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Published October 24, 2022

Circuits, circuits, circuits. They’ve long been the talk of town, but once we have them, nobody can explain them. What the hell is a Smash World Tour? What’s Panda Cup? Why isn’t Genesis part of a circuit? All of these questions and more are there. You, the average Smash fan, don’t know your feet from your face when it comes to talking about circuits. What does this all mean?

Well, look no further. Today, I’m telling you everything you need to know about Smash World Tour and Panda Cup.  I will briefly summarize a respective circuit. Then, I will give you an update on the current leaderboards. After that, I’ll bring up what’s remaining in the circuit, who could be affected by it, and why you should care.

The column won’t merely involve overviews. Later on, I’ll explain the “real” story behind these circuits. But we’ll get to that. For now, it’s time to figure out the basics.

NOTE: For the purpose of this column, I will be writing strictly from the perspective of Melee players and spectators, not Ultimate. 

What’s Going On With The Smash World Tour?

The Smash World Tour is confusing. It was supposed to happen in 2020 before the pandemic seemed to put a halt to its plans. In 2021, it returned with modest reception, coming back in 2022 with an abundance of locals, regionals, and even majors across the world. Better yet, it boasted an even bigger prize pot – the largest one for a circuit in Melee history – at $125,000. Contrary to what you might think, this is objectively a BFD.

So why is it not always seen as one? For starters, it doesn’t have any premier supermajors. No annual events are as prestigious as Genesis, The Big House, or Smash Summit, and this circuit has none of them. Furthermore, Smash World Tour’s existence is further complicated by the presence of another circuit. If you’re not paying attention, it’s tough to follow. So what you need to know is the following:

  • 30 people will be invited to partake in the SWT Championships from December 9 to 11, in San Antonio.
  • To be invited, you must qualify through one of the four following ways:Be the points leader for North America, Central America, South America, Europe, Japan, or Oceania.Be the points leader for all remaining players who are not counted in the above regions (aka be the points leader for the “Wild Card” region).Be among the 23 OTHER players on the circuit leaderboard with the highest amount of points.
  • Finish in the top two of December 9’s Last Chance Qualifier, also in San Antonio.

If the circuit ended right now, here’s what would happen.

  • Hungrybox would be invited to represent North America
  • Excel Zero would be invited to represent Central America
  • Raikin would be invited to represent South America
  • Professor Pro would be invited to represent Europe
  • aMSa would be invited to represent Japan
  • Joshman would be invited to represent Australia
  • Sala would be invited to represent the “Wild Card” spot.

Let’s pause for a second. I’m assuming you understand why Hungrybox, aMSa, Joshman, and Professor Pro being at an event makes it exciting. You might not know how awesome it is to see Excel Zero and Raikin at a supermajor, which is a relatively rare occasion. Excel Zero is an old school Peach legend; a longtime top dog of Puerto Rico who most notably upset PewPewU all the way back at Apex 2014. Raikin, on the other hand, is the No. 2 of Chile and has sets over Kurv, KJH, nut, and essy over the last year. Both of them could be on a Top 100 ballot with enough opportunities against players outside their own country. Similarly, it’s the chance of a lifetime for someone like Sala, a Korean player who’s skill level I have zero clue about.

After that, the next 23 players would be invited to the SWT Championships based on points: Zain, Mango, iBDW, S2J, Jmook, Leffen, Pipsqueak, KoDoRiN, Lucky, Bbatts, Jflex, lloD, Skerzo, Wizzrobe, Medz, null, Mekk, moky, Chape, Amida, Frenzy, Ben, and Spark. You have a mix of supermajor contenders, Top 25 players, Top 50 players, international talent, and hidden bosses who will almost certainly make the Top 100 ballot. All of it, just to remind you, is for Melee’s largest prize pot ever.

NOTE: Because of Fiction’s commitments to Ludwig’s Smash-boxing event, he will not be attending. I have similarly not included 2saint. As of right now, they are also scheduled for the Smash-boxing event. I don’t know of anyone else’s availability or lack thereof. 

I asked PracticalTAS about what point ranges would be safe enough to slot an invite and he said anywhere from 800 to 850 would be good, but that was before the Saving Mr. Lombardi 3 announcement. After that, my guess is that you’ll need about 900 points to be in the clear. For what it’s worth, there’s a plethora of “Silver” tiered events (like BOPME and SMYM), but it’s the current “Gold” events that will end up as the chief difference makers. Each of Saving Mr. Lombardi 3, HFLAN 2022, and Apex 2022 are worth up to 400 points for the first place finisher (300 for second place, 220 for third, 150 for fourth, 100 for fifth, and 70 for seventh). Here’s what’s at stake for each tourney.

  • Saving Mr. Lombardi 3: All the West Coast’s best are going to be here. It’s particularly important for SFAT, who isn’t projected to be an invite right now, and Spark, who would make it today but isn’t a surefire guarantee.
  • HFLAN 2022: A ton of international talent will be here between Joshman, Professor Pro, Pipsqueak, and Frenzy. Based on the current points standing, Frenzy would have the most to gain from this, though maybe a dream Jah Ridin’ run could shake things up.
  • Apex 2022: This is basically a major with Hungrybox, Jmook, aMSa, Axe, and Wizzrobe in attendance – as far as SWT is concerned, people like Aklo, TheSWOOPER, or Krudo could benefit from a big showing here.

Surprisingly enough, neither of those three events is the largest remaining SWT tournament. That would be the sole remaining Platinum: Battle Gateway 37 over in Japan. As of right now, this counts for anywhere between 220 and 800 points for its top eight finishers. The event is make or break for Inngenn (the notorious “Slippi kid” who started dominating the rest of Japan in less than a year of competing) and Futsuka. Sleeper shots at qualifying or doing well would be vugzi, Sheik, GaR, and dansdaman.

What’s Going On With Panda Cup?

When Panda and Nintendo initially announced Panda Cup, I was on my honeymoon. Imagine my surprise when I returned to fanfare dominating the entire gaming media sphere. After that, literally nothing happened for about half a year before the announcement of CEO 2022 and the Panda Cup finally starting in June. Are six months of events enough to really make it a circuit? How about 50,000 dollars? Let’s break it down.

One of the nice things with Panda Cup is that it seems to be pretty straight forward. Instead of a circuit leaderboard, they’ve invited people who have done well at events. Fivepast  events that have been included are CEO 2022, GOML 2022, Smash Factor 9, Lost Tech City, and The Big House 10. As of right now, 13 people are guaranteed invitees to the Panda Cup Finale from their performances at these events. They are:

  • Plup (CEO)
  • Magi (CEO)
  • Chem (CEO)
  • Hungrybox (GOML)
  • Jmook (GOML)
  • Wizzrobe (SF9)
  • Medz (SF9)
  • Mango (LTC)
  • aMSa (LTC)
  • SFOP (LTC)
  • iBDW (TBH)
  • Zain (TBH)
  • Soonsay (TBH).

Three events remain for Panda Cup: Saving Mr. Lombardi 3, DreamHack Atlanta 2022, and the Last Chance Qualifier. I briefly touched on Saving Mr. Lombardi above; as it pertains to Panda Cup, only the winner (or the highest placing player who hasn’t qualified yet) will be invited. Meanwhile, DreamHack Atlanta will give invites to its top two finishers who haven’t otherwise earned a slot before. This event hasn’t made its attendees public yet, though Mekk is supposed to go to it. I’d be surprised if there weren’t heavy hitters from the Atlantic South, like Krudo, Logan, Colbol, Panko, Panda, and Akir – in attendance. Finally, the Last Chance Qualifier, which will happen on December 15 (yes, a Thursday) in Los Angeles, will have four people make it to the Panda Cup finale.

Psych; there’s 12 more spots. Though there’s no leaderboard for the Panda Cup, the rest will be invited by a community panel. I have to say – as someone who’s informally been a “panelist” for a circuit before, I don’t have any clue what this means. Either way, we should end up with a total of 32 players for the Panda Cup Finale.

Now, because this circuit is run by Panda – the same organization that sponsors iBDW and Plup, as well as runs our annual Top 100 rankings – it’s obviously worth following. It also has the whole “first ever officially licensed Smash circuit by an esports team” tagline, which makes it notable. I’m sure in the eyes of people close to it, this is a very important year for Panda Cup to run successfully. If it goes well, they could reach out to more majors, convince them that it’s worth partnering with them, and add them to the circuit. Reading between the lines, I’m guessing this means paying them loads of money or promising a fair share of advertising (or Nintendo) revenue, though this is just my personal speculation. Point is, if this year goes “well enough,” Panda could bring back its circuit in 2023.

What Does It All Mean?

Now that we understand the basics about each circuit, as well as what’s on the line, I want to talk about the bigger picture. Why has there been so much confusion, lack of knowledge sharing, or, frankly speaking, hype for these two circuits? I struggled to think of an answer myself, so I talked to some of my friends in the scene to gauge their thoughts.

The first friend was by far the most harsh. According to him, each of the different circuit leaderboards just felt like some arbitrary points-based ranking. This, he said, felt irrelevant in the context of MPGR existing in the scene already, something which included everything. He did note, however, that he will “care about the finals, and only if top players go to them,” because then it would be another major. This person also had several different criticisms of the way Smash World Tour marketed itself, as well as a cautious pessimism about anything related to Nintendo playing a direct role in the Melee community.

My other friend was mostly confused. The way he put it, it was cool that we had two more supermajors and some other events on the way, but nothing seemed fundamentally different about the core of the community. These two circuits, as he saw it, were just two other data points, albeit cool ones featuring top players…hopefully.

The last person I talked to was a little more optimistic. She happily welcomed the presence of a truly international circuit in the Smash World Tour, which she saw as giving visibility to players who might otherwise not get a chance to compete with the best of North America. Panda Cup, on the other hand, she was more measured about. Because it’s in its first iteration, she wants to see it do well first so that one day it could hold the weight of a true supermajor and be an annual event.

All three of the people I spoke to had good points. I myself have both talked favorably about the circuits, as well as shared my frustrations with what’s unambiguously been a formal fracturing of the scene. But ultimately, no matter how the circuits turn out, we are getting more Melee tournaments. You may as well follow them for what they are.

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