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Published April 5, 2021

Most people who run Melee tournaments do it for free. Last weekend, Golden Guardians gave them 50,000 more reasons to stay active. The esports giant announced the launch of a massive grassroots fund for Melee tourney organizers, as well as the signings of n0ne, Toph and PPMD.

Over the weekend and following a motley of notable top seed dropouts, the ever reliable Gahtzu finished in first place at a fittingly wild Allston Melee Bender. It was the sixth consecutive tournament victory in a row for the Florida Captain Falcon, who had previously won stacked Xanadu, TMT and Uncle Sam’s Maple Syrup weekly events.

The person who finished in second place – Panda – had his best big showing of 2021 so far. At Allston Melee Bender, he beat DrLobster, TheSWOOPER and double eliminated Ben.

Another prominent storyline of the event was the return to form for longtime New Jersey Samus main and former Top 100 player TheSWOOPER. After a mostly inactive 2020 and a modest start to 2021, TheSWOOPER 3-0’d iBDW’s Sheik and Fox, as well as beat Golden and Kikoho en route to fifth place at the regional.

Outside of tournament results, Plup announced this week that he was registering for next week’s LEVO event – a qualifier for season 2 of SCL. Most notably, the news came in light of previous news in which Plup was invited to SCL but declined to accept it.

For other tournament-related news over the weekend, please follow our Twitter account.

  1. Smash World Tour Deep Dives: Asia

With NA East, NA West and Europe out of the way, I chose to Asia as my next region to preview. It was easy to think of 100 notable players in the previous region, so heading into today’s column, I knew I was in for a much bigger challenge. I decided before writing this that I would limit the players I highlight to just 25 people.

However, what I did not anticipate was the unusually heavy amount of inactives within this region – particularly from Japan, the strongest Melee country within this region. This left me with a conundrum: how do I write about a region where almost all of the elite talent is gone from its current competitive scene? I concluded that I would be a little more forgiving of inactivity among top players (specifically ones from Japan, the East Asian country with the highest amount of player talent) and include them within this list if they were active during in-person tournaments in 2020 and 2019.

Consider this list a mix of evaluating activity, looking at results in 2021, considering legacy, and “predicting” how players will perform moving forward. This is an entirely subjective process in which I am going, mostly, off of my gut feel. Please feel free to take this with a grain of salt.

If you consider yourself a “notable” player and you don’t see your name included, it’s likely because of one or multiple of the following factors:

  • You might not be active or likely to be active over the next six months, based on everything I have seen so far. Examples of these players include Rudolph, Zoma, Gucci, Flash, Nagaimo, NEG, PPAD, machina, BigBad, etc.
  • I made a misjudgment about your activity and applied an inconsistent standard to you that I did not apply to another player.
  • It was a coin flip between you and someone else for a final spot.
  • You might have behavior issues that have warranted your exclusion from this list.
  • I genuinely forgot about you.

Not Around in Rollback; Still Are Locks

  • aMSa
  • Shunsuke
  • Shippu
  • Sanne

The first name I mention on this list is somehow both the most obvious pick and the most noticeably inactive. I’m going to apply a variant of the Mango Clause which I noted in my NA West preview: it’s aMSa. We don’t have to worry about if the Smash World Tour will end up inviting him or not.

Shunsuke has been a member of Japan’s top ten for a while, but not many people knew him until he won his exhibition best-of-seven set over aMSa late in 2020. For what it’s worth, he won the last Battle Gateway he entered; beating Shippu twice and Muro. He’s probably good to go.

Remember when Shippu won the flight to Apex 2015 by winning Battle Gateway 6 over aMSa? If you look at their lifetime history, more often than not, you’ll find instances where Shippu played spoiler to aMSa’s tournament runs, including as recently as 2020. Recently, he beat his longtime rival Sanne and Muro en route to second place at Battle Gateway 31. Before in-person events were globally halted, Shippu finished as the official No. 1 player within Japan.

Sanne’s a strange player to evaluate. Most of his career has occurred in the confines of Japan, where he’s always been Top 5 to Top 10. When he’s gone to the States, he’s usually finished anywhere from 65th to 97th at majors. 2020 wasn’t too great of a year for him, but at the very least, he’s one of the few players in Japan who have eliminated aMSa from a tournament over the last few years. Ask anyone in Japan who its top players are and Sanne will be one of the first names mentioned alongside these other three.

Strong Actives in Rollback

  • Devil
  • Muro
  • Falpan

Devil, now known as Schima, dominated Asia in his short time there. Though he wasn’t completely untouchable, his volume and consistency of his results led him to a solid No. 1 finish on the region’s rollback PR. Just this year alone, he won NPAC5, won NPAC3, and won ASMR 0. Because he moved back to Germany, I’m not sure if he will still qualify for the East Asia regional finals, but by his results, he absolutely deserves mention in this column.

Muro is an improving Japanese player who has been relatively active in the rollback era. He notably won NPAC4 over Devil, which already cements him in the top tier of active players, and is 3-1 vs. him in the last ranking period. At his last LAN event, Muro finished in third place, losing only to Shippu at Battle Gateway 31. In his career, he has wins over the likes of Sanne, Falpan, Fat Tino, n3zModGod and Skuxxy.

I keep forgetting that Falpan mains Fox because he plays so many characters. I’ve seen him play Sheik, Link, Ice Climbers, Falco and Captain Falcon – he’s like a Japanese version of HP. Anyway, he was ranked No. 5 in Japan around the start of 2020, and given how he’s remained active online, I expect him to stay around there when in-person events return.

Trending Upward in Rollback

  • inngenn
  • Hutuka (二日未満)
  • Plata
  • Donkos

inngenn is a longtime Netplay Marth who apparently got way better this year. A recent result that stands out for him is winning Falcon Punch over Sanne and Muro. He followed that up with finishing second at Melee Ain’t Dead Yet 2, where he beat Plata as well.

Hutuka – a Fox player – was the person who won Melee Ain’t Dead Yet 2 over inngenn, and he beat Falpan at this event as well. I didn’t actually recognize him in events before I noticed his name written in Kanji for brackets. He’s someone to look out for in 2021.

I used to know Plata as “the other Yoshi in Japan who is not aMSa.” He is the current No. 11 in Japan, but since picking up Fox, he seems to be trending upward. At his last event, he beat Falpan, Ced and Forerunner – a pretty good sign for things to come in 2021.

Donkos is a Japanese Falco player who I hadn’t actually seen too much before 2020. I noticed two accomplishments in his 2021: double eliminating Falpan at NPAC 5 en route second to Devil and beating inngenn at NPAC 3.

Not Active in Rollback; Too Good to Ignore

  • Massun
  • Kounotori
  • Sheik

Massun hasn’t been around lately. Still – finishing in third place at the last Remesai Spot Dodge was pretty good. At this tournament, the Fox/Jigglypuff dual main beat Shunsuke and Falpan. This seems like good insurance for what’s otherwise been a stretch of inactivity for Massun; someone who we’ll probably see return sometime soon.

Kounotori has been around forever. I remember when he was playing in Japanese tournaments as early as 2013. I also remember watching a heartbreakingly close set against SFAT in 2018. Wanna know why I remember it? I was stuck in an airport, watching Evo on my phone because my flight to Vegas had been delayed. I wish there was more I could say about the former Top 100 player, but I’d assume that he will likely make the list when in-person events come back.

He plays Sheik and his name’s Sheik, what’s there not to like? Sheik – the player – was Top 10 in Japan before in-person events were halted, and since then, like a lot of top-level Japan, he hasn’t been too active. Similar to Kounotori, I expect Sheik to return and stay within this tier of play.

Actives to Look Out For

  • Quil
  • KayB
  • Balu
  • Sala
  • Takuwan
  • Forerunner
  • Ced

Quil is an American Jigglypuff player who is currently competing within Southeast Asia and residing in Japan. I’m not sure if he’ll still qualify for the regional finals, but his results seem pretty good over the last six months. Along with a couple smaller tournament victories, Quil won the first Asia / SEA Regional over Balu, Sala and, for what it’s worth, Devil’s Roy.

KayB is many things: a Melee Stats member, strong Samus player, someone with stupidly good secondaries such as “Douglas Kay Falcon,” Cornell University student and the former No. 1 of the Ithaca region in the United States. Since Devil left, he’s probably the best active player remaining in Korea, and for the most part, he beats everyone within this tier or beneath him. He just lacks a big win. As his friend, I’m obviously biased, but I can say that with enough chances, I’m pretty confident that Kay will get it.

Balu is the top player in India and, as a fellow Marth player, among the people I’d love to see get more opportunities against strong opponents. I think he’s way better than everyone else within the Indian Melee scene, and his 3-0 over Devil’s Roy, as well as his win over Sala stand out.

Sala, a Falco player, is the main challenger to Kay in Korea. He’s a very consistent player who has gone 3-2 at his last three events and made top eight. Similar to Balu, Sala has a win over Devil’s Roy.

Takuwan is all around solid. He’s a Fox player from Japan who has a few events he’s entered over the last half-year. It’s not much in terms of volume, but he’s beaten Kounotori, Quil, Donkos and GaR.

Forerunner, like Quil, is an American player, but he is residing in Korea. He usually makes top eight at events he enters, although he had an unfortunate bracket at Melee Ain’t Dead Yet 2, in which he ran into Hutaka and Plata early.

Ced is a dual spacies main who is also the current No. 1 in Cambodia. He recently beat Takuwan and xthechar at the last two events he entered.

Outside Shots

  • Sharky: Among the better players in Korea; Fox main and tournament organizer
  • xthechar: The best active Zelda main on the Asian side of the Pacific and No. 1 in Singapore.
  • Yetis Don’t Exist: One of the main community figures in East Asia SSBM; Filipino Fox main.
  • Tax The Master: Another one of the top Filipino players alongside Yetis Don’t Exist and a Sheik main.

Just like last week, I’m sure that I missed a few borderline people who have technically been active enough to qualify for this list. Please don’t be mad at me if I made a mistake, didn’t include you, or didn’t include your friend in the bottom end of the 100 players!

For next week’s column, I’ll be previewing the Australia and Oceania region.

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