Happy Halloween! Smash Summit 14’s coming up and it’s slated to be one of the most stacked tournaments of the year. With the entire “Elite Eight,” Wizzrobe, KoDoRiN, Axe, Pipsqueak, Soonsay, Ralph, Jflex, and Professor Pro in attendance, this edition of Summit has shades of Smash Summit 12, which considered the most competitive iteration ever. It’s possible that each of these players could take at least one set from the entire field. I can’t wait for it.
Just like what I’ve done for past supermajors, including Summit, I’m going to break down each of the attendee’s chances of doing well. I will group the players into different tiers based on how I expect them to perform within this competitive field (importantly, this is not necessarily their overall ranking). At the end of the column, I’ll make my pick for whom I think will win the tournament.
You know a tournament is stacked when a literal Top 70 player of all-time is at the very bottom of it. Professor Pro is in the unfortunate spot that Free Palestine was at Smash Summit 12. By the way, that guy ended up winning a set vs. KoDoRiN. All things considered, is it impossible to imagine Professor Pro beating Ralph, Jflex or even Soonsay? Nah. Everybody else would be pretty difficult, although he could put up a fight vs. Wizzrobe.
Jflex sneakily has good underdog chances against this field. He technically won his only head-to-head with Pipsqueak earlier this year, and eleven months ago, he stole a set from Jmook at the Smash World Tour Championships. I think he’d also be a formidable opponent for Professor Pro, whom we saw drop a set to Ben earlier this year, as well as Soonsay. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to see Jflex also nabbing a set from KoDoRiN either. Ralph, who’s beaten Spark, would be pretty hard though, and Axe has looked dominant vs. Sheiks just below the top level. The bar is just that high at an event like this.
One of the craziest region-specific storylines of 2022 has been the reign of terror that Ralph‘s had on the rest of NorCal. It was funny to see his Pikachu take sets from Umarth and Typhoon – ha ha; Pikachu beats Marth, etc. – but I must admit that I was totally caught off guard when Ralph won Nightlife over SFAT and Kalamazhu, keeping the Pikachu around to complement the Fox. Among his peers at this tournament, I’d favor Ralph over both Professor Pro and Jflex, consider him a slight underdog vs. Soonsay, KoDoRiN, Pipsqueak and…wait a second. Are we going to see a Pikachu ditto between Ralph and Axe? No way, right?
If the year ended literally right now, KoDoRiN would finish in my Top 10. However, this field of competitors is absolutely brutal for his chances. There’s not a single person seeded above him whom I would consider KoDoRiN to have ‘even’ odds against, let alone winning, and that’s without going into the fact that Axe and Ralph are two horrifying opponents for any Marth player. Although I would favor KoDoRiN against everyone else, Jflex, Soonsay, and Pipsqueak definitely have relatively good chances of beating him.
Just Outside Top 8
You’d be hard pressed to find players who are “hotter” right now than Soonsay, who just did relatively well at the Ludwig Smash Invitational and made top eight at The Big House 10 before that. I’d be thrilled to see Soonsay take on Leffen in a rematch of their Big House set, and he has a nonzero shot at maybe even stealing a set from iBDW. Given how strong he’s looked vs. Captain Falcon this year, I additionally believe in Soonsay’s chances against Wizzrobe. The one thing that gives me pause with him is that I haven’t seen him vs. Pikachu or Sheik this year, and both characters have relatively high representation at this tourney.
I swear I’m not just a homer for Pipsqueak. This field has a lot of relatively favorable underdog matchups for himself. Fox dittos, Pikachu, Falco, Captain Falcon – these are all matchups he historically does well in or has trended upward in. I do think that Jmook would be tough, and it’s worth noting that Jflex did beat Pipsqueak earlier this year. Further, Zain and KoDoRiN still look like hard roadblocks. But at the very worst case interpretation, Pipsqueak is a reasonable pick for taking down Axe and Ralph, if beating both Axe and Swift before has any predictive value. Plus, he beat Mango.
Is Axe back or what? Since having the worst stretch of his career, he’s come back in full force, taking sets from Jmook, Wizzrobe, lloD, Pipsqueak, SluG, and Ginger. He straight up looks like a Top 15 player again and could rise further. Were you to pick a time for him to break losing streaks vs. the likes of iBDW, Leffen, Mango, and Zain (!!!!), it would probably be now (although I feel obliged to mention that it’s been a minute since his last wins against each of these players). The only players in this field whom I think are “too hard” for me to buy him beating right now are Hungrybox and Plup.
What a weird time to be a Wizzrobe fan. It looks like he’s still fairly reliable against the field below top eight. At the same time, his previously “favorable” matchups within the top eight – Leffen, aMSa and Hungrybox – have turned the other way, and we’ve seen nothing to indicate that he’s back in a position to where he’d be favored over them. Meanwhile, each of iBDW, Mango, and Plup look as difficult as ever. If I had to pick a relatively good ‘unknown’ for Wizzrobe, it’s probably his ability to potentially upset Zain, but that’s asking a lot.
Top 8 Contenders
We’ve rarely seen Plup, so I’m putting him at the “bottom” of my “can win a 2022 supermajor” tier of players. I should acknowledge three of his incredibly strong head-to-heads though: 1-0 vs. Zain, 4-3 vs. Hungrybox, and 1-0 vs. aMSa. To balance it out, I’ll mention that he’s also 0-2 vs. Mango, 1-1 vs. Jmook, and has dropped sets to Magi and Ginger this year. Among the rest of the field, I feel confident in him vs. Wizzrobe, Axe, KoDoRiN, Jflex, Professor Pro. Everyone else is either a coin flip or someone he’s moderately favored against.
How insane is it to consider Jmook amid a “slump” when he’s basically just continued to make top eights? Unfortunately, the bar he’s set for himself is still damn high. A particularly discouraging sign for him is that he’s lost each of his most recent sets vs. Zain, Hungrybox, iBDW, Leffen, and Plup. On the other hand, it’s Jmook. It wasn’t long ago when I considered him the most reliable of the top eight against the field. Not only could he just beat everyone; he could easily turn it around vs. those players I just mentioned.
Mango‘s performance at the Ludwig Smash Invitational is one of the more confusing Mango showings I’ve seen. How did he beat Zain and iBDW, but lose to Pipsqueak, aMSa, and SluG for seventh place? It reminded me of his Smash Summit 6, where he beat Armada and Hungrybox in pools before losing to Zain and Hungrybox again for seventh. All in all, I don’t really know what to make of him right now, although I’m going to err on the side of optimism.
Did aMSa finally return to Earth? Honestly, I’m going to say no. Looking at his Ludwig Smash Invitational, he still did great – beating Mango, Axe, and Joshman is nothing to scoff at. Though he was eliminated by Wizzrobe, dropping sets to Jmook and moky as well, aMSa hasn’t shown anything to be worried about as far as his chances of winning this tournament goes. Him being around here speaks more to how highly I view the players above him than it does for proving a regression at all. I’m convinced he’s top five.
Out of people that have attended as much or more than him, iBDW has had the best head-to-heads. Although he finished in ninth place at the Ludwig Smash Invitational, it came at the hands of Leffen, Zain, and Mango, three fellow major champions of this year. I’m not willing to say he’s suddenly in a “slump,” considering he still has a 3-2 record vs. Zain this year, as well as dominant head-to-heads within the top eight tier of players. If iBDW won this event, he would become the first three-peat Summit champion since Armada.
Per Hungrybox standards, Lost Tech City and The Big House 10 were disappointing showings, but the Ludwig Smash Invitational was a reminder that he’s still in contention for best player in the world. His fans have to be thrilled with him taking sets over Zain and Leffen, two of his toughest opponents in the field right now. Continuing to maintain positive records over Jmook (7-1), aMSa (2-1), and Mango (4-3) while making progress against former demons would go a long way for his chances of winning this event.
By winning the Ludwig Smash Invitational, Zain took the lead in “big event” wins this year, as it was his fourth. The way he did it was especially encouraging too, as he reverse 3-0’d his career kryptonite yet again, turned around a three-set losing streak to iBDW, adapted to beat Hungrybox twice, and beat Leffen in a much anticipated rematch from Battle of BC 4. The one negative of that event was dropping yet another set to Mango’s Fox, whom he’ll need to find answers for out of people within this field. Other than that, it’d take someone with truly impeccable, stellar head-to-heads to supplant Zain as the favorite to win this event. On that note…
My Pick To Win
Want to know the biggest storyline of the Ludwig Smash Invitational that nobody’s talking about? It’s Leffen‘s return to form. He’s always been a player of incredible highs and baffling lows – so this may not sound like anything to report on, but sans literal majors that he’s won, you’d be hard pressed to find a more encouraging showing from Leffen in recent times than his most recent tournament. Until the very end, he was playing some of the best Melee of his life, beating multiple people who had previously looked difficult or outright beaten him in 2022. It was ironic that Zain and Hungrybox, two of his most favorable matchups within the top tier of players, put an end to the otherwise spectacular run.
To be fair, how many times have we heard this story before? Too many. Leffen’s year has also been a mixed bag. He disappointed at Pound, had an even worse showing at Smash Summit 13, blew everyone’s mind at Battle of BC 4, shit the bed at The Big House 10, barely got on track at DreamHack Rotterdam 2022, and then mostly looked amazing for most of the Ludwig Smash Invitational. I had him outside the top five after Summit, voted him back into the top five for the MPGR, thought he looked like the clear No. 8 after his dreadful Big House, and now I’m convinced he’s going to win Smash Summit 14.
You have every right to ignore what I’m about to say. I’ve been all over the place with this guy, from expecting him to destroy everyone to remaining skeptical about his chances. But if we’re talking head-to-heads – the thing that matters more for evaluating anyone’s future chances than placements – where are we supposed to be scared right now? Leffen is even, up on, or heavily favored vs. every single other player in this field whom he’s played multiple sets against. I’m not going to discount Soonsay’s chances of beating him again, but it’s too soon to say Leffen is ‘disfavored’ in a rematch. The only player whom I’m convinced might be a long-term problem for Leffen is Mango, who is also arguably the most volatile player in the field.
Zain is a coin flip, maybe even one we wouldn’t be surprised to see Leffen take the head-to-head lead over for their rivalry, given the dynamics of the matchup. Hungrybox, in spite of winning their last set, remains a player whom I have zero doubts about Leffen’s ability to defeat. aMSa and Leffen split sets recently, but we saw Leffen destroy him at Battle of BC 4. I wouldn’t go as far as to call him significantly favored, but beating each of Jmook and iBDW in his last sets with them has to be a promising sign. I’m not touching Leffen vs. Plup with a ten and a half foot pole; it’s been too long since they’ve played and I’d believe any result that came from a set with them, although Leffen’s been more active so I’d have to favor him.
Examining the field beneath the top eight, I grow further confident in Leffen. He won his last set vs. Wizzrobe, which is another positive considering that Wizzrobe previously used to be a bit of a thorn in his side. I have zero reason to think he should be worried about KoDoRiN, whom he handily trounced in their last meetup. I already talked about Soonsay, and while it would be selfishly awesome to see Pipsqueak finally defeat a 100 percent Leffen, even he would tell you there’s no reason to doubt an in-practice Leffen in the ditto. Axe and Ralph could be a little challenging, but I’m still taking Leffen over them long-term. Professor Pro, bless his soul, is someone Leffen would beat in his sleep. If Jflex shocked him, it wouldn’t be the biggest upset of all-time, but I’d still favor Leffen handily.
No matter how you cut it, Leffen has the best head-to-heads within this field of players. I’m going with Big Leff as my pick for Smash Summit 14 champion.