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Enrique “Maister” Hernández Solís found the inspiration that kickstarted his esports career in 2014 while watching a movie on Nickelodeon. In “Best Player,” “iCarly” stars Jerry Trainor and Jennette McCurdy portray “cyber athletes” competing for a $175,000 prize in a fictional video game called Black Hole.
Black Hole is a space-based amalgamation of the battle royale and fighting game genres, with a mix of hand-to-hand combat and long-range weapons usage. The competitors ostensibly controlled their in-game characters using motion control technology, although the animated video game sequences depicted characters performing complex actions any active gamer would recognize as unrealistic.
And yet, the unbelievable esport presented in “Best Player” got a 14-year-old Maister thinking about the real world.
“I was like, ‘Hmmm. Is that a thing?’” Maister said. “‘Do they have that for Smash?’ So I just Googled ‘Smash tournaments in Mexico.’ I found one and I just went to it.”
Seven years later, Maister has yet to find a prize pool even close to that of the fictitious Black Hole tournament that first inspired him. However, he has become one of the best Super Smash Bros. Ultimate players in the world.
Spurred on by supportive countrymen like Leonardo “MkLeo” Lopez Perez, along with his love for the game, Maister has developed a composed mindset that helps him remain consistent in a volatile esport.
“If I lose, it’s okay,” Maister said. “If I win, it’s okay.”
For (tournament) glory
Early on in his gaming career, Maister excelled at Super Smash Bros for the Wii U’s (Smash 4) competitive online mode, For Glory. While he already thought well of himself because of his high online win rate, it took some time for Maister to achieve tournament results befitting a top player. But, along the way, he received encouragement from MkLeo, who by then was on his way to becoming the best, active Smash 4 player in the world.
“Leo inspired me,” Maister said. “He kept motivating me to compete. He was always there to keep telling me, ‘Yo, you’ve got the potential. Just don’t give up.’”
Maister’s breakout came at the Mexican Ultimate major Smash Factor 8. He placed third, beating the likes of William “Glutonny” Belaid and Yuta “Abadango” Kawamura while only dropping sets to MkLeo.
“Smash Factor was where I could demonstrate that I could beat almost anyone,” Maister said.
Soon after, Maister finished as No. 6 in the world on the Fall 2019 PGRU, giving him the highest debut of any previously unranked player. Since then, he has joined Spacestation Gaming’s esports roster and placed in the top 24 of every tournament he has entered.
— Spacestation Gaming (@Spacestation) February 19, 2020
A break from online (education)
Maister said he’s had little trouble balancing school and competition, whether as a middle schooler at the beginning of his career or, more recently, as an international business student at Anahuac University, in Mexico. It helped that he was previously sponsored by Anahuac Esports, his college’s competitive gaming division, which allowed him some flexibility in his school schedule.
“The cool thing about my college is that they do support me a lot, so if I ever have to do a test earlier, they can let me do that,” Maister said. “If I have to do a project, I can deliver it earlier as well. It’s just a matter of balancing my time.”
Maister spent four semesters at Anahuac University before the COVID-19 pandemic forced classes online. Since he had previously failed the only two online classes he had taken, he opted to take a break from his education until classes could return to an in-person format. When he does return, he said he intends to switch to the university’s marketing program.
In the meantime, Maister has been streaming and consistently putting up high-level performances at post-quarantine Smash majors. Since June, he has not placed lower than ninth at any tournament.
Why do you compete in Smash? I’ve always wondered the reason behind it for many. A lot have told me they don’t want to accomplish anything, some say they wanna be the best, others say they hate the game but then you see them at every weekly lol.
So, why do you compete? ☺️
— SSG Maister (@Maister_SSB) October 28, 2021
Heading into the Smash major Mainstage 2021, Maister said he hopes to place in the top two, matching his peak second-place finishes at Frostbite 2020 and the SWT Central America Ultimate Regional Finals. Of course, Maister shared that his ultimate goal is to win a major for the first time.
However, one obstacle has prevented him from breaking through to first place: MkLeo. Though Maister has taken sets from just about every other top player, MkLeo boasts a commanding 13-0 offline record against him. According to Maister, MkLeo sometimes feels like he’s simply a step above the rest of the competition.
“Everyone else I play, they all feel doable,” Maister said. “I feel like if I play correctly I can win. But Leo, he feels doable sometimes. Then, he feels like I cannot beat him. Then, he feels like I can beat him again.”
Nevertheless, Maister isn’t banking on an easy bracket to carry him to his first major victory. If first place requires beating MkLeo, then that’s the hurdle Maister is willing to jump to get there.
“I don’t have to be like, ‘Hopefully I don’t run into Leo. Hopefully I don’t run into Mexican players,’ because I feel like that’s not a champion’s mentality,” Maister said.
Avatar State: Activated pic.twitter.com/txJLUeoAsE
— GORMOTTI (@yasuchu__) January 27, 2020
Maister also hopes to improve his brand outside of the game. In the past, he has faced derision due to his playstyle and has been the butt of jokes on Twitter, where he has his biggest following. He said that if more people could interact with him personally, he’d find broader support from the Smash community.
“Before, my goal was to be a top player, PGR,” Maister said. “I already did that. Now, I’ve got to focus on what’s next after that. I want to keep improving both in the game and in myself. If more people can meet me in tournaments and see who I really am, I feel like that’s what matters right now.”
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.