We’d like to present a series of interviews featuring the team’s fighting game community. First in line is our EVO 2017 champion for Injustice 2 – the young Noble Dragon himself! Fresh off his ultimate triumph in Las Vegas last month, his quest to prove himself has yet to grind to a halt, as he was recently featured in Defend the North at New York two weeks ago and Viennality in Austria last weekend.
He has yet to hit his twenties and has been a part of the fighting game community for less than half a decade, yet he’s already accomplished a great deal as a competitor for games developed by Netherrealm Studios, starting with Mortal Kombat X where he topped off his career with victories over Echo Fox SonicFox, his long-time tournament demon. Where the pressure to succeed was once a burden that weighed a thousand tons, he now takes it in stride while continuing to excel.
This week, I took the time to get some valuable input from him regarding a vast selection of subjects, one of which covers his evolution as a competitor. Read on and we hope you enjoy!
JagoBlake: Hello, Dragon?! Good to see that you know how to #StayNoble. Care to introduce yourself?
Noble Dragon: I’m Ryan Walker AKA Dragon. I’m a competitive Injustice 2 player traveling the world and living my dream!
JagoBlake: From what we know of the history behind all of Noble esports, I believe you are their first player to achieve the title of World Champion at EVO. Congratulations for that accomplishment! Would you like to tell us what went through your mind the moment you landed the winning blow?
Noble Dragon: Thanks! It was absolutely surreal. If I’m being completely honest with you, I didn’t know what to feel. I knew that I had won but it didn’t really settle in that I actually had won EVO until the day after the tournament. It was and will probably always be the best experience of my tournament life.
JagoBlake: You’ve attended EVO 2016 and, obviously, 2017. Have you attended for more than two years?
Noble Dragon: No, my first tournament was Summer Jam 2015 so my “2 year competitive anniversary” you could say is coming up here shortly. It feels like I just started competing and it’s already been for 2 years, it’s crazy.
JagoBlake: I’m sure many are curious to know, so I will ask: how can you describe the process you undergo in order to level up?
Noble Dragon: Leveling up is a long process that everyone goes through. The way I always go about it is I try to play as many players as I can especially players who I believe I can learn from or are better than me. As long as you take away something from each set or tournament loss that helps you get better as a player then you will level up in no time.
JagoBlake: You initially started playing Injustice 2 as a Poison Ivy specialist. However, you made a gradual transition to a full-time Aquaman main. What prompted you to pick him up?
Noble Dragon: As a competitor I want a character who I not only like but a character that is top tier. Poison Ivy only fit one of those requirements for me. She was really fun but not that great, she had way too many losing matchups for me to actually play her competitively. Aquaman is a character who fits both of those categories, he was fun and top tier. So I eventually just started playing him more and more and I am happy I made the switch.
JagoBlake: You recently followed your EVO victory with a 9th place finish at Defend The North and then third at Viennality. Would you like to touch upon your experience at both events?
Noble Dragon: Defend The North is my lowest placing so far out of any Injustice 2 event. Just coming off of winning EVO I definitely was disappointed in my performance there. I knew what went wrong and what my mistakes were so I corrected them for Viennality in which I got third.
JagoBlake: You currently are Top 8 in StreamMe’s War of the Gods series. Additionally, you’re ranked at second place for the Injustice 2 Pro Series, a result aided largely by your triumph at EVO. You’re ranked high enough as it is, but do you plan to climb even higher in the standings?
Noble Dragon: Of course, I plan to keep on competing in both War of the Gods and Injustice 2 Pro Series. I am sitting comfortable in points right now for both but that doesn’t stop the grind to keep on racking up those points for better seeding.
JagoBlake: What drew you to the fighting game community in the first place?
Noble Dragon: There wasn’t really any point in time where I can look back and say “that’s when it started”. I just gradually got involved into the community. When MKX first came out I set a goal for myself that I wanted to compete and try to become the best, in doing so I got myself involved with the community and basically joined the FGC.
JagoBlake: From what we’ve seen of you, you have an understandable preference for fighting games produced by Netherrealm Studios. Do you have any plans to branch out to games developed by other companies, such as Street Fighter or Tekken?
Noble Dragon: I like watching all fighting games, street fighter, soul calibur, etc. As far as playing though my passion is with NetherRealm games. Something about them is just awesome and extremely fun to play and all my practice time will be going into them.
JagoBlake: Would you like to highlight a tournament match you’ve played that stand out to you the most?
Noble Dragon: Hands down me vs Theo. I’ve never had a tournament match in the history of me playing any set in any game be that close. I think it will go down in injustice 2 history to be one of the craziest and hypest matches ever, it will be very hard to top that.
JagoBlake: What are your thoughts on the current level of balance for Injustice 2 now that the August update has come into effect? Have the changes driven you to consider replacing Aquaman?
Noble Dragon: The balance I think is in a pretty good spot. There’s a couple of things I would change of course, one being the unblockable interactables, but overall NetherRealm seems to be on the right path. As far as Aquaman goes I think he is still good but I will most likely only play him in a few matchups that he does well in and Black Adam for the rest.
JagoBlake: The recent uprising of FGC esports has been so great, a selection of our competitions are appearing on televised networks (EVO being an example). How thrilled are you about this?
Noble Dragon: This is amazing! It’s so good for the game, the scene, the players, everything. We’re just moving up to bigger and better things and I can’t wait to see what more will happen later in the games life.
JagoBlake: Given the conditions necessary to qualify for the Injustice 2 World Championship at ELEAGUE, your current ranking in the Pro Series makes you a very likely candidate for the event. How confident are you about qualifying?
Noble Dragon: Very confident, I pretty much have solidified myself on going but of course I will keep grinding and keep pushing forward.
JagoBlake: One storyline you are recognized for is your rivalry with SonicFox. You showed an unending determination to surpass him despite losing the majority of matches to him. Then the day came when you started returning the favor. How did you feel when you overcame your demon?
Noble Dragon: Besides winning EVO it was definitely the greatest feeling. Seeing your practice of the game and studying of different players pay off is the best reward you could possibly get.
JagoBlake: Which players do you feel are the biggest threats today?
Noble Dragon: The biggest threats for me are Sonicfox, Theo, Semiij. There are of course some others that I haven’t mentioned but those are the main ones I look for.
JagoBlake: We thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Wanna give some shout-outs?!
Noble Dragon: Thank you for reaching out to me! Shout outs of course to all of my supporters who cheer for me in every tournament I go to as well as my sponsor (Noble) who helps me get to all the different tournaments and shoutouts always goes to NetherRealm for creating this amazing game that we all love.
There you have it! Thanks to Noble Dragon for taking the time to chat with me about his passion for NRS games. Want to relive Dragon’s run through the Top 8 finals at EVO 2017, up to the moment when he was crowned the champion? See the video below!