Every now and then, I still think about Smash Summit 11. This tournament effectively launched a new era of Smash, one with familiar faces and rising stars. I’ve been thinking about sports lately as well, especially the concept of generational players – how some players either define or transcend the very concept of being tied to one generation. To me, it feels amazing that this one tournament marks a turning point in the scene.
With the summer soon coming to a close, I’m creating an “All-Melee Team” of the last two years, more or less, using Smash Summit 11 as the starting point. Similar to the way the NBA does this, I will be defining a third team, a second team, and a first team, with five players in each group. More or less, you can consider this a top 15 of the last couple years.
First, I have to bring up a huge stipulation with this time period. That, of course, is the fact that a portion of it came within an era where online play was the only feasible way of continuing to play Melee at anything close to a major level (January 2022 to March 2022). In 2021, I thought it was fair to partially count online events for something like BlurRank. I still believe I was right to do this because of the pressing circumstances beyond the scene’s control, as well as the lack of data we’d otherwise need to deal with. However, was I going to do the same thing for three months in the span of two years? Ultimately, I decided against it. But also, I don’t know if there is any player significantly hurt by online events not counting within this period – not at the Top 15 level.
Before getting jnto the list, I’d like to acknowledge the most notable honorable mention: Axe. On one hand, it feels crazy to exclude someone who finished Top 10 last year and could be poised for another huge breakthrough in the second half of this year. But on the other hand, he isn’t the only person within this list who can have claimed to have been Top 10 in the world. Furthermore, the one other person above him who hasn’t been Top 10 has shown a more consistent wealth of wins over the top echelon than Axe in this time span. Other HMs for this section are Trif, whose time in Europe restricted him from building upon his resume, and a fun trio of 2020s spacies from across the world: Joshman, Pipsqueak, and Zuppy.
The All-Melee Third Team
When it’s all said and done, I believe SluG will be remembered as one of the best players who never won a major and, importantly, could have won a major. At his peak, he had wins over several members of the top echelon and was arguably the favorite in any prospective rematch. He struggled with a few unusual matchups, but he more than made up for it with uniquely stellar highs. Add in how he single-handedly redefined how the scene views the Ice Climbers post-wobbling, and you have a surefire pick for the Third Team. This could change as the next few years pan out, and as SluG’s lack of years starts to catch up, but for now, this seems like an easy choice.
Polish basically went from Top 100 Peach to Top 10 in about two years. Although they’ve cooled off since, they’ve still retained their spot as a reliable Top 25 player and have taken sets from two of the best players in the decade multiple times. They seem like someone who could regain their spot and build on a resume full of other successes too. Not many others can claim to have beaten Cody Schwab multiple times, as well as nab sets over aMSa and Hungrybox.
I don’t think this is too high of a spot for lloD. It may surprise you to see the bastion of consistency here, but his consistency, as I’ve written about before, hides his immense strength as a great dark horse. More or less three and a half years of always looking Top 20, bare minimum, with flashes of looking Top 10, wins over the best players in the world, and amazing records vs. his peers. To this day, it still wows me that he was two stocks away from reaching winners side of grand finals at Super Smash Con 2022. He could have actually won this event, and I feel like he has a nonzero shot at winning anything he enters.
Aklo still hasn’t had his breakout supermajor, but he did have an excellent regional victory at Redemption Rumble. He’s also been fairly consistent, making top eights more or less at whatever he attends, with only occasional blunders. Two things prevent him from being higher though: relatively few events and the fact that Cody is the only player he’s beaten at a major within the first team. For Aklo to improve his legacy, I think he needs to begin beating more members of the top echelon.
The only thing KoDoRiN lacks is that one big supermajor breakout – not merely in top eight, but all the way to winners finals appearance at Genesis or something similar. Other than that, he’s basically hovered just outside the Top 10 for this whole decade, having taken sets from several of the premier competitors. What stops me from placing him higher are his struggles vs. Jmook, Leffen, Plup, and aMSa. His consistency, attendance, and strengths vs. everyone else have well-earned him this spot; he just needs that last big performance to have a shot at moving above.
The All-Melee Second Team
Wizzrobe’s legacy beyond this decade has admittedly afforded him a lot of grace. However, unlike other peers, I think Wizzrobe’s brief flashes of brilliance have shown glimpses of the guy who won Smash N Splash 5, as well as exceeded many of players beneath him. Although he’s been both very good and very absent from Melee on the whole, he did actually win a major (Mainstage 2021) this decade. His pound-for-pound ability has been too high for him to be placed any lower, but I can’t put him any higher in good faith.
There’s nobody who hasn’t won a major who looks closer to doing so right now than moky. Since making the Top 100 for the first time in 2017, it’s been a slow, gradual march upward. What particularly makes moky a unique second teamer is the fact that he sports positive records over numerous players ranked above him or in his tier. The only reason he’s still in this tier for the decade is because of previous issues he had with consistency in 2022 and getting to those aforementioned matchups he’s excellent in. That and, well, three players (Zain, Mango, and Jmook) who have road blocked him. And yet his third place run at Genesis 9 or his epic regional win over aMSa at The Come Up shows signs of a definitively new moky from the already talented player we grew accustomed to earlier in the decade. It’s really any day now that he wins a major and leapfrogs ahead in this list.
Plup’s a similarly strange player to evaluate. The peaks of this decade for him are a lot of second places at majors, first places at regionals, and getting gate-kept by one player (Cody Schwab) in particular. He’s mostly fine everywhere else, and, to his credit, has a major win at Smash World Tour Championships. Nonetheless, his up-and-down attendance limits how highly I can put him on this list. Speaking of which, I do want to mention something that came slightly before this time period: Plup’s amazing second place run at Smash Summit 9. I feel like this is one of those “almosts” that goes relatively under the radar, just because it’s Plup and none of us are surprised whenever he does well. Since his decade has been filled with those type of performances, it’s only fitting he’s here.
Say what you want about Leffen’s shifting career obligations and his infuriating tendency to hem and haw about it – the guy has more than earned the respect he deserves as continuing his excellence well into the decade. From winning majors when you least expect it to surprisingly handling many members of the top echelon at big moments, including Zain and Cody, he’s more or less been the baseline for the kind of player you need to be able to emulate (or beat) to win a major. This is a comparison that will make some of you cringe, but I’m going to make it anyway; late career Leffen is just emulating late career Mew2King. The two iterations of each player both share the infuriating tendency to buster out, break the hearts of their biggest fans, and then return to suddenly win majors when you least expect it. The difference with Leffen, however, is that he has shown a much higher ability to win the premier svents. Mew2King won Smash Summit 6, but that was one top echelon win in a sea of almosts. Leffen now boasts a LACS 5 win to nicely complement his Battle of BC 4 performance, with both coming over Zain.
Okay, I know I have a lot of explaining to do. I previously called Jmook a generational player – how am I not going to put him on the first team? Well, it’s more of a formality than anything else. He technically lacks the 2021 stretch of events, and though he’s been excellent from 2022 to now, I don’t know if his achievements within this time span on the whole places him above the two people I’ve put at higher spots. Regardless, two major wins this year already separate Jmook from mostly everyone else beneath him.
The All-Melee First Team
– Cody Schwab
I know it seems to insane to put Hungrybox this high, especially considering how his year has been so far (sans last weekend). At the same time, he still finished in third place at Smash Summit 11 and went on to win three whole events in the next year. Admittedly, awful head-to-heads against some of his peers (Zain, Cody Schwab, Leffen and Wizzrobe in particular) have been egregiously weak, and he’s had stretches of looking cleanly worse than everyone else. But dominating Jmook and winning GOML, Wavedash, and Riptide puts him in a unique category of multi-time major champions for the decade. It was close between Jmook, Leffen, and Hungrybox, as all of them have won two majors, and Hungrybox won an “almost major,” while being better than both of them until this year. For now, I’m giving him the edge, but it’s really close between the three.
The second player I want to talk about here is the guy I once gave 50:1 odds to win The Big House 10. Funny how that worked out; he went on to win Apex 2022 and Scuffed World Tour to close out the year at No. 2 in the world. A large portion of his success can be attributed to dominant head to heads he had over Zain, Mango, Jmook, and Hungrybox in that period. What prevents me from placing him much higher, however, is this year. In addition to suffering a few upsets here and there in his return to Earth, he’s had his tournaments frequently spoiled by the two-headed beast of moky and Cody Schwab. At the time of which I’m writing this, both players are on separate nine-set winning streaks vs. aMSa. He’s basically run into the Armada/Hungrybox Dilemma of the Five Gods Era, where if you couldn’t beat at least one of them, your chances of winning a major became zero – except this time, it’s Cody and moky gatekeeping him.
Mango is the one player who could claim to be Cody’s ultimate nemesis (in spite of how this year’s turned out so far). While he’s currently on a downward trend, this is a dude who has won the second most amount of big events over the last three and a half years. It’s basically the difference between LeBron James winning MVP seasons and leading the Heat to the Finals and Third Teamer LeBron who suddenly wakes up in the playoffs. Only aMSa and Jmook have ever looked like long term obstacles for him. Well, those two and the guy who is the ultimate Melee First Teamer of the decade, but we’ll get into him later. Just know that winning Smash Summit 11, Super Smash Con 2022, Lost Tech City, Smash Summit 14, and Mainstage 2022 put Mango above all but two people for the team.
Before Cody Schwab announced that Genesis 10 would be his last major if he didn’t get a sponsor, Wheat told me once that he thought Cody, out of active players, had the best chance of achieving enough long-term accomplishments to enter the Mango/Armada/Hungrybox tier of all-time legacy. It may sound crazy, but in terms of head to heads against peers, could you really disagree that Cody has a great shot? Other than maybe Mango, he has no currently bad matchups among the first and second teamers, always going roughly even or vastly dominant over multiple of them. If every tourney were a round robin among the top ten seeds or so, Cody might be the favorite. With Riptide 2021, Smash Summit 12, Smash Summit 13, Double Down, Major Upset, and Battle of BC 5 trophies, Cody nudged out Mango for the second spot. While Mango’s been mostly better during their time together this decade, Cody’s been definitively better this year to make up for it and, as such, has him beat in major titles.
Zain has been Top 2 for basically the whole time this decade. Any slumps he’s undergone are typically followed up by figuring out a roadblock and eventually winning a major. In fact, he’s won more majors than anyone else in the last two years: SWT NA East Finals, Genesis 8, Pound 2022, Shine 2022, Ludwig Smash Invitational, Tipped Off 14, Fete 3, GOML 2023, and Super Smash Con 2023. Zain is very likely to end 2023 with the most amount of major wins yet again, having tied his 2022 count already. If he does this, it will effectively cement a second straight year of being No. 1. One final note, by the way, about Zain: he’s currently amid a more dominant stretch than his early 2022 period. Since Jmook dropped him into loser’s at Fete 3, Zain’s won each of his stray sets over aMSa, Cody, and moky, as well as gone 2-0 vs. Mango, 2-0 vs. Jmook, and 3-0 vs. Hungrybox. That’s basically ten wins in a row against players who could win majors. It will take a lot more for Zain to ever accomplish something along the lines of late 2017-mid 2018 Hungrybox (who won seven out eight majors from Shine 2017 to Full Bloom 4) or late 2016-mid 2017 Armada (who won six majors in a row, among other tournaments, from Canada Cup 2016 to his defeat at Royal Flush), but he’s not that far away.