A week and a half ago, fellow Super Smash Bros. Melee historian Catastrophe and I wrote about the Top Ten of Melee’s golden year: 2007. This week, we’re looking at the dark ages of 2008, when the game’s sequel, Super Smash Bros. Brawl nearly killed it out.
Before we get into our honorable mentions for our RetroSSBMRank – and our Top Ten rankings – you have to understand the extent of how Brawl’s release nearly killed Melee’s chances of having a unified international scene. It’s only one example, but consider the case of the Mass Madness series. Once a hotbed for smashers in and out of New England, in 2008, the series barely drew any people for Melee within New England, save for the old guard. Instead, Brawl was the community gathering unbelievably large crowds.
For Catastrophe and me, both Melee-centric writers that have followed Melee’s competitive scene since Apex 2013 (him a little bit earlier), we’ve briefly known of a time when Brawl’s competitive scene was still very much in the limelight. Even still, reading about Melee’s seemingly dying days as part of our research was surreal enough – seeing all the hype, disappointment and massive popularity of Brawl back then was even more unbelievable. It even gave us this hilarious classic Scar thread, which discussed the differences between competition and competitive.
Here are our honorable mentions for top Melee players of 2008. Italicized are Catastrophe’s descriptions, while text in normal font are mine. Once again: think of this a “living document.” This is based on the data we could find, as well as, admittedly a fair bit of speculation given the lack of national tournaments.
Our Honorable Mentions
Kashif “Teh_Spamerer” Qureshi
While many reading will have no idea who the man known as Spam is, anyone who played him can say he was quite a force to be reckoned with. A strong spacie player from Jersey, Spam did not travel out of region all year, but had strong local results, with even to positive records against Cactuar, Jman and Eggm, as well as a win over Chu Dat.
Shane Walter “Eggz” Johns
In a time where Ka-Master was the undisputed best in the PNW, Eggz was the clear second-best player. Actually taking a singular set off of Ka-Master, he consistently defeated his contemporaries, really only ever losing to the Master of Luigi himself. At Pound, Eggz beat HugS, Dope thrice and Colbol en route to a 13th place finish.
Charles “Cactuar” Meighen
The Tri-State legend was a force to be reckoned with in 2008, being one of the top competitors in the Tri-State area, arguably the strongest region at the time. With wins over Jman, Eggm, Spam, Vidjogamer and Darkrain, Cactus was a scary opponent to fight no matter who you were.
Elam “Lambchops” Ucles
Before changing his tag to “Beerman” later in his career, the wacky laser-up-close and balls to the wall Florida Falco was one of the world’s most exciting players, taking a set off Cort in FAST 1 pools and going back and forth with Colbol and Hungrybox, among other top Florida players. Westballz has said before that the Florida Falco was one of his favorite players.
Timothy “Eggm” Cody
Before becoming infamous for an incident involving a certain New York teenage Captain Falcon player, Eggm’s Falco and Fox were on the rise, winning tournaments over the likes of KoreanDJ late into the year, as well as competing with Cactuar and Jman for a spot below Mew2King and PC Chris for Tri-State players. Eggm was also an excellent teams player, finishing third with Swiftbass at FAST 1, just behind Mew2King and Cort, along with DaShizWiz and Hungrybox.
David “Darkrain” John
Darkrain had been getting better and better as Melee’s lifespan extended and by 2008 was quite easily the best Falcon player in the world. With an extraordinary 7th place at Pound 3, defeating PC Chris, Eggz and Drephen, Darkrain shocked many and cemented himself as one of the best in the world.
Adam “Armada” Lindgren:
Armada finished third at Epita Smash Arena 2, the largest tournament of 2008 and Europe’s premier international major. Here, he beat legendary Japanese player Masashi and only was double eliminated by Captain Jack. At the age of 15 years-old, Sweden’s No. 1 was already beginning to revolutionize Peach’s punish game, as seen by his four-stock of Masashi’s attempt at a Marth counterpick.
Ryota “Captain Jack” Yoshida
While the old school Japanese legend was far past in prime at the time of 2008, this became the only time Captain Jack could safely be called the best in Japan. Getting second at ESA 2, double eliminating Armada, is more than enough to cement his spot in our honorable mentions.
Bronson “DaShizWiz” Layton:
We were surprised to find only two tournaments all year that Shiz entered, with a third place finish at FAST 1, losing to Cort and Mew2King (in “that set in Florida“) at Florida’s largest tournament at the time and a GIGABITS tournament in January, when he lost to his brother and training partner KeepSpeedN. However, his unanimously agreed on position as Florida’s best smasher, along with his status as arguably the world’s freshest Falco main, keeps him in our list as a mention, even if he wasn’t very active.
Amsah “Amsah” Augustuszoon
Much like in 2007, both of us have once again elected to place Amsah in the HMs due to the lack of data. While he was unable to play against the USA’s best, he was still the undisputed No. 1 in Europe, winning ESA 2 over the likes of Armada and Japan’s best, Captain Jack and Masashi. It’s clear Amsah was elite, but it took longer before the Dutch Sheik could prove himself.
10. Jesus “Jman” Fernandez
When looking at Jman’s 2008, it’s a tale of two stories: one of a guy who placed 33rd at Pound 3 and was inconsistent in locals during the first half of the year versus someone who, in the second half of the year, beat the likes of Cactuar, Eggm, Cort and even Mew2King in tournament? Although he started off 2008 as just another Fox player, Jman was the Fox player everyone was watching heading into 2009. Think of him like 2007 Mango: someone who didn’t begin the year as a consistent top level threat, but found themselves in a prime position to shoot up the rankings, as well as scare the best players.
9. Ammon “Luigi Ka-Master” Styles
A legend of the game, Ka-Master was a dominant force from the Pacific Northwest in 2007 and continued to be dominant in 2008. Decimating his locals in both Melee and Brawl when he appeared, Ka-Master defeated his contemporaries enough to the point where it was said they had a “Ka-Master problem.” His only time traveling out of region was a significant one, as he placed secnd at one of the biggest tournaments of the year, UCLA V, defeating Lucky, Zhu and HugS, only barely losing to HugS in the runback in Grand Finals.
8. Hugo “HugS” Gonzalez
Though he just missed our list last year, this year he was even better. Being firmly No. 2 in SoCal prior to his break for Brawl, HugS only ever to lost Mango locally, defeating everybody else in the region, including Zhu, Lucky, DEHF, Mike Haze and SilentSpectre. At Pound 3, HugS was able to garner a solid ninth place, taking names like Eggm, Plank, Sensei, Scar and Dope. However, HugS’ most impressive feat had to be his win at the SoCal super regional, UCLA V: Melee Strikes Back. Here, after losing to Ka-Master in Winners Semis, HugS made a massive losers bracket run, defeating Mango, SilentSpectre, Zhu, and making an immortal comeback with all of Southern California on his back during a victory over Ka-Master in Grand Finals despite holding 4-1 deficit in the best of nine.
7. Daniel “KoreanDJ” Jung
Although KoreanDJ didn’t go out to much outside of Massachusetts, he still attended local Mass Madness’ every now and then, winning one in July and another in December to close out the year. Losses to Darc and Eggm show that the once impervious Sheik/Fox/Marth player wasn’t the same player from 2006 or 2007, but KoreanDJ’s two set wins over Cort illustrate how even an old-school legend of the game could still hang with its top players. On another fun note, KoreanDJ also began his short Brawl career successfully, winning two Nintendo-sponsored tournaments in early 2008.
6. Daniel “Chu Dat” Rodriguez
Chu Dat started off the year by double eliminating PC Chris at Rochester’s Final Smash. Following this, he stayed strong with a fifth place finish at Pound 3, including wins over Hax, Forward, Wobbles, Silent Wolf and Darkrain. His final tournament of note was “The Greatest Tourney Since Brawl Came Out,” where he defeated Cactuar, Hungrybox, Jman and Eggm to prove his dominance over the East Coast’s elite. Despite some inactivity and inconsistency to his year, with dropped sets to Skler, Chillin, Spam and XIF, among others, Chu still showed that he was more than capable of competing with the top level of talent .
5. Christopher “PC Chris” Szygiel
Remembered mostly for his time as a spacies metagame innovator, PC Chris concluded the year as our No. 5, with a Fox, Falco and Peach that still had arguments to be among the best in the world at each character. His character versatility helped him place highly within both New England and Tri-State, as he took two sets off Cort, won a Mass Madness, won LOBSTER2 and finished third at Pound 3.
In a scene that looked like it was on life support, PC Chris’ willingness to still travel and compete with out-of-region opponents was remarkable on its own, giving us a bigger set of data to work with in comparison to a player like Ka-Master. Another fun fact: PC Chris was also a proficient Brawl Snake player.
4. Christopher “Azen Zagenite” McMullen
Azen started the year as MDVA’s No. 1 in-region player, and continued to be so throughout the year. With a double elimination of Chu Dat early on, Azen also had a great run to seventh at another tournament in Pound 3, defeating Mike Haze, RaynEX, Chu Dat, Forward, Wobbles, Eggm and more, with no upset losses. Compare this to losses held by PC Chris and Chu Dat at the same tournament.
Although Azen only lost to our three highest ranked players and defeated everyone he faced ranked lower on our list, his lack of data does not lend itself to being ranked any higher. However, Azen’s continued dominance in MD/VA and consistency throughout the few tournaments he was able to attend still prove he was an elite talent.
3. Paul “Cort” Rogoza
Based on the data we found, Cort was the clear-cut No. 3 in the world. Even with a few relative bumps on his record to DoH at Pound 3, Lambchops at FAST 1, and HBK late into the year at XII.E.S.T.I.C.L.E., Cort still placed fourth, split for first and finished second at each respective tourney. He even beat Mew2King in Falcon dittos at FAST 1 and Mass Madness 8, for whatever it’s worth. Personally, we thought the victories were still impressive.
Cort ended the year with a set victory over Shiz, a 4-2 record over PC Chris and additional sets over Azen, Vidjo and Jman, showcasing his varied matchup proficiency and consistency. It’s a pity that Cort’s prime coincided with Brawl’s release and the rise of both Mew2King and Mango – the No. 1 of Connecticut back then is one of Melee’s most underrated players of all time and someone “doc kids” would be smart to read up on.
2. Joseph “MaNg0” Marquez
Before the Mango fanboys attack us in full force, consider the following: even during his legendary Pound 3 run, Mango lost to the likes of Vist, Plank and Sensei in pools at the same tournament. Pools losses may not mean as much as losses in bracket (which for Mango includes another loss to Silent Wolf in Link dittos), but a month after winning Pound 3, Mango finished fifth at UCLA V: Melee Strikes Back, losing to HugS and DEHF in what we now know as classic Mango “bustering out.” Even at the beginning of the year, Mango dropped a set to DEHF at Shuffle & Cut. Regardless of if these were sandbagging losses, they still stand out as sour notes in what otherwise was a stellar year.
After UCLA V, Mango won every set he played, ending the year as unquestionably the best on the West Coast. But that’s not even his most impressive part of the year. His Pound 3 losers’ run had him beat each of the East Coast’s best at the time, including members of 2007’s RetroSSBMRank in Azen, Chu Dat, Cort, PC Chris and Mew2King (twice), as well as Cactuar and Forward. On the same weekend that the 2007 Giants upset the 2007 Patriots in the Super Bowl, Mango’s stunningly miraculous run single-handedly raised Jigglypuff on the tier list and brought himself to the national conversation for best player in the world. His Pound 3 run is indubitably the greatest losers bracket run in Melee history and could alone be an argument for placing him as your number one for the year, even if it took a bit of luck. However…
1. Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman
When it comes to determining the best of any sport, you have to look at the whole competitive spectrum, not a single matchup or tournament. Moreover, if you’re looking retrospectively at a player in the past, it’s important to think about what their peers thought at the time and try to eliminate any kind of hindsight or bias when it comes to an objective analysis. Even with his humiliating second-place finish behind Mango at Pound 3, Mew2King was considered the world’s best player by the end of the year.
In fact, after Pound 3, Mew2King placed first or split for first at every single tourney he entered in 2008. Just think about that for a moment: the only non-sandbagging set he lost was to Jman late into the year at a bi-weekly, before quickly 3-0’ing him back. After having a losing record against Chu Dat earlier in his career, Mew2King finished 2008 with a 3-0 record against his former nemesis. When it came to consistency, data, perceived skill and high placings, nobody was on Mew2King’s level for the whole year – and this time, he only lost four serious sets all year (Azen, Mango twice and Jman). He ends our RetroSSBMRank as 2008’s best player for a consecutive year. The question was if the king could stay on his throne for another year or if he had finally reached an unsolvable problem in Mango.
Hate our list? Love our list? Wanna follow us smash historians on Twitter either way? Tweet us your thoughts, to @ssbmjecht and @GCH_Catastrophe! Here’s our “living document” of data we’d be willing to add to!
Question, how did Mango lose 4 different sets in Pound 3 but still be left in the bracket? I’ve never heard of a tournament being run like that. You usually lose twice and you’re out.