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Published September 13, 2021

After years of grinding locals, traveling out of region, staying active during a scene-wide transition to online, and endless heartbreak, iBDW finally won the big one. On Sunday, the Tristate Fox won Ohio’s Riptide, his first Melee major ever, and Melee’s first offline open major since January 2020’s Genesis 7.

By winning Riptide, iBDW joins 17 other players to ever win such an event. Four of those came in the last three years, with himself, Axe (Smash Summit 8), Wizzrobe (Smash ‘N’ Splash 5), and Zain (Shine 2018) being the most recent newcomers to winning majors. In the few years before that, Plup (DreamHack Atlanta 2017) and Leffen (BEAST 5) had done it, while Armada was the only one. For what it’s worth, 2008-2010 had three: Mango (Pound 3), Hungrybox (Apex 2010), and PPMD (Revival of Melee 3).

In other news over the weekend, Medz won Saturday’s Melee @ Espacio Cultural Artmósferas in Mexico. Meanwhile, Blassy won Chile’s Melee Resurrection, and Nicki took home the gold at Germany’s HTS 7.

Follow the Melee Stats Twitter account for daily coverage of all the results you need to know.

The Legend of Flash

Before I knew who Flash was, I ran into him on Slippi. Long story short: it was ugly. When I looked up his tag and saw him merely recorded as a former Ohio power ranked player, I immediately felt dejected. If a relative unknown like Flash looked like PPMD’s ghost against me, I was truly hopeless. I thought this until I suddenly saw him temporarily beat up the real PPMD on stream.

Turns out that Flash’s huge jump in improvement happened around the same time as when he beat me through a wall. He mostly relegated himself to playing friendlies against other strong players, studying Falco, and grinding unranked. As much as I wish I could act like I knew about Flash all along, I have to give someone else credit here: sp99. He’s a common poster in the Melee Stats Podcast Discord, notable Falco labber, and has constantly talked up Flash (and Frenzy).

I mention this because, contrary to what you might expect, Flash was not a Netplay tournament grinder. Riptide marks only the second event he’s entered since last October. The fact that Flash could casually beat Ginger, Juicebox and Slowking – it’s insane. Props to him.

Axe’s Losers Run

“Former Summit champion loses to a Fox player in round one pools” was a headline you could have semi-anticipated for an online tournament. That wasn’t the case for a tournament like Riptide. Heading into it, I remember seeing Secrets in Axe’s path, remembering that Secrets played with Tyler Swift a lot and briefly thinking, “what if?” I ignored the possibility in my head, if only because I wanted to think that Axe would clean his play up for LAN.

When it did happen, I looked at Axe’s bracket and gasped. Well, to tell you the truth, I didn’t audibly gasp, but I did in spirit. From Ice Climbers to Sheik and Peach, it seemed like Axe was handed a loser’s bracket from hell. It looked ominous when I noticed that Sneker had taken a game from him. Imagine my reaction when I read messages from the Melee Stats Podcast Discord all talking about how Trail just needed to take one more stock to send Axe home at 65th place.

But after surviving a game-five scare versus Kurv, Axe turned on the jets. He solidly 3-0’d Fluid, beat Harry Pogger in similar fashion, ran over Zamu, staved off a red-hot Wally, beat Krudo (who had his own excellent tournament), and sent Logan to the cleaners before running out of gas vs. SFAT. To be honest, I’m still not one hundred percent sold on the Smash Summit 8 champion ever winning another major, but overcoming a very difficult loser’s path for him should, at the very least, serve as a reminder that Axe is still quite good at Melee.

The Top-Level Playing Field Is Harder For Hungrybox

If this were online, I’m positive we would have seen Hungrybox finish outside of top eight. His winner’s path to top eight involved BZimm, Zamu, and Ben – one player who beat him online, someone else who leveled up over the last year, and his former weekly demon. Although he didn’t win the runback against iBDW in winner’s, Hungrybox managed to then take down another kryptonite of his in loser’s quarterfinals before beating SFAT and losing a thriller against Plup in loser’s finals. Sounds good, right?

By eye test and results alike, he definitely seems better offline, but I’m actually going to take the pessimistic view. It’s going to be really difficult for Hungrybox to ever return to his glory days. Today, the top level seems way more uniquely geared toward giving him more consistent issues. Remember: Plup was someone who Hungrybox once won 10 straight sets over, usually deep in bracket. A future where Plup’s Sheik starts taking even 40 percent of their sets is one where Hungrybox has to balance preparing for him with also trying to figure out Zain, Mango, iBDW, Wizzrobe, and aMSa. Oh, and Leffen too.

Come to think of it, how many times have there been this many people in the field who can beat Hungrybox offline? Save for stretches when he genuinely trounced everyone, when Hungrybox was No. 1 in the world, it often felt like he’d win by virtue of having the least amount of bracket demons relative to everyone else – not dominating the toughest opponents. Wheat, Ambi, and I used to have this running gag that Hungrybox wasn’t actually the best player because most his wins came at smaller majors. At these tournaments, he beat opponents we already knew he’d dominate while the couple people who could consistently challenge him either didn’t show up, got upset, or DQ’d.

To be fair, this is admittedly a delineation which makes us sound like bitter Puff haters. Fair. At the same time, you should take note of the grain of truth to the underlying point I’m bringing up here. If there’s seven or eight people in the field that can beat Hungrybox semi-consistently instead of three or four, that is going to be a big problem.

The Star of the Show

I won’t mince words: although iBDW was my choice to pick Riptide, I had my doubts about him winning this tournament. On a superstitious level, everything seemed too in place. There was no Zain, no Mango, and the three other chief contenders to take this event were people who iBDW held solid winning records against. Surely someone like Logan, KoDoRiN, Wizzrobe, Axe, or Ginger was going to upset him. For what it’s worth, I knew iBDW’s projected bracket path only had Axe in it, and I would still favor iBDW in that matchup, but it was still scary.

I say this because the story of iBDW over the last two years has been one of incremental progress, hard work, and also brutal doses of reality. It’s a journey that most Melee players can fundamentally relate to, but it applies to iBDW more than anyone else in the scene outside of Leffen and SFAT (at least long-term). “So close; yet so far,” doesn’t even describe the amount of times to which iBDW would make a deep bracket run only to get smacked down by Zain or Mango – or get upset early and claw his way back to top eight before running out of steam.

iBDW really needed this. Smash Summit 11 was an unambiguous disappointing return to LAN. Fifth place with losses to two people he usually beat over rollback and being eliminated by the same guy who whooped him over quarantine – it was as if the tournament’s outcomes were manufactured by some higher power with the sole purpose of convincing iBDW to give up; as if the universe was trying to tell him that his time grinding rollback tournaments, streaming Melee, and taking this game seriously was never going to pay off.

But last weekend, it finally did. I couldn’t think of a better way to start a fresh and exciting era of open offline majors than to see one of its most dedicated competitors get rewarded for his hard work. Maybe Riptide is just the start of a new chapter in iBDW’s inspiring Melee career.

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