Skip to content
Published October 16, 2023

The Big House is back with its eleventh edition this upcoming weekend. By all means, it’s set to be one of the most exciting events of the year. Together, Genesis and The Big House have basically defined the beginning and ending phases of Smash, with everyone surrounding these tournaments ultimately building up to one of them. Few tourneys have defined and changed the scene as much as The Big House. And when it comes to The Big House 11, basically everyone who’s capable of winning a major is in attendance here.

It’s actually quite rare for a tournament of this size to feature the entire top echelon of play. This decade, there’s never been an offline tournament that’s featured all of the following players: Zain, Cody Schwab, Jmook, Leffen, moky, Mango, aMSa, Hungrybox, Plup, and Wizzrobe. You read that correctly. Not even the Ludwig Smash Invitational, Smash Summit 14, any of the Genesis iterations, or even The Big House 10 – which commentators not-too-unreasonably-but-definitely-played-into called “the hardest tournament of all-time” have been this stacked at the top level. In other words, The Big House 11 is the new hardest tournament of all-time.

Briefly looking at who’s in bracket, this tourney features 43 of the current summer Top 50. That doesn’t even count Wizzrobe or n0ne. Looking out a little further, it has 69 of the 2022 Top 100 in attendance. It’s been rare for a tournament this big to be so dense in talent. Naturally, I want to try predicting this tournament. In today’s column, I’m going to be previewing each of the top echelon’s different paths to winning The Big House 11.


What Hungrybox has in his favor are a couple things. First off, he usually doesn’t DQ, so we can take his attendance relatively for granted. Secondly, with JCubez and KoopaTroopa895 as his projected R2 opponents, it’s fair to say that he has a relatively favorable path to Top 64. It’s a bit trickier from there – as of right now, he has one of Chem or Khalid. Although either of the two could be tough outs, I have to think that Hungrybox on the big stage is too tall of an order for two players who have never played him in a meaningful major set. Following that, he has to play one of aMSa or Ginger to enter winners quarters. aMSa’s had a minor edge when they’ve played this year (3-2), and Ginger’s never quite caught up to Hungrybox at in-person events. However, assuming that Hungrybox makes his way by all these opponents, he’s still in a tough spot.

As the eighth seed of this tournament, he will have to play the top seed, which, as of right now, is Zain, whom he’s currently lost nine sets in a row to. Even if he somehow defeats Zain, Hungrybox has an atrocious matchup spread within the Top 10. The only player in the Top 10 whom he has a winning record against is Mango, who’s lately convinced himself that picking Dr. Mario is the play. Even assuming Hungrybox makes it to winners’ quarters, he will have to very likely defeat three Top 10 players just to make grand finals from winners’ side. Being gracious to his chances, rounding up from his 10-19 record against the rest of this group (approximately a 11/31 chance of taking a set vs. any of these players), and even adding an additional five percent “Clutchgod” favor, he would have a 6.4 percent chance of accomplishing that. Remember: this is only to make it to winner’s side of grands: not to win the actual tournament.

It’s very difficult to deny the fact that Hungrybox is probably not going to win this tournament. If it happens though, I think it needs to involve Zain losing to Axe. That would not only rid Hungrybox of his hardest matchup, but gift wrap him a free ride to winner’s side of top eight where he could play someone like Jmook right into Mango or another potentially doable Top 10 player. In all fairness, this is not to crazy to envision happening. In fact, this, along with maybe a DQ or two, is the exact kind of potential variable that could go Hungrybox’s way. Otherwise, the dream run is coming to a swift end.


Alright, let’s get the obvious out of the way: I don’t have a great track record of predicting how aMSa will perform, so that’s a plus in his favor. But more seriously, aMSa does have a path to victory at any event he enters. In his projected R2 path, aMSa has Maher right before a rematch with Dawson from Genesis 8. Now, Dawson is no slouch – he’s taken him close before and has a knack for showing up in a big way at majors. But I don’t think aMSa will lose, and it’s quite possible that Squid beats Dawson and gives aMSa a much easier matchup. Afterward, he’ll have one of CPU0, Ginger, or Kevin Maples. Of the three, Ginger is definitely the most intriguing opponent of the three; he took aMSa to last-stock at Genesis 8 and hasn’t been utterly pulverized the same way his other Falco peers have been. At the same time, this is just not a matchup aMSa typically loses to anyone who isn’t Mango.

For any Game of Thrones fans reading this, you may recognize a saying about the Targaryen family; that every time a new Targaryen is born, “the gods toss the coin in the air and the world holds its breath to see how it will land.” This is like how aMSa’s chances of winning a major go, and it’s especially fitting for this tournament. I already mentioned the Hungrybox-aMSa rivalry before, so if aMSa defeats Hungrybox, he could either have an easy ride to winners’ side of top eight (Axe) or a doable yet significant harder one (Zain). It only gets more extreme from there – by the current seeding, and if aMSa defeats one of Axe or Zain, he’d be anxiously waiting for the winner of Plup-Jmook. I mention this because he’s owned Jmook for most of the last two years and he has gone on the record by saying the Plup was a “0-100” matchup. Unfortunately, if aMSa makes it to winners’ finals, his chances vs. the remaining group of players (Cody Schwab, Leffen, moky, Mango and Wizzrobe) are a combined 0-16 (not counting The Off-Season). But in all fairness, 13 of those sets have come against Cody and moky. The other opponents in this group are nowhere near as difficult by the numbers.

In a weird way, aMSa’s path to winning this tournament is fairly concrete. I know what him winning would look like and it’s not that crazy to imagine it happening. Simultaneously, this possibility is reliant on many factors going his way. I’m not going to make the same “50:1” mistake I made last year with aMSa, but in hindsight, his chances were probably better than they are now. Are they 50:1 level bad today? No, of course not. It’s still looking tough though.


On the most recent episode of Waiting for Game, Wheat brought up the “alternative universe” theory of 2023 Melee. If you’re not familiar, it’s his belief that we’ve been living in two different universes this year: one where Zain and Cody are the best players (the normal one) and the bizarro realm whereย  where Plup and Wizzrobe are the best players. Plup’s path in R2 bodes well for him to make it to Top 64 relatively scratch-free: eve into one of Azel or TheSWOOPER. Once he makes it to Top 64, he’ll then have one of Swift or Lunar Dusk, both of whom I expect him to solidly defeat, and then he has his first big test of the event in either Zuppy or S2J.

Zuppy’s a weird player for Plup. At any given major Zuppy attends, he seems to have an equal chance of getting 4th or 49th, so Plup might struggle with him on some days, and on other days, he might handle him or not have to play him. Though S2J would be a far more manageable and familiar opponent, he also did take Plup to last-stock at Riptide, so it’s not a foregone conclusion that Plup will obliterate him, even though the lifetime set count is one-sided in Plup’s favor. You could anticipate any Plup set vs. either of two as ones where he has an advantage by the book, but they’re not cakewalks. For what it’s worth, Plup’s had more of a problem vs. Falcos in the last two years (losses to Fiction’s Falco, Ginger, and Magi) than Fox.

From there, there’s just very little that we know about Plup vs. the rest of the Top 10, and that’s my biggest problem with projecting Plup. What we can be certain about is that he’s dominantly favored vs. Wizzrobe, probably boasts an advantage over Hungrybox and aMSa in recent memory, and Cody Schwab has had Plup’s number. We’ve seen little reason to think he’s roadkill vs. any of Mango, Leffen, Zain, moky, or Jmook, but there’s also no reason to think he deserves the benefit of doubt vs. them. In fact, I’d slightly favor the opponent in all five of those matchups. I do not think Plup’s just going to show up and casually beat elite players whom he hasn’t played in months or longer. Although stranger things have happened, I can’t really see it.


The sole player of this group to not win a major, moky clearly is entering this event in a spot with unique pressure. He simultaneously has a large target on his back by virtue of being an unambiguous member of the top echelon, yet he hasn’t won a major yet, so the expectation that he’s “supposed” to eventually win one is still there. At the moment, his projected path to Top 64 from winners’ side is CAUP into Preeminent, both of whom he feels like locks against. However, there is one other player here who could suddenly give moky a scare: Zealot, who’s currently seeded as Preeminent’s first opponent in R2. If Zealot “upsets” Preeminent and plays moky, that could be a really terrifying draw this early into the tournament. The two have played before, with moky winning 3-1 at Double Down last year, so moky deserves benefit of the doubt; I just think Zealot is really good.

Were he to defeat Zealot or Preeminent, however, and as most people expect him to do, moky would then have quite a gauntlet just to make winner’s quarters: Flash or Fiction into Wizzrobe or Polish. moky seems like a solid favorite vs. Flash and that he has a slight edge vs. Fiction; he won his last set vs. Polish and lost his last set vs. Wizzrobe. On the whole, none of these opponents are necessarily favored over him, but beating them all in a row seems unusually harsh of an ask for someone in moky’s caliber of play. I am not trying to put the seeders on blast here – it’s a tough job and I don’t ever want to be in a position of demeaning volunteer work done by community members – but this really has to be one of the hardest brackets that moky’s had since entering the top echelon. I must admit it initially felt unusually harsh, even outside the inherently stacked nature of the event; like it was rigged against him.

NOTE: Obviously I don’t actually believe this; this is a joke in reference to the difficulty of these opponents. Please don’t harass the seeders of The Big House 11.

If moky can pull it off, he’ll still have to take three to four sets from fellow Top 10 players. And to get the annoying, but obvious problem out of the way, his combined 0-9 record vs. Zain, Jmook, and Mango illustrate potentially three people he needs to dodge or break losing streaks to in order to win the event. However, I have to envision his chances versus Cody Schwab and Leffen as favorable or, bare minimum, as coin flips. It helps that moky is up on Hungrybox in the year, has totally handled aMSa, and seems like the presumptive favorite vs. Plup, whom he’s historically beaten numerous times. All in all, you have three demons, three coin flips, and three people he’s expected to beat. In a vacuum, that would give moky a good chance, but the really brutal path before he even gets to this group of players makes this specific event a hard one to see him winning.


Wizzrobe’s returned presence at tournaments has been one of the most exciting parts of 2023. We’re close to seeing the return of “Top 5” Wizzrobe, we just haven’t seen him put it all together for a bonafide supermajor run yet. For this event, he has to defeat, most likely, two of Paladin, essy, and Stiv in R2. This is a trio of players whom I am big fans of, but, with all due respect, are overwhelmingly outmatched if they play Wizzrobe. Even though essy’s potential is amazing, Stiv beat n0ne earlier in the year, and Paladin would be my personal “2024 breakout” player, Wizzrobe is just a totally different caliber of player.

Regardless, if he beats them, he’ll be set to most likely play one of Polish or Matteo, both whom he also seems strongly favored over. Save for Armada and, Ryobeat in 2020, Wizzrobe doesn’t really lose to Peach, and although Matteo’s very good, Wizzrobe’s dominance over Salt in the Captain Falcon ditto makes me hesitant to see him both making it far enough to face Wizzrobe and defeat him. If Wizzrobe defeats Polish or Matteo, he’d then have to most likely play moky. If it’s not moky, then it’s probably one of Fiction or Flash. Honestly, any of these three would be quite hard, although not necessarily to the same degree. Although he beat moky the last time they played, it was close enough to where I wouldn’t consider Wizzrobe the default favorite. Fiction has historically had Wizzrobe’s number, so he’s arguably a more difficult opponent. Flash, of course, lost to Wizzrobe twice at his Riptide 2021 breakout, but the games were close and Flash defeated Salt earlier in the year.

Wheat once told me that he thought Wizzrobe, pound-for-pound, had the fifth best chance of winning a major in the field. Is he spitting or is he smoking crack? Realistically, Wizzrobe isn’t beating Zain or Cody in his first shot at either of them this year, but it’s not that out of the question. Mango and Plup are historically auto-losses for him, and yet Wizzrobe did just take a set from Plup, and what better time is there to turn a losing record to Mango around than at a time when Mango’s focus isn’t in competing? Wizzrobe also totally obliterated Jmook in their last meetup, and having beaten aMSa and Hungrybox in their last meetups, he could totally turn those two opponents into favorable matchups for himself, if they aren’t already. There’s no one who Wizzrobe absolutely 100 percent will destroy, but frankly, the people whom he used to keel over and die against don’t really seem as indestructible as they used to be either. My gut call: in similar fashion to moky, Wizzrobe is stuck in a fairly volatile region of bracket. It makes me think his high floor against the rest of the Top 10 likely takes a slight hit back to putting his chances near the bottom of this list.


Leffen’s a tough cookie to crack. He’s especially aggravating to predict because it really feels like he’s only capable of totally dominating the field or bustering out, so I never get a good sense of how to predict his performances at events. Looking at his R2 for now – and making a big assumption that Leffen will not DQ – he has two Marths in Reeve and prof. After those two, Leffen has a strange Top 64 opponent in Skerzo, who is, by all means, the most random player of all-time. Remember: this is the same guy who went 1-2 at the Trail Invitational before defeating Jmook a month later. If you simulated a Leffen vs. Skerzo Fox ditto best-of-five ten times, specifically one that happens right after Leffen’s had to play Sheik for two tourney sets, is it impossible to imagine Skerzo taking multiple sets from Leffen? No, it’s not, but it’s also possible to imagine Leffen quietly 9-stocks him for some of the other eight or seven sets. Besides, Skerzo could lose to n0ne, Kage or, really, anyone in the world before that.

Following the initial Top 64 match, Leffen would most likely have to play one of Soonsay or Magi. Soonsay solidly beat Leffen the last two times they’ve played, and though Magi’s come close to pulling it off when she was worse, Leffen has typically won his sets vs. her and been one of the few Fox players to not ever lose to Magi. I won’t mince words here: these are really hard draws for Leffen just given where these players are at in their careers, as well as Leffen’s presumed rust in the game. Because it’s still Leffen, I won’t go as far as to saying that he’s at a disadvantage against either of the two cumulatively, but compared to the other top seeds, this is one of the hardest draws to make winners’ quarters among any of the top echelon players.

Here’s what we know about Leffen against the rest of the top ten: him vs. moky or Cody basically seems like RNG by virtue of being a high-level Fox ditto. Mango has totally dunked on Leffen on the whole in the last few years, but they’ve had many close sets that aren’t quite reflected by the set count. We know that Leffen vs. Zain is basically a coin flip. aMSa and Jmook probably have a tiny edge over Leffen as of right now, but they’re not undoable opponents. Plup and Leffen historically go back and forth, but Leffen beat him the last time they played and they rarely play at all. Basically, what I’m saying here is I know nothing. I still have no confidence in predicting how Leffen will perform. Honestly, part of me feels like he’s going to DQ. Call it a feeling in my bones.


This specific version of The Big House currently has a very favorable bracket for Mango. R2 is all spacies between Den and one of TheRealThing or Kurv, which is exactly what you want if you’re Mango. And after that, he has one of Ben or mvlvchi into Aklo or Zamu. I must confess that the prospect of mvlvchi adding Mango’s name to his list of spacies slain is a horrifyingly plausible one, but it would require him to defeat Ben first and then go on to defeat Mango. Aklo and Zamu are not easy outs for the most part, and Aklo’s come close to defeating Mango before, but out of Mango’s possible matchups at this stage of the tournament, I think he’d prefer to see a Fox here than anyone else.

How does Mango fare against the rest of the Top 10? The truth is, not great by the set count. He’s beaten moky all three times they’ve played this year, but is down vs. Cody (1-2), whom he used to handily defeat, hasn’t played Leffen, Wizzrobe or Plup, and lost to Jmook the only time they played. Other than that, you have a sole loss to Jmook in his only set against him, an 0-4 record vs. Zain, and an 0-3 record vs. Hungrybox, whom he’s lately been playing Dr. Mario against. The best shot Mango has at winning this tournament is a fast-fallers bracket where he gets to play Falco the whole time. And yet even that’s something which doesn’t seem as big of a guarantee as it used to be, if Cody’s improvement in their head-to-head paints a picture.

Because this is The Big House, I have to give Mango some grace here. It’s rare to see a year where Mango doesn’t win a major, and it’s tough to imagine him leaving The Big House 11, a tournament which seems like his last one before Genesis, without the gold medal. I’d go as far as to call this series definitively tied to Mango’s legacy in a way that few major series are to any player (maybe Armada and Genesis). If there’s any place for him to finally make a grand return in a way that all his fans have been waiting for this year, it’s here. I think he has a good shot at winning the tournament, even if it’s not a big enough shot for me to consider him a favorite.


Relative to his stellar start to the year, Jmook’s had a rough go of it since. But he has a chance to start the fall season with a bang at The Big House. For starters, he has Ultra into Lucky or Ralph to make Top 64 from R2. Although Ultra’s technically defeated Plup online, I would be stunned if he came close to achieving something similar on LAN at a major vs. someone who’s last two years has come through annihilating Fox players. From there, Jmook has either Spark or Colbol (whom he beat at the last Big House) into one of Krudo or KoDoRiN. It is not totally out of the realm for Jmook to lose to any of these four, but it is extremely unlikely just given his track record in the Sheik ditto since he’s broken out, as well as Marth and to Fox mains outside the Top 10 (Skerzo excluded).

It’ll be tough from there, as it is for every major contender here, as none of them can really discount the possibility of running into each other. But honestly, other than aMSa, who’s consistently remained a thorn in Jmook’s side this year, where has Jmook really struggled vs. this echelon of player? If anything, he’s been reliably competitive. In addition to having Zain’s number for most of the year, he’s similarly beaten moky in convincing fashion. Jmook also beat Leffen and Mango in each of their only sets this year. You might be tempted to bring up Hungrybox, but Jmook did win the last time they played, and it doesn’t seem like their lifetime head-to-head is trending in a hopeless direction any more.The only other potential negative is Wizzrobe beating him the sole time they played this year – admittedly a convincing win for Wizzrobe, but Jmook also won the last time they played. I have to view Jmook as a slight favorite vs. Plup as well, although it’s been quite some time since they’ve played. Cody is a little more tough, but those two go back and forth, mildly in Cody’s favor.

When Jmook’s slumped this year, it’s usually by virtue of running into some variant of “a weird character,” be it Samus, ICs or aMSa’s Yoshi. While his loss to Skerzo shows that he’s not completely indestructible vs. Fox, I have good reason to view it as closer to the exception than the start of a rule. This bracket leading up to the Top 10 is filled with opponents whom we know Jmook is strongly favored against, and within the Top 10 itself, Jmook has a solid matchup spread, even it’s not necessarily all around dominant. I think there is a clear, even if not big, gap between him and everyone beneath him, but also the two players he’s chasing.

Cody Schwab

Cody’s a hard player to find “bad brackets” for, but I think the one he has at The Big House 11 is pretty great. R2 onward, he has Moe into Drephen (or 100 Grand) into, most likely, a couple Fox dittos (Panda and Joshman) for winners quarters. As much as I would love to see Moe pull off one of the biggest upsets in the history of Melee, I cannot see him defeating Cody Schwab, and in all seriousness, I can’t see a Sheik player who isn’t Jmook and a Marth player who isn’t Zain or KoDoRiN defeating Cody at a major. Panda and Joshman have nonzero shots, particularly Joshman, who’s actually defeated Cody in their only set, but that also happened a year ago. It’s also not a guarantee that he’ll have to play either of them; Panda’s historically struggled at The Big House and is a volatile player, and Joshman has to get by Salt, who’s fresh off an amazing Rise N Grind weekend and, unlike Joshman, isn’t traveling all the way from Australia. If Cody plays Salt, it would be a rematch from The Big House 10, where Cody handled her after initially losing game 1, 3-1. Salt would be a trickier opponent today than last year, but Cody’s still the favorite in any matchup.

From that point onward, Cody would have to win four sets in at least five attempts vs. the rest of the Top 10. If seeding holds true, that leaves him one of Wizzrobe or moky (both whom I’d consider coin flip opponents)ย  into Mango or Leffen (similarly coin flips, maybe slightly favorable for Cody nowadays) and then, in all likelihood one of Zain, Jmook, Plup, aMSa, or Hungrybox. Those five are not easy to group together, but to do so broadly, they range from people Cody typically handles (the last three) to, you guessed it, two other coin flips. You’d hard be hard pressed to find someone with as high of a floor as him. In face, as I’ve detailed above, basically no other players (other than his literal biggest rival, whom you could probably guess) have any significant demons.

If anything, Cody’s weaknesses usually come in areas where he hasn’t put much attention toward improving in. It’s hard to articulate this without sounding like a crazy person, but in since Cody’s broken through to the major contending level, he’s usually found success whenever he’s been able to play matchups he’s prioritized. Even though the head-to-head numbers show Cody to be a very predictable, if not boringly reliable player, his actual performances at events are still difficult to call before they happen. We used to see this at events like Summit, where there were few players he had to worry about and Cody could dedicate his focus to specific matchups. He’s gotten better at preparing for multiple players over the years, but I do think he has a tendency to take certain things for granted and be caught off guard in matchups he hasn’t put much time into. For example, he’s totally owned Hungrybox, but I wasn’t surprised when Hungrybox beat him at Smash Con, if only because even Cody would admit that he puts extreme emphasis on beating Zain and Jmook – two very tall orders, mind you – for winning majors over everyone else, whom he usually beats on the whole, but not overwhelmingly to the point where he never loses to them (except aMSa, apparently).


I truly think this is the hardest era that Melee has ever seen. It’s something that puts Zain’s dominance in an entirely unique light from every other ruling No. 1 in the history of the game. No, he’s not completely razing the entirety of the competitive field to the ground, but what he’s doing is carving a definitive spot for himself among everyone who can possibly win a major. A particularly fun way I’ve heard this described before is that “instead of having five gods now, we have ten.” And yet while they each have a shot at winning every event they enter, Zain definitely seems to be the one who’s hardest to consistently defeat.

Since dropping down to loser’s at Apex 2022, where Axe beat him, Zain just hasn’t lost to anyone outside the ten players I’ve been discussing within this column (not when he’s seriously competing anyhow). To get to Top 32, as of right now, he has Captain G into JJM into Bbatts. Bbatts is fresh off a KoDoRiN win, so this is not technically an auto-win, but let’s be serious – the Zain of today seems, unbelievably, like a bigger beast than the one who lost to Wally last year and still finished No. 1. It is a very safe assumption that he will make it to winners’ round of 16, where he’s projected to play one of Axe of SDJ. This one is interesting because it’s quite possible that Axe could beat him again, but Axe himself needs to get by SDJ, who beat Axe the last time they played and has currently been on a roll. SDJ, bless their soul, is probably not going to defeat someone who’s basically back-hand smacked Hungrybox each time he’s played him.

Zain’s most cited strength within the Top 10 field is that he doesn’t have any bad matchups. He basically beats, goes even with, or barely falls behind everyone within this group to a tee. Even for the people he’s fallen behind to, he’s shown the ability to turn around and dominate when he’s playing hot. But another underrated strength is that he actually boasts matchups that he straight up doesn’t lose. Look at how convincingly he’s handled Mango (4-0) and Hungrybox (6-0) this year, or the way that he’s had moky on lockdown (4-0). It’s not a coincidence that the only other active No. 1 contender right now (Cody Schwab) has two of those, which i previously mentioned. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Zain is the favorite over the field – however, he is definitely the best player in the world. I’m going to pick him to win the event.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.