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Published May 15, 2023

2023’s been a strange year. January brought us Genesis, February was (mostly) a break, March had Collision, April had Major Upset, and now in May, the Smash community will have Battle of BC 5. Having had a successful iteration in 2022, this series is returning with as stacked of a field as you’ll find at most tournaments this year. In addition to the “2023 Top 5” in attendance, both Leffen and Mango have decided to make their grand returns here.

As I do with most majors, I’m breaking down Battle of BC 5. However, instead of telling you the 32 players to look out for and calling it a day, I’m going in a slightly different direction. For today’s column, I’m going to focus on ten broader storylines to be aware of heading into this event. Consider this column a viewer’s guide to Battle of BC 5. Commentators, if you want to know what to talk about, consider this your personal reference.

The Current Smash Landscape

Collision and Major Upset were great events. But in many ways, they were majors out of chance rather than by design. Now it’s hard to explain what this means, as both tournaments have been planned for a long time. It’s not like they scraped top players together at the last second either. What I’m describing is more abstract – a “vibe” that these tournaments maybe didn’t quite have.

The Smash landscape is currently very different than it looked at the start of the year. Without Smash Summit, Mainstage or any returning circuits for events to work around, each tournament has stood out on its own. Last year, we were in a buyer’s market of sorts. If you didn’t want to go to a tournament, it wasn’t a big deal because another one was almost always coming up. 2023’s been the complete opposite. Collision and Major Upset suddenly found themselves in the spot of becoming more important – more essential to attend – than they might have been into the year.

I think it’s fair to say that Battle of BC doesn’t quite fall into the same conundrum. We knew heading into 2023 that this was going to be a major, and it remains one within a post-Beyond the Summit world. It’s even held in a convention center in a major city. The way the scene is headed, we might be seeing fewer of those, so enjoy events like these as long as they last.

A Brief History of Battle of BC

Battle of BC has been around for a lot longer than you might have thought. The first installment, which Kevin Dhir also ran, came all the way back in 2016. Back then, the event was a regional tournament whose appeal came from its college campus setting and broader location between West Coast Canada and the Pacific Northwest.

But Battle of BC also valued drawing out strong out-of-region players early on. Well before Battle of BC 4 became the series’ first major, its initial installment featured Leffen, the second one had ChuDat and Mew2King, and the third one had Axe and Zain. A good comparison point for the American scene would be Full Bloom, another college-based series that slowly crept its way up the ‘regional to major’ pipeline. Sidenote: when Battle of BC didn’t return in 2018, it wasn’t for a lack of effort. Per Dhir, Evo had scheduled itself over the same weekend, so the event was held off for one year.

Obviously, the pandemic put a hard stop on the series from 2020 to 2021. Thankfully, it came back in 2022, with Leffen coming out on top in one of the most memorable tournament runs of the last year. This year’s event also features every player who’s won a big tournament this year and it will be the most attended Battle of BC ever. As someone going to it myself, I’m especially excited.

Where does Battle of BC fall in the current major hierarchy? Let’s start with the obvious: it’s a great series, but it’s clearly not on par with Genesis and The Big House. I also don’t think you can fairly position it as equal to Get On My Level, Super Smash Con, or Shine. Those events all typically have higher attendance and more history. After them though, it gets trickier. Based on the current major field that I am aware of, there’s Apex, whose somewhat toxic history plummets it on my list, Riptide and wherever you want to put Collision or Major Upset, assuming they return next year.

Personally, because of the high proportion of top-level representation, I’m willing to put Battle of BC – as a series – at No. 6 right now. Although it doesn’t have the same flat numbers as some of the other events, I think a top eight at this series will be as good as you’ll find at any major today. As for Battle of BC 5, it’s definitely a supermajor.

British Columbia’s Peculiar Spot

British Columbia’s always been one of the more underrated scenes in the history of Smash. It’s in West Coast Canada, which most people don’t think about because it’s not Toronto or Montreal. But historically speaking, it’s always had a small role to play as an international hub. During the MLG days, several Japanese players used to travel from BC to Japan and back. The scene’s always been very supportive of people from outside of NA. It’s worth noting that BC is also where Aiden Calvin is from, and he’s always adored the international Smash scene.

As far as how BC is doing right now in Smash, it’s in a period of transition. Last year, the University of BC consistently ran weekly events and the Brewhall Brawl series was pretty active, but as of late, there’s no consistent weekly. If you want to play other people, your best bet is to see who’s hosting a smashfest or to attend monthlies. All in all, the local scene has some fairly strong players – whom we’ll dive into later – but they haven’t really had a chance to consistently square off.

A Brief Doubles Breakdown

Without Plup/Hungrybox – a duo which has thwacked anyone in their path like a stampeding elephant – in the picture, Jmook/Cody Schwab are the favorites here. Behind them are a couple interesting duos: S2J/Shroomed and aMSa/Axe. Back in the late 2010s, you could always find these teams deep in doubles brackets. Fans of them had to endure constant heartbreak, as they were just a cut beneath the top echelon of that era (PewFat and Team Alliance). To their credit though, S2J/Shroomed were at least able to win big events during transition periods for doubles, like when they won GOML 2019 and Mainstage 2021. aMSa/Axe would probably be my pick for the best doubles team to never win a major.

After those two teams, the fourth seed of this event is Soonsay/Zuppy, the best double Fox team at the tournament. Those two teamed last year at Battle of BC 4 and finished in fifth place. The other top eight seeds are a mix of regional talent (salami/nut, bonfire10/Younger, Webwipe/JV) and one interesting duo I haven’t seen team together (Aklo/Maher). If I had to make one ‘sleeper’ pick outside the top eight seeds, it’s probably Joshman/sundowns, a neat duo of two Australians.

Kola is here – and he’s way better than you think

Kola – yes, that Kola – is entering Melee at this event. Now, I always love seeing people from other communities enter Melee tournaments and vice versa. But I wasn’t actually familiar with Kola’s results within Melee. After looking it up, I can safely say that while he’s not going to make the Top 100 any time soon, I had no idea that he was well beyond “intermediate” level.

For someone who prioritizes another Smash game, Kola has caught quite some notable players off guard. The two events he’s shown us this year are a 17th place at LVL UP EXPO 2023, which featured a win over Omar, a top Nevada Sheik, and a 129th place finish at Collision where he took a game from aMSa and got everyone to raise a collective eyebrow – right before DQ’ing.

The Return of the Old School

I’m not used to seeing Shroomed so much, but this event will mark his fifth big Melee tournament of 2023. To date, he’s beaten S2J, Salt, Spark, KJH, Umarth, Preeminent, Dawson, prof and rom. Impressively, he’s done this while only losing to well-established former or active Top 100 players. He seems like a safe pick for Top 32 winner’s side, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him in top eight.

The next player I’d like to bring up is Zhu. I have not seen Zhu play a meaningful Melee set in a long time. When it comes to his gameplay, I only know three things: he doesn’t enter tournaments, he mostly plays Marth now, and for some reason, many of his co-commentators swear that Zhu’s Marth is harder than Zain in friendlies. This made no sense to me, so I looked up Zhu on SmashDataGG to see if I was missing something. The last event he entered was the Smash Summit 11 VIP bracket, where N3ZModGod and Vish. To be clear: these are two borderline Top 100 ballot-contending players when they’re active, so they’re quite good, but I also don’t think Zain is losing to them any time soon. Nonetheless, I remain intrigued by Zhu’s presence in this tournament.

After these two, you have a strange duo of two old-school Northwest Canadians: former Top 100 player Blunted_Object10 and Noobking. What you need to know about Blunted_Object10 is that he was at the top of British Columbia in the mid-2010s and he’s been in the Smash scene since people cared about Soulja Boy. Noobking, his brother, gifted the world “Cocaine Combos,” while also being consistently part of the scene’s upper mid-level throughout the last decade.

Homegrown Talent

The presence of two British Columbia legends makes for a neat transition into the other notable players from the scene who are here. I’ll begin with the one I always like to talk about: Elliot. Most people who follow the scene will remember him as the Falco who beat Hungrybox online, but he’s much better than a one-hit wonder. Notably, he defeated null last year and has also taken a game from Leffen.

After him, you get a good mix of late 2010s BC and new-school BC.In the former category, are two former regional No. 1s: the Fox main Espi and the notorious Fauxhebro of “getting camped to death by Chango” fame. These two would absolutely be in the running for best players of the last decade to never finish in the Top 100. Their shared Achilles heel is a lack of travel out-of-region. I should also briefly mention Webwipe, a top Jigglypuff who’s been around in BC since the mid-2010s, and “Performance Artist,” whom you’ll remember as RK, the Wizzrobe-slayer. Here’s a fun story for you: his way of preparing for Wizzrobe was realizing, before their set, that Wizzrobe couldn’t dash back properly out of crouch. When they played, RK abused the fact that Wizzrobe couldn’t cover no-tech roll behind on reaction.

The rest of BC is in an interesting spot as, more or less, the current generation of BC talent. There’s the three Foxes who kind of blend in together (Amrak, Shmugs and Unruly), and then you have a criminally underrated Captain Falcon (Polo) who is around the same level as those three. These players haven’t been around at the regional top level for as long as some of the players before them, but they are, broadly speaking, the hometown heroes for this event.

Wacky Character Watch

Although I could have brought him up in the previous section as part of BC’s homegrown talent, I thought it would be more fitting for Dr. Mario main Hagabooga to be acknowledged here. He hasn’t had any breakout events yet, but he’s made the local PR in each of its last two installments. Accompanying him in the “weird character” representative portion you’ll find at any Smash major are MojoMonkey and Quang, two very dedicated Donkey Kong players.

MojoMonkey, who’s been around for a decade, made top eight at a BC regional in January and, though not active, remains a deadly player. Quang, who was in consideration for Top 100 in 2019 as a Ice Climbers/Fox player, now has the most obnoxious tag in the world (ckyulmiqnudaetr) and is fittingly all over the place. After 2019, he had a period where he was content to play random characters for the following three years. Then, out of nowhere, he suddenly rediscovered himself as a DK main. He began 2023 with a bang, defeating bobby big ballz and Kalvar at Genesis 9.

The last player to mention here is Peanutphobia. If you’ve been around for a while, you might remember him from last decade as the go-to answer that most people had when they were asked to name a Yoshi other than aMSa. To my Tristate readers who are already writing an essay in response to me saying this, I want you to know that Whiskers was the answer that knowledgeable people had – an important difference from “most” people. Anyway, Peanutphobia has been a respectable player for as long as I can remember. He’s like MDVA’s Kevin Bacon in terms of having played sets versus everyone in the world. MDVA is basically a region made up of Kevin Bacons, so this is something to remember for sure.

International Standouts

As it stands, Battle of BC 5 will mark the first time that Inngenn has entered an open American event. But we should be honest: he’s yet to win a single set in North America. Instead, he’s had a series of almosts and nice tries against Professor Pro, Zamu, SFAT, Mango, and KoDoRiN. When Skerzo came to Japan, however, Inngenn took a set in winner’s bracket before falling twice in grands. Based on these results, as well as Inngenn’s dominance over the rest of active Japan, he could feasibly fall into any potential range of results. Is he about as good as Tazio or is he somewhere around Grab’s level? I have a feeling that we still won’t know the answer after the event, but we’ll be a little closer to figuring it out.

Outside of him, we have Trif, a cleanly Top 50 player, coming from Europe, as well as max, a Sheik main from the United Kingdom who just missed Top 100 in 2022. Another big story of the event is Joshman’s appearance, since his visa was recently approved and he’ll now live in Canada for the next two years. Conversely, there’s aMSa, who is about to leave Vancouver after staying there for much of last year. After that, you have the deadly three Canadian Fox players in moky, Soonsay and Zuppy, each of whom are potential names to see in top eight. Obviously, you can’t sleep on n0ne either. Although he had a disappointing ninth place finish at The Come Up, he did alright at Genesis. n0ne tends to go through brief slumps before rebounding in a big way.

I want to end this segment by talking about two relatively underrated Canadian players. The first one is Beezy, a Saskatchewan Marth player who completely floored me not just by upsetting 2saint at Battle BC 4, but by six-stocking them in an utter beatdown, per people I spoke to who watched the set. Beezy will be back at Battle of BC 5, so he could build upon this previous big win. The last person to mention is the Ontario Jigglypuff player Faust. Longtime readers may recall that I once referred to Faust as “Slightly Worse Komodo.” Those of you with a bit more in the memory tank might remember Faust as the player who stunned PewPewU at EGLX 2019.  In 2022, he barely missed the Top 100 ballot. This year, he beat Eggy at Genesis 9 and stole a set from Aklo at the pre-local before The Come Up.

Who Will Win?

Of course, no preview is complete without acknowledging who will win – the central question of every tournament. I’ve discussed the “2023 Top 5” previously, but this event certainly doesn’t lack a strong “second level” of people who can challenge – or are outright favored versus – members of the first level. Here’s who consists of this group: Mango, Leffen, Hungrybox, Aklo, KoDoRiN, Fiction, Axe, S2J, Soonsay, Zuppy, Joshman and n0ne. I would not necessarily put all these players in the same category – by skill, the first three deserve to be in the same group of players as the top five – but they provide nine additional people in contention for making top eight. That’s seventeen “Top 25ish” players, with eight who have nonzero chances of winning the event.

Jmook is obviously the favorite. He seems invulnerable vs. everyone outside the 2022 Top 10, which even Zain can’t boast. Meanwhile, he looks as hard as anyone in the world for moky, usually beats Leffen, is up on Mango, has dominated Zain to where Zain’s now serious about trying out an Ice Climbers counterpick, and seems to be trending positively vs. Cody Schwab. Only aMSa and Hungrybox stand out as significant obstacles. If Jmook can win Battle of BC 5, it will be his third consecutive major victory. It would mark the first time that someone won each of the first three majors (no online) they attended in an official ranking year since, well, ever. Incredibly, and perhaps counter-intuitively, this specific feat has never been accomplished.

Unfortunately for aMSa, there are so many people here who have beaten him before. Though he’s done great vs. Mango, Jmook, Leffen and Zain over the last year, aMSa has also dealt with two hard stops in moky and Cody. This doesn’t immediately mean that he will finish in thirteenth place again, but with Zuppy, Joshman, and n0ne all at Battle of BC 5, it certainly seems more imaginable than it might be within another field of competitors. Even Hungrybox has started to even out their head-to-head. Then again, I just wrote about four people aMSa would have a solid advantage over. That’s a lot of players I’d consider high priority matchups, at least in the sense that winning this tournament would likely necessitate defeating some assortment of them. All in all, he seems like he could either 3-0 everybody or get a bad draw and finish out of top eight.

Naturally, you’d think the latter would help Zain, who’s struggled with aMSa. But if he’s not playing aMSa, Zain still has Cody, Mango and Jmook to worry about. Though Mango’s a wild card, Cody and Jmook have given Zain a hard time since last summer, and it’s worth noting that each of Leffen, Hungrybox, and S2J have taken him to the brink or beat him in that same time span. I’ll never discount Axe’s chances vs. Zain either. To give Zain a little more credit though, he’s at least been a reliable bet for top eight. He’s done this at every major he’s entered since Genesis 6, when Axe sent him home for ninth place. Furthermore, I mentioned Hungrybox before as someone who could potentially beat Zain, but the two are, by no means, evenly matched. Zain’s had Hungrybox on lockdown for four consecutive sets.

How about Cody? Since the start of the year, he’s been my go-to pick for every major. If he draws the name of aMSa, Zain or Hungrybox, I know he’s got a great chance. On the other hand, Jmook and Leffen seem more like coin flips, maybe ones tilted in their favor as of lately. I’m similarly hesitant on Cody’s chances versus moky, who we’ve seen consistently defeat him, and Aklo, who I dubbed as Cody’s personal demon. On the same note, KoDoRiN, Soonsay and Joshman seem threatening as well. I haven’t even mentioned Mango, who’s had Cody on lockdown within the last year and, even after a long break, would be horrifying to run into.

It’s hard to not love the image of moky winning his first legitimate major in Canada. While his Apex set with Zain was encouraging, I still think Zain’s one of his hardest opponents. Jmook has also looked as hard as anyone else moky’s run into, and Mango’s dominance vs. Fox speaks for itself. But if moky gets some combination of aMSa, Hungrybox, Cody and Leffen in four sets, the sky’s the limit. Based on current trends, I would favor him over any of those four. I think what’s also especially been nice has been moky’s improved consistency vs. the field. Even when he’s taken down by a lower seed, as he was at both The Come Up and Collision, he’s clawed his way back to top eight or outright won the event. The moky we’ve seen today has been so much more consistent than the moky we saw drop a set to Khryke at Super Smash Con 2022.

Do you remember how Hungrybox won GOML 2022? He made it to winner’s side of top eight as the four seed, beat one of his demons in a very silly set and then defeated Jmook twice. Is it crazy to imagine Hungrybox, with time to prepare, dodging one of Zain and Cody Schwab, defeating the other one, beating aMSa, Mango or Leffen, and then whooping Jmook twice to win this event? At the very least, something like this has happened before. But to play doomer for a moment, there is a nonzero chance that Hungrybox – Mr. Top 8 at every major he’s attended since The Big House 4 – could finally see the streak end here. Along with the difficult matchups present in the top seeds, the field has KoDoRiN, S2J and n0ne: three people who have beaten him before.

I can’t talk about Battle of BC 5 without mentioning Leffen, who’s won more iterations of this series than anyone else. The thing is, we haven’t seen very much of him this year. As of when I’ve written this, the defending champion of Battle of BC hasn’t entered a major since Genesis in January. That marks four months of top-level Melee without Big Leff in the picture. The last time he took that long of a break: when he returned from Battle of BC 4 to flame out of The Big House 10 at 17th place, which led to the most annoying stretch of seeding complaints in the history of the game. As far as how Leffen will perform after this latest stretch of inactivity? Your guess is as good as mine.

We should take note of Mango’s latest stretch of inactivity, because his absence from competition has been especially felt. From Scuffed World Tour to this event, we’ve gone five months without seeing a fully try-hard Mango at a major. Not counting the pandemic, which is its own separate category of scene-affecting, the last time Mango had ever been so noticeably absent from tournaments was probably late 2013, after he won Evo. Even then, Mango still went to events in his backyard. Speaking bluntly for a moment, the last five months have offered a glimpse into what the community would look like without Mango. No one individual is above the good of the scene, and Melee will always be okay as long as enough people want to play the game, but I have to admit relief that Mango’s coming back, regardless of how he performs.

I’m a sucker for narratives. Last year I predicted aMSa to win this event – right before stating that winning Big House would be miraculous and eating crow. So in the spirit of good storytelling, I’m calling it right now: moky ascends into Melee immortality this weekend. It’s time for moky to cement his place as the greatest Canadian player of all-time and bring home the gold at Battle of BC 5. 

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