Monday Morning Marth: 3/12/2018

This is part of a new series that I’m trying to do, as a tribute to standard “Monday Morning Quarterback” columns in traditional sports. In this series, I discuss my quick takeaways from the last week of the smash community. I’m not sure how often I’ll be doing these, or whether these will necessarily be as well-received as my history pieces, but I figured I’d give something a shot. Let me know if you like these! Picture credit: MeleeEveryday. Will take down, if requested!

1. Sparse Thoughts on Smash 5’s Impact on Melee

Nine years after Mango won the Revival of Melee, Nintendo announced the incoming release of the newest sequel to Super Smash Bros on March 8. It doesn’t have an official name yet, but it’s planned to come out for the Nintendo Switch later this year. Many aren’t sure whether it’s just a port of Smash 4 or an entirely new game.

It’s interesting to note that Nintendo has a history of not always living up to its word with release dates. If you want an example of this, look no further than nearly ten years ago, when Super Smash Bros. Brawl came out in Japan on January 31, 2008 and March 9, 2008 for North America, after being initially planned for the 2007 holiday season. Imagine how European and Australian smashers felt when the game released in their regions for late June.

It’s natural for many smashers to not just to contemplate on the future of Smash 4, but also wonder what the effects will be on Melee’s community. What if Smash 5 is so popular that its success completely dwarfs Melee and leads to the game even stealing a spot at a future Evo?

These are unlikely scenarios that would also have no effect on current Melee players. Moreover, it’s improbable that Nintendo would make a game remotely similar to Melee or what its players would specifically be looking for. Given the loyalty of Melee’s current player base, if anything, a new Smash installment could bring even more potential players, just as Smash 4 did.

Having already survived an initial sequel in Brawl, Melee has both proved timeless and turned turned an initial negative that most competitive games have (outlasting a sequel) into a positive. It’s usually attributed to the “Smash Brothers” documentary and Evo 2013, but by sheer exposure, the biggest event to feature professional smashers in any kind of public capacity is still the E3 Smash 4 Invitational from four years ago, which today has been seen by millions of viewers. Can you imagine how big a Smash 5 Invitational would be for the scene?

I think we’ll be just fine, barring Jigglypuff dittos becoming the only viable way to succeed in the metagame. Speaking of which…

2. The Revival of Puff

Many smashers malign Jigglypuff as a character. Her innately slow ground speed, zoning-heavy traits and floatiness stand in contrast to what most smashers find exciting about Melee. If you don’t believe me, just ask Armada.

Last weekend proved to be a nightmare for these players, but not just because Hungrybox won the first post-Genesis 5 major of 2018. Shortly afterward, Michael, the current No. 2 of Chicago Melee and notable Netplay grinder won the first ever National Melee Arcadian in dominant fashion.

Though no Jigglypuff is anywhere near close to Hungrybox’s level of success at the top-level, her mid-level representatives have given the character quite a bit to look for in the future. Alongside Michael’s performance at the National Arcadian came the following from fellow Jigglypuff players at the same event:

  • Third from Ohio’s Fizzle_Boy
  • Ninth from New England’s dudutsai
  • 17th from South Carolina’s SmashBob SquarePants and Tristate’s 42nd
  • 25th from Tristate’s Big Kid

While the National Arcadian is still only one event – a mid-level one, at that – the consistent presence of Jigglypuff highlights a positive trend for the character. Soon we’ll see how high these players can reach with someone that still currently has only one top-level representative. In a worst case scenario, they can make a modest living out of warming up top players for Hungrybox.

3. The Budding Crush and aMSa Rivalry

That’s not just a bad pun in the title. Boston and Japan’s respective best players each have played three times over the last three years, with each of their sets going to game five. Their last one ended in relative disappointment because of a few technical flubs from Crush, but these two aren’t just fighting for a chance to advance in bracket. Both of them genuinely look like potential Top 10 players.

Who is better right now? It’s tough to say. Crush holds a more balanced matchup spread, having won the Holiday Bash Smash Invitational with wins on Rishi, The Moon, S2J, Westballz, SFAT and n0ne. He also has wins over HugS – something aMSa doesn’t have yet – Druggedfox and Plup’s Fox via his run at Too Hot To Handle.

Intuitively, Crush is a more safe pick. Unlike aMSa, who can struggle against players that know how to abuse Yoshi’s lack of an answer for strong defense, as seen through losses to Bladewise, HugS, S2J and MacD, Crush looks far less susceptible to losing to such players, though he isn’t immune to upsets.

Simultaneously, aMSa’s peak wins are currently higher than Crush. He boasts sets over Mew2King, Plup’s Sheik, Axe and Wizzrobe, while also holding a 2-1 lead in their head to head. Moreover, aMSa has been more present in the scene as a top player than Crush, since he’s been among the scene’s best players for about four years.

Since their first meeting at Battle of BC 2, they’ve taken turns outperforming each other. At the former tournament, aMSa outplaced Crush, then having a better Evo 2017 and GT-X 2017. Since then, Crush had his revenge against aMSa at The Big House 7, outplacing him there, and Smash Summit 5 before tying with his rival’s placing at Genesis 5 and ultimately dropping their last head-to-head, finishing lower at EGLX 2018.

If I had to choose between the two right now, I’d probably say aMSa has a slight advantage, but we could be seeing them face off quite a few more times before the end of the year. Either way, spectators should be in for a treat.

4. The Decline of Mew2King’s Sheik

It’s a question that’s plagued even casual Melee viewers for years: why does Mew2King play Sheik instead of Marth and/or Fox? His defenders will say that his Sheik gives him an advantage in matchups where those two characters don’t, while detractors claim it’s Mew2King being lazy and not wanting to learn certain matchups with Marth.

Though Mew2King’s Sheik still gives him an advantage over far worse players, it’s clearly lost its edge against the 7-10 group of ranked players. He now goes primarily Marth against SFAT  and has lost his last four sets against Axe with Sheik. Out of that tier, only Wizzrobe and S2J stand out as opponents that Mew2King’s Sheik holds a significant career head-to-head lead over, but both of the two Falcons have each split their last sets against him. That’s not even going into a much lower ranked n0ne taking three sets from Mew2King over the last two years (though their last two sets have finished solidly in the latter’s favor).

There is one point in favor of Mew2King’s Sheik. Within the lower end of Melee’s Top 25, Mew2King Sheik has seen success against fellow Sheiks and Samus players, as he has mostly remained strong in those matchups. As many say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

After years of successfully playing Sheik in matchups like the ditto, against Captain Falcon and versus mid/low-tier characters, it might also be too late for Mew2King to suddenly drop a character that in a vacuum still brings him a high rate of success against worse players. You could argue that some of his recent losses aren’t indicative of a problem with his Sheik as much as they show the lower end of Mew2King’s skill curve, which has still remained in Melee’s top echelon for about a decade now.

However, Mew2King’s Marth and Fox have seen such a low amount of meaningful data against them that it’s impossible to draw accurate conclusions about how much of a dropoff he’d see were he to learn those matchups with either of them. What frame of reference do we have to be confident that Mew2King’s other characters would straight up lose to Shroomed or Duck across a set in bracket? It’s not as if Marth or Fox can’t win those matchups.

Furthermore, with aMSa taking another set off him, Axe in the middle of a new streak of head-to-head dominance and top level Captain Falcons taking sets, it’s clear that  Mew2King isn’t as untouchable against lower tier characters as many initially thought. HugS has said on stream before that he thinks that beating Mew2King is still doable for him. How much longer can Mew2King’s 50/50s of downsmash/grab and holding shield with his back to the ledge carry his Sheik to victories over tougher competition?

Against most of his Big Six contemporaries, Sheik gives him little to no benefit. He typically plays Fox against Hungrybox, rarely brings her out against Mango and has no reason to switch from Marth against Leffen and Armada. Among the Big Six, only Plup stands out as an opponent that Mew2King’s Sheik might offer him a meaningful advantage against. Even then, Mew2King’s 5-3 record since the start of 2017 is misleading.

One of those victories came in a set where Plup played Luigi and even beat Mew2King’s Sheik. Another came from, you guessed it, Mew2King Fox and Marth defeating Plup at Smash Summit Spring 2017 after the former lost two Sheik ditto games. When viewed through this lens, suddenly the two look a lot more even. Account for recency and Plup might actually hold the edge, being 3-1 against Mew2King in their last four sets (though the two tried Fox dittos to start EGLX winners semifinals) and quite frankly looking like the superior player in the first quarter of 2018.

It can be difficult to keep multiple characters ready through bracket. Though Mew2King used both his Sheik and Marth to success at Canada Cup 2017, it remains unlikely that he can play both characters effectively enough in a field where Mew2King also needs his Fox warmed up for Hungrybox: a consistent enough force within supermajors to where Mew2King will almost assuredly have to play him in bracket if he wants to win.

If Mew2King wants to secure his status within Melee’s Big Six, he’ll either have to increase his level of play with Sheik, find a way to stay warm with all of his characters or drop one of them. Right now out of the three characters, it’s looking pretty clear as to which of them is lagging behind.

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