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Published September 7, 2021

In another chapter of the Smash community rallying together for a good cause, Ryobeat and the rest of New York City Melee ran a special edition of the Netplay tourney series, “The Netclub,” which raised $1,470 to help out smashers whose homes were ravaged by Hurricane Ida. Jmook, who entered his first notable tournament in months, won the Saturday event, defeating Chem and iBDW’s secondaries.

On Sunday, KoDoRiN held off the returning Santiago, winning Super Pizza Time in San Diego. If you missed the set, you should check it out – it features multiple characters from Santi, including, yes, his Yoshi.

In other news over the weekend, New Brunswick had one of its largest Smash tournaments ever at Le Big Hub on Sunday. It had a $1,000 pot bonus, as well as 143 entrants across all of its games. KELLZ ended up winning the tournament over Maher.

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

Riptide Mega Preview

It’s been 18 months since Smash had its last open major. That stretch finally seems like it’s about to end in this upcoming weekend. Riptide, hosted in Ohio, is set to have over 2,800 total attendees, as well as health and safety protocols to minimize the chances of a COVID-19 outbreak. The Melee tournament will have over 700 competitors.

For this part of the column, I will detail 16 players to look out for. These are not necessarily the 16 best players attending the event – merely the ones that I wanted to talk about here. Keep in mind that I will not be going through the projected matches in bracket, as these are typically prone to change during the course of the week. In the final section, I will make a prediction for who will win Riptide.

Sleeper Top 24 Picks

  • Flash
  • Epoodle
  • Casper
  • HugS

The formerly Ohio-ranked Flash has only one tournament I could find that he’s entered in the last year. It was last October’s stacked Rollback Rumble where he beat Komodo and then lost to Mot$ and DannyPhantom for an otherwise forgettable 65th place. If you’re going to go with a “sleeper” pick, who better to choose than someone who basically “slept” through the last year and a half? Also, there’s this clip. And this one.

Epoodle has been one of the biggest East Coast Netplay grinders over the last year. Wins over Wevans, Bbatts, Komodo, and Trail prove that the New York Marth has the ability to hang with top regional players. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Epoodle put it all together for a big run. A breakout seems all but inevitable for one of the most dedicated players of 2021.

Casper was basically MIA for the first third of 2021. In April, the power-ranked SoCal Fox suddenly returned for a Rollback Rumble where he beat Kurv and PanterA. He’s been mostly solid since, beating Kurv numerous more times and snagging a mix of good online wins (Golden, Ralph) with strong offline results (sets over null, Nut, Asashi, Android 0, and Fiction).

You know what? Why wouldn’t I be excited to see HugS in action? The last two times we saw the former Top 20 player, he lost a single-elimination set against YungWaff in a commentator invitational, and he lost his first two sets of LACS2 to Logan and bobby big ballz. If history’s any indication, HugS tends to perform better when he actually cares. Surely Riptide is a good time for the Samus veteran to remind everyone that he’s good at the game.

Outside Shots at Top 8

  • Tyler Swift
  • Android 0
  • SFOP
  • Zealot

Tyler Swift temporarily convinced me – via his ridiculous run at July’s Galint Melee Open – that Pikachu-Marth was 80-20. Once I regained my senses, it hit me that Tyler is just that good. It’s one thing to have one matchup on lockdown like it seems he does; another to take down Aklo right after he beats Axe. Not to mention, he’s got a more-than capable Fox in case he needs it.

Wheat and I have a running gag that Android 0 is the greatest player of all-time. I’m not really sure why this joke exists. Both of us are genuinely Android 0 fans. He showed how good he was at a Verdugo West where he beat Asashi, Kurv, KoDoRiN, Ringler, and Null to win the entire tournament.

Anyone who’s been following the DFW scene in Texas can testify that SFOP is, by far, the region’s best player. While he’s not totally indestructible, he boasts dominant head-to-heads against bobby big ballz, SDJ, Palpa, and Justus, among others. Earlier in the year, he also had rollback sets over Colbol, Pappi, Jamrun, Forrest, Aklo, and KoopaTroop895. A major breakout is definitely in the cards for him.

Sometime in early 2021, Melee Stats Patron Zetts told me that Zealot was “easily Top 50.” I initially assumed he was just hyping up his friend. In hindsight, Zealot’s wealth and rate of earning big wins have definitively qualified him to be in that conversation. Fizz, Smashdaddy, Captain Smuckers, Whiskers, Ben, Dacky, Jflex and Komodo, FatGoku, Magi – it speaks for itself. Maybe Zetts was onto something.

Wild Cards

  • Ben
  • Axe
  • Logan
  • Ginger

Who else over the last two years gained more eyes than the 18-year old Sheik player from the middle of nowhere? Ben has remained Minnesota’s best active player, but he’s lately been in a slump against both Fox and Falco. Still; after seeing him beat Hungrybox so many times on rollback, it’s not too crazy to imagine him repeating that, as well as regaining his confidence vs. the spacies, at a big LAN national.

I could see Axe finishing anywhere from first place to 33rd place. It’s hard to find a true takeaway from his Smash Summit 11 showing, let alone his recent struggles against Medz. As far as the latter is concerned, 2021 is the first year in which Medz has held the advantage in their head-to-head, rather than just taking sets or going back and forth with him. Could it be that Medz is that uniquely incredible? Or is it an ominous sign that any Top 25 to 50 Fox player could be scary for the Smash Summit 8 champion?

Rollback followers have become accustomed to watching “Loser’s Bracket Logan” at events, typically where he drops a set early to a Captain Falcon player or something before 3-0’ing everyone to win the tournament. I don’t think that can happen here if Logan wants to make a deep run; this event is too stacked. That said, if they keep it together, Logan is one of the people at this tournament who can upset one of the top seeds, particularly Hungrybox and iBDW. Frankly, Wizzrobe and Axe are the only players in bracket whom I would immediately halt the brakes on with regards to counting Logan out.

It’s so weird that Ginger hasn’t entered a big Netplay tournament in months. This is the guy who’s basically the face of Netplay grinding. That said, he solidly won Hold That L over Ben and Polish without dropping a set. Ginger’s overall matchup spread is so solid, and I’d also add that being strong against Fox can go a long way at a tournament like Riptide.

The RPS At The Top…

  • Wizzrobe
  • Plup
  • Hungrybox

It’s no surprise that Wizzrobe is one of the top seeds. He’s the only person over the last year and a half to beat Mango and Zain in the same bracket. But I can’t help but wonder if he has a dead-end in Plup. He’s beaten him before, but the last two times they played have been fairly ugly: a 3-0 beatdown at Summit and a 5-1 spanking in their exhibition. Wizzrobe also lost his last three sets against iBDW. Granted, they were each close last-game matches, but so were Wizzrobe’s last two victories against Hungrybox.

It certainly looks like Plup is back. Save for a dropped set to KoDoRiN at SCL, he’s basically trounced anyone who isn’t Mango or Zain in 2021. Furthermore, though he remains behind in their overall head-to-head, Plup did beat iBDW in their only LAN meetup. The one question mark I have for Plup is how he’ll do against Hungrybox. While the two had split sets in Smash Summit 9 grand finals, it’s easy to forget that Hungrybox had won the previous 10. Ouch.

Based on his Smash Summit 11 performance, Hungrybox on LAN seems to be a completely different player than the one who halted his online Fox gauntlet after losing two sets. I’m going to assume he’s a favorite against the field, as well as Plup. With that said, I’m not sure that you can convince me that Hungrybox is anything more than disadvantaged against Wizzrobe or that a single LAN set is enough for me to ignore six consecutive online sets versus my leading contender to win Riptide.

…And My Final Pick

  • iBDW

I just don’t see how iBDW isn’t the favorite to win Riptide. Although he’s lost his last LAN sets against Hungrybox and Plup, I’m hesitant to think that one tournament outweighs multiple sets from online where he solidly thumped them. The absolute worst faith interpretation that you could see their sets is seeing them as coin flips. Combine this with holding the edge against Wizzrobe. Who else has a better matchup spread among the top four seeds?

It can’t be ignored that Zain and Mango’s absences here really helps iBDW. I have to be brutally honest in a way that he will appreciate: if those two were here, he would need a miracle to win this tournament. Thankfully for him, they’re not. As a result, his chances of winning have to be much higher than they would be otherwise.

Outside of these two, who else gave iBDW consistent problems over the last 18 months? Who in the broader field could possibly scare him? Ginger? One of the Marth players? TheSWOOPER if he makes it that far? Maybe, but I’m not buying it. iBDW is my official pick to win Riptide.

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