Melee has rarely, if ever, been this wild. The formerly untouchable world No. 1 recently lost three times at one event. Meanwhile, the greatest player of all-time finished the spring with one of the worst stretches of his career. If you thought that was crazy, a guy who apparently can’t win a tournament in New York just won the biggest invitational of the year.
To make sense of this new era we’re in, I’m giving you my Top 10 (from Genesis 8 to now) with a twist. In each player’s section, I will recap their LAN spring seasons before then picking the “worst” conceivable player who can defeat them. Remember: the players I have selected are not necessarily the only people who I think can do it.
KoDoRiN’s results point to him clearly being the tenth best player in the world. His two best wins of the year are iBDW and Mango. While impressive, they are clearly not rare wins within the current field. As a result, his stretch of performances – good and bad – during the spring have not fundamentally changed how I see KoDoRiN. The only thing that’s changed is the field around him.
You might expect that I’d choose a Sheik player for “worst” player who could beat KoDoRiN. It wouldn’t be too unreasonable. However, a hidden storyline of the year has been his surprising struggles against Jigglypuff. Though eve could not close a set vs. KoDoRiN at Pound, Khalid managed to steal a set from him at a local. It’s just not a matchup that he has much experience in or availability to grind. For sleeper choices, I’m picking Lunar Dusk. He plays two characters that KoDoRiN admits he struggles with.
It’s hard to evaluate someone who has only two notable results. And for what it’s worth, I refuse to believe that Leffen is not a “Top 5 player” by skill. Nonetheless, we’ve learned something. On the positive end, he owns Hungrybox’s soul and is a threat to every Marth player. Unfortunately, with recent losses to Jmook, lloD, and aMSa, Leffen is anything but a surefire bet against other fellow Top 10 players. Part of me wonders if it’s because of having to balance multiple characters now.
Predicting a big upset over Leffen is difficult. Outside of Pound, the last open LAN event we saw Leffen compete at was Genesis 7. Diving deeper into the history books, you’ll notice that there’s one matchup he suffers multiple upsets in when he’s down. It’s not Marth; it’s the Fox ditto. This isn’t to say Leffen is weak at the matchup – that would be idiotic – but if a rusty Lovage can pull off the greatest upset of all-time at a relatively low point in Leffen’s career, maybe aCID could do it when Leffen is another low. aCID’s online sets over Plup and SFAT provide bizarre precedent.
Let’s revisit n0ne’s spring. He beat Hungrybox and aMSa at Genesis, lost to Aklo and Fiction at Pound, and then had a quietly amazing 2-1 showing against lloD in three sets at Summit, also beating Frenzy on the way. His only other losses during this span came twice to the Genesis champion, the Summit champion, and the year’s breakout star. There’s a lot to like about n0ne vs. the field, which makes finding an “sleeper” candidate against him tricky.
So, with that being said, I'm a free agent now! Looking to enter all the tournies as usual, but also to get the chance to travel and even get back into streaming! DMs are open!
— JSheik (@JSalt_) February 4, 2022
Outside of n0ne running into the Jmook buzzsaw, we don’t see that much of n0ne vs. Sheik within the field. Maybe what we don’t immediately see can point us in a direction for the future. If we’re trying to manufacture a potential upset out of thin air, you won’t find a better candidate than JSalt, a Louisiana Sheik main who you can find in a Netplay bracket devoid of Top 100 players every week. Don’t get it twisted though; as seen through a 12-6 record vs. Mekk and a stray set over Salt, the guy knows how to play vs. Falcon. Then again, the last time they played was pretty ugly.
lloD’s had three consecutive amazing performances. The top eight at Genesis was already adequate for a Top 10 player. The fourth place at Pound, however, cemented him there. Beating the year’s most successful player was the cherry on top; the moment when all of us realized that we should probably start talking about lloD in terms of his chances to win a supermajor. For that reason alone, I have lloD this high.
With that in mind, nothing would be funnier and more strangely plausible than a familiar Peach main roadblock, Solobattle, coming all the way from Finland to beat lloD. This would preferably happen in a 24-minute best-of-three that ends with lloD fully Jokerfied and never picking Peach against Jigglypuff ever again.
I want to get the obvious out of the way: there’s no one who aMSa cannot defeat. Within the spring, and even before that, we’ve seen him trounce the best Fox players in the world, as well as dismantle Hungrybox. Most promisingly too, he beat lloD, a former demon for him. Although Zain, Plup, and n0ne are tall orders for aMSa to overcome, his overall chances at a miracle run are still as good as they’ve ever been. So, how about the opposite: a nightmare opponent to send aMSa to loser’s in round 2 of pools?
My prediction is that it exists in South America. At the risk of sounding completely full of shit, Chape is my selection for the ‘worst” player with the “best” chance of stunning aMSa. I have talked to him so many times about the Yoshi matchup – one he practices and thinks about every week because the second best player in his region is a Yoshi player. I’m not convinced that this translates 1:1 to tournament odds vs. someone as legendary as aMSa, but it sure makes an incredible story.
Between Plup’s eclectic decisions on which character he plays and his general motivation for the game, it’s hard to confidently predict how he’ll do. What we can certainly say now though is that Plup’s recent Summit was a promising sign. Along with going 2-0 vs. lloD, he sent Zain to loser’s bracket, split sets with Hungrybox, and beat mostly everyone else he played. Zoom out a bit further back to the Smash World Tour Championships and you would be justified in viewing Plup’s chances vs. fellow Top 10 players that much higher.
The lazy answer is aCID, who already took an online best-of-three over him at a TMT. Thinking about it a little deeper, it’s tough to think of someone who could pull it off. Most of Plup’s significantly notable upsets over the last decade have said more about the rising star who beat him than they did about Plup. With that in mind, Chem has a nonzero shot. He has a track record of slaying Sheiks like Faceroll and Jflex, an online set from Jmook late last year, and wins in the Fox ditto over Zuppy and Zamu.
I was ready to seriously consider Jmook’s chances of winning a supermajor and am glad to see that he followed up his stellar Genesis run with an excellent Summit. In some ways, the Summit showing was even better, as he became the first person to eliminate Zain from a tournament all year. Between that, his dismantling of top Fox players like iBDW, Plup, and Leffen, thrashing of KoDoRiN, tossing aside of n0ne, and defeat of lloD, it may seem hard to find a spoiler in Jmook’s matchup thread.
It’s not. The glaringly obvious pick is ChuDat, who hasn’t lost a set to Sheik in over a decade. What especially terrifies me about this streak is that it’s not as if he’s suffered from inactivity. He did great at Genesis and, though helped by a DQ, had an excellent showing at LACS 4. If there is a set against a much “worse” player that Jmook could lose, it’s against the biggest demon for Sheik that’s ever existed.
You can add “Hungrybox cannot win a major” to the list of things I was wrong about. Although I still have questions about how he can find an answer to defeating Zain, that weakness has to be re-evaluated in a world where Hungrybox may not have to play him. Moreover, Hungrybox is still trending positively against the field. At each of the three offline tournaments he’s entered so far, he’s only lost to fellow Top 10 players. I furthermore suspect that he will beat Jmook the next time they play, due to Hungrybox’s lifelong record of offline success in this matchup.
Before 2020, Hungrybox only had one instance of being on the receiving end of a historic upset: a seemingly once-in-a-generation loss to Albert. This came at an event that used monitors, which back then somewhat put an asterisk on its legitimacy. Nowadays, you need multiple hands to count the number of notable upset losses that Hungrybox has suffered online, but my gut tells me offline Hungrybox remains a different beast. My best guess for “worst player who could do it on LAN” is bobby big ballz. He has taken multiple from Hungrybox online and could absolutely take one offline.
At some point, the accomplishment of winning a major takes priority over head-to-heads. It’s been hard to deny the heavy list of losses that iBDW has accrued vs. the field, but becoming the second major champion of this year instantly catapults him to this spot. Besides; it’s not as if he loses to everyone. He’s been dominating Hungrybox, won his sole showdown with Plup, whooped n0ne both times they played, and got his revenge on Jmook. Outside of Zain, I expect iBDW to be the favorite in every set he plays against another player within this group.
It’s tempting to pick a Fox, Sheik, or Samus player as an upset choice against iBDW, but I’m picking a Falco, Albert. I know that this sounds crazy because of iBDW’s recent wins over Fiction, Ginger, and Frenzy, so let me explain. Historically, iBDW tends to tunnel vision on his “problem” matchups until his hand is forced. The story goes something like this: iBDW loses to a character a bunch of times, says he’s never going to lose to them again, beats that character really badly, and then after focusing elsewhere, he gets a brief wakeup call. With Mango slumping and no active reason for iBDW to grind the matchup at a Top 10 level, my hard call is that someone catches him slipping.
A tough Summit where Zain lost to two fellow Top 5 players and another Top 10 player ultimately doesn’t detract from him winning the other two biggest tournaments of the spring. I expect him to defeat both the Sheiks the next time they play, as well as take the lead over lloD long-term. Even if he doesn’t, Zain chews up and spits out fast fallers like no one else. That strength alone can get you very far in a bracket.
AXE IS CRAZY
ZAIN IS CRAZY
MELEE IS SO GOOD
— Scar and Toph Show (@ScarTophShow) February 14, 2020
But come on. Is there anyone in the world who can confidently say that Zain will defeat Axe if they play again? Even with the time that’s happened in between their last set and now, their opposing trajectories as competitors, and everything else, this is the monkey that Zain needs to get off his back. The year could be 2026 with Zain as the reigning Melee champion; he could finish No. 1 on the second edition of the Melee Stats All-Time Top 100; he and Axe could have never played another set of Melee ever again – I would still have no doubt in my mind that Axe could do it.