Collision 2023 Recap
For around two decades, solo Sheik had failed to win major. After Sunday, Sheik mains can now say that they boast two of them. Down 2-0 in the second set of grand finals, Jmook reverse 3-0’d Zain to take home the gold at Collision 2023, giving his character another major victory and giving Melee players yet another reason to consider Jmook the best Melee player in the world.
Unlike his near-spotless Genesis run, Jmook’s Collision came with a dropped set to Cody Schwab in winner’s semifinals. He quickly recovered from that, defeating moky, Collision breakout star Zuppy, Cody and Zain twice to finish in first place. In some sense, Jmook’s title defense at Collision parallels Zain’s start to 2022, in that Jmook can boast first two major wins of the year over everyone else. Long-term, it will give him an advantage over the field when it comes to his chances of finishing No. 1. Even longer-term, it’s likely catapulted Jmook’s all-time legacy into a tier of players that includes Wizzrobe, Axe, ChuDat, PC Chris, and Isai – so around Top 15 contention. Sidenote: winning doubles with Cody certainly didn’t hurt either.
— Collision Gaming Series (@CollisionSmash) March 13, 2023
Another storyline of this tournament came in Zuppy’s fourth-place run. Though he ended up not playing Ginger as projected in bracket, due to Ginger’s DQ, his showing came with three upsets over the world No. 2 aMSa, moky and lloD. The end result was the definitive major performance of Zuppy’s time in Smash, as well as his first ever top eight run. It made for a rebound performance from Zuppy’s 49th place showing at Genesis 9.
Meanwhile, both of the Malhotra brothers, lloD and Rishi, had incredible performances, with the two appearing at a major for the first time this year. Along with their third place showing in doubles, the two each made deep bracket runs in spite of not being present offline for most of 2023. lloD ended up placing fifth, beating 2saint, aMSa, Axe and Aklo. Rishi finished in ninth place, grabbing wins over Trif and KoDoRiN. Also, the brothers also finished with a bronze medal in Collision doubles, nabbing a set from aMSa/Axe as well.
Coming with an unfortunate parallel to some of these performances was yet another uncharacteristic placement out of top eight from aMSa. He ended up finishing in 13th place, the worst major showing he’s had since Evo 2018 (33rd). Though aMSa’s year hasn’t been entirely uneventful – he did win LVL UP EXPO over Hungrybox and KoDoRiN – so far, it’s been a return to earth for the 2022 No. 2 player.
On a final note for the tournament, I’d like to give a brief shoutout to Junebug. His 17th place finish unexpectedly had some historical ramifications for Donkey Kong. His performance, which came with a victory over JJM, is solo DK’s highest placement at a major since Phish-it finished in 13th place at Zenith 2012. But if your criteria for majors is stricter than that, then you’ll have to go all the way back to Bum’s fourth place at MLG Long Island 2007 for a deep DK run. As it stands, Junebug’s DK has the best results out of any DK of the last decade.
Who Will Break Out Next?
As you can tell, I’ve been thinking a lot about Collision since coming back. Between a successful major title defense, someone making a top eight for the first time, a Top 5 player suffering their worst back-to-back performance in five years, and a traditionally low tier character making history, there’s a ton to break down. However, that second note – someone making a major top eight for the first time – has especially been on my mind.
It’s been more common than you’d think. In 2023, we’ve seen Zuppy and 2saint both reach this personal milestone. The year before that, there was obviously Jmook, SluG, Soonsay, Joshman, bobby big ballz, Skerzo, SFOP and Krudo each doing it as well. And that’s not to forget the incomplete but still notable events we had in 2021, where KoDoRiN, Pipsqueak, Polish, Magi, Aklo, Faceroll, and Logan all made their first top eights. The long story short is that if you’re watching a major, you’re probably going to see someone break out.
Today, I want to talk about four players who still haven’t made a major top eight. Roughly speaking, I’m going to break down each of their careers so far, talk about runs they’ve had that have come close, bring up some current obstacles and talk about why I believe in them to eventually reach this milestone.
NOTE: I know many of you will have different definitions for what qualities as a major. I really do not care to go through mine, other than that it’s a vague assortment of tournament prestige, prize pot, and if there are three or more ‘major-contending’ players in attendance. Please do not nitpick.
I’m very fond of Spark. With humble roots as the most disproportionately maligned rising star in Melee, Spark’s always had a special place in my heart. One thing I’ve always found interesting with Spark is that his career still feels like a what-if. His rise was to Top 50, he looked like he was Top 25 in the online era, and then he went to Pakistan for about a year. When he came back, he still looked pretty good and he continued to have a strong 2022 – but at the same time, it always felt like Spark’s trajectory was halted right in its tracks at an inconvenient time.
Now, technically, one of the closest things Spark has had to a major top eight was, well, a top eight performance at the online CLG Mixup. An even closer one was a top four showing at Smash Camp: End of Summer, where he literally beat Mango and aMSa. Looking at these two performances, I wonder if I shouldn’t have counted Spark. But at the same time, I do not think these tournaments capture the “spirit” of what I’m trying to explore here. As aggravating as it is that people do not consider Smash Camp a “competitively legitimate” event (I think one top player getting drunk and saying it doesn’t count is a bullshit reason), and as reasonably frustrated as players may feel at having online achievements diminished, I just think that even Spark would prefer to have a “top eight” performance with zero things you could hold against it.
Let’s be real though: there’s zero reason to count out Spark. He was a reverse 3-0 away vs. moky – someone who currently looks Top 10 – for top eight at Apex 2022. In an alternate universe, his Genesis 9 loser’s bracket run could have been in winners bracket at another major: beating JoJo, Gahtzu, SFAT, Aklo and Salt is certainly no small feat. Had Spark beaten Aklo in the Collision runback, Spark would have had to play Rishi for top eight at Collision. If there’s someone who makes a major top eight for the first time, why not go with the player who’s somewhat unfairly been robbed of multiple?
In a year where so many people made Top 100 for the first time ever, null’s rise to No. 30 wasn’t so much something that flew under the radar as much as it became something that I think many followers of results took for granted. The long story short with null was that he used to do great in SoCal around 2019, but he never had the major performances to make him Top 100. Turns out that nothing solves that problem more than continuing to attend major tournaments – or becoming friends with Mango.
if u asked me a year ago i would love this rank but if u asked me 6 months ago i would hate this rank so i guess i will take it and do better next year 🙂 pic.twitter.com/mqwvwdI7SM
— null (@nullGS) January 18, 2023
Strangely, null is actually in a bit of rough patch. In addition to not entering anything in two months, the last event he had was a pretty rough 65th place at Genesis 9. Before that, null had a less brutal Mainstage 2022. With that said, The two glimmers of hope we were shown before that were his Smash Summit 14 VIP bracket victory over Spark, Skerzo, and Solobattle, and his promising performance at the Ludwig Smash Invitational. Though he didn’t make it to the final bracket, null took home some big names in n0ne, Frenzy and Kalamazhu.
I’m not sure where null’s current relationship with Melee is at. But I think very highly of his Fox. I would never count out null against any fast faller, Jigglypuff, and I honestly feel like for as much as Peach used to be a problem matchup for him, he’s actually improved quite a bit vs. her. Most promisingly, he did take a set from Fiction at the last Verdugo he entered. If he can do that, he can do anything. My guess is that his run to a major top eight will probably come through defeating a top Captain Falcon – maybe S2J – and then having a loser’s run of top Fox players and a Marth that he defeats.
What is Zamu if he isn’t consistent? When reviewing player resumes from last year, I was quite blown away by Zamu’s consistency vs. the field. You could find an upset loss here or there, but he usually followed them with monster loser’s runs or wins over multiple Top 100 players. More or less, he was extremely reliable. Furthermore, Zamu attends a lot. While he hasn’t been to a major this year, he’s been especially active within the Midwest. The most recent big tourney he entered was Kill Roy: Volume 6, where he beat Grab and Preeminent.
Confusingly, Zamu’s consistency vs. everyone else hasn’t translated into upsets over players ranked above him. It’s been one of the most mind boggling things about his resume over 2022 and this year. Usually when someone is so reliable vs everyone beneath them and around their skill level, they eventually score upsets over players significantly “above” their perceived weight class. That just hasn’t been the case with Zamu. One of the closest things he has to a “breakout” major leading to a top eight was a heartbreaking 17th place where he defeated Zuppy, but then ran into Zain and lost a gut-wrenching set to Westballz. Another one would be his 13th place at Riptide. Here, he beat Drephen and Sharp, only falling to Hungrybox and Polish.
But I have heard too many legends of Zamu farming top Fox players in friendly dittos to discount his chances. We’ve just seen one Fox player with a tag starting with Z have a breakout Top 4 showing at a major.The year before that, we saw Skerzo make his first top eight at Smash Con. I think Zamu can achieve something similar. He doesn’t have any real “weak” matchups as much as he’s had a series of unlucky bracket draws and close losses. As someone who’s outright won tournaments over the likes of Salt, Skerzo and Ben, it’s not impossible to imagine him defeating three similar players to make it to Top 16 at a major. From that point onward, he will need to either upset another potential “breakout” player at that same event or defeat a Top 10 player. It feels like a matter of time until Zamu finally does it.
Swift immediately caught my attention over the pandemic when his Pikachu and Fox were terrorizing rollback events. He kept it when he took both Leffen and Mango to game five at Smash Summit 12, and I continued to follow Swift at the events he entered across last year. With a Pikachu that’s beaten Aklo and Magi back-to-back at the same event and a Fox that’s defeated Hungrybox online, Swift’s gone somewhat under the radar. Who else could double eliminate SFOP twice at a tournament and have it happen with relatively little fanfare?
All things considered, Swift’s come pretty close to making top eights. His Smash Summit 12 ninth place happened with a win over Joshman and a game five-loss to Leffen, but for obvious reasons he won’t be in that specific circumstance again. He fell to KoDoRiN and aMSa for ninth at Battle of BC 4, but he beat Zuppy and Eddy Mexico there. Had he beaten KoDoRiN and lost to Jmook instead, Swift would have had a rematch with Joshman to make it. Last weekend, Swift took another set over Magi, but lost to Jmook and Trif somewhat handily.
If there was a consistent roadblock, it would seem to be the Peach players. That’s all the more reason for Swift to commit to the Fox and develop those matchups from his end even further, which is absolutely not out of the question. Give Swift a bracket of top spacies and he’s got as frankly good of a shot as anyone in the Top 25. It sounds crazy to say on the surface for someone whose results put him at No. 40 in 2022, but Swift is frankly not that far off from Axe in terms of how dominant he’s looked against Fox and Falco, and that goes a long way in paving the road for a top eight in the future.