The week before Genesis was the first half of the 2019 MPGR reveal, and the end of the week was defined by the successes of many of these newly christened players.
For example, in Ontario, the No. 98 in the world Soonsay defeated n0ne, Weon-X, and 6-0’d moky after initially dropping a set in winner’s bracket to win Revenge of the 6ix. At Indiana’s Kill Roy Volume 5, world No. 72 Free Palestine came out on top, defeating Zamu, Reeve, and the visiting Slox. In Arizona, Axe overcame an early loss to No. 96 in the world Schythed to win Settle It, a local regional over Spark. Elsewhere on the East Coast, Hax won Connecticut’s Giga HoG Era, SluG took Philadelphia’s Gucci Gang, and Prometheus won CRAB 3 over Babich in North Carolina.
However, for today’s column, I’ve written about an upcoming clash at Genesis 7 that represents a new high point for one of Melee’s most fascinating rivalries. I’ve centered today’s MMM around Hungrybox vs. Mango, and the great debate about their all-time standing in Melee history. The potential battle for first place this weekend could swing the tides of their legacies, as well as jumpstart a thrilling 2020 in which the two not only compete against each other for No. 1 in the world, but potentially all-time. Let’s get into it.
A commonly cited resource for discussion on player legacies is RetroSSBMRank, a series Pikachu942 and I worked on three and a half years ago. It’s useful for broad looks at how players performed in a previous time period, and I admittedly feel pride over its long-term value for the scene. Frequently in Hungrybox vs. Mango all-time discussions, I see it brought up when comparing the two’s reigns at No. 1. On the surface, Hungrybox has three (soon to be four) years as the world No. 1, while Mango has three years, though Mango has more years as a “Top 5” player.
In hindsight, I’d now hesitate to use some of the ranks as definitive proof for evaluating a player’s legacy – or at the very least, I’d weigh each year differently. The data we had for each year, while impressive, still remains limited to draw definitive conclusions from, and they’re not always reflective of cultural trends of the scene at a given point. By the results, Hungrybox is probably the best player of 2010, but Mango also had won the biggest event of the year and he sandbagged for the rest of it. Can someone really be the best player if sandbagging by someone like Mango was commonplace – let alone if Mango’s secondaries were routinely trouncing them in money matches and crew battles?
Applying current performance evaluation methods to past years of a hobby like Melee doesn’t strike me as reasonable. We can’t falsely equivocate the certainty we feel at picking a No. 1 for 2018 with doing so for 2010. One of them was functionally a Melee season – the other just happened to be a year. Rather than counting how many years either one of them finished in a particular “rank” or set of ranks, let’s frame the discussion through comparing the timelines of their careers, side by side, and comparing their accomplishments.
There’s no question that Mango was the better player. Hungrybox quickly improved in Florida, but was still struggling with Colbol locally and was not anywhere near elite within his own state. At the same time, Mango was the second best player in SoCal behind Ken. He even beat him and world No. 1 Mew2King at Evo 2007, finishing in third place at that tournament before finishing third at Super Champ Combo, where he split sets with PC Chris.
I don’t know how much the difference between being a supermajor dark horse and a regional threat counts for an all-time comparison, but it’s still worth noting as a point for Mango, even if it’s minor.
The Pound Reign (2008-2010)
It’s hard not to view the “Pound Era” (Pound 3 to Pound 4) as anything less than extremely favorable for Mango in a comparison against Hungrybox. This was a period of time in which the game’s best players had all but abandoned Melee save for an occasional event here and there. Even then, Mango was clearly on a level above them when they showed up.
We’re likely never going to see anything as mind-blowing as Mango’s Pound 3 run. In case you’re not familiar with it, Mango essentially overcame an extremely hostile crowd and early losses – following months of hilariously inappropriate shittalk with East Coast smashers online – to slay every single top player there in loser’s bracket and win what was supposed to be Melee’s “final” major before the community expected to move to Brawl.
A year later, when Mango won the Revival of Melee, his haters quickly realized that the Pound 3 run was no fluke. By the end of Pound 4, Mango had also won Genesis, which needs no introduction. Sure, you could nitpick a regional set loss here and there to players he overwhelmingly performed positively against (like Jman and SilentSpectre), but as far as the absolutely most important events were concerned, Mango was untouchable. Personally, Mango’s “Pound Reign” is my pick for the greatest peak ever in Melee history. He routinely trounced someone who most considered as the second best player of that time (Mew2King), beat a future god (Armada), and whooped the entire West Coast for a stretch of two years. Were it not for his improbable double elimination by Kage’s hands at Revival of Melee 2, this would have been a blemishless record.
In the same period of time, Hungrybox went from being one of the best players in a stacked region (Florida) to finishing in third place at Genesis, winning Tipped Off 5 over Mew2King and winning Revival of Melee 2. Hungrybox wasn’t a slouch, but his rival was clearly better.
The Era of Uncertainty (2010-2013)
Though Hungrybox dominantly won Apex 2010, I’d take this win with a grain of salt, particularly because he didn’t live up to this level of victory for another five years. It also came in tandem with Mango’s retirement and Mew2King’s decline to “gatekeeper” status as a result of his focus on Brawl. Following the Apex victory, Hungrybox’s time at the top of Melee was quickly replaced by a budding new star of the Atlantic South in PPMD, whose rise to prominence gave birth to the “Five Gods” era of Melee.
As PPMD became a new contender and as someone like Armada overcame his “choker” moniker to rule the scene, Hungrybox’s previous accomplishment became a relative footnote of the time. In terms of the Mango vs. Hungrybox discussion though, it’s tough to draw a winner. Hungrybox likely gets a slight advantage for competing through its entirety and for at least being able to win against Mango every now and then, but the broader context of their sets has to be considered.
By Genesis 2, Mango had returned to the competitive scene with a deadly Fox. Over the next year and a half, the battle for being Armada’s American challenger was defined by his rivalry with PPMD – not with Hungrybox, who as time passed just looked like someone capable of occasionally playing spoiler like at Apex 2012, but never good enough to win the big one at a “real” top caliber event where everyone was playing well. To Hungrybox’s credit, he was also balancing being a college student with playing Melee at this time, among other hobbies.
The Mango Renaissance (2013-2015)
When Melee came back to the spotlight at EVO 2013 and enjoyed the documentary “boom,” its most popular competitor rose to the occasion. After a bit of work on his public image, Mango honed a reputation as the scene’s ultimate champion, always winning when it counted most, like at The Big House 4, Evo 2014, or MLG 2014. Mango was nowhere near as dominant in his overall head-to-heads as he was during his Pound reign, but Mango always won the biggest events, which greatly boosted the perception of his legacy from GOAT contender to the inarguable GOAT by 2015. At that point, he was the reigning world No. 1, having finished with this rank for two consecutive years – somehow while also being Melee’s biggest streamer and a father.
In the same stretch of time, Hungrybox barely held onto his “god” title, oscillating from second place showings at nationals to ninth place stinkers. Furthermore, following a win over Mango at NCR 2013, Hungrybox had lost 11 sets in a row against Mango.
The Floridian wasn’t totally out of the running for winning big events – after all, he had won Paragon Orlando 2015 over a non-Mango filled field. But there was no comparison with Mango.
CEO 2015 was the low point of Hungrybox’s career. The top ranked Foxes were relentlessly beating him down and he was ready to transition his full-time focus into being a chemical engineer. Hungrybox straight up thought that Jigglypuff had no future in Melee’s competitive future, only to be reassured and given tough love from his friend Crunch, who told him that he had a lot of holes in his gameplay. Later in that summer, Hungrybox would have the most important set of his career at Evo 2015, where the dynamic of him vs. Mango finally flipped.
Hungrybox’s Turnaround (2015 to now)
Given what we know now about the nature of the competitive Melee scene, it’s totally reasonable to say that the Evo 2015 loser’s set between Mango and Hungrybox changed everything. Had Mango won that set, we’ll never know how Hungrybox would have responded. I wouldn’t go as far as to say he would have quit, but it would have been devastating, given that Evo was supposed to be Hungrybox’s last serious event before working full-time and putting Melee on the side. We’ll never know what would have happened if Mango had not thrown away three of his stocks that game, but the rest is history.
Hungrybox once again defeated Mango at The Big House 5 en route to a second place showing and won DreamHack Winter 2015 over Armada. He finished 2015 as the world No. 2, but in the next year, Hungrybox finally began winning top-caliber events like Battle of Five Gods and the colossally important Evo 2016 alongside the smaller events he became known for dominating. In the first half of 2016, Hungrybox was arguably the scene’s best player.
Though Mango could still occasionally impress, like he did at DreamHack Austin 2016, The Big House 6 and Royal Flush, his consistency took a nosedive, and Mango’s floors, like his 17th place finish at HTC Throwdown in late 2015, became a lot more noticeable. Hungrybox wasn’t perfect here either, and even as he succeeded, he slumped in the second half of 2016 and had an up-and-down 2017 first half. But after beating Mango at Shine 2017, Hungrybox dominated the field for another three quarters of a year.
I remember writing about this around the same time, but Hungrybox’s stretch from Shine 2017 to early-mid 2018 was “Pound Reign Mango” level ridiculous. Save for Genesis 5, he usually beat all his peers and even beat Armada five times in a row. For reference, no one else has ever beaten Armada so much in a given stretch as Hungrybox.
Chances are that if you’re reading this, you don’t need to be caught up on Hungrybox and Mango’s 2018s or 2019s. So let’s directly compare the two.
If you look strictly at titles, there’s pretty much no question that Hungrybox has the edge – and not just on Mango, but everyone else in Melee history. Thankfully because of the efforts of Pikachu942, we have proof of this. Per her database, Hungrybox has 30 major victories compared to Mango’s 25. To be fair, the number of majors accounted for are inflated by the last three years. But you could argue that even if they were, it would showcase just how strong Hungrybox has been in the game’s most competitive era, one in which he’s all but assured to become the first ever player to be a three-time consecutive world No. 1.
It’s also not just titles that Hungrybox has over Mango – it’s his lead on Mango in most measurable areas. He has more second places (24 vs. 17), has attended as many majors (89 for both), and has more top eights (88 vs. 74) than Mango. Though it’s inflated by modern results, it’s still remarkable. Hungrybox is one of two players (alongside Armada at 70.37%) that has more than half of a chance to make grand finals at any given major (60.67%). Mango, for comparison, sits at a strong, but not anywhere near as infallible 47.19%. To win a major you basically have to be able to beat Hungrybox or have an extremely lucky bracket (like Mew2King at Smash Summit 6 or Axe at Smash Summit 8).
However, if you account for the relative importance of different events, the comparison for all-time greatness between the two becomes a lot closer. Mango isn’t nearly as successful as Hungrybox at smaller majors, but when the events have more top players, Mango tends to do quite well. In fact, per Pika’s database, Mango actually has the lead in qualified “supermajors” against Hungrybox – 11 to 9. If you care about winning big events, this is huge.
I would also mention that Mango’s importance to the scene, be it him stepping up to the occasion to win its most important tournament ever, or his unique contributions to the Fox and Falco metagame, has to play some factor in assessing his legacy. For a scene where the modern idea of “competition” is still relatively recent, it feels naive to look only at titles, placings, and sets wins as a measure for evaluating greatness. Hungrybox certainly pushed Jigglypuff, but so did Mango, and Mango did so for other characters.
The long story short is that Hungrybox has a far greater wealth of competitive accomplishments, but Mango has better metagame advancements, more time in the scene, and a slight lead in top-level supermajor victories. It’s as close to a dead-even fight as you can get.
Genesis 7 could be a scene-changing event for the future of Melee. It’s more likely now than ever that someone like iBDW could make a surprise run to winning a supermajor. Yet the rivalry between Hungrybox and Mango is the headline fight for both Genesis 7 and the rest of 2020.
It’s a fight with their legacies on the line; a fight that’s made more complicated in the wake of Armada’s retirement, PPMD’s hiatus away from the game, the community’s gradual decline over the last three years, and up-and-down activity from peers like Leffen and Wizzrobe.
The battle between the two is going to be decided not just over next weekend but across this year and likely the rest of their careers.
Here’s my take: Hungrybox is the greatest Melee competitor of the current era. Mango is the greater all-time player.