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Published January 25, 2021

On January 20, a Melee modding team called Team Akaneia released a mod of Melee that included a side event of “volleyball,” a new character in Wolf, and custom stages. Since its release, the mod has received thousands of downloads and broad acclaim from top figures in the scene and regular players alike.

For tournament news over the weekend, Slime ran a two-day event, the Commentator Invitational, with many of the Melee scene’s top commentators competing in a 16-person bracket. Lovage came out on top after a 10-game grand finals with Vish.

On Saturday, Hax$ won The Velvational over FatGoku, while MINT won Leffen’s latest LEVO event over Frenzy, and Ben won its North America bracket over Eddy Mexico.

On Sunday, Mango ran two tournaments for his subscribers: one for players in the East Coast and another for players on the West Coast. Skerzo won the EC event over Ober, while n3zModGod won the WC event over Quaff. To finish the weekend, SFAT won I Dair You over Axe.

1. The Return of European Crew Battles

As part of the European Smash scene’s attempts to run a global circuit, the people behind the SAME circuit are also running a year-long crew battle tour. Every month will feature SAME circuit events where national crew battles will happen, with the final one happening in December.

This is the most exciting crew series since The Big House was around. Best of all, because these crew battles run fairly deep, it’s very difficult to tell who will come on top by the end of the year.

By the current skill levels of the players involved, Germany seems like the clear favorite of the Group A crews. I might feel differently if the Netherlands had any number of their inactives (Zgetto, Adam nebbi, and Remen come to mind), or if France also had Makenshi. At the same time, however, Germany would become even bigger favorites if they had Ice or managed to bring out reaper.

Germany has so much talent in their crew. Nicki is well established, and Kins0 and Rikkz are easily Top 15 to 20 in Europe. Having won a large Japanese tournament last year, Kobobi is a bit on the outside. Lately, Vivi has shown promise with a win over Calle W, and 4tilt has done the same with beating Mayhem. Sixx – someone who beat HomeMadeWaffles once but hasn’t been too active – could end up an x-factor too.

Personally, my pick for the player to watch out for is Charon. In the last couple of weeks, he’s beaten Humpe, Levingy, and MINT. Given his rate of improvement over 2020, by the end of 2021, I expect him to be in contention for Europe’s best Marth.

I’m not so sure about who the favorite is within Group B. Finland has a quietly deadly top three in Solobattle, Levingy and Mayhem, but the raw power of England’s Professor Pro, Frenzy, Isdsar and Fat Tino is hard to deny. Although Norway does not have Pricent or V0ffe (or others like Oldiz and Rich), their crew is pretty well-rounded. Longtime readers of mine will also know already how highly I see Austrian players.

If I were to pick one crew out of these to win the group, I might actually go with Sweden, despite Leffen not playing. It goes for reasons beyond Pipsqueak – Johnnyfight, Humpe, and Daydee were right around or a bit under the Top 100 qualifying level when they were active and I don’t think they’re too far off now. People outside of Sweden also seriously don’t know how good people like Poppmaister600, Red, Eekim, and Gr4pe are, among the other two on the crew (Meady and Abbson). 

So, who’s my choice to win in December? Well, hopefully they won’t lose instantly and make me look foolish, I’m going to go with Germany. I think the combination of experience, up-and-comers, and characters makes for an extremely deadly opponent for any other crew.

The first series of crew battles are planned to happen this upcoming weekend at Valhalla Online. I can’t wait till they begin.

2. Can Anyone Stop Leffen at Valhalla Online?

Of course, with all the talk about crews, it’s easy to forget that there’s actually a singles tournament going on at Valhalla. To people who aren’t familiar with the European scene, it may be easy to dismiss the 214-person (so far) event as a cakewalk for Leffen, but there’s a couple things wrong with this.

First off, it ignores how much people have improved within the continent. “Beating Leffen” is an absurdly high baseline for determining if an entire region is worth following or not. Leffen would wash the vast majority of Smash regions and continents with his Sheik, so it’s not an insult to anyone in Europe that he can win tournaments with ease.

I would also mention that this event has a few players who have a chance to scare him, even if it’s only a tiny chance, assuming he plays. Let’s talk about them.

  • Pipsqueak: Before the pandemic, Pipsqueak had already gained a reputation for being stupidly good at this matchup, having won an entire event over Pricent, as well as having beaten Ice and Joyboy. A month ago, he won the European tournament at the 5 Days of Melee event, where he double eliminated Professor Pro, honestly trouncing him harder in Fox dittos than I have ever seen someone do other than Leffen. I have been a huge Pipsqueak believer, so I’m going to double down here. Even if he has not beaten Leffen yet, Pipsqueak is the field’s best chance at stopping him.

  • Professor Pro: It hasn’t looked good for Professor Pro in this head-to-head. He’s currently 1-19, and at this point, it might be likelier for Leffen to beat him with Mewtwo than it is Professor Pro to capture lightning in a bottle again. That said, one win is more than anyone else who’s active at this tournament, so he deserves to be mentioned here for still being one of the event’s best players.

  • Frenzy: Leffen has played Frenzy twice, both being 3-1 victories. In the first game of their last set, Frenzy jumped out to an early lead and looked dominant before Leffen solidly outplayed him for the rest of the set. While Frenzy recently lost a tournament to MINT and lost his last set against Pipsqueak, given the glimpses of potential that Frenzy has showed specifically vs. Leffen before, he has a nonzero chance. Were he in the United States, I truly think people in the scene would see Frenzy on the same level as Magi and Albert.

3. Monday Morning Mailbag

What are some regions that might show more results due to the connectivity Slippi provides? – TedEmpty

The first region that immediately came to mind actually wasn’t in the United States (or at least not yet). Or I should say, the first player. 

I thought of Kata, a Samus player from Puerto Rico who won a tournament over DontTestMe late last year and has multiple sets on other Top 100 players. For what it’s worth, he’s considered the No. 2 in Puerto Rico right under Excel_Zero, the longtime No. 1 and someone known for previously upsetting PewPewU at Apex 2014. I wouldn’t expect to see Excel_Zero or even someone like Lord HDL make comebacks in the Slippi era, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Puerto Rico had a lot of hidden talent.

Mexico is another region filled with nonstop solid players. In 2019, we saw the rise of Bimbo, but over the last year, Far!, Eddy Mexico and LAG have been making waves across Netplay events. I’ve especially been stunned at LAG’s improvement – this is someone who used to be borderline power ranked in his country and he’s suddenly become one of their best players. I wonder if 2021 could be the year where we see more from people like .jpg, Valdo, and Aza.

Funnily enough, within the United States, the region I would have picked is one that has continued in relative obscurity, at least relative to how good it is. I’m talking about San Diego, a city locals that would send a lot of SoCal’s active PR home before top eight.

Ask anyone who has seen Santiago, Android 0, Franz, Zack, OkamiBW, Dr. Light, Khalid, or Owl play, among so many others. This region is simultaneously terrifying, and yet so many of its players just do not give a shit about competing too seriously. I didn’t even count Gage, who would add another dimension of “borderline Top 100” or “National Arcadian favorite” caliber players that San Diego has in spades.

I think a fitting point of comparison for San Diego is Long Island, who I view as their more serious East Coast equivalent. Like Long Island, this region seems to have a new breakout player every year for everyone within it that becomes inactive. Honestly, I would not bat an eyelash if someone like kitcatski or SnooSnoo randomly broke out in 2021 and started making Top 64 at nationals. It would be in tune with the last few years giving us the rise of Aklo, Foxy Grandpa, Flinchy, 42nd, Dr Lobster, Kaeon, and Darktooth.

You might be surprised that I haven’t picked New Jersey, but as I’ve written before, this region has never made any goddamn sense to me. I don’t count breakout performances by any New Jersey player because it is the only region in the world where I think someone could go 0-2 at a local, make Top 64 at their next national, and then go 0-2 again. The reverse could also happen, where they win a stacked regional, lose in pools at a national, and then finish in top eight at a talent-filled local.

It doesn’t feel right to include them as a region that would show more results during rollback. Even when in-person events were around, so many New Jersey players would just randomly look like Top 100 players for a month before someone else from the state would take their spot.

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