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Published November 19, 2018

This series is a tribute to standard “Monday Morning Quarterback” columns in traditional sports. In it, I discuss my quick takeaways from the last week of the Smash community. Consider this a mix of news and mild takes. Featured image from BTS twitter. Will take down if requested.

In a bracket that included tight battles against aMSa, Zain, Wizzrobe, Mango and Leffen – all who have beaten him this year – Hungrybox came out on top at Smash Summit 7. His victory will likely cement his spot as 2018’s No. 1 Melee player.

Over in Atlanta, the visiting AbsentPage won DreamHack Atlanta 2017, a regional tournament that featured several of the East Coast’s best players and several other talents. Additionally, Peach main lloD finished first at Pittsburgh’s An Exercise in Formality, while Japan had one of its most exciting weekends in Melee, with Rudolph winning Saturday’s Battle Gateway 23 and Sanne taking home the gold at Amaterasu 5.

1. Smash Summit 7 Takeaways

  • God; I hate eating shit. Speaking of which, does Bananas have the most impressive major ninth place ever? Imagine beating both Mew2King and Mango, only to finish ninth. Had he beaten Leffen, Bananas would have taken sets from four top five active players within the span of under two months. Between Bananas and ARMY, it’s hard not to give ARMY the nod for attending more, but I’d probably seed Bananas higher right now. Then again, haven’t we learned our lesson on overreacting to Ice Climbers players before?
  • Tristate heat check: Rishi, on-fire. Slox, lukewarm. Swedish, freezing cold.
  • Mew2King was involved in the five most hilarious sets of Summit: him vs. Bananas, him vs. Axe, him vs. Wizzrobe and him somehow destroying aMSa and KJH without breaking a sweat.
  • My favorite sets of the tournament: DaShizWiz vs. KJH, Zain vs. Hungrybox and Wizzrobe vs. aMSa.
  • Another win on Leffen and Wizzrobe’s utter obliteration of Mew2King should boost the Floridian’s resume for 2018. Quite the tourney for himself, as well as fellow demigod aMSa, who destroyed Plup to make top eight.
  • Though Mango didn’t win Summit, here’s a ray of hope: since his disastrous Super Smash Con 2018 performance, Mango has made winner’s finals at four consecutive larger tournaments: Shine 2018, The Big House 8, GT-X 2018 and Summit itself. For the most part, or at least against non-Ice Climbers players, Mango’s regained some consistency. He may not have won a major this year, but can Mango start 2019 with a bang at Genesis 6?
  • Leffen looked hot and cold throughout the event, from incapable of edgeguarding Captain Falcon to electrifying play against Mango. He’ll be back next year – for now, he should end the year within its top three.
  • Hungrybox is the world’s best Melee player. He has won more significant tournaments than anyone in the game’s history and another year of finishing No. 1 proves he’s indisputably one of the three greatest Melee players of all-time, and perhaps even second. All that said, TOs, I beg you, keep him away from a microphone when he wins an event – or at least limit his time. He’s free to do what he wants when he wins an event, but if he win Smash Summit 8 and start talking about Twitch chat, I and just about ten thousand other people are going to immediately shut off the stream.

2. Monday Morning Mailbag

Is Zain a lock for 7th by the end of the year? – drjisftw

I need to see how he performs at Don’t Park On The Grass. Wizzrobe may not have won a major as big as Shine or the wins against Mango and Plup, but he has a victory over Leffen and a far more convincing spread against players within their perceived skill tier (himself, Zain, Axe, aMSa). Let’s see what happens.

3.  2018 Melee Abridged (A Year in Review)

The year started off with what we all thought was a sign of changing times: Plup’s victory at Genesis 5. Armada and Mango, two of the game’s greatest players ever had been eliminated from the tournament at their respect fourth and fifth places, with Hungrybox, the last guardian of the old gods, finally falling at second place. By all means, a new chapter of Melee was beginning, and Plup was our newest champion.

However, the following February was Melee’s most dry month in years, with a lack of majors and notable larger tournaments. If 2017 was marked by scene exhaustion and resilience throughout the endless discourse over the greater community’s infrastructure, 2018 looked to be more of the same, and that’s not addressing the PPMD-sized elephant in the room.

In March, we finally received scene-awakening news: the announcement of a new Smash title. We’ve done the same song and dance since Brawl came out, so of course discussion over the budding future of Ultimate and Melee’s role in esports remained as relevant as it did when Smash 4 came out: in other words, all speculation. But parallel to the visions of a new future for Smash came a familiar face roaring back to the top of Melee – its most rooted against player.

Since his runnerup showing at Genesis 5, Hungrybox had quietly reminded many of why exactly he was so feared to close the end of 2017, taking smaller events like EGLX 2018, Full Bloom 4 and both Noods Noods Noods iterations. With Armada mysteriously absent for most North American events and Leffen, Plup and Mango looking a step below Hungrybox both in activity and results, Genesis 5 began to look like a glitch in the matrix.

At Smash Summit 6 however, Hungrybox fell to possibly the most unlikely opponent of all the world’s top ten: aMSa, the longtime Yoshi hero. His loss to aMSa, as well as Mango, was only part of a perfect storm that led to the most shocking supermajor winner’s finals of recent memory: Mew2King vs. Zain, a rising talent who had barely made it to Summit and somehow defeated Plup and Mango. By the end of the May major, it was Mew2King, the long tortured gatekeeper of the Melee elite, always the bridesmaid but never the bride, who was the last man standing.

It wasn’t exactly the start of the “Return of the King.” In hindsight, it was a sign that 2018 Melee was a year in which the top level would remain mostly defined by chaos. A month later, after his longest break since his 2014 return, Armada won Smash ‘N’ Splash 4, his first supermajor victory since Evo 2017. A week afterward, Wizzrobe shockingly won the smaller OpTic Arena over Hungrybox, even 3-0’ing his fellow Floridian from loser’s bracket.

By the end of the summer, Leffen had also fulfilled his long-time promise of winning Evo. To close it, Zain stunned the world by winning Shine 2018, joining an elite pantheon of players to ever win a major tournament and becoming the first of the “documentary” generation to do so. Dwindling attendance at nationals remained a haunting sign in the background, but along with it was what Genesis 5 initially teased: a changing of the guard.

As the top level of the Melee metagame looked in transition, so too was Hungrybox’s standing as the world No. 1. He had won all the smaller events, yet without a supermajor victory, he looked mortal, not just to the usual opponents who challenged him, but also to the demigods of Melee, as his losses at OpTic Arena and Shine 2018 showed. His lowest point came at his disastrous Super Smash Con 2018, in which beatdowns from Armada and Mew2King led a a public meltdown from Hungrybox. It caused Hungrybox to take time off social media to focus on bettering his mental health and come to terms with his status within the scene.

It wasn’t just him who looked more vulnerable; Armada may have won Super Smash Con 2018, but his numerous losses to Leffen and Mew2King throughout the year, as well as a stunning defeat at the hands of Swedish Delight, showed that the old giants of Melee had cracks in their armor. And in September, Armada suddenly retired from Melee singles, citing motivational issues and a lack of enjoyment from competing outside of doubles. He was the game’s greatest player, and his absence from the premier format of Melee defined the the prevailing narrative through the rest of the year: who would take the empty throne?

Would it be Hungrybox, the Thanos of the Melee community and returning world No. 1? Or Leffen, who somehow split his time across both Melee and Dragon Ball FighterZ? How about Plup or Zain as the ultimate wild card?

You’ll notice that I’ve yet to mention Mango in great detail. In a strange way, his alternating performances reflects the Melee scene as it is right now – with the fear that everything its members love will one day disappear and the faith that its continued existence is proof of its unshakeable resilience. Throughout the year, he has yet to win a major tournament, marking the first time since 2007 in which Mango failed to finish first place at one. It’s both a testament to how far the scene has progressed and a reminder of our mortality. Amid publicly flirting with transitioning to a full-time streaming career over competing in Melee, Mango and his struggles, along with Armada’s retirement and Mew2King’s shift in focus toward writing his autobiography, are both inspiring and discouraging for the future of Melee.

Eventually, we got our answer to who would end the year as its best player, but it wasn’t the most revolutionary or storybook one. Hungrybox, while not perfect, as his numerous losses throughout the year showed, was the man who took the crown. In a year where both the darkness of his personal life and complaints over his character’s impact on the metagame have followed Hungrybox, it’s only fitting that he ends on top for a scene that saw itself struggle to find solutions across long-term social and structural issues within Smash.

2018 was a year of transition and uncertainty. Numerous players lost sponsorships, larger tournaments drew less people than in years prior and questions surrounding player conduct and community safety led to frequently ugly discussions of issues a mostly volunteer-driven community remains terrifyingly ill-equipped to deal with. It was also a year where promises of a newer and bolder future, both in the metagame and community, remain brighter than ever before. Ten characters are represented in our current top ten: Jigglypuff, Fox, Sheik, Samus, Marth, Falco, Captain Falcon, Yoshi, Peach and Pikachu. And though the aforementioned discourses around inclusiveness and safety in the scene are uncomfortable to have, they’re necessary for a growing scene.

I don’t know what 2019 will bring. But even if we can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, it won’t matter. We’ll keep moving.

 

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