This series is a tribute to standard “Monday Morning Quarterback” columns in traditional sports. In it, I discuss my quick takeaways from the last week of the smash community. Consider this a mix of news and mild takes. Featured image from VGBC’s Twitter – will take down, if requested.
In the wake of post-Summit Melee, Zain decimated the East Coast-heavy competition at Pound Underground. AbsentPage won Minnesota’s largest smash event ever, Push More Buttons 2018, over the invading Spark, Squid and Kage. Mew2King and Hungrybox dominated smaller regional events of their own (Canada Cup Master Series and Unrivaled X, respectively).
1. Is The Smash Summit Level Up Real?
If any of you saw Zain’s matches at Pound Underground, you’ll know how badly he dominated, particularly against opponents who have beaten him before. From winners semifinals against La Luna to both winners and grand finals against llod, Zain looked on a completely different level. In fact, throughout Pound, Zain dropped only two games the entire tournament.
A clear difference in Zain’s play post-Summit is his newfound discipline. He’s always had an amazing combo game and clean tech skill, but his decision-making following countless hours of Smash Summit preparation and the tournament itself looks on another level. Where the Zain of the past may have overextended on a hit or been unwilling to engage, the new one looks both more deliberate and experienced.
The summit level up was so real
Zain is just on a completely different tier than everyone else here
I stan a legend
— Fendy! (@FendrickLamar) May 14, 2018
Thus comes the question I asked earlier: is the Summit level up real? Honestly, I’m not sure – mostly because it’s hard to measure that kind of progress. Nonetheless, I’ll do my best, at least based on intuition.
Swedish Delight, Crush and Zain were the three biggest “winners” of being voted into their respective Summits. But those three were already trending upwards, ergo why they were chosen anyway.
Can we really say the same for Zhu, Kage, ESAM or Alex19? Each of those players have had moments of brilliance following their initial appearances, but you’d be hard pressed to point to Summit as the reason for their successes.
We could go down the list for attendees for a more in-depth study, but for now, my final guess is that Summit still remains an extremely valuable experience for players, but what happens afterward is really up to them. Rather than looking at Summit as one big hyperbolic time chamber, it feels more accurate to assume that the smashers who gain the most from Summit are the ones who are already improving and consistently attending majors.
This isn’t to say that Summit isn’t worth the learning experience – intuitively speaking, it very well should be for anyone. But it’s nevertheless a reminder that attending Summit alone isn’t going to turn your favorite player into a presence at national top eights.
2. The State of the Ice Climbers
I try not to overreact, so rather than viewing this as a “hot take” of mine, let’s face the facts. It’s been a struggle for Ice Climbers in 2018.
ChuDat is losing to capable Foxes, let alone Top 50 ones, at practically any tournament he’s entered – and it only got worse for him last weekend. Dizzkidboogie has disappeared from the national scene and barely shows any interest in competing in singles any more.
Nintendude and InfiniteNumbers have basically left the character to die. Wobbles and Fly Amanita are essentially ghosts of Ice Climbers past. Even ARMY, who has leveled up within SoCal and now takes more sets off its elite players than he did in the past, has performed somewhat erratically at larger events all year, despite being Melee’s highest performing Ice Climbers at the moment.
Is this it for the Ice Climbers? Probably not. As a character that punishes mistakes harder than anyone else in the cast, they still have plenty of chances to get big wins. Take a look at Sharkz’s fifth-place run at Pound, in which he beat HT, Rishi and iBDW, among a slew of other smashers.
It looks rough for them right now. But that’s also just a part of playing Ice Climbers. They’re the epitome of high variance, able to delete stocks as quickly as losing them. I predict that in a few months, we’ll see a few of them do well, bringing back discussions of if we should ban wobbling or not.
3. Does 2018 Suck? A Few Musings About Why It Might or Might Not.
We’re about to head into the summer of smash, but haven’t the first five months of the year felt pretty underwhelming?
Genesis 5 and Smash Summit 6 were thrillers, but EGLX 2018 and Full Bloom 4 seemingly breezed by in between. Though Mew2King and Plup won their biggest tournaments, the rest of the year has been marred by smaller regionals, little attendance at events from the players in our top six and a lot of ambiguity beneath the top 40, if not lack of data.
Compare that to 2017, when we had a plethora of fun majors: Genesis 4, Smash Summit Spring 2017, Smash Rivalries, DreamHack Austin 2017 and Royal Flush. By the numbers, that’s only one more major, but it doesn’t qualitatively answer my question. Moreover, take a look at 2016, the year before.
Genesis 3. Pax Arena. Battle of the Five Gods. Smash Summit 2. Pound 2016. EGLX 2016. DreamHack Austin 2016. Can we look at modern Melee’s total number of majors and decline in national attendance as anything other than a plateau or worrying sign for the scene?
Melee itself doesn’t even feel as fun to watch any more. Summit 6 was a brief reprieve from the onslaught of Fox-Jigglypuff matches we’ve become accustomed to seeing in major top eights, but it feels more like a lucky roll of the dice.
Even I have personally felt the effects of Melee-exhaustion, both as a player trying to balance his career and outside life with it, and as a member of the scene. It feels like a lot of our community leaders have disappeared, even as new stars have shone in our scene.
What are the Five up to? Or how about Scar and Toph? Why is it that the most fun I have watching Melee all week comes from The Reads and not major tournaments? Is it just me, or does every Fox and Marth player play the exact same way? Are even the top players getting bored?
It could just be a lot of the scene, myself included, growing up. But it’s still scary. Maybe it’s just exhaustion from having emotionally invested myself in Melee for most of my twenties – and it could just be that today being my birthday makes me more sentimental – and existentially terrified – than ever.
Wait a moment. I’m probably just salty that I didn’t make it out of pools at Pound. Ignore everything I said. I’ll go back to loving Melee next week.
What I like
- This ridiculous follow-up by Zain.
- The Xanadu venue at Pound is the real deal!
- The above – seriously! Major TOs, take note. It had plenty of setups, comfortable chairs and even a dedicated friendlies room.
What I don’t like
- Yelling “UCF” whenever a phantom hit occurs.
- My own play against Ice Climbers.
- Round Robin pools in 2018. Let them die.