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 Hungrybox’s Twitter – will take down, if requested.
Happy July, everyone. Outside of CEO, last weekend was fairly tame for Melee standards, but there’s still a lot to digest. On Saturday, Hungrybox won CEO 2018, Florida’s annual FGC-meets-Smash event, while over in Germany a day later, the Netherlands’ Amsah won Awakening 4 over Ice (who also celebrated his birthday). In Indiana, Michael won We Need Some Space over Kels.
1. Hungrybox’s Handprint on the Ceiling of Melee History
CEO 2018 was, per Smash History standards, Hungrybox’s 23rd ever major victory. On its own that sounds just like another statistic, but it ties him with Mango for the most amount of titles ever.
It’s becoming harder to deny Hungrybox’s place in Melee history – as well as exhausting to constantly bring it up every time he wins a major. Until someone beats him, however, we’re going to have this same conversation: when it’s all said and done, what’s his ceiling?
Last year, he was an easy pick for Top 5 of all-time. I had him No. 4 at the start of this year. At the moment, you’d have to be willfully blind to put him any lower than No. 3, right below Mango and Armada.
But I digress. Let’s talk about a possible barrier to his path for “GOATdom.”
2. The Mystery of Plup against Hungrybox
Despite showing flashes of brilliance against Hungrybox, Plup is still an underdog in their head-to-head. Harshly speaking, the only time he’s succeeded against him all year for a whole tournament was at Genesis 5, where Hungrybox accidentally let Plup pick Pokemon Stadium twice. At every other tournament, Plup has either straight up lost or dominated him in a winner’s bracket set, only to lose the two sets after.
Plup’s Fox looks amazing when it’s on point. He often likes playing in mid-ranges and isn’t afraid to seek aggressive outplays against Hungrybox, but the downside is that it can often put him at higher risk of getting grabbed if he makes a mistake. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see Plup get blown up, because he views those gambles as worth taking.
At CEO last weekend, Plup had enough of playing such a high variance matchup. After losing a close start to grand finals, the longtime Florida No. 2 went Sheik for the rest of grand finals, resetting bracket and reminding people that Sheik can actually succeed in the MU. Plup’s knowledge of Sheik, sheer intuition with the character and discipline really shined through the first set with her (though in the second set, Plup clearly ran out of energy), where Hungrybox seemingly couldn’t get past Plup’s walls of needles and spaced aerials.
I told plup go sheik cuz he seemed warmed up with her and i thought he could win today. We'll see.
— Jason Zimmerman (@MVG_Mew2King) July 1, 2018
I’m not sure if Hungrybox is “weak” in matchups that aren’t against Fox, even as he almost lost a Puff ditto to Mew2King, but I can’t help but feel that more character diversity against him in bracket could be a good thing. Preparing for multiple matchups in a given bracket seems a lot more difficult than thinking about just one, even if it’s one perceived to be a heavy counter.
Who knows what character Plup will go next when they play? He’s talked about feeling a lot more comfortable with Fox in the matchup, but it’s also physically demanding of him to play the character and warm up Sheik for other matchups. For this reason, I can’t imagine that trying both characters against Hungrybox would be too fruitful.
Fox feels like a better long-term solution for Puff, but if it’s hurting his hands and ability to play consistent through the rest of bracket, is it really that beneficial? Is there any potential of sticking with Sheik being sustainable or will Plup’s record against Hungrybox go back to 2015-esque stretches of lopsided Hungrybox-favored sets? Who knows?
3. The Mew2King Jump
If there’s another positive to be taken from Plup’s performance at this event, it’s how he’s completed the elusive Mew2King jump. This is a historical phenomenon where once you beat Mew2King multiple times, you tend to be a thorn in his side for the rest of your playing career.
We almost saw it happen with Wizzrobe, but it’s currently going on with Axe and, perhaps, ChuDat. It happened with Hungrybox around his national breakout and frankly launched PPMD’s career. You could also argue that it happened with Armada, though as of lately, Mew2King’s sets with him have been far more competitive.
— Nintendo Versus (@NintendoVS) July 1, 2018
It’s not just that he’s beaten Mew2King in their last five sets – it’s how he’s beaten him. He punishes Mew2King harder than vice versa, edgeguards him extremely well, makes smarter decisions on stage and just outclasses him in the Sheik ditto. Per Mew2King, his reluctance to chaingrab Plup in the Sheik ditto comes from not wanting to resort to such a technique against his friend, but sometimes I wonder if it’s actually because it would actually favor Plup, who frankly looks far cleaner and better in skirmishes than the longtime Sheik master, whose bag of tricks seems to have been figured out.
People have always talked about Mew2King needing to find a long-term solution for Hungrybox and Armada. At this point though, I’m going to claim that Plup is the far more pressing problem. Unfortunately for him, I don’t see that changing any time soon.
4. What Do We Make of Gahtzu?
Though Gahtzu barely missed his first ever top eight, the Florida Captain Falcon still finished a notable ninth at CEO. It’s a performance that, on the surface, could help his case to stay in SSBM’s Top 50 for the first half of the year.
Before last weekend’s major, Gahtzu wasn’t doing too well. Along with a ho-hum 49th at Genesis 5 (losses to Slox/iBDW), he often was matched up against opponents he was expected to lose to or rising stars, like at Full Bloom 4, where he finished 25th, losing to Leffen and AbsentPage. Outside of his region, he hovered consistently around expectations, never completely disappointing, but not exceeding them.
Both players looking for dash dance grab is the nash equilibrium of melee
— GUTZ (@Gahtzu) June 24, 2018
If you look at Gahtzu’s “run” to ninth, it’s a little less impressive than it may actually look. For example, in phase two, rather than playing the projected Crush, he got to play Flaming Roy. That’s not to say that Gahtzu couldn’t have beaten Crush – he’s done it before – but the no-show definitely played a role in Gahtzu’s success.
Nonetheless, it’s not like Gahztu had a free ride. He defeated S2J a round before having to play Hungrybox, whom he took the first game from. Against n0ne, Gahtzu was up 2-0 and lost the last two games of the set in heartbreaking fashion. Had he beaten him, Gahtzu might have had a shot at beating his 20GX buddy Wizzrobe for seventh – and perhaps, if you’re an optimist in Captain Falcon against Marth, had a sleeper’s chance against Zain for fifth.
5. The Melee Stats Patreon
In case you haven’t heard, I’m part of a podcast and collective of people who do behind-the-scenes research and work for the Melee community. Along with starting this website together, we’ve launched a Patreon.
Even if you decide not to donate, I’d like to thank all the readers of “Monday Morning Marth” and “When’s Melee,” as well as listeners of the Melee Stats Podcast. Rest assured, we have a lot more coming up in the pipeline. Feel free to join our public Discord as well.
What I like:
- Toxic players getting called out for bad behavior, but in a productive manner
- Zain vs. Wizzrobe: the new amazing rivalry
- Plup’s beautiful, brilliant Sheik
What I dislike:
- Hungrybox’s legendarily corny entrance to CEO 2018
- Zain vs. Wizzrobe: the new way to give me a heart attack
- Mew2King’s Jigglypuff