Zero Takes the Top Spot Again in 2016

 

Photo via twitch.tv/ugc

Photo via twitch.tv/ugc

The Smash 4 tournament landscape in 2016 has provided viewers with a litany of different players winning at any given tournament. It’s been a change of pace from Gonzalo “Zero” Barrios dominating at every tournament in 2015 (51 straight tournament victories). But in 2016, no player has been able to separate himself from the pack.

So the question needs to be asked, who is the best Smash 4 player in the world right now?

Looking over tournament results, it’s easy to point to Zero and say he was the best player. He had wins at Genesis 3, The Big House 6, and UGC. But then I glanced over his summer stretch, and he definitely struggled. He nearly went two months without a tournament victory and even finished outside the top 8 at one event (CEO 2016).

Now Zero was able to recover at the end of 2016 as his Diddy Kong was able to match the changing meta-game. He’s won his last four events. But, that doesn’t change the fact that he had trouble winning tournaments for long, important stretches of 2016. Let’s take a look at other players who outperformed Zero at times this season.

The Most Talented Players Without the Result
The first player to look at after Zero is absolutely Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada. The New Jersey native has been closely behind Zero since the release of Smash 4. He somewhat regressed in 2016 after a fantastic 2015 season, but that was the playing field leveling out. Zero and Nairo were in a league of their own for an entire year.

In terms of skill, Nairo is without question one of the most talented players in the world. He proved that in Brawl and now his Zero Suit Samus is doing it in Smash 4. Unfortunately, that hasn’t necessarily translated to tournament wins. He’s close to making that jump to the top spot in 2017, but it will take more consistency

img_1351Leonardo “MK Leo” Lopez Perez has been a rising Smash star since he was able to almost effortlessly take out Ramin “Mr. R” Delshad two year ago at Smash Factor 3. The relatively unknown player put himself on the map with his highly advanced Meta Knight with a win over the second best smash 4 player at the time, only a week after placing second at Evo 2015.

Fast forward to this year, MK Leo is not only a well respected player, but he’s now a proven player with experience. He’s still limited by the fact it’s hard for him to travel in and out of Mexico, but he’s earned the respects of his peers. One can see what the top Rosalina main, Samuel “Dabuz” Robert Buzby thinks of Leo’s skill in the tweet to the left.

Leo doesn’t necessarily have the tournament results to be consider the best player in the world, but the 15-year old is a serious threat to strip Zero of that title when he’s able to travel more often. He’s been so good against some of the best players in the world, including Mr. R, who picked up Bayonetta just to combat his Marth.

The Japanese Argument
Japan has made a splash in Smash 4 this year. The most notable player being Yuta “Abadango” Kawamura has become a household name for Smash 4 fans. His play with MewTwo has completely shifted the meta-game. He even won his first American major at Pound 2016.

The problem, along with the two players I mentioned above, was he wasn’t consistent enough. He had bad finishes at Genesis 3 among other events, but usually stayed around the top-five. Another Japanese player that had a breakout performance this year was Takuto “Kamemushi” Ono, who finished second at Evo 2016.

Kamemushi along with Abadango and the the third most notable player from Japan (all three finished in the top 8 at Evo): Ryuto “Ranai” Hayashi, all play unique characters. No one else was able to bring out the potential from Megaman quite like Kamemushi. Ranai’s patient Villager play style also have top players fits.

The fact that these players are winning with underused characters is a testament to their skill. Unfortunately for them it’s hard to travel to American events so we don’t get a clear picture of their actual ranking, but all three have proven to have the potential to be considered among the best players.

The Best of the Rest
Now I don’t want to give the wrong impression here, it’s still Zero and then everyone else. These players here could be considered ahead of any of the players named above. That said, despite success in 2016 these players haven’t given me any reason to consider them close to the top.

Let’s start with Elliot “Ally” Bastien Carroza-Oyarce, who won the biggest event of this year in Evo 2016. He had a great year. Ally’s resurgence transformed him from being known as only the second best Brawl player to a legitimate tournament threat in Smash 4. He had some great performance in 2016, but he also had bad performance placing himself outside the top 25.

Photo via twitch.tv/evo2k

Photo via twitch.tv/evo2k

The last two players I wanted to talk about are both east coast players. Dabuz, the villain of Smash 4, is still considered the third best player in the game. He’s one of the most consistent players in the tournament scene and that’s important to note.

The last player that needs to be brought up in this discussion is Jason “ANTi” Bates. ANTi is a great player who doesn’t always preform to his level. But when he’s at his best, there’s not a lot of other players who can compete with him. His win at CEO 2016 was one of the most memorable moments of the year.

The Smash 4 tournament scene will look vastly different very soon with so many international and talented players available for more tournaments. Zero won’t always stay on top and 2017 could be the year he loses his crown.

Here’s my top 11
1. Zero
2. Dabuz
3. Nairo
4. Leo
5. Abadango
6. Kamemushi
7. Mr. R
8. Ally
9. Larry Lurr
10. ANTi
11. Ranai

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