As of today, The Book of Melee is set to launch as an ebook on May 8, 2019. It’s a bit after my planned April 20 launch date, but such is balancing a side journalism “gig” with a career. To celebrate the official release of The Book of Melee, I would like to introduce you to my latest project, “The Top 100 Sets of All-Time.”
Let’s cut everything else out of the way and get to the project and the process behind determining my Top 100 Melee sets of all-time.
Defining Terms: What is a set?
The overly academic title aside, I had to define what kind of “sets” would qualify for the list. To start off, I want to establish a few factors that went into determining my picks.
For the sake of argument, I have decided to use both the plural and Melee-vernacular definitions of “set” to create the list. In other words, some of the sets I have listed in a spot are actually multiple sets listed together as “one set.” If you want to view this more cynically, I personally have no interest in spending effort differentiating between the quality of winners and grand finals sets of a matchup at the same event.
I also chose to prioritize sets that were best-of-fives or more over best-of-threes. I understand that most people will reasonably think this is unfair, so my reason for coming up with this decision is that in my mind, “the more Melee, the merrier.” This was the case for most sets, but nonetheless, keep an eye out for some of my favorite best-of-three sets.
Also, to disappoint my doubles fans per usual on this ground, I am not including any doubles sets in my list.
Determining The Talent Pool
In almost 20 years of Melee history, it’s difficult to create consistent criteria when it comes to determining the list. Coming up with this project on my own, I wasn’t sure of what to do, so before doing anything else, I asked myself, what were the best sets of each year?
Going through the Smash History databases, which are now maintained and updated by my former partner-in-crime Pikachu942, I picked my Top 10 sets of every year from 2009 to 2018. Because of the lack of recorded sets from 2008 and before, I made a choice to include as many sets as I could think of from the MLG era and before, but as a whole, there were far less to choose from that stood over time. It is, however, important to note that the sets which did make the cut into my list were boosted, due to their otherwise lack of representation on the list.
By the end of my talent pool selection process, I had around 125 sets. So then came a bigger problem: how do I narrow down the list from there?
Creating the Criteria
Surprisingly, determining the top of the list was extremely easy. Without giving away any spoilers, four of my top five were no-brainers – in other words, sets that would straight up qualify or disqualify my ability to authoritatively make this list. As an aside, this is truly remarkable: that in Melee’s entire history, four sets clearly stand above the pack, though my pick for No. 1 is likely a bit out of left field and not one of the four most people would think of.
To get back to what it was like sorting the list, I had to think about differentiators per set. After much thinking, and consultation from my Melee Stats friends, I came up with the following. Disclaimer: not all of these criteria were equally valued, nor were they quantified, but they gave me a starting point for evaluating sets.
Quality of Melee: how good, or notably impressive, was the quality of Melee played, relative to era?
Flash Factor: How entertaining is the Melee to watch for someone who has never watched a set of Melee before?
The Stakes: What were the consequences of each set, be it determining a winner of an exhibition set to winning a scene-defining tournament, changing a player’s legacy forever, or gaining greater cultural exposure?
Non-Gameplay Factors: what were non-gameplay factors (commentary, production, etc) that added to the legacy of this set?
Uniqueness: How different is this set from other similar sets between the two players in Melee history?
The first four factors are easy to understand, but the last one might sound odd. Basically, if multiple sets are played between the same two players, I penalized the less impressive sets and buffed the more essential sets within a head-to-head. This is to avoid a situation where the same three or four groupings of player dominate the Top 20, although there are notable exceptions within the top of my list. I am also doing this to give exposure to lesser known players who have had excellent sets of their own in the past.
A Final Note
At the end of this project, “The Book of Melee” will officially be out for electronic consumption over at Smashwords. Until then, here is the publishing schedule after today.
April 17: 100-91
April 19: 90-81
April 22: 80-71
April 24: 70-61
April 26: 60-51
April 29: 50-41
May 1: 40-31
May 3: 30-21
May 6: 20-11
May 8: 10-1 and The Book of Melee electronic release date
I’m currently working on printed and physical copies of my book to be completed by the late summer and fall. Until then, thanks for supporting me.
If you’ve ever played Super Smash Bros. Melee, chances are that you already know about “secret” advanced techniques, like L-canceling (referred to in the original as “smooth landing”) and, of course, wavedashing. But before the competitive scene came to be as we know it today, the line between casual and tournament players was far more difficult to distinguish.
In a special edition of Smash History, my longtime partner-in-crime Michael “Catastrophe” Forde and I do our best to cover the very beginnings of the tournament scene. Before we start, please know that a lot of the data we have is incomplete – so inform either of us of any corrections or additions that need to be done!
With the creation of Smash World Forums by 13-year old Ricky “Gideon” Tilton in 2000 (later renamed Smashboards), North American smashers soon had a central hub to discuss smash and meet other enthusiasts. But while the creation of SWF played a huge role in the competitive scene’s development, it’s important to acknowledge other websites as well.
Gaming forums like GameFAQS were still heavily used – and websites like “Smabrer’s Garden,” “Sumabura-bu,” and “XMS,” were effective mediums for Japanese smashers. According to Captain Jack, Smabrer’s Garden, created by a man named Hyoga (who disappeared from the scene), was the most important website for the original Super Smash Bros. community in Japan.
People today might not understand it, but back then, these websites were the primary resources for in-depth smash content. Unlike today, where social media platforms like Reddit, Facebook and Twitter have all but invalidated smash-specific websites as important communication tools, back then, talking to strangers was considered dangerous.
Nonetheless, even before Melee’s release, 64 played a huge role in providing a blueprint for how to build a community. This sounds absurd, but consider how Captain Jack, Ken, Azen, Isai and several others all got into Melee because of 64. Far too often, 64’s impact on the smash scene is forgotten because Melee came out two years later.
Along with 64’s popularity, Melee’s growth also came as a result of the advent of the Internet, the start of a new millennium and the game’s status as an upcoming title for Nintendo’s new system: the GameCube. These factors led to the first ever Melee tournament – before it was even released. You can read about the details here, but if you don’t have the time, here’s what happened:
Premium Fight! (August 25-27, 2001)
1. Yasuhito Murofushi
2. Yuta Suzuki
Murofushi was a 16 year-old who played Mario, while Suzuki, the same age, played Kirby. The two played in a tournament-deciding stock-match (the stock count is unknown), while the rest of the single-elimination tournament was based around two-minute free-for-alls with four players and items turned on. In those previous matches, only the player with the highest score advanced. The game was also still technically still under development, with only a limited cast.
Here’s another fun fact: before the championship match, there was an exhibition “coin battle” between two of the tournament’s MCs: people by the names of Horiguchi and Kawamoto. Kawamoto, who played Peach, beat Horiguchi, who played Ice Climbers, by eight coins.
On November 21, 2001, Nintendo released Melee in Japan, to the delight of smashers, Nintendo fans and gamers alike. A week before, Melee garnered a 37/40 on Famitsu Magazine, also gaining the outlet’s first ever Platinum Award. Two weeks after it’s Japanese release, on December 3, the game came out in North America.
Although the person who holds this video hasn’t responded to our request for comment, if its description is to be believed, the video below is the oldest footage of a tournament match in competitive Melee history – even older than the frequently cited Azen vs. Anden match from late 2002. If anyone can translate any of the Japanese below or clarify, please contact us!
By the time the game came out in North America, smashers across the world were ready to transition toward playing Melee over its Nintendo 64 predecessor. Some people even found advanced techniques within the game, as seen below. Either way, a scene was building.
Melee Fighting Road (March 3, 2002)
Although this was technically the culmination of a seasonal circuit, Melee Fighting Road in Hiroshima was the first significant post-launch Melee national. Preceding it were six other tournaments in six weeks before: held within Osaka, Tokyo, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Shizuoka and Sendai from January 20 to February 24. Based on what little we know, as well as Jack’s account, the top players from each event, somewhat similar to MLG, competed at Hiroshima for the title of best Melee player in Japan.
As Jack details, “almost no pictures remain,” from the event, since digital cameras back then were too expensive for most students to afford. Moreover, the ruleset from the majority of Premium Fight remained – four players, free-for-all, items on, and two minute timers.
Japan United Smash Festa Round-Robin 2 (March 2002, Round-Robin)
1. Keropi- / Captain Jack
5. Samus / Picardy
Although the date hasn’t been specified (outside of the month and year), Jack wrote on his website (see Sources at the bottom) about the first of many annual round-robin Melee tournaments held within his community (the first one was for 64). Keropi, the MFR champion, tied for first at this tournament with Jack, whose 64 skills seemed to translate well into Melee.
Tournament Go 1 (April 6, 2002, Items)
1. JR Castillo
2. Justin Junio
4. Matt Deezie
While there might have been other Melee tournaments at the time, Tournament Go is ultimately why Matt Deezie is considered the forefather of competitive Melee. It started off as a small gathering of Northern California smashers to see who was the best among them, but after being advertised online, became extremely popular. JR Castillo, a Fox main ended up winning over the first “premier” Falco player of his time: Justin Junio.
In the post-tournament thread, you can read Deezie’s account for what it was like to TO the event. Some highlights include his complaints about the tournament running 2-3 hours late, having to host over 40 players at his house, debating the competitive merits of items, etc.
At this point in time, Melee had been out for half a year, to critical acclaim. But there were several key differences between how people perceived Melee’s engine vs. its predecessor. In response to a user on Smashboards years later, the old school player SmashBroPro summed up his feelings of the early metagame.
There were a few major changes though in game dynamics from the first game. First and foremost was grabbing was strongly reduced in effectiveness. Players saw that grabs, in particular running grabs, where a far less viable means of KO, the % damage it inflicted was fairly marginal, and particularly at low damages it didn’t set opponents up as nicely into combos (a common example was how characters like Fox and Sheik’s dash attack flowed so nicely into their aerial kill moves).
So dash grabs saw a decent decline in usage, particularly in offensive minded players. The result favored defensive players. They could shield grab with increased safety. Ironically this didn’t immediately lead players into countering with more dash grabs, but rather with an emphasis on spacing moves (like Marth’s aerial forward A) and “cross ups” (a nearly forgotten move where you time your dash attack to carry over to your opponents other side of the shield).
Tournament Go 2 (June 15, 2002, Items)
1. Justin Junio
3. Matt Deezie
7. Vien/Super Mac
9. JR Castillo/???
Funnily enough, the next important tourney we found was also from the TG series: the sequel known as Tournament Go 2. The previous champion JR Castillo was the favorite heading in, but the TO, Deezie, upset him in winners quarters, leading the former TG title holder to be eliminated early.
Deezie, still hosting the event, made his way to winners finals, but his Fox and Mario couldn’t overcome Justin Junio’s Falco. Already having finished second at the first TG, Junio won a nailbiter grand finals against Recipherus, now having an argument to be the best in NorCal.
Chicago Tournament (August 5, 2002)
In case you thought the only American scene that existed was in California, we’ll take you back to the Midwest. Chicago was one of the first smash-hubs in the United States, with players like the Ganon legend Eddie making his tournament debut, as well as the Marth main Eduardo, his older brother, and his other brother DJXXX.
Around this time was the creation of Melee’s first ever tier list. Current smashboards owner and longtime Melee figure AlphaZealot goes into further detail in his Smashboards post titled, “The History of Competitive Smash.”
The backroom originally started as a social room back around 2001-2002. 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. This was before the days of weekly or even monthly tournaments.
“American Legion Tournament” (14 Entrants, August 17, 2002, Items)
If you’re familiar with Chillin’s History of a Smasher series, you’ll know this tournament (not literally named “American Legion Tournament”) already. Back then, Azen was considered the best within the original “Ha Ha You Lose” crew (him, Anden, Mild and Chillin), but he was upset in winners bracket by a Yoshi main named Eric, who was part of the DYCE crew from Maryland.
Eric eventually made it to winners finals, where he lost to the H2YL Jigglypuff Anden. In the first notable losers runs in North American history, Azen fought his way back to grands, defeating Chillin, beating Eric in the runback and overcoming Anden in the first recorded verifiable tournament set of Melee ever.
Kengo’s Tourney (~30 Entrants, Late 2002, Single-Elim, Top 3 RR)
Again – MDVA’s rivalry between DYCE and H2YL continued, but this time DYCE’s Derrick (a Sheik player) and Eric took the top two spots. In a surprise for H2YL at a single-elimination tournament, Azen failed to beat either member, effectively placing DYCE as the best known crew in MDVA.
Tournament Go 3 (~20 Entrants, August 24, 2002, Items)
4. Sultan of Samitude
5. Matt Deezie/Justin Junio
7. JR Castillo/Scamp
Back in the West Coast, the next installment of the TG series was underway, as more people than ever showed up to prove themselves as the best in their region. Players like the Doctor Mario main Vien greatly improved since TG2, while the debuting Sultan of Samitude staked his claim for the best Falco – a lofty claim given Junio’s TG2 victory.
In the end, two brothers, Recipherus and the Luigi main Adam made the Top 2. With Junio faltering at a fifth place finish, and Recipherus improving his placing at each TG he entered, the NorCal Sheik main had an argument for being the best in NorCal, the West Coast and perhaps even the United States.
Chicago Championship (September 2002)
Canada showed up for the next big Midwest tourney, and its best, Falcon/DK dual main MikeMonkey, showed up to replace Eddie in the top four. Nevertheless, Eduardo continued to dominate the Midwest.
Melee Toys R Us National Tournament (Championship) (October 13, 2002)
As Jack wrote on his website, the Toys R Us championship happened after qualifying, smaller tournaments from late August. After the success of Fighting Road, this circuit was actually the second Nintendo-announced national series – and, per Jack, was even larger, given Nintendo’s enthusiasm and Melee’s growth. Other than that, there’s not much else written online, though Shu transitioned to playing each of the future smash games, while Rid’s activities remain unknown. A few more notes from Jack’s personal blog:
Of course all other competitive smasher tried to conquer the official tournaments to the victory, but their ambition was shattered in front of the 4-man 2-min item-on official ruleset.
Masashi and me stupidly entered the same qualifying tournament in Toys”R”Us in Kyoto, and his Marth beat my Ganondorf in Temple. So that I couldn’t make it to the championship.
These 2 tournaments were the only official event of Melee in Japan until nowadays.
Dutch Tournament 1 (November 2, 2002)
2. Mr. Silver
Outside of America, there was one other place where the Smash scene was starting to develop: the Netherlands. The first major tourney between the Dutch was at DT1, where Rune took it over Mr. Silver to solidify himself as the best in his country.
Michigan Tournament (November 29, 2002)
SBP traveled out to Michigan near the end of the year to fight the scene’s reigning champ, Jv3x3, known as the originator of the term “JV” (beating someone with no percent taken off their current stock). SBP took it fairly decisively over JV, proving to the rest of the Midwest that Chicago was the strongest region in the area.
JTanic’s House Tourney (December 2002, Single-Elim, Top 3 RR)
1. Eric/Derrick/Chu Dat
DYCE and H2YL’s next clash turned out badly for H2YL. A Fox main back then, Chu Dat, upset Azen, making it to the top three round robin. However, the top three of the tournament were caught in a precarious position, as Eric (now a Peach player) would always beat Derrick, but Chu would beat Eric and Derrick would beat Chu. The three effectively drew for first, but Chu later joined H2YL and later started his own legacy as an Ice Climbers player. At the same time, this was around when Chillin considered switching mains, from Sheik to Fox.
Dutch Tournament 2 (December 22, 2002)
DT2 was a much bigger affair than the previous DT, bringing more of the top players from the Netherlands.
Meleepalooza (December 23, 2002, Items)
1. Sultan of Samitude
2. Justin Junio
At the end of 2002, the West Coast decided to host one more tourney in the year, but instead of Deezie hosting it, Justin Junio did. However, the quickly improving Sultan of Samitude came through, and defeated both Junio and Recipherus, seemingly cementing his once lofty claim as the best Falco – or at least on the West Coast.
Although Melee didn’t quite have a unified scene at the end of the year, what’s clear is that community figures within Japan, MDVA, the Netherlands, California and Chicago provided early documentation for the inklings of competitive tournaments.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Before I get my head bitten off for this – yes. I realize that what we’ve written so far hasn’t included any Deadly Alliance tournaments, but there’s little recorded tournament data I could find online. What we do know is that the crew regularly hosted smashfests within New York and that they dominated a tournament called “Best in New York” (B.I.N.), along with regularly attending “Phillyfests,” per Wes’ knowledge.
It’s impossible to separate DA from Melee’s beginnings, even if we can’t find records of their first tournaments. Starting off as just Wes, Kamaal and HellFox playing regularly at KillaOR’s house, these players were forefathers of many different characters and provided the foundations for early versions of matchups. Part of what made DA so influential on the scene was how versatile its roster of character mains were. Combined with Empire Arcadia later, famous and controversial in many other ways, DA was one of the most successful and innovating esports groups ever.
While 2002 was the start of a national scene in Japan – and several fragmented ones within North America and Europe – 2003 was when the North American scenes came into contact a lot more frequently. In addition to members of each community boasting about themselves and discussing others’ play on forums, smashers soon had videos to watch and share with each other. Soon enough, people were traveling miles just to play Melee.
Because of more and more people talking about the game, soon enough, people began sharing footage of themselves playing. It’s unclear as to what exactly the first combo video was, but the best we could find was something Prog wrote for Melee It On Me in early-mid 2015.
Long before Melee hit the front page of Twitch (or even before our earliest streams were on Ustream and Justin.tv), before YouTube became the primary location for video storage, and even predating the DC++ hub, Smashers used free Angelfire websites to host videos. Match footage, friendlies, they all were recorded and posted if the person was interested in doing so.
Taking note from other competitive gaming scenes and traditional sports, a light bulb went off. Why not make a montage of a player’s match highlights and set it to music? This was different from many traditional fighting games, these weren’t proof of concept videos; these were in medias res, a dance between the players being shown. And although we don’t have an exact date, we generally attribute the first player highlight reels in Melee to The Punch Crew, dating back to 2003. The combo video was born.
At the dawn of a new year, the first major tourney came in Texas: part of a relatively unknown region in the South. What made this tournament remarkable was NorCal’s Recipherus coming out: a rare, if not unprecedented, occasion of a premier player from one region traveling to another one.
However, Texas’s best, Zulu, had other things to say, as he won the tournament, instantly giving credibility to the South as Melee region to watch in the future.
Tournament Go 4 (85-90 Entrants, January 19, 2003, Items)
3. Sultan of Samitude
4. Justin Junio
5. Jeff/Matt Deezie
For extremely obvious reasons, this tournament is an incredibly pivotal tourney in Melee’s history – as both Ken’s debut at a significant tournament and in terms of size.
Nonetheless, the Southern California Marth powered through, not dropping a game until grand finals, but winning anyway. Unlike other players who wavedashed and seemed to know the game’s technical limits well, Ken was just smarter, using strategies like dash dancing to pressure his opponents. Watch this money match against the Sultan of Samitude (also a tournament match), when Ken four-stocked him.
Although this tournament is known as Ken’s regional debut, don’t forget about Recipherus’ loser’s run. After losing to Sam in winners semis, the NorCal Sheik made a run through both Justin Junio and Sam, seemingly overcoming his Falco problem and proving to be somewhat close to Ken’s level as a player.
SoCal Inland Empire (???, 2003, Items)
This was the biggest tourney at this point in SoCal, a then-often forgotten region in the face of the dominant NorCal. Ken dominated it, once again proving his TG4 win was not a fluke. While not much is known of this tourney, it cements Ken as easily the best in his region.
However, this is not to discredit other people in SoCal. Including Ken, SoCal had an Elite 4 (later 5) that had Ken’s brother ManaCloud, Tavo7, Pedro and the Jigglypuff/Bowser extraordinaire in Arash, among other members later. Nonetheless, this crew dominated the SoCal scene for several years until late 2004 to early 2005 when players like DieSuperFly and HugS started to become notable.
Japan United Smash Festa Round-Robin 3 (March 2003, Round-Robin)
1. Captain Jack
3. Michael (not Mikael!)
4. RAIN (yes – that RAIN!)
5. Nine Tales
The first major Japanese tourney of 2003, USFRR 3 showcased the best of West Japan, with Captain Jack taking first place. It’s interesting to note that he and Masashi actually had an equal win-loss record at the event, though Jack finished higher in total points. This, in addition to Jack stating himself that Masashi beat him at other, smaller tourneys, makes it much less clear as to who the best in Japan was at the time, though these two were certainly above everyone else.
IVGF Northwest Regionals (151* Entrants, March 1st, 2003, Items)
2. Matt Deezie
*-The entrants count is not fully substantiated
If you wanted to be a smartass and talk about the biggest Melee tournaments ever, this is technically a good answer until FC3, even if the number of entrants wasn’t completely indicative of serious competitive players. Nonetheless, this was the first tournament to feature the best of NorCal against the Pacific Northwest.
Usually when people think of PNW, they either think of Silent Wolf, Bladewise or Sastopher, but even back in 2003, this region was strong. In particular, one name stood out: CauthonLuck, otherwise known as Rori.
A Pikachu/Falco dual main, Rori consistently placed highly or won every PNW tourney he entered up until this point, with the exception of his very first one. Through his time in the scene, his success was particularly remarkable because of how Peach-ridden his region was, with players like Kei (Takagi), BaleFireBoy and Sastopher doing well. Rori’s ability to hang with and usually beat these players initially made people back then think that Pikachu was a good counterpick against Peach.
Despite his reputation, Rori placed beneath three of Norcal’s best. Recipherus won a purported $8,000 at this event, which stood as a record for nearly 4 years.
If anyone’s curious, this data, according to conversations with Kei, covers SKYPAL tourneys from their inception in mid-2003 to October 2005. These were some of the biggest tournaments in the PNW region.
Dutch Tournament 3 (March 3, 2003)
Dutch Tournament 4 (May 17, 2003)
4. Mr. Silver
This next string of tourneys is purely European, as they took up the bulk of notable tourneys in this part of the year. Remen and Flok proved themselves to be the top two in the Netherlands, trading wins at the past three events. The rankings below were much less clear, as the players beneath them were all close in skill.
St. Louis Tournament (June 21, 2003)
The first major tournament in the Midwest not involving Chicago, this marked the debut of the Ship of Fools, which included Joshu, Iggy and the legendary Kish Brothers from Indiana. KishSquared won this event, and this tourney in general legitimized Indiana, as the Kishes threw their state in what was once an Illinois-dominated conversation for best state in the Midwest.
Snexus 2 (48 Entrants, July 12, 2003)
5. KishCubed, KishPrime
7. Iggy, The Doug
Snexus 2 was the first meeting not just between the two big regions of the Midwest (Illinois and Indiana), but also the West Coast, with Recipherus, Isai and The Doug.
The tourney started off strong for the Midwest. Eddie and Eduardo, then known as Team Blood, shockingly defeated the West Coast team of Recipherus and Isai in doubles, showing that the two Midwest players were as much of a tournament threat as their West Coast contemporaries. However, they couldn’t carry their success into singles, though they placed over their rivals in the Kish brothers. Defeating Eduardo, Eddie and Isai twice from losers, Recipherus ended up winning yet another tournament.
After their painful losses to DYCE and even Chu at their last tournament, H2YL came back (along with Chu) with a vengeance, returning at DC Super Smash. Having trained for eight months in preparation for competing again, the crew took the tournament’s top four spots, with Azen coming out on top and proving himself as the best in MD/VA and perhaps even the East Coast.
Tournament Go 5 (~80-90 Entrants, August 2-3, 2003, Items)
5. Wes/Justin Junio
7. Sultan of Samitude/The Doug
9. Hien/Sastopher/Rori/Mike G
While it’s easy to read Deezie’s old tourney posts and laugh, keep in mind that back then, it was already difficult to organize get-togethers with friends. Imagine being a teenager or young adult, having to organize travel for tons of players, while also making sure they were housed, brought to the venue, etc. Deezie was one of the first TO’s to pay out of pocket for these tournaments. In a way, Tournament Go 5 was revolutionary in how it somehow managed to get the best players on the continent in one place.
With the best from NorCal, the East Coast, Midwest and Ken at the same tourney, TG5 was America’s most stacked tournament yet, even featuring the return of Justin Junio. However, Ken still decisively won, while the East Coast’s Azen finished modestly with Sheik, but lost to Recipherus and Isai, seemingly proving that California was indeed the best region.
We’ve written this before, but the tournament results didn’t come without controversy. East Coast players were unfamiliar with the stock count (they played mostly with five) and playing with items. As a result, many who were fans of Azen at the time complained that the “Master of Diversity” never got a fair chance to prove his skill, since he was playing in unfamiliar territory.
Midwest Challenge (19 Entrants, August 9, 2003)
Shortly after in the Midwest, Eddie came back to show his ninth at TG5 was not a result of a decline in skill, as he decisively won Midwest Challenge, now known by some as MELEE-FC0. This was the first time the Kishes hosted a tourney of any notoriety, and as such added their own spin to it. FC0 was also the first tournament to have a crew battle, and is thus a massive landmark in Melee history.
Live or Die (August 23, 2003)
Azen showed that his time in NorCal was not wasted, as he easily dispatched the competition.
Dutch Tournament 5 (August 30, 2003)
Unlike before, where Remen and Flok went back and forth, a hidden boss named Reffie showed up to beat both of them.
The final East Coast major arriving, DCSS 2 was the first formal confrontation between H2YL and DA. Both crews had met before in smashfests, but only Azen and Chu could seriously compete with the rest of DA. Nonetheless, with New York invaders, Azen defended his home ground, decisively taking the tournament.
This tournament is also notable for a controversial winners semis match between Wes and Chu. In the last game of their best-of-three set, Chu timed out Wes, expecting to win the set, due to having lower percent. However, due to a different tournament ruleset, the two were forced to play the resulting Sudden Death, in which Wes won.
Dutch Tournament 6 (October 25, 2003)
1. The Doug
The Doug, a player initially from the U.K., traveled frequently throughout the beginning of the decade, moving to California and then visiting the Netherlands. Winning the tourney over Remen, Flok and Danny, 3 of Netherlands’ best, Doug once again established himself as a top-level player.
The final Midwest major of the year, Eduardo finally showed up to his first tourney since Snexus 2, in an attempt to prove that he was still the best player in-region. However, in a classic tale of “little brother overcomes big brother,” Eddie defeated Eduardo in grand finals, proving himself as the new kind of the Midwest. At this same tournament, a rising Jigglypuff main – and later the TO of one of America’s longest lasting tourney series in Show Me Your Moves – AOB showed that there was new blood.
Midwest Massacre (30 Entrants, November 29, 2003)
Other than these two placings, this was notable for being Dope’s first tournament (Midwest Falco).
BOMB1 (Late 2003)
As the first important MDVA tournament to not feature Azen, naturally, Chillin expected himself to win the tournament. Unfortunately for him, his brother Mild beat him – an accomplishment he still holds over him to this day.
If any of you have followed our series, you’ll know that at the end of these kinds of articles, we usually do rankings of the top ten players per year in Melee. But within Melee’s first two years, even with all the data we have, it’s difficult to come up with a global ranking, since the communication between different local communities was still a work in progress.
Both Catastrophe and I have enjoyed doing our best to chronicle Melee’s history – and to an extent, it saddens us that our “years in review” and attempts at a past ranking system are finished.
Yet simultaneously, we know that we haven’t covered everything. There’s countless tournaments, communities, players, stories and mysteries that we don’t know about. Thank you to everyone that’s supported our journey to to share Melee’s history. We’ll be back with more!
1. Derrick (Sheik Main, DYCE Member)
2. Eric (Yoshi/Peach, DYCE Member)
3. Azen (Many Characters)
4. Chu Dat (Fox Main at the time)
5. Anden (Puff Main)
6. Chillin (Sheik Main at the time)
7. Mild (Sheik Main)
8. JTanic (Samus Main)
West Coast (2002):
1. Recipherus (Sheik Main, NorCal)
2. Justin Junio (Falco Main, NorCal)
3. Sultan of Samitude (Falco Main, NorCal)
4. Matt Deezie (Mario/Fox Main, NorCal)
5. JR Castillo (Fox Main, NorCal)
6. Adam (Luigi Main, NorCal, Recipherus’s Brother)
7. Vien (Dr. Mario Main, NorCal)
8. Terrakalar (Many Characters, Justin Junio’s Brother)
9. Scamp (Fox Main, NorCal, is the Dave in “Dave’s Stupid Rule” or DSR)
Greatness often comes in twos. The best of any field soar above their contemporaries, but the truly great overcome those that can consistently take them to the brink. If you’re spiritual, you might equate this to Yin and Yang. If you’d like a more scientific analogy, think of it this way: for each and every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.
Armada and Mango are the two greatest players in Super Smash Bros. Melee History. For smashers, they are our Magic and Bird; our Ali and Frazier; our Brady and Manning. Over the last decade, the two haven’t just raced against each other for the title of best Melee player in the world – they’ve battled for the number one spot in Melee history.
Combined, Armada and Mango have 35 titles. To put that in perspective, the only other player to have a double digit amount of titles ever is Ken (17), who finished No. 3 on my all-time list. Combined, the other modern “gods” of Melee (Hungrybox, Mew2King and PPMD) have 25 titles. Even if you added Leffen to that list, the number would still be less than Mango and Armada combined.
The titles already show enough, but when you take into account their years of dominance, no one else is close to challenging these two for the top two spots. Mew2King is the only player that has been elite for longer than each of them, but he doesn’t have the championship accolades that Mango and Armada have.
As time passes, if Melee’s scene is still alive, the nuances behind each decade of play will fade away for newer players. What we now think of as the post-Brawl, “documentary” and 20XX eras of Melee could be arguably narrowed down to one smash epoch from 2009 to around now: the battle between Armada and Mango for being the game’s greatest player ever. Whether you think one is better than than the other, they are inseparable rivals that tear each other down, yet lift each other to incredible heights.
Armada grew up in Gothernburg, Sweden, where individually standing out or branching off from others isn’t as encouraged as it is in America. Moreover, with only his brothers and few others in his local scene to play with, much of Armada’s training came from simple, repetitive grinding of his punish game against computer opponents. Remember that this was in the pre-20XX years of training, when it was even harder to practice tech chasing, edgeguarding, etc.
Conversely, Mango was raised in Norwalk, California – where he had access to play the best players in the world. For example, at the time of Mango’s entry into competitive Melee, Ken, the world No. 1, still attended tournaments within the Southern California scene. His best practice came with competing against others.
Of course, it’s not as simple saying that they are polar opposites, as both had their financial struggles growing up. As written in the Glixel profile of him, Armada’s father was a welder who supported a family of 11 children, while Mango grew up in a single-parent household under his mom – and has said before that playing Melee kept him out of gangs.
Because of their contrast in play styles, Armada has a reputation as a player who worked extremely hard to get far, while Mango is frequently thought of as a “natural” talent. But looking at their backgrounds, you could actually argue the opposite – or at least show that these generalizations aren’t entirely true.
In particular, the constant underrating of Armada’s natural talent (or even worse, “peak”) makes no sense. Although he didn’t get an opportunity to compete against the best from America, he still performed extremely well from 2007 to 2008. Often placing near the top of his locals, along with Calle W, Armada had excellent showings in the beginning of his career, as seen from tournaments like the Renaissance of Smash 4 (fourth) and Epita Smash Arena 2 (third) from mid-2007 to early 2008. If you define talent as natural aptitude, doesn’t Armada deserve credit for becoming a world class player in a short period of time, with little to no world class competition?
This is not to discredit Mango, who shocked nearly everyone by placing third at EVO World 2007 (even taking a set off Ken) and Super Champ Combo in the same year. Considering his rate of improvement in a couple and a half years of playing, it’s completely fair to note Mango’s talent, but the main difference between them was that Mango had the opportunity to travel to events like EVO, while Armada didn’t back then. That’s very little to do with any sort of talent gap between the two.
Fun Fact: in 2007, when he also split sets with Mew2King and PC Chris, the then-Jigglypuff main Mango had close or unfavorable records against players like DSF (2-6), Edrees (4-3), DC (1-3) and Romeo (0-1). With his losses to PC Chris and Cort late into the year, you could have even argued that Mango actually had a slight Peach problem. Think about all the levels of irony within that.
By the start of the post-Brawl era, Armada and Mango continued to play Melee, with each of them eventually reaching No. 1 status on their respective continents. Although many doubted Mango even after his legendary Pound 3 victory, an additional dominant performance at Revival of Melee – once again over the former world No. 1 Mew2King – cemented Mango’s status as the country’s best. Meanwhile, Armada had taken his first major tournament in SMASH ATTACK (the first tournament dropped by Amsah in years) and also won Epita Smash Arena 3. The two were set for a clash in 2009: enter GENESIS.
Editor’s Note: I’ll go more into Mango’s Pound 3 run in a separate article. Long story short: after losing to Sensei, Vist and Plank in pools, Mango lost a set of sandbagged Link dittos to Silent Wolf in winners round one. He then went through a massive losers bracket run of beating players like Cactuar, Forward, Azen, Chu Dat, Cort, PC Chris and Mew2King (twice) to win what was supposed to be Melee’s final tournament. Quite literally, he beat every active top player in his path.
To this day, set one of GENESIS grand finals is often heralded as the greatest set in Melee history (with the most clutch moment of the post-Brawl era). Spectators back then witnessed Melee being revolutionized in a way that hadn’t been seen since Ken vs. Bombsoldier. Both Armada and Mango looked like they were playing a completely different game from everyone else, with their precise spacing, adaptations to each other and overall gameplay pushing the meta further than ever imagined.
From Mango’s perspective, this was his third consecutive title and hardest one to earn. Having already proven himself by easily dethroning Mew2King multiple times, Mango was upset by Armada in the initial winners finals set. It was like the Swedish Peach was a robot sent from outer space, just to give Mango a worthy challenger. In Smash History’s 2009 RetroSSBMRank piece, I wrote that “in one swift tournament, Armada had turned from a barely English-speaking Swedish teenage underdog into Melee’s final boss.”
Entering GENESIS with people calling him overrated, a fraud – and even someone who wouldn’t make it out of pools – Armada was a massive dark horse, making his way to grand finals through Lunin, Lucky, DaShizWiz, Mew2King and Mango himself. Because of Armada’s current reputation, almost no casual fan thinks of his GENESIS run this way, but had Armada won the tournament, it would have easily been the greatest Cinderella story of all of Melee history.
After a slight bump at Revival of Melee 2 (infamously losing to Kage twice), Mango returned back to being himself at Pound 4, while Armada lost to SilentSpectre and Amsah to finish a disappointing fourth place: his lowest placing at a notable tournament in three years.
But rather than once again going on a tear of winning tournaments, Mango got bored. Creating an alias of “Scorpion Master,” as part of an inside joke with several members of the Melee scene, Mango started fooling around at tournaments, opting to play Captain Falcon, Mario or Marth in tournament instead of Jigglypuff, Falco or Fox. Newer players might find this odd, but this was a time when tournaments were not as taken as seriously, since they weren’t as a big as they are now. Consider that Mango routinely whooped opponents in friendlies or money matches, like he did to Hungrybox after the latter won Apex 2010 without dropping a single game.
Although Hungrybox finished 2010 as its No. 1 player, per RetroSSBMRank, the justification for the ranking came down to tournament results. By popular perception back then, Mango was still thought of as the best player in the world. For many, this was more indicative of Mango’s skill back then, rather than his bad performances with secondaries (usually as “Scorpion Master”), like his 25th place at Apex 2010. This continued even after his loss to Hungrybox at Don’t Go Down There Jeff, while playing Fox – and even after he lost 2-0 to Cactuar (after actually losing game 1 while playing Falco) at Apex 2010.
Meanwhile, remaining virtually unchallenged in Europe, the Swedish Sniper still proved himself as a member of the world’s elite, finishing runner-up at Apex 2010 and Pound V. Thought no one doubted Armada’s legitimacy as a top player, his lack of a title certainly hurt how he was perceived. With GENESIS 2 coming up in mid-2011 and Mango planning to make the tournament his return to being Melee’s best, Armada had his work cut out for him.
Strangely enough, Armada stayed practically untouchable throughout GENESIS 2, getting his revenge on Dr. PeePee and Hungrybox en route to grand finals. With Mango’s solid 3-1 on Mew2King, both Armada and Mango were on path for a rematch of GENESIS winners finals, but Taj played spoiler, with the Arizona Marth upsetting Mango 3-2. Suddenly, Armada’s path toward winning a title looked a lot easier.
Most people don’t remember, but the first two games of winners finals were Armada’s Peach vs. Taj’s Mewtwo (and some even wondered if there was going to be a Young Link vs. Mewtwo game later in the set). By the end of Taj’s forfeit at the end of Game 3, when he finally tried Marth, Armada was 54-1 in games for GENESIS 2, with the one game he lost being a timeout to Hungrybox, in which he lost by one percent.
Unfortunately for Taj, getting mentally destroyed by Armada wasn’t enough. A red-hot Mango, furious at being denied a winners rematch with Armada, beat Shroomed and Hungrybox to replay the man who defeated his Falco in winners. However, this time, Mango was playing Fox. In the first game of the set, Mango dominantly three-stocked Taj. See what happens in the second game below.
No one has ever literally murdered another top-level player in the middle of a set, but Mango came pretty close. His four-stock of Taj in the last game of their set was so convincing that Taj forfeited immediately afterwards, additionally being prompted by commentator HomeMadeWaffles to unplug his controller. It’s one of Mango’s most classic moments and it was arguably the highlight of GENESIS 2. In grand finals, Armada won a close 3-2 against Mango, where the both of them once again put on a show for the crowd, fighting for whom the world’s best player was. Once again, Armada’s punish game with Peach seemed to get even better, while Mango set the standard for rushdown Fox play.
The two were set once again for a rematch at Apex 2012 winners finals, especially given Mew2King and Hungrybox’s early entry into the losers bracket. When they played in winners finals, the final game count was a solid 3-0 for Armada, though each game went to last stock. Armada ended up winning the tournament over Hungrybox in a second set of grand finals, after the Florida Jigglypuff upset Mango in losers finals. Afterward, Mango went into a brief retirement-phase from the game, while Armada retreated back to Sweden.
Armada’s reign from GENESIS 2 to Apex 2013 is a hotly debated one. Skeptics point toward the relative lack of majors back then as proof of it being overrated. Moreover, outside of GENESIS 2, Armada didn’t have any truly dominant performances at the majors he won with other gods in attendance. At Apex 2012, Armada dropped a set to Hungrybox, while he dropped sets to Dr. PeePee at Smashers’ Reunion and Apex 2013. It wasn’t like he was unbeatable – but then again, given how separated Armada was from world-class training partners, this stretch of play could be argued as even more impressive.
Either way, Mango quickly returned to competing seriously, winning IMPULSE over his fellow American gods. As seen through wins at tournaments like FC Legacy and The Big House 2, Mango was still a top caliber player, but he found himself challenged by his former apprentice in Dr. PeePee. Though many of Mango’s fans believed that he could return to being the best in the world, his loss at Kings of Cali to Dr. PeePee (in both sets of grand finals) showed that Mango couldn’t just sleepwalk his way to victory any more. Moreover, at Apex 2013, Mango lost to a man he once held a mental stranglehold over: Mew2King, who double eliminated him. For the first time in years, Mango looked genuinely mortal.
Fun fact: Mango also has a loss to Bladewise in 2012, at Rule 6 Regional. However, the context behind this loss remains murky. Tafokints told me that despite playing Fox, Mango lost to Bladewise intentionally, just to beat Kels early in losers because he was sick of hearing about Midwest pride. Go figure.
Having proven himself over the last two and a half years as Melee’s best player, Armada retired, saying that he didn’t have the drive to compete any more. After his retirement,many were willing to crown him as the game’s best, but Mango was the opposite, not only criticizing Armada’s reasoning, but also claiming that he knew that he was better than Armada and wanted one more chance to beat him. Flying to BEAST III and winning the tournament (dropping a set to Ice), Mango also played a series of streamed friendlies with Armada, who TO’d, but didn’t play in tournament. Yet by the end of their session, it was pretty clear: even without seriously practicing any more, Armada outclassed Mango.
Mango started playing more, once again having reignited his competitive fire. Losing NorCal Regionals 2013 to Hungrybox, but winning Vindication, Zenith 2013 and IMPULSE 2013, Mango looked like the best in the United States, as well as a heavy contender for EVO 2013. This tournament was hyped up not only because it was Melee’s return to gaming’s main stage, but also because this tournament marked a brief comeback for Armada. For yet another time, the two were heading toward collision.
In a strange twist, they both met again, but in losers bracket. Due to Armada entering the tournament late, Armada had to play Dr. PeePee before top eight, losing their set. Meanwhile, Mango was upset early by Wobbles, the tournament’s underdog. But in typical Mango fashion, Mango had one of the best losers runs of all-time, defeating SFAT, Ice, Dr. PeePee, Armada, Hungrybox and Wobbles to win EVO 2013: what was seen as the biggest tournament ever. After winning EVO 2013, Mango still competed occasionally, but spent more time with his newborn son and family, while Armada went back into retirement – before once again returning in mid-2014. The two faced off again at Super SWEET, where Armada triumphed 3-2. It was the first of many sets the two would have in the post-documentary era.
Here’s something that not many people know: although Mango ended 2014 as SSBMRank’s No. 1 player, this is because Mango ended the year winning three of the biggest events of the year: MLG Anaheim 2014, EVO 2014 and The Big House 4. By their head to head record, Armada actually finished slightly ahead in 2014, up 7-6, with victories at Super SWEET, a pools win at MLG Anaheim 2014, CEO 2014 and The Shape of Melee to Come 5.
But given Mango’s reputation as a clutch player who showed up on the biggest stage, these tournament wins for Armada mattered a lot less. Juxtapose the rise of Leffen, Hungrybox finally figuring out Armada’s Young Link and a lack of titles from late 2014 to the spring of 2015 – Armada looked like he was in a slump, while Mango looked like Melee’s GOAT when it counted.
However, since then, there’s been little argument for who’s been better between Armada and Mango. In 2015, Armada had one of the most dominant years ever, finishing as the world No. 1, holding a 7-2 record over Mango and winning five titles, including EVO 2015. From the end of WTFox to before winners finals of DreamHack Winter 2015, Armada went 11-0 against fellow gods. Even if in a relatively short period of time, no one else in Melee history has ever had that kind of a winning streak against top five players of any time.
That said, even with Armada finishing last year as SSBMRank’s No. 1 (and likely this year’s too), Mango still has added quite a bit to his resume. Despite the occasional lackluster performance (17th place at HTC Throwdown and 13th at UGC Smash Open), Mango has titles in Press Start, Paragon LA, WTFox 2, DreamHack Austin 2016, SSC 2016 and The Big House 6.
His Press Start losers run, in which Mango started from losers after showing up late, is especially noteworthy as he went 60-4 in games throughout the whole tournament, beating players like Westballz, Hax, Leffen, Shroomed, Lucky, Hungrybox, Axe and Fly Amanita. At the time, some argued that it was even more impressive than his Pound 3 losers run, given that Mango looked completely untouchable in his sets.
Even if he’s not quite the championship belt holder he looked like from Pound 3 to the end of 2010 (for many), Mango is still a contender. He may never be No. 1 again, but if he keeps winning titles, it won’t matter too much. Every major that he adds is another plus to his collection of unmatched title winning.
Armada and Mango’s rivalry is as fierce, if not hotter than it’s ever been in Melee’s history. Right now, the set count for all-time between them is 20-18 in Armada’s favor, but Mango has played for longer and won more titles. Moreover, given the shady circumstances behind 2008 and 2010, you could have easily argued those as two more years where Mango was No. 1.
Here’s the question you’ve been waiting for: who is the greatest Melee player of all-time between these two?
No. of years ranking in the Top 10 of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank: 9 (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015) No. of years ranking in the Top 5 of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank: 8 (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015) No. of years ranked as RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank’s No. 1: 3 (2009, 2013, 2014) No. of titles: 19 (Pound 3, Revival of Melee, GENESIS, Pound 4, Revival of Melee 4, Impulse 2012, Zenith 2013, EVO 2013, Revival of Melee 7, Get On My Level 2014, MLG 2014, EVO 2014, The Big House 4, Press Start, Paragon LA, WTFox 2, DreamHack Austin 2016, SSC 2016, The Big House 6)
No. of years ranking in the Top 10 of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank: 7 (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015) No. of years ranking in the Top 5 of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank: 7 (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015) No. of years ranked as RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank’s No. 1: 3 (2011, 2012, 2015) No. of titles: 16 (GENESIS 2, Apex 2012, Apex 2013, Super Sweet, CEO 2014, I’m Not Yelling, MVG Sandstorm, EVO 2015, Smash Summit, The Big House 5, GENESIS 3, Smash Summit 2, Canada Cup 2016, Smash Summit 3, DreamHack Winter 2016, UGC Smash Open)
Mango’s argument for more titles doesn’t really hold up, since Armada wasn’t able to attend a lot of them. Due to living in Sweden and initially having little to no financial incentive to go out of his way to travel to America, Armada couldn’t challenge Mango at events like Impulse, Zenith and Revival of Melee.
It’s not that these events shouldn’t be counted for Mango – but they should be viewed in context. You could either hold Armada’s location against him or understand that his presence at any tournament inevitably affects its competitive value. If anything, Armada’s location actually makes his superior consistency against the rest of the field that much more amazing.
I asked Mango on his stream to make his case for GOAT, only to be told, “I think Armada has me for a little bit,” before being quickly reassured that “it’s super close right now,” and to see in three years where the two stood.
Either way, whether it’s Falco-Peach, Jigglypuff-Peach, Fox-Peach, Fox dittos, Marth-Peach or any other matchup that these two throw our way: just know that the two are game-defining players – and they’re definitively the two greatest players in Melee history.
By 2005, Super Smash Bros. Melee was one of the most popular competitive video games, along with Halo 2 and even Tekken 5. Rather than just being a game that your weird stepbrother played at house parties with all his friends, Melee had its own storylines, recognizable figureheads and potential for growth. Once a party game that a few people took way too seriously, Melee now had an organized MLG-sponsored circuit that was also beefed up by additional old school tournaments.
Unlike previous articles, where there was a countdown to our No. 1, spot, this one is going to be something different, due to the severe lack of head to head data and written records about each tournament. Remember the Year in Review series from Robin “Juggleguy” Harn? Here’s our Year in Review of 2005, looking at the scene’s 21 biggest tournaments. If you just want to see our rankings, scroll to the bottom!
*NOTE: As said before, we both acknowledge that a lot of the data is missing or incomplete. If you have any knowledge of these brackets, matches played or number of entrants, please contact us immediately so we can update this article – and even the rankings, if necessary.
MOAST 3 (128 entrants)
January 16 1. Isai
If you’re watching this now, you might not find the above clip impressive. But MOAST 3 grand finals showed a level of play and expertise never seen before in Melee history, with both players pushing the limits of the game’s combo potential at the time. What we consider bread and butter combos now is what Ken and Isai literally invented at the time.
Up to that point, Ken had only lost three sets before: to Sastopher, DieSuperFly and Chillin, with Tournament Go 6 as the only tournament he ever attended that he didn’t win. Isai, his consistent doubles partner at the time as part of the vaunted “El Chocolate Diablo,” was a legend that many in East Coast suspected was secretly better than Ken, but just didn’t try his hardest in singles.
All the tournaments’ narratives, from Isai “trying,” to his friendship and rivalry with Ken literally being tested in the grand finals of 2005’s first big tournament to Melee’s metagame itself being pushed, make it difficult to ignore MOAST 3 as one of the scene’s most important ever. It was also the first tournament that Ken was ever double eliminated by the same person at, showing that his losses weren’t just flukes – the King of Smash himself could be legitimately outplayed.
MLG DC 2005 (97 entrants): January 30
3. Chu Dat
17. PC Chris/Dany/Husband/COMP/Muffin/Dante/SuicideFox/MeleeGuy
Two weeks later, Ken and Isai traveled to the East Coast to compete for another MLG tournament. Though the two breezed through doubles together with another first place finish, Ken was sent to losers bracket early after losing a set of Roy dittos to NEO, one of MDVA’s best players: a guy who mained Roy and sometimes played Marth. 2005 was a different time, folks.
By the end of the tournament, however, order seemed to be restored. Ken made his way through losers, defeating NEO, Chu Dat and Isai twice in grand finals to win MLG’s first big tournament of its year-long season. One other aspect to note about this tournament is Azen’s lack of attendance, as the longtime veteran deliberately chose not to seriously compete in as many tourneys in the year.
MLG San Francisco 2005 (100+ entrants)
February 27 1. Ken
13. Bob$/Sultan of Samitude/MikeNasty/Oro
A month later, there was another MLG tournament, but this time in San Francisco. Although it didn’t hold as many entrants as MOAST 3, this tournament also saw the national breakout of DBR combo video fiend Zelgadis, who defeated several opponents on his way to fourth place, including Isai, proving that Zelgadis didn’t just beat up on bad opponents, as many accused him of doing in his combo video.
DieSuperFly also proved that his win over Ken and seventh place at TG6 wasn’t a fluke. The SoCal Sheik main finished second at the only recorded tournament we could find that he entered after his international breakout a year ago. MLG San Francisco was additionally a solid return to form for HugS, who previously finished a disappointing 25th at MOAST 3. At this point, you could have argued him for being No. 3 in SoCal, just behind Ken and DSF.
This tournament didn’t feature any of the West Coast’s killers, but it had the best from MDVA and a few of the Midwest’s top players come through. As he had done in previous tourneys, Azen sandbagged, opting to play Link, Young Link and Pikachu, while Chu Dat won the tournament with relative ease. However, Darkrain was clearly getting closer to being considered one of the best in the Midwest, rather than just a local Falcon crowd favorite.
Once again MLG held another tournament, but this time primarily for the South and Midwest players. Zulu, who, per ssbwiki, was notorious for popularizing the term “john,” had another strong showing with a fourth-place performance. Texas Sheik and Falco player Rob$ ended up taking the tournament – his first ever regional tournament victory.
MLG Orlando 2005 (? Entrants) April 24 1. Eddie
Without already knowing about this tournament, you would have probably been shocked if I told you a Ganondorf player won an MLG tournament for Melee. The drawout is still unknown to this day, but consider that Eddie won the tournament over one of the country’s best Samus players in Oro, outplaced MrSilver, then one of the Netherland’s bestplayers and then outplaced Husband, a highly ranked MDVA Marth at the time.
Is it impressive as a more stacked national? Obviously not, but it’s still an interesting tidbit of smash history – and shows that the Ganon meta was still alive even before Kage broke out on the scene.
Show Me Your Moves 3 (?? Entrants)
April 30 1.Rob$
Think his victory at MLG Houston 2005 was a one time thing? Rob$ won once again, defeating his longtime best friend and training body Caveman in grand finals. Other than that, here’s another emid 00s alternative rock filled montage!
MLG St. Louis 2005 (32 entrants) June 26 1. Darkrain
5. DMac/Captain Awesome
7. James (STL)/ViperBoy
Getting sick of the Midwest yet? At least you can start to notice a pattern in Darkrain’s ascent to relevancy and national recognition, with MLG St. Louis 2005 being his first ever recorded tournament win outside of Nebraska locals. That said, the relative lack of entrants at this MLG somewhat dampened its impact, similar to the tournaments held in Orlando and Houston. This because there was another major event planned for the same day.
Getting Schooled 2 (99 entrants): June 26
2. Chu Dat
5. PC Chris/Wes
After several months of school taking over most of the top players’ lives, it was finally summer again – and everyone traveled to Maryland for a hyped up tournament hosted by Team Ben (Husband and Wife, among other members).
Notably, this was a tournament where Azen didn’t sandbag and actually played a good amount of Marth – already adding to a stacked event! You not only had the best from the West Coast, but you also had some of the South and Midwest’s best players, as well as two of New England’s heavy hitters (KrazyJones and Hayato) and MDVA showing up. With the amount of talent at this event, it’s easy to see why people chose this over MLG St. Louis 2005.
Although he didn’t place too highly, you could consider this Mew2King’s “breakout” tourney. Back then, he was just a Fox player that posted tidbits of frame data information online and constantly theorycrafted how to play different matchups. Many mocked him for being overly technical, as well as being socially awkward in several situations, but GS2 was the main start to his illustrious career. You could say the same for PC Chris, who made his first national top eight appearance ever.
However, the most exciting part of this tournament may have been the crew battle bracket, where Team Maria (Azen, Chillin, Rob$ and Caveman) beat 2 Kool 4 School (HugS, Chu, Ken, Eddie and Isai). This was especially important, not just because it showcased Chillin’s promise as a player, but also because it featured a tense last stock game where Azen defeated Chu: a former fellow member of HY2L who earlier declared himself West Coast. You can read Chillin’s account of crews here.
The Renaissance of Smash 2 (100 entrants) July 3
3. The Doug
9. Amsah/Smash Alex/Masamune/Niam
Ek was once called the European Ken by Captain Jack, due to his excellent Marth play and the way he dominated the European scene. Both he and Helios, the two best players in Sweden were the continent’s best players, though it’s hard to find recorded evidence of their play. Until Amsah’s four-stock comeback against him at RoS 3 a year later, legend has it that Ek rarely (if ever) lost a tournament to anyone in Europe. How about that – a Swede dominating a whole continent?
FC3 (186 entrants): July 12 1. Ken
3. Chu Dat
7. DSF/DA Dave
13. Husband/PC Chris/KM/Takagi
If you know anything remotely important about Melee history, you’ll probably know about this tournament already – but, just in case you don’t, let’s get into it.
At this point, Smashboards had given a medium for the top players and leaders of every region to talk to eachother. But even with a select group of players traveling to see eachother like Ken, Isai, Chu Dat and Chillin, there was very rarely one tournament that sported heavy hitters from every single established region in America.
Held by the Ship of Fools team in South Bend, Indiana, FC3 was essentially The Big House of its time: providing a middle battleground for the best of every region to come face each other. With 186 entrants, it was the largest Melee tournament of all-time – and perhaps the highlight of FC3 came from its legendary crew battles. Without spoiling anything for you, please watch them.
As far as singles bracket goes, the West Coast held three of the top four spots, with Pacific Northwest legend Sastopher defeating Ken (in pools), Mike G, The Doug, Azen, Eddie, Tavo, Dope, DSF, Caveman and Chu Dat en route to a runner-up second place for the tournament. Other results include New England Peach player KrazyJones defeating DSF and Chillin, DA Dave defeating Azen (circumstances unknown), Midwest’s Dope defeating Chillin, Caveman defeating Wes and more.
MLG Philadelphia 2005 (?? Entrants) July 31 1. Chillin
2. PC Chris
3. NEO (according to Chillin)
4 or 5. Azen/??? (Azen played Link, according to Chillin)
Unfortunately, there’s next to nothing that we could find online about this tournament’s results – and when I discussed this with Chillin, even he wasn’t sure about the placings outside of the top two. For now, enjoy this 2005 MLG interview with Chillin.
MLG Las Vegas 2005 (?? Entrants) August 14
Similar to MLG Philadelphia 2005, we couldn’t find much about this tournament, other that it held another set of grand finals between Caveman and Rob$ – adding to their history together as best friends and tournament rivals.
Jack Garden Tournament (116 entrants?) August 16
7. Captain Jack/S-Royal
13. Hoshino Kirby/Smasher/DISK/Farce
Jack Garden Tournament was the catalyst for top American players like Ken actually traveling across the world to prove their global dominance. It was also the first time that the best from East Japan and West Japan were in the same area for a tournament.
Moreover, there was a tremendous amount of hype from both ends on who was going to actually win the tournament. Would it be the American legend Ken, like he did at almost everything else he entered? Or was he going to lose to Isai? There were concerns from either of the two struggling from jet lag and facing an unfamiliar Japanese style of gameplay. Before the tournament, East Japan’s Mikael, a Peach main, boasted that he wasn’t impressed by Ken.
These three weren’t the only contenders. Take its host, Captain Jack, who had won major events as recently as a year ago, or longtime Japanese legend Masashi, arguably West Japan’s greatest player. You also had Aniki, who in addition to being maybe the best Link player in the world also had a series of public friendlies with Ken, where he defeated the American legend. Hell, you could have even argued at the time that this was going to be the tournament where Thunders, a Japanese Fox famous for creating the Thunders combo,could finally get over his consistency issues and realize his true potential.
Instead, we only got one of the most incredible and meta-changing sets of Melee ever recorded (as well as an early exit from Isai, who lost to a Japanese Doctor Mario main named Farce and sandbagged his way out of the tournament).
If you’d like to read more about Bombsoldier’s impact on Falco’s metagame and the Melee scene, please read this excellent blog post covering his immortal legacy. Even then, words can’t even come close to describing how his Falco play inspired countless players to push the limits of their characters.
MLG Nashville 2005 (?? Entrants?) August 28
1. Chu Dat
Like the other MLG tournaments, the results for MLG Nashville are largely incomplete, if non-existent. What we have above is unfortunately all that we know – if anyone has data to add, please tell us.
MLG Seattle 2005 (?? Entrants) September 11
3. Chu Dat
After not winning any tournaments in the year, Azen finally got his turn to win at MLG Seattle 2005, where he defeated the Japanese legend Kei (Peach, Fox, Ice Climbers and both Links) in grand finals and outplaced Chu Dat and the hometown favorite Sastopher. This was important because it showed that Azen could still hang with some of the game’s best, even if he wasn’t always active or trying his hardest in tournaments.
Show Me Your Moves 4 (73 Entrants) September 24 1. Azen
2. Chu Dat
9. Darkrain/Iggy/Eddie/Mike Falco
All of a sudden, Azen’s one tournament back didn’t seem like a temporary revival – it felt like the next step of a comeback tour, with the MDVA legend taking another first place at this tournament. After previously finishing with a disappointing 44th place at GS2, NEO also made his way into the tournament’s top eight as well, showing that the Roy main still had what it took to make it far in bracket. SMYM 4 was also Vidjogamer’s highest placing at a tournament since FC1 a year ago, putting his name back into the discussion for who the world’s best Peach players were.
MLG Los Angeles 2005 (32 entrants)
October 16 1.Isai
Isai and Ken’s first tourneys back in the United States since the summer, the two took the top spots of the tournament, with Isai coming out on top. This tournament somehow took three days to finish, despite the small number of Melee entrants. I guess more people were playing Halo 2 back then. Maybe that would explain Azen’s disappointing fifth place finish.
BOMB 4 (105 entrants)
1. Chu Dat
4. Mike G
7. PC Chris/KM
The East Coast held it down this tournament, taking all the top eight spots, with Vidjogamer, Drephen, Dope and other Midwest smashers all being eliminated relatively earlier than expected. Perhaps most impressively, Mew2King and Vidjogamer won the doubles tournament together, showing that Mew2King, once the joke of Smashboards, was well on his way to becoming an elite force within the Melee scene.
MLG Atlanta 2005 (34 entrants) November 27 1. Ken
3. Chu Dat
7. Mike G/Wife
Need to read some spicy drama and beef between players from 2005? Check out this Smashboards thread for MLG Atlanta, which featured moments like Ken calling Team Ben overrated, several smashers calling Ken a jerk, etc, Here are a few highlights.
Some other notes about the tournament itself:
– Wife beat Mike G early in winners bracket.
– Ken beat Wife 3-2 in winners quarters.
– Chu Dat beat Isai in winners semis.
– Azen beat Ken in Marth dittos, 3-1, in winners semis.
– Isai beat Husband in losers quarters.
– Ken, now playing Fox for the rest of the tournament, beat Oro in losers quarters.
– Azen beat Chu Dat in winners finals.
– Ken beat Isai in losers semifinals.
– Ken beat Chu in losers finals.
– Ken beat Azen twice in grand finals, including a tournament-deciding final game on Kongo Jungle 64, his Fox vs. Azen’s Peach. Counterpicks back then were weird.
MLG Chicago 2005 (?? Entrants)
December 16-18 1.Ken
While we still aren’t quite sure about the data from back then, this was another tournament victory for Ken. However, NEO also took a game off him with Roy, thought of at the time as unbelievable.
2005’s Top 10
DISCLAIMER: We deliberately chose not to include Japanese or international players, due to lack of dataand precedent for most of them.We also acknowledge that these rankings are pretty flexible, given the lack of head to head data we have.
Although Super Smash Bros. Melee has a dynamic and competitive meta, there are a few aspects of competitive play that many of its players take for granted: Fox is a good character, Ice Climbers vs. Peach will always be a brutal matchup and any character below 10th or so on the tier list doesn’t have a chance of winning a large international tournament.
For a long time, Marth was considered one of the game’s premier characters, with players like Ken and Azen practically having a guaranteed appearance in a major’s top eight or even grand finals. In early 2015, when PPMD won Apex 2015 playing mostly Marth, it was the first time a Marth won a Melee major since Azen won Viva La Smash in 2007, per Juggleguy. Afterwards, people wondered if a Marth renaissance would start again.
As we head into the summer of smash in 2016, Marth hasn’t won another major yet, but it doesn’t mean his time is over. Here are some notes to consider about everyone’s favorite tiara-wearing prince.
The best Marth players currently use him as a situational counterpick – and not as a dedicated main.
Although PPMD won Apex 2015 by going Marth through most of the tournament’s top-eight, this was mostly due to his opponents playing characters with perceived favorable matchups for Marth, with Leffen going Fox and Armada going Peach, before switching back to Fox. At the time, he was still a Falco player in most other matchups. In fact, before switching to Marth at Apex, PPMD tried playing Falco against PewPewU in Winners’ Quarters and used the bird to win an earlier set against S2J.
Similarly, Mew2King brings out Marth against Fox and Falco, while he only sometimes uses him against Peach and Marth, depending on his mood. Meanwhile, we’ve seen Mango pull out his Marth in bracket against space animals like Hax and Leffen, though this strategy currently has done a better job giving himself gfycat-worthy moments of greatness and “busterdom.”
Using Marth isn’t limited to the top echelon of players. Axe and Shroomed have played Marth in bracket before in order to avoid traditionally unfavorable matchups, like the Ice Climbers, for their mains. Colbol, who doesn’t like playing the Fox ditto or against Falco, now plays mostly Marth against these characters. DruggedFox also saw success against Mango at HTC Throwdown last year as Marth, though he hasn’t played Marth this year.
Though Marth as a character hasn’t won a tournament on his own, his relative success as a situational counterpick has clearly been valuable. Genesis, Pax Arena, Beat VI, Battle of the Five Gods, Pound 2016, Smash Summit 2, EGLX, DreamHack Austin and GOML all had Marth play at some point during their top eight phases.
All of this leaves Marth players in a weird position: where his use in a variety of matchups illustrates Marth’s incredible versatility as a counterpick, but his lack of solo success highlights consistency issues that come with playing the character. Does that mean it’s difficult to play only Marth at the top level?
The solo Marth mains are struggling.
If we count PewPewU’s use of Fox at GOML as something he’ll be using long-term, here’s how a few ranked dedicated and listed solo Marth mains from last year’s MIOM’s Top 100 fared this year in terms of major results and their losses.
Along with the massive amount of N/A’s, notice how this already small table doesn’t take into account players like reaper, ZoSo or Dart, who have seen limited exposure to a wider audience and are seen as regional heroes, although these players could also rise nationally by the end of the year. The table also excludes PewPewU, who might be using Fox for more matchups that he currently struggles with, like Captain Falcon.
None of this is to diminish their work and placements as competitors – the relative lack of dedicated representation to using only Marth in bracket shows how the data points are too few in 2016 to definitively have an opinion on if he’s falling off in the meta as a solo main. Then again, you could argue that this clearly illustrates consistency issues as a legitimate weakness deterring other players from dedicating themselves to playing Marth over a character like Fox.
However, as seen from above, Marth mains aren’t just losing in unfamiliar matchups (such as Samus or Yoshi), like popular convention might hold true. They’re losing their stronghold on a matchup they used to dominate.
20xx is approaching/Fox players are starting to beat Marth/FD isn’t a guaranteed win.
Fox players have adapted to what was formerly considered one of the hardest matchups in the game for them. Their reign on the metagame has gotten to the point where some Marth mains have actually stopped counterpicking to Final Destination. At Get On My Level 2016, The Moon opted to go to Yoshi’s Story against Leffen for his stage pick.
When I asked The Moon why he counterpicked there instead of FD, he responded that he wanted a smaller stage, but I also think part of why FD doesn’t feel so safe is because Fox players have leveled up there.
Unfortunately for Marth mains, this isn’t relegated to only the large, flat space allowing for laser camping. Fox players have figured out how to hit Marth back – and sometimes even harder. Take a look at the following match at how each player converts off one grab, both in terms of guaranteed follow-ups and additional hits from stage positioning.
PewPewU grabbed Ice only twice throughout the entire game, averaging 33 percent damage on Marth’s follow ups. Meanwhile, Ice grabbed PewPewU five times and had just above 65 percent for his average combo game, including two that led to death. Ice both outplayed PewPewU in the neutral and followed following up much harder in his combos on stage. Only a few missed edgeguards and high variance situations, like when Ice overextended his character off stage and got killed at an absurdly low percent, made the game look closer than it actually was.
You can tell the difference in production partially comes from PewPewU being relatively weak at the matchup on FD. But even assuming PewPewU as an outlier, just use common sense. What’s an easier way to get 36 or more percent on a character: grabbing them and hitting two following up airs/aerials afterwards or having to mix up between frame perfect pivot regrabbing and regular regrabbing to avoid getting shined on the first frame out of hitstun? Marth could still win the matchup on FD, but not every Marth is going to be Mew2King.
Also consider the head to head game record of Fox vs. Marth within the Top 30 on every stage over the last two years. Per TafoStats, an online database with data from Daniel “tafokints” Lee, Fox players in this group maintain a solid 70-68 record against Marth. The only Marth players within the Top 30 to hold a lead in the head to head are Mew2King (23-17) and The Moon (12-5).
Although part of the data set still needs to be updated and could be biased given the sheer number of Fox players there are near the late-bracket stage of tournaments, consider that if Marth was really as valuable of a counterpick against space animals as people say he is, the record would be in his favor – and Fox players would pick other characters against him.
Moreover, in addition to Fox players doing better on FD than in the post, they’re also hindering Marth’s combo ability on other stages. Take a look at how Armada quickly escapes a would-be combo from PPMD below.
Yoshi’s Story used to be considered a strong stage for Marth a decade ago due to the platforms setting him up for easy tipper forward smashes, but the short stage and platforms are not lopsided for Marth any more, due to Fox players playing faster, being able to shield drop, having better DI, etc. One thing we could see more from Marth players are the reaction forward throw tech chases as a mixup from just throwing Fox up on a platform. However, even that has counterplay, with Fox being able to mix up teching options, aSDI’ing jab resets on missed techs and also being able to escape to ledge when cornered.
Marth players were given a glimmer of hope at Apex 2015. But with Fox players fighting back, a lack of data points with solo Marth mains at majors and his heavy use as a complementary character to cover weak matchups, it’s tough to say where his future lies for sure. Only time will tell if we’ll see another prince take the crown in the game of Melee thrones.