Countdown to The Book of Melee: The Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time (10-1)

Hi, everyone. I’m happy to present my Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time, with today’s focus on the sets ranked 10-1. Here’s a brief FAQ on this project and The Book of Melee.

What is The Book of Melee?

“The Book of Melee” is my upcoming book about the history of the competitive “Super Smash Bros. Melee” community. It follows Melee’s greatest players and leaders through their collective efforts to support the scene’s survival over nearly two decades. I began working on the book in late 2016, and am releasing it for electronic consumption on May 8, 2019. Physical copies are TBA, and currently only available for those who purchased the book for a limited offer on The Big House 8 Compendium. Purchasing a physical copy will be available at a later date.

What is The Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time?

This project is exactly what it sounds like: a recap of my top 100 favorite Melee sets leading up to my book release.

How did you determine the Top 100?

As detailed in my introduction and methodology post, I went through all of Melee history and picked my favorite sets from each year and major tournament. After creating this initial list, I chose to order and cut down what I had selected, based on both the criteria I listed in my previous post and personal taste. Before anyone asks about why “X” wasn’t on the list, chances are that it could have easily made the Top 100, but just wasn’t selected. There were a bit more than 120 sets that I initially listed.

More accurately, the final project could be interpreted as “Edwin’s Top 100 favorite Melee sets of all time.” But I’d like to think that the effort I took into pursuing this project, as well as writing a book about Melee history, would be enough for this list to be somewhat of an authoritative starting resource for any newcomer to the scene, and not just some guy’s opinion.

I’ve never heard of you! What makes you think you’re qualified to determine Melee’s best sets above anyone else?

I’ve been writing about Melee news and Melee history for almost three years. I can’t say that this list is really anything more than just my opinion based on a set of arbitrary criteria that I try to be fair with, but I hope it’s an entertaining and convincing read for anyone interested in Melee.


10. Leffen vs. Armada at Paragon Orlando 2015

This is the set that forever changed the Fox ditto punish game and the nature of the intra-Swedish rivalry. Leffen starts it off by bodying Armada’s Peach the hardest out of any opponent ever and then steamrolling Armada’s Fox in game two. Suddenly, in a manner similar to their epic BEAST V set, Armada came alive, four-stocking Leffen in game three in the Fox ditto. He nearly repeats the same feat in game four, and jumps out to a three to one stock lead in game five. But Leffen finally wakes up and manages to bring it to a last stock situation. By the set’s ending, both players immediately knew that they had played the defining set of their rivalry, and that it would be etched in stone as the greatest Fox ditto ever.

9. Mango vs. Leffen at Genesis 4

If there was a dictionary specifically made for Melee sets and you looked up the term, “slobber-knocker,” this is it: the ultimate Falco-Fox set. Featuring bedazzling punishes from both players against each other, sloppy, although entertaining flashes of brilliance, and a miraculous comeback from Mango in game four, it is nearly everything stellar about Melee distilled in its fastest matchup. This is a favorite among players and fans alike – and it features one of the funniest Scar yelps of all time.

8. PPMD vs. Armada at Pound V

Up until this point, the five gods of Melee weren’t quite an established part of the scene. Mango and Mew2King has their reigns of terror, but Mango was no longer competitively motivated and Mew2King had clearly prioritized his Brawl career at the time. Hungrybox had a stretch of dominance in 2010, but fizzled out relatively quickly in comparison to the top competitors. In Pound V grand finals, both PPMD and Armada were the two remaining contenders for world No. 1. Both hailed from weak Melee regions and found different paths to individual success, now each seeking their first supermajor win. The moment when the lights turn off in the venue – and you can hear the audible gasps and reactions of hundreds of smashers – gives me goosebumps to this day, as does the bair that kept PPMD’s tournament alive.

7. Mango vs. Armada at Royal Flush

Were it not for two other tournaments, this would almost certainly be remembered as the ultimate Mango-Armada grand finals. Their 15 games against each other should say enough. But most compelling is how different their circumstances are heading into the set. Armada was amid one of the most dominant stretches of tournament winning ever. Conversely, a slumping Mango had been a punchline for his lackluster performances leading up to Royal Flush. Some even speculated about a potential shift in priorities for him away from Melee competition and into his personal stream brand. To date, this is the most magical experience I have ever had as a smasher; to see 15 games of Mango-Armada live. If you look closely in the video, you can see me rush the stage at its conclusion.

6. PPMD vs. Armada at Apex 2015

This particular matchup marked an evolution in the PPMD-Armada rivalry, which now had an established, but still thrilling and relatively new element of character counterpicking between the two. Between the epic shades of their Apex 2013 set in winner’s semifinals, fantastic play from Armada’s Fox in the first set of grand finals, PPMD’s Marth cooly holding off the same Fox in grand finals set two, is a story of resilience that reflected the community ensuring the survival of their seemingly doomed event. That the finale of set two led to the overwhelmed Apex 2015 champion – after half a year of disappearing from the national spotlight due to depression – holding his head in his hands, clutching his heart, and then rising to face an exhausted venue of delirious and excited smashers, is only fitting. It remains an iconic moment of personal and community triumph.

5. Armada vs. Mango at Genesis 2

It’s practically laughable to ever suggest it today, but in mid-2011, Armada was perceived as a choker. He had never won any American major. Following his devastating loss at Pound V, Armada nearly quit Melee for good before eventually returning at Genesis 2 – propped by community funds – to try one last time. And though Armada managed to make grands while dropping only one game, he still had one demon left to slay in his path: Mango, the man who had stopped his run at the original Genesis. This time, Mango played a rushdown Fox that had just brutalized Taj – the underdog hero of Genesis 2. The two went blow-for-blow for every game, and their goals were different, but similar. For Mango, Genesis 2 has sparked his competitive fire for the first time since Pound 4, and he saw it as a chance to take back what was rightfully his in Melee’s throne. For Armada, it was a chance at overcoming a history of heartbreak in America and finally proving himself as a man worthy of being a world champion.

4. Hungrybox vs. Armada at Evo 2016

Evo 2016 was Melee’s biggest “esports” moment ever, and it isn’t particularly close. Between the 2000-plus entrants at the event, its headlined and expected Hungrybox vs. Armada bout in grand finals and the hundreds of thousands of eyes watching from home, the sheer spectacle of these two arena-packed Melee sets makes them forever immortalized in our scene’s history. When you add in unforgettable commentary from Scar and Toph, the huge momentum shifts leading to huge uncertainty as to who had the edge, The Rest Heard Around The World to close set one, and the epic celebration from its victor at the end of set two, you really can’t ignore this set as anything less than scene-defining.

3. Mango vs. Taj at Genesis 2

When I first entered the Melee scene, one of the initial questions asked knowledgeable players was, “what set is your favorite set?” I’ll never forget the instant response of GameFAQS poster Habefiet: Taj vs. Mango. For years, I couldn’t put to words why, but I think now I get it. In the first set, the combination of Mango’s bursts of unstoppable Falco genius, Taj’s devastating bag of tricks off-stage and raw-as-hell hybrid of commentary/shittalk hybrid from HomeMadeWaffles make it instantly memorable on its own.

But it’s the second set – in which an angry and bloodthirsty Mango picks Fox, then rumored to the deadliest weapon in Mango’s arsenal and his newest experiment, against the man who struck the god himself down to loser’s bracket – that brings Mango-Taj from being an all time classic to being scene-defining. No other set comes close to embodying the brutal skill curve of Melee, arguably the game’s defining quality. In the set’s climactic moments, you not only see the world’s most terrifying player enter an untouchable zone, you see the thrill of Melee at its darkest and primal core. It’s a game where if you play the right way, you too can tear your opponent’s heart out, dominate them at will to the glee of thousands, and leave them with no option but to unplug their controller and never come back.

2. Mango vs. Armada at Genesis

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. This tournament spawned the start of Melee’s defining rivalry. Mango had grown weary of ruling his scene with no challenger, but little did he know that a Swedish teenager who played Peach and could barely speak English would shrug off every other American champion in his path and come knocking at Mango’s throne, let alone utterly dominate his untouchable Jigglypuff in their first tournament game.

It set the pace for a thrilling winner’s finals matchup of Mango’s Falco against Armada’s Peach. Watch the first set today and you’ll notice the exact moment where the largely American venue and commentators become desperate and realize what’s happening. With a foreign invader proving that fundamental assumptions the Americans held about Melee were wrong, Mango was the United States’ last hero. Eventually, he too fell.

The circumstances behind a Swedish traveling all the way to California to compete in a game that wasn’t even the premier game in its franchise, could have only happened in an open bracket system, an integral part of Melee’s grassroots appeal. If you wanted a pop culture comparison, it’s easy to look at the Armada-Mango matchup as Ivan Drago against Rocky Balboa. But in reality, Armada was Rocky: Mango was Apollo Creed.

It all lead to a magical set two, where following Armada utterly destroying Mango’s Falco game 1, the American hero went back to his trademark Jigglypuff, knowing that everything lay on the line. For the first time in seemingly years, the overwhelmingly pro-American venue cheered for a Jigglypuff. Just watch the rest.

1. Armada vs. Mew2King at SSC 2018

Melee is in a weird place. The community isn’t quite in a dark age, but it’s well past the honeymoon period of 2013-2016, when nothing could stop its ascendance. Despite metagame has developed to new technical boundaries, we are a wearier and older population, unsure of our long-term futures in and out of the game. Smashers, for the most part, are cautious about the promises and riches of esports and greater visibility.

Despite what they may say publicly, our best players are no different. Just like us, they struggle to find existential purpose and a long-term way of maintaining their love for Melee as their lives inevitably change. Perhaps no tournament conveys the same mood of anxiety and soul-crushing existential dread than Super Smash Con 2018. Here, the bevy of top player dropouts, a soul-crushing 65th place from the world’s most popular Melee player and a public meltdown from the world’s best player almost marred what was initially promised as a thrilling national in the Summer of Smash.

Almost. These grand finals boast the most epic gameplay I’ve seen from two competitors, let alone two titans. Intense neutral, brutal punish games, adaptions from both sides, last-stock moments, pop offs, momentum shifts – you name it and this set has it in spades. Even the commentary, which centers a longtime god like Mango alongside scene veterans like Chillin and DJ Nintendo, fires on all cylinders with a mix of professionalism, grassroots authenticity, maturity, emotional tone-setting, and game insight.

There’s a strange beauty in the set’s conclusion. Armada, up two stocks to one in an otherwise back-and-forth game 10, instantly pulls away with a zero to death: an ending that could’ve been anticlimactic elsewhere, but not here. By the time he stands up and does his dorky victory salute at the audience, we are all cheering. None of us have any idea what was going through his mind.

Imagine what must it have felt like in that moment, to have celebratory confetti in your face, facing thousands of people who love you for everything you’ve done for them, knowing that this is it; to dream of ambitions outside of Melee; to fight doubts about if those ambitions will ever give you the same happiness.

This unique convergence of storylines, gameplay, entertainment value, and emotional nuance happened just last year. It’s a testament to our community’s resilience and growth over generations of players. The cherry on top is the involvement of two old-school legends, showing that as times may change, some of what we hold close to our heart will always stay the same. That’s why I picked Armada vs. Mew2King at SSC 2018 as the greatest set of all time: it embodies the principles that define our scene over two decades, and, above ell else, transcendent Melee.


Well, that’s it for the project, and for the countdown to The Book of Melee. You can now download a copy here, with the ability to pay whatever amount you think it’s worth.

Before I conclude this project for good, I want to thank all my friends and family for supporting my journey. While I’m working on finalizing print copies, I’d like to conclude this countdown with the final words of my book.

With the community facing a transitional period in 2019, it’s clear why people still play Melee after so many years. They play for the late-night matches in the middle of a crowded studio apartment on a work night, for those times when they tell their friends “I swear this is my last friendly,” for when they watch an Armada vs. Mango set in a packed theater with thousands of fellow enthusiasts who flew countless miles and paid hundreds of dollars just to play with each other.

They play for the magic of early 2000s nostalgia, for the timeless and unsolvable puzzle that is Melee, for the liberating jolt of adrenaline in a last-stock situation with a crowd screaming behind them, for the answer to a millennial existential anxiety, for the opportunity to carve themselves a legacy that no one—not even the game’s creator itself—can deny them.

The Melee community won’t last forever. But it doesn’t need to. The memories of the struggles its players have overcome reflect the primary reason they play, above all else: for freedom.

Countdown to The Book of Melee: The Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time (30-21)

Hi, everyone. I’m happy to present my Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time, with today’s focus on the sets ranked 30-21. Here’s a brief FAQ on this project and The Book of Melee.

What is The Book of Melee?

“The Book of Melee” is my upcoming book about the history of the competitive “Super Smash Bros. Melee” community. It follows Melee’s greatest players and leaders through their collective efforts to support the scene’s survival over nearly two decades. I began working on the book in late 2016, and am releasing it for electronic consumption on May 8, 2019. Physical copies are TBA, and currently only available for those who purchased the book for a limited offer on The Big House 8 Compendium. Purchasing a physical copy will be available at a later date.

What is The Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time?

This project is exactly what it sounds like: a recap of my top 100 favorite Melee sets leading up to my book release.

How did you determine the Top 100?

As detailed in my introduction and methodology post, I went through all of Melee history and picked my favorite sets from each year and major tournament. After creating this initial list, I chose to order and cut down what I had selected, based on both the criteria I listed in my previous post and personal taste. Before anyone asks about why “X” wasn’t on the list, chances are that it could have easily made the Top 100, but just wasn’t selected. There were a bit more than 120 sets that I initially listed.

More accurately, the final project could be interpreted as “Edwin’s Top 100 favorite Melee sets of all time.” But I’d like to think that the effort I took into pursuing this project, as well as writing a book about Melee history, would be enough for this list to be somewhat of an authoritative starting resource for any newcomer to the scene, and not just some guy’s opinion.

I’ve never heard of you! What makes you think you’re qualified to determine Melee’s best sets above anyone else?

I’ve been writing about Melee news and Melee history for almost three years. I can’t say that this list is really anything more than just my opinion based on a set of arbitrary criteria that I try to be fair with, but I hope it’s an entertaining and convincing read for anyone interested in Melee.


30. Amsah vs. Ek at Renaissance of Smash 3

In this portion of the list, one filled with gods, demigods and modern greats, the inclusion of a best-of-seven from a pre-Brawl European major may stand out as an odd choice to include. But make no mistake: this set is forever the defining set for both players’ legacies, with each one standing as a separate ruler of Europe during different periods of Melee history. There’s a very good reason why the set’s most famous game is still referred to as The Comeback, above all other ones.

29. Mew2King vs. PPMD at MLG Anaheim 2014

It really felt like Mew2King was never going to beat PPMD. Amid a long losing streak, Mew2King was so desperate for answers against PPMD that he had seriously attempted a Captain Falcon counterpick on FD against PPMD’s Marth, even after blowing him up in game one of Sheik-Falco. The end result is three nail biting games of Sheik-Marth, and an absolutely legendary popoff, as well as another hilarious handshake to add in the PPMD-Mew2King lore.

28. Mango vs. Armada at The Big House 6

Multiple sets of Mango vs. Armada at the same tournament should say it all. This was Mango’s biggest chance to win his first true supermajor since The Big House 4 (and not just a smaller event to feature gods), and for Armada, this was potential redemption for his embarrassing defeat at Evo 2016. This is often forgotten as one of their best duels ever, and it deserves way more recognition as a classic.

27. Axe vs. Silent Wolf at Evo 2014

Here it is: the most viral best of three set in Melee history. Game three is the match that is synonymous with Axe’s legacy. A large factor of this set’s popularity is what it represents: a mid-tier hero facing off against a top-tier talent. Who can forget D1’s immortal words, “is he gonna get it in a minute?”

26. Wobbles vs. Hungrybox at Evo 2013

Here it is, a set that, in my opinion, is the most thrilling Ice Climbers vs. Jigglypuff set of all time (a qualification that sounds absurd at surface level). Wobbles had already slain two gods in his miraculous run to winner’s finals and only one was left in his way. A shining moment of this set is an unbelievable comeback by Wobbles in game two, where he barely avoids being sent to loser’s bracket, and, most surreal of all, has no idea of it.

25. Plup vs. Hungrybox at Genesis 5

The ultimate catharsis of watching the end of grand finals set two can only be understand in the context of set one, in which Hungrybox utterly big-brothers his fellow Floridian. It felt destined to be a repeat of the grand finals at The Big House 7, but this time, Plup awakened in time to show Hungrybox that he wasn’t going down without a fight. Plup’s accomplishments are endless, but this is the set that brought him into immortality.

24. PPMD vs. Mew2King at Revival of Melee 3

Following an early loss to KirbyKaze, PPMD, back then known as Dr. PeePee, tore through the rest of loser’s bracket to face Melee’s longtime elite gatekeeper in grand finals. These two sets are among Melee’s most iconic, be it the legendary “I got 50 on PP” phrase before grand finals, PPMD’s rise from seemingly nowhere to the top echelon, or the legendary final combo on Rainbow Cruise.

23. Zain vs. Hungrybox at Shine 2018

Just under five years after the Smash documentary came out, a player from the newest generation of Smash was facing off against the world No. 1 and one of the five gods of Melee for a major title. I won’t say much more other than that this is the only set I watched in which I popped off so hard that I hit my fist on a chair and began bleeding.

22. Azen vs. Ken at MLG New York 2006

Azen had always been second fiddle to Ken, typically losing his sets against him in heartbreaking ways. In game four, with Ken up three stocks to one, all hope looked lost for the East Coast hero, who seemed destined to lose to his longtime nemesis yet again. But instead of crumbling, Azen stayed cool. Maybe Wife was right this whole time when he referred to the Master of Diversity as “cool as a cucumber.”

21. Mew2King vs. DaShizWiz at Revival of Melee

Other than Mew2King vs. Mango, this matchup was everyone’s most anticipated duel of Revival of Melee: the former world No. 1 against an upcoming Falco star who had already slain two giants in PC Chris and ChuDat earlier in the tournament. The two had already played before, and while Mew2King always won, their battles were always thrilling. While the set is only four games long, and thus I can’t justify putting it above other inclusions on my list, it remains among the most memorable Melee sets ever. Two words: Match 4.

Countdown to The Book of Melee: The Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time (50-41)

Hi, everyone. I’m happy to present my Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time, with today’s focus on the sets ranked 50-41. Here’s a brief FAQ on this project and The Book of Melee.

What is The Book of Melee?

“The Book of Melee” is my upcoming book about the history of the competitive “Super Smash Bros. Melee” community. It follows Melee’s greatest players and leaders through their collective efforts to support the scene’s survival over nearly two decades. I began working on the book in late 2016, and am releasing it for electronic consumption on May 8, 2019. Physical copies are TBA, and currently only available for those who purchased the book for a limited offer on The Big House 8 Compendium. Purchasing a physical copy will be available at a later date.

What is The Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time?

This project is exactly what it sounds like: a recap of my top 100 favorite Melee sets leading up to my book release.

How did you determine the Top 100?

As detailed in my introduction and methodology post, I went through all of Melee history and picked my favorite sets from each year and major tournament. After creating this initial list, I chose to order and cut down what I had selected, based on both the criteria I listed in my previous post and personal taste. Before anyone asks about why “X” wasn’t on the list, chances are that it could have easily made the Top 100, but just wasn’t selected. There were a bit more than 120 sets that I initially listed.

More accurately, the final project could be interpreted as “Edwin’s Top 100 favorite Melee sets of all time.” But I’d like to think that the effort I took into pursuing this project, as well as writing a book about Melee history, would be enough for this list to be somewhat of an authoritative starting resource for any newcomer to the scene, and not just some guy’s opinion.

I’ve never heard of you! What makes you think you’re qualified to determine Melee’s best sets above anyone else?

I’ve been writing about Melee news and Melee history for almost three years. I can’t say that this list is really anything more than just my opinion based on a set of arbitrary criteria that I try to be fair with, but I hope it’s an entertaining and convincing read for anyone interested in Melee.


50. Ken vs. PC Chris at MLG Anaheim 2006

In one corner was the New York spacie who conquered Ken earlier in the year. In the other corner was the King of Smash himself. PC had already won New York Opener, but Ken came back at MLG Dallas with a more defensive and patient gameplan. At MLG Anaheim, the two would settle the score and fight in two of Melee’s most epic sets of the era.

49. Mango vs. Hax at The Big House 4

This set isn’t up here because it’s a particularly close one, or because it’s a display of great Melee from both sides. The sheer exposure of this set, which has hundreds of thousands of views today, along with the storylines of Hax quitting Captain Falcon, Mango’s differing opinions on character viability from Hax, the legendary commentary and more make it a classic for any newcomer to the scene.

48. PPMD vs. Hungrybox at Pound V

Were it not for another couple of PPMD sets at this tournament, this would be remembered as the defining set of Pound V. For a long time during his rise to prominence, PPMD’s thorn in his side was Hungrybox, a fellow Atlantic South competitor. PPMD had begun beating him a year prior, but he needed to do it again at Pound if he wanted his rematch with Armada.

47. Mango vs. Hungrybox at GOML 2014

For yet another set with Hungrybox, this is one that also goes under the radar. During a time when Mango would routinely farm Hungrybox with ease, this was one of the sets where the Floridian began to slowly earn Mango’s respect. If there’s any game in this set to especially check out, it’s the last one.

46. Hungrybox vs. PPMD at The Big House 3

Where do we start? Is it PPMD’s explosive start which made the set’s conclusion look definite? Is it Hungrybox rapping along to Yeezus and PPMD jabbering back at him? Or how about younger but more unrestrained versions of Scar and Toph laying the gold standard for post-documentary era commentary in this set? Call the play within it sloppy all you want; the sheer theatrics and spectator-friendliness of everything else made it an easy addition to the list, and the last Hungrybox addition to this portion of the Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time.

45. Hungrybox vs. Armada at GT-X 2017

Psych! In two sets reminiscent of a certain other grand finals, Hungrybox claws his way back from loser’s bracket to take on the Evo champion and presumed world’s best player. The ending to set two is still a must-watch.

44. Mew2King vs. Armada at SKTAR 3

For years, the prospect of an Armada victory eluded Mew2King, often in painful ways for the latter. At Genesis, Armada clutched out a 2-1 victory, only to follow up the set with another 2-1 victory at Pound 4 and pull Mew2King’s heart from his chest via a last-stock stitchface to edge him out 3-2 at Apex 2010. And at Evo 2013, concluded by one of the most infamous last-stock SDs ever, Mew2King blew a big lead to lose game one before falling apart in game two. Now at SKTAR 3, Armada’s return to the United States, with Armada up two stocks to one against Mew2King’s Fox at high percent, Mew2King needed to play perfect to stand a chance against his longtime kryptonite.

43. PPMD vs. Mew2King at Zenith 2012

Before PPMD had become the wise old sage we all know and love today, he was a plucky upstart who engaged in cringeworthy trash talk with Armada on Smashboards, picked up a few prideful mannerisms from Mango and even carried a deep sense of resentment for crowds that rooted against him. Since his Pound V victory, he had gone from being a community hero to having a target on his back. At Zenith 2012, he and Mew2King would take turns destroying each other, as they battled in three of Melee’s most thrilling and legendary sets ever. Its conclusion – specifically the cathartic popoff from its victory – remains legendary.

42. Hungrybox vs. Leffen at Genesis 5

We weren’t done with the Hungrybox sets, but all I’ll say is that heading into their first set at this event, the two had built up months of mutual trash talk and dislike for one another, though mostly from Leffen’s end. Not only are the sets thrilling and stakes high in each one, but the pride on the line for both smashers was ridiculously high. “It’s time to save Melee,” and “this is what I came here for” remain some of the best pre-game trash talk for a tournament set ever.

41. Armada vs. Mew2King at Genesis

If there was any set that launched the legend of Armada, it was this one. Leading up to this point, Armada had already vastly exceeded expectations by slaying strong West Coast players, let alone defeating DaShizWiz in winner’s quarters. Surely, it was this set in which Mew2King, a former world champion of Melee, would finally put an end to Armada’s winner’s bracket run. As Scar put it a decade later, if Mew2King’s legendary Marth couldn’t stop Armada’s Peach, it meant that smashers had fundamentally misunderstood Melee – or at least that they had so much more to learn.

Countdown to The Book of Melee: The Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time (70-61)

Hi, everyone. I’m happy to present my Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time, with today’s focus on the sets ranked 70-61. Here’s a brief FAQ on this project and The Book of Melee.

What is The Book of Melee?

“The Book of Melee” is my upcoming book about the history of the competitive “Super Smash Bros. Melee” community. It follows Melee’s greatest players and leaders through their collective efforts to support the scene’s survival over nearly two decades. I began working on the book in late 2016, and am releasing it for electronic consumption on May 8, 2019. Physical copies are TBA, and currently only available for those who purchased the book for a limited offer on The Big House 8 Compendium. Purchasing a physical copy will be available at a later date.

What is The Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time?

This project is exactly what it sounds like: a recap of my top 100 favorite Melee sets leading up to my book release.

How did you determine the Top 100?

As detailed in my introduction and methodology post, I went through all of Melee history and picked my favorite sets from each year and major tournament. After creating this initial list, I chose to order and cut down what I had selected, based on both the criteria I listed in my previous post and personal taste. Before anyone asks about why “X” wasn’t on the list, chances are that it could have easily made the Top 100, but just wasn’t selected. There were a bit more than 120 sets that I initially listed.

More accurately, the final project could be interpreted as “Edwin’s Top 100 favorite Melee sets of all time.” But I’d like to think that the effort I took into pursuing this project, as well as writing a book about Melee history, would be enough for this list to be somewhat of an authoritative starting resource for any newcomer to the scene, and not just some guy’s opinion.

I’ve never heard of you! What makes you think you’re qualified to determine Melee’s best sets above anyone else?

I’ve been writing about Melee news and Melee history for almost three years. I can’t say that this list is really anything more than just my opinion based on a set of arbitrary criteria that I try to be fair with, but I hope it’s an entertaining and convincing read for anyone interested in Melee.

70. Zain vs. Rishi at The Big House 8

For years, PPMD and Mew2King were considered the closest players to having “solved” the Marth ditto. But Zain and Rishi, bolstered by years of practice and competition between the two, have pushed elements of the Marth ditto meta into heights rarely, if ever, before seen. In this set, the two friends, rivals, and Marth compatriots put on quite a show, with a terrific game four decided by one miraculous reversal.

69. Leffen vs. Axe at Flatiron 3

The godslayer and the longtime Pikachu hero are two of Melee’s biggest fan favorites, but they’re also heated rivals. Though Leffen has typically gotten the better hand throughout their history, Axe remains a threatening opponent for the godslayer. Following a forgettable performance in their winner’s finals match, Axe goes ten games deep against the tournament favorite in grand finals.

68. Armada vs. Wizzrobe at Smash Summit 5

The start of this set is completely unexpected. Wizzrobe bodies Armada so hard throughout the first two games that you can feel the commentator’s disbelief and confusion within their words. But, like all sets with Armada, you can never really count him out. Were it not for another set with the Swede against a Captain Falcon earlier that year, this would be remembered way more and given the recognition it deserves as an all-time classic.

67. Fly Amanita vs. Silent Wolf at Kings of Cali 3

A common misconception about Fly Amanita is that he refused to wobble out of integrity. In fact, part of why Fly used handoffs and focused in other areas of the Ice Climbers metagame was because he couldn’t consistently wobble in tourney. Regardless, playing in his home region and in the middle of an epic loser’s run, Fly Amanita found himself in a deep hole against Silent Wolf, with one Climber, one stock and one final match to determine his fate.

66. Armada vs. Hungrybox at Pound V

Just when you thought you had seen it all, Armada picked a low tier against the Apex 2010 champion. The sheer unexpectedness of this counterpick and shellshocked reactions of Swiftbass and D1 make watching this set entertaining to this day. It may not be as grueling as their hour-long grind at Apex 2012, nor as established as their Genesis 2 set (dubbed by HomeMadeWaffles as “the wackest fucking set in the world”). Hell, it’s not as absurd as when Hungrybox tried to counterpick Ness at Apex 2013, but the historic significance of this set made it a well-earned inclusion.

65. Mango vs. Plup at Smash Summit 2

By this time, Plup had all but joined the ranks of the elite. And in this set, the Florida Sheik dominated Mango for stretches. But in classic Mango fashion, the Norwalk hero always struck back just as hard. And on game five, playing on Pokémon Stadium, with Plup playing some of his finest Melee of the year, Mango found himself falling behind. Could he make the comeback?

64. Mew2King vs. ChuDat at Zenith 2012

Following years of local inactivity, national inconsistency and time away from serious Melee competition, ChuDat came out of nowhere at Zenith 2012. Starting with slaying Hungrybox early at the event, Chu blitzed through the rest of bracket, turning the clock back and facing off against a man whom he typically beat in their respective primes. The timelessness of both Chu and Mew2King, as well as the thrilling Melee played in this set, ensure its spot on the list.

63. Armada vs. Hungrybox at Smash Summit 6

Hungrybox had been sent to loser’s bracket early, but he tore through most of his opponents on his way to loser’s semifinals. Armada too had been sent early to loser’s, but had looked a little more vulnerable and was amid a five set losing streak against Hungrybox, the only player in Melee history to ever truly make Armada look so lost for as many sets. Not necessarily playing his best and facing off versus the man who stole his throne, would Armada restore his honor or succumb again?

62. Wizzrobe vs. Hungrybox at OpTic Arena

If you’ve watched enough Hungrybox sets against players underneath the gods, you’ll know how it goes: a close heartbreaker set one into a more deflating followup where Hungrybox obliterates them. Wizzrobe is one of the few exceptions to this rule. At the Texas regional, Wizzrobe and Hungrybox engaged in three stellar sets where the 20GX hero proved not just that he wouldn’t go down without a fight, but that he himself could destroy the best player in the world.

61. PPMD vs. Mew2King at Xanadu: Harlem Shake Edition

Mew2King was considered unbeatable in Marth dittos until PPMD trounced him, 3-0. Just as hard however, Mew2King responded thunderously in grand finals, where his Sheik brutally 3-0’d PPMD’s Marth right back. Fighting the temptation of picking Falco, PPMD stayed determined in their third set and stuck with Marth against the man who not only knew the same character inside out, but also how to destroy him. Legend has it that PPMD was so annoyed about Mew2King and other members of the community attributing his own success to Falco that he called his shot beforehand, telling Mew2King before the event that he was going to play Marth, and that he wanted to test himself against Mew2King in both the ditto and against his Sheik.

Countdown to The Book of Melee: The Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time (80-71)

Hi, everyone. I’m happy to present my Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time, with today’s focus on the sets ranked 80-71. Here’s a brief FAQ on this project and The Book of Melee.

What is The Book of Melee?

“The Book of Melee” is my upcoming book about the history of the competitive “Super Smash Bros. Melee” community. It follows Melee’s greatest players and leaders through their collective efforts to support the scene’s survival over nearly two decades. I began working on the book in late 2016, and am releasing it for electronic consumption on May 8, 2019. Physical copies are TBA, and currently only available for those who purchased the book for a limited offer on The Big House 8 Compendium. Purchasing a physical copy will be available at a later date.

What is The Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time?

This project is exactly what it sounds like: a recap of my top 100 favorite Melee sets leading up to my book release.

How did you determine the Top 100?

As detailed in my introduction and methodology post, I went through all of Melee history and picked my favorite sets from each year and major tournament. After creating this initial list, I chose to order and cut down what I had selected, based on both the criteria I listed in my previous post and personal taste. Before anyone asks about why “X” wasn’t on the list, chances are that it could have easily made the Top 100, but just wasn’t selected. There were a bit more than 120 sets that I initially listed.

More accurately, the final project could be interpreted as “Edwin’s Top 100 favorite Melee sets of all time.” But I’d like to think that the effort I took into pursuing this project, as well as writing a book about Melee history, would be enough for this list to be somewhat of an authoritative starting resource for any newcomer to the scene, and not just some guy’s opinion.

I’ve never heard of you! What makes you think you’re qualified to determine Melee’s best sets above anyone else?

I’ve been writing about Melee news and Melee history for almost three years. I can’t say that this list is really anything more than just my opinion based on a set of arbitrary criteria that I try to be fair with, but I hope it’s an entertaining and convincing read for anyone interested in Melee.

80. Hungrybox vs. SFAT at Press Start

If any tournament in Melee history confirmed that the Era of Five Gods was all but over, it was Press Start, which featured no gods in winner’s side of its top eight. But it was this set, one that featured a god, that stood out as its most memorable moment. Though all five games are worth watching, it’s the last one, in which an explosive start from the NorCal hero is met by a ferocious comeback from a standing Hungrybox. To this day, the set’s penultimate moment, when SFAT rises from his chair to match his sweating, desperate opponent still gives me goosebumps.

79. Jiano vs. ChuDat at Pound 2

Jiano’s run to winner’s finals at Pound 2 came with a bit of bracket luck, but it still was among the least predictable performances in Melee history. His bout with the longtime regional antihero ChuDat is one of the craziest ever, with a four-stock from Chu to start the set and a huge three-stock comeback from Jiano in game four standing out as highlights. Be sure to check out the last game also.

78. Rishi vs. lloD at The Big House 8

Rishi, the Artist Formerly Known as Smash G0D, has more than his fair share of nail biter sets. lloD is among Melee’s most notable players over the last two years and is one of few Peach mains who can claim a right to individual recognition for character contributions separate of Armada. With the two’s status as rising Smash stars, brothers, former in-region rivals, and modern representatives of their characters, they have had several back-and-forth sets over the last few years. But it’s this one, which has a brilliant last-stock comeback in its final game, that will be especially remembered forever.

77. S2J vs. Mew2King at Shine 2017

The same way Darkrain was a character icon throughout the 2000s, S2J has been this decade’s most consistent Falcon player. For years, the prospect of defeating a Melee god eluded him, and S2J’s history of taking them close goes back many years. I will never forget what it felt like to watch this set live in a wild venue, and to join hundreds, if not thousands, of viewers jumping out of our seats when the Stadium combo happened.

76. Ken vs. Mango at Evo 2007

Jigglypuff had a few strong representatives but no one brought her to the forefront of the scene quite like Mango, who stunned the world at Evo with his underdog run. Following the shocking end of their winner’s set, when the two played again in loser’s bracket for a spot in grand finals, the result was far more convincing.

75. Mango vs. Shroomed at Royal Flush

The greatest trick the devil pulled wasn’t convincing people he didn’t exist – it was convincing nearly every Melee fan to sleep on The Kid. Already sent to loser’s by his chief rival, down 2-0 against Shroomed playing some of the best Melee of his life, and with his back to the wall, Mango woke up.

74. Mango vs. aMSa at Full Bloom 4

Following his breakout ninth place at Apex 2014 and followup fifth place at Apex 2015, aMSa still had his fair share of doubters. By 2018, however, he was more than established as among the next line of players to threaten the Big Six. At Full Bloom 4, one of the most promising large annual tourney series of the current Melee era, he and Mango had one of the best sets of the year, and a wild ending.

73. Abate vs. S2J at The Big House 5

Save for New York City and Hax, there’s no region that loves its signature representative as much as Pittsburgh loves Abate. Boosted by the Midwest home field advantage and hot off a tournament run in which he already beat Axe, Abate went the distance against the stoic and well-respected S2J. In a set filled with momentum shifts of both players dominating each other, its ending may be the most simultaneously exciting, stupid, anti-climatic, and hilarious moment in Melee history.

72. Zain vs. Leffen at Smash ’N’ Splash 3

Before the jokes about dashing back, downthrow downtilting spacies by the corner and pivoting after every move, Zain was a local legend and fan favorite that somehow defeated Plup in a best-of-three The Big House 6. But it was this set, in which the future Shine champion was already facing off against the fearsome godslayer, that he showed the world that he was here to stay in the national spotlight.

71. aMSa vs. Hungrybox at Smash Summit 6

There is no Yoshi main like aMSa in all of Melee history. For a Yoshi player to challenge the world’s most dominant smasher would have been unthinkable years ago. But aMSa denies the odds. This set is not one for the faint of heart, and it’s among the most grueling, suspenseful and exhausting, but the historical significance and payoff is more than worth a watch, especially when the set reaches its epic resolution.

Countdown To The Book of Melee: The Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time (90-81)

Hi, everyone. I’m happy to present my Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time, with today’s focus on the sets ranked 90-81. Here’s a brief FAQ on this project and The Book of Melee.

What is The Book of Melee?

“The Book of Melee” is my upcoming book about the history of the competitive “Super Smash Bros. Melee” community. It follows Melee’s greatest players and leaders through their collective efforts to support the scene’s survival over nearly two decades. I began working on the book in late 2016, and am releasing it for electronic consumption on May 8, 2019. Physical copies are TBA, and currently only available for those who purchased the book for a limited offer on The Big House 8 Compendium. Purchasing a physical copy will be available at a later date.

What is The Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time?

This project is exactly what it sounds like: a recap of my top 100 favorite Melee sets leading up to my book release.

How did you determine the Top 100?

As detailed in my introduction and methodology post, I went through all of Melee history and picked my favorite sets from each year and major tournament. After creating this initial list, I chose to order and cut down what I had selected, based on both the criteria I listed in my previous post and personal taste. Before anyone asks about why “X” wasn’t on the list, chances are that it could have easily made the Top 100, but just wasn’t selected. There were a bit more than 120 sets that I initially listed.

More accurately, the final project could be interpreted as “Edwin’s Top 100 favorite Melee sets of all time.” But I’d like to think that the effort I took into pursuing this project, as well as writing a book about Melee history, would be enough for this list to be somewhat of an authoritative starting resource for any newcomer to the scene, and not just some guy’s opinion.

I’ve never heard of you! What makes you think you’re qualified to determine Melee’s best sets above anyone else?

I’ve been writing about Melee news and Melee history for almost three years. I can’t say that this list is really anything more than just my opinion based on a set of arbitrary criteria that I try to be fair with, but I hope it’s an entertaining and convincing read for anyone interested in Melee.


90. PewPewU vs. Mango at NCR 2013

PewPewU has been a longtime Melee fan favorite, from once being dubbed as “the best Marth since Ken” to shocking the world with his upset over Hungrybox at Apex 2015. But out of the many PewPewU sets considered for the list, it was this one, where he faced off against Melee’s most beloved player, that stood out as one of his most memorable. Here’s another fun fact about NCR that makes it even more legendary: this was the first significant tournament in which Scar and Toph commentated together.

89. Silent Wolf vs. Druggedfox at HTC Throwdown

This losers semifinals set was among the most unexpected matchups at a national. Silent Wolf had made it this far after beating Mew2King, while Druggedfox had sent Mango to loser’s bracket and also edged out 3-2 victories over Colbol and SFAT, notably popping off at the heavily West Coast crowd after the latter set. This set is among the most under appreciated and incredible of 2015, with two god-slaying titans butting heads in their best matchups.

88. Mango vs. SilentSpectre at SCSA WCC

It was just a decade ago when NorCal and SoCal had the most heated regional rivalry in Melee. There were so many Mango vs. SilentSpectre sets to choose from, but nothing stood out as much as their epic clash at the same tournament of Wombo Combo. Between Mango proving to his doubters that his other characters were not far behind his Jigglypuff, the crowd-pleasing style of SilentSpectre and the legendary HomeMadeWaffles/Phil commentary duo, this set is a must-watch for anyone who loves good old-fashioned, grassroots regional lore. Warning: much like every other older era Melee set, the language used within it is outdated and not acceptable by modern standards.

87. Jman vs. Darkrain at Event 52

A much forgotten set among newer Melee players, this is still one for the record books. Jman had slowly been on the rise in Tristate and was the only player in his region to take a set off Mew2King, while Darkrain was a member of the elite Captain Falcon trio (Scar and SilentSpectre were his contemporaries) and had actually defeated PC Chris at Pound 3 a year prior. Its controversial ending remains one of Melee’s most infamous.

86. Zhu vs. SilentSpectre at Mango Juice

Zhu has been on the receiving end of many classic Melee moments, be it Wombo Combo or the JV4 against Mango’s Falcon. But at Mango Juice, he would harness his hatred for Falcon and countless sets of being beaten around by Mango’s secondaries in order to seek his revenge against the man who kneed him into meme-immortality. And what happens after the set; well, without spoiling it, let’s just say this would never happen for the fans today.

85. Hax vs. Kalamazhu at The Big House 4

Months before The Big House 4, Kalamazhu had been spotted scribbling in a notebook while watching Armada play Peach. At The Big House 4, Kalamazhu’s efforts were shown to pay off, as he blitzed through players like Lucky and KirbyKaze to face off against Hax, a longtime scene demigod now sporting a deadly Fox. Surrounded by a wild Michigan and pro-Kalamazhu crowd, the two would battle to the very bitter end, with its winner making top eight by the skin of his teeth.

84. n0ne vs. Mew2King at GOML 2016

Countless dead Captain Falcon mains lay in the trail of Mew2King’s career. And at this point, n0ne was a fan favorite known for his flashy combos, but ranked outside the Top 50 of the previous year. He was among Melee’s fastest improving players, but this was surefire defeat, playing a Melee god in one of his most feared matchups. Or was it?

83. Leffen vs. Westballz at BEAST 6

There’s practically no matchup like Fox vs. Falco in Melee, and the winners set between the two epitomizes the speed, technical skill and mental fortitude you need to play that matchup at the highest level. And with both player’s penchant for shittalk, particular on each other, and their disrespectful theatrics in the second set, which included Westballz picking Samus out of complete apathy toward Leffen and the two sarcastically patting each other on the back, their matches at BEAST 6 are among the scene’s most recognizable.

82. Armada vs. Hax at Justice 4

Hax promised a future of 20XX, where Fox would rule the metagame and overpower all other characters. At Justice 4, with a wild New York crowd treating him like the second coming of Jesus, against Armada, the longtime Melee god, Hax would play the best he had ever played up to that point. Would it be enough to defeat the unstoppable wall of Armada?

81. DaShizWiz vs. Falcomist at CGC

Legend has it that after much online back-and-forth between Shiz and West Coast smashers, the latter group decided to see if the Florida Falco could live up to his boasts. Raising community funds to fly Shiz out to NorCal, the scene was rewarded with a 15–game barnburner between Shiz and Falcomist, the defender of NorCal. Although it may not be the first set you think of with Shiz against a Marth, it’s highly worth checking out if you consider yourself a true Melee fan.

Countdown To The Book of Melee: The Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time (100-91)

Hi, everyone. I’m happy to present my Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time, with today’s focus on the sets ranked 100-91. Here’s a brief FAQ on this project and The Book of Melee.

What is The Book of Melee?

“The Book of Melee” is my upcoming book about the history of the competitive “Super Smash Bros. Melee” community. It follows Melee’s greatest players and leaders through their collective efforts to support the scene’s survival over nearly two decades. I began working on the book in late 2016, and am releasing it for electronic consumption on May 8, 2019. Physical copies are TBA, and currently only available for those who purchased the book for a limited offer on The Big House 8 Compendium. Purchasing a physical copy will be available at a later date.

What is The Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time?

This project is exactly what it sounds like: a recap of my top 100 favorite Melee sets leading up to my book release.

How did you determine the Top 100?

As detailed in my introduction and methodology post, I went through all of Melee history and picked my favorite sets from each year and major tournament. After creating this initial list, I chose to order and cut down what I had selected, based on both the criteria I listed in my previous post and personal taste. Before anyone asks about why “X” wasn’t on the list, chances are that it could have easily made the Top 100, but just wasn’t selected. There were a bit more than 120 sets that I initially listed.

More accurately, the final project could be interpreted as “Edwin’s Top 100 favorite Melee sets of all time.” But I’d like to think that the effort I took into pursuing this project, as well as writing a book about Melee history, would be enough for this list to be somewhat of an authoritative starting resource for any newcomer to the scene, and not just some guy’s opinion.

I’ve never heard of you! What makes you think you’re qualified to determine Melee’s best sets above anyone else?

I’ve been writing about Melee news and Melee history for almost three years. I can’t say that this list is really anything more than just my opinion based on a set of arbitrary criteria that I try to be fair with, but I hope it’s an entertaining and convincing read for anyone interested in Melee.


100. Azen vs. CaptainJack at Tournament Go 6

By modern standards, the gameplay of the two in this set isn’t anything special. But back in 2004, TG6 was the first event that came close to resembling an international championship. That its finals had Azen, the king of the East Coast and Master of Diversity, against CaptainJack, a member of the Japanese elite and whose skills were of urban legend, makes it that much more memorable. Even back then, with such a small and young scene, the people watching this set knew how much lay on the line.

99. Leffen vs. Druggedfox at Evo 2015

In the summer of 2015, Leffen was close to untouchable. Before Evo, he had won three consecutive major events in three weekends. However, at Evo, he’d become part of the legend of Druggedfox , a then-nationally-unknown Georgia legend who was known for his tech chasing and punish game-heavy Sheik. Sadly, this set isn’t currently available in its entirety on YouTube, but it remains one of Melee’s best ever; particularly with its second game having one of my favorite commentary calls of all time. You can watch the rest of it here.

98. Scar vs. Ken at Kings of Cali 2

The Melee scene underwent a revival in mid-2013 because of the game’s return to the Evo spotlight. So what happened when the King of Smash showed reluctance in actually attending Evo 2013? The most electrifying man in Melee himself challenged him to a best-of-seven, in which Ken would have to attend Evo if he lost. With over three hundred thousand views today, and grassroots Mango/Crimson Blur commentary, this set is a must watch for all Melee fans. Would Scar get redemption for his failed previous exhibition match against Bob$ and defeat the King of Smash or would Ken prevail and disgrace the People’s Champ?

97. ChuDat vs. HugS at Evo 2015

Just under a decade after their respective primes, HugS and ChuDat were battling for a supermajor top eight. Notably before the event, Melee Hell, a now controversial Melee “shitposting” group had funded Chu’s trip to Evo, causing some, including HugS himself, to be skeptical of the funding efforts to bring Chu, especially due to Chu’s slight decline in attendance at major tournaments. Between the two’s standings in the Melee community, their personal rivalry and fellow MLG era contemporaries Husband and Wife on commentary, this set reflects Melee’s timeless brilliance. Much like the other early Evo 2015, it’s sadly not fully available on YouTube, but it remains a classic.

96. Mew2King vs. Leffen at PAX Prime 2015

Following Leffen’s brutal 3-0 and 3-1 victories over his former kryptonite Mew2King at Super Smash Con, it seemed as if the godslayer had finally solved The Robot. Leffen sure as hell seemed to believe it when following his victory, he joked about the difficulty of “not three-stocking Mew2King.” This set is what happens when you awaken a sleeping giant. Though the quality of Melee isn’t particularly up to par from Leffen, the moments of Mew2King brilliance, screaming from D1 and Blur and context surrounding this match makes it a fan favorite to this day.

95. Plup vs. Mew2King at the Battle of Five Gods

There are a few axioms of competitive Melee: one of them used to be that you should never challenge Mew2King in a Sheik ditto. In fact before this match, Plup had actually tried fighting him with Samus due to Mew2King’s featured reputation in the former matchup. Mew2King has even selected Plup as his preferred opponent for the first round of bracket, presumably seeing him as the “obvious” choice out of the qualifying competitors. Clearly, he was in for a surprise – and to date, this set is the most exciting Sheik ditto I have ever seen.

94. Zain vs. Fiction at Genesis 6

As the Melee metagame has developed, it’s become both trendy and partially true to point toward Marth’s dominance over Fox in their head-to-head. Modern Melee players can also thank Zain for that, given his long established dominance in the matchup. But in the same way that he studied Ice Climbers to great success, Fiction came into his set against Zain with a plan that made the formidable Fox slayer look vulnerable. Would Fiction shine in the spotlight or would his efforts fall just short?

93. Lord vs. S2J at The Next Episode

Is there a character that newcomers associate with more Melee hype than Captain Falcon? Probably not; and it’s no surprise that this exhibition Falcon ditto is one of the list’s first inclusions. Just five years ago, as the Melee scene was amid a post-doc rebirth, the ending to this set was so viral that it reached the front page of Reddit.

92. HugS vs. Ka-Master at UCLA V

HugS is many things; a longtime Samus player, streamer, and wise personality over decades of Melee player. But in early 2008, right before Brawl had fully become the front of the Smash community, he had one job: defend SoCal from the Washington menace Ka-Master, who had destroyed everyone else he played at the same event. Coming from loser’s bracket and due to the strange set scoring system back then, HugS essentially had to carry SoCal on his back: win three straight games to win the tournament or lose what could have been the last big SoCal Melee regional.

91. Leffen vs. Chillin at Apex 2015

Make no mistake: the quality of Melee isn’t why this set made the list. The inclusion of Melee’s most infamous exhibition set of all time comes from its unprecedented circumstances. Whether it’s the $500 and inability to ever select the neutral Fox color again on the line, the two’s public jabs at each other over the course of months, Leffen’s preemptive boast of a “5-0” or the mere words of “I’m not lawful; make this pussy stop talking,” the spectacle surrounding this exhibition is extraordinary and transcends Melee, from its epic buildup as an intergenerational clash between Fox representatives to its immortal two word conclusion.

The Book of Melee: The beginnings of Smash history

The following is an excerpt of two chapters from “The Book of Melee,” my upcoming 2019 release chronicling the history of competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee.


Before Melee

On January 21, 1999, Nintendo released its first ever Smash title, Super Smash Bros., in Japan. Directed by chief architect Masahiro Sakurai and developed by HAL Laboratory, it featured twelve of the most popular Nintendo characters—all of them ready to jump into the next all-out, knock-down, drag-out fight. For the first time, Nintendo fans could duel as Mario and Link, or rumble in the jungle with Fox and Donkey Kong.

Smash’s multiplayer mode received critical acclaim. GameSpot writer Jeff Gerstmann wrote in his review, “If you’ve got a crew of friends ready to pick a Nintendo character and throw down, then Super Smash Bros. is definitely worth a purchase.”

Smash boasts a unique twist to the standard fighting game formula. Instead of depleting a health bar as characters take damage, they only lose a stock when they’re knocked off the stage and are unable to recover. While taking more damage causes a character to fly further when hit, it’s not the inevitable death sentence most games have trained players to expect.

Unlike 2D fighting games, which require players to memorize combos and are more difficult to learn, Smash emphasizes platform movement, basic controls and intuition. The goal: to eliminate the opponent’s stocks.

By its American release on April 26, 1999, Smash had already boasted over a million sales in Japan.

Following the release of Smash, Nintendo Spaceworld ‘99 became the first documented event to host a Smash tournament. Though specific details about the tourney are difficult to dig up today, Nintendo held Spaceworld from August 27 to 29, 1999, marking a cornerstone moment in Smash history. A year later, Super Smash Bros. grew in popularity when the Japanese TV show “64 Mario Stadium” broadcasted a competitive Smash event.

From here, Smash’s popularity began to transcend Japan. 13-year-old Ricky “Gideon” Tilton created Smash World Forums, a central hub for smashers everywhere to discuss the game and meet fellow players. Today, the website is called Smashboards, and it remains a historical goldmine of old-school Smash subculture.

Unlike today, where social media platforms like Reddit, Facebook and Twitter have largely subsumed the role of message boards as discussion hubs, back then, Smash enthusiasts had to take a leap of faith in order to meet other fans. Smash World Forums was the primary medium for these connections.

“Especially when it comes to Smash, you invite strangers you have never seen before and had no relationship [with], except on boards or MSN Messenger, in your house,” veteran Japanese smasher Ryota “CaptainJack” Yoshida wrote on his blog. His words reflected the perceived risk that most players took when attempting to meet fellow smashers online.

Smash was a significant part of the late-1990s and early-2000s entertainment boom. Nintendo had a large share of the gaming market, one that they needed to protect from hovering competitors like Sony, Microsoft and SEGA, each of which was poised to release new gaming consoles at the dawn of the new millennium. Since the Nintendo 64 had been out for close to half a decade, Nintendo needed to respond with upgraded hardware of its own.

Suddenly, on August 24, 2000, Nintendo announced the development and release of the Nintendo GameCube. Its launch titles included “Luigi’s Mansion” and “Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader,” but the gaming giant had one more trick up its sleeve.

Banking on the immense popularity of Smash, Nintendo knew that it could cash in by releasing an immediate sequel to its newest and most promising franchise. The developers of the Nintendo 64 classic began working on a sequel: Super Smash Bros. Melee.

In a column for Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu, Sakurai wrote that the 13 months he spent working on Melee were some of the most demanding and challenging times of his life. Satoru Iwata, a gaming programmer who would later go on to become president of Nintendo, also played a huge role in its rapid release, working countless nights and holidays to hasten Melee’s development. The end result was an instantly recognizable masterpiece.

At the 2001 Electronic Entertainment Expo in late May, Nintendo revealed its greatest project yet. Melee had a larger cast, gorgeous graphics and promising gameplay, which included the addition of two characters in one: Zelda and Sheik, from the “Legend of Zelda” series. Their ability to smoothly transform into one another mid-game was a graphical marvel at the time.

These factors built an unbelievable amount of hype for the anticipated sequel. In fact, before the game’s official release, Nintendo ran the first-ever Melee tournament, named Premium Fight. Gaming outlet Source Magazine estimated it to have occurred sometime in Japan during Nintendo Space World 2001, from August 25 to 27, though the date of the tourney itself remains unknown.

On Novemeber 21, 2001, Melee came out in Japan. The game received a 37 out of 40 score from Famitsu, winning the outlet’s first ever Platinum Award.

By the time of its release in North America two weeks later, the legend of its competitive scene would soon begin – and it didn’t take long for the online community to gain new members eager to share their own discoveries about Nintendo’s latest title.

The Competitive Scene’s Beginnings

On January 24, 2002, a Smash World Forums user named “Ultimate” posted about a new technique he dubbed “mad dashing.” This consisted of air dodging into the ground at an angle, allowing different characters to slide varying distances. It would go on to become Melee’s best-known advanced technique under a new name: wavedashing.

Many wondered if the game’s developers intentionally created wavedashing. In an interview with Nintendo Power in late 2008, Sakurai verified that he knew about the technique.

“Of course we knew you could do that in the development period,” Sakurai said, quickly dismissing the idea of it being left behind by accident.

However, he also said he envisioned wavedashing as a way for players to quickly return to the ground while in free fall. He could never have predicted it becoming a staple of competitive play.

Before wavedashing became commonplace, Nintendo held Melee’s first tournament circuit in Japan, the Melee Fighting Road circuit. Its final event happened in Hiroshima on March 3, 2002, featuring the winners of regional events held all across Japan from January 20 to February 24 of that year.

Nintendo tournaments typically featured free-for-alls, timers and items—aspects of play that smashers had no clear consensus on at the time. Because of its contrasts with what competitive Melee eventually grew into, the Nintendo-run circuit is often ignored today when discussing the community’s early beginnings.

No matter how smashers might feel about it today, shortly following Melee Fighting Road came the birth of North America’s grassroots competitive Melee scene. It all started on the other side of the Pacific, in San Jose, California.

On April 6, Matt “MattDeezie” Dahlgren hosted Tournament Go at his home, where he lived with his parents. Only 18 years old and looking to have fun with his friends, he advertised his event online, leaving his invitation open for anyone who wanted to join the party.

No public documentation of the exact attendance count exists today. Most estimate that around 20 people came out to the first two editions of Tournament Go. Many of them were looking to compete, while others just wanted to watch others play and make a few friends.

Deezie had unknowingly taken the first step to becoming the forefather of competitive Melee. In particular, Tournament Go was the first significant tournament to use a double-elimination style bracket, which later became standard throughout the scene.

In the post-tournament thread, Deezie talked about how much running the event meant to him. He felt impressed by the sense of community it created.

“Very few people try and break the friend barrier and find outside competition. I urge people out there: host tournaments, go out and meet other people. This will build a community,” Deezie wrote. “Groups of friends will be able to get recognized [for] their strength, and people will be able to challenge them. To me, this is what fighting games are all about, and it is the one thing that up until yesterday, SSBM lacked.”

Deezie didn’t expect so many strong players. Before running Tournament Go, he and his friends assumed that no one could beat them. When challengers actually came to his event, it sparked a new competitive fire within everyone who attended, including Deezie himself.

Yet several logistical challenges of running the tournament frustrated Deezie. It was his first-ever notable tourney: one that he competed in and organized for a larger crowd than he initially thought would come. For example, Deezie planned to start the tournament at noon, but many of the matches started over two hours later, if not three. This led some attendees to leave early.

Players at the event also argued over the presence of items in the tournament ruleset. Deezie addressed these concerns afterward online. He wrote that he saw items as an innate part of the game—though using items could be considered cheap, it was as legitimate as any other strategy to win.

Deezie also acknowledged that not all items held the same value. For instance, gaining a Heart Container could replenish a major sum of health, which was a far greater advantage than using a Parasol. Moreover, items that spawned on the stage were randomly chosen by the game itself, adding little to no strategic element for competitors.

For now, most players remained split. Deezie ultimately stuck with items for Tournament Go 2, on June 15, which still garnered similar success.

Just two months later, he held a successful Tournament Go 3, this time with an estimated 50 attendants. While Deezie continued to cement his legacy as a tournament organizer, other regions took note of his success, beginning their own local Smash scenes, particularly Chicago, which many Midwest smashers hold as the birthplace of Midwest Melee.

Because of Melee’s immense popularity and competitive appeal, tournaments could be hosted anywhere. In its early days, smashers held tourneys at their homes, dormitories, the grubby backrooms of local game stores and sometimes restaurant basements.

Melee tourneys weren’t easy to run. Players needed a GameCube and a memory card that had all the unlocked characters and stages. Moreover, most tournament organizing was a hobby, and few to none of the organizers gained any kind of sustainable profit. At best, running a Melee tournament could be considered volunteer work; at worst, fruitless labor.

Playing competitively also came with a price. Many tourneys were pay-to-enter and a large portion of the final amount of money was only given to the highest placers. It wasn’t exactly a lucrative career choice as much as it was an expensive hobby. Furthermore, Melee had to be played on a cathode ray tube television: a relic of the pre-flat panel standard.

To an average person, this requirement sounds ridiculous. However, competitors know the importance of lugging around a “CRT.” Later on, when high definition setups were more commonplace, Melee players continued to use their beloved CRTs.

With countless split-second decisions and reactions often determining the outcome of a match, Melee players had to ensure that their setups had as little lag as possible, especially with money on the line. After all, modern setups were known to cause noticeable input delays and lag. To this day, it’s common to see Melee players haul massive, outmoded televisions to majors.

Nonetheless, Melee still had enough charm to make these obstacles worth overcoming. It offered unparalleled bonds between players, providing opportunities to form life-changing friendships.

Endless discussion about Melee, both online and at events, usually came from one topic above all: who were the game’s best characters? Eventually, members of Melee’s community would create its first tier list.

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Current Smashboards owner and longtime Smash community leader Chris “AlphaZealot” Brown went into further detail years later in a post titled, “The History of Competitive Smash,” in which he discussed the start of the Melee Backroom.

“The backroom originally started as a social room back around 2001-2002,” wrote AlphaZealot. “It was simply an extra room that more experienced players could go to talk more personally–almost as a reward for being on the site.”

The collective of smashers released its first-ever tier list on October 8, 2002. Notably, Sheik, the long-limbed, needle-throwing ninja, stood at the top of the heap due to her easy-to-execute combos and heavy use among Smash World Forum users. Falco and Fox, characters from the “Star Fox” series, were listed as No. 2 and 3, respectively, held back by their relative difficulty-of-use.

While the Melee scene grew in the West Coast, Midwest and online communities, it soon gained two of its most storied East Coast personalities. Hailing from Virginia came two smashers and friends in their teens, Kashan “Chillindude829” Khan, known today as “Chillin,” and Christopher “Azen Zagenite” McMullen.

These two would change the Melee community and game itself forever.

 

The Book of Melee: The New King

The following is an excerpt from “The Book of Melee,” my upcoming 2019 release chronicling the history of competitive “Super Smash Bros. Melee.”

From as early as 2002, Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman played Melee. Frequently, he’d test out different properties of characters against each other – usually at his house in Cinnaminson, New Jersey.

The teenager’s methods of calculation were often by hand and through counting individual frames of each move. Online, he’d detail his studies in great length, from memorizing frame data of individual character moves to detailing exactly how many frames each character’s item throw animation took. He was only 14 years old when he released his first ever “SSBM Statistics List.”

Melee was just one out of many games that Mew2King spent countless hours trying to figure out. Obsessed with gaming from a young age, he also played old NES titles, “Halo” and “Super Mario 64,” among others. He never had natural aptitude for them, but instead showed persistence and curiosity, traits that made him fall in love with Melee.

When he grew old enough to attend tournaments, he often sat alone at setups, opting to play against a computer instead of interacting with fellow smashers. Outside of the game, his mannerisms were sometimes unbearable, with several players experiencing their own “Mew2King stories.” These were tales in which the storyteller often recounted examples of his social awkwardness.

The stories range from showcasing innocuous examples of his obliviousness, like asking others to buy food for him, to more egregious instances of misunderstanding personal boundaries, such as stealing other people’s controllers. According to Mew2King, many of these stories are unverified and often exaggerated, but they nonetheless showcase his social weaknesses.

Mew2King struggled to fit in. Both his behavior and the reputation that followed caused him additional anxiety when it came to dealing with crowds of people rooting against him at tournaments. For many years, he oscillated between loving Melee and wondering if the community hated him, later concluding himself that he had to be somewhere on the autism spectrum.

Starting from a 23rd at Gettin’ Schooled 2, Mew2King eventually became a force to be reckoned with deep in brackets, soon taking sets over players like Azen and Ken at big events. The once heavily derided nerdy teenager was beginning to look like a threat to win majors.

“I’ve always had a huge passion for video games in general.” Zimmerman said in a 2016 interview with ESPN.

“To be completely honest, my goal was simple: to be the best.”

Mew2King would eventually win his first big tourney at Cataclysm 3, the first major of 2007. Here, he debuted his newest character, Marth, to complement his already deadly Fox.

In winner’s semifinals, Mew2King’s Marth dominated PC Chris in a way that even Ken hadn’t. After never having beaten PC in bracket before, Mew2King finished their set resoundingly, 3-0. He would go on to defeat ChuDat and KoreanDJ, finishing first.

Ken and Azen had shown the power of Marth, but Mew2King figuratively wrote the textbook on Marth’s combos. He effortlessly closed out stocks when his opponents were offstage, in ways that made Marth look majestic. Give Mew2King an inch and he would take it a mile.

In most fighting games, the corner is a disadvantageous position. Yet because of Mew2King’s mastery of edgeguards, his contemporaries often backed off when they had him cornered, due to the threat of him reversing a situation at any given time.

His conversions were frequently done in ways that were brutal, humiliating and frustrating. Mew2King could both relentlessly juggle his opponents in the air and fly offstage to automatically deplete stocks in a matter of seconds. It garnered him a nickname that followed him for years, “The Robot.”

Marth, a character who oscillated between being perceived as defensive or aggressive, now had a player who seemed to balance both traits. Mew2King’s remarkable prowess with comboing other characters and understanding Marth’s options at any given time made him look unbeatable, when he was playing on point.

Despite looking far above everyone else, Mew2King did not go entirely unchallenged. Take KoreanDJ, who beat him to win MLG Long Island 2007 two months afterward. Moreover, in mid-June, ChuDat won the 201-entrant Pound 2 over him.

Yet just as often as he’d come short, Mew2King would win, often in more memorable fashion. He won Connecticut’s Evo East in late May without dropping a set, over a field that included PC Chris, ChuDat and Chillin. Mew2King was beginning to separate himself from the pack, both in his attendance at tournaments and his play.

From July 12 to 14 came one of his greatest victories ever at FC Diamond, the next of the Ship of Fools’ esteemed series. Although Ken wasn’t there, with 256 entrants, this event was the most attended Smash tournament ever. Like many predicted, its winner’s finals was PC against Mew2King, with the latter finally dropping his first set to PC in the year, even losing 3-0. But then, Mew2King came back.

Defeating ChuDat in the Pound 2 runback, Mew2King swept PC in both sets of grand finals. The videos of these games are lost to history, but to this day, Mew2King said that these sets were among the best he ever played in his life.

At the West Coast’s Zero Challenge 3 about a week later, the Melee scene saw another legendary performance from Mew2King. Though he ended up finishing second in the tournament to PC, who impressively won the event through losers, Mew2King had what is now remembered as the greatest high-level crew battle performance of all time.

In grand finals of the crew battle tournament, Mew2King took on nearly everyone in the entire “Craazy Return” crew. After PC defeated Bombsoldier and lost his last stock to Ken, Mew2King entered the fray, ready to prove himself as the new holder of the Marth throne.

Mew2King didn’t just win. He eviscerated Ken and the rest of his crew, ruthlessly seizing 16 stocks from Ken, Isai, the Japanese Marth Disk and Manacloud, with one stock to spare.

Melee officially had a new king.

Following OC3 came ugly controversy surrounding the event itself. In addition to it running hours later than the proposed schedule, there were rumors that Manacloud, one of the event organizers, had not paid any of the highest placing entrants. Eventually, Arash, a fellow member of SoCal’s Elite Five, Ken’s crew who helped him run the event, explained what happened.

Between dealing with housing for out-of-region competitors, food, venue and other aspects of running the event, the Elite Five were paying over $16,000 to ensure that it ran at all. Its members didn’t have enough money from the tournament’s entry fees to cover the costs.

Manacloud took money out of the prize pot to ensure that the expenses of the tournament could be paid. Naturally, this made many furious. The ensuing fallout between the Elite Five and the Melee community tarred their reputations as a tournament organizers, effectively killing the Zero Challenge series.

Ken looked well on his way out of Melee, having attended only one major event of the year. Though he traveled to Australia to win the small tournament Comrades 2, he otherwise stayed mostly within SoCal, quietly winning local events.

Already suffering displacement as the world’s top Marth and having his Zero Challenge series blacklisted, Ken entered as an underdog at Evo World 2007: the 270-entrant Melee world championship.

Evo was different from every other Smash major, in particularly controversial ways. For starters, it didn’t have the same ruleset as other events. Best-of-three only came into use for the tournament’s top twelve. Before that, each set was a best-of-one match where competitors played on a randomly selected stage, rather than striking to an agreed one.

These bizarre rules, along with the innate variance of a best-of-one set created the perfect storm for a teenager named Mango: a promising Jigglypuff player who had never even made a supermajor top eight in his life.

Hailing from the streets of Norwalk, California, Mango sat down, selecting a seemingly harmless character to face off against Mew2King, who had just thrashed PC at Evo West.

Only a few minutes into the match, Mew2King realized he had a big problem on his hands.

He couldn’t figure out how to beat Jigglypuff.

The Book of Melee: Apex 2015, Smash’s Most Beautiful Disaster

The following is a rough excerpt of “The Book of Melee,” my upcoming 150+ page account of competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee’s history.

Apex 2015 was originally scheduled for a ballroom at the Clarion Hotel Empire Meadowlands in Secaucus, New Jersey. When several smashers showed up to the venue on Thursday night,  they immediately noticed the yellow tape blocking many of its areas.

To start the three-day event, the venue’s fire alarm went off, already showing signs of distress. It was only the beginning of what would be a series of devastating news for the Smash community.

Police and fire marshals in the area realized that the venue was not only unsafe, but lacked the proper zoning permits. The weather at the time, which involved heavy snowstorms and freezing cold temperatures, only made the situation worse.

The chief concern that authorities had was that the roof was going to eventually fall on the venue, due to the hotel having structural damage from the heavy snow and poor conditions. Furthermore, the parking garage adjoining the ballroom and hotel had already suffered structural collapse.  As a result, the venue was shut down.

It was unquestionably the right move, but the news left Apex 2015 in danger. What was supposed to be one of the best days in Smash history was arguably going to be its worst – especially on a public scale, with Nintendo watching as a tournament sponsor.

If Apex was cancelled, the Smash community would be humiliated on a level it had never endured before.

Many of the thousands of attendees suggested that the tournament be run directly through hotel rooms, as several smashers still had CRTs, GameCubes, copies of Melee and memory cards. This had been done before in the past at smaller tournaments. However, the logistics of being able to manage thousands of peoples’ brackets across multiple games made this an unlikely proposition.

At this point, it was pretty clear that the entire first day went to waste. But more importantly than running the tournament, smashers needed to find a venue.

Apex staff, Melee It On Me members and several of the country’s biggest and most prominent tournament organizers gathered in a room on that fateful day to discuss a potential solution. The group included Nintendude, a longtime Ice Climbers player and tournament organizer, Dr. Z, the Crimson Blur, Juggleguy, Tafokints and Scar. The fate of Apex, and arguably Smash, depended on these leaders to come up with a solution.

Eventually, Scar had a plan. What if he contacted people he worked with at Twitch – where he worked as a product manager – to help organizers find a temporary venue that his community could use to run the major?

With the help of Twitch, the collective of Smash leaders found a new available venue, the Garden State Convention Center in Somerset, New Jersey. Keep in mind how lucky this was for the Smash scene. In mere hours, it had found a venue that could host thousands of smashers.

Apex wasn’t going to be the dream three-day major that everyone signed up for. In fact, no matter what would happen, everybody knew that it was, logistically, a colossal failure. Irresponsible venue booking, shoddy organizing and questionable scheduling from former Apex head Alex Strife had already led to hundreds of furious attendees leaving.

But with a little bit of luck, the tournament could be salvaged. The first day was lost, making running the event a daunting task for its staff – but there was no other choice. It was do or die.

Several players began the great migration of televisions, setups and equipment into rented vans. Those at the venue eventually began updating people online about what was going on, directing the logistics and coordinating the move, with the help of Twitch and Red Bull Esports contacts.

Against all odds, with the tournament now projected to only finish in the late Sunday night to early Monday morning hours, Smash survived, with its best minds reviving the once-dead national.

Much like the year before, Apex had its own Salty Suite on Saturday night, with a plethora of exhibition matches between different players, including even returning greats PC Chris and Ken. However, the most awaited match was the first-to-five set between Leffen and Chillin, a Fox forefather who was now an active competitor and ranked the No. 26 player in the world.

Months prior to their bout, Leffen made a joke about Team Liquid signing washed up players. Insulted by Leffen’s arrogance, and a Team Liquid player himself, Chillin then challenged the pesky godslayer to a set in which the loser had to give up playing neutral Fox – both of their trademark colors – forever.

To add to the hype before the event, Chillin released a diss track music video called “Respect Your Elders.” Combined with Leffen boasting after Paragon Orlando about how he was going to 5-0 Chillin, viewers knew they were in for a treat, if not for the sheer entertainment about the two’s bad blood.

However, when it came to their set, Leffen utterly dominated Chillin. The games were relatively close, but Chillin looked visibly shaken in them. In contrast, Leffen frequently laughed during their games and noticeably went for suboptimal options, including using Fox’s up-B, an offstage recovery move, on stage to combo into an up-air: a blatant sign of disrespect.

The end was just as Leffen predicted, a 5-0 to break the hearts of a crowded, overwhelmingly pro-Chillin venue.

As if to answer an implicit call for hope, Mango walked up onto the main stage and took the microphone from Scar. He then challenged Leffen to a $1,000 money match the next time they played in bracket, in order to defend Chillin’s honor, as well as America.

Leffen agreed, with their bet being met by thunderous approval and roars. It was only the beginning of what would become a magical Melee tournament.

Before facing Mango on the next day, Leffen had to overcome his greatest demon in bracket, Mew2King. He was the last person between Leffen and not just a projected match in winner’s semifinals with Mango, but also his own claim to “godhood.” It was only fitting that the last person to there was Mew2King, a man long heralded for being the gatekeeper to greatness.

Having learned from his previous losses to him, Leffen won 2-1, becoming the first ever player outside of the gods to defeat all five of them in bracket. He and Mango were now set up for their $1,000 money match in winner’s semifinals. Parallel to the two on one side of winner’s bracket were the returning PPMD and Armada, each with their own different paths at Apex.

Where Armada coasted to his spot without dropping a game, PPMD barely eked there, still rusty from his time away from nationals. Playing a mix of both Falco and Marth through bracket, he had dropped games to players like PewPewU, who beat Hungrybox earlier in bracket, and SoCal Captain Falcon S2J, having to switch between the two characters semi-frequently.

His struggles with depression and fatigue over the last year had clearly carried over into his performance at the rushed event, now scheduled for two days instead of three. Unlike 2014,  in which his polished play led to convincing victories, PPMD looked sloppy, but good enough to stay in winner’s bracket.

With only a few hours to rest up before top eight, PPMD was anything but confirmed for success. But as a venue of smashers delirious from the unpredictable weekend cheered at every phase of Apex, the tournament’s final phase began around the same time as the Super Bowl.

Now playing against the iron-willed Armada, the North Carolina Falco looked out of energy and too slow to keep up in game one. After losing, he took some time to readjust, picking Marth, a character that innately emphasized patience and discipline over technical refinement, for the rest of the set.

The two went back and forth, showing shades of their thrilling Apex grand finals of 2013. Ultimately, PPMD prevailed, 3-2, outlasting Armada’s Peach in their heavily anticipated contest.

Despite having not competed at a national level for half a year and his exhaustion from the energy-depleting weekend, PPMD had overcome not just the world class players in his path to a guaranteed top three finish, but his own physical limitations.

On the other side of winners came Leffen vs. Mango, both playing for $1,000 and winner’s finals. Perhaps in anticlimactic fashion, the Swedish godslayer won, 3-1, not only taking in more money from Apex, but also now with one god in his way, PPMD.

PPMD and Leffen don’t have as well-known of a rivalry as other players, but the two both seeked redemption  – the former from his long national break and the latter to finally end the era of the five gods. Originally a Falco main, Leffen even looked up to PPMD when starting his career. With Leffen now playing Fox, with PPMD choosing Marth, the two clashed.

Before their set came a pair of notable loser’s matches. Having just seen his Peach lose to PPMD and matched up against a character counter in Hungrybox, Armada opted to go Fox for the first time for a full set against him, winning 3-1 in loser’s quarters. Mango then beat aMSa 3-2 in a thrilling set, to finish the Japanese Yoshi’s own exceptional underdog run, one of the underlying stories of the tournament.   

After they traded two games to start the set, Leffen went up in game three, ready to gain stage counterpick advantage. But PPMD made a two-stock comeback, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat yet again. The Swede managed to win a closely battled game four, but in the final game of their set, the pressure of the big stage began to sink in.

Leffen looked more and more overwhelmed by the moment, desperate to prove his haters wrong and show himself that he was worthy of becoming the game’s ultimate champion. Winning was his greatest chance at vindication, not just to his doubters, but to himself.

The two once again went to their last stock, but Leffen committed an untimely input error while recovering, ending the historic set in tame fashion. Following its conclusion, PPMD leaped from his seat in a manic burst of energy. It was a remarkable change from earlier in the event, when PPMD looked on the verge of collapsing.

Like Pound V and Apex 2013, Armada and PPMD eventually clashed in grand finals. They were two familiar, but completely different players at this stage of their careers.

Armada looked amid a character and career crisis. Apex proved that even with a new character, he could still compete at the top level, defeating Hungrybox, Mango and Leffen in loser’s bracket on his way to grand finals.  Nobody knew if he was going to play Peach again after seeing the potential of his Fox.

Meanwhile, PPMD was not the same cocky and resentful star player of before. Now playing Marth, older and wearier from his years of competition, PPMD had become a sage of Melee, one that didn’t care about what others had to think of his play, but merely wanted to show himself that he could succeed.

The two battled in grand finals of Melee’s ultimate championship, each carrying their own conflicts. Armada quickly went up 2-0 in games of Fox vs. Marth, before PPMD switched to Falco to take the next two games. Curiously, PPMD elected to swap to Marth for the final game of the set, with Armada winning in a last-stock game five to reset bracket.

Years later, PPMD was asked by fans on stream why he elected to pick Marth instead of Falco for the fifth game. He explained that playing Falco required a lot of effort and focus for short explosive bursts, while Marth by virtue of being a more grounded character allowed him to play at a natural pace. In a tournament with final hours moving far beyond midnight, PPMD’s concerns made sense, given that he had an additional set to work with.

But if there’s anything about playing Fox that stands out for competitive players, it’s his technical threshold. Despite his great matchups against the rest of the cast, at the top level, one mistake by a Fox player can lead to death. Where PPMD managed to somehow conserve what was his energy throughout the late night, Armada began to play worse in the second set, perhaps not used to the natural fatigue that came from Fox’s naturally execution-heavy traits.

PPMD adapted, picking his openings more deliberately and once again using his threatening dash dance to force desperate commitments from Armada. With the Swede feeling the languor of playing his new character at a supermajor across numerous sets for the first time, the end result was a tournament-ending, championship winning 3-0 victory for PPMD.

Upon shaking Armada’s hand, PPMD was met by a crowd of smashers who barreled their way to the stage, greeting him with hugs. He lay back in his chair, then motioned for some space to himself as he leaned forward and put his hands in his face, “PP” chants echoing in the back from an adrenaline-fueled crowd.

It was only fitting that at Melee’s simultaneously best and worst tournament ever, its least likely member of the game’s elite would prevail, once again conquering his self-doubt, emotional lows and barriers to rise to the top. PPMD’s success, above all else, reflected the Smash community’s resolve.

Regaining enough energy to compose himself, even clutching his heart,  PPMD slowly rose from his chair and raised his hands, facing a sea of smashers,  standing as a champion and the final symbol of their resilience.