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Published March 18, 2019

Rebounding from a ninth place at The Gang Steals The Script, Hax dominated the field at NChi Ultra in North Carolina, winning the two-day regional on Sunday without losing a game. Notably in second place came the longtime Virginia Melee veteran Redd, who played his trademark Fox alongside Marth and Peach secondaries throughout his first big out-of-region tournament in several months. In the same day, S2J took first at Fight For SoCal 4 over in Santa Ana, California.

Over in New York on Saturday, the longtime New York City Jigglypuff prodigy BIGKID won his first regional. In it, he defeated Jmook, upset Slox in the Connecticut native’s return to competing, stuffed a surprise winner’s bracket run by Panos and held off a valiant effort from lintgod, who overcame an early pools upset to make it back to grand finals and reset the bracket.

For other regional events on the same day, Ryan Ford conquered the Midwest field at Ohio’s Sapocalypse, while Espi finished in first place at Long Legs in British Columbia.

Also, the last week marked the one-year anniversary of Monday Morning Marth! To celebrate, I’ve centered today’s column entirely around my reader mailbag.

“You mentioned killing part of your day listening to leftist podcasts in this column. Did these podcasts influence you to start your own podcast in any way? and when can we expect Edwin to go on Chapo?” – Catalepsy

It’s funny that you mention listening to leftist podcasts, but I wouldn’t say they’ve impacted my own approach to podcasting. In fact, the main source of personal inspiration came from Grantland, particularly its NFL podcast with Robert Mays and Bill Barnwell.

There’s no real reason to listen to it now, but the chemistry between the two is exceptional, as is their knowledge of pro football’s intricacies and differing approaches. To sum it up, Barnwell’s calculated approach and penchant for sarcasm perfectly complements Mays’ overt passion and deep amount of empathy for the players he talks about. The banter between the two makes their already appealing personalities stand out that much more.

Sadly, the podcast ended, as did Grantland. But this show was by far was my biggest influence. I still follow Mays and Barnwell in their separate shows, and Mays occasionally guest stars on the latter’s ESPN podcast.

“if any one album could describe your melee playstyle what would it be?

top 5 most underrated and overrated melee players all time LETS GO HOT TAKE ALERT

favorite writers?

if one thing non-PP related could happen this year in melee what would you want it to be?” – sportsboy85

  • For describing my play? I think I’d go with Deftones’ Diamond Eyes. It’s a lot of wasted movement, forced transitions and forgettable performances, but has moments of simple effectiveness (title track) and is overall probably an above average album.
  • Top 5 underrated: Cort, Ka-Master, Tai, Eggm, Amsah. Top 5, overrated: KoreanDJ, Jman, SilentSpectre, Wife and Husband.
  • Regarding my favorite writers, I’ve written about this before; just look in one of my older columns. Just as an update: I recently revisited my favorite short story ever, William Faulkner’s “A Rose For Emily.” It held up just as well.
  • For non-PPMD related news, the answer is easy for me. Have Axe, Melee’s true protagonist and the greatest player to never win a major, win a major.

“Any comments at all on the Melee players at the Ultimate Summit?” – drjisftw

Not on their performances, but I have a few thoughts pertaining the general trend of Melee top players playing Ultimate and, well, seemingly limiting their Melee tournament appearances. There’s my gut response, my more measured take and then my conclusion

My gut response: This is some wack shit. Save for Leffen, who actually seems to have glimmers of supermajor winning potential in the new game, these people have gotten the Melee competitive drive back aired and Rested out of them. I can’t imagine how annoying it must be for Full Bloom series TO Jackzilla, who had several top players commit, or “soft-commit” to his event before backing out. Hope selling out for Ultimate was worth watching Hungrybox win majors for free.

My more measured take: The top echelon of players have no financial incentive to prioritize supporting events that either don’t have instant brand recognition (Genesis/Summit/CEO/The Big House) or a massive prize pot. It’s entitled to act as if they willingly should sabotage their own streams and full-time careers to attend random events. They’ve “earned” the right to pick and choose what events they go to, and a response like what I wrote above is really thoughtless. It’s not wack.

My conclusion: Nah; this is still wack. Deliberately choosing to not go to events is understandable, but it doesn’t mean that the average Melee viewer or competitor has to like it. You can’t suddenly cry entitlement and empathy when you’re not giving the latter to an average fan.

I still stand by my previous statement that top player attendance and “legitimacy” of events as supermajors shouldn’t discourage the average smasher from attending a big event. But top people not competing as much does create a bit of tricky situation for many tournament organizers looking to grow their brand.

It’s a trickle down effect – if a top player doesn’t go to an event, the players underneath them lose motivation, and so on and so forth. Moreover is a top players’ impact on the status of events themselves. In other words, if Plup, Mango and Leffen are at the same tournament, you can bet that in most cases that it will go from being a regional to at least a national. I asked Blur about this, and he put it to me in blunt terms: the top player-to-TO dynamic for tournament legitimacy is heavily skewed against TOs.

I initially listened to his thoughts holding intuitive skepticism. I’m sure I’d hear a different response from someone like Westballz, let alone a player like Plup. But upon thinking about it and talking to others, it really is true. The fact of the matter is that right now, attending a tournament that isn’t an already established supermajor carries nearly no advantage for top players over taking that time to rest, stream or seriously practice in private.

If I may ramble on a little longer, the answer isn’t prize pots and it’s not catering to top player demands. But it’s also not as simple as yelling at players. Tournament organizers will have to find other metrics of success, redefine their event expectations and re-prioritize.

And honestly? It might be better for the scene. Remember what 2017 was like, when the community first struggled with top player burnout, boatloads of events seemingly every weekend of the summer and unsustainable tournament series tried to buy their way into being majors? It sucked.

Rather than worrying about catching up with tournaments like The Big House in terms of top player draw, TOs have to focus on building their local communities in ways that go beyond prize pots and top player draw. At this point I’ve probably outed myself as a Connecticut Melee shill, so I’m just going to double down here and mention some incentives Stoc has personally put forth to maintain his local scene.

  • Providing free gas money for players out of his state.
  • Running amateur brackets with special prizes (not monetary!) for top placing players, including reimbursing venue costs.
  • Experimenting with rulesets, including running UCF and banning wobbling (sorry; had to throw this one in there) for a month.
  • Prioritizing setups and local business deals (like pizza shops nearby the venue) over larger sponsorships.

Stoc’s advice at its core was pretty simple: take personal financial hits if needed to build a tremendous amount of professional and personal relationships with players in the Northeast, and then create opportunities within your tournament and scene’s structure to highlight these relationships. According to him, it will help TOs develop healthy scenes and guarantee incentives for players to go to events. If top players want to attend, that’s just the icing on the cake.

Because I am a journalist and self-loathing nitpicker at heart, I have to maintain some level of objectivity when analyzing my friend’s words. Ergo, when reading the above, it’s important to consider that the structure of Connecticut Melee as a whole is heavily centered around its monthlies right now, which typically guarantee Northeast talent across New England and Tristate. The weeklies basically have 10-15ish active members, and as the scene has grown up in the post-doc era, its members (myself included!) have either moved to other regions or are straight up not active in locals.

It’s an inevitable result of Stoc’s prioritization for his scene, and I’m not sure other communities could take his same approach for success without the same resources and proximity to world class players. He’s told me about his dream of “Northeast Melee” becoming as much of a mainstay in the community with its own unique lore as the Midwest, and time will tell if he succeeds in his methods and if other scenes follow suit.

“Where in France will you be?” – Existanciel

I was in Paris, just around Notre Dame! Sidenote: the history and museums of Paris are quite fascinating, but I wasn’t crazy about the cuisine. Then again, as a pescatarian, my options were somewhat limited. Also, I dealt with the standard traveler woes of eating abroad, so it could have just been a bad experience.

“of your top 3 favorite characters in melee, who is your favorite player to watch for each?” – charmed0

For learning, I’d say all the standard top player answers for each, but in terms of enjoyment, here are my picks.

Marth: Stango, Tai, Dart!

Fox: Moky, iBDW, Darktooth

Captain Falcon: Scar, $mike, Zeo

“strangest tourney experience?” – jc9800

There’s too many to pick just one, but at The Gang Steals The Script, I witnessed an anonymous top player facing a wall as groups of people were walking behind them, my friends and I included. They began speaking directly at the wall, not on their phone or with headphones on – just at the wall.

I can’t remember exactly what they said, but it was eerie and unnerving. It’s one of the most confusing acts of behavior I have ever seen from a smasher, and this is a long list.

Really great article as always dawg, quick question:

What is your take on commentary nowadays? Without using any particular person as an example, what do you look for in a good commentator? The Plutonic ideal, the dream scenario.

Do you think there are any steps that can be taken to improve and/or expand the commentary pool, or to better compensate the hard-working commentators on the circuit now?” – JD

Great question, JD! As bang-head-on-wall-worthy as commentary discourse can be for all sides involved, I may as well give my take on current commentary “needs.”

I don’t want to Edwinsplain the point of commentary to commentators or call out anyone specifically, so I’ll paraphrase Scar. “Why should I care?” is the main question every commentator should have an answer for.

To a majority of viewers, the reasons for caring about what’s on stream go beyond learning random facts about Melee. They involve listening to player anecdotes, knowing their set histories, their regions, what’s at stake in a match and – if the match is boring enough – being invested in whatever banter commentators have. In other words, whatever info viewers have has to be quick, concise, easily understandable and purposeful.

I can’t emphasize this enough – so much of commentary discourse obscures the simple fact that if a player isn’t a god, Zain, Wizzrobe or an established player since the post-Brawl era, most commentators at majors will not know shit about them outside of “this player is on the come up.” You don’t have to be Pikachu942 to know that Hax won a regional last weekend without dropping a game. You just have to actually follow the scene, read any news sources (cough cough) and have a basic nose for trends.

There are so many basic facts about players that I see completely ignored or passed over for hit-or-miss banter or inconsistent analysis of the game. Knowing a player’s recent tournaments or placings are layups that even someone who doesn’t play the game would understand (99 percent of viewers). Why wouldn’t you prioritize this objective, easily verifiable information as a commentator above subjective or hard-to-quantify areas of commentary?

Full disclosure: I’m working on a commentator fact sheet and scouting “pools” report for Full Bloom 5. Commentators: if you want to shut me up, talk to me! I’m backing up my words here with action.

“Will Null get top 100 this year if he travels enough?” – Salami

Null is one of those players that exists in the large swath of non-Top 100 players who could conceivably make the list with the right bracket and improvement rates. I guess my answer is “maybe” but Melee as a whole is so stacked; there’s no differentiator that I know of that would necessarily give him the edge over a fellow Top 100 contender like NUT. People forget how much luck plays a role into player performances, so for Top 100, it’s really hard to say for sure.

“Here’s my question: How do you feel about MMM as a whole, looking back on it? How has it evolved over the past year, and are you proud of what you’ve done with it?” – Pikachu942

It’s been fun. I grew up reading Bill Simmons columns, so to occupy that space in Melee means a lot to me, as small as it is.

I’m happy with what I’ve done and like that this continues to be a hobby for me, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider cutting down on my column or writing less. I want to keep doing this as long as I view it as a creative outlet that allows me to escape everyday responsibilities and express myself, and there’s been times where it’s hovered into feeling like a job. Balancing this with a separate career, my book, the scouting reports and playing isn’t easy.

As a while however, I have few regrets. Thanks to everyone of my readers for supporting me.

“Who will win the National Melee Arcadian? Who will buster out the hardest?” – DiplomaticTucan

If they attend, lint and Free Palestine have to be the favorites. But given the huge amount of non Top 100 players who are in the same skill, anything goes. It’s funny that you asked me this question because I think you are one of those people who could easily be on either side of the breakout/buster spectrum. Such is playing ICs.

“How likely do you think it is that Fizz (CO) had a breakout, and joins top 100” – Applejoosh

See all my other answers for borderline Top 100 contenders. Right now, he’s in the same headspace for me as players like Juicebox, NUT and even someone like Hamyojo, who I think is heavily underrated (along with many Texas players who just don’t travel that much).

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