On Tuesday last week, I published the SoCal Top 50. Though it took a long time to publish, and is, in large part, fairly out-of-date, I still had fun with it as a rough content piece; a sketch of the world’s strongest region. Is it really the world’s strongest region though? Not too long after it came out, Aiden set Smash Twitter on fire – specifically the portion hailing from Tristate – by claiming that he was even more convinced that SoCal would wash Tristate in a crew battle.
saw the SoCal top 50 and realized that SoCal washes Tristate right now it might not even be close
— Aiden (@aidencalvin) December 13, 2022
Now, I think Tristate vs. SoCal is a really fun hypothetical crew battle – and I’m not talking about just 5v5. If you extended it to 20v20, or magically had the resources to run a 50v50 format, you wouldn’t just be talking about the top players. You’d be including some of the most active grinders and rising stars of the game. Mango vs. iBDW is obviously a money-maker, as is KoDoRiN vs. Jmook. But where else are you going to see a match between the likes of Just Jason and Khalid? Can you imagine how wild the crowd would get if you had one portion going nuts over Captain Smuckers, and the other losing their minds over Steech? Hell, I would be so down to see danilo calamari take on Stanky. Maybe we should have a big crew battle of all the players who have never made PR.
All jokes aside, this is too juicy of a scenario for me to not take as seriously as possible, maybe to a point where it’s not fun any more. In today’s column, I’m going to tackle the ultimate question: which region would win in a 20v20 crew battle between Tristate and SoCal?
Now, it’s important to establish a few things here. Because this is not strictly a Verdugo vs. Nightclub crew battle, I’m going to include notable nationally active competitors who don’t attend their locals. The most obvious example that comes to mind is Mango, who will be in our SoCal crew, and Faceroll being another one. Similarly, iBDW and Jmook will be added to the list of Tristate players. However, this will not count players who are both locally and nationally inactive. For example, I’m not counting Swedish Delight or FoxyGrandpa to the list of Tristate players nor am I doing that for Westballz in SoCal. There are way too many people for me to list out, so, for the most part, if you don’t see someone’s name, it’s because they’ve basically disappeared from the national scene.
I do want to acknowledge a bias that will undeniably impact how I evaluate this crew battle and, unfortunately, its outcome. For the purpose of evaluating this right now, I don’t want to factor in players who are currently banned from any supermajors, even if some are due to return in a couple of weeks. It’s not because I think these players aren’t “good” at playing Melee, and it’s not even my wish to particularly oppose some of their returns. I just don’t like the idea of people gassing up banned players for the sake of scoring a point over another region.
On a lighter note: the next thing I had to figure out was who would be in this hypothetical crew battle. What counts as Tristate and what counts as SoCal? Rather than drilling down a specific set of criteria, since I really have no interest in being a pedant, I decided to go by pure vibes. For the sake of enforcing random criteria: all of New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey are allowed, but no Pennsylvania. Although I think the Philadelphia region does have a sincere claim to being seen in the same breath as Tristate, or at least a sibling region, I do not personally think of SluG or Dawson as players who should be counted in the “spirit” of this crew battle. If you disagree, then I don’t really care too much to oppose it or define it further.
For the sake of any further predictions, I am also going to assume they’re playing this out on neutral ground: like at The Big House 11 or an event where both regions will have their separate crowds, as well as a mostly neutral audience watching them duke it on. Maybe each player could put around $100 on the line to make it a crew battle with $2,000 on each side. Add in donations from other community members and organizations to make this an event that nobody would ever forget. It would, by far, be the most exciting crew battle of all-time.
In terms of the rule set, I’m going to assume that the standard Melee singles rule-set applies. The only delineation I’d suggest that would make the rules of this crew battle different than other ones is that I think having a stage ban in a crew battle is really stupid. I do not see any one stage as overwhelmingly centralizing or qualitatively degenerate in a 20v20 crew battle featuring multiple players of different characters. So with that in mind, let’s jump into the pros and cons of each crew.
We can’t talk about Tristate without acknowledging the scariest regional one-two punch in the scene: iBDW and Jmook. In these two, you have people who, on any given day, can look like the best player in the world and are outright contenders to win majors. Tristate could start with one and end with the other in any direction and they’d probably have the advantage. After them, you have Aklo, who’s shown no reason to discount against anyone in the whole world, and should end up in the Top 15 or 20 for the 2022 rankings. Hell, he could just go Link in the crew battle if he really wanted to.
Next comes a slew of players who are squeaky clean picks for Top 50 or reasonably in contention for it: Jflex, 2saint, Rishi, TheSWOOPER, and Bbatts. Take note of the character diversity here, by the way, between Sheik, Jigglypuff, Marth, Samus, and Peach. It only continues the further down you go, with the Zain-slaying Peach Wally, the third best Ice Climbers JJM, another two Fox players in Mot$ and Chem, our first Captain Falcon player in JoJo, the first Falco in 404Cray, and a second top Sheik player in DrLobster.
Imma start kissing the hands of the girls watching me 3-0 their man
Straight batts beats you on and off the court
— Straight Batts (@bbatts523) December 15, 2022
All fifteen of the players I mentioned so far will have their names on the official 2022 SSBMRank ballot. The remaining five are a mix of “former” Top 100 talent and top players who anyone with a baseline understanding of the region should know. As far as the former is concerned, Ryobeat, Whiskers, and Captain Smuckers should give Tristate a strong Melee veteran presence. As far as the latter, Just Jason, a long-time top Sheik player of the region who became more well-known when he defeated Syrox back in the day and recently beat Logan, and Guava, whom I talked about last week, fill the last two spots.
In total, there’s four Fox players, two Falcos, one Marth, three Sheiks, one Jigglypuff, four Peaches, two Captain Falcons, one Ice Climbers, one Samus, and one Yoshi. Broadly speaking, you have about one-sixth of the Top 100, three people who have previously made the list, and two regional legends who could be Top 100 with more travel out of their region.
To point out the obvious, SoCal has Mango, who looked like the best player in the world over the last five months. Though there’s no “Jmook” equivalent of the region as far as someone who is in that same caliber of play, there is a bit more balance when it comes to broad “Top 10 to Top 20” representation. KoDoRiN, Fiction, and S2J are all somewhat difficult to rank at the current moment, but for the whole year they are practically guaranteed to finish within this range.
After these four, I would have to go with Null, Lucky, and Franz as other strong players who are also locks for the Top 50. In fact, add Smashdaddy to that list as well. In spite of inactivity somewhat derailing a Top 30 start to the ranking season, I’d be shocked if the former Chicago No. 1 placed outside the Top 50 by the end of 2022. The people under these eight are certainly no slouches either. Though I’m not sold on the idea of their results leading to their names finishing in the Top 50, I would personally put people like Faceroll, Suf, and Kurv in that range at any supermajor they attend. Similarly, while Khalid and Nut probably a little bit below those three in terms of national success on the year, both players have been active and strong enough regionally and nationally to make it onto the 2022 ballot. It’s likely that they will both make the final list. There is a non-zero chance that Ringler, who has wins over bobby big ballz, KJH, and Nickemwit this year – also coming within a hair of defeating literal Leffen – will make the list. Because of his national experience, I am giving him the nod in the crew battle over other equally capable or regionally better-performing SoCal players.
After I won game 2 leffen said my full address and social security number and I didn’t wanna push it
— AirBudd Dwyer (@Ringler_SSBM) December 4, 2022
It’s a little weirder after that. The next players range from up-and-down-in-activity former Top 100 players – ARMY, Squid, and Zeo being especially difficult players to assess as of right now in skill level – to local legends that are both well-established in the region and typically finish to their seed at the few larger events they attend. Those include Steech, Casper, and Asashi. From what I can tell of their results, and to my understanding of their historical trends, these three spacies are kind of like a ‘baseline’ for how good you need to be to start taking sets from the top of SoCal, and stop losing to everyone else. The only reason they haven’t quite had a breakout national yet is due to either lacking volume, lacking interest in attending bigger events, or going to them and – for lack of a better term – getting a hard bracket that doesn’t tell us much.
Regardless, one thing stands out about this 20-person crew: the ridiculous amount of representation for the spaces. Let’s assume that Mango is going Falco. Were that to hold up, SoCal would have a whopping six Foxes and four Falcos. They’d be complemented by one Marth, two Sheiks, four Captain Falcons, one Jigglypuff, one Ice Climbers player, and one Donkey Kong. This region will live and die by how its spacies perform.
My Hard Call
I have to say – this is not even a real crew battle (yet) and I am getting so excited imagining all the possible matchups and situations that could come out of it. Because crew battles are so notoriously volatile, I could not confidently tell you what would happen. It is a format where a one player can both simultaneously blow the crew battle for their whole team and give them a near-unbreakable advantage. Remember: it’s only four stocks per player. An SD here or there could be the different maker, and that’s almost certainly going to happen multiple times in a situation where a combined 40 players are going up against each other.
However, I did promise everyone a prediction based on the parameters I set up, and as such I will not waste too much of your time. In a 20v20 format, where each player’s individual role is going to be diminished due to the sheer presence of so many others, I think consistency really matters, and while it sounds like a really lame answer, I truly believe that having ten spacies is a net positive. There’s few situations where you could end up with a strategically outright ‘worse off’ position, as they “hard lose” so few situational matchups. The ones they might actually suffer in (like vs. Marth on Final Destination or Jigglypuff on Dreamland) are ones not significantly represented by either crew right now. Tristate is probably the stronger region overall, but for a crews prediction, I’m going with SoCal by the slimmest of margins.