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Published November 29, 2021

On Saturday, Gahtzu defeated KJH, 5-3, to win the second installment of “King of the Cube” – a new weekly rollback exhibition series hosted by Toph. Before that matchup came the undercard showdown between two Summit nominees: Free Palestine and Ringler, with Free Palestine coming out on top, 5-1.

In Ohio, TheRealThing defeated essy and Flash to win BIG 4.5, while Rocky won NorCal’s Bay Area Rumble over Azel. The day before that, Magi held a surprise midnight rollback tournament, which Ginger won over n0ne.

For more tournament news over the weekend, follow the Melee Stats Twitter account for daily reporting of what happened in each previous night of Melee.

No 2021 Rankings

Before the last episode of Waiting for Game, Wheat, myself, and the Crimson Blur were shooting the shit. Blur asked us if we were going to participate or lead a Top 100 for the 2021 year and – just as previously answered on an episode of the Mixup – we declined, stating that the strange circumstances behind Melee this year made it too difficult to work on rankings that we could be happy to work on. It was already difficult enough to work on an all-time Top 100, so why would we take on even more additional stress?

The long story short: Blur was heartbroken. He mentioned that the scene needed rankings more than ever, if only just to motivate top players and to provide content. While I still remain unconvinced that the scene “needs” a current annual rankings discussion every week, I couldn’t help but feel bad about them not existing.

MPGR is an annual constant of the scene. It’s one of the most celebrated aspects of our community and among our most recognizable content mediums. Although I sometimes wonder if the Smash community occasionally latches onto rankings as a shallow source of entertainment and even occasionally feel guilt at how I contribute to it, let’s be real. It’s a bummer that we don’t have enough data across multiple tournaments and regions to have any semblance of a meaningful international Top 100.

As a result, we’ve seen more than a few players slip under the radar in spite of having excellent 2021 seasons. So today, I want to give some space to one such competitor who has excelled in 2021, someone you might not have known about otherwise. Everybody knows Logan, Aklo, SluG, and Ben as breakout stars of rollback, but how about Zealot? As you’ll soon discover, he’s every bit as worthy of being mentioned as one of the breakout stars of 2021.

2021 Rising Stars: Zealot

About 10 months ago, I was talking to my good friend Zetts about the history of Ohio Melee. In the middle of our conversation, he casually tells me that Zealot was actually Top 50 in the world, “free.” Because Zealot hadn’t achieved any outstanding national results, I viewed Zetts’ words in context for what they were: a friend hyping up someone talented from his region with a bit of hyperbole.

We’re near the end of 2021 now and Zealot has to be considered one of the year’s biggest breakout stars. First, I wanted to compare how Zealot performed against comparable peers; expected faces in Top 32 of any major they attend.

Note: I am not counting sets against the following players, due to them being well above this tier for 2021 results: Zain, Mango, Leffen, iBDW, Wizzrobe, Plup, Hungrybox, S2J, KoDoRiN, Polish, n0ne, moky, Axe, Ginger, and SFAT. This is admittedly subjective, but even if I’m off, it’s by one or two players. In the context of evaluating so many sets, it’s not a big deal.

Zealot vs. Comparable Peers

  • FatGoku: 1-0
  • Magi: 1-0
  • Ben: 3-0
  • Drephen: 4-0
  • Jflex: 6-0
  • Dacky: 1-0
  • Smashdaddy: 6-1
  • bobby big ballz: 2-1
  • Eddy Mexico: 1-1
  • Zamu: 2-2
  • SluG: 1-2
  • 2saint: 0-1
  • SFOP: 0-1
  • Rocky: 0-2
  • TheRealThing: 0-1

There’s a lot to talk about with Zealot’s records against these peers, but what especially stands out is his extraordinary record against Sheik. Against Ben, Drephen and Jflex, Zealot boasts an ungodly 13-0 record. He’s about as safe of a bet vs. the character as you can get without being Aklo or SFAT, players we’d easily consider Top 25 or Top 10.

You’ll also notice a track record of success in the Fox ditto, a notoriously difficult matchup to find consistency in. Currently, Zealot has a dominant lead in the – mostly rollback – annual head-to-head against Smashdaddy and has traded sets with Zamu, an expert in the same matchup. He’s additionally come out on top in individual head-to-heads against FatGoku and Dacky, otherwise only dropping a tight game-five within this group to SFOP, certainly no slouch in the ditto himself. Within this eholr group of Fox players, he is 10-3.

So far, his overall records against this tier of players is 28-12. He basically wins 70 percent of his sets against Top 50ish players in a normal year. Just to experiment a little bit, I took a look at Zamu – a longtime Melee Stats favorite – against a comparable group in 2021.

Note: I’m not counting Aiden’s side event at Riptide.

  • Colbol: 1-0
  • FatGoku: 1-0
  • Rocky: 1-0
  • Panda: 1-0
  • Drephen: 1-0
  • Dacky: 1-0
  • TheRealThing: 1-0
  • Jflex: 4-1
  • Eddy Mexico: 2-2
  • Zealot: 2-2
  • Wally: 1-1
  • Smashdaddy: 1-1
  • Magi: 1-1
  • Gahtzu: 1-1
  • Logan: 1-2
  • bobby big ballz: 2-3
  • Zuppy: 1-2
  • Ben: 2-4
  • Aklo: 0-2
  • Lucky: 0-1
  • lloD: 0-1
  • ARMY: 0-1

In part due to playing a slightly “harder” group of people within the same tier, Zamu has a perfectly even record: 25-25. That’s not an easy feat at all, but I mention it because going competitive with these kinds of players – let alone dominating them – is typically one of the biggest indicators that you’ve earned your spot among them. In other words, Zealot is probably much closer to Zamu – someone who’s reached highs as impressive as beating Polish twice in a row and taking a set from SFAT – than he is to a typical ‘newcomer’ to the Top 50.

Zealot vs. The Field

Another sign that’s not as often talked about is the ability to completely thrash the group of players beneath your perceived level. Heading into this part of the column, I wanted to examine how Zealot performs against people who would either be on the nominee list for the Top 100 if it existed this year or were ranked within the top half of a notable region. Here’s what I found below:

  • JSalt: 3-0
  • Whiskers: 1-0
  • Pappi: 7-3
  • Skerzo: 2-0
  • Secrets: 1-0
  • Chem: 1-0
  • SDJ: 2-0
  • Bbatts: 1-0
  • Slowking: 1-0
  • Steech: 1-0
  • Azel: 1-0
  • essy: 1-0
  • Salt: 1-0
  • Faust: 1-0
  • Fizz: 2-1
  • Harry Pogger: 1-0
  • aCID: 3-0
  • K8A: 2-0
  • Travioli: 1-0
  • NoFluxes: 1-0 (note: Zealot used Marth and Sheik in this set)
  • Eggy: 1-0 (in their only set with Zealot playing Fox for each game)
  • Dawson: 1-0
  • Schythed: 1-0
  • Koobie: 1-0
  • Snap: 1-0
  • Captain Smuckers: 1-0
  • OkayP: 1-0
  • Far!: 1-0
  • PanterA: 2-0
  • Bones: 1-1
  • Grab: 0-1
  • Warmmer: 0-1
  • MoG: 0-1
  • Leighton: 0-1
  • Just Jason: 0-2
  • Egg$: 1-1

Sidenote: How insane is it that Zealot – someone who has annihilated Sheik for an entire year – happened to lose both of his only sets against Just Jason? As far as I know, Just Jason is the only Sheik main with a positive 2021 record against Zealot.Ā 

Overall, Zealot is 44-12 against people whom I’d consider either within the “51 to 120ish” camp or people who have been previously ranked within a tough region. Once again, here’s how Zamu against a comparable group of players:

  • Dimension: 1-0
  • Pappi: 1-0
  • Michael: 3-0
  • essy: 1-0
  • K8A: 2-0
  • JSalt: 1-0
  • Krudo: 1-0
  • Lotfy: 1-0
  • Skerzo: 4-0
  • Casper: 1-0
  • Mot$: 2-0
  • Warmmer: 1-0
  • Amida: 1-0
  • Reesch: 1-0
  • Pleeba: 1-0
  • Neologism: 3-0
  • MoG: 1-0
  • Dawson: 1-0
  • Azel: 1-0
  • Suezo: 1-0
  • Excel Zero: 1-0
  • Ryobeat: 3-0
  • Kurv: 1-0
  • Wassabi: 1-0
  • Snap: 1-0
  • Unsure: 2-0
  • Slowking: 1-0
  • Grab: 1-0
  • Forrest: 1-0
  • NoFluxes: 1-0
  • Chem: 1-0
  • Koobie: 1-0
  • htwa: 2-0
  • Ober: 1-0
  • Golden: 1-0
  • OG Swaglord: 2-1
  • Mekk: 2-1
  • Travioli: 4-1
  • Dope: 1-1
  • TheSWOOPER: 1-2
  • Ringler: 0-1
  • Salt: 0-1
  • Free Palestine: 0-1
  • Morsecode762: 0-1
  • DarkHero: 0-1
  • Joey Donuts: 0-1
  • Shmeeli: 0-1
  • MT: 0-1
  • Jamrun: 0-1
  • Zeeker: 0-1
  • Reeve: 0-2

Zamu’s records against these players are 58-19. This is a slightly lower percentage than Zealot, but still comparably strong. More importantly and in the context of this column, they’re numbers that we would expect to see from a Top 50 player. It seems like Zetts’ assessment of Zealot was quite prescient.

Of course, this is all speculation, but if I were to guess where Zealot would finish on a Top 100 list, I’d likely put him somewhere underneath FatGoku, a Top 25 candidate and solidly above a well rounded Top 100 nominee-caliber player like Mot$, who is ranked within the top half of New Jersey’s power rankings and has entered quite a bit in 2021.

I’ll wager that this places Zealot somewhere within the 30-50 range, but likely in the upper part; let’s say, 35. Were it not for Free Palestine already running for Summit, Zealot would have been more than worthy of a contender for a spot, at least based on competitive contributions. What does that mean in 2021? Well…that’s a topic for another day.


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