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Published December 24, 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.

Merry Christmas Eve and happy holidays to the Smash scene. On Saturday, New York Fox main iBDW closed the year with a convincing victory at NYXL Pop-Up, where he defeated HugS, Hax and Swedish Delight to finish first at the Tristate regional. Over in the Netherlands, Amsah won yet another edition of the Spice series. In non-tournament related news, longtime FGC member bitufeki confirmed that the Apex series was returning in 2019.

1. Salem vs. Leffen

Long story short: Leffen once said Snake was a bad character in Smash Ultimate. MVD, a Snake main, won Don’t Park On The Grass 2018. People made of Leffen, who then attributed MVD’s success to his personal skill and playstyle/character unfamiliarity rather than the character itself. In a thread online, Salem and Leffen argued about Snake’s viability, as well each other’s credibility in talking about Smash games. You can read the rest of the discussion on Twitter – it culminates in a salty outburst from Salem.

I don’t want to spend too much time dedicating part of my column to inconsequential beef, so here are some takeaways.

  • Why is Salem only separating Melee from the Smash games? If we’re being honest, doesn’t a similar divide exist with 64, a scene that has just as much intense loyalty to its own game, or Project M, which is routinely spoken about in hushed tones from public figures? The Smash community is really just those three scenes and a fourth one of people who have Nintendo brand loyalty over individual game enthusiasm. Note: there’s nothing wrong about that; it’s just the truth.
  • Rather than engage Leffen on the substance of his arguments, Salem made a personal attack about Leffen’s credentials and motivations. His personal attack isn’t pointed enough to where it actually sticks – instead, Salem chooses to use Leffen in order to paint a broad brush over Melee players and tell a boring 2015-ass sob story about those damn Melee elitist snobs.
  • Salem: if you really want to shut up Leffen, run the damn set. Offer to play Snake against any of his characters for $1,000 or more in a FT5 at Genesis 6. If he accepts, you’re coming into it as a huge favorite and as a former world champion of two other Smash games. If he doesn’t and concedes any skill difference between you two, then you’ve accomplished the same goal as you did before in dismissing his opinion, at least in terms of optics.

There’s also something else I want to quickly address. Leffen came out of the beef looking better, but he really shouldn’t be using ableist language, even ironically, in reference to a meme or in a way to highlight another person’s flaws. I’m sure by writing this, I’ll have subjected myself to being called a politically correct, callout culture-loving, moralist, leftist, social justice warrior cuck, so I’ll be brief.

I don’t claim to know Leffen’s relationships with others who have disabilities, though I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t actively discriminate against any marginalized group. Calling things “retarded” is not a Leffen-specific problem, and many friends within my social circle still casually use that word. There’s several resources on why using this specific kind of language is immature, if not hurtful, so I won’t bore you with the details. Keep in mind that I can’t speak for all smashers (especially those who actually have disabilities); my perspective comes from frequently taking care of a sibling with special needs. I’m not even asking for an apology or an explanation from people who use the word – I’m only asking that they be mindful.

2. A stream-of-consciousness on ranking culture

Today, all the SSBMRank balloteers should have received their ballots, making this a semi-pertinent topic near the end of the year. So start off my unorganized rant, I’d like to admit that I’ve always been weirded out by the Smash community’s collective love and need to rank players. I know it sounds weird coming from a guy whose Melee contributions include writing for SSBMRank, co-hosting a podcast comprised of people who memorize obscure local head-to-heads and making an all-time SSBM Top 100. Stick with me for a second.

A lot of “ranking discussion” doesn’t even amount to particularly insightful questions. It usually devolves into boring or insignificant discussions like “When will Zain pass Mango?” or “Who is better between Wizzrobe and aMSa?” The focus of these debates are usually a matter of one or two ranking spots – and the barrier of entry into these discussions is typically low, with just a surface-level of supermajor top eights being all you need to have a voice in them. It’s almost like a check on your Melee “ranking” values, with an emphasis on taking a certain foundation for granted (the existence of a Melee Top 10) over learning anything new.

There’s a simultaneous paradox that exists in ranking culture: the social capital that comes with having an acceptable ranking opinion – one that typically just reinforces status quo beliefs – and the lack of incentive behind actually dedicating double-digit hours a week to watch grand finals of Zamu vs. Michael and other random events. I’m not even opening the can of worms on why I sometimes worry about spectator influence within our community or the limits of “Melee statistics,” which at the moment is mostly comprised of head-to-head tracking. Those are topics for another time.

3. Monday Morning Mailbag

Do you think a new tier list voted on by community figureheads in the same fashion as the MIOMrank/SSBMrank/PGRMrank would be a worthwhile venture?

If nothing else, it would get mad clicks. – DavidL1112

I’ve talked about doing a tier list with members of Melee Stats before. I can’t say for each individual member, but most of us aren’t sure how productive it would be. Put simply, the 2015 tier list might not be indicative for what Melee looks like today, but from the standpoint of a total newbie (who tier lists are typically made for), it may as well be the same. Yoshi being many spots higher, reshuffled portions of the top eight and a few new placements for mid/low-tier characters doesn’t mean much for a newcomer.

However, since I brought up the tier list in a previous column as a sincere an open-ended question, I still believe that there’s merit in bringing forth more attention to the Melee scene. Tier lists, as pointless as they are to long-term players, provide a beginner-friendly resource. We’re entering an era when we might see new growth in our scene from Ultimate’s presence.

Beginners may not be able to meaningfully talk about the differences between the 2015 and hypothetical 2019 tier list, and they don’t have to. The creation of a new tier list by itself could potentially draw people to the scene. Call it cheap if you want, but I still think it could be worth it if the negatives of community “controversy” are outweighed by publicity – especially if something like a potential dethroning of Fox’s top spot on the tier list were to showcase just how far Melee’s metagame has changed over 17 years.

How can events get new ultimate players/viewers interested in Melee? I know this is a tough question and I don’t expect a solid answer, just any speculation you can provide would be great. – sfiodsh

Provide free copies of The Book of Melee.

Serious answer: the existence of Melee tournaments themselves will draw people if there’s enough attention. This has been the case for 17 years, and there’s nothing I’ve seen that makes me doubt the game’s ability to draw other smashers.

But seriously; you should buy my book when it comes out.


Header image by @GoldenboyFTW.

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