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 GOML’s Twitter – will take down, if requested.
Melee went back to normal last weekend. In a similar fashion to Noods Noods Noods: Oakland Edition, Hungrybox dropped a set to Plup before coming back from losers to win Get On My Level 2018, adding yet another major victory to his year.
To no one’s surprise, Armada won BAM10 over ChuDat in Australia, while Spark won the fourth edition of the NorCal Spartan and the Connecticut Falco lint won the 12th bimonthly for Make Money off Melee, held in Amesbury, Massachusetts. For most of today’s column though, I’ll be talking about GOML.
1. Melee’s Secret Protagonist
There’s a running joke among most Melee fans – that all of competitive Melee is actually written in a mysterious script hidden away somewhere. Assume this is true for a second – for all my Melee conspiracy theorists out there, I’m going to blow your minds with an even greater revelation, even if one that’s admittedly bullshit, narrative-peddling, surface-level psychoanalysis.
In the wake of last weekend’s third-place performance, probably a personal best in three years, I’m going to try to make the case for Axe as Melee’s protagonist.
— Twitch Esports (@TwitchEsports) May 21, 2018
In terms of gameplay, the five “gods” of Melee, Leffen and Plup have been the central driving forces behind the top echelon of the competitive scene following Brawl’s release. But from his initial breakout win over Jman at the first Genesis, Axe has stayed a metagame defining member of the competitive scene – worthy of his own narrative.
Take, for instance, how he was one of the first notable players to implement shield dropping, a now commonplace technique of modern Melee. He’s certainly not alone in this regard, with aMSa and both of the lesser-known OkamiBW and Sung being innovators here, but Axe in many ways set the tone for several other competitors.
His success with Pikachu embodies yet another thematic device to follow throughout his career: his ability to overcome Melee’s limitations itself against all odds. We’ve seen Axe go through periods where he looks capable of beating the best players, only to occasionally slump before rebounding.
For just under a decade and mostly with a character that many see as unviable, Axe has hovered under the realm of immortality. He’s been so close to touching the stars, but so far away for the longest time. If you don’t believe me, watch any of his sets against Armada. Or even worse, his painful loss to him at Eclipse, which happened after he went up 2-1 in the set.
The record makes it clear: Axe is, without question, the greatest player in Melee history to never win a supermajor. He hasn’t even finished second at one.
As much as people, myself included, have joked about rooting for Mew2King being both an inspiring and heartbreaking experience, doesn’t the same apply for Axe? Rooting for him is like rooting for the Chicago Cubs pre-2016, both in terms of what he represents in character viability and his growth as a player.
— Tiny Shroomish (@Tiny_Shroomish) May 20, 2018
These traits, along with his lovable personality make him a fascinating player to watch.
Then again, maybe my claims of Axe being Melee’s true protagonist are ultimately meaningless. In fact, they totally are. Sorry – got carried away for a second.
Let’s move on.
2. Zain’s Run at GOML
In another compelling story of GOML 2018, Zain suffered an early loss to old-school NorCal Marth Hyprid in pools. When combined with his somewhat underwhelming third place at a Xanadu weekly earlier in the week, it caused many to wonder if Zain’s Summit power-up had actually now turned into a hangover.
I already showed something close to skepticism last week in the wake of people attributing his Pound Underground win to his growth from Summit, but the converse opinion, that Zain was figured out after a Bo3 loss in the Marth ditto, was just as rash. He made that very clear in his loser’s run at GOML, where he smoked n0ne, then beat Shroomed, Moky and SFAT before bowing out to Axe.
Zain initially showed some promise. He clearly came prepared, with a wall of aerials and solid positional control giving him the advantage in the first game, but Axe, as he always does against Marth, adjusted.
In particular, Zain never found a solution to dealing with Axe when the latter actually mixed up his trademark overshot nairs with movement mixups, ranging from dash dancing to simply just not approaching. The solution might be simple in theory for Marth – be patient and use your superior threatening range to ensure that he never gets in – but against a reactive, combo-heavy and technically proficient player like Axe, staying consistent is a long grind.
Marth doesn’t lose to Pikachu, but I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony of Zain getting visibly frustrated mid-set at an opponent proficient at edgeguarding him, dash dancing and killing him off one opening. I’m sure that every Fox and Falco player who watched this set must have had one thought running through their minds: karma’s a bitch.
3. Mew2King’s Strange Character Philosophy
Two months ago, I wrote something of a eulogy for Mew2King’s Sheik, saying that it was clear which of his many characters was “lagging behind.” But while it performed admirably at GOML, splitting games with Plup and Axe, as well as helping Mew2King 3-0 aMSa, it still doesn’t help his long-term chances of being able to balance all three of his main characters for a bracket.
Early on, he had no reason to switch off Marth for the relevant portions of the tournament. I didn’t see which character he picked against Nightmare, but against Westballz and Moky he played all Marth before matching up against Plup.
Now if you’re Mew2King heading into this set, you haven’t had a real threat to your bracket force you to play Sheik. Why on Earth would you choose to then go Sheik for the first two games of a set, see 50/50 success, only to then suddenly switch to Marth? Why not play him from the start or stick with what you have?
4th at goml (and 1st in dubs). Coulda beat plup, 3-0d amsa, and 3-2 last stock vs axe. My puff took a game, almost two! I had fun trying her out. Ggs
— Jason Zimmerman (@MVG_Mew2King) May 21, 2018
Switching characters isn’t impossible mid-set, but there’s enough anecdotal evidence in modern Melee that it can cause sloppy play, from both the person switching and their opponent. Take a look at any Mango vs. Armada set from 2016 if you don’t believe me, sans The Big House 6.
It may have gone to last stock, but the Axe vs. Mew2King losers semifinals set has to be one of the “best worst sets” of the year. Involving two split games with Sheik yet again to start the set, Mew2King then clutched out a comeback game three with Jigglypuff before barely losing a game with Fox and just losing against Axe game five with Puff yet again. Between dropped punishes, execution errors and straight-up campy play, this set both was hilarious to watch, but also not quite high quality Melee.
Maybe Mew2King just did this for fun – or he feels like this genuinely gives him the best chance to succeed. Are we going to see much more of Mew2King’s Jigglypuff moving forward?
I feel like I don’t want to know the answer.
4. Jumbled Thoughts on the State of Smash Journalism
You might roll your eyes at the phrase “smash journalism,” but isn’t that ultimately what most content creation boils down to? In the context of smash, content creation isn’t exactly Watergate-important reporting, but it still carries a similarly functioning space within the community. As of late, it also feels like a hot topic.
Take for example, the latest Kotaku article on smash hygiene at events. Upon reading the headline and the article itself, I pretty much just rolled my eyes and muttered something to a few friends along the lines of “slow news day, huh” before moving on.
That wasn’t the case with the smash social media sphere though. Everyone from anonymous Twitter trolls to literally the best player in the world threw a collective hissy fit, outraged that Kotaku would dare cover such a sensitive topic. I wasn’t a fan of the article, but I found the responses to it, especially from community leaders, pretty disappointing and immature.
Just so everyone knows. The person writing the article asked me for a quote and I not only denied them, I also asked them to not post this sort of article.
They went ahead and did it.
— Hungrybox ➡️ GOML 2018 (@LiquidHbox) May 18, 2018
Second article in a week where Kotaku is painting Smash in a bad light, fucking losers https://t.co/HgLAdnlAhf
— ….. (@Anti) May 18, 2018
Was this our breaking point – that someone who wrote an article with a slightly leading headline detailing the facts and fiction of a trope surrounding smashers was crossing the line? Is this proof that a gaming magazine has an anti-smash bias, despite covering the scene in the past?
The author didn’t even write that all Melee players smelled bad; in the same article, she quotes smash tournament organizer Bear as saying that the stereotype wasn’t always accurate. I try not to engage in whataboutism, but I wish the same standards of criticism were held to actual community leaders for other topics, like finding a solution for stopping harassment at events, creating a unified rule set, etc.
This wasn’t the only bit of negative content response I’ve noticed. Following YouTube content creator’s SaveAsUntitled’s recent video on if ChuDat was a Top 50 player or not, I felt saddened by some of the mean-spirited negativity that faced my friend, though out of respect for him, I’ve chosen not to include specific examples of nasty responses he’s received.
That said, I’m not exactly the most objective source on this, given that I have worked on articles that have gained their share of tough, but fair criticism. Moreover, if I have to blunt, I mostly take critique from others with a grain of salt, due to an overwhelming and transparent amount of distaste I have for quite a bit of my audience.
Just kidding. I love you guys – well, kind of. It’s complicated.
I feel for journalists that feel pressured to hit certain page benchmarks, so they are forced into sensationalism and click bait =/.
— CLG Tafo (@tafokints) May 18, 2018
Look; there’s a lot of room for smash content to grow. I’m happy that more than ever in our scene’s history, the community cares about both how it’s perceived and how people in content creation should be held accountable for what they say. Even I’ve been wrong and deserving of critique before.
After all, when you’re a stream personality, writer or anyone else with a platform to spread information, you’ve entered an arena. Learning how to deal with criticism and personal insults isn’t just part of the job – it’s necessary in order to improve.
Anyway, those are just some of my jumbled thoughts. I don’t really know what my point was, other than “don’t be jerks.” Deuces.
What I like:
- D1 commentary at GOML. Seriously – I’m not joking! With HMW and DJ Nintendo, he was killing it!
- Zain vs. Shroomed: the best set of GOML.
- When’s Melee is moving on from MIOM to this website. Excited to have Dingus as a weekly writer!
What I don’t like:
- The way Westballz lost game two against Mew2King. Out of respect to Westballz, I’m not linking it.
- Mew2King’s Jigglypuff.
- Hungrybox vs. Axe.