A History of The Big House Pt. 2 (with brief predictions for 2016 at the end!)

With The Big House 6 starting this Friday, I wanted to do a quick write-up on the tournament’s history over the last five years. In case you missed my pieces on the series’ first three tournaments, you can check it out in a previous post from earlier this week.

This time, I’ll be taking a look at the last two years at The Big House: and also offer my own predictions for what to expect this year.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This article will focus mainly on Melee singles.)

The Big House 4
October 4-5, 2014
574 entrants

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2014 was a massive year for Super Smash Bros. Melee in many ways: as the first year of a post-EVO 2013 and the start of the “documentary” era, the scene grew in terms of competitors, as well as spectators. Prize pots grew bigger and the stakes behind each tournament were bigger than ever. With events like Apex 2014, SKTAR 3, MLG 2014, EVO 2014 and even Kings of Cali 4 bringing an unprecedented amount of hype back into the Melee scene, it was clear that The Big House 4, now held at the Sheraton DTW Hotel, had the potential to be the bonafide major of Melee’s fall season. The only complaint you could have was that wobbling was banned.

Heading into The Big House 4 with Melee’s stock at an all-time high, Robin “Juggleguy” Harn, its creator had his work cut out for him. Not only was this tournament about to break the record for biggest Midwest major ever (previously held by FC-Diamond’s 256 entrants), but it had five of the world’s six best players attending, along with more than twice as many people entering as 2013.

This is a factor that many people don’t understand: running The Big House 4 was a tremendous risk for Juggleguy. If the tournament was hyped up, only to be inefficiently, not garner enough interest or be hurt by some failure, not only would his series and reputation as a tournament organizer be under jeopardy, but Melee would still need to rely mostly on Apex, MLG, EVO and other non-smash centric tournaments for its growth.

Essentially speaking, The Big House 4 was a test to see if smashers could finally have the sustainable, self-created major that they craved for since Revival of Melee, Pound and GENESIS fell off most people’s radars.  Remember that the memory of Plank’s inability to pay out the highest placing players at Pound V was still fresh, having occurred just three years before. If you want to take this argument further, you could say that The Big House 4 determined if grassroots tournaments by smashers could still thrive on their own.

Could Michigan’s most respected TO finally turn his small regional into a premier national?

Top 8
1. Mango
2. Mew2King
3. Leffen
4. Armada
5. Hax/Lucky
7. Westballz/Kels

The quick answer? Yes. The long answer, however, requires a bit more explaining.

Not only was the tournament a smashing (pun intended) success for everyone involved, but the level of excitement and storylines before the tournament’s top eight was already enough on its own. Sets like Dart! vs. Shroomed, Shroomed vs. Leffen, Vro vs. Hax, Bizzarro Flame vs. Darkrain, Bizzarro Flame vs. Triple R, Kels vs. Axe, Gahtzu vs. Lucky, Colbol vs. Axe, Lucky vs. Hungrybox and Westballz vs. Armada showed brief flashes of upset potential (if not being straight up shockers) or brilliance. Here’s another set you might have heard of.

(In case you’re new to the scene: Hax was a former Captain Falcon player who switched to Fox in 2014, claiming that Captain Falcon was unviable as a character to win a national, much to the chagrin of his fans. Mango, the other player in the set, played Captain Falcon against him for its first two games, also changing his character’s costume palette to the same pink one that Hax used to use. Mango then played Marth for the rest of the set, causing Hax to notoriously tweet his complaints against Mango not playing either of his mains, which were Fox and Falco.)

However, the hero of The Big House 4 didn’t even make it to the tourney’s top eight. Michigan Peach player Kalamazhu defeated Lucky in pools and lost to DJ Nintendo before tearning through Porkchops, KirbyKaze and MacD en route to a match for top eight against Hax, who was just sent to losers bracket by Mango’s secondaries. Going up 2-1 against Hax and zero to deathing him on game four’s first stock, Kalamazhu just couldn’t hold on, eventually losing in a last-stock, 3-2 loss, after getting hit by a getup attack by Hax. Nonetheless, he left the tournament as Michigan’s pride and joy, though it certainly wasn’t all the Midwest could celebrate, as Kels placed seventh after going through a massive losers run, defeating Bladewise, Nintendude, Wizzrobe and Axe.

I could write novels about the tournament’s top eight. But if you’d like to learn more about The Big House 4, I recommend this series of Reddit posts written by Josh “roboticphish” Kassel, a fellow smash writer (linked is the first of a five-part series, which you can find on Reddit). By Mango’s victory, it was clear that not only was The Big House 4 a huge success for the Melee and smash community, it was also arguably its most exciting tournament ever.

The Big House 5
October 2-4, 2015
1,317 entrants

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Juggleguy’s series was on the map before, but now it was fully established as smash’s defacto fall major. With 2014’s Big House being a smashing success (puns), there was no longer a question of whether the tournament would run well or not – but smashers now wondered how much bigger the series could grow, additionally with yet another change of venue to the Adoba Dearborn Hotel. Even better for Ice Climbers players, wobbling was now allowed!

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The Big House 5 was also the first mainstream national to begin using a compendium-style funding system on smash.gg to enhance the tournament experience for spectators and tournament goers alike. For example, with the money donated to the compendium, The Big House 5 was able to fly out six competitors to the event, as well as fund an eight-regional crew battle bracket on Day 1, increase pot bonuses for tournament attendees and also increased event caps for entrants.

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Despite still having a promising buildup, The Big House 5 didn’t come without significant controversy. During the same week of the tournament, Leffen, a contender for being the world’s best Melee player, was denied access to the United States, being deported back to Sweden for traveling in the United States and making money from an American company (Team Solo Mid) while on a tourist visa. While people were still hyped for The Big House 5, the lack of one of its most recognizable attendees put a sour note on the event, though not because of anything its organizers could have realistically planned for.

Moreover, after having three consecutive years of hosting Project M tournaments, Juggleguy decided not to run these brackets for another year, due to increasing controversy over the mod/game hybrid’s legal ambiguity. Many were outraged at the time, but consider what was at stake here: Juggleguy and The Big House could have lost several sponsors (like Nintendo of America) or possible professional relationships because of the inherent precariousness of streaming a game like Project M. Also remember that VGBootCamp at this point, the main streamer for The Big House 5, had severed its ties with streaming Project M. While it was slightly disappointing at the time to hear, it wasn’t exactly unexpected.

Top 8
1. Armada
2. Hungrybox
3. Mew2King
4. Mango
5. Westballz/Shroomed
7. SFAT/Abate

Although the tournament’s grand finals and losers finals were relatively slow-paced, if not slightly concerning due to the drop in viewer count from 2014, there were still several thrilling moments from last year’s Big House. Ever see this?

Abate, Pittsburgh’s best player at the time and the best Luigi player in the world, had a hell of a tournament at The Big House 5. On his way to seventh place, he beat Axe, S2J and eliminated the local favorite Duck, losing only to Mango and Shroomed. It’s the most impressive placing a Luigi main has ever had at a national with the caliber of talent as The Big House 5.

It’s also not as if the tourney lacked other exciting upsets or sets. In addition to Ginger sending DruggedFox to losers early on (just a month after DruggedFox beat Mango), Nintendude brought Mango to game five, Swedish Delight beat Westballz (then not an expected result) and MikeHaze defeated Colbol.

More than anything, the tournament seemed to help Armada’s legacy. 3-0’ing Hungrybox in winners finals and winning a five-game set in grand finals, Armada won yet another major of the year, adding to his seemingly endless list of trophies for 2015. EVO 2015 made it clear that the Swede was No. 1, but The Big House 5 was the cherry on the top for which player had the most successful year – even without one of its most anticipated contenders.

The Big House 6
October 7-9, 2016
1,563 entrants

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Well, here we are. Just about a few days before The Big House 6, the big question you’re all probably wondering: who is going to win this tournament?

As tafokints and the Crimson Blur have discussed numerous times on Commentator’s Curse, it’s hard to say who is the favorite. The world’s presumptive No. 1, Hungrybox, is coming off consecutive losses at Shine 2016 (fourth place) and Super Smash Con 2016 (second place), while outside of two sets against Westballz at Syndicate, smashers haven’t seen Armada play against opponents near his caliber. We also still don’t know whether Leffen is attending or not, as well as if we will see Super Smash Con 2016 Mango or the Mango who can be beaten by players considered a tier below him right now, like Plup, SFAT or Westballz. Could we see another tournament win for Mew2King – or perhaps a “demigod” like Plup, SFAT or Westballz?

Here are my predictions:

Melee Doubles Winners: Mew2King and Hungrybox.
Melee Singles Winners: Mango.
Melee Crews Winners: Southern California (come at me, comments!).

Hope you enjoyed this brief write-up – and here’s to what will hopefully be another successful installment for The Big House!

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