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Published August 20, 2018

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 Team Heir’s Twitter – will take down, if requested.

Europe celebrated its biggest tournament last weekend, Heir 5, hosted in the United Kingdom. Though Armada dropped out of the singles bracket before the major, it remained thrilling, with Leffen ending up in first after being taken to the brink by a charged up Westballz in grand finals. Heir wasn’t the only notable event either – in New York, Connecticut’s very own lint defeated Hax twice to win Super Smashed Out Melee 1. Fresh off defeating Captain Smuckers at Super Smash Con 2018, HiFi won Charlotte’s Clash of the Carolinas II, and in Houston, MikeHaze held off valiant efforts from MT, Magi and Uncle Mojo to win Super Smash Fight Club 3.

1. In Defense of Westballz

Seldom players in Smash elicit as many hot takes as Westballz. However, hidden beneath the discourse surrounding his place in the current metagame, is an incredible player, one who deserves praise for remaining relevant for so many years.

I can’t tell what it is about Westballz that makes normally intelligent people have aneurysms when evaluating him. Over the last few months, there’s been an onslaught of snarky comments and god awful takes on his growth as a  player. Someone, who I will not name out of respect to them, told me before Heir that Trif was going to “destroy” Westballz when they play, which, all respect to Trif, struck me as particularly absurd.

Top 10 isn’t going to be an expectation for him anymore, but it hasn’t been for a little under two years, nor does it have to be. Why are people so particularly harsh on Westballz? Couldn’t you apply the same criticism to Shroomed, Duck or Swedish Delight? Sometimes the field becomes that much stronger. For example, you’d be foolish to look at Westballz’s 17th place at Genesis 5, where he lost to Hungrybox/Zain, and think “this player isn’t improving.”

Westballz isn’t free of weakness. His losses to players out of his skill tier shouldn’t be ignored, but those kinds of lows aren’t anything new for him;  they just don’t have the same highs as before. And as he showed by taking Leffen to last stock, last hit in grand finals, Westballz can still show glimpses of godslaying, even if it’s not as likely as it was in the past (or in PAL).

2. Daydee shines!

Daydee boasts a cool backstory. Coming from StarCraft, he eventually transitioned to Melee, particularly inspired by Plup’s performance at Evo 2015. Influenced by Duck as well, Daydee switched his main to Samus; the rest is history.

Leffen remains Stockholm’s golden boy, but he’s also reached a level to where he’s ascended above traits like regional pride. In terms of active players, Daydee is the best active player in the city, having been at a strong level since his international breakout victory over dizzkidboogie at BEAST 7: a set that went to timeout.

However, before Heir, Daydee lacked a victory against a top European player. That changed at Heir, where he defeated Professor Pro, adapting to the UK Fox throughout the set and showcasing a new and improved combo game. It’s undeniable that Daydee benefited from Armada dropping out of the tournament, but adding a win over someone in the second tier of European competitors (Prof/Overtriforce/Amsah/Trif/Ice) is still encouraging.

Currently, Daydee is ranked No. 15 in Europe. After finishing fifth at Heir, it looks like that will soon change.

3. Top Player Burnout/DQ/Dropout Thoughts

For whatever reason, it feels like competing has taken its toll on top players. Over the last two weeks, we have seen a motley of DQs from bigger events, from Leffen/MikeHaze/Mango at Smash Con to Armada/Android at Heir. Shine remains exciting this year, but anyone would be lying if they said they didn’t feel a tad disappointed about Leffen dropping out of the tournament, along with Mew2King’s absence.

So what’s the deal? Is it the Smash Calendar, which initially had three supermajor level events in four weeks, that players didn’t like? In the case of Europeans like Armada and Leffen, they could have potentially entered four events, including Heir. That’s not accounting for Low Tier City – if you included that as a major level event, it would have been potentially five majors in five weeks, across numerous regions.

But isn’t that the responsibility of the players themselves, to pick and choose what to attend? It’s not hard to look at an event and say “no,” if it’s too much of a hassle to manage. Moreover, the summer is one of the few times in a year where a player is expected to travel as an obligation. For the majority of the year, they can stream, attend locals, drive out to regionals or prepare for supermajors.

At the same time, if there’s a large span of events within a short period of time, players may feel obligated to attend all of them. Don’t forget that for some people, how they perform at a tournament is their living, and it’s especially stressful if they don’t have a sponsor. If someone competes at Evo, but finishes 65th, they’ll have little to no choice but to attend Smash Con to make up for a disappointing showing. Conversely, a good placing at Evo might ensure that they won’t need to go to another major event in the summer.

I’ve thought about this a lot, and I’m not sure if this is a new trend at all. I initially thought that the news surrounding Plup’s Evo panic attack, as well as Crush entirely disappearing from the Melee scene, made players especially cautious, but it’s not as if top players taking time off events is a new phenomenon.

In fact, isn’t PPMD a more harrowing example of a player’s absence at an event? I’m sure he would dislike being used as an example for this – and I think each competitor deals with different personal issues – but his specific case still casts a dark cloud over the scene, though he certainly should prioritize his health first.

It seems that Smash’s unusual circumstances surrounding its competitive existence – notably the lack of a true “season” and “offseason” – just furthermore highlight the downside of what it’s like to be a top player. I don’t know what a feasible answer is yet, but I don’t think anyone does. Then again, maybe player dropouts every now and then aren’t a big deal.

4. New England Players to Look Out For At Shine

On a slightly lighter note, Shine is still going to be an awesome event this year. Over the last two years, New England has been the breeding ground for a ton of promising talent, young and old. Here’s who to watch out for deep in bracket.

  1. Slox: The best in Connecticut and top active player in New England. If you haven’t heard of his Fox by now, you’re probably living under a rock.
  2. Kalvar: The New Hampshire No. 1 and newest Marth on the block. Watch out for his reaction tech chases, strong positional game and remarkable prowess at utterly destroying the Ice Climbers, as well as slaying mid-tier/low-tier characters. He’s a contender for Top 100, if he isn’t on there already.
  3. lint: A Connecticut Falco and current No. 2 in the state. Just won a tournament over Hax, has wins on Captain Smuckers, Rishi, Slox and others throughout the last two years. Looking for his breakout national. Expect to see him as a nominee or on the Top 100 by the end of 2018.
  4. Joyboy: A Rhode Island Fox who has won tourneys over ZoSo before. To my knowledge, he doesn’t  have a big victory out of region yet.
  5. Thumbs: A Connecticut Peach that’s been rising locally over the last two years. He’s relatively unknown outside of Connecticut, but could make a splash at  Shine.
  6. dudutsai: A Massachusetts Jigglypuff known for playing shamelessly defensive and passive. Once the target of a derisive S2J tweet, among many other Jigglypuffs.
  7. Swiftbass: A longtime Connecticut Marth who once defeated Westballz and Shroomed at majors. Hasn’t been as strong lately, due to also experimenting with box-controllers, but is still a scary, wily veteran in bracket.

There are several other names to look out for, but these ones stand out as having the most upset potential.

5. Monday Morning Mailbag

How much do you think Mango’s underwhelming results are being affected by him going all falco? – AllerdingsUR

I don’t think any of it is Falco related. If you guys remember, Mango actually broke his losing streak against ChuDat by playing Falco, rather than Fox. As he’s shown this year, it’s not as if Mango has substantially lower peaks with Falco either – he can certainly see success with the character against Armada and Hungrybox. I’d rather not get into the deeper armchair psychology of why Mango enjoys playing Falco more, but we’ll see whom he’ll choose.

What do you think will need to happen in the next 4 months for any of the top 4 or 5 to be #1 in the yearly ranking? What tournaments will they have to win, what head-to-head record need to change, etc – that_one-dude

I view the top three right now as a rock-paper-scissors where Hungrybox beats Leffen, but loses to Armada, who then is an underdog against Leffen. Picking between the three is tough. Hungrybox has the most success at smaller majors within the year. Leffen won the biggest event. Armada is likely the most reliable against the field, despite a best-of-three loss to Swedish Delight at Evo. My pick as of now is Leffen, but that’s just my prediction based off current trends.

For any of the three to finish No. 1 for the year, another two or three majors will help their cases. Right now, only The Big House and Smash Summit will be top-caliber events for the rest of the year, but for other majors like GT-X, Don’t Park on the Grass or DreamHack Winter (which seem closer to  current Shine in terms of prestige), I hesitate to say their magnitude. It’s too difficult to quantify their value in relation to what it means to win a supermajor.

Plup is the first wild card. He seems to have overcome two of the “old” gods, Mew2King and Mango, but hasn’t played very well vs. the Swedes since Genesis 5, and is hot/cold against Hungrybox. I’m curious to see how he does against aMSa and Zain if they play again.

Mew2King and Mango seem solidly out of the equation for No.  1, barring either suddenly going on a surge of winning supermajors or consistently overcoming their bracket demons. There are too many question marks, not just necessarily in matchups, but motivation – or discipline, if you feel the other word is too favorable. With reports of Mew2King wanting to primarily focus on his book and Mango constantly flirting with retirement, betting on either of them feels fruitless.

Is there any argument for whether Mango should consider a pivot to commentary? Obviously, it matters whether Mango still enjoys competing, which I think he does, but if Smashcon gives us any indication, I think he would enjoy commentary just as well. –  keenfrizzle

Chill. Mango is still a great Melee player; he can handle whether he wants to play or commentate. Based on what little I know about him and have talked to people close to him about, I’d be shocked if he wanted to pursue a full-time pivot to commentary.

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