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Published January 30, 2023

Losing a hundred dollars tends to stick with you. It’s been three months since aMSa stunned the entire Melee community by winning The Big House, and yet I still can’t stop thinking about it. I wrote a whole column about everything that I got wrong in my analysis. I saw him win another major. And then a third one. What is wrong with me? Has Yoshi just so thoroughly owned me that he’s become a part of my soul?

I never want to have this feeling again; the feeling of losing money and feeling so confident about something that was so utterly wrong. I’ve replayed the grand finals of Big House in my head every day. But crazier than that has been this insane period that’s come afterward – one in which a bunch of wacky characters have randomly taken the spotlight. The Top 100 saw its first ever Young Link main. We just saw Junebug’s Donkey Kong eliminate Polish from a regional. That same weekend, Rienne defeated Aura with Zelda. Meanwhile, a little under two months ago, Ringler was a character switch away from potentially 3-0’ing Leffen. Speaking of which, that guy’s convinced that Mewtwo is actually good.

Melee is potentially in its most diverse era of representation. In today’s column, I’d like to share some general thoughts on this recent revival of wacky and obscure characters, as well as talk about who to follow for them There’s no real ‘conclusion’ from this – it’s been a slow news week since Genesis, so feel free to discount this as a rough stream of consciousness.

How Come The Low Tiers Are Doing So Well?

With training resources like Uncle Punch and Slippi, the Melee meta initially seemed to help fast fallers and Marth quite a bit. Looking back at notable results from 2020 to 2021, you can see it. In fact, wwo years ago, the Crimson Blur talked about how the Slippi era metagame was devolving into just fast fallers and Marth. Not any more. So I thought to myself, could it be that these resources have actually helped low tiers? How so? Are the changes here to stay?

I briefly talked to Junebug – notorious for his love of wacky mediocre characters and self-proclaimed representative for “bringing the Project M to Melee” – about the recent renaissance that’s come to Donkey Kong and other similar characters. He told me that broadly speaking, the metagame of Melee still remained under-explored because of how ostracized low and mid tiers were in the community. Junebug added that because of this stigma, not many people wanted to actually play them. As a result, fewer characters got to have their whole tool kits explored adequately in the ways that the top tiers had for decades.

I’ve heard the point on social incentives brought up many times before when it comes to the topic of why low and mid tiers lack representation. I must admit a certain bias here. Not only do I think they’re unfun to play against, but because they’re bad characters, you can only have so much enjoyment playing them. With non-top tiers, the threshold for both succeeding and having fun with them is a lot tougher cross. In my mind, that seemed to be a bigger reason for why people don’t play them.

However, when it comes to the topic of why they’re doing so well lately, Junebug brought up an important point with regards to the additional training resources that players had. Even if low and mid tier character representatives were on a bit of island, at least it was one in which they had better training tools and more information about the game. With Slippi and Uncle Punch in particular, representatives of more obscure characters could queue into people and get practice whenever they wanted. It wouldn’t guarantee that their opponent wouldn’t quit out – but at the same time, it was better than nothing at all. Junebug particularly noted that he thought tournaments would be poor competitive experiences if you were a low tier player that started off at 0-2, but working on problem matchups was much easier with Slippi and with direct play sessions with characters they struggled in.

I also had the time to talk to Chape about this new phenomenon. That may sound random to a lot of you – why would I talk to a Top 100 Fox about the topic of low tier players? – but Chape’s the No. 1 of Chile, a country whose Melee scene is known for three things, Chape, Dark, and its unusually high number of wacky characters. He had a much more simple takeaway: “people love what their heart loves.” Apparently, it was about time that the low tiers got good.

Who Should You Be Looking out For?

For this next section, I’m going to talk about each of the best performing – or most notable people – you should know in the scene for those who play characters outside the universally considered top eight. I will even expand that to top 10; because Axe and aMSa have each won majors in the last four years, I do not think it’s worth expounding on the future of Pikachu and Yoshi. They are functionally represented at the top level of play “enough” to where I can take their presence in the metagame for granted as relevant characters.

Editor’s Note: I’m not counting the characters down in order of best to worst. Please, mid-tier and low-tier mains: don’t fight each other on who is better and don’t get mad at me. 

Let’s start with the leader of the bunch. It’s actually crazy how many strong DK players there are in Melee today (and not just my dear friend meleesadposts). Apparently, it’s not just Chicago. Including the obvious choices for “best DK” being between Ringler, Junebug, and Quang – a former Top 100 ballot name who mained Ice Climbers, started maining DK and just beat bobby big ballz with DK at Genesis – you have notorious hidden bosses like Twotran, Moe and Da, with Da being one of the biggest innovators behind the character today. I’m not even getting into Rishi or Akir, two Marth players whose DKs occasionally look just as good as their Marths. Honestly, it’s kind of upsetting that these two would probably still be Top 100 if they only committed to DK. All things considered, this might be the best time to pick him up.

Next are the Mario brothers – Doc, Luigi, and Mario himself. With Franz finishing in the most recent Top 50, Q? being included on the ballot, and someone like skullbro being at the top of the Netherlands, Doc seems like he’s starting to become increasingly more relevant. Luigi just had two players finish in the Top 100, with one of them being the ever-so-familiar Eddy Mexico and the other being Mad Tyro, who’s innovated Luigi’s combo game and brought the character to speed n the modern meta. It’s important to note Jah Ridin’ as well – I would still give him the title of having the best punish game in the world with Luigi. As for Mario, at the very least, he has regionally strong players like totally butts and noon. He doesn’t seem too bad, but he doesn’t seem too good either.

You know who’s kind of struggled lately? Samus. What the hell happened to her? After years of Plup, Duck, and HugS being mainstays for the Top 50, bare minimum, the absence of all three of them has robbed the character of a consistent spot deep in bracket. Sure, TheSWOOPER and Wevans provide more notwworthy representation than nothing, as does Morsecode762 (a former Top 100 player who still competes every blue moon) and Kata. But I must admit it’s been a long time since the days of people viewing Samus as within the same group as Ice Climbers. I asked a dear friend, ycz6, about what’s been going on with her, and he, surprisingly, seemed pretty optimistic. Of note, he mentioned how a lot of “holy grail” Samus techniques were finally becoming more standardized in her play. He brought up her high GALINT ledge aerial interrupt and short hop fast fall missiles as instant examples.

How about the Legend of Zelda related characters? Aklo obviously comes to mind as the best Link player in the world, even though he doesn’t main him. Under Aklo are regionally strong players like Savestate, TPN and Hunybear. Obviously, if we’re talking about Link, it’s only fair to bring up Young Link, the character who finally had his first Top 100 representative in Rocket, with Niklas2912 and bambi (though he plays Falco also) not too far behind in notoriety. Zelda herself has seen a bit of a comeback, with Rienne single-handedly leading the way and even a player like rabit! notably having strong regional results with Zelda when he played her. Mook, the DontTestMe-slayer ZeldaFool and regEx‘s Zelda seem like other players to pay attention to as well. As for Ganondorf, it does seem like Mekk, the new prince of Darkness, is leading the way, though I’d also pay attention to Prometheus, Cow5 (no; I’m not writing this all out), cassandra, and Oldiz at the regional level.

My two picks for strangest character in the game should go with each other; so I’m having Mr. Game & Watch and Mewtwo go in the same category. Mr. Game & Watch used to be a fun “hipster” pick for underrated character, with people like Qerb and glock in my toyota regularly defeating Top 100 players in their region with him in 2019. Hell, I still think about Forrest 3-0’ing Michael with Mr. Game & Watch on delay-based netcode every now and then. What a time to be alive. Anyway, since these three have disappeared, you can mostly find notable results from him in the form of Kuya and Snap, who still mains Fox, at events. Meanwhile, with Mewtwo, it goes beyond just watching Leffen or Taj (who along with defeating Mango’s Doc, beat OkayP and Reesch). Anyone interested in Mewtwo will be morbidly fascinated by Chile’s Guasausky and Ontario’s Tora. fasthands is another good pick.

We now come to my two favorite low tier players in the world. Let’s start wth codeman, the world’s best Pichu main. I mention he’s my favorite because I still have nightmares about him going up four stocks to two vs. Abbe, who flew all the way from Sweden to New England for Shine under a Melee Stats sponsorship, in game three. For what it’s worth, though Abbe took the set, codeman would leave Shine with a win over Captain G, who made the Top 100 ballot, though he wasn’t included in the final list. Is it crazy to imagine codeman defeating multiple Top 100 players with Pichu? Actually – yeah, it totally is, but it’s more probable than you might think. Similarly, I don’t think it’s too wild too imagine Joe(y) Bats, the best Ness main in the world doing it. He typically finishes just outside top eight at Ontario locals, some of the more underratedly stacked locals on the continent.

From there, we get into characters who I personally think are basically irrelevant or not impacted by the recent “mid/low tier revival” right now. First, there’s Roy, who’s basically disappeared since DontTestMe and LAG left the national scene. Then, you get Kirby, who had Captain Pretzel three years ago and now has Jim, from Minnesota. I guess Kirby has Papa, Mirthsphere, and “Craklo” on Ranked (who beat my friend twice), but the character’s relatively seen better times. And finally, there’s Bowser…who is Bowser. Unles Warriorknight takes his Ranked skills to a major, I’m not expecting anything new from him.

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