, totally fine, we're always open. As far as EVO is concerned, it's cool if they're not at EVO, they're not crying.

The cool thing about Melee to Ultimate gap is that it's way closer than it was with Brawl and Melee or Smash 4 and Melee. When it comes to Ultimate, there's a lot of people now who are streaming and entering these games. You see Leffen, Armada, Plup, and Mang0 entering.

Photo by Robert Paul

As far as Melee in concerned, the book is never closed. There's still more work that needs to be done. As old as the game is, people are still finding a way to make characters that you don't think should be winning a tournament are starting to win. Back then, Yoshi was a character that a lot of people thought was crap. What happens? A lot of people keep practicing and make these characters amazing.

As long as the community continue to do what they do and support itself, it will still be alive.

As far as Ultimate is concerned, I think coming off of Super Smash 4 for Wii U, a lot of the people came into it. They were new to the idea of how to grow and maintain a competitive scene for that game. Thankfully, we had a lot of people like myself and others from the Melee scene that taught them how to make ranking systems and what not to do. Because of this, the same leaders we had from Smash 4 are in a way better position in Ultimate. That led to Ultimate having a great start. I'm happy for the future ahead.

You're a veteran of the Smash scene for a long time. Can you recall any of your favorite moments whether it is your career or the pro scene?

The best moment for me in my career was when I got the opportunity to cast a Smash Bros event with Nintendo at E3 2014. One of the reasons for that was because this was around the time where we kept thinking Nintendo will never look in our direction. To have the opportunity to finally be able to do that, it opened so many doors for me. The same year of that happening, Twitch noticed me and led to getting me hired in 2015.  

I'm happy that long-time members of the community are finally getting their opportunity to represent us instead of the wrong people who probably try to talk on our behalf and don't know what they're talking about. We have a louder voice now and it won't be ignored.

From Prog and Beyond

Before all that happened, I remember you had a regular casting partner, Prog. How was your relationship with him during your casting days together? Do you still talk to him now?

Prog is a person who I would say is an acquaintance of mine that I've met through Smash. We weren't like the closest of friends or anything in the beginning, but the thing is that the arcade culture that Alex Valle was talking about. Everyone just shows respect to anybody that shows up.

When I got a chance to finally see him at more events, he would bring his laptop and record the matches. We would also use that same laptop to run the tournaments — that's how grassroots we were.

Me and him being good friends in NYC, led to having good chemistry on the microphone. Thanks to him, we became a solid duo that many would regard as a legendary duo when it comes to Smash. I find it an honor to be called that.

I remember when he retired, it hurt a lot. I wanted to hone my abilities as a commentator and always felt like it would be great to keep working beside him — making Smash grow. The way it is when it comes to social media, even if people love what you do, the vocal minority can get to one sometimes, and it got to him. It lost his passion to keep commentating since he felt people weren't appreciative of the time he's invested into the scene. All casters deal with that and it is tough.

Even though he deactivated his Twitter, his Facebook and Instagram are still there. I contact him through there. If I see a random story on Facebook or Instagram, I'll comment and check up on him. As far as commentating goes, that book is closed for him. But, the adoration for Smash and fighting games still persists for Prog.

I want to talk about that transition when Prog stepped away to the scene and you're casting without him. How hard was it for you to transition from Prog to other people? What did you learn from it?

The moment I saw Prog step away from the mic, I'm going to have to become the most malleable — the person who can adapt to all of his co-caster's styles. I told myself to not be rigid, be more flexible if need be. At the end of the day, I felt like it made me a stronger commentator whether it is play-by-play or color commentating.

The more events that I went to, the more I realize what I didn't do when I used to work with Prog. For example, Prog loved to do intros and sometimes outros too. When he stepped away, I had to take more of a leadership role as a commentator since the people I worked with were not as experienced. It made me stronger. I also started casting different games like Soul Caliber, Pokken, and ARMS.

Photo by Robert Paul

Was there anyone who helped you become a better caster?

I feel like if there was one person I would give props to, it would be Wife. There was a point in time where I would be commentating matches. During casts, he would hit me up and give me constructive feedback. We have a nice community of casters that look out for each other. There are numerous groups that I'm in where if we go live, they would give feedback like talking over your co-caster too much, loosen up, and things like that. Overall, there are even times when I would see good constructive critiques from fans in Reddit and social media in general.

Are there other casters that you would love to work with whether it is in Smash, other fighting games, or even other esports?

Knowing how people are big fans of me when I go crazy on the mic, I would say the dream pairing would be me and Yipes. The reason for that is that Yipes is one of the ultimate hypebeasts — not like clothing, but a hype monster! When he's on the microphone, he commands your attention. It's hard to ignore when he's on the microphone. That's one of the things I love about Yipes — it's always an energetic and charismatic experience. If there's ever a time where we can end up commentating the same game, I will seek him out to make that happen.

Photo by Robert Paul

Ways that Nintendo Can Help

What are your thoughts on the future of Smash esports? What can Nintendo do to help grow the scene even bigger?

For all of us who've been in the scene for a long time is to understand the importance of trying to pass down whatever knowledge and experiences we've had to the younger generation. That's one of the best ways to preserve our community to just pass that knowledge on so that everyone else who wants to get into does not feel discouraged.

As far as Nintendo is concerned, the dream for me would be if Nintendo would be able to do something similar to a Capcom Pro Tour. Right now, what they are doing, is hosting their own events with items and wacky rule sets. While they do this, they're trying to tap into a market of people that may not necessarily look at tournament broadcasts, but more casual play. If this somehow works out and brings more people into the scene, then so be it.

I would really like to see Nintendo sit down with community members, tell us they have a budget and tell us that they want to work with these premier events in the Smash community — help support them. Strike a deal!

Photo by Robert Paul

Thanks for the interview. Is there anything you want to say to all the Smash fans?

Not get discouraged. Continue to play the game because it's awesome. Spread the word to get more people into it. Come out if you never did. Actually, get that in-person experience. A lot of times when it comes to conventional esports, people always have that barrier. Like whenever they go to an event, they could never get a chance to shake the hands or see their favorite players. It's way more accessible to see pro players in Smash because they play amongst the crowd at events. Once you do, please spread the word to everybody else.

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