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Published January 9, 2023

With 2022 in the rearview mirror, we have so much about Melee to talk about. Who is the best player in the world heading into Genesis 9? Is anyone new going to win a major? Who stands to profit the most from the upcoming year? More than anything else, that last question has been on my mind. But before we dive into making future predictions, it’s worth taking a step back just to appreciate how much has changed over the last year. Or, more specifically, how much has changed since the late 2021 Melee Stats All-Time Top 100.

Some of you reading this are going to roll your eyes. But I swear there’s a bigger reason beyond shilling a list my friends and I made. I wanted to talk about some players whose legacies have significantly shifted over the last year. In today’s column, I want to break down the people whose stocks (pun unintended) have risen the most since the release of the All-Time Top 100. I’ll be bringing up those who would certainly make it if it were created today, as well as other notable people whose standings have changed.

Who Would Debut On The All-Time Top 100 Today?

Obviously the first name that comes to mind is Jmook, who has 12 major top eight appearances and will likely make his official Top 100 debut at No. 6. This already give him more top eights than KoreanDJ (No. 17), though it’s important to note that there’s more tournaments than ever today. Furthermore one of KoreanDJ’s top eight appearances was a first place, which Jmook still lacks. Then again, Jmook’s run at Genesis 8 could arguably be considered an accomplishment comparable to a small major win. On that note, exploring where Jmook might land makes me re-evaluate Wobbles’ No. 23 spot on the 2021 list. Should he have been higher? Does Jmook’s one year of being Top 10 eclipse Wobbles’ three years of being Top 10 in an era with fewer tournaments? Without a major win, that doesn’t seem fair. Funnily enough, CaptainJack, the last Sheik to have potentially won a major (depending on your criteria) and someone who similarly had a short prime, finished No. 30 on the original list. Let’s put Jmook right there for now, although the unique circumstances behind his entry onto the list make it difficult to assess.

SluG comes after Jmook in similar fashion as a relative newcomer to all-time status. He currently has three top four finishes at majors alongside victories over Jmook, Mango and Zain. It’s also important to contextualize these wins; SluG totally reinvented Ice Climbers for the post-wobbling age. I wasn’t sure where he’d land up, so the same way I compared Jmook to CaptainJack, I’m going to do that for SluG to Nintendude (No. 46). The latter’s breakout is surprisingly similar to SluG’s, as it came when he made top eight at The Big House 3 in spite of a wobbling ban. Between the two, Nintendude played for longer and had similar highs of taking sets from major contenders, but SluG has him slightly beat in competitive peak and metagame contribution. It’s very likely that SluG will have an official “Top 10” spot for the 2022 season, so that could give him the edge. Even if it doesn’t, I think it’s a tossup. 

The next people I want to bring up are five rising stars of the “pandemic generation” because I think each of them would make the second half of the All-Time Top 100 right now, probably somewhere between the 50s and 70s range. With KoDoRiN, it’s by pure volume of accomplishments – per Melissa Blight, he’s made seven major top eights. Aklo doesn’t have that, but he has a “memorable” tourney win in winning Redemption Rumble, which, while not a “major,” is still part of his legacy. Meanwhile, Polish was the only Peach in the modern era to ever defeat Hungrybox offline and they have an exceptional third place showing at the SWT NA East Finals alongside another ballpark Top 25 year in 2022. Magi has been Top 50 longer than those three and will arguably have three more “Top 25ish” years from 2020 onward. Soonsay is in a similar spot to her, having finished in the Top 100 for 2019, only to make it to the next level from 2020 onward, having comparable results to Magi in that same period of time. In fact, his fifth place run at The Big House 10 arguably gives him the best supermajor performance of this entire group. I’m not sure how to order these players, but my guess is the way I’ve sorted them right now.

After them, it seems only fair to include Pipsqueak and Joshman as contenders, even if it seems relatively soon. They’re hurt being relatively isolated from the North American scene and as a result, I’m inclined to give them credit for unique feats. Take, for instance, the fact that Pipsqueak has defeated two GOAT candidates, or how Joshman’s monster fourth place run at GOML places him in elite company for players to ever finish that far at a major. If Bananas and ARMY are Top 100 all-time players, which I think they are, Pipsqueak and Joshman deserve inclusion too.

I want to briefly mention people who I’d consider just outside the range of Top 100 all-time. They’re long-timers and newcomers alike: 2saint, Jflex, FatGoku, Nickemwit, Ralph, Kalvar, bobby big ballz, Frenzy, Spud, Swift, TheSWOOPER, Panda and Azel. To give a brief sports analogy, they are the equivalent of “franchise” Hall of Famers – regional legends who are a few notable major showings away from entering contention for scene-wide all-time status. Everyone else is way too new in the scope of Melee history to think about. No; I’m not going to list them out. 

SIDENOTE: This actually sounds like a really fun idea – an “all-time regional PR.” Not too long ago, I wrote a brief “Top 10 New England players of all-time” piece and I just ran a Top 50 power rankings for a whole region. Anyone who wants something like this for your region, hit me up and let’s work something out.

Significantly Improved Legacies

After taking note of newcomers, the next thing I did was examine active players who we had already accounted for in the bottom half of the list. To start it off, I want to discuss Ginger, who we had at No. 72. I remember his spot being controversial for being high, so in the spirit of continuing that, I’d like to inflame it further. Not only do I think this was the correct call, I think Ginger now has a strong argument for being the greatest Michigan player ever. 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 are, bare minimum, four Top 25 years. even if some of it was online and during a time without an official ranking period. Does that remind you of anyone else? After a year where Ginger made two major top eights (LACS 4 – yes; I’m counting this – and Riptide 2022) and beat Plup, Ginger has the lead in top eights (seven) over Duck (five). They also share a similar “super regional victory” – take your pick between Duck winning Pat’s House 3 and Ginger going full WarHero at The Function 2. Personally, I wouldn’t put Ginger above Darkrain for Midwest GOAT, but between him and Duck for the Michigan title, it’s much closer than you’d expect. I ran this topic by my dear friend FendrickLamar, who basically told me I was smoking crack and that there was a big difference between online and offline, let alone Top 15 vs. Top 25.

When it comes to moky, the clear accomplishment that comes to mind is finishing in third place at LACS 4: literally, the largest tournament of all-time. Even if you discounted that, moky’s added four other major top eights at Battle of BC 4, GOML, Apex and Mainstage. It helps that he’s maintained the career head-to-head lead over Leffen, iBDW, aMSa and Plup – four players who I’d consider in the pantheon of Melee (more on this later). Somewhere around Silent Wolf (No. 36) sounds about right; Silent Wolf has him beat in years while moky has the advantage in standout major performances. The two actually share the trait of “having farmed generational greats,” with Silent Wolf infamously beating Mew2King a bunch to parallel moky’s aforementioned head-to-heads.

After years of being an annual Top 25 to 50 player, lloD reached the next level in 2022. Depending on how panelists measure him vs. Axe and SluG, lloD could have a year in the Top 10, but in my opinion, that’s splitting hairs. Making top eights at Genesis, Smash Summit and Super Smash Con – the latter being a third place – definitely puts lloD in the conversation for greatest Peach players after Armada. I would honestly go as far to say that he should unambiguously be placed above Sastopher and Cort, though when I talked to Melissa about this, she said it was way too soon. Regardless; my gut tells me he finishes marginally above wherever moky ends up, due to having a similar peak and more years.

Outside of those three, Medz, Rishi, Spark, Eddy Mexico, Faceroll, KJH, Kalamazhu, Professor Pro, Trif and Gahtzu likely maintain their spot on the Top 100. Because of their additional years as relevant players, they might get an edge over some of the “old school” players who aren’t around any more. At the same time, I’m not convinced they have an advantage over some of the names I previously mentioned as significant risers. 

Significantly Improved Legacies Pt. 2

Here’s where things get interesting: the “first ballot Hall of Famers” who are excelling in what should otherwise be the twilight of their careers. Nobody represents this more than Fiction. 2021’s No. 40 of all-time. With additional top eight finishes at LACS 4, Pound 2022, Double Down and The Big House 10 coming in the last year, Fiction has to jump upward on the list. He’s likely just under the range of Zhu, who we had at No. 28 of all-time. My guess is that Fiction is in a similar spot to lloD and moky, but above both for having been around longer, even with his extended breaks from the game. I think all three need a little more in volume to pass the “wall” of Chillin, Zhu and PewPewU in the late 20s. 

On another topic, let’s go to n0ne, one of three definitive Captain Falcon players (Wizzrobe, S2J and himself) from the last decade. A fourth place at Genesis 8 on its own would be a more-than-adequate addition to his resume, but his entire summer season ages really well. In that time span, n0ne grabbed wins over Hungrybox, aMSa, Axe and lloD, to complement previous career sets over Mango, Mew2King and a younger iBDW. With 16 top eights in total, n0ne’s my pick for greatest Canadian player of all-time. I personally see his legacy as similar to PewPewU’s as a perennial Top 25 player with flashes of brilliance against the highest echelon of play. My guess is that n0ne has already passed him. That would land him just outside the SoCal trio of HugS, Lucky and Westballz in the mid-20s.

Everyone else, from what I’d envision in the “current” 13 to 50 spot – not that range on the 2021 list – probably stays in the same general area. Wizzrobe’s setback 2022 unfortunately halted his rise, so in spite of having a Mainstage 2021 victory, the needle’s not moving much for him. Axe, SFAT, S2J, Hax, Westballz, Lucky, Colbol and Drephen are good where they are, with any adjustments only coming in response to what I already wrote above.

Rumblings in the Pantheon

Now that we’ve reached the cream of the crop, we first have to talk about aMSa. With three outright major victories as well as a guaranteed Top 3 finish on the 2022 rankings, he unbelievably has tied Plup in overall major victories. I don’t buy the argument for PC Chris, Axe or ChuDat above him, though PC is a strange case of having a wealth of accomplishments in a short period of time. I must also mention that for whatever reason though, I felt hesitant to put aMSa above Plup and iBDW. In fact, come to think about it, he’s going to finish the most recent ranking period above both. Is aMSa actually in the Top 10 ever? Could you confidently say “no” to someone who has fewer years at the top level, but around the same number of major wins and far more metagame impact?

If not aMSa, how about iBDW? I previously broke down his legacy in an earlier installment of Monday Morning Marth. The long story short: with Riptide 2021, Smash Summit 12, Smash Summit 13and Double Down 2022 in his trophy shelf, iBDW actually has more majors than either of his two peers. That’s in spite of fewer years as a Top 10 player vs. Plup. Furthermore, a No. 4 finish on the 2022 rankings for himself and a distant No. 8 finish for Plup, will give iBDW roughly three years as a top five player, from 2020 to now, which is more than Plup’s two years from 2017 to 2018. I’ve talked about Plup a good amount, so I may as well formally acknowledge him in this section. He’s spent the most amount of time at the top level among these three and he continued to hover around that level in 2022. However, trend-wise, he doesn’t seem the likeliest to move upward. 

Now we get to the hottest take you’ve all been waiting for – the reveal for why I wrote this column. Where does Zain land nowadays? Before I give it away, here are the “major” first place finishes that he has from 2018 to now.

  • Shine 2018
  • Genesis 7
  • LACS 2
  • SCL Season 1
  • Smash Summit 10 Online
  • Four Loko Fight Night
  • SCL Season 2
  • SWT NA East Finals
  • LACS 4
  • Genesis 8
  • Pound 2022
  • Shine 2022
  • Ludwig Smash Invitational

NOTE: Because of the unusual format of SCL, it’s not exactly a one-to-one comparison, but I’ve decided to include it in cumulative “seasons” where the final weeks determine the champion of the event. To my memory, this is how it was treated at the time and it feels appropriate to view SCL in this manner rather than by individual weeks. 

In Melee history, only Hungrybox, Mango, Armada and Ken have more major wins than Zain. He’s also practically guaranteed to finish No. 1 for 2022. If a 2020 ranking were to be made, Zain would have two years at No. 1. Over the last three years, he’s defined Melee in a way similar to only four other players. He’s Top 5 of all-time right now. Yes – above Leffen and even Mew2King. 

People are going to especially jump on me on the Mew2King comparison. For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s wrong to have Mew2King at No. 5. I also have to admit the two share quite a bit in common. They both have relatively “asterisked” years at the top of the game, with Mew2King finishing No. 1 in a year that featured sparse activity from his toughest peers. Similarly, Zain will finish No. 1 in the most contested year in Melee history, rather than a dominant one.

With that said, when it comes to separating people around the Top 5 all-time status, I personally value the ability to win supermajors and to consistently be in contention for No. 1. You’ll notice from the original list that this is why we had Ken above Mew2King. Think about it. It took Zain four years to win more majors than Mew2King had in a decade’s worth of attempts. To be clear, longevity should never ‘hurt’ someone, but in my opinion, at the scale of achievements that these two players have, supermajor victories trump everything else. Speaking of which, FC-Diamond, Super Champ Combo and Smash Summit 6 are the only tournaments I’d consider “supermajor wins” of Mew2King’s career. Meanwhile, Zain has two Genesis titles, a win at the hardest invitational ever, and any selection of his big online wins. Even Leffen and PPMD’s ‘weighted’ best majors are likely better than Mew2King’s, which is why some of the panel actually ranked one or both of those players above Mew2King.

Granted, Mew2King ended up at No. 5, so clearly not everyone agreed. For me, I’m ready to give Zain the edge right now and think it’s pretty arguable. Ken, on the other hand, will be tougher to surpass. To get to him, Zain roughly needs another year of being No. 1 or more major wins, which aren’t guaranteed.

Final Asides

With that out of the way, I think Mango, Armada and Hungrybox remain the top three of all-time. I’d personally keep them in that order, although each of them have compelling arguments for No. 1. Armada was easily the best player within the timeframe of his career, Hungrybox has won more in a vacuum than anyone else and Mango has demonstrated the ability to win the most prestigious events for the longest time.

I will say: I don’t think you can reasonably have Hungrybox, Armada and Mango in that order. I think it’s either Armada at the top, with Mango and Hungrybox at interchangeable No. 2 or No. 3 spots, or it’s the other way around, with Mango or Hungrybox at No. 1/2 and Armada at No. 3. Regardless, what I’d be super down for is what I wrote about in 2022: the possibility of a Mango/Hungrybox grand finals at a 2023 major where they’re playing for the title of GOAT.

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