The Rising Stars of Super Smash Bros Melee

The field of Melee players is growing stronger year-by-year. The strength of the middle tier of players has improved the entire scene, and now relatively unknown players are starting to push the top-20 and forcing their name into the conversation.

For example, Sami “DruggedFox” Muhanna has become a premier player and a perennially top-10 player in Melee. For years, DruggedFox was known for being talented and knowledgeable, but with the uptick in his tournament appearances, his true skill is starting to show.

Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett is another great example. He always had the hand speed but just needed more experience. He’s now looked at as

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

a top-10 player in the game.

Even more examples include players like Edgar “N0ne” Sheleby, who’s pushing the limits of his character, along with James “Duck” Ma and James “Swedish Delight” Liu, who have also exploded into the top-15. All of these players made huge waves in the last year.

I looked through the rest of the top-100 and tried to pinpoint certain players with similar breakout performances with strong wins against top players. I came up with four names that are clearly on their way up. These names are familiar to Melee fans, but are somewhat unknown entities to the standard Smash community.

Kalindi “KJH” Henderson

The Michigan Fox main has made strides each of the last three years. He’s shown clear improvement in certain areas and has the ability to compete with the top-20. If anything, his start to 2017 has been very telling. Wins over the aforementioned Swedish Delight and Duck have him off to a hot start.

Furthermore, KJH has a tournament win under his belt (Fight Pitt 7) and his strongest showing ever at a super major (13th at Genesis 4). But even with the nice start, he has serious matchup issues he’ll need to work on. He is 1-11 against Fox players in the last two years. If he figures out the mirror matchup, watch out.

Justin “Syrox” Burroughs

The rise of Syrox has been well documented, with him showing up on Jospeh “Mang0” Marquez’s infamous stream and being in the public eye as of late. His talent is undeniable as he has big wins over a litany of top-20 players (wins over Westballz, Lucky, and N0ne in 2017).

Additionally, Syrox’s placings are starting to rise at tournaments. Despite his low Evo 2016 and Genesis 3 placings (65th in both), he’s starting to creep into top-20’s at larger tournaments (3rd at Flatiron 2). His month in Southern California has shown his ceiling is extremely high but he needs to add more tournament experience and learn floatie matchups.

Jack “Crush” Hoyt

The most apathetic player in Smash (or so it seems) looks to be anything but that in 2017. The Fox main who has always been a dominating force within the New England region is off to a strong start to the year. After a solid finish at BEAST 7, he looks like a prime candidate to make the jump this year.

He’s already off to a 25-8 start against top 100 players in 2017 after only getting 14 wins against the top 100 all of last year. He’s always had the skill set to be one of the better Fox players, but hasn’t been able to travel out-of-state much. More consistent attendance at tournaments are already starting to pay off from him early on.

Griffin “Captain Faceroll” Williams

The first on-Fox main on the list and a player who has been steadily rising in Southern California for the last year. It feels like only a matter of time before Faceroll gets a marquee win over a top-20 player at a major.

Any player that can roll into a region like Southern California and have the kind of success Faceroll had last year has to be brimming with talent. He has good numbers against the players near his skill level but has only a few wins against players above him. If he can add in more mixups and improve on an already solid edge guard game with Sheik, he can be a real threat to the top-20 in 2017.

Honorable mentions: Slox, Drunk Sloth, and Squid


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Smash Rivalries East vs West Crew Battle Preview

Smash Rivalries by Yahoo Esports, a return to a more crew focused Melee event that pins the two sides of the country against each other. It’s the most classic rivalry in fighting games: East coast vs. West coast. Players are representing more than just themselves and it creates a level of pressure unseen in a regular singles tournament.

The event itself will be held in California, and will consist of two teams of eight players, five hand selected commentators from both sides of the country, and a $15,000 prize pool. The tournament also has a singles and doubles tournament both with $5,000 in the pot ($5k for each event). 13 of the worlds top 20 players will be in attendance. It’s a star-studded affair.

However, it doesn’t seem like a coincidence after the success 2GG’s Civil War had with Smash 4. Crew battles generate rivalries and appeal to a different type of audience not always wanting to watch the singles tournament. If Smash Rivalries can avoid some of the Civil War pitfalls, like crew battle after singles concludes (salty players), the crew battle can be a highlight reel of clutch plays.

The teams are basically even. It’s definitely a pick em’ game with how tight these two rosters are. Historically, the West coast has been the best, mainly Southern California, aside from a few losses at events like Melee-FC. The Southern California crew (seven of eight players on West reside in California) has won the last two Big House crew events. Mango and the depth was the main reason behind the success.

Let’s take a look at the teams…

East
Juan” Hungrybox” DeBiedma, Florida (MIOM Rank: 2)
Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman, New Jersey (MIOM: 4)
James “Swedish Delight” Liu, New York (MIOM: 11)
Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallet, Florida (MIOM: 12)
James “Duck” Ma, Michigan (MIOM: 15)
Ryan “TheMoon” Coker-Welch, New York (MIOM: 21)
Daniel “ChuDat” Rodriguez, Maryland (MIOM: 22)
Sami “DruggedFox” Muhanna, Georgia (MIOM: 23)

 

photo courtesy of twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

Strengths: Top of the roster. Having to deal with both Hungrybox and Mew2King is going to be a problem. Both are capable of taking 4+ stock and could quickly turn the game in the East’s favor. Add the ability to neutralize certain players. Outside of Mango, Hungrybox was 25-2 against the West players in 2016. M2K has strong numbers and even better matchups with a counter pick. It’s going to be tough to game plan around M2K’s versatility.

Weaknesses: Lack of depth. The East has underrated talent, but the bottom half still can’t match up with the West. If it comes down to depth, it’s tough to see a situation where the East prevails. Despite their head-to-head records, players like ChuDat, TheMoon, and DruggedFox can be a liability in the wrong situation. A lead will be extra important if they have to fall back on the bottom half of the roster. That said, all three of those mentioned are hovering around an even record against the West roster.

X-Factor: Duck. Samus can be a hassle and most Fox mains still don’t have a handle on the matchup. Duck proved this with a second place finish at Full Bloom 3. With a West team full of Fox and Falco mains, Duck could be the counter pick answer. His play, as of late, has been great and he’s starting to get more marquee wins on his resume.

Sleeper: ChuDat. Yes, Ice Climbers can be hard-countered with a Fox or PewPewU who has a strong record against Ice Climbers. But, we’ve seen Chu pull off the unbelievable upsets. He’s unquestionably the best Ice Climbers player, and his grab setups continue to improve. He had the potential to beat a player like Mango and get whooped by Lucky’s Fox.

West
Joseph “Mango” Marquez (MIOM Rank: 3)
Zac “SFAT” Cordoni, Northern California (MIOM: 7)
Westin “Westballz” Dennis, Souther California (MIOM: 8)
Jeff “Axe” Williamson, Arizona (MIOM: 9)
DeJuan “Shroomed” McDaniel, Northern California (MIOM: 11)
Kevin “PewPewU” Toy, Northern California (MIOM: 14)
Johnny “S2J” Kim, Southern California (MIOM: 16)
Joey “Lucky” Aldama, Norwalk (MIOM: 19)

S2J and Mango after TBH6 Crew Battle win. Photo Courtesy of twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

Strengths: Depth. The East lacks depth, while the West has eight top-20 players. The ability to throw out Axe, Westballz, and SFAT after Mango is a luxury. Almost every player has a positive record against the East squad excluding matches against Hungrybox and M2K. Outside the Gods, it’s clear the West has the personnel edge.

Weaknesses: Character Diversity. The Four Spacie mains will make it tough to counter pick against an East team with plenty of character options. There’s no floatie characters as all are fast fallers, which will give players like Wizzrobe and TheMoon the chance to take the advantage with a strong punish game.

X-Factor: Mango. Anytime Mango is involved in a crew battle it’s most likely going to come down to his overall performance. He has the highest stock ceiling with the best punish game with his Falco. His punish game is what makes him so dangerous in crew battles. Mango builds momentum quickly through his punish game. The only problem is the East had two Gods to throw at him; but if he gets a favorable matchup, watch out.

Sleeper: S2J. He has a favorable record against most of the East squad, and despite tougher matchups with his Captain Falcon, he can still generate plenty of momentum. He’s shown in the past that his nerves are meant for these types of events. At The Big House 6, S2J held off William “Leffen” Hjelte to win the crew battle regional tournament.

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Armada’s Hot Streak Continues at Beast 7

Photo via Liquidpedia Smash

The contest for greatest Melee player of all time is no longer hyperbole when it comes to Armada (Adam Lindgren). The Swedish sniper, taking home another title at Beast 7 over countryman Leffen (William Hjelte), is another example of how far he’s taken his game in the past three months. He’s dismantling opponents.

Surprise Regions Make Top 8

Regardless, Armada’s strong play is not the main story of Beast 7. How can something so predictable be the main story? The main story was the strong play out of specific regions around the world. New England had its strongest tournament, possibly ever, with Slox (Anthony Detres) finishing top 8 and beating SFAT (Zac Cordoni).

Additionally, Europe showed up and played well. It was an all Europe top three, with Ice (Mustafa Akcakaya) taking down The Moon (Ryan Coker-Welch) to send the Americans home disappointed. On top of those three, Armada’s younger brother, Android (Andreas Lindgren), made the top 8 at his first major. He fell to the legendary European Sheik Amsah (Amsah D. Augustuszoon) but also finished first in doubles. It was a good weekend for the Lindgren clan as they were all there to celebrate the win in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Next, the Northern California trio of SFAT, Nintendude (Michael Brancato), and DizzKidBoogie (Kyle Athayde) had a rough weekend. SFAT failed to make his second consecutive top 8 at a major, losing to TheMoon and Slox. The two Ice Climber players failed to make it out of round two losers. It’s been a bad couple of weeks for the NorCal Melee scene.

Armada’s Switch to Fox vs. Leffen

Finally, let’s return to the grand finals and an extremely exciting top 8. The set between Leffen and TheMoon that provided viewers with an absolute bananas game five. The game on Pokémon stadium will be remembered for its intensity. Let’s now look at Armada pulling out the Fox and still managing to hold off Leffen long enough to win.

Two game fives. One in winners finals, the other in Grand Finals. Armada displayed a strong punish game in the Fox ditto, and a liking for Pokémon stadium’s vertical kill prowess. Armada showed he preferred to play the dash dance game by winning three games each on Dreamland and Pokémon Stadium. Leffen had his opportunities, but as Armada has shown in the past, he has the ability to win in those high intensity moments.

Armada is clearly on a hot streak and not even Leffen can slow him down. It’s hard to see anyone stopping his run of dominance any time soon. He seems to have figured out Hungrybox (Juan DeBiedma) for the time being, but players like Leffen, Mango (Joseph Marquez), and even potentially PPMD (Kevin Nanny) are lurking. Slaying the dragon that is Armada will be the story this year, IF, and that’s a big if, Armada loses. I wouldn’t bet on it.

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Genesis 4: Day Two Melee Singles Recap

    Photo courtesy of vgbootcamp

Genesis 4 day two has come to a close. There are eight Melee players remaining and four doubles teams still eligible to take home the Genesis trophy. Day two had fantastic matches tied in with some upsets, but the trend in top 64 was finishing off players 3-0.

Plup Pulls the Upset of the Day
It’s not often William “Leffen” Hjelte gets beat 3-0 in a set. But Justin “Plup” McGrath did just that. He not only swept Leffen, he two stocked him in every single game of the set. Straight domination by Plup’s Sheik, who kept Leffen’s Fox in the corner. His edge guard conversion rate was high.

Plup will enter champion Sunday on winners side of top 8. He matches up against Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman. The two are practice partners, but M2K has an overwhelming advantage in the set count. However, Leffen did qualify for top 8 by eliminating Daniel “ChuDat” Rodriguez.

Mango vs Armada Winners Semifinals
Genesis will get the famous rivalry between Joseph “Mango” Marquez and Adam “Armada” Lindgren, but not in the Grand Finals. Mango was questionably ranked in the fourth slot, setting up the matchup with Armada. Mango had a strong 7-3 record against Armada in 2016, but the match should come down to the wire.

The most likely scenario is winner of this set wins Genesis 4. Mango already sent Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma to losers bracket with a 3-1 victory. Each game was close, but Mango had counter-pick advantage. Hungrybox will face off with Jeff “Axe” Williamson, who’s having a good tournament.

S2J Thrills the NorCal Crowd
Easily the most intriguing set of day two was when Johnny “S2J” Kim sent the crowd into a ruckus and pushed Armada to the brink. Armada is rarely ever in that situation, so it was a key moment for S2J. His neutral game shined as he was landing long combos and evading attacks efficiently.

Unfortunately, his edge guards fell apart on game 5, as Armada got the reverse sweep. S2J eventually went on to get dismantled by Axe’s Pikachu to finish right outside the top 8. Even Armada looked shook at certain points against S2J.

Upset Results
Rishi “SmashG0d” Malhotra managed to take out James “Swedish Delight” Liu before top 64. SmashG0d went on to lose to Weston “Westballz” Dennis, who qualified for top 8 losers, but had another good performance at a major.

Swedish wasn’t the only top-15 player to fall to a lower seeded player. Mustafa “Ice” Ackakaya lost to Southern California Ice Climbers 3-0. Army did finish at his highest career placing, losing 3-0 to Joey “Lucky” Aldama. Lucky ended up winning six games in top 64 and finished one spot outside top 7.

Similarly to Hungrybox, Westball had some hand injury issues last week. His injury has not affected his game play, as Westballz has looked super strong. He qualified for top 8 by beating Zac “SFAT” Cordoni. It was a slaughtering, facilitated by the fact that SFAT wasn’t mentally prepared.

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MK Leo Takes The Rematch Over Mr. R at Smash Factor 5

Smash Factor 5, a tournament Smash 4 fans have been waiting for centered around one rivalry: if Ramin “Mr. R” Delshad could get his revenge on Mexico’s best Smash 4 player, Leonardo “SF HDG| MK Leo” Lopez Perez. After the surprising upset at Smash Factor 4 in 2015 in which Leo took home the title a week after Mr. R finished second at Evo 2015, all eyes are focused in on the rematch between these two.

The event this year provided some bigger names and had more attention going into this year than last year. Samuel “DT Dabuz” Busby made an appearance as the highest ranking player, but not even he could stop the rematch from happening in the Grand Finals. Mr. R was able to conquer his demons and send Dabuz to losers early in top 8, and MK Leo finished the job as he eliminated Dabuz in losers, beating him 3-1.

The Grand Finals were set. The moment Mr. R had waited for, for almost an entire calendar year was here. And similarly to 2015, MK Leo seemed to have every answer for Mr. R’s more methodical, zoning-type play style with Sheik. The 15-year old rising star once again seemed to take his game to another level.

Before the bracket was reset, MK Leo turned to his alternate character Marth, a character that Mr. R beat a couple months ago 3-0 at Get On My Level 2016, but that result didn’t deter MK Leo from making the character switch. He not only won on Battlefield in game one, but won both of Mr. R’s Final Destination counter-picks, despite being down a stock in both games.

MK Leo, who has one of the most efficient combo games in all of Smash 4, showed that even when he’s losing the neutral game he makes up for it by stringing together long combos and getting solid edge guards. Mr. R struggled getting back up from the ledge, and MK Leo made sure to keep him cornered with retreating forward-airs and zoning with dancing blade.

Some may have considered the switch back to Meta Knight after MK Leo reset the bracket, sandbagging (playing down to your opponent), but let’s remember this is still his main character and Mr. R still had a firm grasp on almost all three of those losses. Mr. R just got hit by well-spaced tippers and lost all of the 50-50 situations. Mr. R also took a quick two-stock off MK Leo’s Marth in the first game on the second set, so a character switch was warranted.

MK Leo was once again able to show off his consistent and deadly kill set-ups starting with his up-air chain combo’s into Meta Knight’s powerful up-B. Any time MK Leo landed a dash attack or got below Mr. R, that more often than not ended up in MK Leo taking a stock by going vertical against Mr. R’s Sheik.

The low percent stock kills took their toll and Mr. R starting getting hit by unsafe options.  The mix-ups from MK Leo threw Mr. R off completely. He even got a low percent stock off Meta knight’s tornado by waiting out Sheik’s air dodge. MK Leo seemed to have every answer in this matchup and once again had his grasp on the mental game against Mr. R.

With the home crowd behind him cheering him on, MK Leo was once again able to take out Mr. R (3-0, 3-2) and win another Smash Factor tournament. The win once again opens up the question of whether or not MK Leo should be considered a top 5 player. MK Leo seems pretty sure of himself….

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