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Published April 13, 2020

Over the weekend, Twitch streamer Ludwig announced Ludwig Ahgren Championship Series 2, a Netplay series that features a $10,000 prize pot, as well as separate East Coast and West Coast brackets. The last LACS featured invited players and an open qualifier bracket for several West Coast competitors. To date, LACS 2 boasts the largest prize pool for a Netplay Melee event ever.

In other news, several European tournament organizers – most notably the heads from the Phoenix Blue series – officially banned Overtriforce from their events due to a record of sexual assault, harassment, stalking and other forms of abusive behavior from the longtime Sheik main. Tournament organizers have compiled his record into a publicly available document. Overtriforce is currently banned from all Melee tournaments in the United Kingdom, Norway and Finland.

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With little to write about over the course of last week, I polled members of Smash Twitter on another topic: the best Melee player to never make a major top eight. I initially thought only two people had a good claim to this title: Lovage and SilentSpectre. It didn’t surprise me to see them ahead of the pack in public perception.

 

Let’s break it down. Who was better, SilentSpectre or Lovage?

SilentSpectre

One of the first YouTube Melee channels I binge-watched was TheWaffle77. In addition to being a great resource for post-Brawl Melee lore, there’s tons of thrilling matches that feature NorCal players. Anyone who has seen enough of this channel can point to SilentSpectre, commonly referred to by his first name, Jeff, as a classic mainstay of these videos. In fact, SilentSpectre’s reputation grew before his post-Brawl prime; he was the star of “Silence,” an entertaining DBR classic.

From late 2007 to early 2010, SilentSpectre was one of the best players in NorCal. In a fairly stacked region, he was the only player to ever take a set from Mango, who frequently visited or faced off against him in-state. This doesn’t sound like much, but consider that Mango would routinely trounce top-level opposition, as seen from his 15-0 record against Zhu in 2009. Somehow, this record understates how clear cut and ahead of the pack Mango was; many of these sets involved him playing Captain Falcon or Mario. Even being able to take one set from his Falco, Fox, Jigglypuff, or all three was considered unusual.

Partly because of HMW’s hype man skills, and partly because of his play, SilentSpectre played a major role in some of Melee’s most viral moments; and not just the one we all know. Who could ever forget his legendary defeat of Armada at Pound 4, the four-stock on Taj, or the infamous Wobbles rage quit? Even the moments where he loses are so memorable, of which one inspired the name of an entire tournament. It’s no stretch to say that SilentSpectre has a good case for being the most beloved player in NorCal history.

Though he had incredible moments of promise in individual sets and high-profile matches like his legendary eight-stock showing in the EC vs. WC Genesis crew battle, SilentSpectre never dominated his local scene. Surprisingly, he was never No. 1 in NorCal. His nationals also never quite lived up to his reputation. At the first Genesis, he lost to Tope and ran into Jman early for a disappointing 25th place. At Pound 4, despite his big victory over Armada, SilentSpectre finished in ninth place, losing to Hungrybox and Zhu. And at Genesis 2, his last notable major following the end of his prime, SilentSpectre finished in a solid 13th place, losing to Wobbles and S2J.

These aren’t necessarily “bad” showings from SilentSpectre, but they are somewhat unfortunate given the amount of hype he had behind him. It hurts SilentSpectre further that his prime came at a time in which there were only so many nationals to attend. SilentSpectre’s regionals, however, are a lot more impressive. Along with bronze finishes at Mango Juice and Pat’s House, he also has a second place to Lucky at R3 and a great first-place showing at Nice Shot Hugo, where he conquered a field that had players like Axe, Lovage and HugS, among others.

Lovage

Lovage’s come up came a lot later than SilentSpectre. Originally mid-level within SoCal, Lovage was more known as a popular local player that could make it to final bracket at nationals, as seen by his consecutive 25th places at Revival of Melee and Genesis, as well as his 33rd at Pound 4. His results didn’t necessarily speak to how “good” he was, but online, Lovage had a reputation as a tech skill fiend.

Back then, Lovage didn’t have regional moments of glory in the same way that SilentSpectre did, but I’m inclined to think that this is just by virtue of NorCal having HMW, and SoCal not having anyone as nearly dedicated to archiving Melee footage (although Lovage has that incredible roll read on Tope). By late 2010, Lovage was every bit as good within SoCal as SilentSpectre was within NorCal. His first top eight showing at a notable regional was his strong fifth place at Pat’s House, but his top three showing at Nice Shot Hugo likely cemented Lovage as the real deal. As SilentSpectre looked near his best at that tournament, the legend of Lovage was just getting started.

Pikachu942 and I have covered Lovage’s 2011 before. It feels weird to still claim that someone who failed to make a major top eight for an entire year was our pick for No. 6 in the world, but on a set-by-set basis, Lovage’s case is so strong. Aside from the obvious – that he won the first The Big House over the Midwest and S2J – Lovage took sets from Mango’s secondaries – which I mentioned before was still noteworthy – and even beat Hungrybox in pools at Genesis 2.

Sadly, Lovage proceeded to lose to Dr. Z afterward, and it likely played in impact in his relatively low seed in the final bracket, where had to play Mango early. He eventually lost to him and was eliminated by his personal demon Shroomed (who beat him in losers at Pound V also). But a half-year later at Apex 2012, Lovage beat Javi, Druggedfox and Chillin, then losing to Mango and Javi in the runback for ninth place. Then, in March, Lovage had one of the most underrated losers bracket runs ever at Northwest Manifest. After initially losing to Chip, Lovage tore through the rest of bracket and beat people like Tope, Axe, Westballz and SFAT in a row before finally falling to PPMD.

It should say something then, that none of these are popularly considered Lovage’s defining moment, which came well after his prime, at a point when he was more known for being a commentator. At GT-X 2017, Lovage stunned the world by defeating Leffen in a set recently hailed as the greatest Melee singles upset of all time.

The Pick

Lovage and SilentSpectre are similar players in that their “flaws” often came because of their era. There were only so many nationals to compete at, and most of their legacy is within their regional notoriety and recognition. Both are commonly seen as post-Brawl players, but it’s technically more accurate to see them as two halves of the same era, with SilentSpectre being closer to the days of MLG and Lovage closer to Melee’s current age.

SilentSpectre was the champion of NorCal who brought his unique take to Captain Falcon (once inspired by Isai and which influenced future players like Lord), once drew blood from Mango, defeated Armada and breathed life into the Melee scene through starring the scene’s most viral moments. Lovage  pushed Fox to new heights, conquered gods in the past and returned to slay a giant in the modern era. It’s a close call, but Lovage is my pick for the greatest Melee player to never make a major top eight.

 

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