Hungrybox busts out of his slump amid controversial and wild top 8

Shine 2017 was a microcosm of the year it’s been for Smash. It ended with a struggling Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma breaking out of his slump and beating Jospeh “Mango” Marquez’s new found Falco. Prior to that matchup, the Sunday afternoon was filled with bedlam and plenty of controversies. It was a good time for everyone not named MattDotZeb or Leffen.

ChuDat and Leffen in set one. Photo via twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

The Controller Controversy

Now some might think the University of Central Florida (UCF) played a major role in a decision made by the Shine tournament organizers on Sunday. That was unfortunately not the case. In fact, all the controversy that has dominated the headlines comes from a new mod from the 20xx team that was made legal before the event started.

If you haven’t heard, William “Leffen” Hjelte lost an extremely close set to Daniel “ChuDat” Rodriguz in the top 8, but according to the tournament rules, the set had to be replayed because the Universal Controller Fix (UCF) was turned off during the set. It was a complete oversight by the Shine crew, but one that isn’t completely shocking considering this is one of the first events to run with UCF on during play.

In short, Leffen noticed that the UCF was off and went through the necessary channels to field his complaint. His complaint was heard and despite losing the set, the Shine organizers decided to replay the entire set – a decision that has since rocked the Smash community.

Unfortunately for ChuDat, this oversight was at the expense of his tournament placing. It not only erased one of the more exciting sets of 2017 but actively changed the results. Opinions aside, mistakes happen and though it was a pretty glaring omission, Chu decided to play the set out. And let’s remember, these players aren’t playing for fun. If it’s in the rules it must be handled accordingly.

S2J after beating Shroomed 3-0. Photo via twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

The Curse is broken

Changing the subject, let’s talk about the play at this event. Aside from a flurry of second round upsets, the emergence of Johnny “S2J” Kim was the real story. It’s not only that S2J was able to do the seemingly impossible, but the fact that he did it in the most impressive way imaginable.

Moreover, most people will walk away from this tournament remembering the image of S2J landing the knee on Yoshi’s Island top platform to finally beat Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman. A week prior, I watched in amazement as S2J ran circles around Professor Pro in Europe. At Shine, that intense, mesmerizing speed showed up again and pushed S2J to his best major result ever.

It was a dazzling display of follow-ups, tech chases, and staying one step ahead of his opponents based off of his reaction timings. It was one of those moments where the sheer amazement of what a person was able to accomplish in the game boiled to the surface. The ending of the “curse” got one of the best crowd receptions all year and for good reason.

Hungrybox the slump buster

Finally, after a month of avoiding Hungrybox, the world got to see what character decision Mango would make in the matchup. Obviously, Mango has made a consorted effort to stick with the bird, but not having to face Hungrybox seemingly played into the decision. At Shine, all those questions were answered.

In light of Hungrybox struggling against the likes of Justin “Plup” McGrath and losing to M2K’s Fox, it was unclear when he would make his turn back into a top three. Any knowledgeable Smash fan would realize it was only a matter of time. It took a more conservative and focused effort but Hungrybox finally got back to his place on the pedestal.

On the other hand, Mango’s had another strong August. The return to Falco pushed that along, but with no Adam “Armada” Lindgren waiting in the shadows and a slumping Hungrybox, Mango had a little easier time maneuvering through the bracket. The first real test for his Falco finally presented itself: Hungrybox’s Jigglypuff.

Now conventionally, Falco hypothetically wins the Jigglypuff matchup. But, as we all know, Hungrybox has elevated Puff outside the modern meta-game. It no longer becomes a Jigglypuff matchup when facing the experience and skill of Hungrybox. Most pros, including Armada, believe Fox should be the pick for Mango, but others opinions have never influenced Mango before.

Mango stuck to his principles and didn’t switch off Falco until desperation time. At that point, it was too little too late, but there was more success in that matchup for Mango than with Falco. Mango didn’t do necessarily a bad job with Falco, but the limitations in Falco’s grab game and kill-setups were apparent. It was an important win for Hungrybox to get him back on the right track and should present Mango with another tough decision in their next meeting.


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CEO 2017: Five sets, five game fives during exciting Melee top 8

For what it’s worth, CEO 2017 had one of the better Melee top 8s of the year. The lack of high-level players didn’t stop those who showed up from putting on a show. It all culminated into Juan “Hungrybox” Debiebma’s first career CEO belt, after running the gauntlet.

Hungrybox after beating Plup in Grand Finals. http://twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

Hungrybox went to two game fives against non-gods, which is extremely rare. He even fell to Justin “Plup” McGrath in Grand Finals, but, fortunately for him, he was playing from the winner’s side so he had the reset in his back pocket. The other player to push him to the brink was Jeff “Axe” Williamson, and it took a clutch on Axe’s counter-pick for Hungrybox to pull it out.

In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, there were plenty of game five, last stock, last hit games on Saturday night. In fact, the first five matches of top 8 were exactly that. From Michael “King Momo” Morales’s self-destruct against Colin “Colbol” Green to Colbol pulling off the upset over Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallet, every single set was going to the last hit.

Even with a rather disappointing amount of entrants and top players showing up, it was good to see a lively crowd witness what turned out to be a surprisingly entertaining top 8. Yes, the predictable win for Hungrybox took out some of the drama, but players like Plup and Axe, who both have a huge deficit in terms of losses, seemed to give him a rougher go this time around. The sudden reemergence of what looked like 2014 Colbol was a welcomed surprise. He finished in fourth.

King Momo makes top 8

Melee majors, historically, have been incredibly difficult to break into a top 8 as a player outside the top-50. That makes what King Momo did this weekend special. Momo has been a rising star in 2017 with his second strong performance. Placing seventh was not only his best finish ever, but he achieved his greatest win with a victory over Ryan “The Moon” Coker-Welch.

Unfortunately, his run ended immediately in top 8 but not without showing the world his excellent neutral game and ability to move in and out of his opponents spacing. He is clearly a player to keep an eye on moving forward.

Another Florida player who seems to be improving is Colbol. As I mentioned, it looked more like peak Colbol this weekend than the player who’s had consistent average performances the last few years. The wins were over fellow Florida players, but placing fourth at a CEO is no joke.

Axe and Plup put Hungrybox on upset alert

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

Fox has been the one answer for Hungrybox’s Jigglypuff and he finally forced Plup off his Sheik for the matchup. Based off the matchup history, Plup’s Sheik hasn’t fared well but he’s built up the necessary experience to bring out the Fox in finals. He even got his first win over Hungrybox with his Fox on Saturday. But it was only a matter of time before Hungrybox landed more rest setups and he had two full sets to find those openings.

The set with Axe was similar with Hungrybox forcing Axe to play differently than normal. Axe spent his entire neutral game focusing on keeping tight dash dances to eventually whiff punish with up-smash. If only Axe could have kept it up for one more stock, I’d be writing a different story.

Moral of the story: Hungrybox doesn’t lose to players outside the top-five. The top players don’t have a handle on the Jigglypuff matchup and coupled with Hungrybox’s rare and special abilities, it makes it really difficult to pull off the upset. It’s a mental grind and most don’t have the fortitude to see it through to the end. It’s the most central aspect to Hungrybox’s successes. The win at CEO 2017 marks his second consecutive win.


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Smash N’ Splash 3 Looks to Kick Off Summer of Smash in Style

Photo courtesy of http://wiki.teamliquid.net/smash/File:Sns_3_better_logo.jpg

The Smash N’ Splash series, located at the famous Wisconsin Dells water park, has amped it up to a completely new level this year. On top of a loaded talent pool, Smash N’ Splash 3 has 850 players registered for singles, which nearly doubles last year’s attendance.

Furthermore, four of the gods and eight of the top 10 players will be making an appearance. The number of story lines heading into this weekend is overwhelming. Is Joseph “Mango” Marquez going to repeat? Can Adam “Armada” Lindgren rebound? Will Justin “Plup” McGrath finish above fifth place?

After all, Mango opened Pandora’s box by taking out the seemingly unbeatable Armada at Royal Flush. Armada bleeds and it’ll be interesting to see how he responds and adjust. The run of tournament victories ended at Royal Flush but he’s still the likely favorite to win in Wisconsin.

Mango going for back-to-back wins
It was a nice surprise to see Mango return to prominence a few weeks ago. His movement was crisp and he seemed to have all the answers against Armada’s Peach. Mango was dialed in that day.

Mango and Hungrybox. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

However, Mango hasn’t repeated at a major since 2014 (Kings of Cali 4 and Evo 2014). History is not on his side but Mango does seem looser in the past few weeks. His mindset is clear and his playing more freely.

It won’t be an easy task considering the gauntlet of potential matchups, but Mango’s clearly got the best chance against Armada. The biggest obstacle to get to Armada will still be Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma and his pesky Jigglypuff. Mango is 3-0 against Hbox in 2017 but is tied 11-11 in their last 22 matchups.

Plup looking for his breakout performance

Plup’s been on a clear rise since Evo 2016 and after winning Runback recently he’s got momentum behind him. The breakout performance is coming. He’s plateaued at fifth place but he’s getting more confident at each tournament.

Fortunately, Plup will avoid the top three and get a shot at William “Leffen” Hjelte who’s on somewhat of a cold streak. The potential upset is possible. He’s also had a even record against Leffen and has proven they’re close in skill.

The last victory for Leffen came at Don’t Park on the Grass so he’s been in a minor slump. Outside of a third place finish at Smash Summit, he’s placing well below average. The winner of Plup vs Leffen could be the spark for the winner.

Lastly, players like Weston “Westballz” Dennis and Sami “DruggedFox” Muahana will look to build on their last tournaments. The return of optimal combo Westballz could put pressure on higher ranked opponent. He matches up against Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett and the tyrant Armada.

The field feels more open and that will allow for unpredictability. Armada and Mangno seem primed for a rematch but getting back to that point will be a grind. Smash N’ Splash 3 will be a good precursor to upcoming events.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Plup Takes Home Largest Career Win at Runback 2017

 

Justin “Plup” McGrath fought his way to a victory at Runback in Mesa, Arizona. The win over Weston “Westballz” Dennis in Grand Finals secured Plup’s largest career tournament win.

In fact, it’s his first win at a tournament with over 200 entrants and Runback featured four of the top 10 players, so it was no cakewalk. He ended the day with two set wins over Westballz and a 3-0 to James “Duck” Ma in winners semi’s

For Plup, it’s been a strong year with consistent 5th place finishes, but he’s still looking to get over the hump. A win at Runback, even with none of the top five in attendance, instilled confidence that he’s a level above the players eyeing his spot in the rankings. If he can figure out players like Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma, he has the potential to win majors.

On a day where the raucous Arizona crowd was going off, Plup was calm and composed. It doesn’t matter who he’s playing or the stage he’s on, his demeanor is always the same. Even when Westballz had Plup against the ropes on game five, his approach didn’t change and he ends up winning the tournament on a ridiculous combo.

Westballz vs SFAT. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/SAKGamingTV

The return of Westbawz

The other main story out of Runback was the return of the cocky Westballz. After a lackluster start to 2017, Westballz seemed to get his mojo back this weekend with the second place finish. It was good to see the defense first, punish heavy Westballz this weekend.

Also, the fact that Westballz beat Zac “SFAT” Cordoni in two separate sets on Sunday sparked some flames. As one of the most heated Smash rivalries in Melee, Westballz has historically had SFAT’s number (9-4 lifetime) and Runback was no different. He ends the two game losing streak with an emphatic victory at Runback.

In the end, he gave Plup a run in grand finals but got edged out in last stock scenarios. It’s his highest finish in 2017 and could be a confidence booster heading into the summer.

Top 8

1. Panda Global Plup (Sheik)

2. G2 Westballz (Falco)

3. CLG SFAT (Fox)

4. Phoenixl1 | Duck (Samus)

5. MedZ (Marth, Fox, Falco)

5. Tempo Storm Axe (Pikachu)

7. Bladewise (Peach)

7. EngGameTV Syrox (Fox)

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Plup’s Luigi Pleases the Crowd at CEO: Dreamland; Mew2King Takes Home Top Prizes

The CEO: Dreamland win for Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman was impressive. He beat top seeded Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma, overcoming a 2-4 2017 record against Hbox. The bounce back win was a great story, but it took a back seat to the rise of Luigi.

The last month for Justin “Plup” McGrath was not spent playing Melee. Plup, being a top-10 player, spent the last couple weeks traveling across South Korea and focusing on anything but Melee. In his first tournament back, the readiness and performance was in question. Then, late Saturday night, Plup sent out this tweet:

In light of this tweet, Plup took to the CEO ballroom floor and proceeded to turn heads with a character most people would say couldn’t win a major. Plup’s Luigi was assumed a gimmick when the day started, but no one was thinking that at the end of the day.

Furthermore, Plup took out Michael “Nintendude” Brancato and Sami “DruggedFox” Muhanna, proving early on his Luigi was for real. He made it into a winners semifinal at a major by going all Luigi. It’s a rare sight seeing Luigi anywhere near Top 8. Stephen “Abate” Abate was the first Luigi to make a deep run at The Big House 5 where he almost brought the venue down with his win over Johnny “S2J” Kim (the invisible celing set). The play of Ben “Luigikid” Tolan making deep runs at SSS, and Eduardo “Eddy Mexico” Lucatero Rincon help legitimize Luigi with strong wins in Southern California.

The best part is Plup has no recorded tournament sets with Luigi, so in his first try he finished fifth. He gave the eventual champion, M2K, a ride before the inevitable readjustments coming from M2K’s counter pick of Marth from Sheik.

SFAT Loses the Runback

SFAT and M2K. Photo courtesy of YouTube.com/vgbootcamp

It’s rarer than rare to see a performance similar to Zac “SFAT” Cordoni’s at CEO: Dreamland. The only other player with similar results that come to mind is William “Leffen” Hjelte who has beaten multiple gods before he was considered one himself. SFAT is slowly developing those next level mind games to be able to compete with the likes of M2K and Hungrybox.

Despite a 2-16 lifetime record against M2K for SFAT, he entered grand finals up 3-2 in sets against a player who’s absolutely had his number. All signs pointed to SFAT winning his first major with Gods in attendance. But, as history has shown us before, never count out any of the Gods to get the reset win in grand finals.

M2K, who lost in game 5 against SFAT in winners finals, made key adjustments and played better on Final Destination. Two of the best players statistically on Final Destination played four games on the flat stage. The count was 2-2, but M2K took back stage control and forced his will on SFAT’s Fox.

Unfortunately, SFAT ran into M2K who has historically had his number. The southern California Fox main is creeping into the title conversation. He’s real close to breaking the ceiling, but M2K wasn’t going to let that happen at CEO: Dreamland.

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Matches you Might have missed at The Big House 6

The Big House 6 came to a close this past Sunday with Joseph “Mango” Marquez taking home the trophy with a win over Adam “Armada” Lindgren. Most viewers saw the top eight, from Mango coming down from 0-2 to beat Armada, to Mustafa “Ice” Akcakaya shocking everyone by beating down Zac “SFAT” Cordoni in a dominant 3-0 sweep. What most viewers didn’t see was the exciting matches before top eight ever even happened.

I’ll answer everyone’s questions, “how did Ice get into top 8 in winners side?””Who sent Hungrybox to losers bracket?””where was Leffen?” I’ll answer all these questions and more.

Silentwolf Upsets Mew2King 3-2
The match that turned the entire winners side of the bracket upside down. Otto “Silentwolf” Bisno pulled off the upset of the day, by sending Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman to losers in winners round 2 of top 24. The upset eventually led to Ice making it to top top 8 winner side after beating Silentwolf 3-2 in the next round.

Silentwolf’s play can’t be overlooked here, despite not finishing the day on as high of a note (ended up losing 3-1 to Kevin “PewPewU” Toy before top 8). Silentwolf is a smart, defensive-minded Fox, and we saw that on game one, Battlefield. He never approached and put M2K in bad situations. He ended the game with a two stock.

In classic M2K fashion, he switched off Sheik and went to Marth while counter-picking Final Destination. It was a quick three-stock, but the game one counter-pick advantage loomed large in this set. Silentwolf took M2K to Pokémon Stadium and kept putting him in the corner. The 2-1 score gave Silentwolf the increasingly important game five counter pick.

M2K had no trouble on Fountain of Dreams, taking a +6 stock advantage on his counter-picks into game 5. Luckily for Silentwolf, Dreamland was still available and with M2K not feeling as confident in his Sheik-play, stuck it out with Marth on a disadvantaged stage.

M2K had a self destruct on his first stock and played with a deficit the remainder of the match. Silentwolf looked content in slowly build his lead by staying away and lasering. He avoided platforms and any bad positions he could put himself in. His defensive play gave him the edge and Silentwolf went on to pull the huge upset, 3-2. 2-0 on his counter-picks is the key stat to look at in this instance.

Infinite Numbers Beats Westballz 2-1 before top 64
Jason “Infinite Numbers” Gauthier, an Ice Climbers main from New England, who’s also a rising star, was able to take out Weston “Westballz” Dennis in round two pools. The match being so early in pools means no video but from what I’ve been told, Numbers was having no trouble landing grabs.

Infinite Numbers won his first match on Fountain of Dreams, which gave him the counter-pick advantage (FoD good for both Ice Climber and Falco). He lost on Westballz’s Pokémon Stadium counter-pick, but had final destination in his back pocket to win the set 2-1.

From that point on, Infinite Numbers struggled and lost his next two games to Daniel “ChuDat” Rodriguez in the Ice Climbers mirror match and Justin “Syrox” Burroughs, the top ranked player from Colorado. Westballz went on to go 4-1 on Sunday, only losing to Mew2King in top 16 losers.

SFAT Sweeps Hungrybox
SFAT is starting to figure out and implement certain strategies that beat Jigglypuff. He’s now on a two game winning streak against Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma and that’s not good news for Hbox. SFAT looks like Leffen circa. 2014, where he started to slowly figure out Hungrybox and his Jigglypuff.

Game one was on Battlefield, and SFAT never left the stage. He never once gave into Hungrybox’s aerial shenanigans and efficiently got vertical kills by getting grabs and calling out whenever Hungrybox was coming down with a back-air by up-smashing and taking the trade. You can almost tell where Hungrybox is at mentally depending on if he’s successfully getting consistent Smash-DI on Fox’s up-throw into up-smash. He didn’t have that today.

Hungrybox went to Dreamland game two and made things harder for himself. The large stage allowed for SFAT to play more patient and laser more proficiently. In both games one and two, SFAT gets down a stock early, but by the time Hungrybox is on his last stock he’s a full-stock ahead. SFAT showed awareness and made adjustments after every stock he lost.

He even got Hungrybox to stand up AND sit down. Game three went back to Dreamland but it was more of the same from Hungrybox. He couldn’t find an opening on SFAT’s defensive Fox play, specifically with the run-away game.

Granted, Hbox didn’t look his normal self at TBH6, but still a huge win for SFAT regardless.

Shroomed Pulls it off Against Plup’s Fox 3-2
It was an up-and-down tournament for Justin “Plup” McGrath. He fell in round two pools to one of the TBH6 crew battle heroes in Zain “Zain” Naghmi. This set up a massive losers bracket run from Plup. He beat (in order): Professor Pro 2-0, S2J 2-0, and Wobbles 2-0, before losing in game five to Shroomed.

DeJuan “Shroomed” McDaniel, one of the best players in NorCal, survived against Plup’s new Fox. The usual Sheik ditto we see from these two (saw it at TBH5, Plup won 3-0) changed with the Fox switch. It was a struggle, but Shroomed was able to win the match sending Plup home in 25th.

Other notable results:
R2DLiu Upsets Axe –
Jeff “Axe” Williamson had never heard of R2DLiu before the Big House, but you can bet he’ll never forget him now. R2DLiu sent Axe to losers bracket in phase two pools by a count of 2-1. The Massachusetts native Fox main finished 33rd, his highest placing in his career. He also finished 65th at Shine.

Zhu Finishes off Axe – Julianne “Zhu” Zhu followed the lead set by R2DLiu and sent Axe home packing with a 2-1 victory. It was only the third time in Axe’s career he finished outside the top-25. It was the worst placing in his professional career, thanks to Zhu, who finished 33rd.

Swedish Delight Cleans Up against Shroomed – its been quite the year for James “Swedish Delight” Liu, who quietly has another solid ninth place finish at TBH6. He also managed to 3-0 Shroomed in a Sheik ditto. He ended up sending William “Leffen” Hjelte home 3-0 and narrowly lost to Hungrybox in game 5.