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Published July 4, 2022

Two gone, two more to go. With CEO and GOML out of the way, we’re heading into a third consecutive big weekend. This time, it’s VGBC’s long-anticipated Double Down, a spiritual successor to Royal Flush, although it’ll be happening in Las Vegas instead of New Jersey.

Like I did last week, I will be doing a deep dive into Double Down. However, rather than discussing 16 players you should look out for, I’m breaking down eight of the top seeds at this event, making a case for and against their chances of winning Double Down.

The Case For and Against aMSa

There’s not a single player in this group who aMSa hasn’t beaten at some point. That alone puts him in contention to win the event. It’s also impossible to interpret aMSa’s long-term trajectory as anything other than upward. Even though he’s had stumbles here and there, more often than not, he’s consistently overcome hurdles and improved his standing in Melee’s competitive field over the last decade. His growth as a player has somehow come at a faster rate than the metagame shifts, which is actually insane to consider.

With that out of the way, we have to remember that the question isn’t about if aMSa can beat anyone. It’s if he can beat enough strong players across a whole weekend to win a major. We have to honestly assess aMSa’s chances against each person. When you do that, cumulatively defeating multiple of them is undeniably a tall order. The most charitable view is that he’s favored against Mango, a coin flip vs. moky, a slight underdog to Hungrybox and iBDW, disadvantaged vs. Plup, and a definitive underdog against Zain and Wizzrobe.

The Case For And Against Wizzrobe

A while ago, I was talking in the Melee Stats Podcast server about “greatest Smash prospects of all-time.” While it’s a topic that’s admittedly hard to define, in my opinion, Wizzrobe is the closest thing we have to a LeBron James. To get the obvious out of the way – if you can beat Zain, that already increases your chances of winning a supermajor. I’d further note Wizzrobe’s ability to defeat Hungrybox and aMSa. He’s 7-1 vs. Hungrybox in their last eight sets and 8-1 vs. aMSa lifetime.

Here’s the problem: Wizzrobe has many people he’d realistically need to avoid in order to win. An 2-18 career losing record vs. Plup doesn’t inspire confidence at a time when Plup looks better than ever. His 1-24 head-to-head vs. Mango may not 1:1 carry over into their next set, but it’s not great either. Add in the pesky Foxes like moky and iBDW – both of whom have won their last sets vs. him – and it becomes clear that Wizzrobe’s paths to winning Double Down are fairly limited. Also, given his unexpected absences from events this year, I’m a little worried that his stretch of inactivity might continue.

The Case For and Against moky

It’s not too soon to think that the bronze medalist of the biggest Melee tournament ever has a nonzero shot at winning a major. A fun fact about moky is that he’s won each of his last two sets – not merely the most recent – against iBDW, Hungrybox, and Plup. In terms of pound-for-pound chances within this group of people, moky’s are probably quite a bit higher than what many smashers would initially expect. Watching his utter dismantling of aMSa to make GOML 2022 top eight, I briefly wondered if moky was going to make a massive loser’s run to make it back to grands.

There are, however, two big problems with moky. The first one is that he has a bad tendency to lose early in winner’s bracket, which has happened at damn near every big event he’s entered this year; something that basically kills your chances of winning a major. The second problem is Zain. When you’re as good as moky, it’s not completely unthinkable to defeat someone like Zain but relative to the other people I’ve listed in this group, he has the worst combined shot at beating him. Exceptions aside, you’re not typically going to win a major they’re attending without beating or being at least one of them. Speaking of which…

The Case For and Against Hungrybox

Since Hungrybox began entering majors in 2009, he’s missed only one top eight. As obvious as it sounds, beating everyone else in the first two days of a three-day major is a great way to increase your chances of winning. Furthermore, though winning each of his last sets vs. Mango and aMSa is great, what’s been noticeably great for Hungrybox is how he dominates Jmook. Across both LAN and online this year, he’s up 5-0. Strangely enough, the more we see Jmook’s name late in bracket, the likelier a Hungrybox victory becomes. We saw it last weekend, when he not only double eliminated Jmook, but brought out the old FC Return playbook to stole iBDW’s soul.

That said, Jmook is not entering Double Down. Moreover, Hungrybox is not actually infallible against the field. We’ve seen him drop sets to n0ne and KJH, which makes me think it’s likelier that an online demon like moky could repeat the same feat offline. Assuming he gets by whomever he plays before winners quarters, Hungrybox also suffers from looking totally lost vs. Zain (0-10 in their last ten sets) and having Plup turn a corner on him (4-1 in their last five sets). He dodged Zain once to win a major, so it’s not out of the question, but is it likely to happen again, and if it does, won’t he still have to play vs. one or multiple of Plup, iBDW, and Wizzrobe? All three of them, blemishes aside, have usually beaten Hungrybox.

The Case For and Against Mango

Think with your heart and beyond his first three offline events of the year. Mango’s back in Vegas. Better yet, he’s in Vegas as an underdog. Is there a more thematically fitting close to the Summer 2022 PGR season than the ultimate gambler – the Royal Flush champion – making his grand return? You can certainly visualize it. First, Mango beats someone like iBDW early before overcoming some combination of moky, Plup, and Zain to win the tournament.

There is, of course, an equally fitting close to the PGR season. It’s one that you can visualize just as easily. Picture this: Mango loses to someone like Spark early. What happens in loser’s, you ask? He gets 3-0’d by Hungrybox yet again to finish in 9th place. Besides, it’s not as if Mango has recently shown us anything amazing vs. Top 10 players this year. He’s lost each of his last sets vs. Zain, iBDW, Hungrybox, and aMSa.

The Case For and Against iBDW

First off, iBDW already won a major this year, so we know it’s possible. We also know that he historically does well vs. Plup, Hungrybox, Wizzrobe, and aMSa. But I’m actually willing to go a step further than that. In fact, I think iBDW is the one Fox player who’s not a heavy underdog vs. Zain. My gut tells me they’re in a new ‘stage’ of their rivalry where iBDW can consistently put up a fight instead of getting mowed down. Even if he doesn’t magically begin to dominate Zain, taking sets would make a drastic difference and boost his chances of winning a major like Double Down.

The bad news is that iBDW’s not a surefire bet vs. the field. Since Mainstage 2021, we’ve seen him drop stray sets to people like Ginger, KoDoRiN, Aklo, Krudo, and Joshman not to mention multiple online sets, for whatever they are worth. To put it as bluntly as I can: iBDW has been upset by a lower seed at six of the last eight big LAN events he’s gone to. If the standard is winning open majors, not invitationals, he needs to get over his consistency problems.

The Case For and Against Plup

Before Genesis, I said it was the best time to be a member of the Plup Club since he finished Top 5 in the world. Though that event ended up being unfortunate for him, my faith in Plup eventually came to fruition. Since Genesis, he’s taken a set from the best player in the world and gotten his revenge over Jmook. Most encouragingly, he has reliably beaten up his biggest kryptonite, Hungrybox, 3-1 in sets. Watching Plup Showdown, I straight up thought “Plup is the best player in the world if he can consistency trounce Hungrybox like this.”

This obviously happened right before Plup dropped a set in winner’s bracket to Magi. To her credit, she played out of her mind. But so did Ginger at Genesis. At what point do we start worrying about Plup’s ability to overcome dangerous players right under the top level? With three offline tournaments to evaluate, as well as Plup’s multiple online tourneys (featuring dropped winners’ sets to aCID and SFAT), it’s natural to wonder. There’s not many players I’d outright favor over Plup, but I can’t safely choose him to vanquish the field like I can with someone else. Take a guess who.

The Case For and Against Zain

I guess Zain hasn’t won in three events, right? Look, this guy is still, all things considered, the person who’s won the most in 2022. When we saw him fend off a red-hot iBDW at Genesis, force the Fox out of Jmook, briefly hold off Leffen, and trounce Hungrybox, it was easy to take it for granted – and we shouldn’t. Even his relatively “low” point nowadays involves casually beating aMSa multiple times, whooping n0ne, blowing by KoDoRiN, and basically being an auto-win vs. non Top 10 players. Has Zain looked relatively shaky as of lately? Obviously. Are Jmook and Leffen attending this tournament though? No. Has anyone stepped up in his place as the “successor” to being No. 1?

No,  but it’s for a reason that us Zain fans don’t like to acknowledge: there can’t be a successor when Zain didn’t actually finish No. 1 last year. It feels so awful to say that, right? Zain has undeniably been the most successful player of the last couple of years, and so far has been the most consistent this year. At the same time, we have to face the facts. Zain’s lost his last six sets against the top Sheiks, so Plup remains scary. iBDW was a hair’s length from sending him to loser’s at Genesis. In spite of convincingly beating Mango at GOML, Mango’s still won three of the last five offline sets they’ve played. With Wizzrobe, S2J, and Axe potentially lurking around top eight – among a small group of people to surprise Zain back when he looked head and shoulders above everyone else – this Double Down could be one of Zain’s hardest brackets yet.

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