With SSBMRank season coming around the corner, I’ve lately turned this column into a spot to talk about Top 10 players. Per Liquipedia, there’s currently no major events for the rest of the year, so it feels as if very little will change. For now, I want to continue this series by discussing one player I left out of my last column: Leffen.
Leffen’s 2023 is one of the most bizarre resumes to evaluate. He’s seen an incredible high in being one of four players this year to win majors, but also not very much at all. Yet at the end of the day, people will still naturally want to evaluate it and compare it to other players. How can you do it?
Today’s column is going to be all about Leffen, but I’m going to take his annual resume in a slightly different direction. Instead of comparing Leffen to his peers in 2023, I’m going to be looking out for other historical parallels. Has the SSBMRank era of the game ever seen someone with as little activity but as much notoriety? If so, how was it dealt with?
In my columns, I’ve split top echelon head-to-heads and consistency vs. peers into separate categories. However, because Leffen only has entered three events this year, it makes more sense to combine this in one section. Below, I have Leffen’s three majors placements, notable wins, and notable losses.
|Battle of BC 5||4th||Hungrybox|
|LACS 5||1st||Zain (x2)|
Against the “major contenders” group (Zain, Cody Schwab, Jmook, moky, Plup, Leffen himself, Mango, Hungrybox, aMSa, and Wizzrobe), Leffen has a 6-5 record. He currently has one loss outside of them in the three events he’s gone to.
But as I mentioned before, the obvious storyline of Leffen’s year has undeniably been his lack of volume in results. With DQs from Combo Breaker, Super Smash Con, The Big House 11, and Arcamelee 4, Leffen has more DQs from notable events than tournaments attended. Has there ever been anything like this from someone so notable?
In 2019, Mew2King ended up finishing at No. 10 on the MPGR. This was in spite of him attending four big tournaments (Genesis 6, The Big House 9, EGLX 2019, and DreamHack Atlanta 2019) and specifically requesting to be left out. Now, the image of Mew2King asking to not be ranked and then proceeding to be ranked is undeniably very funny. At the same time, this was someone who still had wins over Top 10 players and a supermajor top eight.
A year before, the scene had someone who attended six majors and nine notable events overall, yet ultimately decided to retire in September: Armada. His situation was different from Mew2King’s in that he had given panelists objectively enough data to compare him to other players, as well as achieved notable success to merit a No. 2 spot on the list. However, because Armada had retired, the topic of inclusion as it came to him still seemed temporarily unclear.
If anything, a stronger comparison point for an ineligible player is PPMD in 2016. Within that year, the only events he competed in were Genesis 3 and Battle of Five Gods. In 2015, when the list included him, PPMD had only three majors (Apex, Evo, and Smash Summit) and one regional (Canada Cup), winning Apex and Canada Cup. He won Apex, yet ended up finishing No. 6 on the list. I suppose he had a local in there too, although I am not acknowledging that for obvious reasons.
Naturally, you’d think that the third big event PPMD attended was the make or break one for his eligibility. But in simultaneously stunning and yet totally expected fashion, 2015 PPMD is not the most inactive “active” player in Top 10 history of SSBMRank. That would be 2013 KirbyKaze, who attended Apex and one Montreal regional before finishing No. 9 on the list. Right behind him on that same Top 10 is 2013 Armada, who entered Apex and Evo.
Keeping this in mind, it’s worth noting that the major landscape looks different in each year. For example, 2013 only had four majors, so Armada entering two of them was relatively good. To paint a slightly more accurate picture of major activity, I used Liquipedia to determine the number of majors per year, compare that to the number of majors attended by every Top 10 player ever, and calculate the “major attendance rate” of each one per year. Below, you’ll find the nine “least active, but qualifying Top 10 players” in SSBMRank history.
- 2023 Wizzrobe – 9.09%
- 2015 PPMD – 18.75%
- 2013 KirbyKaze 25%
- 2023 Leffen – 27%
- 2023 Plup – 27%
- 2016 Leffen – 30%
- 2019 Mew2King – 33.33%
- 2014 PPMD – 36%
- 2022 SluG – 37.5%
- 2018 Armada – 37.5%
Should Leffen Be In The Top 100?
Excluding Leffen, the average Top 10 player has attended 8.2 majors this year. That’s greater than twice the number of times Leffen has entered a major. In fact, it’s greater than the number of times Leffen has entered a major and DQ’d from a major. Unlike Plup and Wizzrobe, who to their credit, entered “almost-majors” in CEO 2023 and Riptide 2023, Leffen hasn’t even entered those.
If those two events counted as majors – or, at the bare minimum, significant tournaments to qualify for SSBMRank eligibility, Wizzrobe would be tied with Leffen at “three significant tournaments” entered in 2023, with Plup having five. And frankly, Wizzrobe has another regional in there as well. Even though Wizzrobe is the least active top player on a major-level, Leffen remains the least present overall.
At the risk of sounding like a Nick Mullen impression of Tucker Carlson, what is going on here? How are arguably three of the most inactive Top 10 players of SSBMRank history coming all this year? Like I previously wrote above, that will be a topic for another time. For now, I want to take this column in a slightly different direction.
A Long Detour on SSBMRank
Above everything else, the way SSBMRank previously ran had some key differences. For example, in 2016, the prompt toward panelists was entirely different: “Imagine if everyone entered a tournament one hundred times. Who would perform the best?” This clearly highlights a bigger emphasis on subjectively measuring someone’s skill from their results than evaluating a resume.
In the past, this led to some tricky situations where players who had “bad” performances through few events, with respect to their widely perceived skill, were excluded from the list. To return to the 2016 PPMD example, he wasn’t ranked only because he lacked events – it was because panelists didn’t think it was fair to use his tournament results as an indicator for how he would perform in a tournament 100 times. Had he outright won Battle of Five Gods, yet not entered anything else, I do not think it would have necessarily guaranteed PPMD a spot on the list, but it’s possible it wouldn’t have been as open and shut.
With that said, the scope of SSBMRank is already heading toward a more report card-driven direction. In the 2022 prompt, panelists were asked to evaluate players based on the quality of their results across the official SSBMRank timespan. The biggest example of a player impacted by this prompt is, funnily enough, Wizzrobe. His No. 17 spot on the list last year would have likely not happened with a different prompt – most panelists fundamentally know that Wizzrobe is much better than his performances in the few events he attended. In many ways, his position on the list, at least on the surface, reflected a change in what the community believed should be represented on a ranking.
I want to be fair: to this day, there remains merit in extrapolating a player’s subjective ‘skill’ from their performances. If Melee “standings” were all anyone wanted, then we could run a tennis-style and placements system. Yet even though I see the hypothetical merit of such an approach, it would be in a world where the scene was more centralized and united enough to have an official “league.” In lieu of that world existing, I still believe that the Top 100 should heavily weigh flexibility and accommodation for the vast majority of players on the list.
But in the end, the panel also exists as a fail-safe for edge cases that technically fit activity criteria, but don’t match the “spirit” that it’s meant to reflect. And this is where we get back to the original topic.
Should Leffen Be In The Top 100? (For Real)
I want to make one thing clear: I am not trying to demean Leffen. I truly mean it when I say that he holds a critical place in the Smash ecosystem. He makes every event more exciting with his presence, even as he does not really owe the community anything more than he’s given to it. If one day he decides to not give Melee his all, that is his decision and everyone should respect that. Without getting too deep into it, he has very good reason to draw boundaries for himself away from competitive Smash.
In the past, a player like Leffen may have been ranked for winning a major, but this does not accurately convey what the rankings measure today. There are also potential issues with including someone like Leffen. If he were given a more favorable spot on the list than a comparable peer, is there any chance that the structure of the list could hypothetically incentivize “dodging” to preserve an existing rank, even if it hypothetically shouldn’t? Would such an incentive structure manifest itself elsewhere on the list? Is it the rankings obligation to care, or does it not matter if it’s “accurate?” At what point does the panel’s collective assessment of a player’s skill potentially and negatively impact the incentive structure of top player attendance? Do different “tiers” of players necessitate the creation of different standards of eligibility?
These questions are worth examining in greater detail. But for now, I want to get back to discussing Leffen’s eligibility. Although he won a major and deserves to have that recognized in some official capacity, I do not think it should be on the final list. Leffen should not be included in the Top 100.