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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Armada’s Loss at Royal Flush Ends Historic Six Month Run of Dominance

In the world of competitive Melee, it’s hard to imagine Adam “Armada” Lindgren being overlooked as a player. Falling short at Royal Flush to Joseph “Mango” Marquez was a heart breaker and ends a historic run of dominance from a singular player. But in this community, sometimes the narrative is more appealing than reality.

Armada vs DruggedFox . Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/VGbootcamp

Let’s take a look at just how good Armada has been in the last six months.

Yes, six months of dominance, from the end of October 2016 to early May 2017, Armada won everything. In that same time span, he only dropped two sets. One to Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma at Canada Cup 2016, and the other to Jason “mew2king” Zimmerman at UGC Smash Open, which both resulted in losses after the reset.

However, his last two outright losses were to Mango. In both instances, Armada lost to Mango’s Fox in reset game five situations. As always, those sets were absolute classics, with the crowd favorite Mango taking it home (The Big House 6 and Royal Flush). Armada responded exceptionally well after the game five loss at TBH6 and showed his untempered resolve.

Conversely, Armada gave Mango the hands at Genesis 4. Armada’s 6-1 game differential and a +10 in stock differential over Mango was staggering. Despite it being a massacre, the pure dominance is sometimes overlooked because entertainment value was compromised. It was the quickest Grand Finals yet, and killed the carry-over momentum Mango had from playing in losers. It almost looked too easy for Armada.

Subsequently, Armada ended up winning nine straight tournaments from October to April. Two Smash Summit victories, UGC Smash Open, Dreamhack Winter, and most importantly, Genesis 4. No one could touch him in the singles bracket. He had four Grand Finals victories over Hungrybox in that span, who has been arguably just as consistent.

That’s not even mentioning Armada’s results in doubles. It’s hard to argue against the Swedish “brudders” being the best team in Melee right now. The reset win over William “Leffen” Hjelte and Mustafa “Ice” Ackaya at Royal Flush showed once again the unflinching demeanor of Armada and his brother Andreas “Android” Lindgren.

Looking back on Melee history, Armada’s most recent run coupled with his success in the last three years has never been matched in modern Melee. Sure, Ken “Ken” Hoang had long stretches without losses, but those were in the early days. Now Melee has high-level tournaments every weekend. Mango is the only one with similar runs of pure dominance.

On the whole, it’s good to see new names on top of the results page. But let’s take a second to fully appreciate the historical context of what Armada was able to accomplish. It will be hard to mimic that performance with how competitive Melee is today, but Armada can do it again. His Fox continues to improve while his Peach is as steady as ever. He has the formula and experience.

Even with his most recent loss at Royal Flush, I would not bet against Armada heading into the Summer of Smash (tournaments). It will be interesting to see if Armada can win his third title at another tournament. Mango and Armada still battling for the Threevo.

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Mother’s Day Mango Wins Again at Royal Flush 2017

Mother’s Day Mango is one of the story lines you’d have to see to believe. Similarly to the Armada and Mango playing in Genesis Grand Finals, it felt like Joseph “Mango” Marquez was destined to win his fourth straight Mother’s Day tournament no matter what. Losers bracket Mango is one thing, but Mother’s Day Mango is the water of a broken dam coming down the hill.

Mango and Armada. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/VGbootcamp

As for the Royal Flush Grand Finals, it was one for the ages and one we won’t forget watching anytime soon. It not only halted the most dominant six month stretch in Melee history coming from Adam “Armada” Lindgren, but also might have jump started Mango after a rough start to 2017. It was the strongest, most disciplined Mango performance since The Big House 6.

Mango’s 2017 has been filled with inconsistencies. One bad loss in the last couple months almost guaranteed a tilted Mango heading into losers bracket. His struggles with Daniel “ChuDat” Rodriguez have been well documented, but despite an early loss to Armada, Mango stayed focused and kept improving as the tournament went on.

Mothers Day Mango Winning Streak Moves to Four

The most peculiar stat coming out of Mango’s Royal Flush win was that it was his fourth straight Mother’s Day victory. Dating back to 2014 where he beat Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiemda to win Get On My Level. He continued the streak with a win at Press Start in 2015 and Dreamhack Austin in 2016.

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/VGbootcamp

It’s remarkable what Mango has been able to accomplish on the day honoring mothers. In fact, his own mother is looked at as one of the moms of Melee. Snugaloo, as she’s known on twitter, is a rabid Mango supporter and won’t back down from anyone if they call her son out. Is this special bond driving Mango towards major success? YES.

Breaking Down Grand Finals

Regardless of the phenomena, Mango clearly made the proper adjustments mentally and physically to win Royal Flush. First off, the Fox pick, moving away from Falco, proved to be the right choice. Mango has been faithful to Falco since the start of 2017, but the inconsistent results show it might not be the best choice for him. Secondly, he had a more conservative game plan while still finding ways to be the aggressor.

Additionally, it was good to see Mango play more of a laser game, especially against Armada. He also did a great job of making it back to the stage and making Armada win more neutral exchanges which Mango had the clear advantage in. The most glaring improvement was Mango’s mental game.

In the grand finals set, Mango entered the last stock at a deficit in nearly every game. His more conservative game plan allowed him to chip away at Armada’s Peach, but more importantly he never got down on himself. Mango has struggled in the past to make comebacks against Armada, but today it looked like an entirely different player.

Finally, Mango found more creative ways to KO Armada. The laser game coupled with his run away style till about 60% led to the kill setups with Fox’s up-air. Mango used Peach’s weight to his advantage and linked plenty of aerials into up-air combo finishers, often times below 100% which is not the norm against Armada.

The question now is if Mango can replicate this performance? This win is sure to build up plenty of confidence within Mango, but let’s see if he can avoid complacency. The hope is we see Mother’s Day Mango make an appearance on other days.

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MomoCon’s Smash 4 Event To Feature ZeRo, Nairo, MKLeo, Fatality, and Abadango

MomoCon 2017 is slated to be another can’t miss Smash 4 event. In attendance will be top players, like Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios, Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada, Griffin “Fatality” Miller, Leonardo “MKLeo” Lopez Perez, and Yuta “Abadango” Kawamura.

The main event for the esports side of one of the fastest growing conventions in America will be the Smash 4 tournament. Each year, Smash has a strong showing at MomoCon, and this year will be no exception. It will all be commentated by the community’s own D’Ron “D1” Maingrette and Phil “EE” Visu.

Aside from Smash, MomoCon 2017 will host 34 other events with $15,000 worth of prizes. The games range from an Overwatch tournament all the way to BlazeBlue. Pokken was also provided a $1k pot bonus as one of the ten sponsored events by Evo. It has something for everyone and I haven’t even talked about the anime side of the convention…

Now back to Smash, MomoCon is clearly putting an emphasis on the Smash scene this year. With all the top players making the trip, it’s become a premier tournament. Winning this tournament will be a difficult task. Taking out the talented southern region players will be tough, but going through the gauntlet of elite skilled players feels impossible.

MomoCon’s competitive gaming side is starting to take off, and it’s become beneficial for so many developing esports scenes. Throwing 34 individual events shows MomoCon’s dedication to providing a quality event for the competitive video game fans in attendance.

Who takes the MomoCon 2017 trophy?

It’s tough to say, considering five players are capable of taking this tournament. The favorite will be Zero, as always, but MKLeo should be looked at as a legitimate threat. Abadango has also stayed consistently in the top five and continues to have strong results in Japan.

Find out more about MomoCon 2017 on their website and get tickets before the event happens on May 25th through the 28th in Atlanta, Georgia

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Japan Has Huge Weekend of Fighting Game Tournaments

When the sun set in America, the Japanese fighting game community came alive. In total, four majors took place over the course of the weekend covering nearly every smash title and plenty of other fighters. Japan Cup 2017 (SSB64), Crazy Hand 2017 (SSBM), Umubera Japan Major (SSB4), and KVO x TSB 2017.

Tournaments in Japan aren’t usually the focus. Aside from a few events a year, the west is almost always the center of the fighting game universe. It takes a perfect storm of tournaments, and that’s what Japan provided. The first major event was KVO x TSB 2017, which brought together all the best Guilty Gear Players from Japan.

KVO x TSB 2017
For one thing, anytime Ken-ichi “Ogawazato” Ogawa is entered into a tournament, the prestige of that event goes up significantly. I also turn into a screaming fan girl. However, his Zato-1 couldn’t get past Omito “Omito” Hashimoto, and lost to his elusive Johnny that we saw at Evo 2017.

Via twitch.tv/teamsp00ky

Besides Guilty Gear, the event featured seven more games and was a great showing for that scene. In most games, top players did make an appearance, including Leonardo “MKLeo” Lopez Perez taking Super Smash Bros 4. The other tournaments included Pokken, both Smash titles, King of Fighters XIV, and Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. But no Street Fighter V which raised some questions.

To get back to the point, it was nice to see the Guilty Gear scene throw a big event. The uniqueness of that game and validity of the players make it an entertaining watch…and as I said earlier, Ogawa is a fighting game God.

Umebura Japan Major 2017
The biggest event of the weekend had to be the Umebura Smash Major. All of Japan’s big hitters showed up to one of the largest Smash events of the year. It was a nice showing from the less known Japanese players, but MKLeo from Mexico ended up taking home the win.

Via twitch.tv/shigaming

Despite picking the most unfortunate tag in Smash, Kengo “KEN” Suzuki is a player people will start to remember. The best Sonic in Smash 4, who was recently placed first on Japan’s Power Rankings, made his point this weekend. Even with the loss in Grand Finals, his 3-0 win over MKLeo in winners finals was impressive.

However, MKLeo made a character switch after the first set. He switched from Cloud to his namesake in Meta Knight and won six of the next eight games. MKLeo made adjustments and used MK’s excellent vertical attacks (shuttle loops) to kill off the top.

Japan Cup 2017
For Smash 64 fans, this is one of the biggest events of the year. Japan’s Smash 64 scene is arguably stronger than America, and that makes for a good show. Familiar names like Wangera and Kysk got upstaged by the second best Kirby main in the game, Fukurou.

For example, Fukurou showed off his strong punish game even against one of the most elusive Pikachu players in Maha. It was a great victory considering Fukurou usually finishes second to Wario. He finally got his big win.

Crazy Hand 2017
The Crazy Hand series is one I try to cover as much as possible. It’s the most stacked Melee tournament consistently. It’s usually the same players winning, but there’s still plenty of hidden gems among the entrants.

Crazy Hand top 4. Via twitter.com/MasterHand_ssbm

Conversely, Japan’s rising Marth main, Daiki “Rudolph” Ideoka, has had great success recently at Japan regionals. His win was due in part to returning to Marth after a brief stint with Fox. He looked as comfortable as ever with Marth. Now we’re guaranteed to see Rudolph at Evo 2017.

Outside of Rudolph, the top results were all over the place. Similar to the rise of players like Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett in North America, Nao “Gucci” Iguchi’s Captain Falcon is leveling up. His play got him all the way to Grand Finals. Wins over Yu, Kounotori, and K.F. show the type of day he had.

Regardless of how good the singles event was, the main event had to be the East vs. West Japan crew battle. Even with a lesser talent pool, the East came through with Masaya “aMSa” Chikamoto and Gucci taking a combined 18 stocks. Only K.F. on the West came close by taking eight stocks with Jigglypuff.

In conclusion, it was nice to see a marathon weekend of events overseas for a change. The tournament scene isn’t as developed, but the talent pool there is ridiculously good.

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ChuDat’s Run is Changing the Game

The Melee community is deep into a discussion on whether or not a ledge grab limit should be implemented to combat camping. Relative to ledge camping, the Maryland Melee scene recently banned wobbling in lieu of a community decision. All these issues arising in the last month can be traced back to one man: Daniel “ChuDat” Rodriguez.

However, ChuDat isn’t the root of the community’s discourse. He just happens to be excelling in a time where the community is keeping a close eye on these types of game mechanics. Since wobbling was discovered, it’s been a nuisance for some members of the Melee scene. It’s also cultivated a style of extreme defensive play predicated on getting as many grabs as possible.

ChuDat is seen as the proprietor of this Ice Climbers style in this dilemma. Chu has no shame as a player. He has his game plan and forces his opponents to counter it. The patience displayed by Chu should be commended. He’s not going to change his play based on a community outcry to try and make specific Ice Climbers matchups more entertaining.

For example, we’ll take a look at the Grand Finals from this weekend. Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma, the premier Jigglypuff player in Melee, fell down 2-0 to ChuDat. In most cases, Hungrybox will play an in-and-out style where he dances out of aerial range with Jigglypuff’s four extra jumps. This forces opponents to find a way into Hungrybox’s defensive zone.

In Grand Finals, ChuDat would never approach, and he essentially camped under platforms. After getting punished in the first couple games through approaching, Hungrybox decided to be more passive and stay away from the center of the stage. In turn, this made the next three games about outlasting one another and winning in a small number of micro engagements.

Ultimately, early leads were able to carry Hungrybox to his second Dreamhack title. But three straight games lasting 6+ minutes left a bad taste in some Melee fans’ mouths. Some people blame Hungrybox, some people blame ChuDat. In the end, no player is to blame, for this is just the nature of the game.

The question becomes, is this an actual problem? It’s funny because these types of complaints seem to be on a cycle. Many times in the past, the legitimacy of wobbling has been argued. Also, anytime Hungrybox is forced to use Jigglypuff’s ledge tactics, the conversation pops up again. It’s like clockwork.

Do we need a ledge guard limit?

Absolutely not. The only time it would be applicable is when it comes to Jigglypuff players. Taking away that advantage severely hinders that character’s ability to win. It’d be completely unfair to players like Hungrybox to implement a ruling that’s so outwardly unfair toward Puff mains.

The Brawl days are over. Despite the results on Sunday, we’ve seen plenty of tactics to counter ledge stalling. Adam “Armada” Lindgren had similar difficulties against Hbox in 2016, but kept making tweaks and forced him off that game plan.

In conclusion, anytime Hungrybox seems to play more defensive, the community throws a fit. Even against a player committed to not approaching, fans still show their dismay. As Hungrybox said on his stream, if money is on the line, then he’ll do whatever it takes to win. That’s the most sound argument to be made. The strategy can be beaten and isn’t broken. Anyone who dislikes this style doesn’t truly understand the game of Melee and how it’s meant to be played.
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Hungrybox’s Approach to Win Dreamhack Austin: Don’t Approach

Approaching in Melee is a dangerous proposition. Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma has perfected the art of forcing opponents to approach and punishing them to their deaths. Even against Daniel “ChuDatz” Rodriguez’s defensive minded Ice Climbers in Grand Finals at Dreamhack Austin, Hungrybox forced approaches.

Hungrybox makes his opponent plays long, drawn-out games. Aside from the air-spacing, ledge and platform camping, the mental game Hungrybox plays is his most potent weapon. It’s hard to outlast him, especially if the main aspect of a game plan is to play defensively. A large number of entrants struggled in this regard.

Hungrybox’s Dreamhack Austin marks his third major win of the year. It’s another instance of Hungrybox’s consistency pushing him into a title. His path to his second Dreamhack title went through four top-20 players, including Justin “Plup” McGrath, Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett, and eventually beating Chu. A 12-3 (4-0 in sets) record showed he had little trouble.

ChuDat’s Improbable Run

Aside from Hungrybox’s win, Jospeh “Mango” Marquez returned to form making it back to top 8 winners with a solid 3-0 victory over William “Leffen” Hjelte. Unfortunately for the Mango nation, he dropped his third set in 2017 to ChuDat. Three “yaayyahyuz” at three straight tournaments.

ChuDat avoided having to face Adam “Armada” Lindgren due to controller issues, but he still had to fight his way through two Gods while pushing Hungrybox to his limits. A Nana forward smash ended Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman’s day while Mango made too many mental mistakes. As a matter of fact, ChuDat has earned a placing in the top 8 at every major he’s entered in 2017. His return to prominence has been nothing short of remarkable.

In the elimination games, Mango grabbed game one off M2K before dropping three straight on the larger stages (Final Destination and Dream Land). After winning teams on Friday and having a strong Saturday, his recent struggles showed up again. Mango’s in one of the worst slumps of his illustrious career.

Regardless, Hungrybox takes the spotlight away from a momentum based player making their rise. It’s a time-old tradition where Hungrybox ruthlessly stomps on his opponent’s carry over momentum with his ability to change the pace of play. Chu mentally prepared for the aggressive Mango style and didn’t prepare for a potential matchup with Hungrybox.

In the Grand Finals, both guys were playing to win by playing their style. ChuDat landed a few grab setups, but his strength was avoiding hits with Sopo. He tacked on plenty of damage with just Sopo. Hungrybox adjusted and made sure to win neutral early to play with the clock on his side. The strategy earned him his second Dreamhack trophy.


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Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/Dreamhack

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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