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Published June 1, 2021

With the number of vaccinations across the United States increasing each day, the last week in the Melee community was mostly defined by the return of LAN events across the country. In Pennsylvania, SluG won the PA Melee Invitational, which featured 23 of the best players across the state. Additionally came the Neti Melee Invitational; a similar event held in St. Louis, which Travioli won over OG Swaglord.

As far as notable Netplay results go, this week was a quiet one. The best way to summarize it is the following.

  • Aklo won a weekly with Link and BM’d a bunch of people in the game by camping and taunting them.
  • People called it lame.
  • Apparently some people took it too far.
  • Aklo complained about getting unfairly hated on for playing BM and said he does it to calm himself down.

Then, Aklo won an East Coast Rollback Rumble with Young Link and instead of calling his BM wack, people pretended to be really excited about it. It was a slow news week.

For more news from over the weekend, follow the Melee Stats Twitter account for daily coverage of all the results you need to know.

The Beauty of Exhibitions

Earlier in the year, Golden Guardians had announced the Octagon 2: an exhibition-style event most notably featuring a first-to-five show match between Zain and Mango. It’s the sequel to the first Octagon held just about a year ago.

I personally love exhibition events in Melee. A huge reason why I got into the scene was because of the excitement surrounding the Apex 2014 Salty Suite. What makes an exhibition compelling isn’t even necessarily the quality of gameplay – it’s the narratives and hype surrounding it.

One of my favorite bits of Melee lore is the fact that Scar once 3-1’d The Crimson Blur in a money match entirely played on Fountain of Dreams. It’s something that I love so much that I remind my friends that it happened on a weekly basis. Speaking of Scar, I feel compelled to also mention that I was the man who manufactured the Scar vs. Fendy beef. Never forget this.

Going back to what I said earlier, exhibitions have a unique layer of social stakes.When you win or lose in a tournament, the primary consequence is how it will affect your bracket. In a Salty Suite or out-of-tournament pride match, it’s far more personal. You’re going out of your way to ruin someone else’s day to prove a point. They’re doing to it to you too. It’s so messed up and it’s awesome.

So, what matches do we have coming up this weekend in the Octagon 2? As of this column, there’s four first-to-five matches: Ginger vs. Hungrybox, n0ne vs. moky, S2J vs. iBDW and Zain vs. Mango. Today, I’m going to preview all of them. I will briefly talk about their head-to-head histories, analyze how I see them right now and then I will select a winner for each match.

Ginger vs. Hungrybox

Before 2020, Hungrybox had beaten Ginger solidly. In their first three sets from 2017 to 2019, Ginger hadn’t even taken a game. There was no reason to think Ginger was ever going to be a serious contender to beat Hungrybox.

Everything changed in 2020. Ginger leveled the hell up, Hungrybox lost a tournament to Dawson and Ginger took his first set from him: a nail-biter 3-2 victory at Smash Summit 10 Online. Given how Ginger’s been one of the biggest “winners” of rollback and how Hungrybox has been its biggest “loser,” you might expect Ginger to obliterate him now.

Not quite. Truthfully, Ginger vs. Hungrybox is one of the best rivalries of the rollback era. This year, the two have mostly played at the East Coast Fridays weekly. Hungrybox is actually up 8-6 in the head-to-head, per PG Stats. With all of this said, I’m going to make a few “out of game” assumptions that will shift how I see this particular set.

It’s no conspiracy theory to think that Hungrybox is currently looking well beyond the horizon of rollback results. Think about it. With in-person events returning, they offer a chance for Hungrybox to botth redeem himself and throw the credibility of rollback results out the window. If I were to guess, the only thing Hungrybox cares about right now is getting into Smash Summit 11. Realistically, one first-to-five is not going to stop his supporters from voting him in.

I don’t think the same quite holds up for Ginger. Imagine campaigning for Smash Summit 11 with a first-to-five loss to a guy whose list of “bad” losses increases seemingly every month. It’s so unfair to Ginger – after all, this is still Hungrybox – but he will not hear the end of it if he loses.

My pick: Ginger destroys him, 5-2.

n0ne vs. moky

For two players in the same region, they haven’t played against each other as much as you’d think. PG Stats has only three sets between them: a 2-1 victory for n0ne at GOML 2016, a 3-0 win for moky at Smash Summit 8 and a 3-1 victory for n0ne at DreamHack Montreal.

This seemed off, so I checked Liquipedia. According to it, moky is up 7-6 in their lifetime history. It’s worth noting that the dynamics of this rivalry are all over the place. After n0ne won their first three sets, moky thrashed him for seven consecutive sets before n0ne won their next three. I wish I knew what this meant. The two don’t have any sets against each other on rollback.

With nothing else to go off, I looked at how they performed against comparable peers over the last year. For moky, I tried to consider his head-to-heads against S2J, Wizzrobe and Gahtzu, while for n0ne, I looked at how he performed against SFAT, iBDW, Lucky and Soonsay in the same time period. So far, moky has beaten all three of the other Falcons (3-2). It hasn’t been as pretty for n0ne (4-11).

I know this is an imperfect metric for evaluating moky and n0ne’s specific chances against each other. But what else can I look at? I’m certainly sympathetic to considering out-of-game factors when it comes to evaluating n0ne’s 2021 results, but it doesn’t seem fair to moky to dismiss his own accomplishments. I will never fully count out n0ne, but the safe pick here is obvious.

My pick: moky takes it in an exciting 5-3 victory.

iBDW vs. S2J

It feels like forever ago when “iBDW vs. Captain Falcon” was a running gag in the community. The most famous set ever that featured him was n0ne’s infamous 3-0 of him at Super Smash Con 2019, a set which involved Vish roasting him on the mic.

Sometimes, your lowest moments inspire you to be great. In rollback, iBDW has made it a mission to destroy Captain Falcon. According to Liquipedia, he is up on all of the top Falcons: Wizzrobe (4-2), S2J (7-3), n0ne (4-1) and Gahtzu (1-0) over the last year. The highlight was LACS 3, where he smacked the first three down in a row.

There’s no getting around it: S2J is solidly down in the head-to-head. However, it’s worth noting that he won Galint Melee Open: Spring Edition over iBDW. I looked at S2J’s records against the other comparable Fox players near iBDW (Lucky, moky and SFAT), and he’s currently tied 6-6 against them. For what it’s worth, I initially included Soonsay in this group, but S2J’s 5-0 record against him seemed like a clear aberration in predicting how he would do against most Fox players around this tier.

If this were a set at SCL, I would probably pick iBDW and feel confident about it. But like I did with Hungrybox and Ginger, I have to recognize a few considerations. iBDW has nothing on the line for this match. S2J wouldn’t exactly “suffer” from losing to iBDW, but he still needs to take rollback seriously. His path to Summit involves either getting voted in or winning The Big One in July. It’s a coin flip.

My pick: S2J edges iBDW out, 5-4.

Zain vs. Mango

It’s pretty difficult to not pick Zain. Although the two were practically equals on LAN (7-6, Zain), he has mostly had Mango’s number on rollback (7-3). For what it’s worth, Zain also won their previous Octagon showdown. With this in mind, there is one factor that could make this set unique from their other ones: Mango’s Fox.

The timespan of Mango vs. Zain has just been his Falco vs. Zain’ss Marth. Although we’ve seen glimpses of Mango’s Fox in friendlies, we have never seen it come out against Zain in a set. Given that Mango is playing Fox more on stream and knowing that he’s openly talked about playing more Fox in tournament, an exhibition before Summit feels like the perfect time to try it.

You might be surprised to learn that the biggest problem for Mango’s Falco against Zain hasn’t been FD. In 2021, Mango is actually up on on this stage (3-1 in games) and on rollback, he’s done pretty well (4-6 in games). There are two more pressing trends in their rollback rivalry: that he almost always loses their first game (3-7 in games) and that he has a losing record on his counterpicks (7-11 in games). For what it’s worth, Mango and Zain have not played a match on Fountain of Dreams over the last year.

Speaking just from my gut, I’ve always felt like the problem for Fox players vs. Marth was FD, where no Fox has beaten Zain’s Marth in the last two years. Between Yoshi’s Story and Dreamland, Fox seems to have more semi-reliable counterpicks vs. Marth than Falco. Well – at least in theory. It’s rarely come to fruition against Zain in practice.

To estimate the “counterpick” chances of Mango’s Fox against Zain, I examined how the three best NA Fox players (iBDW, moky and SFAT) did vs. Zain on their counterpicks. It’s ugly (2-17 in games). If you wanted to pick only the best one out of these three, iBDW is the only one who’s actually won any of these games (2-5 in games). I’m not even counting the fact that Zain is undefeated against these three in sets on rollback (12-0).

If Mango’s Fox isn’t in the picture at all, then this is really just another chapter to a rivalry where in spite of Mango’s memorable highs, it’s still clearly tilted toward Zain. If Mango’s Fox comes into play, it still might not change the outcome. In order to pick Mango for this match, you’d need to give Mango the benefit of the doubt on the following:

  • That Mango’s would be significantly more effective on counterpicks than iBDW, the best active Fox in the world against Marth.
  • That Mango would also need to maintain his baseline level of success on FD with Falco without the benefit of playing him earlier in the set.
  • That he’d need to make the “correct” call on which characters he plays at any given moment in the set.
  • That Zain, who has played several times vs. Mango’s Fox on stream, would be so caught off guard by it that it would change the dynamic of their rivalry.
  • That Mango could handle possibly switching between two characters multiple times in a first-to-five.

My pick: Zain wins, 5-2.

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