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Published April 29, 2019

At long last, Zain ended Hungrybox’s streak of consecutive tournament victories at the Florida regional Come to Papa 3, where he double eliminated the world No. 1 3-2, 3-1 to win the event. The Sunday results marked the first time since Shine 2018 that Hungrybox finished in less than first place, coincidentally another tournament where Zain double eliminated him. Currently, the two are nearly even in their last ten sets, with Hungrybox holding a slight 6-4 lead.

In other tournament news, Trif finished in first place the United Kingdom’s Regen 2019, splitting sets with Professor Pro. Meanwhile, Hax won Connecticut’s Giga HoG: Reloaded, and over in Arizona, Axe took home the gold at Infinite Melee: Endgame.


1. Storytime with Edwin: Fight Pitt IV

Since announcing the countdown to my upcoming Melee history book, “The Book of Melee,” I’ve been rewatching a ton of older sets, both ones I remember watching live and from before I joined the scene. In particular, what struck me is the simultaneously casual and high-stakes nature of many world class matches. This one didn’t end up making my list, but I wanted to talk about it anyway:

Picture Mew2King and Mango competing at a regional tournament. They’re in the middle of set three, with set two immediately played after winner’s finals because Duck forfeited loser’s finals in order to speed up the tournament schedule. More importantly, however, the venue looks completely empty. From a spectator’s standpoint, the only smashers in it right now are Mango, Mew2King, the two commentators (Husband and Wife), and the streaming group (VGBootCamp). It’s a surreal sight, seeing two of Melee’s all-time greatest players duking it out with seemingly no one behind them.

Here’s the catch: security is waiting outside the venue for the two to finish. The event has gone way past its planned finish time, but the tournament organizers have all but begged them not to kick them out. Only 174 people entered, but it still featured two gods and high stakes while never really feeling like it was anything more than just a gathering of folks waiting to kick each other’s asses in Smash, and, of course, trying to explain the absurdity of their situation to police and venue owners who could not care less. A smaller group of smashers outside the venue have GameCubes hooked up to their cars, and the other ones are watching grand finals on their phone.

There’s a certain kind of beauty to stories like these. They remind me of a time when Melee was on the rise and seemingly unstoppable, but also still  ridiculously accessible. For the first time in a while, watching Zain and Hungrybox – two supermajor contenders in 2019 – compete at a relatively low-stakes Florida regional reminded me of the magic I felt for a long time when watching Melee in 2014.

Call it a gut feeling, but I think we’re in for a pretty excellent spring and summer season of Smash.

2. The Top Players: Their Respective “May Flowers” and “Mayday”

Heading into May, I thought it would be cool to take a look at the state of Melee’s best active players – Hungrybox, Plup, Zain, and Mango – and examine their respective “May flowers” and “mayday” factors. In other words, this is assessing each of the top players strengths and weaknesses heading into Smash’s upcoming major season. For the sake of word count, and avoiding low-data speculation, I have not done this for Leffen, Mew2King or Wizzrobe.

Hungrybox

May Flowers: Losing one tournament doesn’t change a very a basic fact: that Hungrybox remains the favorite, by far, to win any event he enters.  Before last weekend, the last player outside of Melee’s current elite (himself/Plup/Zain/Mango) to beat Hungrybox was Duck, who 3-0’d him in the first set of grand finals at Canada Cup 2018 back in October before losing set two. Simply put, there is no one Hungrybox isn’t at least slightly favored against.

Mayday: Outside of Zain, whom he’s still likely a favorite versus, you really have to grasp for straws for potential problem matchups. Duck taking a set certainly makes him far likelier than most other peers, and KJH has taken Hungrybox close, but I’m not sure they are significantly likelier to pose a long-term problem than players like Axe, S2J or Swedish Delight, who occasionally have competitive sets, but still mostly lose. Of course, there’s aMSa, who beat him at Smash Summit 6, but I also still see him as a long-term underdog. Honestly, my sleeper pick for a potential anti-Hungrybox dark horse is iBDW. He’s had quiet nationals this year, but iBDW’s peaks this year, as shown from dominant regional showings and excellent head-to-heads against his peers have been incredible. If he matches up against the world’s best player, I’d honestly give him a nonzero shot.

Plup

May Flowers: 10 a.m. matches against national-caliber Ice Climbers withstanding, Plup is pretty much a lock for winner’s semifinals at every single event he goes to. Within the top echelon of play, seeing Zain in his bracket has looked like a free victory for Plup the last three times they’ve played. Currently, he’s amid a five-set win streak against the Come to Papa champion, and it looks even more convincing via the game count: 15-5. Their last two sets were 6-0’s in Plup’s favor.

Mayday: The one bad showing from Plup in all of 2018 was at Smash Summit 7, where he finished ninth after losing to Mango and aMSa. Though Plup convincingly swept aMSa at Genesis, Mango’s dominant 3-1 at Pound 2019 stands as a sore spot. Even worse is Plup’s record against Hungrybox, which is currently at 0-6 in their last six sets, and 1-12 in their last thirteen. To have this kind of losing record almost completely disqualifies Plup from winning a supermajor and negates his other and moving forward, he’ll need to figure him out.

Zain

May Flowers: In the seemingly post-Mew2King age of Marth, it’s clear that Zain has become his character’s top representative. Between his victories at The Script 2, The Gang Steals The Script, Full Bloom 5, and Come To Papa 3, Zain has all but ascended into the Melee elite. The fact that he’s competitive with Hungrybox, let alone having won 40 percent of their last ten sets, already vastly makes him likelier to win supermajors than so many other people.

Mayday: Though Zain finally broke a six-set losing streak to S2J earlier this year, I’m not convinced that he isn’t still an underdog against him or fellow demigods like Axe and aMSa. There’s also Plup, who has thoroughly handled Zain in their recent sets. And, if I may say so, I’m not sure beating Zain as a spacie is as impossible as it looks in any of his sets against SFAT. Don’t forget that Fiction was one phantom Shine away from beating him at Genesis, and Ginger had even gone up in their set, 2-1. If Zain were to run into Leffen – or perhaps even a combination of Mango’s Fox and Falco – he isn’t an instant guarantee for victory. I also have to wonder: given his own positive trend this year, how would Captain Faceroll do against Zain?

Mango

May Flowers: At its most generous interpretation, the Hungrybox/Zain/Plup dynamic is like a mini-RPS. But over at No. 4, Mango, per usual, is the ultimate wild card. On any given day, he can defeat these three and anyone else, and with the return of his Fox, it adds an unpredictable factor that gives Mango an advantage over if he were to just ride Falco (or even just Fox) for a whole event. I’ve joked with some of my Melee Stats friends about how Mango for all of 2018 should be remembered as the “Scorp 2” period where he sabotaged his chances of winning majors through dropping Fox, but given how fantastic his Fox looked at Pound, especially in his victories over Plup and Hungrybox, I can’t imagine that its return is anything less than favorable.

Mayday: Of course, there’s a reason Mango is the “wild card” and not listed above these three. It’s because on any given day, he can lose a Falco ditto in Round 2 pools, be wobbled out of winner’s bracket by a regionally-ranked Ice Climbers or throw high and punishable aerials against a demigod like aMSa in bracket. Even his great showing at Pound came with a caveat: nearly dropped sets to KJH and Axe that would have doomed Mango to loser’s bracket. The narrative around his 2019 completely flips if a few moments in those matches turn out differently. It’s also worth noting that while Mango showed tremendous promise against Hungrybox and Plup at Pound, and even beat Zain in their last set, he finished 2018 with losing records against all of them. I need to see more of how his Falco/Fox dynamic continues throughout the year before assessing him for good.

3. Monday Morning Mailbag

I don’t see a particularly clear condemnation of crabgate in this article. What would you say to readers who’re beginning to suspect your tacit approval of – if not complicity in – this horrific assault? – SubjectiveF

So I know this is a joke question, but I do want to address something fairly quickly. In the wake of Crabgate, I can honestly say that as a community member, I have never seen an event that turned regularly smart and sensible people into dullards on social media.

The amount of baffling takes I saw about Crabgate were too many to count and from all across the spectrum of potential “opinions.” There were utterly bad faith comparisons of Crabgate to issues that had nothing to do with the event at hand, not dissimilar to when that kid in your college dormitory asked you why you cared so much about X happening to you and your friends when Y was happening in another country. There were the “Actually, Crab Throwing Is Good” opinions. I don’t want to name names, but this was an actual sentiment I saw on social media that straight up made me laugh at its pettiness.

That’s only the tip of the iceberg. There were people with heavy amounts of community sway calling for permanent community exile done to the crab thrower. Think about this for a second. Imagine explaining to someone outside of the Melee scene that a community member got banned forever because everyone witnessed him drunkenly throw a crab at the world’s best player after he won a national. I think it’s funny to dunk on someone for doing something unarguably terrible, but I almost felt bad for the amount of flaming he received – almost.

Ultimately, the amount of collective brain cells that the Melee community lost due to one single crab throw is probably among the most out of any viral “thing” I’ve witnessed in Melee history, and that’s a long list I’d have to reveal someday, with its own methodology. I don’t think we’ll ever see something quite like that again.

Qerb snagged another top 100 win over HTwa this weekend. What do you think the chances are that Qerb becomes the first player to debut a new main onto the top 100 rankings this year? – super_smash_brothers

I wrote a column last year about potential low tier mains making Top 100 – Qerb was one of my listed contenders.There’s both roadblocks and hope for him this year.

The bad news: I’m not sure his average skill level should be expected to be Top 100. Within New Jersey – a fairly strong region of non-Top 100 talent like Jflex, TheSWOOPER, JJM, E-Tie, and Panos, among others such as Zealous5000 and several inactives that occasionally make a splash at in-region events – Qerb tends to not stand out as much. There’s no shame to having losses to these players and other Tristate talent, some of whom have their fair share of victories over nationally ranked players or are trending to that tier themselves, but to be Top 100, the bar for average showing is already absurdly high. Semi-consistent losses, or even just the volume at which they come, might make voters skeptical, as they did for BBB in 2018.

The good news: by resume on its own, Qerb already has victories over the likes of Vortex, 42nd, Cob, HTwa and Ryobeat. That’s already four ranked players and someone who may end up ranked himself or just on the outskirts. Local trends may paint a more modest picture for Qerb, but in today’s Melee world, where attendance and volume results can make or break someone’s chances of getting onto the SSBMRank ballot, those five wins in four months are already exceptional and make him immediately jump in mind as a borderline Top 100 case than many other players. If he beats three more Top 100 players and continues attending more tournaments throughout the summer, his results will already stand out as so much more relatively impressive than his peers.

If Qerb does make Top 100, it would be among the best achievements in Melee history. Personally, I’m rooting for it.

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