After suffering a relatively early winner’s bracket loss, Hungrybox came back through loser’s to win Galint Melee Open: Summer Edition over n0ne on Sunday. It was Hungrybox’s second big rollback tournament victory of 2021, following his previous win at GMO: Winter Edition.
Most notably from this tournament came the shocking – pun unintended – breakout third place run from Tyler Swift, a MD/VA Pikachu and Fox dual main who first gained more recognition as Zain’s training partner. At the latest GMO, Tyler Swift defeated Hungrybox, Logan (formerly LSD), KoDoRiN, and Aklo, who just came off a 3-0 over Axe.
It’s worth adding that while this is the best performance of Tyler Swift’s career, it’s also a follow-up to a strong last eight months of results, in which he also won a Xanadu over Bones, as well as obtained wins over Dimension, Kevin Maples, Golden, Chem, Forrest, BZimm, and Ginger.
The Melee GOAT Debate
I won’t lie – I’m still in the post-Smash Summit 11 daze. Over the last week, I’ve been more inspired to work on Melee content than I’ve been in the last few months. I want to spend this column re-evaluating something that I examined a long time ago, the Greatest of All Time debate as it pertains to Melee; particularly its two leading candidates: Mango and Armada.
To summarize it, this column will be split into three questions:
- Which player has the greater longevity?
- Which player has the better prime?
- How well did a player perform at the biggest majors of their era?
Mango has arguably the greatest longevity out of anyone in Melee history, which would’ve been an absurd claim to make four years ago, when he was publicly considering spending less time competing. Counting quarantine, Mango has been a Top 10 player for about 15 years – top five for 14. Since 2007, he has basically always been a constant at the highest level of play. He has won a major in every single year, save for 2018, in which he still finished in the top five.
The wealth of achievements particularly stand out when looking at Mango’s title count. According to Pikachu942, if we don’t count big rollback tournaments, Mango has 25 first-place finishes at majors, the second most out of any player ever. Counting LACS 3, CLG Mixup, or two individual weeks of Summit Champions League, that number will go up, though to be fair, it will still remain beneath Hungrybox’s leading total of 32 big LAN wins.
It may seem like an unfair standard to hold Armada up to. Because he lived in another country, Armada could never attend as much as Mango. To his credit, what Armada went to were the most difficult tournaments of all, where he mostly remained untouchable against the field. His decade of being top five and his 21 major first place finishes are certainly nothing to scoff at.
However, in a debate over the greatest of all-time, the standards become that much higher. While I’m fairly certain that Armada would have been just as dominant in the United States when he was active, it feels unfair to punish Mango for having more opportunities to perform at the highest level and for remaining there to this day.
Verdict: Mango, cleanly.
When Mango was at his best, he was so good that he made his opponents look clueless. I’m not talking about the stretch of time in which he won three consecutive supermajors in 2014, nor am I talking about his No. 1 year in 2013 – I’m talking about the reign of Mango from Pound 3 to Pound 4. I covered this in detail before, so for transparency, I will paste it below.
I’ve been writing about the best primes in Melee history. So far, I’m psure Pound 3 to Pound 4 Mango has got it:
– 1st at Pound 3
– 1st at RoM
– 1st at Genesis
– 4th at RoM 2
– 1st at Pound 4
Winning 4/5 majors doesn’t sound that impressive so let’s get into the details (1)
— Edwin (@edwin_budding) May 19, 2020
Just think about that for a moment. In two years of being the game’s best player, Mango lost a total of five sets. Three of them came against people he remained positive against, and two of them are considered among Melee’s greatest upsets ever. It’s hard to really fathom how dominant it was to be undefeated against Mew2King, Hungrybox, Lucky, Zhu, PC Chris, ChuDat, and Cort in 37 combined sets.
The best stretch for Armada within a comparable amount of tournaments entered was his ungodly rampage from Canada Cup 2016 to finally falling at Royal Flush. Before his grand finals with Mango at the latter, Armada had won six straight majors, with convincing records against the field: 9-1 against Hungrybox, 3-0 vs. Mango, 4-1 with Mew2King, 2-0 vs. Leffen, 1-0 vs. Plup, and he was undefeated against everyone else. I remember living through this period and thinking this was it; that everybody was just going to lose to Armada from here on out.
It’s really close between these two for who has a better prime. Armada was more impervious vs. the field and would consistently win tournaments, while Mango had a longer track record of utterly clowning the very best players around. I don’t think I can pick someone to have the lead here.
Winning The Big One
Here’s where things get interesting. When researching this topic, I not only jotted down every major that either player had won, but I took note of their most important tournament victories. While I didn’t completely ignore smaller events, it was crucial to see how Mango and Armada alike performed at Melee’s respective ‘Grand Slams.’
To determine what events counted, I used Pikachu942’s modified rules for determining what counted as a supermajor. Her criteria roughly goes as follows: a tournament must have all five of the active Top 5 of a given year in its attendance or enough established prestige, either in reputation or prize pot, to warrant being considered a ‘supermajor’ or an equivalent.
It’s not a perfect system, but it’s one that passed my personal smell test. I used it to list out the following supermajor or supermajor-caliber victories by each player below.
1. Smash Summit 11 (2021)
2. LACS 3 (2020)****
3. The Big House 9 (2019)
4. GOML 2019 (2019)
5. The Big House 6 (2016)
6. MLG Anaheim 2014 (2014)
7. Evo 2014 (2014)
8. The Big House 4 (2014)
9. Evo 2013 (2013)
10. Pound 4 (2010)
11. Genesis (2009)
12. Revival of Melee (2009)
13. Pound 3 (2008)
1. Smash N Splash 4 (2018)
2. Evo 2017 (2017)
3. Genesis 4 (2017)
4. Smash Summit Spring 2017 (2017)
5. UGC Smash Open (2016)
6. Smash Summit 3 (2016)
7. Genesis 3 (2016)
8. The Big House 5 (2015)
9. Evo 2015 (2015)
10. Apex 2013 (2013)
11. Apex 2012 (2012)
12. Genesis 2 (2011)
Now, while Mango does have the advantage in terms of volume, an important factor to consider is how these two performed against each other within their time together. When you examine it closer, it’s really difficult to not give Armada the advantage. In spite of living in Europe, from 2009 to 2018, Armada not only outperformed Mango in winning the biggest tournaments (12-9), he was the clear favorite in the head-to-head (29-21). There were only three years (2009, 2013, and 2016) in which Mango ever beat Armada more than the other way around.
Moreover, Armada never finished anything less than fifth place at tournaments he attended. The same can’t be said for Mango, an amazing player with an infamous tendency to buster out before top eight. Beating Armada itself was seen as a tremendous, life-changing accomplishment. If you couldn’t beat Armada, you had no chance of winning a supermajor. Not only was he the better player for most of their time at the top, but he could pull it together to win the biggest tournaments way more consistently.
Verdict: Armada, cleanly.
In an article for InvenGlobal, Tim Masters wrote that the Mango-Armada rivalry reminded him of the Federer-Nadal rivalry within tennis. As a sports fan, I like these metaphors, but I’m going to go with something a little different here. Let’s take a brief detour into American football.
Ask any knowledgeable football fan who they consider to be the greatest player of all-time. Chances are that they’ll immediately choose Tom Brady. The reasons most people will pick are obvious: he has seven Super Bowl rings, he has been good for longer than anyone else, and he has the statistics in his prime to back it up. Ignoring the first reason – which I loath as a metric for individual success in team sports – we’re gonna talk about the last two.
There were stretches in Brady’s career when there were better quarterbacks than him. I would go as far as to claim that for most of his rivalry with Peyton Manning, the latter was definitively a superior player. When the two were active competitors together, Manning won five NFL Most Valuable Player awards while Brady only had two. It’s tough to say who had the better peak seasons out of the two, but the long story short is that Manning outperformed Brady by most individual metrics.
Once Manning retired, you might have expected Brady to easily claim the throne for best quarterback in the league. After all, Brady was a ridiculous Cam Newton season away from being considered the MVP of 2015 and Manning was on his way to the retirement home. Instead, Brady had to deal with the resurgence of Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes, along with career years from Lamar Jackson and Matt Ryan. Although Brady managed to snag another MVP season in 2017 – and might have missed out on another in 2016 due to a suspension – the competition got much tougher.
If you aren’t bored to death yet, I promise: this is the last paragraph about football. The absolutely most uncharitable case interpretation of Brady’s NFL career is that he was a Top 2 quarterback for two different decades. In other words, Brady had a Hall of Fame career that entailed of two different Hall of Fame careers. When everyone else had their time atop the throne, Brady was always there to either take it back, challenge them, or battle whatever newcomer was there in his old rival’s spot. I know team sports are different, but doesn’t this sound familiar?
Any stretch of five years from Mango would be enough to make him one of the best players ever. Like the game itself, Mango endured against the odds. He changed the meta forever with multiple characters and constantly took on the best of every generation. When Ken, PC Chris, ChuDat, PPMD, Mew2King, Hungrybox, and Armada either left the scene or fell off, it was Mango who outlasted all of them; it was Mango who remained in the top stratosphere of play; it was Mango who became the top challenger to the current generation’s best player (Zain).
At the same time, Armada single-handedly revived Peach at the top level and stunned the world at the first Genesis. He was the No. 1 in the world for arguably four years of Melee, with no player ever consistently getting the upper hand over him for a decade. As everyone else underneath him crumbled or looked mortal against a rapidly improving spread of competition, Armada smacked the rest of the field back to reality. In 2019, when I wrote about my top 100 favorite Melee sets of all-time, eight of the final ten involved Armada, and for good reason. When he was around, he was the litmus test for the greatest players ever.
I mention this because it’s been three years since Armada left competition. We know what Melee looks like without him. Although the game will thrive no matter what, I literally cannot imagine Melee without Mango.
That’s why Mango is my pick for the greatest Melee player of all-time.
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