Last August, I used the Monday Morning Marth column to publish the first edition of the Melee Stats roundtable. Inspired by both typical sports panels, as well as the original Melee It On Me 5-on-5s, this involved gathering a bunch of people from Melee Stats and getting them to break down 10 topics in Melee.
In the last roundtable, we talked about the first half of 2022, recapping our favorite tournaments of the year, the performances that we remembered most, and we made predictions for the second half of the year. For today’s roundtable, we’re going to briefly recap some of the predictions we had for the second half of 2022, share some closing thoughts on the year, and then dive into some hot takes for 2023.
Question 1: What were you the most correct about in the second half of 2022?
EDWIN: The one thing I’m glad I stuck to my guns on was my implicit faith that Zain would end up No. 1, which, by all means, seems like a lock right now. Granted, this didn’t turn out the way I anticipated. While he did win the most stacked Smash invitational ever along with Shine, Zain was anything but dominant. Given the additional losses he had to players outside of the top eight, I wouldn’t even say he was significantly “more consistent” than anyone else. There was never a time after June in which I thought he was the best player in the world. If you were to put it as uncharitably as possible, Zain just “happened to win” more of the big events than anyone else for a period of time. But hey – a win’s a win.
AMBI: Lots of great picks: saying during the mid-year slump that Mango was likely to end the year strong, betting 50:1 that aMSa would win big house, saying that I was most excited to watch Shine 2022 because of our Free Agent Showcase (where Grab would run it all the way to 9th place), the list just goes on and on. I really do wish more people listened to me, being correct about things only goes so far.
CHROMA: Among my many strokes of genius in the last roundtable, including calling Wally and Grab’s breakouts as well as aMSa and Mango winning majors, was foreseeing that controller legality debates were going to boil over in late 2022. Did I inadvertently hasten this along with a series of tweets outlining how goomwaves were putting macros into their firmware? Sure, but even without that I think we’d still be seeing the first regional bans on unnerfed digital controllers (Oceania’s bans dropped last weekend), perhaps unfairly spurred on by the horrors of ledgedashing peaches – come on! We have Falcons on completely busted smashboxes out there! Let the Peaches get one busted piece of tech one time!
S-F: My conservative take on how many more people would win majors: I said it would just be Mango (yep), aMSa (nice), and Wizzrobe (I feel scammed on this front). More importantly, I’m very pleased that my chaotic take of multiple people “tying” for the number one spot almost came to pass. Yes, Zain will be ranked #1, and deservedly so. But had he attended Mainstage or Scuffed World Tour, who is to say! Even now, it’s hard not to think Mango and aMSa had very strong cases for number one as well. I can only hope this trend continues into 2023, as it has led to such an exciting year of Melee.
WHEAT: Look, I will never take credit for work that Melee Stats does as a collective. However, as the mastermind behind the Melee Stats Free Agent Showcase, I am forced to say that I was right! Other people could take credit but if you want to talk about the success of Grab, Abbe or Lunar Dusk, you gotta give some credit to the guy booking all of their flights.
— Melee Stats (@MeleeStatsPod) October 19, 2022
Question 2: What were you most wrong about in the second half of 2022?
EDWIN: I went from thinking aMSa needed a miracle to win a major (and losing a hundred dollars) to watching him do it three times. I also said nobody else would win a major in the second half of the year, and then both Mango and aMSa did just that, but the whole doubting aMSa thing takes the cake, by far. I’m not making that mistake ever again.
AMBI: Tough call between saying “the burden of proof is on other players to defeat iBDW for him to not be number one” and “Plup will probably win something if he goes to enough majors” both of which were in my view relatively untrue: iBDW just spend a huge chunk of the year out for medical / personal reasons and Plup pretty much didn’t attend anything (and got second place at everything he did attend). I don’t think either of these were necessarily poor predictions but funny to look back on them as a little time capsule of my opinions at the time.
CHROMA: Sadly Lord Plup decided to show mercy on the scene, with sporadic attendance putting him outside the top 5. I have zero regrets for saying this and will probably continue to say that he’s a dark horse for 2023 number 1, a claim which is heavily strengthened by getting to play Sheik/Marth vs Zain and turning netplay aMSa into scrambled eggs on a weekly basis. I also said JMook would win a major. I don’t wanna talk about it.
S-F: I definitely took for granted the strength demonstrated by Leffen and iBDW in the first half in assuming they would be contending for number one for 2022, with both almost quickly falling out by the time of Big House. Also unfortunate was my assumption that Wizzrobe would return in the same shape as he was in late 2021, easily vying for a Top 5 slot. Instead, he will likely be ranked in the 13-20 range with little fanfare.
WHEAT: “Wrong” is a pretty myopic word because I’m sure that I will be vindicated in the future…however I will admit that calling Leffen the best player in the world after Battle of BC 4 may not have been necessarily correct by most metrics. Will this stop me from saying more outlandish claims about the Swede in the future? Certainly not.
Question 3: What is your favorite Melee-related video of 2022?
EDWIN: As a huge sucker for niche stories within Melee, I have to go with The Rise and Fall of Competitive Giga-Bowser. It is simultaneously one of the dumbest and most brilliant stories I’ve heard in the scene.
AMBI: Bobby Big Ballz’s SWEATING stream starting at 2:55:47, which was stream of the year in my opinion. I think something that goes relatively underappreciated is that if you’re having a bad day – and I mean a really, really bad day – you will lose two times in a double elimination bracket. You’ll notice, this is the same number of times you will lose on a good day, unless you have such a good day that you win the tournament. Ranked queue is a fun paradigm shift for melee simply because it introduces to our community the agony of losing more than two times in a row. If you’ve played any game with a ranked queue, you know exactly what I am talking about. Anyways, Bobby loses 9 sets in a row and takes out a prop phone to call the doctor about it – you can’t miss it.
CHROMA: Am I allowed to pick any of the Fourside Fights episodes? No? Okay, I’m barbelling my answer between the short and the very long. The Slippi Ranked stream boom was strong and fast; I was transfixed by MaNg0’s will-they-or-won’t-they relationship with ranked, and couldn’t stop watching when he chose to let Scorpion Master (his Mario) try and make it to Grandmaster. Between lack of practice and the massive improvements the scene has made since Scorp’s last reign a decade ago, the run was grueling and captivating. He looked like he was under more pressure sweating out a set vs Ka-Master than he was when playing in front of hundreds of thousands of fans vs Armada. On the shorter side, big fan of Phraser’s work with Melee Moments – as a commentator, I feel a lot better knowing somebody’s going to take the time to perfectly explain why the thing I’m screaming at is so sick.
S-F: Quite a few options to choose from. wusstunes made quite a few good videos over the year, but my personal favorite of theirs is The History of Chicagoland Donkey Kong. Fills a niche of funny scene lore that didn’t really exist this year. The video I watched the most over the year came out in January 2022 – Zain Was NOT Ready for Sora. One of the best stream highlights I’ve ever seen, with a mix of signature Joshman charisma and shit talk.
WHEAT: 2022 was a wonderful year for content, from the great work of budding content creators like Phraser or work from established creators like Zetts-I mean Walt’s TikTok account. But nothing is more indicative of the year as a whole than watching as many streams as possible the second ranked came out. We know the bobby clips, we know Leffen’s Mewtwo, but my pick? Mew2King absolutely going through it, which you can easily find on some very cool Twitter account.
Question 4: Who is your “2022 Smasher of The Year?”
EDWIN: I’m going with Aiden. Yes; that guy still counts as a smasher. While Ludwig properly gets credit for being the visionary behind events like his invitational and the Mogul Chessboxing Championship, Aiden, from my understanding, is the one who actually executes on these ideas. I always appreciate his willingness to think outside the box – not just on a macro level, but actually in terms of logistics and how to deliver memorable events. Side note: he leaked the existence of the Ludwig Smash Invitational in the Melee Stats Podcast server – a server with over a thousand people – and nobody snitched. What an insanely confident gamble.
AMBI: I think it is Wheat! The Melee Stats Free Agent Showcase highlighted Pipsqueak, Chape, Grab, Lunar Dusk, Sharp, Abbe, Solobattle and Steech (jointly with Frame1), all of whom put up absolutely monstrous performances and who would have simply not done any traveling without the showcase supporting them. The showcase was ultimately Wheat’s brainchild, and the top 100 is going to look extremely different specifically because of his efforts. On that note, he also has taken charge of the annual top 100 rankings, having been passed the torch by PracticalTAS directly. I really do believe it was the year of Wheat, and I struggle to think of anybody whose year was characterized by such clear success.
CHROMA: In terms of raw impact and exposure brought to melee, split between the Slippi team and The Yard/Mogul Moves. After the year they all had, they should never have to buy a drink at a major again. Many many many people get honorable mentions here. I hate this question; there’s too many. Please don’t put YarnYoshi. Please, please, please.
S-F: You could argue that Fizzi (and the entire Slippi team) clutched it out at the eleventh hour with the release of ranked. But I’ll be honest, Fizzi will probably continue to be my smasher of the year for the at least next ten years. With every tournament run and every game of unranked played, Melee’s longevity is extended another day, and that’s all thanks to Fizzi.
WHEAT: There have been a lot of wonderful Smashers whose work has shaped 2022. Fizzi’s continued devotion to Slippi has changed our game in more ways than I can explain in such a small blurb, Ludwig has continually showcased his devotion to his Smash roots no matter the cost and I’m sure Blur did something. But if we’re talking about Smashers that affected Melee the most, no one person has had a bigger effect on Smash in 2022 than Dr. Alan Bunney. In the same way that TIME Magazine named Trump the Person of the Year, Alan was not necessarily important for good reasons, but it’s impossible for me to think of a Smasher that has shaped 2022 as a whole more than this idiot. If you’re looking for the Smasher of the Year for 2023 it’s probably going to be whoever can clean up the mess he left the best.
Question 5: When you look back at the entirety of Melee in 2022, what will you remember?
EDWIN: So first off, I really think 2022 will be remembered in a similar vein to 2009. It’s been enormously consequential and transitional, with a new generation of community representatives in the first “mostly offline” year we’ve had in three years. Along with the presence of sponsors like FlyQuest and Golden Guardians we’ve seen the development of entire sectors of the community, from controller modders to regional streaming groups to multimedia content creators. Obviously, you can’t mention Melee’s growing “professional” sector without mentioning Fizzi: the most important “full-time professional” in the community today. Now, with that note about the scene’s independence out of the way, we have to recognize that this was actually in danger for most of 2022, due to Nintendo’s involvement in the Panda Cup. So long story short: 2022 was the year where the scene, more or less, collectively made a decision to stick to being grassroots over heading in a more centralized and more corporate image.
You know, I’m getting pretty fed up of some squishy Panda sentiment I’m seeing on the TL, so let me unambiguously clear:
The shutdown of Panda was a net good for the Smash scene. I’m sad about the circumstances behind it, but you shouldn’t “want” Panda to come back.
— Edwin (@edwin_budding) January 12, 2023
Was this the correct choice? I think so. Panda was putting its hands into every sphere of the scene as part of a larger attempt to make it palatable for Nintendo. Imagine a future where instead of ten Smashboxing events – because they’re not adequately family-friendly – we get ten stale Panda Cup Finale tournaments where the commentators can’t say “Slippi.” I truly hope we do not delude ourselves into thinking that a reality where “Panda won” would have led to preferable outcomes for the scene. Don’t be scabs.
AMBI: A lot of things certainly happened this year. I think at the risk of giving an overly sappy answer, I’ll say that I don’t know if I will ever get to feel the way I did at Genesis 8 ever again. Having not seen my friends in years, having clung to the afterimage of what the community used to feel like before Covid. I spent so much time in quarantine grinding the game alone in my bedroom, and the misery I felt during that time seeped into how I would mentally categorize every interaction as either “acceptable” or “terrible”. I remember playing with a very talkative Falcon player in friendlies day 1, 4-stocking him over and over again, and eventually concluding that he was having way more fun than I ever had in the last year of grinding Netplay. In many ways, being at that tournament really felt like I was waking up from the worst nightmare of my entire life; the delirious, slightly surreal feeling in between wakefulness and sleep, where one seems to blend into the other. A bunch of crazy stuff happened at this tournament: I somehow made top 64, a hidden boss Melee Stats had been telling everybody about for ages got second place. I remember I started crying watching Hungrybox camping the absolute shit out of lloD in top 8, and I remember thinking “this is the dumbest thing ever, I hope nobody sees”.
I think it’s easy to point to all the awful negative stuff that happened at the end of 2022. But equally important is to remember: we are all still here. We somehow made it through together. I’ll never forget that feeling, probably as long as I live.
CHROMA: We made it! We survived a higher-than-usual number of extinction events and had a reasonably normal year of LAN Melee! Covid staying on its grindset and forcing the postponement the year’s first major, big N rumbling in the background louder than usual thanks to an organization purposefully dragging them into the scene, both gigantic circuits blow up right at the finals as a result, and this was still my favorite year of melee I’ve ever had. We emerged post-quarantine time skip optimistic, stocked with old and new organizational/player talent, and ready to bool. What I’ll remember most, besides jacked Toph valiantly battling the even more jacked HugS in the ring, was how optimistic I felt at year-end about the future of the scene despite how much bullshit happened.
S-F: Unlike Ambi I’m leaning fully into the sap. It’s hard for me to not attach a lot of personal weight to 2022 – it was my first full year of competing in Melee and my first time traveling outside of Los Angeles (Genesis)/California (Double Down)/the West Coast (Big House/Shine)/the US (Fête) for Melee. I became what feels like a mainstay of my local scene, met so many wonderful people I had only ever known through Discord and forged some really wonderful friendships I hope last me a lifetime. It’s hard for me not to call this one of the best years of my life, in spite of going through a lot of personal things. It’s almost impossible to imagine Melee can get better than 2022, but at the same time I can only expect even better things. But really, more than anything, this is the year I met SSB_Seal, and I’m never forgetting that.
WHEAT: There’s a lot that happened to Smash in 2022, both good and bad. It’s tempting to talk about Slippi ranked or the shutdown of SWT, but when I think of 2022 I have a more personal connection. At the end of 2021 I quit my job working retail and decided to take a year to devote to Smash. Would I consider it particularly smart? Well, I had to pinch pennies more than I’ve had to do in years, but thanks to Melee Stats I was able to devote all of my time to creating something in Melee that I was proud of. From GenAssist in January to the Melee Stats Free Agent Showcase to picking up the pieces of the Top 100, I was blessed with the ability to give everything I had into the game that I love. The memories of every single hotel room beer and every dumb Pikachu vs Donkey Kong friendly will stick with me for a long time.
Question 6: Which player do you think is prime for a huge breakout in 2023? You can say going from Top 10 to No. 1, Top 50 to Top 25, etc.
EDWIN: I put Azel at No. 55 on my 2022 ballot but his potential is off-the-charts. In addition to his shocking level of consistency, he also nabbed wins over Krudo, Spark, Lucky, Jflex and Franz. It’s tricky because Azel’s in that “skill range” where if he makes it to Top 64 at a supermajor, he’ll probably be seeded to play someone really difficult, like Aklo or S2J. At the same time, he’s shown the ability to get there a lot while also semi-frequently punching above his perceived weight class. Those two things don’t go together often and they’re usually what I look for when it comes to evaluating potential breakouts for that Top 25 slot. I guess Azel technically “broke out” by beating Hungrybox at SCL in 2020, but my hard call is that he makes it an offline reality in 2023.
AMBI: I think 2023 is the year we see Yoshi do some real damage at majors. Given that now we have a Yoshi player in genuine contention for world #1, and at that a Yoshi player who seems to not really have problem matchups (rather, he has problem players). I think aMSa in North America and on the slippi ranked ladder is an unprecedented golden era for Yoshi vod enjoyers, and I think nobody stands to gain from this as much as dz from Illinois. We didn’t get to see much of dz in 2022, other than a few midlanes where he picked up some wins on the likes of Ober and Skerzo. But dz, notoriously masquerading as The Pink Dread on slippi ranked, is my personal pick for the current most underrated Yoshi, and I’m not just saying that because I ran into him on unranked once and he wobbled the absolute shit out of me. We will see if dz makes the treks needed to actually accumulate results, but I think he (and any of the Yoshi contingent in general) is definitely primed for a breakout this year.
CHROMA: I suppose I should think about who’s able to go to majors this time? Ah screw it, that’s no fun. Outside of top 100, Blue, Epoodle, and Paladin’s level of play and wins have impressed me over the last month (also I think we all consider ROM robbed)… top 50 to top 100, Logan and Grab seems most poised to outperform their rankings… top 50 to top 25, wild as this sounds but I think null’s records vs stronger players indicates a potential jump soon if he can firm up his record vs strong-but-not-top-100 players… inside top 25, Magi looks like a totally different player lately and we’ll see how those Zain wins age retroactively.
S-F: Franz! This was going to be a much more normal take until Sunday when I learned he will be ranked in the Top 50, but I still maintain my belief that Franz can only be going up from here. He finally, finally, is able to travel outside the desolate wasteland of Temecula to majors, and if his LSI is any indication, there are plenty of players who will fall victim to the mighty 5’2 Doc player. On a similar note, Khalid will also be traveling a lot more this year to events that he hasn’t threatened with legal action and be able to showcase what San Diego, that hidden subregion to rule all hidden subregions, has to offer.
WHEAT: There are a lot of tempting choices here, but where’s the fun in that? We all know that Flash and akir and all the other hidden bosses could be, but let’s have a little more fun. As you can tell in the latest episode of Waiting For Game I chose Azel to make a breakout (before Edwin did!), but let’s look at a player who I think can burst into the top 100. Thanks to his appearance at Summit 13 he’s certainly not unknown, but I really have a lot of faith in Blue to make waves when we see him. His overall matchup spread and dedication to the game have been proven time and time again (even if he’s being camped by Hbox online.) The cards may be stacked against him at times, but after meeting Blue this year I truly believe in his ability to strive forward. There’s few people who deserve it more than the Indiana charmer.
Question 7: How many people will win majors next year?
EDWIN: Assuming we’re using a vibes-based definition for majors, let’s go with eight. Zain, iBDW, aMSa, and Mango seem like near-guarantees to win at least one; Jmook seems like he’s just a step away, Leffen can turn it up at any given moment, and I’m not discounting any shot of more dubs for Touchdown Juan. I am, however, going to predict that the eighth major champion will be someone outside the 2022 top eight at a “smaller” major. Or Plup. Actually, what am I talking about? Let’s go with Plup.
AMBI: This feels hard to predict given how attendance- and tournament-dependent this is, but I think any of the top 8 could win a major on any given day, along with some stray chances for players outside that to have a huge breakout day. I think I’m going to say six, specifically factoring in what I anticipate to be a relatively lower-attended year with fewer tournaments (given the wake of Panda’s destruction). I think Zain / Cody / Mango / aMSa / Hbox all inevitably wrap up at least one, and I think any of the pool of Leffen / Jmook / Plup / the field can win one as well: really comes down to who goes to what, rather than who can do it.
CHROMA: What a change since our last discussion! It really depends on what we end up calling a major, but I can’t look you in the eye and say anyone outside our current top 8 can’t win. It’s really about probabilities: put Zain at 95% to win at least one, aMSa and Mango at 90%, iBDW at 80%, Hbox and Jmook at 60%, Leffen and Plup at 40% (adjusting for activity), a few more people in the 5-25% range (see next question) – I guess I have this at about six, and this felt conservative.
S-F: Seven. Let’s get the obvious ones out of the way – Zain, iBDW, Mango, aMSa, and Hungrybox. Barring something drastic, it’s impossible for me to envision any one of them not winning an event this year. They all practice and attend way too much and are way too good for me to doubt them winning a major. The only way one of them doesn’t win is if there are four majors. Next is Leffen, who feels destined by forces beyond our understanding to always get his one major win a year. Finally, and quite frankly my pick to win Genesis 9, Jmook. There will be something truly poetic if Jmook, like Zain in 2019, spent a year getting farmed in Game 5 heartbreakers by Hungrybox to end up ranked at probably #6, only to win the next years first supermajor. When it comes to Melee, I’m betting on the narrative.
WHEAT: Alright let’s do some quick math. Zain is going to win, Mango, iBDW and aMSa will almost certainly win. So we’re at four. Hungrybox usually finds a way to win so that puts us at five. Then we get Jmook, Leffen and Plup, a trio of players who are so immensely talented and yet constantly find themselves held back by something, be it controllers, dogs, traveling or Clutchbox. Let’s say two out of the three win, so the count goes up to seven. Now, I have been tricked too many times to ever believe that I truly understand Melee (especially right now), so let’s have a little buffer and bump that number up to eight.
Question 8: Who outside of 2022’s presumed top eight do you think has the best shot at winning a supermajor?
EDWIN: I’m gonna go with the boring answer in Wizzrobe. He was basically inactive for the vast majority of 2022, but continued to trounce the entire group of players right under major contention. When he played the people from the top echelon, he took them all really close in spite of not looking 100 percent. My guess is that this gets resolved at some point soon. If it happens, it’s through some combination of Leffen, Hungrybox and aMSa – maybe he beats S2J or someone else who makes an upset earlier in bracket as well.
AMBI: I think you guys are gonna hate this one, but I think a great pick here is Fiction. Fiction is someone who I think gets quietly ignored in these sorts of conversations due to a perception that he doesn’t punch above his weight as well as other players in his tier, but I actually think this is an advantage with respect to winning a supermajor. We are talking about a player who is barely 2 years into a character switch, with a very nascent Sheik which has only recently started to appear co-main viable. Fiction’s consistency suggests to me that if he attends a lot, he will get far a lot, which to me is a bigger marker of potential success compared to trying to call out a player with the chance for a stars-aligned miracle run. I think he still needs to make all the pieces fit together, but I think the pieces are all there.
CHROMA: To be honest my answer was SluG – majors are about beating the very best and he’s shown he can do that – but given that Summit opened up another qualifying spot at Genesis 9 I’m starting to worry that those retirement rumors had some truth to them. With that in mind, I think it’s moky – given his records and play I’d never count him out in Fox dittos, Fox-Sheik, or Fox-Yoshi, which covers a surprising amount of the top players (aMSa, iBDW, Jmook, Leffen, Plup). I believe Hbox is beatable for him, Zain and Mango… less beatable currently, but you don’t have to do it all at one event. I might be coping, but I think the cocaine fox will make a miracle happen in 2023.
S-F: My go-to answers have a lot of handicaps – Wizzrobe still seems plagued by health and financial issues that still prevent him from fully returning; SluG may be retired(???); and lloD is a god damn doctor. Depending on how developed his Fox gets, the next best bet is Axe. If watching Ralph at 30+ iterations of Guildhouse Fighters has taught me anything, it’s that there’s still room for Axe to grow. While Hungrybox remains a bracket demon, I have both faith in Axe continuing to improve his Fox and also have faith that Hungrybox just isn’t someone you have to beat to win a major in 2023.
WHEAT: I’m very tempted to say that Polish’s Fox will destroy every single Jigglypuff in existence and will net them a major trophy, but since no one else said it I will have to go with Pipsqueak! Pipsqueak and Aklo to me are two of the most complete young players in the game, but I am going to have to be a bit biased and tip my cap to Mr. Squeak on this one. Mango! Hungrybox! Axe! With these wins and a remarkable sense of composure, I’m hoping to see this Scandinavian goofball hoist up a trophy before 2024 hits.
Question 9: What is your craziest Melee prediction or opinion that you’d like to put in the books for the first half of 2023?
EDWIN: Alright, this is definitely me wanting it to happen more than thinking it’s likely, but I’ll make the claim that a fully finished version of Slippi Ranked will drive more new players to Melee than anything since Evo 2013. I predict that some streamer with an established audience, like Hasan Piker, or maybe even someone closer to home for Melee, like Atrioc, becomes the definitive streamer for Slippi Ranked content for tens of thousands of viewers every day. Imagine something like The Reads but on a more regular basis by someone who knows how to share the gospel of Melee with Gen Z. I guess this could just be a member of The Yard as well. Hard call: Nick Yingling.
AMBI: 2023 is the year Pokimane wears the Melee Stats hat. Wheat, work your magic. I believe in you.
CHROMA: Emboldened by his warm welcome at Genesis 9 and freed of any pressure or expectations, Armada returns to Melee. We see him and PPMD playing the sweatiest friendlies of all time backstage at the now-melee major Combo Breaker before their commentary block – recording is forbidden.
S-F: Something will happen with regards to rules on box controllers. It’s only crazy insofar as it means something is going to happen, unlike the past…years where nothing has happened.
WHEAT: Ambi will create Melee 2, funded by Riot. If you have ever had the pleasure of speaking to our very own Ambisinister, he can be pretty convincing. Even when he’s wrong he’s usually tricking you into agreeing by citing obscure chess players or giving a five minute analogy. Do not underestimate his abilities! I believe that his new co-workers at Riot will fully buy into the charm/cult and before we know it, we’ll all be waveshining with, uhhh, Jinx.
Question 10: Who is your WAY TOO EARLY pick for No. 1 player of 2023?
EDWIN: Okay – I have to admit that I’ve been owned by aMSa so many times that I originally wrote this section all about him. However, the more I think about it, the more appropriate it seems to head in a totally different direction here. My official first pick for the top rankings spot in 2023 is going to the man I once said had a two percent chance of winning Genesis: Hungrybox. I’m looking into my crystal ball and Juan Debiedma’s face keeps staring back at me. Why is that the case? Why now am I, the ultimate Hungrybox skeptic, suddenly HFAM’d out the gourd? Am I truly just motivated by the thrill of a wild pick?
Let’s work backwards. Imagine a return to Earth for Zain, one in which he may continue being a difficult opponent for Hungrybox, but simply play him fewer times across a whole year due to Axe, S2J, and Plup beating him early. Something similar could happen to aMSa with people like moky and Wizzrobe. It may even be the case for iBDW, who has struggled with KoDoRiN and Aklo multiple times. Notice, by the way, that these are peers who Hungrybox historically beats. I guess that’s not entirely accurate, as KoDoRiN, S2J and Plup (who was actually up in sets) beat him last year. But hey. I’m trying to tell a story here. Stick with it for a moment and just assume that what I’m saying happens. The broader point I’m making here is that three of Hungrybox’s toughest head-to-heads may now carry ‘less’ weight to his chances of winning a major than they did in 2022. Then, we get to Leffen. That guy is going to continue to be all over the place in activity, so I am not even going to consider the possibility of him being present enough to stop Hungrybox. So make that four.
This leaves Mango and Jmook. As far as the former’s concerned, that will always be a ‘volatile’ 50/50 with both players taking turns whooping the other. And though I’m not sure Hungrybox will finish 11-1 for another year vs. Jmook, he has to be considered the heavy favorite in that for now. Thinking about it more though, this argument doesn’t really make sense. Is a No. 1 year really going to be happen as a result of someone consistently dodging multiple losing head-to-heads at the top level, playing some relatively favorable matchups and getting “lucky” so many times? You know what? I am going to say…that is…exactly…what will happen.
AMBI: Jmook. I think he will win one major with Sheik, beat Hungrybox with Sheik one time, and then ascend to his final form as a dual Fox-Sheik main and absolutely wipe the floor with everybody. If you’ve seen his Fox, you know. This whole time he’s been playing on hard mode just for all you Sheik players. You should all be more grateful to him. Tired of all the Jmook doomers out there.
CHROMA: Mango. He solved basically every problem in his matchup spread last year except the now-unsolvable aMSa (except if you’re Plup), and even after not making the summer rank’s top 10 his run to end the year was almost good enough to steal number one! It’ll be the hardest fight any number one has ever had, but ten years after the first official ranking I say he secures a unanimous case for the GOAT of the game.
S-F: Zain. The combination of how much work Zain puts in on a daily basis and how much further he can push his punish game leaves me very hopeful for another year at the top. He certainly has his work cut out for him, but if anyone can do it, it’s Zain.
WHEAT: Leffen…up until Street Fighter 6 releases. Once that happens, 2023 will be marked by the full realization of a player who was all too marred by issues for the past twelve months: iBDW. For what Cody had accomplished in a year of injury and personal hardships, I am sure that iBDW will dominate the year. The only thing I am not sure of is whether he’ll still be called iBDW by then.