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 Armada’s Twitter – will take down, if requested.
It isn’t technically the summer yet, but the previous weekend stood as a good unofficial start to the anticipated “summer of smash.” Armada won Smash ‘N’ Splash 4, his first supermajor in almost a year, winning it through losers bracket and defeating Zain, Mew2King, Leffen and Hungrybox twice.
At DreamHack Austin 2018, Plup won with relative ease, despite a quick scare from MikeHaze in winner’s semifinals and a dropped game to La Luna in grand finals. In the Northeast, Silver, a longtime solid Falco who just missed the cut for the New England Power Rankings in the past, won the fourth New England Arcadian.
1. How The Hell Did Michael Get 9th?
Wait! Don’t get mad at me yet. Let me explain.
I’m as big of a Michael fan as your average smasher can be. His story is a funny, but sweet one: Netplay grinder quickly rises to the top of the online ladder by playing an absurd amount of matches, becomes one of the best in his region, transitions from being a local legend to winning the National Arcadian and then finishes ninth at a supermajor.
Michael is unquestionably a player worthy of praise, so when I asked the above question, I meant it sincerely, not as a way of discrediting his skill. Just take a look at his bracket.
Most of his matches didn’t exactly feature national killers. In round two of pools, he beat a slew of opponents, including a win over Rocky, one of NorCal’s rising talents. After that, he beat Lanceinthepants (No. 2 in Indiana, per SSBWiki) and Cob (current No. 1 in Kentucky).
These three players are really good (Cob even beat Lucky), but is Michael beating them that crazy? Axe not going to SNS also played a role in what undeniably was a lucky bracket for Michael.
Taking games off of Leffen and PewPewU is certainly no joke, despite both commentators, Rishi and SleepyK audibly trying their hardest to contain their laughter in the former set. By the end of the first game against Leffen on Battlefield, I couldn’t help but enjoy the absurdity of watching this endearing and talented Jigglypuff player take a game off one of the world’s elite.
Props to you, Michael.
2. Edwin’s Player Spotlight: Bananas
When I first heard about Bananas, I did what many smashers do when they hear of an upcoming Ice Climbers player: roll my eyes and think to myself “can’t wait until they cap out and stop playing.” Given the struggles of Ice Climbers as of late in the top metagame, I don’t think this was unreasonable of me.
But check out his resume for the year. Bananas has quietly become part of the “new guard” of ICs talent.
ChuDat and MikeHaze were just two names that he took last weekend. Bananas also has wins on Swedish Delight (whose Peach is secretly among the best anti-ICs secondaries in the world), Reeve and Chillin. The last win in particular may not sound too impressive, but it’s actually a great accomplishment for an ICs, given Chillin’s historical expertise in the matchup.
In terms of the eye test, Bananas reminds me of Nintendude. Unlike other ICs players who are more passive or rely on their opponents’ mistakes, Bananas actively pressures and engages them. I mentioned Nintendude because he too was a very swing-heavy ICs, albeit one who is now playing more Marth.
If I were to guess where Bananas ends up on a ranking right now, I’d probably say around Sharkz’ level, in the bottom half of the top 100. His third at DreamHack Austin 2018 shows quite a bit of promise.
3. Beauty Behind Sloppy Melee: Armada’s Victory
Armada mostly played up to his standards over the first two days of SNS4, but I could tell something was off in the winners set against Leffen. He talked about it in the post-major interview, but the long story short was that Armada felt disappointed in his play all day, which included even practicing for top eight.
It wasn’t just his Fox, which got four-stocked in just over a minute in winner’s semifinals. Even his Peach looked rusty. Though his sets against Zain and Mew2King look dominant by game count, if you actually watch these sets, you can see that neither he or his opponents were playing particularly up to their lofty standards.
In Armada’s case, he was missing out-of-shield punishes, dropping edgeguards and sometimes just committing tech flubs. Against Zain and Mew2King, I was particularly surprised by his questionable DI, though against Zain, his adaptation skills certainly showed in how he dominated the MDVA Marth in games two and three.
Armada the GOD!!!!!
— Jason Zimmerman (@MVG_Mew2King) June 4, 2018
Suddenly in the middle of the Leffen set, Armada woke up. Whether it was prevailing against his rival with Peach or even just making a comeback, he started to play more confidently. And against Hungrybox – who was dropping edgeguards from winner’s final onward and playing far more hesitantly than we’re used to seeing – Armada played excellent, always dictating the flow of the set, never being too predictable and looking far more solid than before.
Sometimes, good enough and mental willpower is all you need to succeed. I feel like as Melee fans, we take Armada’s excellence and consistency for granted – and thus, there’s a certain beauty to him not necessarily playing his best, but just doing what he needed to win.
Who knows? Maybe in a few months, the scene will feel like it did a year ago, when Armada winning everything made people – myself included – tired of seeing him win.
4. The Agony of Leffen vs. Hungrybox
I have nothing personal against either player, but watching these two battle in tournament is both thrilling and anxiety-inducing. They often have classics, but as of late, the end result has always been the same.
Starting at TBH7 losers finals for Hbox v Leffen
TBH7: 3-2 Hbox
Summit 5: 3-1 Hbox
G5: 3-2 Hbox (twice)
FB4: 3-1 Hbox
Summit 6: 3-2 Hbox
SNS4: 3-2 Hbox
I swear Leffen is so close every set
— Edwin (Today In Smash) (@edwin_budding) June 4, 2018
I watched some of their sets again – and honestly, I have no clue what Leffen could be doing differently. I brought this up with a few friends that played Fox and they weren’t sure either. Granted, none of us are pros, so our opinion isn’t really too valuable.
Intuitively, I think his gameplan against Jigglypuff fine, but Leffen just chokes or gets out-clutched. Veterans of the scene will remember the Genesis to Evo 2013 era where Mew2King and Armada used to have incredible, last-game, last-stock battles that were far more competitive than the ultimate head-to-head looked. at the time. This feels like a similar situation.
How weird of a Melee world do we live in? If you asked me about Leffen vs. Hungrybox a little over two years ago, I would have easily held Leffen as the favorite.
Speaking of which, how about the Big Six?
5. Ranking The Big Six
Do I really have to do this? You guys can open the can of worms yourselves; it’s been only six months.
Ugh – fine. Here’s my best guess.
Hungrybox hasn’t won any of the three most prestigious tournaments of the year so far (Genesis/Smash Summit/SNS), but his consistency against the field and favorable head-to-head within the Big Six still cements him as the easy pick for number one. If he loses CEO or bombs at another big event, it will be tougher to keep him up here, but as far as consistency and success at smaller majors goes, it’s hard to ignore his wins at EGLX, both Noods tournaments, Full Bloom 4 and GOML 2018.
After him, Armada and Plup are about even, but I’d give the slight edge to Armada. Unlike Plup, who has a loss to Zain, Armada still looks impeccable against the rest of the non-Big Six field and has a three-set winning streak on the current world No. 1, which should mean a lot for evaluating someone’s year.
Here’s where things get fun. I’d still go with Leffen at No. 4. Despite competing in another game, he’s been extremely consistent against worse opponents in bracket, which wasn’t always the case with him in the past. If anything, his late stretch of losing against Hungrybox makes his head-to-head spread against the rest of the Big Six look far worse than it actually is.
Playing amazing into throws and awful plays into third place is the leffen 🙁
Good luck to Armada, defeat that broken ass character
— leffen (@TSM_Leffen) June 4, 2018
Mew2King is my pick for No. 5. but mostly out of respect for his victory at Smash Summit 6. Even taking that into account, his knack for losing to “worse” players it makes it difficult for me to view his breakthrough as anything but a fortunate bracket. Being up on Armada in sets for the year is a great step for Mew2King’s career, but it’s also still a small piece of the puzzle. If he keeps dropping sets to players ranked beneath him, it won’t matter.
Finally, Mango closes out the Big Six. It feels wrong to put him here because of how exceptional he looked in his Summit group stage wins over Hungrybox and Armada, so consider this more of a predictive ranking. With him no longer having an official coach and actively flirting with cutting down on competing in Melee, the “Mango” factor of him playing recklessly at tournaments feels higher than ever. That said, we know that on a good day, he can beat anyone.
What I like:
- HMW and Wobbles commentary at SNS4
- Bananas vs. ChuDat losers semifinals: the set of DreamHack Austin
- Ninja restreaming SNS4 to 90,000+ viewers!
What I don’t like:
- Mango vs. Zain – don’t watch this set if you love Mango
- Having to balance watching the NBA Finals, Westworld and smash majors on the same night
- RR Pools and on-stage MCs in 2018