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Published December 31, 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.

All is quiet on the Melee front. iBDW closed out his 2018 with a victory at New York’s Super Smashed Out IV. Not much else happened, so I’ll cut to the chase.

For today’s edition of MMM, I’m going to talk about the most interesting players of SSBMRank season, where I think they will end up and their potential “New Years Resolutions.” To players I’m writing about: feel free to take whatever I say here with a grain of salt.

1. Hax: Glimmers of Hope

At the top level, Hax had individual wins against lloD, Westballz, KJH, AbsentPage, Gahtzu, Fiction and Colbol. In-region, he also had victories over Swedish Delight, La Luna, Rishi, iBDW, 2saint and Captain Smuckers. Hax doesn’t have a positive record against all of these players, but the consistency at which these wins came is still striking. It’s evident via the eye test too – you can tell Hax was a former Top 10 player. His world class fundamentals are still there.

The main issue is that Hax keeps losing to players around his perceived skill range or slightly lower. Along with a loss to ChuDat, Hax also looked lost against Trif and lost to the likes of Captain Faceroll, Slox and Moky. These aren’t bad losses on their own, but Hax also lost to Sharkz, BBB and Boyd. This isn’t including his assortment of strange in-region losses to people such as TheSWOOPER, JJM and Rivers.

Put simply, against Top 30-caliber competitors, Hax looks like a Top 15 player, but against anyone lower and he suddenly looks borderline Top 50, if not worse. That said, it’s also difficult to assess someone who disappeared for the middle of the year. I have faith in him to improve against the field.

New Year’s Resolution: Clean up execution against non-fast fallers and stop DQing out of large tournaments.
Predicted rank range: Late-30s to mid-40s.

2. A Tale of Two Rishis

To keep the Tristate theme going, let’s take a look at Rishi. He consistently performed at supermajors, where he beat lloD, PewPewU, Westballz, and, of course, Mew2King. Rishi also had an impressive 3-1 record against AbsentPage and went 2-0 against Swedish Delight. There’s a very good reason why he is currently the best in New York.

But there’s a clear difference between Rishi preparing for majors and other events. I wouldn’t be naive enough to give locals and regionals equal weight to supermajors, but the Rishi who dominates Swedish and goes back-and-forth with 2saint looks like a completely different player than the one who loses to Pleeba and Michael. The most surprising weakness Rishi had was against Fox, where in 2018, he had a combined 0-10 record against SFAT, Crush, Lucky, Syrox and KJH. Include a dropped set to Jerry (when he played Fox) and many to Hax – it’s quite frankly poor results for a Marth of Rishi’s caliber.

In his defense, many of these losses also came early in the year, where he was a drastically different player.  Rishi might also dedicate a lot of 2019 to competing in Smash Ultimate, so it’s hard to predict how well he’ll do.

New Year’s Resolution: Continue to improve against Fox and play more Melee in 2019.
Predicted rank range: Mid 20s to late 20s.

3. Moky: The Ontario Fox prodigy with one big problem

Throughout the year, Moky’s in-region results against Ryan Ford (7-5, per Tafostats) have impressed me. But his accomplishments go beyond one favorable head-to-head. He has wins against Zamu (X2), iBDW, Hax (X2) and Ice. Additionally, Moky started 2018 with a bang via defeating ChuDat at Genesis 5. Add a 3-1 head-to-head against n0ne for the year and it’s clear that Moky is someone to look out for next year.

There’s just one problem, and it’s a tall, stupid, blue-haired swordsman with an enormous grab range. Out of respect for Moky, I won’t link his set against La Luna, but he also has losses to the likes of John Wick, Tai, Spud (X3), Iceman and Quaff. To be fair to Moky, he split sets with the latter two  – and as SFAT can attest to, a Marth problem is hardly a revelatory weakness for a Fox player – but it’s still a drastic decrease in performance for one matchup.

In laymen terms, Moky could upset Wizzrobe or SFAT and lose to Stango or JakenShaken at the same event. Even a marginal improvement against Marth could do wonders for Moky, who I believe has immense potential.

New Year’s Resolution: Ask iBDW how he figured out Marth.
Predicted rank range: Early 40s to mid 40s.

4. Duck: The Most Criminally Underrated Player of 2018

In a year where HugS made top eight at a supermajor and lloD won  Even Bigger Balc, there’s not been enough attention given to Duck. This may be only my perception clouding my judgment, but it feels bizarre that someone who took a set from Hungrybox could fly under the radar as a premier floaty main.

Duck’s consistency is especially remarkable in an era where there’s greater parity than ever before. The only major set loss he had to someone significantly beneath his perceived skill range was to FatGoku – and that was at a tournament in which he also finished in ninth place, defeating both aMSa and Westballz. Did I mention that Duck also has sets over Zain, n0ne (X2), lloD, AbsentPage and PewPewU (X3)?

The consistency of results, however, sometimes comes with a limited ceiling. On the surface, this sounds like  a stupid remark to make about someone who swept Hungrybox, so I’ll quickly explain myself. Along with  negative head-to-heads against KJH (7-15) and Swedish Delight (0-6) Duck lost his only sets versus Captain Faceroll, Shroomed, SFAT and S2J. These aren’t anywhere close to  “bad” for the world’s best Samus main, but cumulatively, they are concerning. Those players all play in ways that make them particularly annoying to fight against if you play a mid-tier or worse, so it’ll be interesting to see if this is a hurdle Duck can make over time or a long-term problem.

New Year’s Resolution: Find a solution for the Samus slayers.
Predicted rank range: Anywhere from the early teens to the late teens.

5. Monday Morning Mailbag

Do you think the pervasiveness of “ranking culture” in the SSBM scene has been influenced by how rigidly the skill hierarchy has been established in the game’s history? For nearly a decade the narrative was “just these 5 guys win tournaments,” do you think that stratification has contributed to the ranking fervor? And do you think that culture might evaporate from the scene once all the gods finally retire/fall off?

Just curious to know what you think about all this because I’m somewhat surprised at your take on the ranking discussion, considering your position in the community. – Catalepsy

Oh boy; answering this question is going to be a doozy, especially after I just spent a large portion of this column speculating on rankings. I’m not sure “ranking culture” pervasiveness necessarily comes from the existence of the “Five Gods era” as much as they’re both symptoms of Smash’s waning popularity among spectators. So no; I don’t think the culture is evaporating any time soon. More than ever, members of the Smash scene are spectators first and players second.

That’s perfectly fine with me, but in terms of impact and influence over the scene, it terrifies me that I’ve had a “bigger” impact as an annual SSBMRank balloter and writer than I ever did as a player or tournament organizer. Sometimes, it keeps me up at night.

Let me put it this way: I’d like to think the perspective in which I approach “rankings” isn’t from someone who only watches Melee. I really care about the community’s survival, think I at least know an adequate amount about the game, and still do my best to attend regionals and nationals. Maybe that’s just my self-defense mechanism for not attending my locals, but hey – when you balance a Monday column with a full-time job, you can only do so much.

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