Countdown to The Book of Melee: The Top 100 Melee Sets of All Time Introduction & Methodology

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.

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.


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.

The Book of Melee: The Rise of Dr. PeePee

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

Chapter 17

Kevin “Dr. PeePee” Nanney is an unusual case study of how to become the best Melee player in the world. Unlike Mango, Mew2King or Hungrybox, the North Carolina native came from an obscure Smash region. He also had an especially embarrassing tag – it came from an inside joke, referring to when he was younger and spilled juice on himself.

After years of casual play with Mario, Dr. PeePee stumbled onto videos of MLG era Melee around 2007. Fascinated by what he saw, he continued to watch the competitive scene from afar, furiously taking notes, learning about advanced techniques and thinking about Melee every day. He was hooked before he had ever entered a tournament.

“I spent more time than anyone else I can think of just recording matches versus my brother on my VCR, uploading it to my computer and watching it for hours,” he told Red Bull.

Dr. PeePee had seen success in other activities, like running, soccer and academics. According to him, he graduated with the fifth best grades in his high school class. Studying and hard work were nothing new to him.

In Melee, the star student found untapped strategy and potential. Rather than primarily seeking to become the best player in the world, he hungered to push his own limits, not just as a competitor, but as a student of the game.

Eventually switching to Falco and entering tournaments, within two years, Dr. PeePee became the best player in North Carolina. An active Smashboards user, he also slowly gained a reputation for being the hidden Melee guru of the Atlantic South, frequently discussing Melee’s intricacies online with whomever would engage with him.

There were still roadblocks – particularly his Floridian rival Hungrybox, who dominated him whenever they played. Moreover, as a college student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Dr. PeePee knew traveling for Melee could be difficult.

Nevertheless, he persisted. With a dedication toward learning the rules of Melee, Dr. PeePee would be deterred by no one.

By mid-2009, Dr. PeePee already had a slew of victories, including wins over both of the East Coast’s top Captain Falcons, Scar and Hax. At Revival of Melee 2, his first-ever national, he finished second, defeating Lucky, Jman and the Mango-slayer Kage. He then took games off Hungrybox, showing signs of progress in a matchup he previously looked lost in.

Dr. PeePee’s Falco stood out from his contemporaries. He liked playing at medium and long-range distances, also boasting a better ground game than any other Falco, with a deadly dash dance that made his pinpoint lasers more threatening. In an age where Shiz, Zhu and other Falco players saw success, Dr. PeePee began to slowly stand out from the pack, leading many to wonder if he could soon reach an elite level.

He began taking sets from Hungrybox, winning North Carolina’s HERB3 over him in late March 2010. After a fourth place showing at Apex 2010, just under Mew2King, Armada and Hungrybox, Dr. PeePee looked ready for a greater breakout, one that would happen at Revival of Melee 3 in November.

After initially dropping a set in winner’s bracket to Toronto Sheik legend KirbyKaze,  Dr. PeePee clawed his way back to grand finals here, tearing through  Hungrybox, Jman  and KirbyKaze in the runback. His only opponent left was the tournament favorite, Mew2King.

Before grand finals, to the shock of everyone watching the two competitors, Mango announced to the venue that he was going to bet $50 on Dr. PeePee winning the tournament. Perhaps Mango noticed the same will to win in Dr. PeePee that he had in the past.

As the star of a new era clashing against an old guardian, Dr. PeePee battled Mew2King for  two fierce sets, finally coming out on top in a game-five classic  second set. His brilliant stage control and decision making surpassed the man who once looked like he had solved Melee.

Two months later, at the start of 2011, he traveled to San Diego for Winter Gamefest VI. The dorky Southern Falco with an even dorkier tag was suddenly the new kid on the block. Now competing on the other side of the country, Dr. PeePee prepared for a clash with Mango, his new mentor.

When the two played for the first time at Pound 4, Mango destroyed Dr. PeePee in friendly Falco dittos, casually three-stocking him. Nevertheless, his new apprentice remained determined as ever to improve, now listening to Mango’s advice for improving, and incorporating newer ideas of his own.

A year after Pound 4, they were now ready to play again in bracket at Winter Gamefest. Testing his own apprentice, Mango played Captain Falcon for most of their sets, as well as the tournament. Dr. PeePee would end up on top, not just beating the Captain Falcon, but staving off an effort from Mango’s Falco in grand finals.

With Hungrybox, Mew2King and Mango off his hit list, Dr. PeePee only had one name left among the Melee elite: Armada. At mid-February’s Pound V, 2011’s first supermajor, he’d get his shot against the Swede.

But first, the Swede needed to get far enough in bracket to play him.

After getting destroyed by Hungrybox at Apex 2010, nobody knew Armada’s plan leading up to Pound V. Most expected him to pick Fox against Hungrybox; others suggested that he’d try Ice Climbers.

When the stone-face Swede picked Young Link to start his winner’s bracket set against his nemesis, nearly everyone watching the set gasped. This marked the first time a player of Armada’s caliber had seriously picked a low tier in tournament since the MLG era, when ChuDat used to pick the same character against Peach. For the first few minutes of the match, people in the audience laughed and groaned at the heavily defensive, projectile-spamming, zoning heavy gameplay.

After four minutes passed, Armada’s brilliance began to show. The Swede started to run away with the first match, slowly gaining a big lead through the use of bombs, boomerangs and nimble movement to weave in and out from Jigglypuff’s aerial threatening space. This wasn’t a gimmick – this was the art of war.

Eight minutes later, Armada completed a double-two stock 2-0, with a simultaneously baffled and wildly cheering crowd. Soon following, he faced off against a red-hot Dr. PeePee, fresh off a 3-0 over Mew2King.

This was a set that featured Mew2King willingly falling off the stage to end a three-stock loss game one, rage quitting under a minute in game two and a final loss in game three. According to Dr. PeePee, the set made many smashers consider if Falco was the best character in the game.

Like Mango at Genesis, Dr. PeePee was the United States’ last defender against Armada. Meanwhile, Armada desperately looked for his first ever major victory in the United States, having already failed three times. The Swede ended up prevailing, eking out a close 3-1 set to make it to grand finals.

As he had done at Revival of Melee 3, Dr. PeePee rose from the ashes. Grinding out a 3-2 victory over Hungrybox in loser’s finals, he once again prepared for a rematch with the only player left in Melee’s stratosphere whom he hadn’t defeated.

Both Dr. PeePee and Armada came from regions that weren’t known for having any notable competition. Their rises came at unexpected times when no one had ever heard of them or where they came from. Because they were forced to improve on their own, both became known for their analysis, as well as their adaptation skills.

However, they still had their differences. Armada played reactively, picking “correct” options to earn his openings, extensively comboing his opponents and overwhelming his enemies through sheer willpower. Dr. PeePee excelled in the neutral game, frequently ending his combos early and hiding any technical errors through tactical genius, safe play and positional pressure. If Armada could break his opponents in just a flash of a few seconds, Dr. PeePee preferred to entirely dictate the pace of his matches.

Grand finals started off with with a bang. Dr. PeePee three-stocked Armada, locking him down and never letting him get a chance to start his combo game. American spectators began to cheer “USA,” just as they did with Mango at the first Genesis. Alongside this chant came a chant that became synonymous for following Dr. PeePee, “Stack it up!”

In a video of a North Carolina local grand finals, North Carolina Melee community leader MrBeenReady claimed that it came from two local smashers telling another group of people at a movie theater to “stack it up” in reference to the high prices for popcorn. Over time, it became a running gag, catchphrase, dance and chant. To date, however, many argue over its origin, with some saying it came from a fast food restaurant. 

Armada responded with a victory of his own, then defeating Dr. PeePee in game three to go up 2-1. Just like the first Genesis, the American defender stood on his last legs. Heading into possibly his last match of the tournament, Dr. PeePee went all out, intentionally opting to play off raw emotion and not overthink any more.

In game four, the two of them went blow-for-blow again, dragging each other to their last stock. The crowd screamed at every hit either one of them got, with the lights shutting off in the venue adding unintentional hype for a hollering packed group of spectators. In the closing seconds of match four, Dr. PeePee finally hit Armada with a final back air to catch his recovery, sending the set to its final game and leading to an eruption of applause from the heavily American crowd.

On Fountain of Dreams, the last game of the  set, the two once again pushed each other to their limits. One combo later, Dr. PeePee had taken a set from Armada for the first time ever, reset the bracket and now had another set to win. The Swede never recovered.

It wasn’t as dramatic as the first set of grand finals, but when Dr. PeePee followed  the reset with a 3-1 victory, it was official –  the man from nowhere had become the clear world No. 1. He had defeated each of his greatest challengers over the span of four months.

The Melee community boasted many talented players, with five names now standing above everyone else: Mango, Armada, Dr. PeePee, Hungrybox and Mew2King.

Inspired by a similar concept within the Street Fighter community, these group of players were eventually dubbed the “five gods” of Melee, known for their consistently high placings at supermajors and their remarkable consistency against the rest of Melee’s playing field.

It’s not clear when the term “god” started to catch on. Some think it came into fruition after Pound V, while others say it only became widespread after 2013, due to Scar’s frequent use of the term on commentary. To date, smashers argue over which of the “gods” were actually qualified for the title, as not all of them had an equal level of success.

By this point, the Melee community had already seen Mew2King and Mango rule the game. Hungrybox had his stretch of excellent play, while Dr. PeePee looked like the newest contender for Melee’s top spot.

Only one player among the Melee gods had not yet achieved an American title: the European wanderer himself, Armada.

Thanks for reading. The current release date is expected sometime in late August 2018. Stay tuned.

Kids See Ghosts: A Track-By-Track Review

For those who are long-time followers of my website, you may be surprised to see that I haven’t updated it with a post about my upcoming book. I’ve taken some time off from Melee writing to pursue my love for music. However, the new Kanye West-Kid Cudi collaboration finally lit the spark inside me to write about music.

I won’t beat around the bush – “Kids See Ghosts,” the self-titled debut of the new Kanye West-Kid Cudi collaboration, is the best release from either artist in years. It’s probably my favorite hip hop album in recent memory.

The stunning return to form is remarkable for West, but it’s even more so for Cudi. If you don’t believe me, listen to the 2015 Cudi release, “Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven,” an album so bad, it garnered a rare zero rating from music critic Anthony Fantano.

That said, let’s take a look, track-by-track, at “Kids See Ghosts.”

Feel The Love

“Feel The Love” starts off with a simple bassline and a gospel-like hook by Kid Cudi ( “I can still feel the love”) before Pusha T drops a badass, braggadocio, intro verse to the album. In standard Pusha fashion, he talks about his fame and history of dealing drugs, but he also sneaks in a clever Eazy-E reference. Not exactly anything jaw-breaking, but if you like Pusha, you’ll dig this verse.

When Pusha finishes a line with the words, “trap music,” that’s when the real meat of the song kicks in. West starts doing this onomatopoeia bit, but it’s not eye roll-worthy like “Lift Yourself,” a West single released earlier in the year. It’s far more aggressive, sounding like mimicked gun noises and now backed up by forceful, loud, adrenaline-pumping drums.

With Cudi’s soulful vocals, these elements create a larger-than-life starpower reminiscent of songs from 2010 West classic “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” All the emotions “Feel The Love” evokes from you are that level of magnified, but you only get less than three minutes before the album takes you to its next destination.


“Fire” is shorter in length, but it isn’t as in-your-face as “Feel The Love.” There’s marching band-esque vibes, with a 1966 sample of Jerry Samuels’ “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa.” It’s an artistically fitting choice because Samuels’ song reflects  an individual’s struggle with mental health, a prominent theme over this stage of West’s and Cudi’s careers.

Along with a twangy guitar lick in the back comes a flute-like melody between West and Cudi’s contemplative lines, which detail their status, but also their failures. Both sound like they have been beaten down over the last few years – and they have been – but they’re trying their best to stand up again.

Suddenly, “Fire” transitions to a seemingly out-of-nowhere Louis Prima sample.

4th Dimension

It’s not every day that you get to hear a 1930s Christmas song used in a hip hop song, but somehow West and Cudi use one to make an absolutely killer track. As soon as I heard the drop, I immediately thought to myself, “oh shit.”

“4th Dimension” has shades of the 2013 West classic, “Black Skinhead,” but it’s even more menacing. West’s lines in this song are so ridiculous they make you laugh (“It feels so good, it should cost/Bought her alligator, I ain’t talkin’ Lacoste”) and have overt sexual imagery (“She seem to make me always feel like a boss/She said I’m in the wrong hole, I said I’m lost”). This is the trademark West we know, hate and love.

Following West’s grand entry, the background transitions into this strange, horrifying, psychedelic laughing track, with the heartbeat-like bass still pushing the song onward. Cudi’s verse follows, but the subject material is far darker than the lines of excess we heard before. Cudi talks about sin and losing everything he had for fame. He even reflects on his drug abuse, along with his depression, creating a stark, but intentional juxtaposition with West.

Clocking in once again at just under three minutes, “4th Dimension” has a strange ending: a Shirley Ann Lee line from her song, “Someday,” which is also sampled in “Ghost Town,” from West’s previous 2018 album “Ye.” This segues into the most memorable song on “Kids See Ghosts.”

Freeee (Ghost Town Pt. 2)

After a brief build up, “Freeee” starts with heavy guitar chords, a hard-hitting drum track and a recorded Marcus Garvey excerpt, in which the famous Pan-Africanist leader asks his listeners to acquire an understanding of themselves. Already, you know you’re in for a listening experience unlike any other.

“I don’t feel pain any more,” West calls out, as if he’s simultaneously in the heavens, but staring down into hell. He continues with a “I feel free,” with emphasis, distortion and a stretched out echo on the last word, eliciting both nightmarish dread and divine euphoria to the listener.

The song continues with similar vocals from Ty Dolla $ign and Cudi. There’s even a brief interlude, in which the percussion completely stops, but a few heavy synth chords match melodic and angelic vocals of “I feel free,” parallel to the all-encompassing, lower-pitched, and demonic sounds from before.

I could write an essay about this song, but no words can do it justice. If there’s one track from “Kids See Ghosts” to listen to, it’s this one.


It’s hard to follow the dynamic “Freeee,” but Cudi and West somehow manage to do it with an uplifting, static, but motivational track in “Reborn.” It focuses on the idea of rebirth through adversity, learning from your mistakes and moving forward, as Cudi sings in the chorus (“I’m so, I’m so reborn/I’m moving forward”).

The drums stay as prominent as ever, though they’re subdued, slower, yet still impactful. Similarly, a simple piano line replaces the tantalizing guitars from before.

Cudi and West have especially poignant verses. West (“I was off the meds, I was called insane/What an awesome thing, engulfed in shame”) captures his public struggle with bipolar disorder, while Cudi offers an uplifting resolution to his existential crisis (“At times, wonder my purpose/Easy then to feel worthless/But, peace is something that starts with me”).

Kids See Ghosts

Like “Reborn,” the self-titled track is mostly static, but it’s no breather. Instead, the percussion drives the pulse of the song forward, as if it’s running into a great void.

Mos Def guest stars in a hushed chorus with a repetitive emphasis on the phrase, “kids see ghosts sometimes.” Reportedly, the inspiration for the title came from how children can see, both literally and figuratively, what adults can’t. Both West and Cudi are still dealing with the ramifications behind their respective parent’s deaths, so the name is somewhat fitting.

Cudi’s first verse is a calm, soothing, but still haunting self-reflection. In direct contrast to his optimism from the previous track, he ends his “Kids See Ghosts” verse in ominous, chilling fashion (“I guessing I’m just sick of running/All this time searching hard for something/I can hear the angels coming”). At least in how I interpreted the line, it felt like a callback to 2016, when Cudi checked himself into rehab for suicidal urges.

West then delivers a fast-paced stream of consciousness that’s more in line with the track’s speed, but detached from its emotional resonance. He mentions the time he took to make music (“Well it took me long enough to rap on this strong enough”), reconciles his faith with his actions (“Constantly repenting cause yes, I never listen”) and briefly shills for his own fashion and art sense. Honestly, it’s all over the place; I’m not sure how it fits into the rest of the song, even as a point of comparison, but it’s also Kanye West, so one of these is expected per album.

Cudi Montage

The album’s conclusion begins with an affecting loop of “Burn in the Rain,” a posthumous Kurt Cobain recording released after artist Cobain’s death. Notoriously, the grunge star committed suicide at the peak of his career, making Cudi and West’s use of the sample even more powerful, or at least infinitely better than Cudi’s poor attempt at a Cobain imitation across much of “Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven.”

Following a few opening lines by Cudi, West once again delivers bars that are among the best of his career. It’s not a personal verse though – it’s more like “College Dropout” era Kanye, as he references gang violence, the desire for revenge, the institutional systems that lead them to it and pain caused from all three areas (“All growing up in environment/Where doin’ crime the requirement/They send us off to prison for retirement”). While it’s not thematically consistent with the personal narratives of the album, it’s still among my favorite moments of the album, as it shows West can still offer valuable social insight.

At just over 23 minutes, “Kids See Ghosts” is a brilliant, heart breaking, but inspirational experience. It showcases Cudi and West confronting their flaws in a unique and unforgettable manner, bringing out their greatest strengths. After having heard it for about a week straight, I’m still floored at its sheer cohesiveness and artistic value; I can’t stop listening to it.

It’s a tough time to be a West fan. His music stayed strong, but relatively underwhelming for his standards since 2010. Moreover, between openly supporting Donald Trump and making poorly thought out statements about slavery, his public antics made many question their fandom. I would have liked to see West take back his previous statements, or at least take direct ownership of them and closely examine why many of his fans felt betrayed.

Then again, whether or not he’s obligated to explain his beliefs, maybe he’s already done it. On “Wouldn’t Leave,” a “Ye” song dedicated to how his flair for needless controversy caused conflict in his family, he at least made a self-aware effort to address his penchant for saying, frankly, stupid shit (“I said ‘slavery a choice’ – they said ‘how, Ye?’ / Just imagine if they caught me on a wild day”). I’m not impressed by it, but perhaps others are.

I also can’t repeat enough that at least “Yeezus,” “The Life of Pablo” and “Ye” were still acceptable releases for West fans. Cudi’s “Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven” sincerely made me think that Cudi lost his mind. This is the third time I’ve mentioned this album, but it’s that mindbogglingly terrible, to the point to where Cudi’s 2016 subsequent release, the forgettable “Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’,” doesn’t even register in my mind as a Cudi album. As far as I could have previously told, the artist was dead.

Ever hear the cliche, “don’t call it a comeback?” I’m calling “Kids See Ghosts” a comeback.

It’s the clear frontrunner for best hip hop album of the year and I can’t wait to see what West, Cudi or both have in store next.


The Book of Melee: An Excerpt of My Final Melee Project

Hi. I wrote a book about the history of professional Super Smash Bros. Melee. Feel free to skip the following if you don’t care about me and just want to read a sample, first-draft chapter.

A little under three years ago, I started this website, eager to have some kind of platform for my thoughts on pop culture. Then just a student meets aspiring sportswriter meets smasher (the alliteration is unintentional), I didn’t really have a plan, nor did I expect to get a following of thousands of weekly readers. Since then, this website has received over half of a million views, as well as led me to meet some of my dearest friends.

Around late 2016, with my grandfather telling me to have no regrets about my career, I had an idea. When I shared it to my family, he and my normally gaming-skeptic father were the first people to believe in me.

My grandfather and I (with short hair and 15 pounds heavier) are the two, left to right, in the back; my granduncle and my dad, left to right, in the front.

Why not write a book about Melee history, one that would cover its major tournaments, players and show the resilience of gaming’s greatest cult following? I had heard of books written about professional gaming before, but never an equivalent to Bill Simmons’ “The Book Of Basketball” for a specific video game community.

To the average person, the premise sounds ridiculous. For smashers who know the rich lore of our scene, it’s more than reasonable. “The Smash Brothers” documentary already proved that Melee has a story worth telling.

Inspired by my years of being a sports fan, my family and my community, I began writing.

Two years later, with the memories of my late grandfather still clear in my mind, I’m happy to confirm that my book has turned from a dream into a reality. In February of this year, I officially finished the first draft.

There’s still work to go. For example, I don’t know how I will price it. My website has always been free-to-read, but this project has taken countless hours of research, fact-checking, speaking to others and editing. Currently, I am still reviewing all 162 pages with the help of a few select readers and editors.

Furthermore, I want to keep it accessible for both veteran smashers and those eager to learn about our community. Frankly speaking, there’s no confirmed marketing plan, “book tour,” or cover art. I don’t have an estimated self-publish date yet, but I’m shooting for the end of the summer. By then, I’ll have more interviews and likely an even better experience for my readers.

Regardless, that’s enough about me. Here’s an excerpt from “The Book of Melee,” from a chapter that details Armada’s Genesis run.

Chapter 15: Genesis

The fifth of 11 children growing up, Armada had an unremarkable start to his career. Introduced to Melee by one of his older brothers, Alexander “Aniolas” Lindgren, he fell in love with it, relentlessly grinding out hours of solo practice and becoming the best within Gothenburg.

That wasn’t enough. He wanted to become the best player in the world, a feat many saw as impossible for him due to living far away from the best smashers in the United States.

Armada dreamed of making a name for himself, but the obstacles facing him seemed insurmountable. Due to living in a big family growing up – and under a father who made a modest living as a welder – money was another factor that he needed to overcome if he wanted to travel, especially coming from Sweden.

“We were not the most fancy-dressed,” Armada told Rolling Stone, referencing adversity he and his siblings faced in school. “And I was a gamer, so that was something a lot of people really liked to pick on me for.”

“Maybe I found the bullying an inspiration to prove them all wrong.”

Hidden behind Armada’s individual willpower came a deep-rooted love for and from his own family. With the help of two brothers, Aniolas and Andreas “Android” Lindgren, Armada endlessly practiced Melee, finding out about tournaments across Europe. Slowly, but surely, Armada overcame the odds against him, traveling to these tourneys and quickly rising to the top of the pecking order within his continent.

His combo game in particular gained him a cult following among veteran smashers who saw his recorded matches, noticing how ruthlessly he destroyed the competition in Europe. This was seen through both Armada’s sheer speed and control of Peach, as well as his punish game, which looked Mew2King-esque, if not even more impressive at times.

Now attending Genesis, Armada had yet another test, in a country where he could barely speak the language, but looked to prove himself in his most beloved game.

Several smashers were skeptical of Armada succeeding in the United States. Many assumed that European greats of the MLG era, like Ek and Amsah, had just beat up on vastly inferior competition.

The Europeans didn’t even play on the same version of Melee as anyone else – the PAL version of Melee had small, but noticeable differences to certain characters’ hitboxes, attacks and weights. Many smashers also bragged that they too could look like Armada if they constantly played opponents with “bad DI.”

Blitzing through pools, save for a tight 2-1 set with SoCal Ganondorf main WhatIsFear, Armada advanced to bracket, where a couple of heavy hitters awaited him, NorCal Fox Lunin and Mango’s best friend Lucky. Nonetheless, he quickly defeated them to make it to winner’s quarters.

A little-known fact – after Armada won game one, Lucky successfully counterpicked the Swede to Poké Floats, a legal but little-used and frowned-upon stage of competitive Melee back then. This stage was eventually banned from tournament play, due to inherently anti-competitive qualities, such as its highly varied terrain and shifting environment. Either way, Armada closed the set out, 2-1.

The Swedish Peach began to gather a crowd of viewers, amazed that he could defeat some of the United States’ most impressive players. Now guaranteed for top 12 at Melee’s biggest tournament ever, Armada would have to run the gauntlet, facing only America’s premier players from then on.

Against DaShizWiz in winner’s quarters, the Swede had his first challenge of the tournament. In the first game of their set, the Florida Falco two-stocked Armada in under two minutes. The result confirmed what many thought would be the Swede’s best-case scenario – that he wasn’t too bad, but still not a supermajor contender. Little did they know just how wrong they were.

Instead, the Swede adapted, taking Shiz to Mute City and winning by two-stocks. Armada once again two-stocked him in their third game. He then faced the player that everyone in the venue felt sure that he’d lose to: Mew2King, specifically his impeccable Marth.

Back then, this specific character and player combination was considered unwinnable for any Peach player. To put it bluntly, either Mew2King was going to defeat Armada or everybody was fundamentally wrong about how they viewed Melee.

Just like he did against DaShizWiz, Armada lost the first game, but then came back looking stronger. Clutching out a victory in game two, the European champion then two-stocked Mew2King to win the set. He had not only defeated a former world champion, but he did it with a character that no one ever saw at this level before, dominating a matchup that some saw as impossible.

His next opponent, awaiting him in winner’s finals was Mango, marking the first battle of their rivalry. Most bizarrely, their matchup featured two characters, Jigglypuff and Peach, that several in the MLG-era discounted as either a cut below top tier or not good enough to win nationals.

Mango and Armada’s success stories leading up to this moment proved that Melee had a long way to go before it could come close to solved. In just a year’s time, Mango had become the undisputed lord of Melee. But like how Mango took the throne from Mew2King at Pound 3, was he too destined to be displaced by Armada?

To start their set, Mango’s Jigglypuff looked completely lost, as Armada two-stocked it in game one. The match caused many in the large crowd behind the two to go quiet, as they were not used to seeing their country’s best player get outplayed, let alone with his most fearsome character.

In game two, Mango picked Falco, perhaps inspired by how previously close Shiz came to beating Armada. Keep in mind that Mango had played Falco for a year and a half at this point, even beating Mew2King with the character.

Two-stocking him back on Yoshi’s Story, Mango looked in control of the set, as if he downloaded the Swede. But with a third game on Final Destination, one in which Armada’s conversions off grabs against Mango were especially dangerous, Armada went up 2-1, adapting to Mango’s own adjustments.

Heading into the set, the excitement among American smashers quickly changed to desperation when they saw Armada take a 2-1 lead. Maybe the United States wasn’t much better, if at all, at Melee than anyone else.

For the first time since his rise to the top, the crowd began to root for Mango. Even as he barely held on to win game four and take the set to its final game, smashers knew that any moment Armada got a hit, he could flip the tide of a match in a few seconds.

The two were transforming the metagame in a way that hadn’t been seen since Ken vs. Bombsoldier. And on their last game of the set, after going back and forth for three stocks, Armada hit Mango with a final neutral air to catch Mango in the air, both of them at high percent. The king was slain.

“Wow,” gasped commentator HMW within seconds of Armada’s victory. “You’re too fucking good, Armada.”

Bloodthirsty for another shot at Armada, Mango swept Hungrybox, who himself had defeated a slew of top level opponents to make it to loser’s finals. Though their actual Jigglypuff ditto matches weren’t anything noteworthy, if you watch these games again, you can hear the shock in HMW’s voice, still in disbelief from what he saw in winner’s finals and recovering from it.

Armada had come all the way from Europe to the United States, a region that took its own dominance in Melee for granted, just to beat the best American players on his first try. His Genesis breakout illustrated the kind of hunger that still existed within the post-Brawl era, that anyone would fly thousands of miles for a couple of thousand dollars and for the glory of being Melee’s best player, a year after its competitive scene was destined to die.

When grand finals started, Armada ruthlessly three-stocked Mango’s Falco. As viewers gasped at every combo Armada hit, it looked like his turn to make mincemeat out of Mango, just as he had done for his previous opponents.

Think of this as Rocky vs. Ivan Drago, but with an ironic twist. Formerly having no one believing him, Armada now looked like the heavy foreign favorite, despite actually being a massive underdog. Mango had a personality and reputation more akin to Apollo Creed, but he remained the United States’ last hope, similar to Rocky.

Eventually, after Mango switched back to Jigglypuff, Armada stood on championship point, up 2-1, with Mango one game away from finally being dethroned. This lead to a crucial game four that later became known as one of Melee’s greatest games ever.

The two battled back and forth on Battlefield, trading their first three stocks. Armada led for most of the game, but Mango had finally found a hole in the Swede’s shield-heavy gameplay. If he could grab Armada instead of throwing out unsafe aerials on the Swede’s shield, he’d rack up percent, while maintaining strong position after a throw. His newfound patience began to manifest itself in strong counterplay.

Armada and Mango were now at their last stock at mid-percents, with the two of them battling for center stage. But in a situation where Mango had begun grabbing, the SoCal Jigglypuff did something unexpected, rather than grab. He landed behind Armada’s shield and proactively jumped forward to instinctively cover a roll.

For the first time all set, with Melee’s biggest tournament on the line, the SoCal Jigglypuff played his trump card: Jigglypuff’s rest. It landed, giving Mango game four and setting in stone the greatest in-game read in Melee history.

Right as the rest hit, the hundreds of smashers watching roared with approval. Chants of “Mango!” and “USA” deafened the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds venue.

The Swedish Peach wasn’t yet broken. After going down early in game five, Armada scrapped, tooth and nail, to make a comeback, with both of them ending up at high percent on their last stock. But after a trade between Jigglypuff and Peach sent both of them flying upon collision, Mango ended on top, resetting the bracket and taking the first set of grand finals.

Forced to compete against a character he hated and playing in a venue that almost entirely wanted to see him lose, Armada had gone from being the hero of the Genesis tournament to being rooted against. Mango swept him in the second set, also dominating Armada’s desperate Fox counterpick in the last game.

Loud cheers greeted the Genesis champion Mango upon his victory, but they also went toward his newfound Swedish rival, whose legend had just started.

Thanks for reading. I’ll keep you all updated. Until then, here’s to carving our chapter in gaming history.

No. 1 Cinderella Run of All-Time: Wobbles at Evo 2013, Pt. 2

In the final edition of the Top Cinderella Runs of All-Time, I reached out to Wobbles to write his account of the run for this website. The following is written by him, with accepted edits from me. This is the final part of a two-part conclusion to my underdog run series. You can read the first part here.


Mango has always been an interesting player for me to fight against. Despite being much better than me on every metric of the game–except maybe an explicitly analytical one–he was one of the five gods that I never doubted I could beat. That’s because his playstyle is something that an IC player gets to exploit (or get demolished by, depending on the day).

In a lot of ways, he reminds me a lot of Forward, from Arizona. Forward was one of my two main top-player influences while practicing in AZ (the other being Taj, huge shout-outs to both of them), and I always had an easier time beating Forward than Taj, despite Forward being the slightly stronger of the two. The reason for that was that Forward engaged more than Taj on the risk-taking, read-heavy front of the game. Taj is a player who can mercilessly shut you down, just spacing carefully, playing positionally and fundamentally, and reacting to whatever you did; Forward was always more likely to get in your face and take chances, even if he didn’t really have to.

If you want to play risky and read-heavy against ICs though, you are prone to getting blown up. This is especially true when you look back at 2013, when very few players had clearly delineated their anti-Nana gameplan. ICs weren’t a character you actively prepared for. They were a character you forgot existed until you faced me or Fly in bracket.

As an ICs, I am accustomed to biding my time for a fat opening that gets to take your whole stock. Despite having burst movement and being a puppet-type character, they actually resonate a lot with the grappler archetype from other fighting games! Get zoned, get walled, get bullied, get camped… then bam, spinning-pile driver, and a quarter of your lifebar (or your stocks) vanishes, just like that. If you can pick up on somebody else’s patterns, even for a moment, you can make them hurt.

The catch is that if you can’t pick up on the other guy’s patterns and they don’t make big tech flubs to give you free grabs, you feel like the character is useless. Which is also true of the grappler archetype.

Mango was also a player that I studied a lot to try and understand. He became the best as a Puff player, and nothing he did seemed to make sense on the surface. He gave you the impression that he was always just attacking, and it magically worked somehow. Then he began playing a mixture of Fox, Falco, and Falcon, and he continued to dominate the scene, even though–when he began–he was not very fast or technical! He did not play the characters the way anybody else did, and it made him better than everybody else. To me, that meant if I could understand what was going on under the hood, I’d be that much closer to being the best myself. I learned an absurd amount during that period of study, and if I want to blow somebody’s mind by seeming deep and insightful, I just say something that Mango has been doing for like 10 years and I sound like a genius. Thanks, Mango.

Still though, his playstyle has always been based on that fluid, in-the-moment observation of his opponent, combined with subtle movement shifts that make him hard to predict or hit. That meant that even once I grasped the process of his play, there was no guarantee I could read him in any given match. But, in any given match, I might, and combined with the IC’s absurd grab punishes, that could give me a win. If he wasn’t playing on point and made a tech flub, that would only help.

Rewatching our QF match, you can see this sort of thing coming into play instantly. In game 1 I make a tech flub, he charges in (maybe looking for a running shine or something), in a situation most Foxes would take a safer full-hop approach, and I grab preemptively to turn it into a stock. Fast lead.

He seems to take awhile to get his mojo going because I get two more grabs very quickly on the next stock, but he is aware of the danger and mashes like a maniac. Nowadays, a player like DKB, Nintendude, or Army would have converted those grabs to a stock, but despite the name, I’m actually not a very efficient wobbling converter. I have some old habits from when I first started using it that keep me from getting them quickly, and he escapes.

However, right after, you see me quickly taking advantage of his desire not to run the ground-game anymore, and I exploit full hops with more up-airs and eventually find a link into another grab. Like I said, if the grappler can get a couple reads, the damage basically deals itself.

I lose the next stock, but it’s dragged out, and it actually confirms something that I said when I unretired in like 2015, which was that my results were going to suffer tremendously once the talent pool got bigger and more of those players were experienced at killing Nana. Mango takes ages to secure his Nana kill on this stock, and even though he keeps me on the back foot, I keep finding little trades that put him at 48% before I die. The same story plays out next stock too; he pretty much dominates in terms of neutral exchanges, but he’s at 117% by the time he KOs me. Sure enough, I close out the next stock because he doesn’t quite capitalize on a split, and then the next stock he does an unsafe upsmash that leads to a tech-chase, handoff, and wobble. 1-0, my lead.

Mango’s adaptability is terrifying though. He takes me to Pokémon Stadium and you can instantly see several adjustments kick in right away. His jumps become less impulsive, his movement becomes much cleaner, and he starts working his grab-game to abuse my shielding. I’m comfortable sitting in shield as ICs because so few people know when and how to grab, even against SoPo, but he is all over it within the first stock of game two. He doesn’t even let me find any extra credit with my single climber, and he utterly controls the first stock.

Rewatching game two, I notice myself making a lot more technical flubs than I actually remember from the set, which… I find surprisingly uplifting. Normally I can’t do anything but obsess over my mistakes. One error every now and then is fine, but it lingers in my head. If I make a second one soon after, I’ve got a tendency to lose focus, or get mad, or both. But I couldn’t even remember them. They just didn’t affect my mindset. That makes me very happy, in retrospect.

It also reminds me that I didn’t do well at that year because I played especially amazingly, but because I kept my focus in the face of mistakes and pressure. I didn’t throw away an entire set because of a single error, a bad moment, or even a bad game. Mango outplays me continuously through game 2, I drop openings, and I end it with an SD and get two stocked, but it didn’t seem to mentally or emotionally impact me.

Oh yeah, and the other reason… best-of-three. ICs are very scary in a best-of-three. Mango bans FD and I go to Fountain.

First stock is back and forth–I drop a wobble that I just winced at, rewatching it–but I close it out with SoPo. Mango evens it up instantly, but I’m happy going into the even-stock situation without being the one dodging his invincibility.

I’m not going to lie to you, but the next stock is mostly a great example of how you are supposed to play as SoPo, and I’m seriously proud of it. There is a lot of dancing and empty movement. There’s a lot of sliding around and making sure you don’t corner yourself. Lastly, there are a lot of safe, noncommittal pokes (like short hop upair) rather than big, gambling smash attacks. If I played like that more often, I’d have had more than one Evo 2013! Mango is at 14% when he kills my Nana, but I’m the one who gets the stock first. In the context of the whole game, it’s huge. This might be my best single stock of play the entire tournament–with one other notable contender–and I always feel good rewatching it. I get a few stray hits on Mango’s respawn, but he evens it up again.

If the previous stock was huge, this next one is gargantuan. Mango once again shifts back to conquering me in neutral, kills Nana effectively… and then slips off the stage with bair. I do two of the slowest, clunkiest wavedashes of my life for a free edgehog and get to take the stock barely doing anything. And, sure enough, Mango respawns with a vengeance and I don’t land another hit with SoPo.

And the next stock, the one that sends me into top 8, is pretty anticlimactic. There’s some poking, some falling back, a little flubbing and clumsiness… and then Mango short hops towards me, facing backwards, with a nair, which was probably supposed to be a bair. I land right next to him–I walked off the platform with a falling nair of my own, expecting him to run in and hoping for a knockdown or trade–and when I realize we’re going to land right next to each other, I go for the grab, I get it, and that’s all she wrote.

Turns out, Mango is going to have something to say about this on day 3, but for now, I’m in winner’s side of top 8. Holy smokes.

Day 3

Going into day 3, I did something that most people don’t–I told myself over and over again that it was okay if I lost, if I got totally embarrassed on stage, if I got 3 stocked four times and got 5th and that was it. I’ve always had a problem where the expectations and demands I place on myself make losing absolutely unacceptable. It’s a strength, but it’s also a weakness. It pushes me forward, but it tilts me and makes me self-destruct when things go wrong.

Like I said, I wanted to move away from that for Evo. So when I woke up, I thought a long time about what I wanted from the day. I chose to I focus entirely on my appreciation of still being in the tournament. While watching the SNK finals, I chatted with Armada about how awesome Melee was. I reacted like a child to Melee’s introduction video. I sat there in my chair on stage, bouncing up and down with excitement while waiting to play. Then, when my time came, I got to play PPMD.


Honestly, I don’t have a whole lot to say about the match itself. If I’m being honest, It wasn’t a terribly good one. Match 1 was pretty messy, and in match 2 he dominates me and then I find grabs and suddenly, hey, it’s even. To be fair, that’s how a lot of characters feel against Falco. The real test for most characters against his laser oppression and control is how well they bide their time and keep from biting on obvious bait to try and escape.

I can get very antsy when the other guy is controlling me, and it’s clear on rewatch that I stay pretty focused and aware of the nuance of certain situations. In game 2, for instance, I respawn, jump to the top platform to shoot an ice-block (targeting the side platform, most likely), and when he jumps into it, I just stand still and wait for the grab conversion. Normally, I’m a jumpy enough player that I would normally have kept moving, fallen off the platform, and lost my opening, but I had the presence of mind to adjust my plan. Being able to keep that focus onstage is something I’m proud of, though apart from that, the set was nothing to write home about.

The biggest thing of note here is that PPMD had 2-1’ed me at APEX 2010 and then 2-0’ed me mercilessly at APEX 2012, so I was actually pretty afraid to play him, because he knew how to handle my character. Falco is also a character who can dominate you in neutral enough that he tricks you into thinking “I don’t know this matchup at all,” even though Falco is fragile enough you could kill him by downvoting one of his Reddit posts. But I told myself it was okay if I lost, that I knew what to do, and just to play and enjoy the game, and I think that helped most of all.

When I won, I leaped out of my chair, jumped in the air, and felt unbelievable. I’d taken down another god of the game, and I was in winner’s finals. Unreal.


This set is interesting for me to rewatch. Everybody who talks about it remembers game 2, but games 1 and 3 were pretty close and interesting as well. In fact, game 1 was closer than I remember it being, even though it’s clear that Hbox is in control for most of it. I nearly get a real wild turnaround fair kill on the last stock, but Puff is so floaty and Hbox is at low enough percent that he has plenty of time to meteor-cancel and survive; then he just kind of outplays me afterwards, and takes the game. On watching that match, I see my SoPo’s movement tightening up more and more as the game goes on which is very important for what’s coming later.

Game 2, I take him to FoD. I don’t have much of a reason for it at the time, other than I like the color of the stage and the Kirby music. In retrospect, it’s a decent enough pick. The side platforms can freeze at heights that make it awkward for Puff to descend upon you or camp you, and the top platform is low enough for you to poke through with full-hop up-air. The ceiling height is a good one where you don’t die too early to a dair into upsmash combo, but it’s not as high as Dreamland so you can actually expect to see up-air KOs before Puff is past 130%. The downside is that it’s not very wide, and ICs love having a wide stage that lets them CC, slide around, get desyncs going, and increase the odds that stray hits don’t send Nana off the stage. Those factors are also what make Yoshi’s less strong against Puff than you’d expect. FD is generally considered the strongest ICs pick in most matchups, but that’s mostly because of how much control you have over the opponent’s landing. For floaties like Peach and Puff, that is typically less true, and I find that having the side platforms can narrow their aerial approach a bit, which helps, so I’m less likely to pick FD against them.

But the key thing here is this: both Hbox and I think it’s a best-of-five, and in Bo5, you don’t get stage bans. So it’s weird that I don’t take him to PS (the strongest pick in the matchup), FD (the strongest stage overall for ICs), or Yoshi’s (the stage that best exploits Puff’s lightness). Instead, I just go to FoD, my favorite level. I’m trying not to obsess over every choice, I’m just doing what feels best. I’m happy and having fun.

The start of the game suggests that this is a good thing, because it seems like I sure as heck won’t be winning. Hbox gets a mean lead and it widens pretty quickly. Something, however, comes to work in my favor. Normally, floaties benefit tremendously from slowing down the pace of the match when they get ahead, then they take advantage of your desire to bulldoze in and make up the deficit. The risk-reward curve favors them the more non-committal the exchange becomes, because it is much harder to convert a stray hit against a floaty compared to a fast-faller (or, say, a Marth or Sheik that you launch to a platform).

ICs though? They love a slow match. The player might not–for instance, I am typically impulsive and impatient as hell–but the character does. You get time to set up your desync walls and close out space. The other person is less likely to move in after a random hit, so Nana is less likely to randomly die. If you have both ICs then your aerials can deal around 20%. And, of course, you have the nuclear grab. The key to fighting ICs is to slowplay, but convince the other guy that the match is fast-paced, so they swing badly and you can exploit them. If you play fast, you can blow them up but you risk eating an infinite because you were a frame too slow somewhere, and if you actually play slow, you help them out. Leads have a tendency to vanish suddenly because you eat 40% worth of upairs in two seconds while you were trying to platform camp. Then you panic and somehow they grab you.

Initially, when Hbox gets his lead, he pushes it, and the gap just widens. He’s switching between safety and aggression, which is how he dominates me stock 1 and gets his Nana rest in stock 2. But when I hit my last stock, he slows the game down massively. He jumps from platform to platform, always drifting away. I fall back, set up some desyncs, poke carefully with more short hop aerials, and regain some mental ground. I notice which zone of space he’s spending the most time in, and when I have the time to set myself up for a desync, he doesn’t contest. I paint that zone with a Nanapult, trying to tangle him up, and it works out better than I can imagine; he gets stuck light-shielding it, locking him in shield stun! This gives me the cleanest wobbling setup imaginable to get myself back in the game.

However, he still has quite a lead. I am able to clip him a bit even after he separates me from Nana, but he still closes and leaves me solo. He has about an entire stock left. He is one of the best players in the world. This is not looking good.

I have one thing going for me though! I don’t know it’s best of three. I still think it’s best of five. I am playing pretty well, I’m pretty focused, but even so, that is the only way I can explain my total lack of nerves. I’ve got another game left, after all.

With that in mind, I’m not 100% sure why, at this point, I’m so motivated to try and win the game. I think it’s because, once I land that wobble and bring it to his last stock, a little part of me thinks “wait, I could still win this game!” and rather than get jittery, I get excited. I’m not nervous, I’m thinking “how cool would it be if I won here?”

I start moving faster and more threateningly, but not impulsively. I stagger my timings, I even manage to handle myself when I get pushed to the corner and maneuver with almost no space. Hbox might be getting a little nervous here; he spends most of this stock choosing to retreat and play safe. It might not even be nerves; after all, the risk-reward of every single exchange still drastically favors him. I survive a high percent hit off the stage by forward+b’ing but he wavedashes back, looking for forward smash, and I drift back to perch at the edge and stay out of range. He lands a mean tomahawk grab into back-throw and I’m off the stage, but he doesn’t quite close out.

At this point, my little pokes have added up; Hbox is at 60%, and a stray down smash nearly kills him. He recovers high and tries to descend on me with a nair, and I gamble on another smash, this time using a waveland to sneak under. He DIs badly, and I drop my controller in surprise, because I can’t believe I won… and since he survives that too, I have to snatch it back up.

Hbox recovers easily enough, touches down and has jumps again. He continues to burn them staying high, looking to keep away from forward smash and down smash, and I alternate between shielding and wavedashing, looking for my moment. With both side platforms on FoD gone, it’s almost like FD. He lands in the middle of the stage, and we have our backs to each other. He shields upon landing, and waits for just a moment… then I slide in backwards, and there’s no forward smash or down smash. I up smash, he jumps into it, and he dies. Without knowing it, I just avoided dropping into loser’s by clutching a last stock SoPo comeback against one of the most challenging opponents in this game’s competitive history.

I’ve rewatched this stock dozens of times trying to figure out why things worked out. Part of me wonders if Hbox just panicked and choked because, undoubtedly, he could have played cleaner. I also wonder if those three last smash attacks I did were just dumb luck. Some details stand out to me though.

One thing is that I notice Hbox’s shield flickering before my down smash and up smash connect, but he jumps out of shield rather than being stuck in it, so it doesn’t seem like a sloppy l-cancel. My wavedash timing changes constantly throughout the stock, so it makes me think that he is looking for wavedashes in, and when I delay slightly, he decides to jump and begin his wall, and I somehow (three times!) thread my way in with smashes. I also constantly wavedash out of shield–my guess is that the combination of timing delays and shield pulses made him feel like I was going on the defensive, encouraging him to move, and I was catching him in those windows.

As for that last smash attack, I can at least tell you why I up-smashed. I knew that, with that much space between us, it was unlikely Hbox would retreat with a roll. It was more likely he would jump, and if he jumped, a down smash would miss. I didn’t forward smash because, again, if he jumped, he would probably leap over the hitbox, and since the hitbox is only active for two frames, and for the first frame it’s entirely above them. I wasn’t close enough to get directly on top of him, and if he jumped away it would whiff. Lastly, there’s a silly property of IC’s up smash, which is that it reaches lower behind them than in front. By sliding in backwards, I felt I would cover the right spot. Turns out I did!

Some of this might just be wishful thinking that my win came down to some magical, thrill-of-the-spotlight, intuitive skill shining through and earning me the victory. In reality, it might have been that Hbox was playing a little worse than normal that stock, and a series of unlikely gambles paid off for me by chance. The tournament was in Vegas after all, and if there’s a place to gamble, Vegas is it.

Either way… it’s 1-1 now. Hbox takes me to Dreamland. Normally I would ban the stage, but it turns out to work to my advantage. I have lots of space, I secure a lead with a wavedash into jab, grab, and wobble, something I haven’t been using at all, which is why I think I was able to sneak that in successfully towards the end. The lead and the space let me make desync walls, and Hbox alternates between trading damage on me and Nana, which means that he continues to fall behind, percent-wise.

But Hungrybox certainly hasn’t given up. He gambles a rest on the back of my shield, and manges to clip me; I’m lucky that I don’t DI high because that lets me respawn and finish him with an forward smash, but still, it’s very smart of him to take that chance. At such a high percent, he’s got decent odds of dying to random hits anyhow, and this completely undid an entire stock of chipping him away. It’s really intelligent risk-taking on his part that keeps him in the game.

A few seconds later after his respawn, Hbox decides he’s going to use the room to his advantage as well. I control the ground, he sticks to the air, we dance, and then–this is surreal–the crowd begins to cheer for me. You can hear it through the commentary microphones. It’s not an Arizona chant, which I’m familiar with. It’s a Wobbles chant.

Understand this: I was not a very popular player. One of the most (if not the most) widely disliked technique is named for me. Most YouTube comments on my matches are people hating my character and wanting me to lose. Earlier that year at APEX 2013, I played against Gucci–a Falcon player from Japan–during a crew battle between American players and international players, and the American crowd cheered for Gucci. We were in New Jersey.

People didn’t cheer for me, and that’s just how it was. The crowd behind me booed me when I wobbled Mango the previous day. People would cheer during my matches when they watched me SD. So it is very strange, even now, to hear a crowd chant my name.

But the strangest thing of all, looking back, is that I still can’t remember them chanting. I don’t remember hearing them or thinking about it. Up on that stage, I’m in Winner’s Finals of the biggest tournament in the game’s history (at the time), a crowd is finally chanting my name, and I don’t even notice. I don’t know if I’ve ever been that focused in my life.

Maybe part of my brain did heard it though, because this next stock I am in control the whole time, and finish it with a very unorthodox and flashy sequence into a wobble. It gives me a huge lead. Turns out I need that lead because Hungrybox just shuts down my next stock with nearly flawless play. When I respawn, he lets me have the ground again, and soon I’m chipping and poking him to high percent.

I said it earlier in this post, I say it on commentary all the time, and I’ll keep saying it until I die: if you give the ICs room to maneuver and desync and you stay on the platforms because you’re afraid of getting grabbed, you will end up losing. They will hit harder than you. My percent lead grows and I seem to realize the strength of my position, because I am suddenly playing very safe, very stable, taking over the entire left side of the stage and refusing to overextend. Somewhere in there the crowd chants my name again, which I still don’t notice.

More dancing. More poking. Hbox comes in and hits a high forward b on my shield, I bair him, he DIs wrong, and it’s 2-1. I pop off (pretty modestly, compared to the previous round, or my leap of joy after beating PPMD) and sit back down, bobbing slightly in my chair, total focus on my face, ready for Hbox to tell me his counterpick, ready for another long attrition game on Dreamland, ready to keep playing.

That’s when tournament staff comes over and tells us the set is over. That’s it. I’m in Grand Finals.

Looking back, I don’t know what I was thinking, exactly. I can guess that Hbox was thinking something along the lines of “are you kidding me?”

I stared at the messenger for about two seconds, then stood up and offered my handshake to Hbox. I feel bad, but at the same time, I was so damn close to going down 0-2 and I didn’t. If I had, we’d have had to take that outcome too. Money says a part of me–and I’m not always the most noble person, so it was probably a pretty big part–was ready to take that win and sit in grand finals. My first grand finals of a major, ever. Winner’s side, no less.

But the truth is that was a crummy way for it to end. While I walked away with my arms raised in the air, Hbox’s expression is a better definition of “crestfallen” than you will find in any dictionary. We both thought it was Bo5, for a couple reasons. First off, it was winner’s finals of the biggest tournament ever. Come on! Not only that, the original ruleset posted on Smashboards had explicitly said that all finals matches for Melee were to be Bo5, meaning winner’s, loser’s, and grands. Even though a lot of rulesets say things like “these are subject to change at the tournament organizer’s discretion,” that kind of a rule change just never happened. At least, until it did.

So I went back to my spectator seat, the last player left in winner’s bracket, and that’s where my part of this story ends.

Mango, again.

I don’t have much to say about these sets, and it’s not just because (spoilers) Mango thrashed me 6-1 and it wasn’t even close.

Somewhere in that time while I sat waiting for my next opponent, all that crazy energy I had began to dissipate. I didn’t even feel the urge to go to the warm-up station and practice. I just watched the matches, like I wasn’t in the tournament anymore. When I played Mango, I made a few more mistakes on average than I had during my previous two sets… but I can’t really attribute it to nerves. I don’t remember feeling nervous. I don’t remember feeling much at all!

Not in a bad way, mind you. The main feeling that I remember was satisfaction. Too much satisfaction, given that the tournament wasn’t over and I still had a set to play. I just couldn’t find the energy. With the way Mango was playing on day 3, it may not have made enough of a difference, but considering how I was playing that day, it could have been one hell of a set. As it was, it’s more like the tournament had three or four different grand finals, but our match wasn’t among them.

So… I’m a little sad that I ran out of steam, but it’s hard to say it’s because I lost. I sneaked a win off Mango on FD in the second set, he wiped the floor with me on Yoshi’s to win the tournament, I got second, and it was the greatest performance of my career. More than that, I still consider it the best day of my life.

Last Thoughts

I had one main goal in my Smash career, and it was to be the best. I didn’t reach that goal. The closest I came was at Evo when, for about half an hour, I got to stand at the top of the bracket as the only undefeated player left. For my inner perfectionist, that feels a bit too much like a consolation prize.

But when I think about how it felt to be so focused and energized on that stage, when I consider some of the lower emotional points of my tournament history, when I remember the times I felt so far away from justifying the time and energy I poured into the game that I never wanted to play again…well, it’s actually pretty good as far as consolation prizes go. Not a lot of people get there in our game, and I did, and it felt incredible.

I got pulled back into the game again some time after, and some people–including me–were hoping to see me rise to the same heights as I did at Evo. I’ve had a few highlights here and there, but mostly I just fall back into the same frustrated and perfectionist tendencies that have plagued me for most of my career, and to be totally honest, it gets more and more aggravating every time it happens. And there was a lot of unhappiness and disappointment before that Evo as well, so there are many times when I think about my career in total, and feel let down, like I just hadn’t done enough.

But crazily enough, just like the crowd and the noise and the mistakes and winning and losing, there was this small span of time where none of it even mattered to me. To me, the thrill of and the joy of that tournament went farther than justifying my frustrations. It rendered them irrelevant, and I’ll never forget it.

Thank you for reading.

Thank you to Wobbles for finishing off the underdog run series.

I’ll have an update later in the week about the future of the website, as well as a personal project of mine. Until then, thank you to all my readers and supporters.

No. 1 Cinderella Run of All-Time: Wobbles at Evo 2013, Pt. 1

In the final edition of the Top Cinderella Runs of All-Time, I reached out to Wobbles to write his account of the run for this website. The following is written by him, with accepted edits from me. This will be the first part of a two-part conclusion to my underdog run series.

It’s been a while since I sat down and reflected on Evo 2013.

I got second. That was pretty sick. I was in winner’s side of grand finals with all five gods present, had some awesome highlights and it was Melee’s return to Evo after six years of absence. All of that is crazy.

I also meant for it to be my last tournament. I just felt done with Smash going into it and wanted to move on. I hadn’t achieved everything I wanted in the game, but my obsessive drive was fading. I was 25, turning 26 a week after that tournament. I had never finished my bachelor’s degree, worked intermittent restaurant jobs and made money at locals. I had issues with depression, anxiety, focus, health – all of that. I felt my life was legitimately not going where I wanted it to go.

Melee has this way of eating your attention. When you start thinking about it, the giant puzzle of the whole game, you can get sucked in and forget about almost everything else. If you catch the Melee bug, it’s hard to balance it with the rest of your life. It becomes your life, for better and worse.

So, at the time, I picked Evo to be my last Smash tournament, and I went into it with one main resolution: have as much fun playing the game as the day I first picked up an N64 controller and played Super Smash Bros 64, more than 14 years before. I wanted to enjoy myself with all my heart, even if I went 0-2.

But I didn’t just want to mess around. I wanted to compete with all my heart too. I really wanted that tournament to encapsulate what I loved about Smash. It wasn’t only about the fun, the silliness or even the Nintendo characters that were part of games I played growing up. Smash was an embodiment of my competitive drive. When you and three friends play with items on and go to Hyrule or Pokéfloats, eventually you want to take it to Final Destination for a one-on-one to really settle that question: “who is the best?”

I didn’t have plans to win Evo, do well or make it out of pools. I wanted to put that out of my mind, as much as I could. I wanted to have just one tournament where I got to compete without obsessing over my results; to throw everything at it and celebrate the mixture of fun and competition – the fun that had me wanting to do better, the desire to do better that motivated me to practice and the practice that got me to compete.

Evo 2013 was going to be my celebration of that. A lot happened that weekend.

After my first three matches, my bracket run hit the big names that people recognize. It looked something like this: Wizzrobe, Eggz, Fiction, Lord, Shroomed, Mango, PPMD, HBox, Mango, Mango. So I’ll try to tackle that in order.

To try and keep that mindset, the whole “don’t worry about whether I win or lose” thing, I tried not to think about who I was going to play that weekend. If you’re going to win a tournament and you don’t want it to be about bracket luck, then you’ve got to have an attitude of “beat whoever comes my way.” So unless you plan to do research or get specific gameplans ready, stressing about upcoming opponents doesn’t help you much. I at least knew that I would possibly play Wizzrobe and Eggz, because people told me and asked me what I thought. My answer was “I tried not to think about it at all.”


Wizzy, at the time, was not the Falcon behemoth that you know and fear today, but he was on the list of up-and-comers really worth respecting. Falcon can be very rough for ICs, especially if he is methodical and hits hard – these are both traits that have come to define Wizzy’s play, so this could have been a serious roadblock for me.

I did not spend a lot of time dwelling on it though. I was lucky enough to live in Dallas at the time that Darkrain did, a few years before, so I had some serious high level Falcon practice; not only that, I had just faced Westballz and Mango at Kings of Cali 2, both playing Falcon. The Westballz set was a close 3-2, while Mango was a close 0-3 (check the videos! For real, they were close games, just not a close set). This gave me a broad range of recent Falcon styles to draw on.

As it turned out, Wizzy did not have much ICs experience. We talked a lot about the matchup afterwards and rewatching the video, I can tell that even though I played a bit clumsy, he was giving me lots of room and respect that let me work out the knots. He also wasn’t sure when and where to move in to close out stocks, especially against one IC, and that gave me room for extra credit when I only had one climber left. You can tell that games started close, but I crept ahead. Games centered around stray hits and pokes generally don’t favor the fast faller, since they’re the one more likely to die from random hits and bad DI. So I won 2-0 and moved on to Winners Finals of my pool to play Eggz.


Despite everything I said earlier about not wanting to dwell on winning or losing at Evo, I am (and, as far as I can remember, always have been) hyper competitive. It is an endless struggle to keep that part of my mentality balanced when I play anything, even a game I’m touching for the first time. So as my blood got pumping and I hit winners finals of the pool, I started to worry. A fast and competent Fox can always give the ICs trouble, and Eggz was a long-time competitor.

Fortunately for me, Eggz was also not on point with his punishment game against ICs. He also chose to adopt a full-hop heavy style, which can be nightmarish for the ICs, but since game one was on Fountain of Dreams, that actually complicated things for him. Without securing Nana kills, shine spikes or giving me enough ground-based pressure, the basic risk-reward shifted heavily in my favor. There were points where I just full-hopped out of shield and it gave me free hits or escapes from pressure. Without a strong punish game from his end (too careful, too up and down) and me getting stray hits that turned into early kills, it was a double 3-stock. I advanced to day 2, ready to play Fiction.


This was, in a couple respects, my worst match of the event.

First of all, Fiction very nearly sent me into loser’s bracket, in a game three, last stock scenario. Second, I got my angriest of the whole event in this match and broke my promise to myself. Third, that anger lingered going into my next match against Lord.

I started the set by chatting with him in a friendly enough way, because we both had been Wario players in Brawl (key difference: he actually succeeded). We joked a little about getting camped, and I initially felt calm. This was going to be a friendly tournament match! Very cool.

Things went downhill by the end of game one though. He was adopting a similar full hop method that Eggz did, but he was executing with more precise spacing. Moreover, he was capitalizing on the splits a lot better, shining Nana and (if memory serves) the game ended in my favor with a close one-stock. Then he said something about wobbling being stupid and lame, and I tilted.

This has always been a sticking point for me, even when I stopped wobbling as much later in my career. Wobbling is pretty stupid, game-design wise. It’s not fun for me to do, it’s not interesting for me to do. But competitors use the tools they are given, regardless of the character. Foxes shine spike you and chaingrab each other. Falcos laser camp you. Marths use their disjoint to avoid ever letting you get close, Jigglypuffs rest you and Peaches crouch-cancel and down-smash. It’s your job as a competitor to overcome the opponent’s strong tools by using your own.

When people complain selectively about something being lame, but have nothing to say about their own relentless use of their own strong tools? When the Fox player is camping the top platform, fishing for shine spikes and doing his absolute best to avoid ever letting me interact with him so he can never lose? That’s fine! He’s trying to win! Characters, strong tools, patience, competition, victory, etc. When he complains that I don’t let him go when I finally catch him?

That enrages me.

So I went into game two on absolute tilt and he three stocked me very quickly. This is where I feel like I really let myself down.

I jumped immediately into game three without taking time to calm down or think about what happened. I can’t remember any details about game three, except that I won on the last stock because he missed an out of shield action and I grabbed him. He complained, I called him a name or something and I moved along feeling insanely disappointed in myself.


This feeling carried over into my match with Lord. He had very limited ICs experience, but he played a solid neutral and hit hard. He was one of California’s hidden bosses and the fact that he’d made it this far meant it wasn’t just hype. He was also super nice, which makes me feel even crummier that I couldn’t find it in me to enjoy the match.

Game 1, he gets the first stock, but then I wobble him four times. It’s a very silly game to watch. The second game is significantly more competitive and rewatching it, I have thoughts very similar to what I thought during the match. “Man, Lord is smart and adapting. He’s mixing up his offense and defense well, so that he doesn’t lose openings from camping too hard, but he doesn’t just attack predictably.” Then I notice my Sopo KO second stock, giving me a lead, and think “dang, precise spacing on the dash-dance grab, tech-read, AND an up+b call-out? Nice.”

He falls into a blizzard-grab and a zero percent wobble after that. Sucks, but his fault for doing a hail-mary knee into a desync. I’m up two stocks to one, I get a lead, he drags it back, and so far this is a really competitive match. Then I flub an edgeguard, he hits me off the level, and I SD, going for a belay cancel and accidentally throwing an ice-block. In that moment, I was transcendentally salty. I started thinking “man, he’s gonna win now and I deserve to lose.”

And again, that is the sort of thing I did not want to define my Evo experience. Though in retrospect, I’ve figured out exactly why it hit me so hard.

I try to enter tournaments mentally prepared to go 0-2. I try to go in mentally prepared to get four stocked. Something that I don’t prepare myself for, however, is coming close to victory and screwing up. I don’t think about what it will feel like to screw up at the clutch moment, what it will feel like to almost have what I want and lose it. When I talk to myself about being prepared for the worst? Just doing bad isn’t the worst. If I’d gone 0-2, I could say I was messing around or wasn’t feeling well.

But losing like that? In that moment, with everything going your way, you expect things to keep going your way. The sudden reversal hurts more than having a negative expectation confirmed. You aren’t prepared, and who are you going to blame? You were right there, at the finish line, and for some reason, you couldn’t cross it.

Rewatching the face-cam though, I can’t really see the disappointment. I look mildly annoyed, at worst. I might not get less salty or angry as time goes on, but I definitely manage it better. On average, anyhow.

You can tell by my play in game three though! I miss multiple opportunities to close out a stock and he ends up getting the first one. Then, I just wait on that respawn platform for the entire duration. I can’t remember what I was thinking, but I remember feeling drained. After I land, I move around like a sad spaghetti noodle for a second or two… and then something happens.

I start playing sharp. Not perfect, but rewatching, I’m actually impressed with myself. I don’t do things I expect myself to do. I do better stuff, safer stuff. Less panic, less rushing and my next two stocks have pretty cool finishes, if we’re being honest. Next one is another blizzard-grab into wobble, and I’m up three stocks to one. He takes the next stock, but you can see me digging for that SoPo kill, dragging every interaction out, forcing him to burn more and more mental energy just to eliminate my single climber. That still won’t make the match even. Then, instead of doing something impulsive on the final edgeguard, I just calmly wait, stand, wavedash, grab, wobble.

I’m pretty embarrassed by how I handled my own emotions in the Fiction match, but looking back, I am proud of the end of the Lord set. I remember feeling the wind sucked out of me by my SD at the end of game 2, but also how I unexpectedly managed to dig in and keep up my play. You can also hear me say “you are very smart” to him, because I wanted to compliment his general mixups, his adaptations and still feel positive.

After the fact though, I felt kind of empty. I went and sat and tried to get my head together. I knew I was most likely going to play Shroomed. We had played at KOC2 a few months before; the first set went 3-1 his favor, then I won the runback in loser’s bracket 3-1. He also 2-0’ed me at Genesis 2.


While I was sitting down, trying to find some focus and energy, one of my fellow AZ players came over and tried to cheer me up. It wasn’t really working at first because I was too stuck in my own head, but then I realized I was rejecting the attempt of somebody to make me feel better – all while I was trying to feel better. I was surrounded by friends! I was playing my favorite video game. I had made it far in this massive tournament. Everything was fine. Why was I mad?

My thoughts cleared up. I got up. I walked around, talked to friends, warmed up, and played. And truthfully, I can’t remember much about my match with Shroomed. I just tried to focus and enjoy myself. Rewatching, I got a lot of very cheeky grabs. He got the lead, I wasn’t quite punishing his downsmash out of shield as well as I should have, but I’m mostly just glad that I didn’t seem to let it bother me the way it had at G2. I made up for it with some cheeky grabs and that seemed to be enough.

Winning that match put me into a top 8 winner’s qualifier against Mango – or, put another way, I had just cemented my spot in Melee’s top 10.

Thank you to Wobbles for contributing and accepting edits. The second part will be coming soon.

Monday Morning Marth: 4/23

This series is a tribute to standard “Monday Morning Quarterback” columns in traditional sports. In it, I discuss my quick takeaways from the last week of the smash community. Consider this a mix of news and mild takes. Featured image from Vish’s Twitter – will take down, if requested.

Last weekend marked another chapter for Melee’s slow, but steady spring season. Leffen won Flatiron 3, but not without being taken to the brink by Axe, who took a set off the current world No. 3 in grand finals and nearly stole the tournament. Simultaneously, Plup traveled to Ohio and easily dispatched of the Midwest-heavy crowd, losing only a game in grand finals to Ryan Ford. Japanese Fox Sanne won Amaterasu in Japan, which you can learn more about in KayB’s recap, here.

Here are my personal takeaways.

1. PewPewU Makes A Splash

The longtime NorCal Marth legend has stayed a nationally relevant player since breaking into the spotlight, but it’s been relatively tough times for him in singles, with relatively ho-hum or worse showings at his last two majors attended. Yet at Flatiron 3, PewPewU looked excellent, playing far cleaner, with improved edgeguards and a renewed focus. It led to him finishing third, boasting wins over Zain, Captain Smuckers, Swedish Delight and Crush.

Moving forward, it’s hard to say what this means for PewPewU. He certainly looked a lot better against Fox, a matchup he said he had been working on, given his track record of losing to SFAT, previous losses to Crush, and a dropped set to KJH earlier in the year. Moreover, his victory against Swedish marked a second consecutive victory against him. This is notable because Swedish had beaten him three times in 2017 and 2016. Time will tell if PewPewU’s improved Fox can also help him reverse another historical trend of him losing to Shroomed.

PewPewU will also need to find an answer for mid-tier matchups, which goes beyond Axe being his personal kryptonite. For reference, he’s lost his last four sets against Duck, last two against HugS and was swept by aMSa at FB4. It wouldn’t be too surprising to see PewPewU try characters outside of his Marth and Fox against these players, but you could also argue that simply refining either of those two could be enough.

Either way, his Flatiron 3 performance was one of the biggest storylines of the weekend. If it’s indicative of anything, it’s a testament to PewPewU’s staying power and ability to remain strong in the current metagame.

2. Melee’s Most Underrated Rivalry

The title of this segment might be slight hyperbole, but I’d like to credit fellow Melee Stats member Brendan “Wheat” Malone for pointing this out to me: over 2018, Bananas and Mojo have shared one of the best regional rivalries in modern Melee. You can watch this every Monday night, but nearly no one outside of Texas talks about it.

Per the tafostats database maintained by tafokints, Wheat and Ovenn, Bananas is up 20-18 for 2018 sets. Fascinatingly enough, many of their sets are brutal sweeps in either players direction, with many of their games being just as lopsided, at least from a quick glance. If you’re ever bored on a Monday night, I suggest checking out Monday Night Melee, where you can watch them on a frequent basis.

3. Melee’s Most Underrated Rivalry Pt. 2

Surprise – there’s another underrated head-to-head I wanted to mention! Though they haven’t played nearly as many times as Mojo and Bananas, HugS and Ka-Master have had a few quietly impressive, but still noteworthy sets in their own history together. Here’s a quick recap, though I’m still uncertain on what sets are missing.

1. Ka defeats HugS at UCLA Monthly 5 in 2008, 2-1, making it to winners finals. This was part of Ka’s run to grand finals, in which he also beat Lucky and Zhu. 1-0, Ka.
2. Due to different rules surrounding grand finals sets back then, HugS played this as a continuation of the first set, starting off down 2-1. Eventually going down 4-2 in the set, HugS won three games in a row to carry SoCal on his back and defeat Ka at what was planned to be the West Coast’s final major before everyone would transition to Brawl. 1-1.
3. NINE YEARS LATER, Ka and HugS face off again at Bridgetown Blitz in losers semis. Ka defeats him 3-1. 2-1, Ka.
4. At The Big House 7, HugS sweeps Ka in a solid 2-0. 2-2.
5. HugS wins 2-1 at Poi Poundaz. 3-2, HugS.
6. HugS wins 2-1 at Flatiron 3. 4-2, HugS.

It’s not exactly Melee’s most consistent rivalry, with a large gap from 2008 to 2017, but it’s definitely one to watch in the future – or at least appreciate from afar as you pick something else to do for 15-20 minutes.

4. A Quick Recap of Patchless

When Crush, Slox and ZoSo went to compete at Flatiron 3 last weekend, New England hosted Patchless, a tournament that essentially served as an open invitation to battle for determining the region’s next best player, though it didn’t feature lint, Swiftbass or many others from Connecticut. Nonetheless, there were several noteworthy results in the Massachusetts and New Hampshire-dominated field.

New Hampshire No. 1 Kalvar won the event from losers, after being sent there early by Bank, a Massachusetts Marth player, in pools. In his losers run, Kalvar defeated a slew of opponents, including Mr. Lemon, Top Player Yasu, Project, Ses, th0rn, BigFoig and dudutsai. He went 20-2 in games leading to grand finals and then won 3-2, 3-0.

Finishing second under Kalvar was dudutsai, who had one of the most strangely clutch runs I can remember in New England regional history. In Top 24, dudutsai won winners quarters, semifinals and finals all in game five sets. Had he won the first set of grand finals, it would have been a fourth straight 3-2 victory.

What I Like:

What I Don’t Like:

  • Tournament organizer, EGTV COO and friend Calvin getting ruthlessly downvoted and flamed on Reddit for being honest.
  • A lack of a clear solution surrounding player bans, how to enforce them and what constitutes a ban.
  • No news on the Switch! Seriously, Nintendo – we need something to distract us before Smash Summit.