How Lilybunn conquered her nerves to be the best in NASB
Lilybunn's VTuber model
Screengrab provided by YouTube via Lilybunn

How Lilybunn conquered her nerves to be the best in NASB

'It was definitive proof to myself that I had done it. I had made it.'
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After a full day of working as a restaurant hostess, Lilybunn generally returns home and gets to work on one of her varied hobbies. Sometimes, she tries her hand at video game development, creating games like WizardDodgeball, her take on the platform fighter genre.

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Other times, she dons the masquerade of a pink-haired, rabbit-eared maid to stream on Twitch as a VTuber. Of course, Lilybunn may also grind Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl anywhere from four to eight hours in preparation for her next tournament win.

Over the past two months, Lilybunn has asserted her status as the best NASB player. She has won 12 consecutive online tournaments, including Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma’s stacked circuit closer, The Box Championship Circuit: Invitational Finale.

However, Lilybunn’s journey to the top of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl has required her to overcome mental setbacks and gain confidence in her own capabilities.

Longing to be the best

Lilybunn has had a knack for competitive gaming ever since she learned how to snake in Mario Kart DS as a 5-year-old. And, when she was 13, she got her first taste of the traditional tournament experience playing Super Smash Bros. for 3DS.

Since then, she has competed in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Slap City, osu! and Eternal Return. While Lilybunn claims she was above average at all of them, she never crossed the threshold to become a top player in any one game … until NASB.

When Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl was first announced, Lilybunn wasn’t interested in the game’s Smash-esque crossover potential. Instead, she considered her own potential in the latest project from Ludosity, which had developed her favorite platform fighter, Slap City.

“Honestly, I think the Nickelodeon game could’ve been any game,” Lilybunn said. “It’s not that I dislike Nickelodeon. But, when the game was first coming out, I just wanted to prove to myself that I can be a top-level player or the best player at a game if I put in enough time and effort, because I hadn’t really had any other game that I could say that about.”

Eager to get her hands on the game, Lilybunn initially downloaded Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl on her Nintendo Switch through the Australian eShop so that she could play it 12 hours early. Once the game launched in the United States, she switched to the PC version and began training with Madeline “FumbLynn” Y., a top Slap City player.

“My early matches with Lily were always close, even though I had the beta a few days before launch,” FumbLynn said. “I knew she was going to be amazing if she stuck with the game.”

Early on, Lilybunn settled on SpongeBob SquarePants as her main. It was fitting, considering she had a SpongeBob radio and a SpongeBob-themed bedroom when she was younger. Of course, that’s not really why she chose him.

“I told myself, because I wanted to be really good, I’m going to pick a top tier,” Lilybunn said. “I do have an attachment to SpongeBob but, if he was bad, I wasn’t going to pick him.”

Although she initially did well against FumbLynn, Lilybunn experienced a rude awakening when she faced another top NASB player, Jared “husky” Ferguson.

“Husky kind of beat me up on launch day,” Lilybunn said. “It was actually a huge hit at first because I was like, ‘Oh God, this is going to be hard.’ I had confidence at the very start and then it kind of died.”

Lilybunn’s bumpy road to the top

Lilybunn’s gameplay fundamentals were always solid and she quickly proved her ability to seamlessly transition between defensive and offensive play.

“I have never seen a player so capable of turning their playstyle on the spot, completely able to throw off even the most adaptive players,” FumbLynn said of Lilybunn. “Her reaction time is unmatched. If you hit her shield, you’re getting hit right back just a few frames after. When she flips the switch, she is relentless. Her pressure is intense but calculated.”

Even so, Lilybunn said her mentality was a big issue that held her back at early NASB tournaments. Although she placed well at online events from the outset, facing other top players proved to be mentally taxing for her.

“I’d stress myself out before the set even begins, and during the set, because if I lose, I’m going to be in losers and then all that practice doesn’t matter,” Lilybunn said.

She fared particularly poorly against Project M Donkey Kong turned NASB Leonardo, Xayya “ThundeRzReiGN” Thammavongsa, losing five consecutive sets in the first month of the game’s lifespan.

During that first month of competition, Lilybunn won two of the 12 online Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl tournaments she entered; a paltry number for someone aiming to be the best in the world.

“Any result that wasn’t ‘I win’ was bad,” Lilybunn said. “I still took some results as, ‘Oh, I beat this player who I didn’t before, that’s cool,’ but overall they were all bad and they were all stressing me out. You practice a lot and you put yourself out there and you want to see results, right? So, you kind of stress about the results before the results come.”

However, Lilybunn said she gained more confidence after she beat ThundeRzReiGN for the first time at In The Absence Of: Episode 3. It kickstarted the first win streak of her NASB career. Excluding events where she lost with her secondary Lucy, Lilybunn earned four straight tournament wins at In The Absence Of: Episode 3, PX Nick East #4, That’s My Slime! and Turkey Day Tussle.

But, Lilybunn’s hot streak came to an end at The Box Championship Circuit: Qualifier #1. The stakes were high at the 204-person tournament; the biggest NASB event since Hungrybox’s previous tournament just over a week after the game launched.

Lilybunn only slept about an hour the night before the qualifier and had to play after a long day at work. As a result, she finished in ninth place, marking her worst performance in over a month.

“That was probably the biggest hurdle for me mentality-wise,” Lilybunn said. “After I lost that qualifier, I was really down on myself. I was just in bed for like a day. It brought up a lot of feelings of, ‘Oh, I have all these tournament wins but, when the big one comes around, I’m going to mess it up. All those other tournament performances don’t matter because this is the big one. This is the one everyone is going to look at.’”

Prior to the qualifier, Lilybunn said she was one of the frontrunners for the title of best Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl player, alongside Aaron “Bodedee” Hansen. But Bodedee won the tournament, giving him the edge, as Lilybunn’s goal of becoming No. 1 slipped further out of her reach.

Becoming The Box champion

Although she didn’t enter the second Box Championship Circuit qualifier, Lilybunn was still invited to the circuit finale, on account of her strong performances overall. Excluding a Garfield-only bracket, she’d won the only two tournaments she had entered since the qualifier.

Even though she was seeded fourth going into the finale, Lilybunn had minimal expectations because of her poor showing at the first qualifier.

“I kind of went in with a mindset where I was like, ‘If I lose, I lose,’” Lilybunn said. “I already screwed up the qualifiers.”

On the first day of competition, she handily defeated Aaron “tafaar” Hill and Nasir “BlazingPasta” Green to advance to top eight. The next day, she nearly overslept. After repeated phone calls from some of her friends, Lilybunn woke up and groggily faced her first opponent of the day, No. 1 seed Bodedee.

As she pushed past her sleepiness, Lilybunn found she was able to focus on the game in a way she hadn’t before. For the first time, she said, she didn’t feel nervous even while playing another top player in a high-stakes tournament setting.

“I didn’t really think much about the implications of the set during the set,” Lilybunn said. “I was just kind of vibing.”

Without pressure or expectations, Lilybunn eked out a Game 5 victory over Bodedee. She maintained her calm and focused mentality as she double-eliminated husky in order to win The Box Championship Circuit: Invitational Finale.

Winning that tournament really meant a lot,” Lilybunn said. “It was definitive proof to myself that I had done it. I had made it.”

Lilybunn is undefeated in NASB

Since then, Lilybunn has not lost a single Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl tournament, even though she’s tried out secondary characters like Oblina, Leonardo and Lincoln Loud. In that time, Chris “Musky_EXE” Pelton is the only player to have beaten her more than once. Nevertheless, Lilybunn still boasts a convincing 9-3 lifetime record against him.

“Her consistency and ability to not drop anything makes it really hard to win against her,” Musky_EXE said.

Lilybunn stated that the nerves that plagued her at prior tournaments have since become a non-issue. As it turns out, that disappointing qualifier performance was the final hurdle she had to clear before she was able to shift her mindset and begin dominating the NASB scene.

“Shoutouts to the qualifier that screwed my mentality over,” Lilybunn said. “I resolved to put less pressure on myself and, recently, I haven’t had any issues with nerves, which is why I think I’m winning a lot. Getting into that mindset where actually playing in the tournaments isn’t about my results, while I’m inside of the tournament, has helped me a lot.”

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Dylan Tate
Dylan Tate is an alumnus of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a gaming journalist with a love for Nintendo esports, particularly Super Smash Bros. and Pokémon.