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Published February 25, 2019

Last weekend, Trif won Phoenix Blue 2, defending Europe from aMSa and earning yet another victory over a Top 10 player. In the first year of Melee since Armada’s retirement, Trif has officially taken his mantle as Europe’s best Peach – and his first place at Phoenix Blue 2 is yet another sign of Trif trending upward.

In this week’s edition of “The Adventures of AbsentPage,” the Minnesota Fox prodigy brought home the gold at Illinois’ Hold That L 2, only to fly to SoCal a day later for Fight For SoCal 3, which Westballz won over the stacked SoCal crowd.

For other news, Medz won both Arizona events of note over the weekend: Poop House Invitational and Battlefield 11. Over in Connecticut, Hax took GIGA HOG 5, and in Japan, Sanne beat Gucci twice from loser’s bracket to win Liquid Crystal Melee 2.

1. Big Day for BIGKID

From an incomprehensibly bad showing at The Gang Hosts A Melee Tournament to boasting dominant victories over some of Tristate’s top players, New York Jigglypuff main BIGKID is one of the true “wild cards” in Melee. Ask anyone who is familiar with BIGKID’s rest-heavy playstyle.

At GIGA HOG 5, he was sent into loser’s bracket early by Palika, the current frontrunner for best East Coast Dr. Mario. But following this loss, he went on a tear, defending locally and globally ranked players like GWM420, Tiramisu, FMB5k and Kalvar before finally losing to lintgod, ironically someone he has multiple wins against.

It’s interesting to note BIGKID’s strange history of success within Connecticut. At the last monthly, he beat Swiftbass, Rasen, Tiramisu and Kalvar en route to fifth place. As alluded to before, one of his biggest wins out of region was against lintgod at CT GamerCon in 2017.

BIGKID’s resume over the last two years is pretty impressive – at Genesis 5, he notably defeated Kalamazhu. It’s been a year since, and along with a respectable 65th at Genesis 6, the Puff prodigy already has two great regional performances under his belt. Is 2019 the big year for BIGKID?

2. A Pep Talk For Melee Players

Look, I just spent the last section of my Monday morning column praising a Puff player. For a significant portion of last week’s column, I talked about what hypothetical rule changes I’d support. Before that, I discussed my skepticism surrounding ways of “nerfing” Puff through the ruleset. Banning wobbling has become a bigger part of global Smash discourse (hold on for a second; unironically using this term makes me want to vomit), and national attendance still has plataued, or at worst is declining despite there being more notable events.

Guys, is Melee finally worthy of the d-word? No, it’s not.

This shit happens all the time with new games: the existential anxiety, worry of staleness in the metagame and top player burnout against Puff – a problem that Melee has technically dealt with since Mango’s rise. The unique factor with Ultimate is that many top Melee players actually like the new game.

But the biggest reason I wouldn’t worry is because I don’t think the endgame of “Melee being replaced” is a big deal. Think about it.

In an absolute worst case scenario where the scene returns to Apex 2012 levels of grassroots, what exactly are the downsides? That less than one percent of players don’t have a career off playing a video game? That we see less majors? It might make for a worse viewing experience or for less accessibility, but none of that fundamentally changes how most of you reading this column will still enjoy playing a game of Melee with your friends.

The fact of the matter is that the biggest factors “stopping” people from playing Melee are outside of the game and series. They’re dealing with responsibilities like having a job, graduating college, preparing for marriage or having kids. Simply put, they’re time-sensitive and tiring obligations that are sometimes, even by myself, confused with resentment toward or burnout in Melee. A new game changes none of that for the average Melee fan.

Even for those who don’t play the game and are primarily invested in the community through a spectator lens, what loss is there in a hypothetical situation where someone like Leffen fully transitions to Ultimate? Most of these people aren’t attending nationals, let alone their local scene. If you’re part of a niche fandom, and your main reason for leaving is because a player you like is now gone, you probably weren’t that big of a fan of the game itself in the first place. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t diminish other people’s interest.

Let’s put it this way: Melee, to my knowledge, is the only large competitive video game community that has survived multiple sequels. It’s done so both in spite of and because it never had developer support. People like Anti or Zero, who play Ultimate for their careers despite not really liking the game, just objectively aren’t fans in the same way that Melee fans like their game – they’re Smash brand loyalists. Once the new iteration comes out, they’re moving on.

There’s nothing wrong with that – and it’s possible to sincerely pursue numerous games of a series like Mew2King or Leffen do – but just think about it. Doesn’t it blow your mind that prominent players of a game could openly dislike it? Look at how Smash 4 turned out.

Melee players certainly are no stranger to complaining, but most of us, many top players and community leaders included, aren’t playing with the dreams of being provided a job and career from Daddy Nintendo – that’s been all but confirmed as impossible after a little under 18 years. But there’s benefits to this: we can’t be bought out and we can do whatever the hell we want as a community.

I want to emphasize the broader point: the circumstances behind Melee’s existence as a scene make it so that above literally everything else, its players have continued to play Melee because they love the game itself. The leaders of the scene have admittedly been the same since the late post-Brawl era, but I’d wager that the community as a whole is still fairly diverse in terms of “Doc kids” vs. older veterans and recent players.

It sounds simple, but I don’t see that changing any time soon, and I have great faith in the scene to “survive.” Anyways, this was kind of a rant into other topics, but my thoughts should be clear.

3. Monday Morning Mailbag

For me, after Genesis 6, it was the first time I feel like I am experiencing a new era of Melee. Hbox is still undoubtedly number one, but after G6, he narrowly clutched 3 sets against Plup, Axe, and S2J going 3-2 in all 3. If there was a time for players to make a shakeup, now is the time. How much shakeup do you expect to see in the top 10 by the time the summer rankings come out this year? – jc9800

Oh boy, I get to talk about why Melee is actually exciting again! Good question, especially as it’s coming close to MSPR time, the REAL rankings you should be paying attention to instead. Let’s recap how each of the 10 have done since TBH8.

Hungrybox: Has won everything. Seems more dominant against his peers, but people like Zain, Wizzrobe, Axe, and Duck have taken him pretty close, if not straight up beaten him. Highly doubt his position will change more than a few spots.

Armada: RIP.

Leffen: Dropped out of Melee at Genesis, is streaming more Ultimate and performed in his expected skill range at TBH8 and Summit. Don’t think he’s going anywhere soon, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a slight dip in performance before he rebounds.

Plup: Has an uncharacteristic loss to Axe, but has looked mostly fine everywhere else. He’ll be back.

Mango: Lost to Magi and aMSa, but also destroyed a bunch of good players in loser’s bracket and was on a mini-hot streak of making winners finals at every event he entered after his dreadful SSC 2018.

Mew2King: Didn’t attend TBH8, had a dreadful Summit and even worse Genesis. He will either not be ranked at all for MSPR or fall quite a few spots by the summer if he is serious about prioritizing his stream and Ultimate. Out of the current gods, he is easily the most vulnerable.

Zain: Has been quietly on a bit of a slump since winning Shine, but I also don’t think he’s had any results that stand out as abnormal or unexpected. We already knew Zain could struggle with top Captain Falcons and lose to players like Axe and Swedish Delight. Can’t see him doing much worse; sometimes that’s just how brackets work out. However, given how close Ginger and Fiction came to beating him, I think Zain is starting to look less invincible in the matchups he previously looked untouchable in.

Wizzrobe: Had an unfortunate TBH8, slightly underperformed at The Script, lost his first ever to Zain en route to an underwhelming fifth at GT-X, but then beat Leffen, Mew2King and aMSa in a great Summit run before prioritizing Ultimate at Genesis.

aMSa: He beat Plup at Summit, had a great run at Genesis that involved a win against Mango, but also lost Battle Gateway to Sanne not too long ago and is fresh off a second place to Trif at Phoenix Blue. Mixed bag.

Axe: The recent second place master, both in his amazing run at Genesis, but also dropped sets to Medz in-region.

There’s clearly a lot of uncertainty surrounding the people beneath Hungrybox, but I’m not quite sure if anyone beneath the top ten is ready to leapfrog the people in this tier, mostly because the variance in results below the top ten is still really big. If I had to select someone to take the remaining spot in the top ten following Armada’s retirement, I think PewPewU or S2J would be my picks out of active players.

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