Happy holidays and merry end of the year, everyone! In today’s column, I will be providing an unofficial 2021 list for Melee results. I am doing this as a byproduct of what seems to be a collective call for Melee rankings. For transparency’s sake: some variant of my ballot will be part of the process for both Panda Global’s “PreGR” and “Blur Rank.”
Heading into my ballot, I wanted to include as many results as possible. The PreGR was overwhelmingly focused on offline events, but while I agree that offline events matter more, the volume of online results provided too valuable for me to ignore. I wanted to incorporate those into my rankings, even if online sets don’t quite translate 1:1 to offline performances. As a result, I collected data from the start of the year through smash.gg, Liquipedia, and results recorded within the Melee Stats public discord to verify their legitimacy. I did this for about 71 players who I thought were either easy picks for Top 50 or on the fringe of Top 50, only looking at their head-to-heads among each other and seeing their performances at majors.
I’ll admit that this is not entirely comprehensive. The results I’m looking at do not account for notable results or upsets outside of these players. However, if you’ve ever talked to me about rankings, you’ll note that I tend to be fairly skeptical of “outlier” sets, at least barring them consistently coming at a significant major. In other words, a loss to NoFluxes is not going to change my opinion on a Top 20 player if they have hundreds of other sets that show them to be, well, a Top 20 player. Rather than looking at each set and thinking, “is this a good/bad result,” I basically have an internal idea of what “tier” of players someone would be in. When it comes to evaluating them, I like to look at head-to-head records within these tiers and the ones surrounding them as the greatest indicator for a player’s trajectory, as well as a sign for how good their performances have been.
In the groups below, you’ll find that I have their records among each other listed in parentheses. I think this will be a good guideline on its own for justifying a player’s position, but I’ve written short, if not somewhat curt, blurbs for each player to explain my thoughts on their year. Don’t expect these to be “Melee Stats Top 100” level memorable. Here goes nothing.
Ordering The Top 6
1. Mango (14-7)
2. Zain (9-7)
3. iBDW (8-7)
4. Plup (7-5)
5. Wizzrobe (5-12)
6. Leffen (0-4)
It may come as a surprise that I really did not want to select Mango as my No. 1 player. Considering he only attends invitationals, it doesn’t feel right to reward him when almost everyone else is playing more Melee than ever before. But I had no choice. Mango won Smash Summit 11 and came out on top of a rivalry against the other contender for world No. 1 (Zain, 5-4). In his weakest LAN showing of the year, Mango still finished in second place, beating that same player. As a result, he steals the crown.
For most of the year, it felt like a foregone conclusion that Zain would end it at No. 1. Then Smash Summit 11 happened and everything slowly unraveled, with the Summit Champions League gold medalist only winning Smash World Tour’s NA East Finals to close the year. Finishing third at Smash Summit 12 to iBDW and Mango practically sealed the deal for him to finish No. 2 on this list. That said, 2022 offers another chance for him to build upon a promising career.
iBDW overcame his two biggest bracket demons to win 2021’s final supermajor. Most surprisingly, he did it right after a subpar Mainstage performance where he lost to Ginger and KoDoRiN. At the very least, winning Smash Summit 12 shows that the iBDW of today is fundamentally different than the one from earlier in the year. Being positive in the year vs. Wizzrobe (2-0), Plup (3-1), Leffen (1-0), aMSa (1-0), and Hungrybox (4-1) cements his spot in Melee’s top three.
When Plup returned from his hiatus, it didn’t take long for him to get back in shape. He looks tougher than ever for Wizzrobe (4-0), has the recent head-to-head lead against Mango (2-1), and is fresh off winning the Smash World Tour Championships. What’s lately been working out for him is his Fox, which has come quite in handy in recent sets against SFAT (3-2), Aklo (1-0), and Pipsqueak (1-0). These are three opponents who 2019 Plup would have been mortified to play. Continuing to win vs. Fox would do wonders for 2022 Plup’s odds of winning more majors.
For as much as he struggles vs. Mango (1-4), Plup (0-4), and iBDW (1-3), Wizzrobe has great records vs. mostly everyone else. He’s done well vs. Leffen (2-0), Hungrybox (6-1), aMSa (1-0), and SFAT (3-2). Hell, he’s split sets with Zain (1-1). Although Wizzrobe tends to struggle with the occasional upset, they’re not consequential enough for me to consider moving the Mainstage champion down. Winning Mainstage on its own proved to me that he’s a favorite at most smaller majors he attends, and winning a week of SCL earlier this year shows that he has a nonzero shot of winning supermajors.
If Leffen had more chances against players in this group, I’m confident he’d be able to take sets, if not outright win majors over them. Right now, I can’t put him above No. 6, if only because he’s lost sets to everyone ranked above him. Dominating Europe is an impressive feat for sure, but it’s not one that necessarily points to him being Top 5. For what it’s worth though, Leffen convincingly beat Hungrybox and the rest of the field at Smash Summit 12. That was enough for me to place him within this group.
7. aMSa (2-1)
8. Hungrybox (10-9)
9. SFAT (9-10)
10. Polish (4-1)
11. S2J (11-10)
12. KoDoRiN (8-14)
aMSa has three major events for 2021: Smash Summit 11, Smash Summit 12, and the Smash World Tour Championships. In the most recent one, he trounced Jmook (1-0) and handily beat Gahtzu (1-0) before falling to Plup (0-1) and Trif (0-1). This performance was not too dissimilar from his most recent Summit showing, where he beat up Mango (2-0), Hungrybox (1-1), and SFAT (1-0) before top eight, where he then got sent home by iBDW (0-1) and Wizzrobe (0-1). I’ll be real – this is probably the best aMSa has ever looked, but I’m a little worried about his tendency to flame out or run into a buzzsaw matchup on day three. For now, I have enough faith in his matchups within this group and above him to keep him here.
Counting both offline and online sets, Hungrybox is still usually consistent vs. the field. Overall, he’s 32-13 vs. players I have ranked in the 13-27 range, as well as 10-9 vs. this group, so it’s not like he’s “bad.” But even with an anecdotally higher floor offline, Hungrybox still struggles with the Top 6 (2-16) in both formats. I can’t consider him anything more than a supreme long shot to win a major and I’m not surprised that he failed to win one in 2021.
I was tempted to place SFAT above Hungrybox. Most surprisingly, he performs better vs. the tier above him, with better showings against Wizzrobe (2-3), iBDW (1-3), and Mango (1-1). I took a look at how SFAT performs vs. peers within this group, and he goes fairly back-and-forth (9-10) with them. In the end, I held off on my temptation. Hungrybox has outplaced him at every LAN major they’ve entered together, and even won a Galint over SFAT from way earlier in the year. Still – it’s a lot closer than you’d think.
wally currently watching my wizzy set at 2 am on christmas and roasting the shit out of me in discord dms
— pole-ish (@ssbmPolish) December 25, 2021
Polish low key has an argument for being the seventh best player in the world over the last few months. Stunting on offline Hungrybox (2-0), taking a set from iBDW (1-2), and winning vs. KoDoRiN (2-1) is about as good as anything we’ve seen from the players atop this tier. However, I’m going to halt the brakes a little bit. Since this is an annual ranking, I have to be the party pooper and note that they did finish the year with negative records against Ginger (1-3), Rocky (0-1), TheRealThing (0-1), Panda (0-1), and Erik (0-1). That said, the more time that passes, the less relevant these results are going to look. I’m still not over how consistently Polish thrashes lloD (9-2) in the ditto.
It’s a shame that S2J’s last quarter of the year was so limited. Earlier in 2021, he looked like one of the best players in the world. Winning the Spring’s Galint Melee Open was certainly no joke, and neither was going even with iBDW (4-4) or taking a set from Zain (1-3). The only reason he’s so relatively low is because his decline coincided with the return of big LAN events, which is ultimately what matters more than any online accomplishments. When he returns in 2022, I expect to see the return of the guy who tweeted “No. 3.”
Between individual standout wins over Plup (1-4) and iBDW (1-2), KoDoRiN is one of the biggest breakout stars of 2021. While his cumulative results vs. everyone else in this group are the lowest out of anyone, one thing that works out in his favor is his performances at LAN majors, where KoDoRiN has made top eight multiple times. The current king of SoCal also boasts great head-to-head records vs. some of the people below him, particularly vs. Lucky (10-5), Magi (3-0), Ginger (6-2), Fiction (5-2), and Gahtzu (5-2) in both formats. One notable exception: his arch nemesis Faceroll (0-4).
13. moky (10-5)
14. n0ne (20-15)
15. Trif (7-2)
16. Jmook (7-3)
17. Ginger (17-9)
18. Aklo (17-16)
19. Gahtzu (14-13)
20. Magi (6-8)
21. Lucky (9-13)
22. Faceroll (4-9)
23. Kalamazhu (4-4)
24. Fiction (5-3)
25. Axe (3-9)
26. lloD (3-4)
27. Pipsqueak (2-5)
I feel like moky would be in the above group if he had the opportunity to compete as seriously as he’d like to. In what he’s shown us, he’s gone even with iBDW (1-1), won his only matchup with Wizzrobe (1-0), and more often than not beat his peers. The “worst” thing about moky’s resume is a 9th place at Smash Summit 11, where he had to play Mango twice (0-3), face off versus two terrifying Marths, and lose a heart-breaker vs. Hungrybox (1-1). Even though we’ve only seen him at Pinnacle in the back end of the year, SCL Season 2, Hax’s Night Club, Xanadu, GOML 2021, Four Loko Fight, and Galint Open in the spring clearly show moky to have a Top 15 year.
n0ne’s in a similar boat to moky. As it stands, he also has a win over Wizzrobe (1-0), and his records vs. comparable players are still pretty good compared to everyone else. Part of it is inflated by how he performs vs. Ginger (8-1), but another highlight of his year was putting an end to Swift’s (1-0) insane winners’ run at Galint’s Summer Edition, where n0ne also beat Panda (1-1), bobby big ballz (5-0), Zamu (2-0), and Lucky (3-3). He ended up finishing in second place at the event, and additionally solid head-to-heads against Aklo (3-2) and Magi (3-0) made me a bit more certain about looking at n0ne’s year.
I’ve seen enough from Trif within the United States to feel comfortable placing him this high. Beating aMSa (1-0) was impressive enough, and at the same tournament, he beat Faceroll (2-0), Jmook (1-0), Aklo (1-0), and Axe (1-0). Normally, I wouldn’t overreact so hard to one event, but the volume of good results here functionally made it worth multiple tournaments. Speaking of those, Trif is up in the year vs. Pipsqueak (3-2) and remains top three in Europe – with comically lopsided head-to-head against Frenzy (8-0) and positive records vs. anyone outside of Professor Pro (1-3) and Leffen (0-5). I might have discounted these performances in the past as having limited predictive value for how Trif would do in America. Well, we just saw him here and he basically punked everyone before top eight.
Similar to Trif, I’m ready to put Jmook this high. What truly puts his amazing year into perspective is that his Smash World Tour Championships showing was technically an ‘under-performance.’ At the same tournament, he “only” beat Sora (1-0), Gahtzu (1-0), Kalamazhu (1-0), and 2saint (1-1) in the qualifiers, losing to Jflex (0-1), aMSa (0-1) and Frenzy (0-1). As for the rest of the year, Jmook snapped Aklo’s streak of never losing to a Sheik (1-1), won the trilogy of sets vs. Ginger (2-1), and beat Polish (1-0), Magi (1-0), and n0ne (1-0) in their only sets.
Ginger has a strange resume to evaluate. He has a few head-scratching “outlier” matchups like KoDoRiN (2-6), n0ne (1-8), and KJH (1-6), as well as dropped sets at notable events to Flash (0-1) and Sora (0-1). But on the whole, he tends to perform extremely well against his peers. This is particularly true vs. Polish (3-1), Aklo (5-3), Lucky (2-0), and Magi (3-1). The Low Tide City champion also finished the year with the lead over Axe (2-1), winning that very tournament over him. In the context of these achievements, Ginger’s currently slumping, but he’s still a smart bet to do well at most tournaments, let alone attend them.
During the spring, it looked like Gahtzu was trending toward being Top 10 in the world. The Allston Melee Bender champion eventually cooled off, still ending the year with splits vs. S2J (1-1), Polish (1-1), and moky (1-1), also being a bracket demon for n0ne (4-0). One of the first signs of Gahtzu being a noticeably different player this year has to be the way he clowned Axe (1-0) in their sole Captain Falcon-Pikachu set at SCL. I remember being so stunned at the time. Now I look at it and think, “Yep; that makes sense.”
I remember it like it was yesterday, when Aklo was beating 2saint so badly at a recent iteration of Omega that 2saint tried standing up while playing, only to be mimicked in turn. Today, everybody knows who Aklo is: the player who’s won more editions of The Nightclub than anyone else and a frequent star of rollback events with his Fox and his utterly horrifying Link. Of note, he’s consistently he’s beaten Axe (3-0), lloD (3-1), Gahtzu (3-2).
Magi’s highs are remarkable. She’s split sets with Wizzrobe (1-1) and, perhaps more impressively, has dominated SFAT (3-0) every time they’ve played. At the same time, she struggles a bit with consistency issues against this tier, noticeably in matchups that don’t involve Fox or Captain Falcon. However, it’s worth noting that being an expert against these two characters can take you pretty far – as it did when she finished atop her Fox-heavy Smash World Championships pool.
There was a point in 2021 when Lucky looked in his prime. When he won Netplay for Palestine, Lucky was riding hot off wins over S2J (4-4), n0ne (3-3), Polish (1-1), Hungrybox (1-1), Faceroll (3-0), bobby big ballz (8-8), Ben (2-2), and KoDoRiN (5-10) within that same month. However, in the last quarter of the year, Lucky has fallen behind a tough competitive field within SoCal. He also had a clunker of a showing at Low Tide City, where Palpa (0-1) and Gahtzu (1-2) destroyed him. That said, if Lucky made top eight at Genesis 8, I can’t say I’d be too surprised, and for a year-end rank, he shouldn’t be forgotten for having some incredible moments.
Last night in Melee:
1. Lucky won Netplay for Palestine, beating n0ne, S2J, Hungrybox, bobby big ballz & Ben
2. DonB won CouchWarriors, beating Skeleduck, Dekar & Emps
3. Chape won Super Smash Bong, beating NDJ’s Ganon, Lopino & Starbug
— Melee Stats (@MeleeStatsPod) May 22, 2021
In 2020, Faceroll outright looked like a Top 10 player in the world. A year later, and after long stretches of inactivity, Faceroll’s taken a bit of a step back, but don’t sleep on him. He continues to own KoDoRiN’s soul (4-0), and is fresh off making his first major top eight at the Smash World Tour Championships. Trending positive vs. Kalamazhu (2-0), Fiction (1-0), Magi (1-0) helps his case, as does his run to third place at Smash World Tour’s NA West Finals. What keeps me from ranking him higher is negative records vs. Lucky (0-3), Axe (0-2) and Trif (0-2).
I sometimes wonder if Kalamazhu would be a Top 10 player in the world if Melee were only relegated to Peach and characters above her on the tier list. I’ll never pass up an opportunity to gush about him vs. Fox in particular. SFAT (1-0), moky (1-0), Aklo (2-0) – these are some of the players he’s creamed in this matchup. When Dacky beat Kalamazhu, it said a lot more about Dacky’s potential than it did about any significant, long-term shortcomings that Kalamazhu had. He also won his only set vs. Gahtzu (1-0) and has split them with KoDoRiN (1-1), so it’s not like he’s a one-trick pony either.
At Genesis 8, I want to run an experiment where I hire a hypnotist to convince Fiction of two things: that he’s actually in the Verdugo venue and that every opponent of his is someone from SoCal. By results, he’s pretty cleanly the No. 2 out of active players within the region, a feat that would point to him being a borderline Top 10, if not Top 15 player. His majors haven’t been anywhere as impressive, and as a result, I don’t have him higher. But anyone who consistently beats S2J (4-2), Lucky (4-1), and n0ne (1-0) is a great pick to do well in the future.
I feel bad for putting Axe this low. Taking a set from aMSa (1-0) shouldn’t be ignored, and neither should beating the crap out of Faceroll (2-0), KoDoRiN (3-0), and Logan (2-0). At the same time, there’s too many people who give Axe a hard time. Polish (0-1), Gahtzu (0-1), Trif (0-1), SFAT (0-3), moky (0-2), Aklo (0-3), Ginger (1-2), and 2saint (1-1) have all beaten him this year at notable events, and that’s without talking about Secrets (0-1) or how Medz has displaced Axe for Arizona No. 1. You can’t have this many question marks and be considered anything other than borderline Top 25.
lloD’s year was a mixed bag, in part due to spending the middle of it either not competing or experimenting with a new controller. However, I still think he deserves to be with these other players. He had a good Riptide, where he beat SFOP (1-0) and Drephen (1-0), following it up with winning sets over n0ne (1-0), Gahtzu (1-1), and KoDoRiN (1-0) at the Smash World Tour events he attended.
Last week, I bored you with the details behind Pipsqueak’s results within the United States. This week, I’m going to bore you with the details behind his head-to-heads in Europe: mainly Professor Pro (6-0), Frenzy (7-3), Nicki (6-3), and Ice (6-2). We didn’t know what these meant before, so I’ll put it this way: each of these players either made final bracket at the Smash World Tour Championships or upset someone within this group. Those players are clearly good, and it fully contextualizes how unsurprising it is that Pipsqueak just added Polish (1-1), Colbol (1-0), and Spark (1-0) to his resume of wins. If anything, placing Pipsqueak here feels conservative and as a byproduct of factoring earlier struggles in the year vs. MINT (0-3) and Mahie (1-1) at smaller tournaments.
Barely Outside The Above Tier
Anyone can remember that he beat n0ne (1-0) or KoDoRiN (1-0), but it’s easy to forget how SluG pretty consistently beats Logan (3-0), 2saint (2-0), bobby big ballz (2-0), Zealot (2-1), Zuppy (3-1), Ben (4-0), and Panda (2-0). What stops me from placing SluG in the tier above him is volatility vs. the field and relatively disapointing LAN showings. I’m not sure if any of this is really his “fault” as much as just something inherent to who he plays, but realistically, people like NoFluxes (0-2), Wally (0-2), and Bbatts (0-2) are always going to be annoying matchups for him. In order to get to the players he does well against, he’s going to deal with the same roadblocks every “good” Ice Climbers player has to worry about. Nonetheless, SluG’s very clearly had a Top 30 year in 2021 and he’s a good pick to make a major top eight in 2022.
I’m obviously quite fond of Logan, so I feel comfortable saying that their resume in 2021 contains truly puzzling exits from tournaments to monstrous loser’s bracket runs where they 3-0 everybody in their path. Similar to SluG, I’ve kept them out of the tier ahead of them not because I think they can’t compete with them, but just because they’ved experienced a bit of a slump that’s coincided with the return of LAN. As far as the numbers go, Logan often does better than not. For the year, they’ve split sets with KoDoRiN (1-1), beaten moky (1-0), come out on top of three sets vs. Ginger (2-1), has a great rivalry against Aklo (3-2), and, in a twist that may shock people who haven’t been paying attention, has been a big problem for Ben (8-4).
Fun fact about Colbol: I had him at No. 28 on my ballot for the Melee Stats Top 100. You might think that’s debatable, but what isn’t is the fact that he’s still good at the game. He trounced Spark (1-0) in their only meetup this year, but he also continues to steamroll Gahtzu (12-5), as well as win each of his only sets vs. SluG (1-0), 2saint (1-0), Fiction (1-0), and n0ne (1-0). Colbol’s activity is all over the place, but considering how he’s performed at meaningful LAN events, I feel good about giving him the nod over some other people who did well at many online tournaments.
SURPRISE HERE’S ANOTHER 22 FOR THE MONDAY MORNING MARTH 2021 TOP 52
- Albert: A player who I feel that I perpetually underrate – he had a rough showing at Low Tide City, but made up for it with a good Mainstage – plus he made top eight at SCL earlier, so I’m putting him here for good results vs. Hungrybox (1-1), Polish (1-0), S2J (1-1), and Gahtzu (1-1).
- Spark: Spark just recently won a local in Orlando over Fiction (2-1) and he won Smash Summit 12’s VIP bracket over Lucky (2-1) and Faceroll (1-0) – he’s still good and not far off from where he was in 2020.
- Soonsay: He looked Top 25 earlier in the year before going inactive; I was especially impressed with his rivalries vs. SFAT (1-1), KoDoRiN (3-2), and Medz (2-1).
- Frenzy: It might be a bit soon to put Frenzy up here, but I’m ready to do it – winning records vs. Ice (7-1) and Professor Pro (10-8), alongside beating Jmook (1-0) in their only set make me bullish on Frenzy in a way that others might be about someone like Flash.
- Zealot: I previously covered Zealot’s excellent 2021, putting a ballpark estimate to his year at 35, so I may as well keep him here.
- FatGoku: If he went to more, I think he’d be higher; as it stands, winning over Fiction (2-0), Soonsay (1-0), SFOP (1-0), and KJH (1-0) is pretty great, as is dominating Dacky (6-1) and poor Aura (a bajillion-2).
- SFOP: I’ve always been a big believer in SFOP – he has really great head-to-head records vs. people like Colbol (3-1), bobby big ballz (8-4), and individual sets on Zealot (1-0), Zamu (1-0), ARMY (1-0), Panda (1-0), and, most impressively, S2J (1-0) from Mainstage.
- KJH: Really just an unfortunate series of subpar major performances for his standards, but farming Ginger (6-1) makes me hopeful for KJH’s 2022.
- Professor Pro: Being Top 2 in the UK and being the only consistently active person in Europe to boast a winning record vs. Trif (3-1) is enough for me to place Professor Pro this high.
- Rocky: Looked like a Top 25 player earlier in the year and had a great rivalry with S2J (3-4), as well as split sets with Lucky (1-1) and Logan (1-1) before going quiet.
- Zuppy: With his confirmed attendance at Genesis 8, Zuppy has a chance to add to a resume where he’s even with bobby big ballz (5-5), solidly up vs. Ben (4-1), has the lead vs. Zamu (2-1), and has won events over Colbol (2-0) and Aklo (3-4) – if anything, putting Zuppy this low is procedural; it’s really just because we haven’t seen him compete offline within the United States.
- 2saint: A very confusing player to evaluate; someone who beat S2J (3-0) and n0ne (2-0) pretty thoroughly, but struggled in the second half of the year, particularly within Tristate at what he went to – a lack of good performances in the second half of the year relatively hurts him.
- ARMY: In the little he’s shown us, ARMY’s beaten Soonsay (1-0), Zamu (1-0), Ginger (1-0), and Fiction (1-1) – but he’s also gotten washed by Franz (0-2) and gone to few events.
- Medz: Being the No. 1 in Arizona puts him this high even if he doesn’t attend that much, and Medz also has good showings vs. Magi (1-0), bobby big ballz (6-5), Ben (1-1), ARMY (1-1), and Dacky (2-1).
- bobby big ballz: It was a pain to cover all of bobby’s head-to-heads, so I’ll put it in one simple number: against this group of players, he is 53-53, and as such, sits here.
- Tyler Swift: Not too far off from Axe for the title of best Pikachu – he even does better vs. Aklo (2-3), actually beat Sora (1-0) in their only set, and stole one from Hungrybox (1-2) online.
- Zamu: The Melee Stats ‘sponsored’ player himself is still great – I covered his year in a previous column to set a baseline for what a good Top 50 Fox player looks like, and I see no reason to think of him any worse.
- Ice: Ice is this high out of respect for his legacy and showing the world that he can still 3-0 someone like Aklo (1-0) or Professor Pro (3-3) on the right day, but struggling with Frenzy (1-7) and not having many other results of note within Europe keeps him this low.
- Sora: I previously covered Sora’s year last week.
- Ben: The best version of Ben looks like the best Sheik in the world vs. Hungrybox (9-6) and can upset Wizzrobe (1-0), but the median version of Ben has enough problem matchups vs. Zuppy (1-4), Logan (4-8), SluG (0-4), Panda (1-3), Colbol (1-6), and bobby big ballz (8-14) to make me worry about consistency issues – he is overall 25-53 vs. this tier he’s in.
- Dacky: When I wrote about Dacky in the spring, I confidently thought he’d make the NA West Finals, and when he did, he beat Kalamazhu (1-0) in their only head-to-head, and he also destroyed Aklo in the ditto (1-0).
- Panda: Has peaks as high as beating Polish (1-0) and KoDoRiN (1-1), but tends to struggle with Falco, being on the receiving end of sets vs. bobby big ballz (0-3) and Rocky (0-3), among others.
58 Honorable Mentions in literally no order (because why not list random players that I think are good)
- Android 0
- Eddy Mexico
- Jah Ridin’
- Free Palestine
- The Leaf
- Just Jason