Every fighting game has eras that are dominated by particular players, individuals who consistently dominate that game’s competitive scene at every tournament for a protracted length of time. And Street Fighter V has been living in the iDom era since 2019. Derek “iDom” Ruffin, as his moniker suggests, is accustomed to winning, as seen by the ten first-place finishes he earned when fighting in SFV last year and the two most amazing bouts the game has ever witnessed during his run in Evo 2022.
While he’s been a force in SFV since entering the game in 2017, iDom’s blazed a trail through the competitive scene in 2019—ending it with a Capcom Cup title. Now, after more than three years of delays, he will defend that championship in Hollywood when Capcom Cup IX runs from Feb. 14 to 19.
Not only will this be the biggest Street Fighter tournament in years, but it will also be the last true Major for SFV ahead of Street Fighter 6 launching in June. While preparing for the competition, iDom spoke to Dot Esports about defending his belt, SFV’s legacy, and early impressions of SF6 from a competitive perspective.
How excited are you to finally return to Capcom Cup? You are technically defending your title since you won the last in-person Capcom Cup in 2019, but in general, how does it feel knowing you will soon be fighting for that title again in front of a crowd at such a unique event?
iDom: It’s always fun to play in front of a lot of people at events like Capcom Cup. The last big event I went to was Evo , and the energy in that crowd was just so huge.
Capcom Cup and Evo are kind of the two big ones when it comes to Street Fighter, so it’s always nice to play in front of those crowds and I’m excited to play against the strongest players in the world. This one is kind of different since it was a Regional based system instead of just a lot of Japanese, American, or European players. And a lot more regions means a lot more diversity for the players and the gameplay.
Capcom Cup will essentially be the last of the true Street Fighter V Majors, outside of Evo Japan, since the game is in its tail end ahead of Street Fighter 6’s launch in June. How important is it for you to kind of end SFV with that title and say “the game is going down, but I am going down at the top?”
I feel like I have had a really good end of Street Fighter V. I’ve been playing really good towards the end of the game so I want to show off my skills.
I want to show that I’m still one of the best Street Fighter V players out there and then really carry that momentum from my play into Street Fighter 6 because, when a new game comes out, I’m a very slow learner. I definitely feel like I get better the longer a game has been out.
How have preparations for Capcom Cup been for you? After Evo, FGC Majors tend to dry up a bit in terms of offline events, so how has it been preparing for such a big tournament with only online and smaller offline events to help you ramp up?
I honestly feel like my preparation has been good. There’s a lot of strong players in the northeast area, a whole bunch of great Ed, Luke, Ibuki, and Cody players. So I feel like I’m in tip-top shape because all of the players around me are really strong and some play those strong characters.
You’re only as good as the players you play. So I’m feeling great, to be honest.
You mentioned characters there. Since this will be the final peak for SFV in terms of tournament play, what characters are you the most excited to see and the least excited to play against at Capcom Cup?
Obviously the least excited is probably Luke. You know, because he is crazy strong right now and kind of a terror with how many good players use him. I’m most excited to see the players who are known for playing unique characters like Ed, [and] we have a lot of Ken players, so I’m excited to see how they do against the Luke army.
Jumping into SF6 impressions, you’ve had the chance to play the game quite a bit thanks to the online beta tests after getting your first taste at Evo’s demo stations last August against LI Joe. Just from your time on the sticks, how have your opinions on the game changed with more play time?
I just want to put this on the record, I still want my run back against LI Joe. We played when I had no idea how to play the game and that was my first time playing. So I want that run back, but the game is pretty fun overall.
With the betas, I have a way better understanding of the game than I did at Evo so I think it is shaping up to be really, really nice. It’s like a different pace than Street Fighter V and all of the other Street Fighter games. I’m really excited to see how players react to the game and how they’re going to shape up strategies once it is out.
Does anything mechanically stick out to you as the most interesting when it comes to the battle system and movement options?
I like a lot of things they are doing with the movement and I think that will be super important at the core of the gameplay. I think Drive Rush is sick and Drive Break is cool. The only thing I am a bit concerned about is Drive Impact, but you know, maybe as the game gets more fleshed out and people understand it better, those concerns will go away.
Even from what I’ve seen online and from Capcom running a few of those tournaments when the beta was up, it looks like players are going to have a pretty great understanding of what to do with those new mechanics.
How ready are you to get that fresh, fighting game launch feeling with a new Street Fighter game again? Most players say the first few months with a game are the best because people spend the time playing and learning together with everyone else, so how excited are you for that to happen with SF6?
I’m pretty excited. I know a lot of people view that as a honeymoon phase where everyone’s super excited and no one knows what’s going on. So it’s really hype and you get to see stuff you have never seen before basically every day because the game is still new.
I’ve always been excited for new stuff, but I do think games are at their peak when everyone knows what they’re doing, like when a game is fully fleshed out.
Even at the end of Street Fighter V’s lifespan right now, obviously a lot of players are playing Luke and have strategies locked in already, but I think that’s pretty hype to see. Everyone’s already using the best stuff and knows how to optimize those strategies and combos because the game is so old I guess.
With this being the sunset for SFV, what are you going to miss most about the game?
To be honest, and I know everyone’s probably gonna hate me for saying this, but I’m gonna actually miss V-Trigger. I think V-Trigger was a good mechanic. It was pretty fun and you actually diversify your playstyle around it.
Guilty Gear Strive showed just how much online improvements could impact things like online tournaments and practicing with other players from different regions. How do you think the improved online performance and matchmaking for SF6 will help the competitive scene?
I’m so excited for this. I like a lot of the online tournaments and I play Strive, so I know a lot of the online capabilities of the game are really good. I can play basically any region in the U.S. and even further without dealing with too many issues.
I do think online is great for the competitive community, but I also think people should still come out to their locals and go to offline events. I do think there is a passion there that just can’t be matched online, but it is obviously a good thing to have good netcode and stuff like that.
Over the last three or so years, a lot of fighting game players have essentially entered the scene by playing entirely online due to COVID and other factors, so they might be preparing to enter their first offline event with SF6. What kind of advice would you give to those players who might enjoy a game but are a little nervous about going to even something like a local?
My advice would be to just do it. I remember in 2012 when I went to my first local for Marvel vs. Capcom 3, I had a great time because I got to sit down and play a lot of casuals with strong players while we were just hanging out. It really helps you improve and get better at the game.
Whether you are looking to improve and get better or you just want to make friends and stuff, going to locals is way better than just doing it online. Playing online and making friends there is great, but meeting them in person is still way better.
How do you feel playing other fighting games like Marvel vs. Capom or Guilty Gear Strive will help you in adapting to SF6? A lot of pros are talking about how different the game is and how hard it might be for some players to grasp these new or returning concepts.
I always feel like the more fighting games you’ve played throughout your life, the bigger of an advantage you have over people who have just focused on one game or series because you can see things from multiple perspectives.
As a Street Fighter player, you can look at something in a certain way that is different from a Granblue or Guilty Gear player, or whatever it might be. For myself, I think I have a pretty good outlook and am optimistic about the different views I bring to how to play any game.
On the content side of things, how excited are you for all of the weird modes and single player stuff SF6 will bring to the table?
There’s a lot of content I want to do when it comes to the game with all of the weird mini-games like that one where they whack the barrel back at each other and the competitive content for tournaments is going to be great. SF6 is just one big avenue because there are so many new characters and things to show off to people. Something like a fresh start.
Would you enter a tournament based around all of those mini-games? You know Jebailey and some of the other tournament organizers are going to have them as side events at their Majors.
If they do tournaments for stuff like that basketball or barrel mini-game, I mean, I’m all for it. I’ll enter because I just like seeing stuff like that.
There are so many fighting games coming out or getting updates this year, with Granblue getting a new iteration with rollback, SF6 coming out, and Strive still releasing new characters. Do you think you’re still going to be able to juggle your core games alongside these new ones you want to try?
Yeah, I’m pretty sure I can juggle all of the games I want to try because I am excited for them and have been doing something similar already.
I can’t wait for SF6 and I really do like Guilty Gear Strive, and Marvel 3 is the first game I really started playing at that high level. I’m also excited for Granblue [Fantasy Versus: Rising] and then there are games like Diablo 4 coming out too. You know I gotta get on Diablo 4 but man, I didn’t realize they put that game on the same weekend as Street Fighter.
I’ve got a lot of grinding to do. I gotta find a way to make time to play all these games coming up.