Over the last few weeks, I’ve had fun doing some pre-ballot prep work on Top 10 players. I initially began this series by comparing Cody Schwab and Zain. Then, I broke down the years of Jmook, moky, and Plup, and following that, I talked about Leffen’s year, historical precedents for it, and why I believe he shouldn’t be ranked. To conclude this miniseries of sorts, I’d like to break down the years of aMSa, Hungrybox, Mango, and Wizzrobe.
On their own, these players are all fascinating. I don’t think anyone in the world would deny that they are capable of winning majors, and yet simultaneously, they haven’t actually done it this year. It’s worth noting that each of these players have been around for quite some time too. Most notably, Mango and Hungrybox are the two longest-running top players, with this year marking the first time since 2007 that neither has won a major. We shouldn’t sleep on the decade-plus career of aMSa or Wizzrobe either. It’s a testament to all four players’ hard work that they remain in major contention.
ZAIN ON A TUESDAY https://t.co/zYmtO5jI9x
HOPE EVERYONE ENJOYS
— 🐐 🐐 🐐 🐐 🐐 🐐 🐐 (@C9Mang0) November 16, 2023
How do you order them in 2023? Today, I’m going to jump into each of their years in similar fashion to my previous columns. I will break down their head-to-heads against the “Top 10” (those four, as well as the six I’ve already written about), analyze their losses to players outside the Top 10, and then I’m going to briefly “reveal” my currently ordered “Top 10.”
Top Level H2Hs
Wizzrobe technically has the best major contender win-rate among this group (5-6). However, the context behind these numbers paints a more gray picture. There’s his obvious lack of attendance, as well as drastically fewer sets played vs. Top 10, that has to be accounted for. Additionally, this head-to-head is drastically shifted by his losing record to Plup (1-4). Is it possible that Wizzrobe is secretly just a coin flip or favored vs. everyone else? I doubt it, but even if it were true, we need to see more than six sets to show it.
Hungrybox surprisingly has the highest total number of “Top 10ish” wins at ten (10-21). Unlike how 2022 Hungrybox beat up on Jmook, 2023 Hungrybox has a surprisingly good spread of wins. He split sets with Jmook (1-1), but he also has sets over Leffen (1-2), moky (2-3), aMSa (2-4), and Cody Schwab (1-3). No, these are not amazing records, but many of those players are just better than him right now. Besides, Hungrybox has consistently defeated Mango (3-0), for whatever that’s worth. Though it’s frustrating that two of these wins do not feel like they came in particularly meaningful circumstances, at some point, you have to say “it happened.”
On that note, Mango’s records against the elite remain very strange. At 6-12, I struggle to say they’re particularly “good,” but they’re also not as bad as you may think. In fact, it’s depended on his opponent. Seven of these losses have come to Hungrybox (0-3) and Zain, (0-4), and yet he remains undefeated vs. moky (4-0). Outside of those sets, he has a stray loss to Plup, a stray win over aMSa, and a pretty underwhelming record vs. Cody (1-3).
aMSa is not far behind Hungrybox in terms of Top 10 wins (9-22), and unlike Hungrybox, he has an even record with Zain (2-2). With that said, basically three people have routinely spoiled his year: Cody Schwab (0-7), moky (0-7), and Plup (0-2). On the plus side, he’s done great vs. Jmook (4-0), but he also dropped his only set to Mango (0-1). At the very least, aMSa has the edge over Hungrybox (4-2) in the head-to-head. All in all, he’s got two “goods,” one “uniquely competitive,” and three “terribles.”
This is another category that Wizzrobe technically leads, as he hasn’t lost to anyone outside the Top 10 at any of the four big events he entered (CEO, Invincible, Riptide, and The Big House). But come on. These are four tournaments. And what do we do about the dropped set to SDJ and DQ he had at The Off-Season 2? The former did not seem like a particularly “illegitimate” set, and yet the broader circumstances of the event itself do merit a bit of contextualizing. Depending on how you view it, he either has zero dropped sets in four notable tournaments or one and a DQ in five.
Hungrybox has been more consistent than you probably think. In the 12 big events that he’s entered, he only has three of them: one to Hax at an event that Hungrybox won anyway, one to Panda at CEO, and one to KoDoRiN, who during that period, literally was Top 10. On the whole, if he plays someone outside of the Top 10, he’s probably beating them at the same event, and if they end up eliminating him from loser’s bracket, they’re probably Top 10 anyway.
Mango has dropped five dropped sets, including sandbagged losses, in eight majors and regionals he’s gone too. You obviously have the infamous Doc Lee appearances vs. Taj and Matteo at Genesis 9. Following that came a pair of Marth Marquez shenanigan-filled sets vs. S2J and a dropped set to Eddy Mexico at Smash Factor. Other than that, he basically never loses to players outside the Top 10. Of the seven bonafide majors he went to, he basically has no “real” losses outside the Top 10. But even if I were to count them as the equivalent of a DQ, shouldn’t he still be “punished” for them?
aMSa has been a bit shakier, though it’s worth noting that he remains the most active. Of the 14 relevant “super regional to supermajor” events he’s gone to, he has a 2saint loss, a Zuppy loss, a pair of losses to lloD, a loss to Trif, and a loss to Aklo. aMSa usually beats these types of players more often than not and attends a ton, and it isn’t like he’s always vulnerable, but he’s clearly a step behind Hungrybox, bare minimum, within this category.
My Top 10
When I broke them down before, I said that Zain and Cody were basically tied for the top spot. I wrote that it was close enough to where a single set between them could theoretically determine the No. 1 spot and would, in all honesty, probably change my mind. Fresh off Cody winning Arcamelee over Jmook, I have to be consistent with what I said before about this race potentially being determined by the slimmest margins. If I was willing to make a decision based on one set between those two, it does not seem fair for me to ignore Cody winning two sets and an entire tournament over Jmook. I would give Cody the edge right now for No. 1. I do not think a normal set victory from Zain over Cody would be enough to tie them. It would necessitate Zain winning a secret supermajor – or something with a level of unprecedented stakes and community buy-in – not merely in a vacuum, but over Cody for me to believe Zain could be No. 1.
After Cody at No. 1 and Zain at No. 2, Jmook seems set at No. 3. Although I understand the reasoning to have him lower on the list, due to Jmook’s weak second half, I don’t love the idea that it would have benefited Jmook to not go to tournaments. My personal ranking philosophy, as well as the general nature of the list itself, has changed since 2016 – I don’t think it’s fair to prioritize a subjective assessment of skill over significant enough accomplishments. I believe it’s important to show grace toward players who win Genesis, let alone two majors. Following Jmook, I want to place moky as my No. 4 and Plup as my No. 5. The long story short is that I don’t Plup has proven himself sufficiently “better” than moky on a pound-for-pound basis to outweigh moky’s higher volume of accomplishments this year. With that in mind however, Plup has demonstrated that he was cleanly better this year than everyone else beneath him. One element each of these three have in common is that Plup has outperformed them at every tournament.
The 6-7-8 spots of Summer Rank were Mango-aMSa-Hungrybox. Here’s what’s changed in that time: a regional victory for Hungrybox at an event where Mango flamed out early, a throwback loser’s run to second for Hungrybox at Smash Con (where the other two had mildly disappointing showings), an underwhelming Shine for aMSa, and a quiet Mango run to third at Big House where aMSa beat Zain but ran into his two biggest demons on Sunday, as well as where Hungrybox barely scraped by for another major top eight. All in all we have two additions to Hungrybox’s resume, and a mix of good, bad, and unspectacular for the other two. It seems reasonable that the 6-7-8 spots could now go in the order of Hungrybox-Mango-aMSa, but to be honest, I’m not really sure. After how underwhelming Hungrybox looked in the first half of the year, it gives me slight whiplash that the numbers are relatively favorable to him right now. I might take another look at this again and have a totally different opinion.
I’m going to then put Leffen at No. 9. I already talked about why I don’t believe Leffen should be ranked at all in the first place, but if I had to give him a number, that’s what I’m choosing right now. I know this sounds insane. He is literally one of four players to win a major this year, and in a sense, it does feel straight up wrong to say something like “Leffen is the ninth best player in the world.” Yet as I described last week, that’s not necessarily one to one with what SSBMRank measures. If he ends up on the list, I would argue for him to have a significantly lower spot than what he had in the summer. I do not think the panel should reward a player who wins a major and doesn’t attend anything for six months with a high spot. However, I could be totally wrong. Perhaps the act of winning a major is truly that unique to where 99 percent of your peers have to accept that if they can’t significantly outperform you at the few events you attend, they have to just accept having a lower rank. In fact, am I somewhat of a hypocrite for ranking Plup so highly but now Leffen? I don’t think so, because I genuinely believe there’s a huge difference between someone only going to three events (zero in the last half of the year) and someone going to five for the whole year. But maybe I’m completely off here.
As far as Wizzrobe is concerned, it would take him winning Santa Paws or some other event over Jmook and Cody Schwab in dominant fashion for me to consider moving him up the list. Then, I could see an argument for his spot to change. For now though, Wizzrobe seems like he’s solidly No. 10. He’s proven enough times that he’s considerably better than everyone beneath him, but without more attendance or winning a tournament over other top echelon players, I don’t think his head-to-heads are significant enough for me to give him a higher spot.
In next week’s column, I want to continue discussing the rankings, but more as a vehicle to explore other dynamics in the scene. I’m going to talk about what the rankings do well, where their limitations are, address some fair (and unfair) criticisms of the rankings, some controversial decisions, how the rankings impact events, and the evolving nature of SSBMRank itself.