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Published March 20, 2018

This is part of a new series that I’m trying to do, as a tribute to standard “Monday Morning Quarterback” columns in traditional sports. In this series, I discuss my quick takeaways from the last week of the smash community. I’m not sure how often I’ll be doing these, or whether these will necessarily be as well-received as my history pieces, but I figured I’d give something a shot. Let me know if you like these! Picture credit: 2GG’s Twitter. Will take down, if privately requested!

Yesterday was the worst and best tournament ever in The Mango. Featuring several SSBMRank players, the 457-entrant major quickly turned from feeling like a hype sub-major into a mix between a Pat’s House 3-type major and a SoCal Foundry.

Hidden beneath sandbagged performances from Leffen, Mango and Shroomed came a surprisingly compelling event. So, what did we learn from the last big tournament before Melee’s spring season?

1. Redemption For Its Top Two

Cruising into top 16 without any concern, Swedish Delight solidly beat Westballz and Squid 3-1, swept ARMY, beat Syrox 3-1 and swept Kalamazhu en route to winning The Mango. None of these set victories are too surprising for his skill level, but consider how underwhelming his placings were for the first quarter of 2018, with individual losses to Abate, Jerry, Bananas, among others.

These aren’t bad players, but for someone who finished at No. 16 for 2017 SSBMRank, the losses certainly reflect a rough patch. Winning The Mango could lift the longtime Tristate Sheik back to the level he looked before, even if we knew he was certainly capable of beating those in his bracket.

If Swedish showed a nice return to form, so too did Kalamazhu, who finished just under him.  Kalamazhu is a respectable player, having been ranked No. 70 last year in SSBMRank, but prior to The Mango, the longtime “Midwest Buster” and current NorCal Peach hadn’t come close in years to a performance like his ninth-place breakout at The Big House 4.

That changed yesterday. Losing only to Syrox and Swedish Delight, Kalamazhu beat Mango, OkamiBW, Fiction, SFAT and Syrox at The Mango. The circumstances around the event’s Foundry-esque atmosphere might paint Kalamazhu’s success in a different light, but outside of a drunk Mango, his opponents looked like they were trying. His second place also comes as a pleasant surprise, given that he just finished 97th at Genesis 5.

2. Stop Freaking Out Over In-Region Losses

Even if you discount the presence of alcohol and the casual vibe at The Mango, people typically put way too much stock into top player “losses” to high-level competitors from their region. You’d be hard pressed to say that losing to ARMY, Fiction or Westballz mark unacceptable losses for S2J and Lucky, given how positive their career records are against the overall field, which includes those they lost against at the event. The same goes for HugS, who finished outside of top eight.

When you play a certain kind of opponent enough times, chances are that they’ll take sets every now and then. HugS losing to MegaXmas doesn’t mean he’s dropping off as much as it might show that MegaXmas is improving. One set result doesn’t change the underlying assumption that if HugS plays him ten times, he’ll still win the majority of sets.

More than individual losses, what becomes more problematic are negative trends.

3. The Curious Case of SFAT and the Spotlight

SFAT had the perfect metaphorical hand to win this tournament. Mango and Leffen were his biggest roadblocks to victory, but played their secondaries, leaving SFAT as the clear favorite to win The Mango. Instead, he finished only fourth, losing to Syrox and Kalamazhu.

This isn’t the first time that SFAT has failed to win a major tournament as the top seed. Though he won Battle GateWay 19 over aMSa in Japan, he finished second at the Holiday Bash Smash Invitational, fifth at Pat’s House 3 and second at Super Famicon 2017.

Conversely in his favor, SFAT remains currently the best active player in SoCal and boasts a history of dominating the top level of competition in NorCal. Moreover, he did win Smash Factor 6 and GENESIS: Red last year. But since last fall, SFAT hasn’t been as successful at regionals he’s supposed to be winning, even though his individual head to head remains strong against the field.

By the eye test, he doesn’t have an defining characteristic like the other players in his skill group. For example, Wizzrobe has a reputation for tech chasing, while Axe overwhelms his opponents with speed and precise edgeguarding.

In comparison, SFAT’s base gameplan is built around stage control, positioning and smart decision making. This gives him a good set of fundamentals that keep him consistent against significantly worse players, but it won’t be enough to push him into the top tier of play, where those strengths don’t carry the same weight.

If you gave aMSa or Crush his top seeded brackets over the last six or seven months, would they do better or worse? The fact that I’m asking this question shows that though SFAT remains an elite player, he’s looking far closer to No. 9 or 10 than he does to those above him.

4. Other Quick Musings

What I like:

  • Zain against Fox and Falco.
  • Those incredible Syrox vs. Kalamazhu sets.
  • Westballz beating Leffen’s Marth in a set where heading into it, I felt lowkey scared that Leffen was going to pull out the Mewtwo and win.

What I didn’t like:

  • Drunk Vish’s commentary.
  • Toph ragging on the all-time Top 100 list at The Mango, despite admittedly not reading the articles.
  • The below:

I understand having a “non-esports” atmosphere, but really? The humor in that kind of statement literally comes from the shock value of a swear word. Come on, commentators – don’t resort to edgy, sophomoric tactics for entertainment.

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