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Published May 18, 2020

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The Most Dominant Primes of All Time: Part 3

By Pound 3, the Melee community was expected to transition to Brawl. In Mew2King, the scene already had someone whose peaks over the last year were so dominant that it looked like he had solved Melee.

The upcoming release of Brawl made this feeling among smashers more certain than ever before. But instead, the player who stole the crown ended up somehow surpassing the former master of Melee and showing that there was so much more to learn about the game.

Before the Reign

Mango started off as a Fox player in 2005. Inspired by The King, he eventually transitioning to playing Jigglypuff. Mango was particularly drawn to Jigglypuff because of her unique combination of large aerial hitboxes and her aerial drift: a unique strength she had relative to other characters.

Making his way up the Melee scene in SoCal over the next couple of years, Mango broke out at Evo World 2007. Here, he finished in third place but also beat Mew2King and Ken. Following this performance was another third place at Super Champ Combo, where Mango all but cemented his new status as the West Coast’s best player. He took a set from PC Chris and battling Mew2King to the brink in the much anticipated rematch.

With Pound 3 as Melee’s last major, it also was a chance for the two to finally settle the score against each other for good. When they battled in grand finals, their paths there couldn’t have been any more different. Mew2King had 3-0’d everyone on his path there, including PC Chris and ChuDat. Mango’s journey was more complicated.

In pools, Mango dropped three sets to Vist, Plank and Sensei, winning just enough of his other sets to qualify for the final bracket. But in winner’s bracket, Mango went on to lose his first set to Silent Wolf: Link and DK dittos. To make it to grands, Mango had to beat every single East Coast giant in attendance. He did so, often by the skin of his teeth, clutching out sets against Azen, ChuDat, Cort and PC Chris.  All that was left was Melee’s final boss.

Imagine everyone’s surprise when it was Mango – not Mew2King – who came out on top, 3-2, 3-1, as Melee’s “final” champion. The victory left a sour taste for most of the East Coast, who dismissed it as a fluke. Even members of the West Coast, though they had no doubt that Mango was uniquely good at Melee, thought at least part of Mango’s success could be attributed to his character, who either was extremely good or just capitalized from relative newness to the top level meta-game. Regardless, in 2008, most of the community temporarily transitioned to playing Brawl, even as small Melee regionals continued to occasionally pop up.

The Reign Continues

During this time, Mango typically played secondaries like Captain Falcon at West Coast events, also developing a Falco that became just as good as his Jigglypuff. Mango typically won these tournaments with ease, though he did finish in fifth place at UCLA V with his secondaries and occasionally drop a set here and there. Nonetheless, by Revival of Melee, everyone eagerly awaited the Mango-Mew2King rematch.

Revival of Melee, instead, proved that Mango was on another level. In spite of Scar and Alukard openly trying to give Mango the toughest bracket possible, Mango trounced everyone. In winner’s finals, he beat Mew2King so badly in winner’s bracket that Mew2King refused to take grand finals seriously.

This wasn’t just a case of one or two bad events. In their followup rematches at regional events, Mango made quick work of Mew2King in multiple sets. With Mew2King’s attention mostly geared toward competing in Brawl, it didn’t look like he could catch up to Mango any time soon.

It wasn’t just one favorable head-to-head either. Mango routinely schooled the rest of the West Coast, usually with characters outside of his Jigglypuff and Falco. His Fox and Captain Falcon would routinely outclass top West Coast players like Zhu and SilentSpectre, the latter of whom managed to only take a single set in an otherwise lopsided 1-7 head-to-head in 2009. Zhu (0-15 in 2009) was not so lucky.

At Genesis, in a story every smasher and their grandmother knows by now, Mango was only seriously threatened by Armada. But by their third set, Mango had downloaded him. His preceding thrashing of breakout Jigglypuff rival Hungrybox furthermore cemented the absurd level to which Mango was better than everyone else.

It’s what made Mango’s first mortal performance – a grisly fourth place at Revival of Melee 2 made possible through Kage – so bizarre. It was so unexpected, that a literal movie trailer was made to celebrate the upset. In my opinion, it is, by far, the biggest Melee upset of all time, made more legendary because Kage called his shot on GameFAQS beforehand.

Two months later, things had returned to normal. Mango easily won Winter Gamefest and Pound 4 without dropping a set. Afterward, Mango never played Jigglypuff again for a full Melee singles bracket.

By The Numbers

Pound 3 to Pound 4 Mango is, by any measure, one of the most absurd stretches of dominance from an individual in gaming history, let alone Melee history. Here are Mango’s most impressive records from that span of time, regardless of if he played Jigglypuff, Falco, Captain Falcon, Fox or anyone else.

  • 8-0 against Mew2King
  • 10-1 against Jman
  • 7-0 against Hungrybox
  • 2-0 against PC Chris
  • 2-0 against Cort
  • 3-0 against ChuDat
  • 2-1 against Armada
  • 8-1 against SilentSpectre
  • 15-0 against Zhu
  • 11-0 against Lucky
  • 3-0 against Pink Shinobi

In 2009 alone, Mango was 38-2 against fellow Top 10 players of that year. Even if it was during a relatively stagnant time in the community – when most of its previous “golden age” stars had left for Brawl – there is no single player in Melee history who so consistently thrashed elite players for a span of two years. It’s even more absurd when you take a look at his losses and weigh them for context.

  • Three pools losses to Sensei, Vist, and Plank at Pound 3
  • A sandbagged set to Silent Wolf in winner’s at Pound 3
  • Two sets Mango played with his secondary Captain Falcon at UCLA V, to DEHF and HugS
  • One set with a secondary at Shuffle & Cut to DEHF
  • One set with a secondary at SCSA 2 to Fly Amanita
  • One set to Jman at Mega Mass Madness that Mango played with Falco in “for the fans” after he didn’t feel like playing out winner’s finals and was reluctant to play in grands
  • One set to SilentSpectre at CGC @ SFSU VII
  • One set to Armada at Genesis
  • Both Revival of Melee 2 sets to Kage

Following Mango’s Pound 4 victory, Mango’s absence from seriously competing created an opening for the game’s throne. Hungrybox winning Apex 2010 initially made him look like the next great contender, but most were skeptical of his long-term chances.

In Hungrybox’s place came the rise of another Atlantic South player who rose to the top. I’ll cover this player next week.

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