Analyzing Hungrybox’s Punish Game

Hungrybox’s fifth-place finish at WTFox 2 was his worst tournament of the year. His 3-0 loss to Wizzrobe was the first time Hungrybox lost to a player outside of Armada, Mango and Leffen in 2016. As for losing to Mew2King, the 3-0 marked the end of Hungrybox’s nine-set winning streak against him, as well as the first tournament of the year he failed to place in the top three.

While it’s natural to question if Hungrybox’s opponents are catching up to him, heading into this year’s EVO, it’s still foolish to count out the world’s best Jigglypuff. In fact, one thing stood out during his less-than-standard set against Mew2King: Hungrybox’s brilliant conversions off grabs.

Although the set was a 3-0 loss for Hungrybox, let’s take a look each grab by Jigglypuff in the loser’s quarters match. For the sake of data collecting, let’s count regrabs during a combo or follow-up as part of the initial grab combo.

Grab 1 (2:16 to 2:27)

Hungrybox gets  his first initial grab of the game and converts it into two edgeguard scenarios. He’s not able to kill Fox, but sets himself up in relatively high-reward situations where guessing or reacting correctly could have led to a stock. Unfortunately, he either guesses wrong or misses on the second edgeguard.

Grab 2 (3:54 to 3:58)

At this point in the first game, you could practically see the Crimson Blur wince as he increasingly yells “that’s so dangerous” during Mew2King’s recovery, but Hungrybox covers the offstage jump a little bit too early and is too late later to finish him off. These moments are especially crucial in last-stock macro situations, even if they are sometimes tossups.

Grab 3 (4:31 to 4:36)

This is a fairly standard grab conversion from Hungrybox, but he exceptionally succeeds in the face-to-face skirmish before landing the grab. Having already called Mew2King’s dash forward with a pound, Hungrybox preemptively shields to avoid a stray shine/hit after seeing Mew2King’s tech-in-place. Immediately afterward, you can see Hungrybox reacts to Fox’s spot-dodge by wavedashing back out of grab/shine range, which Mew2King whiffs. Noticing Mew2King instantly shielding (probably expecting a high Jigglypuff aerial on shield), Hungrybox then grabs Mew2King, follows his DI towards the platform and rests him.

Grab 4 (4:50 to 4:56)

The way Hungrybox gets the grab in this situation is pretty silly (as Mew2King dashes through him), but nonetheless, his conversion is phenomenal. He doesn’t instantly hit Mew2King off his tech option, but Hungrybox sees him crouching in the corner and, rather than back airing him, launches Mew2King with an up air at the beginning of Fox’s up-smash animation. Hungrybox then covers the DI and reacts to the tech in place with an another up air, easily resting him afterwards.

Grab 5 (5:17 to 5:25)

To Mew2King’s credit, he tricks Hungrybox into going too low, but given Hungrybox’s stock lead in the game, the aggressive followup was arguably worth it at the time. He instantly recognizes Mew2King’s DI away, but doesn’t get tricked by the presence of platforms, back airing Fox to oblivion. Hungrybox could have probably spaced his initial off-stage aerial a little better or perhaps grabbed ledge after seeing Mew2King drop down, but the result is still an amazing punish.

Grab 6 (5:28 to 5:35)

Somehow, Hungrybox manages to regrab Fox off of a downthrow. Then, in typical Hungrybox fashion, he up airs Mew2King on the platform, but instead of resting him off the tech roll away, he back airs him, probably expecting Mew2King to DI out. As Fox falls down,  Hungrybox seemingly messes up an input by up airing while following Mew2King’s descent from afar, though it’s unclear if a back air would have hit or not. Either way, had Jigglypuff gotten the rest on the platform, this would have been four grabs, four deaths for Hungrybox in the game.

Grab 7 (7:27 to 7:32)

After hitting an initial drill, Hungrybox grabs Mew2King, up throws him and then catches the DI away with back air. Notice how Hungrybox positions himself so that even if Mew2King jumped, he could reactively up air him. Sadly for Hungrybox, he back airs again a little too early, either underestimating Fox’s hitstun or expecting Mew2King to jump. I’m not sure whether the edgeguard was guaranteed or not, but the initial throw certainly put Hungrybox in an optimal place to succeed.

Grab 8 (7:43 to 7:50)

It’s unclear why Mew2King rolled to ledge while coming down – possibly out of fear? Either way, Hungrybox grabs him and throws Fox off stage, catching his jump and high Firefox attempt. Hungrybox then grabs ledge, able to react to both a high recovery and sweetspot attempt. Holding on does enough here.

Grab 9 (7:55 to 8:01)

As Melee players, we’d like to think that everything done in high-level play is intentional. In this situation, however, Mew2King gets extremely lucky. Hungrybox nair-grabs him and does a standard up air into rest combo (on questionable DI from Mew2King), but the rest lands as a phantom hit. Go figure.

(Sidenote: I wonder if nair to rest – was possible in this situation. Maybe not as a guaranteed punish, but perhaps Hungrybox could have reacted to Mew2King’s downtilt in the wrong direction with an immediate rest on the move’s lag).

Grab 10 (9:49 to 9:55)

This is the last Hungrybox grabs of the tournament, but it’s his most impressive conversion off a grab in the set. Down two stocks to one, after just taking Mew2King’s second stock, Hungrybox manages to land a grab off Mew2King’s landing from a jump. He instantly up throws him, up air regrabs him and reacts to the missed tech with a rest. All things considered, it’s not super flashy – and is mostly possible because of Mew2King’s bad/panicking DI – but the result still highlights Hungrybox’s efficiency, as well as his incredible clutch factor. You can even hear the dread in Webs’ voice when Hungrybox gets the grab. It’s the kind of brilliance Hungrybox has spoiled viewers with over the last year.

Conclusion

Looking at Hungrybox’s punish game prowess doesn’t mean we should dismiss his loss as a fluke or take credit away from Mew2King. In this set, the latter made several improvements to his own play. For example, instead of shooting lasers too close to Hungrybox or trying to crouch cancel so many of Jigglypuff’s aerials, Mew2King played more confidently and assertively, adding in more dash dancing and using uptilt/back air to fight Hungrybox head to head.

But even in the set above, which he loses 3-0, Hungrybox lands a grab ten times. Five of his ten grabs led to Mew2King losing a stock, either directly or as a result of a situation. Four of the other five grabs led to edgeguard situations, where Hungrybox simply guessed wrong or mistimed an aerial off-stage. That’s still not counting a phantom rest that, if landed correctly, would have put Hungrybox at above 50 percent for the amount of kills taken from a grab.

Some more numbers warrant a look:

Average starting percent before a grab: 39.6 percent.
Average ending percent after a grab conversion: 76.1 percent.
Average combo length: 36.5 percent.

When we think of the best combo artists in Melee, we often think of players like Armada, Mew2King or Westballz, who each have reputation for embarrassing their opponents after landing a hit. If you’re a smartass, you’ll probably mention dizzkidboogie or any wobbling Ice Climbers player.

Against Fox, Hungrybox has every reason to be mentioned in the conversation for best punish game. His prowess in destroying Fox is arguably more impressive than anyone else on the planet, considering the tremendous matchup disadvantage he faces as a Jigglypuff player and how deceptively easy his combos are. Hell, judging by just his conversions off grabs, you can see how one missed punish each game can play a crucial role in determining a set outcome.

Even in situations where he can’t immediately hit his opponent, Hungrybox places himself in a position where he anticipates the opposing player’s interactive options and makes a mix of educated guesses and reactions regarding what they do. If he’s not instantly resting or comboing off a grab, he’s still gaining an advantage, all while collecting data on your habits, as you can see from the first game, where  Hungrybox plays passively, not going for many grabs and preferring to let Mew2King be the aggressor in numerous situations. These aren’t traits unique to Hungrybox and can pretty much apply to any top player – but they’re especially noticeable with him in any set he plays, even the ones where he isn’t perfect, like above.

Celebrate the 3-0’s of Wizzrobe and Mew2King, make as many anti-Hungrybox memes as you want and joke about the ending of 666xx. Just be sure to appreciate brilliance when it’s in front of you

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