The Off-Season is back with another installment this upcoming weekend. Now, this event occupies a very interesting space in the tournament ecosystem. On the surface, it looks like a major since it’s going to feature Zain, Cody Schwab, Jmook, aMSa, Mango, and Hungrybox. But it’s not really a major because the ruleset is going to possibly feature banned stages, as well as other shenanigans. At the same time, The Off-Season 2 isn’t just for fun; it will feature a pretty tough open bracket qualifier, which will, at the very least, count for rankings and act as an attached regional. It’s a strange follow-up to a “maybe, maybe not major” in Riptide, but one that will be interesting to watch nonetheless. In a way, it reminds me of Smash the Record, another tournament I remember fondly.
Heading into The Off-Season 2, I’m going to break down 10 players whose appearances in the open bracket are notable enough to warrant mention and catch my eye this weekend. Remember: it’s not necessarily the 10 best players at the event – just ones I wanted to bring up here.
Given that he just finished in second place at Riptide, Wizzrobe is an obvious pick for a player to look out for at The Off-Season 2. We barely saw anything from him last year – and ironically, The Off-Season was one event where we did actually get to see Wizzrobe. When he ended the year outside the Top 10, it was way lower than where most people would have had him on a per-tournament basis. But at the same time, he just didn’t have the volume of accomplishments to be ranked any higher.
Florida results rankings
3. Hbox restream
4. M2K twitch chatting
6. Bobby Scar
And it’s not for debate
— Tafo (@tafokints) September 10, 2023
This year’s been a little different. Wizzrobe hasn’t gone to a bonafide major, yet he’s gone to two big events, one smaller regional and two locals. In that time span, he’s nabbed wins over the likes of Ben, Spark, Salt, Zuppy, Hungrybox, aMSa, Jmook, and even his longtime nemesis Plup. The good news for Wizzrobe is that Plup’s not at The Off-Season 2, so it could very well be possible that it is impossible for Wizzrobe, in the current age, to lose to anyone who is not Plup. And while any matches he may play vs. the top brass are not necessarily 1:1 with serious sets, they could hint at how future showdowns could go.
I began with one Captain Falcon, so I may as well follow that up with mentioning Salt, the highest ranked Falcon of 2023 Summer SSBMRank. It’s worth taking note of this accomplishment. Wizzrobe, S2J, and n0ne have taken turns holding that title at different points over the last nine years. For Salt to break into that group is even more impressive than it looks and puts her on a path to become one of the best Falcon players ever, as crazily early as it may sound.
You can thank her Low Tide City performance earlier this year. There, she beat lloD and Axe, for being a large part of her rise in the rankings, and the same goes for boasting sets over Chem, Zamu and KJH. However, Salt actually hasn’t been very nationally active since July. The last major she attended was LACS 5, where she went 0-3 in pools. The Off-Season could be her big comeback event, as well as jump-start another period of activity for her.
Hax’s presence at The Off-Season 2 definitely caught my attention, even though it’s not necessarily for a positive reason. Though Hax went to Tipped Off, Smash Factor, some regionals, and many Tristate events, it’s worth noting that most majors have quietly upheld their indefinite bans on him. This was ultimately part of what led to his exclusion from the summer rankings, which, contrary to the extremely annoying feedback I saw online, was not due to a conspiracy. Instead, it had more to do with following precedent from past decisions on banned players from majors (ie: Mafia).
The full circumstances behind Hax’s tournament eligibility are beyond the scope of this column. For now, it’s worth noting that he has taken sets over Chem, S2J, Spark, Trif, Zuppy, Aklo, and Hungrybox for this year. As a result, he is one of the leading contenders in the open bracket. Obviously, his tournament performance here exists in a vacuum, but because it’s unusual to see him at an event like this one, it is notable. In my mind, it is better to acknowledge his presence at the event for what it is than to ignore it.
If you’re wondering where dear friend of Melee Stats Shephard Lima has been, it’s honestly just been Verdugo. His relationship with competing in 2023 is clearly in a different place than it was last year, and nothing shows this more than the fact that he actually lost a single Verdugo. But it wasn’t a reason to panic; instead, it just convinced Fiction that it was time to start farming SoCal with Fox – or, more specifically, Soonsay Jr., which is different from his actual Fox. I know. It’s confusing.
Won lawless. Scored on the 2 minute challenge at 5 minutes and 45 seconds (almost all of that was zeo I had less than 2 minutes before i played him LOLL insanely stressful playing like that but i can feel soonsay jr growing as a result 😀
— Fiction | 69% Apparel (@FictionIRL) September 17, 2023
Which Fiction is going to be here? The Fox? The Falco? Some combination of the two? Will the Sheik enter the mix? Or the vaunted Fiction Peach? I don’t know, but the long story short about his year is that he excelled at regionals, beat Spark a bunch, had an amazing Genesis, but had a couple setbacks at majors. His rank just about reflected him clearly deprioritizing competing this year. At the same time, in the words of himself, Fiction would clearly be higher by skill. I normally hate agreeing with “he has that dog in him” level reasoning, but in his case, I’m pretty on board. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him suddenly trounce everyone here.
Spark is an interesting fellow. He had a strong first half of the year where firmly established his own spot on the summer rank list at No. 21 via wins over Aklo, KoDoRiN, Polish, and Salt. By the end of his LACS performance, where he nabbed another set over Salt, Spark seemed like his stock was only going to rise. Since then, however, and in somewhat similar fashion to last year, when controller issues affected his results, he’s just had some rough draws.
With two losses to Panda at his last two majors, as well as dropped sets to Frenzy, Khryke, and Justus, Spark’s taken a nosedive in his results. Although everything from GOML to Riptide has been unambiguously “bad” relative to previous expectations, a strong performance at The Off-Season 2 could give Spark a boost heading into the fall. Everybody goes through slumps and Spark’s shown the ability to break through them before, so it could very well happen here.
Who is the most unpredictable player in the world? In my mind, it’s Skerzo. Additionally, I have to say that I think it’s pretty great that Skerzo, of all people, is here. The best way I can put it: the “vibe” of The Off-Season is very much one that seems to match his “vibe” as a player. I could see Skerzo doing anything from 3-0’ing Wizzrobe to finishing 1-2. As far as his year goes, the Jmook win obviously brought him from Top 50-contending to just outside the Top 30.
Out of the Blue is coming up on November 4th!
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— Chicagoland Melee (@MeleeChicago) September 16, 2023
However, what Skerzo needs to keep himself there is either another big win (which is conceivable) or more sets over his peers. On an adjacent note, and just based on his results, it seems like Skerzo thrives most when he’s in spots against fellow top players (like Ben or Jflex) or against the best in the world (like Jmook or Zuppy), but he tends to struggle against the players beneath him. At an open qualifier that’s basically just a bunch of Skerzos, it’ll be fascinating to see how he fares.
I always hate it when people retroactively claim to have known that a crazy upset was going to happen all along. I truly believe it to be among the most annoying tendencies in the world – and people did it when MOF defeated Jmook. Nobody could have expected her to defeat a player who was briefly in contention for No. 1. It would have been insane to foresee the rise of MOF in the way that it happened.
With that said, defeating Jmook (and Hax) has basically defined her entire year on a national level. I swear I’m not being a jerk when I say this – those two huge accomplishments catapulted her from hidden boss to Top 50. Although she’s probably still a safe bet to make the final Top 100 list by the end of the year, she could retain her spot in the Top 50 or around that range with a good showing here.
God, remember Genesis, when a Colorado player made a crazy upset over two of California’s best players? I am, of course, talking about when Fishbait shocked the world at Genesis 7, where he defeated null and Kalamazhu to finish in 49th place. Nobody remembers this run, but I do. The same goes for when he went to Apex two years later just to defeat Mot$. It’s like he’s a perpetual Top 50-slayer hovering around like a ghost at whatever he attends.
Fishbait did have a rough Major Upset where Alberto sent him home early at 33rd place, but he followed it up with a strong Carnival Clash where he beat nut and GOML top eight-placer Khalid. Combined with wins over JI and Chem at Smash Con, we have a player who could sneak onto Top 100 by the end of the year with a couple more wins over ballot contenders at The Off-Season 2.
The legend of ckyulmiqnudaetr is a long and somewhat confusing one. It was one thing when he was known as a top Michigan ICs player, (Quang) but then he suddenly busted out the Fox in a tournament and beat Jakenshaken. After that, he basically stopped attending events and became content to farm people in iron mans and give Top 100-level practice to fellow top players with numerous characters. To be clear, he still does that, but, as most of you know, he’s settled on Donkey Kong as his character of choice.
It’s been a year of highs and lows for him. Starting with Genesis, where he beat bobby big ballz and Kalvar, he then went on to struggle at BOBC before then shocking the world with a Soonsay upset at GOML. He then had quiet showings at Smash Con and Shine, but given his ability to steal sets from Top 25 and Top 50 players, I would not be surprised to see him take a step forward here and effectively cement his spot on the Top 100 in the process.
After looking Top 25 in the world for a brief moment last year, null’s taken a bit of a step back from competition this year. It hasn’t only been in his performances; it’s in the fact that he doesn’t attend as many big events as he used to. But amid it all, he’s still shown signs of remaining a strong player.
Take, for instance, the fact that he beat Kevin Maples (a similarly strong Top 100-caliber Fox player) and Fishbait (in the runback of Genesis 7) at Super Smash Con. He also nabbed a few more notable wins at LACS 5, where he beat Lucky, CPU0 and Asashi, who all seem poised to make the list this year. These are not necessarily standout wins on their own, but cumulatively they are impressive. Besides, this is the player who beat Fiction at Verdugo. If you want a standout win, it doesn’t get much better than that.