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Published February 1, 2021
On Sunday, Pipsqueak finally accomplished what had been recently considered unthinkable in Europe: defeating Leffen. Coming out on top of three sets, Pipsqueak won Valhalla Online over the once-untouchable godslayer. Pipsqueak’s victory follows his December first place finish at the 5 Days of Melee EU event. At the very least, it cements him as one of the continent’s four best active players alongside Leffen, Trif and Professor Pro. However, Valhalla Online comes with a caveat: it was Leffen’s first continental major playing primarily with his new controller, though he occasionally switched to the GameCube controller to play Sheik. Nonetheless, at the end of his second place run, Leffen had managed to 3-0 Pipsqueak, Frenzy, kins0, Makenshi and Jah Ridin’. Over in the West Coast of the United States, the revival of Super Smash Sundays’ new Netplay series ended in the most fitting fashion possible: an S2J victory. The SoCal Captain Falcon and longtime SSS champion won the tournament over Soonsay, adding to a weekend where S2J had already won Rollback Rumble’s NA West event over SFAT. On the East Coast of the United States, bobby big ballz won Gucci Gang Online over Hax, while Polish won Rollback Rumble’s NA East event over Ben. In other news, Whiskers won the latest Queens Netplay Summit over Willy P.
1. Player of the Month (January 2021): Pipsqueak I’ve talked about Pipsqueak so much in this column that I’m practically sick of it. However, beating Leffen twice, even Leffen with a new controller, is impressive enough to where picking another player for this segment would be insulting. In 2020, Pipsqueak hovered around the Top 5 to 6 level of active players in Europe. He was considered around the same tier of players of Solobattle, Amsah, and Frenzy. More or less, Pipsqueak did pretty well against his tier, mostly beat everyone else and could take sets from Professor Pro. How valuable is a victory over Leffen on a new controller? It’s clearly not the same as beating Leffen’s Fox on a GameCube controller, but given how thoroughly Leffen beat everyone else at the event – including a 3-0 set over Pipsqueak himself – I would wager that a win over Frame 1 Leffen is, at the absolute worst, a victory over a Professor Pro-caliber player. Normally, I tend to err conservatively when it comes to ranking players. But this is Leffen we’re talking about. With a new controller, he was still able to actually 3-0 Pipsqueak in a set, as well as dismantle other strong talent in the continent. I think it’s more realistic to see “current” Leffen around the same skill level of Soonsay: a Top 25 player. For obvious reasons, I expect Leffen to be back at his first class baseline fairly soon, so this isn’t a slight at him in the least. Before Valhalla Online, I asked Wheat, a fellow Melee Stats member and king of the major seeders, where he would personally seed Pipsqueak at a hypothetical, COVID-free, LAN major with everyone good attending. Given that Pipsqueak had not taken a serious set from Leffen yet, I positioned the question bluntly, “How far off is Pipsqueak from Soonsay and Aklo?” Wheat and I agreed that Aklo and Soonsay were probably anywhere from Top 20 to 30. At the time, this felt pretty high for Pipsqueak – we saw him somewhere between those two Fox players and Azel. Pipsqueak had just won a tournament over Professor Pro – a player we felt was just barely within or outside of this tier for us – but it was also one tournament. Wheat mentioned that once you go down the ‘perceived’ ranks of players these days, the numbers become increasingly meaningless, especially due to high inactivity across the Top 100. If he put Pipsqueak anywhere from 50 to 60, it’s hard to tell what that means. Very likely, if he actually wrote out 50 active players, Pipsqueak would finish higher than 50. But how about players who haven’t been active? I’ll get to that later. For now, Wheat told me something along the lines of “Top 50” for Pipsqueak, but that he needs to see more and that another big event could completely shift how he sees him. Lo and behold, Pipsqueak won Valhalla Online.  I looked at Pipsqueak’s records within Europe since October. There are a few individual losses that stand out; he lost each of his only sets against Makenshi, Jah’ Ridin and, unfortunately, Seretur. Pipsqueak also has yet to take a set from Trif (0-2). However, within this span of time, Pipsqueak is also even vs. Leffen (2-2), up vs. Professor Pro (2-1), even vs. Solobattle (1-1), solidly up vs. Frenzy (3-0), positive vs. Amsah (2-1), up vs. Nicki (2-0) and overwhelmingly positive against everyone else. I would treat these results as akin to a hypothetical NA player having records of 0-1 vs. iBDW, 0-2 vs. lloD, 2-1 vs. Soonsay, 2-1 vs. FatGoku, 1-1 vs. Michael, 2-1 vs. Ben, 3-0 vs. Albert, and 2-0 vs. Zuppy. If those cumulative results were anonymous, who would you guess the player was? Probably Colbol, right? I think I would treat Pipsqueak as if he was in this tier. 2. Potential Benefits of Rollback Rankings On the latest episode of the Mixup, Radar, turndownforwalt, and their guests brought up the need for the community to have annual rankings again. I mention this both out of self-gratification – they brought Melee Stats by name – and because I think it’s a strange topic. The podcast hosts brought up the potential for rankings to create hype within in the scene, which is undeniably true. They also mentioned the professional opportunities that an “official” ranking could bring to the scene right now for its most dedicated players, as well as the people who make them. My interpretation and attempt at a steel-person version of what they’re saying is the following: rankings are a necessary part of the Smash ecosystem. Legitimate “enough” rankings for the scene provide some kind of incentive for people to continue playing and watching Melee. Without rankings, we have less of this incentive. Therefore, we should bring back the MPGR back or something else in its place…right? 3. Potential Downsides of Rollback Rankings I’m not nearly as involved within coordinating MPGR as Wheat or PracticalTAS. But let me tell you from firsthand experience as a panelist: it’s really not that fun. For starters, the project leads have to collect mind-numbing amounts of data, typically in manual fashion (though there are scripts that go through results which make the process easier). They also have to know the players that are worth tracking individual results for, to put it really bluntly, and create a list of Top 100 “nominees” based off their intuitive knowledge of, well, following the scene. Over the last few years, we’ve been pretty lucky to not miss anyone. Out of these nominees and their results, the project leads then have to go through everyone’s results and create a spreadsheet of head-to-heads. Often, just to make things easier for the panelists, they create sheets that are manually filtered to include locals or not, etc. Sometimes, you may even have to add an asterick to certain head to heads because someone played a secondary. You see where I’m going with this? That’s just the beginning. Then comes the panelist role, which I can speak about in a little more detail. Pretty much everyone I’ve talked to within Melee Stats feels ambivalently or mildly negative about potential rollback rankings. Learning to sort out the value of locals vs. majors is one thing, and the same goes with secondaries at LAN events. However, with lag, higher instances of secondaries, DQing, and, for lack of a better term, shenanigans, Netplay brings a whole cascade of issues when it comes to evaluating sets. With lag, region-locking can help, but sometimes even that isn’t always enough. This isn’t an argument against region-locking; it’s just something to note about its limits as a tournament tactic. The general attitude of players toward Netplay also seems to be more casual. I don’t say this to disrespect the Netplay grinders who very much take the game seriously and has absolutely improved. But it’s hard to deny that Netplay events feature so many more DQs and “shenanigans” than your average LAN tournament. This is so annoying to deal with as a panelist for in-person events, and it’s going to get even worse for online rankings, which will have huge asterisks on them. I won’t go into detail on why algorithms are bad for Melee rankings; just trust me. They’re not a viable option. You could argue that the presence of official rankings could significantly minimize the likelihood of player shenanigans. Some would even say that they’d encourage highly inactive players to return. I don’t buy this at all. People just don’t think of Netplay the same way they do for how they’ve played the game for most of two decades. It’s how you can look at the Top 50 from 2019 and notice that so many of them have become inactive – it strikes me as naive to think this would suddenly change if rollback had rankings. When LAN majors, and, in some cases, even locals return, there’s no doubt which tournaments people will take more seriously. This process is miserable for everyone involved. It’s a massive time sink for the people heading it. For the panelists, it’s a slightly less but still daunting commitment where they potentially can impact people’s entire careers. And for serious players, it’s stressful precisely because their fate is seemingly in the hands of a small group of people. No one’s happy and everyone’s yelling at each other online. Why would we want more of this? Why would we want rankings even when they’re going to be bad? Everybody says they want rankings, but nobody’s done it because of what I just mentioned. Sure, it’s Great Content, and honestly, if people in our scene really want rankings, we’ll probably have them, region-locked or not. It’s a gold mine for clicks, that’s for sure, but it’s worth engaging in the unique downsides of rankings for rollback before we move forward. To support weekly Melee content like Monday Morning Marth, as well as Melee Stats films, subscribe to the Melee Stats Patreon.

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