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Published January 27, 2020

After a year of heartbreak and near-misses at majors, Zain finally broke his dry spell, clutching out a last-stock victory over Hungrybox and winning Oakland’s Genesis 7 to start the 2020 Melee season. This is his second title ever, tying him with Isai (MOAST 3 and MLG Los Angeles 2005) and Plup (DreamHack Atlanta 2017 and Genesis 5) as players to have won two majors in Melee history.

From Day 1 to Zain’s final championship-clinching aerial, Genesis was jam packed with surprises. Starting off Day 2 were the two biggest shocking results of the event: Panda over Axe and Ryobeat over Wizzrobe. They set the tone for the rest of the upset-laden event, which featured numerous storylines. Let’s get into the most notable ones.

1. New Jersey’s top two

One of Day 1’s biggest surprises was Soccermom69 defeating TheSWOOPER, a newly ranked Top 100 player and who by all accounts was devastated about the loss. Though he made it out of pools, he had a tough bracket ahead of him. But TheSWOOPER took down Skerzo and Casper, two solid players respectively from the Midwest and SoCal, before facing off against Bimbo, who just finished 2019 ranked in the Top 50.

Dispatching Bimbo, TheSWOOPER then eliminated Nicki to made Top 64 from loser’s end. For extra credit, he followed the wins with beating Logos, who previously upset FatGoku, and then coming out on top in a grueling 3-2 set over ChuDat. He eventually fell to the red hot Ryobeat for 25th.

Ryobeat’s journey was probably the most surprising development in Top 64. Although a win on Umarth alone would have been impressive enough, there’s so many layers to how much beating Wizzrobe personally meant to Ryobeat. During his time as a regionally ranked, but not yet nationally recognized competitor, Ryobeat often struggled with the Captain Falcon matchup within his own region. Having followed Ryobeat’s rise for a while, I can state that Captain Smuckers was arguably Ryobeat’s biggest intra-regional nemesis.

In defeating Wizzrobe, Ryobeat didn’t just beat a Top 5 player. He overcame the best representative of a former roadblock. His story continued into the rest of bracket, where he eliminated moky and TheSWOOPER. Both results also stood out because Ryobeat barely lost a game five set to moky last year and had a losing record against TheSWOOPER within the 2019 MPGR ranking period.

Ryobeat ended up finishing in 17th place, ironically to another Captain Falcon player in S2J. Regardless, Genesis 7 was Ryobeat’s best performance at a major in his career. So when we can get the inevitable Setchi vs. Ryobeat exhibition suite?

2. Hax finishes in fourth

I’m going to cut to the chase: I could have never imagined that Hax would make it back to ever being a consistent “demigod” of the scene. Given how much he had going against him earlier in his career (with his hand problems leading him to having to learn Melee on a new controller and his insomnia) and how much more terrifying the field is today than it ever was in his former prime, the odds were tremendously stacked against him.

Yet after a year and a half of exceptional peaks and baffling valleys, Hax put it together for an incredible run at Genesis 7 that somehow eclipsed his already amazing showing at Mango’s Birthday Bash. He blew by Aura and n0ne before solidly beating down Westballz and the old NorCal trio – SFAT, PewPewU and Shroomed. Then, in a stunning reversal of their lopsided winner’s set, Hax 3-1’d Leffen in the runback of their forgettable winner’s set, eventually falling to Hungrybox for fourth place.

Hax isn’t flawless – over the last few months within Tristate, he’s dropped sets to the likes of 2saint, TheSWOOPER, and even a fairly inconsequential set to Kitcatski (before winning a local anyway). But I’m inclined to think the occasional dropped set isn’t indicative of how Hax performs at larger events, nor would it really hurt Hax very much in the long run. He cumulatively trends positive on these players, who are also nationally established competitors now. At this point, losses like these here and there will speak a lot more to Tristate’s deep talent than hurt Hax.

I’ve written in detail about Hax’s all-time Pound 2016 run, and I think his Genesis 7 bracket blows it out of the water for “underdog runs.” For reference, his Pound bracket involved him beating two Top 50 players, a Top 10 player and Mango. This is nothing compared to what he just accomplished right now. At Genesis 7, Hax beat three Top 20 players, a Top 30 player and a Top 40 player while going even with the world No. 2 and barely losing to the world No. 1, whom he had just split sets with a month ago.

Hax’s Pound performance looked like the last hurrah of a scene veteran near the end of his career. His Genesis showing might be the beginning of a new and more promising renaissance. Now that he’s qualified for Smash Summit 9, we’ll see what more Hax has up his sleeve.

3. Old dogs can learn new tricks (or at least learn how to beat them)

A common take I saw during this event was the idea that Genesis 7 was going to be the proving ground for many of the scene’s rising stars to slay the established giants and dinosaurs of Melee’s past. In a way, grand finals, as well as its most memorable sets, seemed to confirm it. But simultaneously, what stood out during Top 8 and much of Top 64 was the presence of Melee’s old guard.

It’s easy to forget that Fiction has already made major Top 8s before (see Apex 2014). At Genesis 7, he briefly survived a scare from Free Palestine before taking down ChuDat, Westballz, Captain Faceroll and n0ne on the way to fifth, only just falling short against Leffen and running out of gas against Hungrybox. Say what you want about Fiction being hilariously (and charmingly) unreasonable about his rank for 2019, but over the last few months, he has performed like a Top 10 player. It’s not controversial to say that at this moment, he is a better Melee player than Plup and Mew2King.

Fiction wasn’t the only scene veteran to make the big stage. Undeniably benefiting from SFAT losing early, Shroomed beat Rishi, Panda, Ginger, and Swedish Delight on his way to seventh. Even accounting for a fairly solid 2019 for Shroomed, I think even any of his remaining fans, if not Shroomed himself, would have admitted that this result came out of nowhere. Meanwhile, fellow Top 8 placer n0ne shouldn’t be ignored, even if he doesn’t have the same kind of scene longevity as Shroomed or Fiction. Him continuing heavily positive, but still solid head-to-heads against MikeHaze and S2J certainly was impressive, but his reverse 3-0 on aMSa was the highlight of his loser’s run to make Summit.

Other notable showings came from players like PewPewU (ninth, beating HugS, Plup and iBDW), Swedish Delight (ninth, beating La Luna, Mew2King and Trif) and Ice (17th, Dacky, Lucky, Rishi, and Professor Pro).

4. Other highlights

Outside of Zain winning the supermajor, there were still many good results for regional heroes at Genesis 7. I’ll quickly recap some of them here:

  • Captain Faceroll beating Bladewise, Swedish Delight, Wizzrobe and iBDW on the way to ninth.
  • Philadelphia No. 1 and MMM breakout pick SluG beating La Luna, Azel, 42nd and Spark to finish 17th.
  • Amida’s secretly wild 33rd finish, which included wins over Zamu, Umarth and Azusa.
  • Fishbait sneaking in at 49th, beating Leighton, Kalamazhu and null.
  • Fliinchy also finishing a quiet 49th, with wins on Magi and TheRealThing.
  • Crunch making a loser’s run to (you guessed it) 49th, beating Magi and Schythed.

5. Monday Morning Mailbag returns next week!

For next week’s column, I’m going to have it be a massive mailbag edition. Post any questions you have to me online when I share this on Twitter and Reddit – I’ll answer the most interesting questions. See you all next week – happy beginning of the 2020 Melee season!

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