Breaking a brief slump of not winning major tournaments, Zain took won Ludwig Ahgren Championship Series 4 on Saturday. At 2,422 entrants, it was the largest Melee tournament of all-time. In combination with the GenAssist team, the event raised over $20,000 for Genesis tournament organizers and staff following Genesis’ postponement until April.
Another notable event outside of the tournament itself was its excellent series of exhibitions. You can catch up on the results of each one here, but my three picks for the most memorable exhibitions were Chillindude’s 6-1 victory over The Cheat in a first-to-five (you read this correctly), Sparg0 holding off Mkleo 5-4 in their only Melee set ever, and Leffen’s 5-1 beatdown of Zain on Friday. Unfortunately, Leffen disqualified himself from LACS 4 after a severe bout of food poisoning, so he didn’t play out his Top 64 matches.
THIRD AT THE BIGGEST TOURNAMENT OF ALL TIME
— moist | moky (@moky_dokie) January 30, 2022
The underdog story of this event, however, was moky. He not only finished in third place, but beat Plup, Hungrybox, KoDoRiN, Fiction, bobby big ballz, and Lunar Dusk in the best performance of his career. In the process, he also made me $150. Let’s go moky (and me)!
A big pet peeve of mine is when people who don’t know anything about a topic express a strong, confident opinion in it. An even bigger one, however, is when that same person is confronted by an expert in a similar field, and rather than admitting they are wrong, double down on their opinion. You don’t have to go too far into Smash Twitter to find good examples.
This topic is particularly frustrating when it comes to the current trend of “online vs. local tournaments” debates. Every single faction of this debate is annoying. Top players who feel they have nothing to gain from entering, mid-level players who feel robbed of chances to play high-stakes sets against top players, retired tournament organizers; you name it, they have an insufferable take. I decided to reach out to someone who would have some informed thoughts on this topic worth listening to.
If you haven’t heard of Kadence, they run a weekly tournament series for new Melee players called “OnlyNoobs.” They were gracious enough to respond to my request for an interview, so I talked to them to learn more about their series, learn a little bit about how they got into Melee, and to hear them out about a variety of topics, like the one I just mentioned.
Fun fact: The upcoming OnlyNoobs on February 3 will mark the one-year anniversary of the series.
NOTE: The following below is a roughly recorded transcript of our conversation. Not that this really matters for the scale of the interview, but for transparency, I’ve gone over this transcript with Kadence to make sure it accurately represents their thoughts.
EDWIN: Hi Kadence, I really appreciate you being willing to talk to me, so let’s get right into it. Can you introduce yourself – just for anyone who isn’t familiar with you?
KADENCE: Well, my tag is Kadence, and most people know me for OnlyNoobs, a beginner-only tournament I ran. Some people know me for YouTube or Twitch streaming. I guess my backstory is that I played in 2018, so I’m kind of a late bloomer to Melee. I had finished school and was into my career before playing this awesome game.
I had a friend who owned an old GameCube collection, and Melee was one of the games. I even grew up with childhood friends who had it. It led me down a rabbit hole in finding competitive Melee later in my life, like when I saw events popping up in Chicago. The rest is history.
EDWIN: Cool, so you just about answered my next question about how you got into Melee. I’ll jump ahead for now – how’d you get started on OnlyNoobs?
KADENCE: Hm. So a beginner-friendly event has always been on my radar since I started. I remember being disappointed by the scene’s typical new player experience, but it wasn’t until the beginning of 2021 when I stumbled across the “Tired of 0-2” Netplay series and I loved the concept of it. I played in it also and I felt like there were a lot of, well, opportunities to flesh out the concept. In early 2021, I told Pino, the TO, that I wanted to steal the idea and the rest is history.
EDWIN: You mentioned really briefly that you were disappointed by the scene’s typical new player experience. I want to go back to that – what does that mean?
KADENCE: Yeah, so take the average run of the mill local. Usually they are double elimination brackets, and as an outsider, it’s not really great. People in the scene sometimes forget how hard Melee is. It’s truly something that they forget, like how much time it takes to figure out the game. I was really disappointed because it felt like newer or lesser experienced players were severely overlooked or underappreciated. It’s just a strange experience.
I compared it to other hobbies where I didn’t feel like the deck was so stacked against me. When I first got into Melee, I played the least amount of matches, had to deal with the toughest brackets because I was lowly seeded, and I have to wait for friendlies until there are more available setups. You have to basically pay the most amount of money per match. A lot of these are things that make it hard to enjoy Melee when you’re at the bottom rung of the ladder.
Until people realize this, one of my goals is to provide a great experience and environment to those who are being under-served by what Melee has to offer.
EDWIN: That makes sense. Tell me then – what did you see in Tired of 0-2 that you wanted to flesh out for your own beginner series?
KADENCE: I thought there was an opportunity for branding and I wanted to make something pretty marketable. I have a background in business and turned on my “marketing brain” I guess. I thought, “What would be something that a newer person would see” and “what would that funnel to get their interest look like?” It’s basically finding ways to soften the blow and provide super clear instructions on how to play Melee online.
I am pretty sure I decided to pick up melee as a competitive release ONE YEAR AGO TODAY!
I am so happy with my progress. Winning Onlynoobs, starting an Esports business with @ACE_MDJ, signing top players and switching to boxx.
Pretty good year 🙂
— ACE | SlumlordGG (@SlumlordGG) January 28, 2022
Basically, I thought we could make something user friendly – like really make it something that you could take your coworker or friends to. Like, to teach them the ropes and how to play against other newer players.
EDWIN: Any goals for the future of the OnlyNoobs series?
KADENCE: My primary goal is to create the best possible experience for someone who is getting interested in Melee. Everything else is a side effect. It’s hard to get the audience who’s not already following the game, if that makes sense. And even then, only a tiny competitive fraction goes to get to play with other people. So I wouldn’t say I have any specific goals in mind other than to keep it sustainable for the foreseeable future.
EDWIN: Okay, let me put it a different way. Would you run this at a major?
KADENCE: So I’ve gotten that question before, usually in the form of “when is IRL OnlyNoobs?”. I’m gonna cautiously say, “yes,” but I would do things in a way that maybe other TOs might disagree with. Maybe something where it’s not at a Smash event, but more like at a gaming convention. I think wherever this would be, it has to be free and break the rules a little bit.
EDWIN: Alright, well then we can lead into a similar topic then. Just to kinda address an elephant in the room, I definitely think your focus on newer players is pretty separate from the rest of the scene, like I used to do Last Night in Melee and for a while I saw the community you were building as kind of its own thing separate from, you know, the hardcore scene.
But at the same time, I’ve always thought it was interesting that your events are just, like, objectively some of our, if not, the biggest online Melee tournaments. I think that’s so weird but there’s a lot to go from here. Uh, I wasn’t really sure how to ask a question from this so…how do you feel about it, like, does it ever hit you that you’re literally TO’ing the largest weekly tournament series?
KADENCE: Huh. So, having a large number of entrants isn’t the main goal but it’s a side effect. I don’t really look at the attendance numbers ahead of time, but I think that you’re right it’s different. But it is highlighting the fact that lower level Melee players are not included from a lot of things and isolated from a ton of other stuff.
I guess it’s recognizing there’s a ton of players – we have to be real. Edwin, there’s lots of people who aren’t that good at Melee and not really interested in getting good. Giving attention to these players is just not something our scene does. So, I take pride in running a tight ship w/ OnlyNoobs. I’m proud of doing that and my primary goal is to run the best event possible. I think the numbers are a side effect of that and not so much anything else.
EDWIN: I kind of rambled before the last question, so I’m going to put the next one as straightforward as I can. How do we further bridge the gap between the “hardcore” part of the scene and the part of the scene that you’re building?
KADENCE: I think that the crossover pipeline is automatic. If you have a good time playing Melee in either – or OnlyNoobs – you’re gonna naturally start to be looking at Smash on YouTube and wondering what else you can do. Because the game is so good and so fun, the gap bridges itself. I;m not worried about that. But I do think a lot of people leave OnlyNoobs with mixed reactions or expectations for other events, so they’re a bit spoiled. I run one event that’s different from others, but those aren’t in my control.
EDWIN: That makes sense. I want to talk about something a little different but still topical – this really annoying online tournaments vs. local tournaments and “does online matter” debate. As the tournament organizer of one of, if not – again – the largest weekly Netplay series, how do you see online tournaments playing a role in the broader “Smash infrastructure” for the future?
KADENCE: First off, I love the fact that we have online available, because it wasn’t really the case before. So this goes along with what I think is the fact that lower lever players are underserved and how OnlyNoobs will always have a place and a demand. Because it’s hard to say it’s “competing” with other events, right? Like, it’s just objectively a good thing that it exists even if it’s only online.
Something you’ll find interesting is that even on days where something like Salt Mines has huge numbers, it never takes away from the OnlyNoobs pool of players. We see similar highs at the same time. I think they can coexist because it’s such a specific demand, right? Piecing together IRL and online demand, like, regardless, it’s still important to accommodate specific people. But, if you’re interested in Melee and shying away from attending a local, you will naturally try the online one first. It’s an additional way for people to involve themselves and for most people, it will easily co-exist without issue. It is a funnel – like we’ve seen people go from OnlyNoobs to eventually go to local tournaments, it’s not going to be that hard.
I will say though: like, almost every Melee event is open to all skill levels, right? But the event with the most people is not an event of all skill levels – it’s an event with the lower half. That is a warning flag; a red flag for the scene to pay attention to. I think it shows these players are criminally under-served in opportunities and experiences. It’s weird that this type of event attracts the majority of players, and it might be something to consider.
Again – I take pride in running a good, tight, online event for beginners. It’s hard to compare that with everything else. I think the bar is pretty low for tournament organizers to run good online events, and I happen to run a good online event for beginners that happens to get a lot of people. My priority has always been running the best event I can. Whether OnlyNoobs gets 12 or 120 people, I’d still run the event. I want to also make sure that its very clear that I could not have done all of this without Pino, my predecessor, Divine Senator Kelly, my successor, and Unsure, a lead Chicago TO and soundboard for my ideas.
EDWIN: Okay. You’ve given me a lot to sit on and I’m going to mull over it over the weekend before publishing on Monday. I really appreciate your time and perspective on this topic. Thanks for talking to me, Kadence. I’ll keep in touch.
KADENCE: Thanks, Edwin. Talk to you soon.