It’s becoming easier to say that the competitive “Super Smash Bros. Melee” talent pool is bigger than ever. With the vast increase in gameplay and rapid improvement by many its members, longtime veterans have seen a high level of success too. This includes one of Melee’s most criminally underrated smashers: Colbol.
Often mentioned as an afterthought in relation to second-tier Fox players like SFAT, Lucky, Silent Wolf and Ice, the Florida Fox is having a bit of a rebirth in 2016. If you don’t believe me about him being underrated, check out the difference in Twitter followers between him and the rest of his contemporaries.
It’s arguable whether Colbol is Top 15 or not, but nonetheless, here’s why you should pay attention to the return of #colinballin.
He is one of the world’s most aggressive players.
At a glance, most Melee players usually think of two kinds of Fox players: aggressive and campy. If you’ve ever watched Colbol, you can attest to how he might just be the embodiment of the first category, far different than what you might expect from a player on the East Coast.
— r0blee (@r0bleee) April 26, 2016
While every top-level Fox player has to be somewhat comfortable playing in extremely tight-spacing situations, they will more than often avoid blatantly unsafe commitments. For example, Lucky with stage positioning frequently uses baits like wavedash down to visually trick his opponent into making an unsafe commitment before reactively punishing them with something like a grab or running shine-nair, though Lucky certainly goes for reads every now and then. On the other hand, Silent Wolf frequently employs extremely quick and short dash dances, while SFAT is known for his slick platform retreats and safe stage control.
In comparison, Colbol’s Fox plays one of the most balls-to-the-wall play styles. His movement isn’t ridiculous in the same way of players like Ice or Alex19, but his aggression, trap-based setups and willingness to fearlessly throw himself at his opponent make for a highly entertaining play style full of charged up smashes, upsmashes to cover tech rolls as a read, clean drillshine upsmashes and, well, just watch this match (even if he loses the set).
Colbol’s Marth, while having a great dash dancing game, can also be identified from other Marth players in its heavy emphasis on mixing up aerial timings and proactive reads, even throwing in seemingly out of nowhere dash attacks on the ground. Although his Marth sometimes doesn’t go for the most optimal of punishes and occasionally drops the spacies chaingrab, Colbol certainly developed an effective secondary to deal with both Fox and Falco.
Obviously, his trap-heavy gameplan isn’t always successful and can lead to somewhat streaky play. Anyone who watched Paragon Los Angeles last year can cite Westballz’s crazy three-stock comeback on Colbol’s Marth as an example of how Colbol’s hot and cold tendencies in gameplay can be a double-edged sword.
Conversely, watch Colbol dismantle Plup’s Falco in the last three games of CFL Smackdown from earlier this week, when he three-stocked, four-stocked and three-stocked him in less than three minutes to win the tourney. Even if that was one of Plup’s secondaries, consider that Plup’s Fox, another secondary, earlier this year 3-0’d Axe, who is considered a Top Ten player in the world.
When he’s on point, Colbol turns from just another Fox player to one of the most unpredictable, brilliant and in-your-face players in competitive Melee. And contrary to what you might expect to be the weakness of someone so aggressive, Colbol has a huge consistency mark in an area unlike many other Fox players.
Colbol dominates lower tier characters/unfamiliar matchups
Most Fox players tend to attack these matchups through a lengthy process of laser camping, platform movement and forcing characters like Jigglypuff, Samus and even Captain Falcon to approach. However, Colbol, while still often employing shooting lasers as safe means of racking up damage, will instead exploit these characters’ lack of defensive options while cornered or in shield.
In a way, instead of playing the “lower tier” game of seeing who approaches first, Colbol is instead pushing his character’s immediate strengths and waiting to see what his opponents can do. This is the mark of a player who has strong enough fundamentals and confidence in tech skill to where they can both quickly figure out both their opponent’s weaknesses and deal with unfamiliarity.
Take Colbol’s set against aMSa at Apex 2014. Throughout his career and that tournament, aMSa destroyed players that were unfamiliar with how to approach the Yoshi matchup. While Silent Wolf, SFAT and others (in tourney and in the post-tourney exhibition) were taken by surprise at aMSa’s precise movement and heavy use of parrying, crouch cancel and double jump cancel nairs, Colbol quickly figured out how to expose Yoshi’s limited options against drill, along with understanding when it wasn’t safe to continue a combo. This is despite having little to no practice against a Yoshi of aMSa’s caliber.
Additionally, outside of Plup’s Samus, which almost every spacie main in the world struggles to beat, Colbol dominates the Fox v. Samus matchup like no one around his skill level. In 2016, Colbol holds a 6-0 record against HugS and Duck, two Samus mains known for their proficiency against both Fox and Falco. For reference, Duck currently boasts a 2-0 record over the last year against Leffen and eliminated Silent Wolf at Smash Summit 2, while HugS drowned SFAT during pools in the Battle of the Five Gods tournament.
In 2016, Colbol has so far maintained dominance over Wizzrobe, Gahtzu and Gravy: strong evidence of both his expertise against Falcon and how often he is a guarantee for Grand Finals. His tournament record against each of the Florida Falcons also is more impressive than even Lucky’s – and Lucky has an absurdly high win rate against Falcon from his lopsided record against S2J. Though Colbol’s loss to n0ne last year at Tipped Off 11 marks a relative blip in his record, Colbol also 3-0’d n0ne back at Fight Pitt.
Either way, Colbol’s fundamentals don’t extend only to Samus and Falcon. Colbol dominated dizzkidboogie twice at Fight Pitt VI and hasn’t lost to an ICs player in the last year, unlike several of his contemporaries. His experience against Luigi through his training with Blea Gelo also clearly shows through his victories over Abate at Fight Pitt V. Colbol also went even with Axe this year in two sets, per Tafokints’ smash database.
So How Good is Colbol?
Other than “pretty damn good,” it’s hard to say for sure where he ranks. You could attribute some of Colbol’s bracket success in two of the year’s largest tournaments to bracket luck, as he got to flex his Samus matchup knowledge at Genesis and got to play Infinite Numbers for a top eight finish at Pound. Those are also only two majors for the year: a relatively small sample size.
Moreover, we shouldn’t ignore Colbol’s flaws. Along with his exciting victories come disappointing performances against Fox players in particular, like when he was double eliminated by Twitch at Bad Moon Rising, sent to losers by Redd at Super Smash Con 2015, and eliminated by MikeHaze at The Big House 5 (where he was also sent to losers by MacD).
Yet historically speaking, Colbol isn’t exactly unproven either. Even last year, Colbol still managed to bring Armada to a last-stock and last-hit situation at Paragon Orlando, 3-0’d Hungrybox and sent Mew2King to loser’s bracket at HTC Throwdown, among numerous victories over Plup’s Sheik in several Central Florida tournaments. Not many people took two sets off two non-sandbagging “gods,” while also beating Plup within the last two years.
Furthermore, are Colbol’s losses really any worse than people around his skill level? If you’re going to bring down Colbol for losing to players like Pengie, it’s only fair to criticize MacD for losing a lopsided matchup in his favor to Infinite Numbers, along with someone like Duck for losing to a fresh out of retirement Bizzarro Flame at Pound. By virtue of Melee growing, there’s more more potential for upsets at a tournament than ever. They’re hardly a reason to sleep on someone any more.
Though last year was a harsh return to Earth , it looks like Colbol is back and better in 2016. Whether or not he’ll keep up his latest streak of performances remains up for debate, but if you’re a fan of competitive Melee, you should definitely be paying attention to one of its most wacky, freestyle and underrated players.
Tweet your Melee thoughts to @ssbmjecht for your thoughts on Colbol and follow me for more smash content! Also feel free to correct/inform me on any missed sets or anything I wasn’t able to find.