No. 14 Cinderella Run: s0ft at Apex 2014

Despite Hungrybox and Mango’s success at the top level with her, Jigglypuff isn’t often considered a top tier character in the same way that her contemporaries like Fox, Falco and Marth are. While the post-Brawl era had a fair share of people claiming that Jigglypuff was overpowered or cheap, the fact remained that after Mango stopped playing her, Hungrybox was the character’s only representative at the top level.

At the end of 2013, in the first ever edition of SSBMRank, only two Jigglypuffs ranked within the Top 100: Hungrybox (No. 5) and Darc (No. 45). Heading into Apex 2014, what was then the biggest Apex ever, no one could have imagined that a Jigglypuff outside of Hungrybox and maybe Mango’s rusty Jigglypuff had a chance of making it to a top eight. How unlikely would it have been for anyone to predicted an unranked Jigglypuff main to suddenly burst into the top eight of Melee’s biggest stage ever?

S0ft wasn’t a nobody in the scene, being one of Georgia’s best players, but having been playing Melee at least since the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, s0ft didn’t have any extremely notable major performances. In addition to placing 33rd at Revival of Melee, he also finish with the same result at Apex 2013. Unless you were from the South, chances are that you didn’t even know who he was. Apex 2014 changed that.

For his Round 1 pool, the Georgia Jigglypuff wasn’t even necessarily projected to make it out. Hax, now transitioning into maining Fox over Captain Falcon, was the heavy favorite, but s0ft also had other killers in his pool. Players like Vudujin, NamiNami, Rat and D1 (yes – that D1) were considered legitimate threats to make it out as the No. 2.

At this point, Hax was being heralded by the East Coast as its newest savior. Though there were quite a few skeptics of Hax’s switch to Fox, he had as many supporters say that this was the first step en route to Hax eventually becoming the best player in the world, as he was already ranked No. 6 with Captain Falcon.

In hindsight, this is certainly ridiculous, but keep in mind that the title for being the Melee No. 1 was wide open. Between Mango taking care of his newborn son, both Hungrybox and Dr. PeePee in relative slumps, and Mew2King on a tear of winning smaller tournaments, Apex 2014 was the perfect time for Hax to grab the mantle and ascend to godhood. S0ft, however, had different plans.

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Making his way to winners finals of the pool, s0ft clutched out a last stock victory against Hax in the first game, before promptly getting four-stocked game two. In their last game, s0ft lost a three to one stock lead before making a hard read on Hax’s recovery and landing a forward smash to take the set. In SSBMRank history, it was the first time a member outside of the Top 100 defeated a player in the Top 10. Many at the time were impressed by s0ft, but expected him to get quickly eliminated from Round 2 pools.

After defeating Harriet, s0ft found himself playing against Ice, Germany’s best player and then thought of as one of Europe’s most promising players. Some at the time even dubbed him as “the European Mew2King” due to his amazing punish game and proficiency with Sheik (then his main) and Marth.

Dominantly winning their first game, which included what has to be the worst rest punish of all time by Ice, s0ft lost a heart breaking second game against Ice’s Fox, missing an upthrow to rest on Pokemon Stadium. Nonetheless, s0ft solidly two-stocked Ice again on game three. Suddenly, the unranked player now had wins over the world’s No. 6 and No. 13 player – and now he had to play Mew2King in winners quarters. He was the only player left in winners bracket that wasn’t ranked within the MIOM Top 100.

Though he got three stocked to start the set, s0ft managed to bring Mew2King to last stock game 2, just whiffing a grab near the left side of Fountain of Dreams and getting promptly sent to losers. Here, s0ft played Ice once again, but this time he had to prove that the results of their first set weren’t a fluke. To make matters more complicated, Ice had Armada in his corner coaching him, while s0ft had Hungrybox.

While the first game was close, s0ft managed to turn it into a two stock after a quick empty jump in front of Ice’s shield, after which s0ft quickly up aired the top of Sheik to convert into a rest. Within the first half of their second game, s0ft went down two stocks to three, before once again clutching yet another rest and evening it up, eventually leading to a last stock situation. Although s0ft’s cheeky spot dodge rest didn’t net him the initial KO he needed to move into top eight, another rest gave him and the South a victory.

Now in top eight, s0ft had to play Colbol, a Fox with plenty of experience playing against Jigglypuff due to Hungrybox being in the same region. To the surprise of many, s0ft took the first game, before losing the second and third, ending his greatest tournament run ever and one of Melee’s most remarkable journeys.

After his Apex 2014 performance, s0ft continued to travel and attend major tourneys, though he never quite lived up to the lofty expectations that came from it. He had decent regional performances and attended enough tournaments to qualify for MLG Anaheim 2014’s final bracket, but he also never placed top eight at a significant Melee national again, even finishing a disappointing 49th at EVO 2014.  By the end of 2014, he was ranked No. 64.

You could look at this say that it proves s0ft’s Apex 2014 as fairly lucky, but keep in mind that s0ft was not even expected to make it out of pools to start the year. More than half a decade after he started playing, he was able to upset players considered massive favorites over the vast majority of professional players, let alone unranked ones. Ending the year as a Top 100 player was more than what was expected from him. His Apex 2014 showing is forever notched into Melee’s history – and arguably the “documentary” era’s first true underdog run.

EDITOR’S NOTE: S0ft unexpectedly contacted me immediately after I posted about n0ne’s run and indirectly guessed that he would be next on the list. Most of the information and assumptions I’ve written here came straight from his account!

No. 15 Cinderella Run: n0ne at GOML 2016

January 13, 2013.  Before Get On My Level 2016, that was the last time Captain Falcon placed top eight at a Super Smash Bros. Melee championship (an event to feature all five of the world’s top five players) in Apex 2013. Back then, Hax was considered Captain Falcon’s most promising representative, as he was hyped up by the East Coast so much over the year that he ended it ranked No. 6 in the world.

But in the eyes of many, including Hax himself, that was the best Captain Falcon could ever do. Although he got close to defeating Dr. PeePee at EVO and had taken sets from Mew2King before at locals, Hax never defeated a god at a national while playing Captain Falcon. Switching to Fox, Hax also decried his character as being bad – and several believed him.

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As I’ve written before, Captain Falcon didn’t suddenly see a drop in quality of representatives. Players like S2J, Wizzrobe, Gahtzu and Gravy pursued advancing his metagame, with Wizzrobe and S2J even taking sets off gods (PPMD and Hungrybox) in smaller events or exhibitions. Wizzrobe’s top eight appearances at DreamHack Austin 2016 and PAX Arena, along with S2J’s strong placing at Pound 2016 showed a good amount of promise for the character at supermajors. However, success at the national or championship level hadn’t happened yet.

Many people agreed that Hax’s Falcon laid the groundwork for how the character should be played. Rather than being based around hard reads and flashy aggression, Hax was safe, conservative, dash dance heavy, risk averse and tactical about his gameplay. Although S2J’s style is certainly more risk taking and aggressive, both Wizzrobe and the rest of the 20GX Falcons were similar to Hax. For the most part, the latter is the direction Falcon was expected to head in.

 

 

 

 

 

In Ontario, a Nicaraguan player, “n0ne” quickly grew in prominence. Heralded by his biggest fans as “S2J with edgeguarding,” n0ne became known for his flashy combos, baits, and calculated, but unorthodox decision-making. His relentless play was risky and dazzling –  more reminiscent of players like Scar and Lord than it was of Hax.

At the end of 2015, n0ne’s first year on the MIOM Rank, he finished No. 58. While he was thought of as one of the scene’s rising stars, he was also one of its most unpredictable – for better and worse. At his best, he beat players like Colbol and Professor Pro, but at tournaments like EVO 2015 and The Big House 5, he didn’t even make Top 64.

N0ne started off 2016 with a bang, defeating PewPewU at GENESIS 3 and finishing 33rd. Placing 17th at Pound 2016, becoming the best player in his region, n0ne continued to do well, also finishing fourth at Fight Pitt VI and ninth at EGLX in Ontario.  Heading into GOML 2016, yet another tournament held in his region, n0ne had an opportunity to make himself look even better.

However, no one could have ever possibly predicted how far n0ne would exceed expectations.

 

Initially making it to winners finals of his pool, n0ne lost his first game against Moky, a fellow regional player and technical Fox, before winning the next two games to make it out. Yet due to his relatively low seed at the tournament, n0ne had to play Ice next, losing that set 2-1, though he brought the European legend to his last stock.

Due to the talent at GOML, getting sent to losers before Top 32 even started already set n0ne back, especially because his next opponent was Vanitas. While Vanitas wasn’t considered to be on the same caliber of skill as n0ne, he was still a well-respected Ice Climbers in his region. Although n0ne managed to win their set 2-1, this was also a matchup that the Nicaraguan Falcon was known for detesting. Earlier in the year, he was 3-0’d by dizzkidboogie at Fight Pitt VI.

To start Top 32, n0ne 3-1’d Trulliam, a fellow Ontario rival, before finding a familiar face as his opponent for 17th: PewPewU, the guy he defeated at GENESIS 3. Proving that it wasn’t a fluke, n0ne 3-2’d him, defeating PewPewU’s Fox and moving onto Top 16. His next opponent was HugS: the SoCal Samus legend who finished over 30 spots above n0ne on the previous year’s MIOM ranking. Their last set was a nail biter 3-2 at GENESIS 3, but in HugS’ favor. Could N0ne turn it around this time?

 

 

N0ne two stocked HugS in the first game before just barely losing the second one. Now having his counterpick ready, n0ne selected Yoshi’s Story as his stage and picked Ganondorf, just as he did in their GENESIS set. However, when Game 4 started and HugS counterpicked Final Destination, rather than switching back to Captain Falcon, n0ne stayed as Ganondorf. Even as he lost Game 4, n0ne kept faith in his character, winning a tight, but still convincing Game 5, heading to yet another round in losers.

Top eight hadn’t even started yet, but n0ne was about to face the biggest test in his career. In fact, at the time, you could have easily argued that this was the hardest opponent that any Captain Falcon player could come across in bracket: Mew2King.

If there’s anyone who was worthy of the title, “Falcon slayer,” it was Mew2King. Whether it was through his ruthless edgeguarding, years of practice with Hax in the matchup or his precise punish game, Mew2King just seemed to be the natural counter to Captain Falcon, if not a huge part of why Hax switched to Fox. The perception of Sheik as Captain Falcon’s hardest matchup among many made this a daunting test for n0ne.

At this point in time, no Captain Falcon player had ever defeated Mew2King at a significant national tournament since Isai at MLG Anaheim 2006. I can assure you that no one back then reasonably expected n0ne to challenge him, let alone defeat him in a 3-1. Except perhaps n0ne himself.

N0ne defeating Mew2King at GOML 2016 isn’t just a player formerly ranked out of the Top 50 defeating a god. It’s a character overcoming a character that was once considered his unbreakable barrier; an underdog of the modern era of Melee defeating a longtime immortal player; an international player representing Latin America on the world’s largest stage; Canada having its biggest upset since Kage over Mango.

Although n0ne ended up losing a close 3-2 set to Lucky in top eight, his run remains remarkable. N0ne has continued to do well against Mew2King, taking two more sets since his first set victory, but it’s still a magical moment in Melee history – the cherry on top of one of Melee’s greatest underdog runs ever.  Chances are that we’ll see none other like it.

The Greatest 15 Cinderella Runs in Melee History: Methodology

People like rooting for the underdog. In the history of Super Smash Bros. Melee, cinderella runs are especially celebrated because of the amount of technical skill the game requires, its long lasting competitive history and the countless number of split-second decisions that you have to make within a match. For the most part, you can’t always rely on two things to beat your opponents.

I looked up the term “cinderella” and found a good definition within an old ESPN article written by columnist Jeff Merron:  “the ultimate underdog for whom we wish a fairy-tale ending.” Picking 15 of Melee’s greatest cinderella runs was certainly difficult, but first I had to decide what I wasn’t going to include.

Methodology

1. The player for a bracket run cannot be an UltimateSSBMRank Top 10 player.

This clause might disappoint a few of you, but no one thinks of these players as underdogs any more. For the gods of each smash era, their “breakout” tournaments are still only parts of a greater legacy.

You can call my exclusion unjustified, after-the-fact editorial midjudgment, but it’s not meant to dwarf their accomplishments (nor would it even come close). Think of it as a testament to their far greater legacies,  which transcend any singular tournament run.

Honorable Mentions:

Armada at GENESIS
Mango at EVO World 2007, Super Champ Combo and Pound 3
Hungrybox at GENESIS
Mew2King at Cataclysm III
Dr. PeePee at Revival of Melee 2, RoM 3 and Apex 2015
Leffen at Apex 2014 and Get On My Level 2016
Ken at Game Over and EVO 2015
Chu Dat at Tournament Go 6, Zenith 2012, EVO 2015 and DreamHack Austin 2017
PC Chris at MLG New York Opener 2006
Azen at Viva La Smashtaclysm and MLG New York Playoffs 2006

2. The player in a tournament run must place within its top eight.

It’s difficult to sometimes draw the line between a more impressive set victory in bracket and overall performance. That’s not even taking into account relative expectations for a player heading into a tournament.

As a result, you’ll notice that the following cinderella runs have been omitted from my official list (along with several others that I haven’t listed):

Honorable Mentions:

DruggedFox at EVO 2015 (9th)
Zhu at EVO 2016 (9th)
Kalamazhu at The Big House 4 (9th)
aMSa at Apex 2014 (9th)
Infinite Numbers at Pound 2016 (9th)

Omitting DruggedFox’s run at EVO 2015 in particular was tough to do. Keep in mind the popular running gag among Georgia smashers at the time: “Who the fuck is DruggedFox?”

Although this isn’t an accurate assessment of what DruggedFox’s skill was like at the time, it still held a bit of merit for how spectators might have seen him. Earlier in 2015, the Georgia No. 1 (then a Sheik) finished merely 33rd at I’m Not Yelling.

Beating Lucky, S2J and Duck (let alone coming close to sending Leffen to losers bracket) at what was the world’s biggest Melee tournament ever couldn’t have been reasonably predicted by anyone at the time, unless you were from Georgia, a DruggedFox fan or DruggedFox himself. Either way, although this was one of the most talked about breakout tournament performances in recent memory,  DruggedFox’s EVO 2015 did not qualify for the final list.

3. The tournament must be a significant title-level event featuring two top five players of that year or at least bear some kind of prestige that transcends traditional metrics to evaluate a tournament’s legacy.

It sounds obvious to say, but a cinderella run has to happen at a title-level event to make an all-time list. Though it’d be easy to come up with a list of memorable runs at significant regional level events, for the sake of argument, I’ve tried my best to keep the list trimmed to events with some kind of prestige that transcends its results.

4. The tournament performance Must take place after the scene was internationally or nationally established enough to which a player’s performance across multiple tournaments could give an accurate estimate for gauging skill relative to the rest of his competition.

This is a tricky specification to put down, if not wordy, but when looking at the innate “underdogness” (for lack of a better word) of a cinderella run, certainty plays a huge role in how it’s valued.

For example, I’m not going to take placings at tournaments that featured items into account. The competitive Melee metagame has moved significantly far enough to where I wouldn’t try to hold such tourneys to the same metrics as the modern era. Additionally, underdog runs back in the Tournament Go days weren’t necessarily underdog runs because of a player coming out of “nowhere” – some of them were because players in a region simply didn’t know about the broader talent pool of the scene.

I admit that this criterion is somewhat vague. Players who have been around before the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl might complain that my list is very post-Brawl and “doc era” biased – and to an extent, they’d be right.

Honorable Mentions

DSF at Tournament Go 6 (7th)
Sultan of Samitude at Meleepalooza (1st)
Eric at American Legion Tournament (3rd)

5. No player can have more than one run put on the list.

Why? Because I want to tell as many individual stories as possible!

When viewing the list in its completion, also keep in mind the following factors:

A. How good was the player before the run/what was their “predicted” performance at said tournament?

B. Who did this player beat at the tournament? Were they expected to beat them?

C. How many upsets did this player have in bracket?


D. How important was the tournament?

E. What out-of-game narratives affected or played an impact within the cinderella run?

Who do you think had the best underdog run in Melee history?

Top Tier History: Captain Falcon

Frequently described as the “hype” character of Super Smash Bros. Melee, Captain Falcon is one of its most recognizable figures, from competitive players to casuals. Known for his trademark “Falcon Punch!” along with a plethora of other flashy moves and his comically masculine aesthetic, Captain Falcon has many innate qualities that make him a fan favorite.

Although his original franchise F-Zero is all but wiped out from the mainstream gaming culture, Captain Falcon remains a popular character because of his inclusion in all the smash games. In the first one, he was one of its four unlockable characters.

One of Captain Falcon’s most noticeable strengths is his combination of power and speed. Boasting strong aerials and powerful ground moves, the original Nintendo 64 version of Captain Falcon also converts off grabs extremely well, with his upairs leading into more upairs and his downair being a strong edgeguarding tool or combo finisher. His fast ground speed also gave him yet another advantage on the ground over slower characters.

Falcon didn’t come without flaws. While he certainly thrived in a game where combos off grabs seemed to rule over every other part of the game, his neutral game tools were limited. He also had a bad recovery game, laggy moves and could be comboed pretty easily by other characters.

Nonetheless, he was one of the best characters in the original Super Smash Bros. You might be wondering why I’m talking about Captain Falcon from the original Super Smash Bros. Similar to Fox and Jigglypuff, understanding Captain Falcon’s role from Melee’s predecessor will give insight into what kind of a character he became in Melee.

Falcon is Bad (late 2001 to mid 2003)
Notable players: Isai, Darkrain, Ken, MikeMonkey

In the first game, Captain Falcon is considered by most to be a top tier. This is because of his deadly conversions off grab, along with his ground speed and heavy weight. However, in Melee, the speed racer looked to initially be nerfed.

Though some of his moves were more powerful (the addition of a forward air in knee gave Falcon an amazing aerial), his Falcon Punch was slower and many of his moves were even laggier. Since grabs were heavily nerfed from 64 and the movement engine of Melee was more technical than 64, Captain Falcon was initially seen as too hard to play.

With smash attacks, shield grabs and dash attack as a cornerstone of competitive play, Falcon struggled. Look at any major tournament in this era and you’ll find a shared general lack of Falcon players outside of Isai, who also played secondaries in tournament and used Fox against top players in bracket as well.

Even as Isai represented him well, there were not really other Falcon players that gave strong national representation. From the game’s first tier list to its fourth in July 2003, Falcon consistently ranked under tenth on the NTSC tier list. For a long time, people even thought of someone as bad as Kirby to be a Captain Falcon counter, due to his ability to duck under Captain Falcon.

The Last Hero and his disciples (late 2003 to early 2007)
Notable players: Isai, Darkrain, SilentSpectre, Azen, Jiano, NES n00b, G-Reg

However, as more people kept playing Melee and the scene began to grow within the MLG era, the game’s technical limits were being pushed. What was initially thought of as impractical or unlikely to do was now becoming a very normal part of the game, like wavedashing, short hopping, fast falling and L-canceling.

The widespread use of these techniques, particularly by Isai, showed that Captain Falcon wasn’t too far off from his skill cap in 64. They contributed to show that when used correctly and with the proper technical proficiency, Captain Falcon had one of the most devastating combo games in Melee.

Isai was way better than every other Falcon and, as shown from the clip above, could pull off moves that people previously scoffed at being able to consistently do in tournament. Keep in mind that at this point, Captain Falcon had slowly risen to being considered the seventh best character in the game or so – and that the Sheik in the clip above was Captain Jack: someone who by all means was a contender for being the greatest smasher in the world.

Even if Captain Falcon wasn’t necessarily at the top tier the same way someone like Sheik was, he also was thought to have had really good matchups. After losing the Marth ditto to Azen at Game Over, Ken picked Captain Falcon to success, due to the perception of the time as the character soft countering or going close with Marth. Similarly, with Chu Dat showing that the Ice Climbers were better than others initially thought, Captain Falcon was seen as a counter to them, with Azen often dominating Chu Dat in their head to head while playing Captain Falcon.

If smashers at the time thought Isai vs. Captain Jack was impressive, they were in for a surprise just a few months later at MOAST 3. Not many remember it now, but at the time, it was unarguably the greatest set in Melee history. To this day, you could argue that the tournament’s grand finals, featuring both a Marth and its victorious Captain Falcon, set the path for what would be the future of Melee.

You might not see what Captain Falcon has to do with any of this, but look at how Isai punishes Ken in the above video, along with other parts of his tech skill. Perhaps part of Captain Falcon’s appeal and popularity comes from how he highlights the beauty of Melee’s movement and combo game. This set is obviously not as impressive by modern standards, but keep in mind that consistently being able to edgeguard and hit followups like stomp into knee showcased far more control of a character than what had been seen previously.

Though Ken dominated most of 2005, the MOAST 3 grand finals is considered Isai’s crowning moment. Later in the year, the NorCal Captain Falcon won MLG Los Angeles 2005. Since then, no Captain Falcon has won a national tournament featuring three or more top five players. As a result, Isai is unquestionably his character’s greatest player.

As Isai began to play Melee less, sandbagging when the opportunity arose and never practicing the game any more, new Captain Falcon players started to take his place. In the Midwest, the rise of Darkrain – possibly the region’s greatest player ever and certainly its most beloved – gave way for yet another Captain Falcon player to become elite. Later on, Darkrain took sets off the likes of PC Chris and even Hungrybox, also winning Tipped Off 4.

Meanwhile, another NorCal Falcon began to follow in Isai’s footsteps, as the former great began to host “bootcamp” sessions for fellow Falcon players in his regions. Known for his DBR combo videos, SilentSpectre had crowd-pleasing combos, creative recoveries and a wacky style that messed with his opponents. Years after his rise, SilentSpectre defeated Armada at Pound 4, becoming the only Falcon player to ever do so.

Another notable Falcon run at a national was Jiano’s at Pound 2, where he defeated the likes of Cort and Chillin en route to a third place performance. This was especially notable as the tournament also featured Chu Dat, Mew2King and Drephen, giving it many top ten players that Jiano ended up outplacing. His Pound 2 run is still one of the most impressive underdog runs at a tournament ever.

The Golden Age (mid 2007 to late 2013)
Notable players: Hax, Darkrain, SilentSpectre, Scar, Mango, S2J, Gucci, Lord

Though Melee’s decline took a toll on its competitive population, with old school legends like Ken, Isai, Azen, Chu Dat, PC Chris and KoreanDJ playing less, the meta continued developing. Through most of the post-Brawl era, every relevant American region had its Falcon representative. Yet even as Darkrain won the Pound 4 Falcon round robin, many wondered which Falcon could be the true successor to Isai’s throne.

From NYC came Hax, a young, cocky, but brilliant Falcon player known for his incredible game near the ledge (coining the term “Haxdashing”), patient dash dance game and commitment to using Falcon’s speed to whiff and punish his opponents. This was a different style of Captain Falcon play than most were used to, as it was methodical, calculated, risk averse and patient. Hax quickly gained a reputation as a floaty slayer, often being considered an auto-loss to play against in bracket if you were a Marth or Sheik (that wasn’t Mew2King).

While Hax’s Falcon is slightly overrated in comparison to the later part of his career, it’s hard to deny how consistently strong his results were at nationals. Though he never defeated a god at a national (outside of a forfeiting Mew2King at SNES in 2009 and Apex 2012), Hax placed eighth at GENESIS, fourth at Revival of Melee 2, 13th at Pound 4, 13th at Revival of Melee 3, seventh at Apex 2012, fifth at Zenith 2012 and fifth at Revival of Melee 5.

By the end of 2013, Hax had risen to being considered No. 6 in the world, with top eight placings at Apex 2013, Zenith 2013 and The Big House 3 (and ninth place at EVO 2013). At this point in time, he was the closest thing Captain Falcon players had to Isai.

South of Hax in Philadelphia was another Falcon player named Scar. But unlike Hax, Scar was known for his flashy and read-heavy playstyle, often opting to for hard DI mixups and risky off-stage player over Hax’s reserved and conservative approach. The term “Scar jumping” came from Scar’s use of consistent wall jumps on Yoshi’s Story, both to extend combos and recover.

Scar wasn’t just a fan favorite either – in addition to placing sixth at GENESIS, he also was a forefather for the character’s metagame, commonly posting on Smashboards with Hax and also being an elite player of his own within the East Coast.

In the West Coast, both NorCal and SoCal had its own Falcon representatives. With Mango often opting to go Captain Falcon at tournaments to swag out on his opponents, players like SilentSpectre and S2J gave the character more representation at tournaments, but with different styles than their East Coast counterparts.

S2J wasn’t anywhere near as conservative as Hax was, but he also wasn’t as committal as Scar. Instead of throwing moves at his opponents or refusing to make the first commitment in the neutral game, S2J often positioned himself closely to add pressure to his opponents, both baiting them to make a mistake and also cornering them, while also not being afraid to attack. S2J (along with Mango) also was one of the first Falcons to manipulate his aerial drift in tricky ways and has been described by others, like HomeMadeWaffles, as a “spacie” playing Captain Falcon.

The Renaissance (early 2014 to now)
Notable players: Wizzrobe, S2J, n0ne, Gravy, Gahtzu, Captain Smuckers, Lord

Hax quitting Captain Falcon near the start of the year/end of 2013 temporarily rid the character of its best representative, as well as disappointed much of the community. But for those who were close to him, the move to start playing Fox came after quite a bit of deliberation, as Hax still hadn’t gotten a big god-level win at a national, even as he came close to defeating Dr. PeePee at EVO 2013.

Hax had several reasons for quitting Falcon. In addition to Falcon’s bad recovery, he was still easily comboed, had laggy commitments and overall worse frame data than other top tier characters. In his 2014 tier list, Hax claimed that Falcon was even worse than Samus and Pikachu: characters long thought to be a mid-tier.

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Yet it didn’t completely squash claims of the character being viable. Many, like S2J, still had faith in Falcon’s ability to compete at the top level, claiming that Hax still hadn’t optimized numerous aspects of Falcon.

Inspired by his own growth as a player and motivated to prove Hax and other doubters wrong, an upper-level player named Gravy set out on his journey to show that Captain Falcon was indeed a top tier character. Although Gravy’s accomplishments as a player were certainly impressive in their own right, his contribution to the Captain Falcon metagame is pretty self-explanatory: 20GX. If you don’t know what 20GX is, it’s a movement started by Gravy and other Captain Falcon players (like his Florida contemporaries in Wizzrobe and Gahtzu) to “optimize” the character to even further levels than Hax.

Of course, saying that 20GX “solved” Falcon (or “invented” as Gravy later stated) is an oversimplification. But even if his work didn’t prove Falcon as the best character (as he once claimed in the past), Gravy and his intense frame data work paved the way for revolutionary ideas about tech chasing. This showed Falcon’s potential to be at an even higher ceiling than Hax’s own play.

Gravy’s insight into what Falcon could reasonably do paved the way for other Falcons to “optimize” not just their punish games, but also how they approach neutral exchanges, incorporate shield dropping into their platform game, etc. Such innovations turned what were once considered bad or “unwinnable” matchups for Captain Falcon (Sheik on Fountain of Dreams) into ones where Falcon held notable advantages across different areas.

Even as Gravy quit playing Melee on a GameCube controller (a topic that I’ll fortunately not be opening a can of worms about) and switched to playing Fox, Falcons began to rise again in the absence of Hax. Though many were publicly “anti-20GX” or at least showing the appearance of being against it, players like n0ne and S2J still incorporate elements of 20GX strategies, like dashing out of crouch canceling a getup attack, regrabbing during a tech chase, etc.

Because of his extremely read-heavy and aggressive playstyle, n0ne is often thought of as an “anti-meta” counterpart to 20GX. But watch how he tech chases Mew2King, keeps him pinned in the corner, abuses crouch cancel and also SDI’s up out of jab reset. These are all 20GX-style ideas (though not exclusive to them) that are incorporated in different ways even by a player like n0ne: the first Captain Falcon to defeat Mew2King at a national in decades. As easy as it is to say some Falcons are 20GX and others aren’t, the reality is that “optimized” Falcon play incorporates 20GX with old school tricks, fundamentals and strong player v. player skill.

Even as Falcon mostly thrives today, there’s still a debate about how viable he really is. Yet as I’ve written before, it’s hard to define “viability.” If it’s by results, the only characters in the modern metagame that qualify to be viable on their own are Fox and Jigglypuff.

With Wizzrobe’s second places at Smash Conference LXIX and Smash Rivalries this year, along with other notable performances like his 3-0 over Mew2King and sets over Hungrybox, the Melee scene has its best Falcon not only since Hax, but since Isai. Nonetheless, one question remains: can Falcon win a championship?

Top Tier History: Ice Climbers

The Ice Climbers are weird. In addition to being from an obscure franchise, they’re the only character in Super Smash Bros. Melee that requires controlling two people on the screen at the same time.

Other than Yoshi, I would argue that the Ice Climbers are the most bizarre character in the game. They require a whole new perspective to understand, both in their meta development and history.

The Dark Ages (late 2001 to early 2004):
Notable players: Chu Dat, ???!?!?!??!?!?!?!

Early on, the Ice Climbers were considered too strange to be of any use in competitive play. The idea of playing as two characters at once was complicated back then, especially when you could just play Sheik and get started comboing your opponents.

One of the other big problems with Ice Climbers early on was their lack of good range on their grab. In the early metagame, shield grabbing and crossup moves were seen as really important, but the Ice Climbers grab range was too short to be used effectively and they had no good offensive tools.

Out of shield options were not as developed as today, so characters with strong hitboxes to pressure both climbers in shield gave them a rough time. Characters like Peach, Captain Falcon, Ganondorf and even Luigi were considered really difficult for Ice Climbers to deal with. For example, Chu Dat losing to Kamaal, a Deadly Alliance Luigi at DC Super Smash #2.

Watch the video below to see how most people played Ice Climbers back then. Based on what I could find, this is the earliest known footage of the character in a match.

“Degenerate” doesn’t begin to describe what this video looks like by modern standards. As you can tell, the Ice Climbers have a good wavedash, but outside of their strong, but laggy smash attacks, they were limited. This is reflect within many of the NTSC tier lists made – in a tier list made on April 2, 2004, they were ranked No. 15. In September of the year before, they were No. 18.

The Jump/Yahyuz (mid 2004 to early 2008)
Notable players: Chu Dat, Azn Lep, Trail, Kei, NealDT, Tetsuya

The perception of the Ice Climbers’ viability started to change when Chu Dat broke out at Tournament Go 6. Here, he finished third, defeating Sastopher, Wes and double eliminating the legendary Isai. This was especially impressive because these wins were in matchups that were difficult for the character at the time. Some even saw them as previously unwinnable.

Not only did Chu show how strong the Ice Climbers’ punish game was off grabs, but also how the two climbers could position themselves in tricky ways to out range his opponents. It’s important to recognize Chu Dat as the godfather of his character, as well as one of the first relevant Ice Climbers players to use desyncing.

Chu Dat’s run at TG6 and successful 2004 didn’t immediately prove that his character was top tier, but his sustained excellence impacted how people viewed the Ice Climbers. In 2005, the Ice Climbers rose to No. 12 on the NTSC tier list – but by 2006, with many more inspired by Chu Dat’s success, they ranked seventh. At the time, it was the most remarkable jump by a character on a Melee tier list.

Around the MLG era (before MLG Las Vegas 2006), a Japanese player named Tetsuya posted a combo video of several characters performing flashy combos on CPUs. Notice what’s pulled below by the Ice Climbers.

If you’re familiar with competitive Melee, you already know what this is. If you’re not, it’s a grab infinite done by any Ice Climbers player who gets a grab on their opponent. It consists of rhythmically tapping the A button to pummel the opponent mid-grab with the main climber. After initiating this, the Ice Climbers player also tilts the stick forward to forward tilt them (or down to down tilt) with the backup climber, while still pummeling the opponent with the main climber.

This technique is notorious for being extremely easy to pull off, while having an insane reward of either leading to immediate death for the opponent or leaving them at absurdly high percents. At NorCal Tournament 2, known as Wobbles’ breakout tourney (although you could argue his victory at EVO South was also impressive), he used the grab infinite to massive success against a strong Southern California Peach player at the time in Edrees. Because of Wobbles’ success at this tournament, the grab infinite garnered its name: wobbling.

There are a few caveats to wobbling. Though it’s easy to do, actually grabbing an opponent who can outrange the Ice Climbers is extremely difficult. Often, whiffing a grab attempt can expose the backup climber and lead to the main climber being the only one left on stage – or worse, a quickly lost stock. Moreover, this technique only works with the backup climber nearby, otherwise opponents can and will mash out.

Either way, wobbling had a profound impact on the meta, both in terms of how Ice Climbers were perceived and actual tournament ruleset. Some tournaments banned it, due to thinking that wobbling was non-interactive, broken, unintended and loathed by most tourney attendees. Others defended wobbling, saying that it was no more broken than Fox shining an opponent off-stage at an early percent.

Many of the early MLG-era tournaments banned wobbling, due to it being seen as non-interactive and game-breaking. Moreover, because the average tournament back then did not have as big pot bonuses or strong payouts as today, there wasn’t as much incentive for Ice Climbers players to wobble. It was also frowned down upon by most in the community, so many Ice Climbers simply used handoffs – an alternative technique popularized by Wobbles – in tournament.

However, despite technically having a unified ruleset for the first time through MLG, the Melee community hadn’t permanently solved the issue of wobbling’s legality. For example, at MLG Las Vegas 2006, wobbling was made legal, as well as EVO World 2007.

Nonetheless, with the golden age of Melee out of the way and with Super Smash Bros. Brawl coming up, the Ice Climbers had one unquestionable king: Chu Dat. To this date, he is the only Ice Climbers player to ever win a national title (Pound 2).

Flying High, No Lie (mid 2008 to early 2013):
Notable players: Wobbles, Fly Amanita, Chu Dat, Nintendude, Boback, Tomber

Although Chu Dat was still talented and showed up at bigger tournaments (later finishing third at Zenith 2012, beating Hungrybox), moving onto Brawl as a Kirby main certainly drew his time away from Melee. This opened up the path for other top Ice Climbers players to develop new strategies and grow new legacies.

Starting off as one of the rising players within Southern California, Fly Amanita rarely traveled for Melee, but quickly started taking names, even winning a set over Mango’s Captain Falcon in early 2009. Although this doesn’t sound too impressive, this was at a time when Mango easily destroyed most of his contemporaries with secondaries. Taking games off any of his characters was certainly noteworthy.

Ranked No. 9 in the SoCal PR in 2009, Fly Amanita eventually made it to No. 5 in 2010, just below Mango, HugS, Zhu and Lucky, surpassing even the veteran Larry Lurr. By the end of the year, Fly Amanita also boasted a set win over Hungrybox – and he beat Mew2King and Zhu at Winter Gamefest in early 2011.

There’s a common misconception that Fly Amanita chooses not to wobble because he thinks it’s unfair. In fact, he’s gone on record as saying that he’d wobble every stock if he could, but doesn’t because he played in an era where most of the tournaments he attended banned wobbling. As a result, he lost his natural rhythm for the wobble.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Though series like GENESIS consistently allowed wobbling, Apex used to ban it, along with Pound and Don’t Go Down There Jeff. Keep in mind that at this point, even stages weren’t completely agreed upon. Some of the more unusual stages, like Corneria, Rainbow Cruise and Brinstar, had features that made wobbling impractical in some situations. 

Nonetheless, Fly was a pioneer in different handoff setups. While Wobbles is technically the first top player to use handoffs, Fly innovated them far beyond what was initially seen, showing a keener sense for what Nana would do in different situations, like near ledge.

Closer to the South, Wobbles had been around for a while, even taking a set off Ken in late 2007 at Super Champ Combo – just after Ken won EVO. But up to this point, Wobbles was mostly a second tier West Coast player with decent national results and strong regional performances. NCT2 was his breakout tournament for recognition, but Wobbles got even better in the post-Brawl era.

After moderate disappointments at Pound 3 and The Greatest Melee Tourney Since Brawl Came Out, Wobbles returned to form at Mango Juice, where he outplaced Lucky, Forward, Taj, Pink Shinobi, and HugS en route to a strong fourth place finish. It’s easy to remember Wobbles’ performance at this tournament for his infamous ragequit to close a set against SilentSpectre, but this was still a great run for him.

At Apex 2010, Wobbles placed sixth (forfeiting the tiebreaker to Axe), beating Mango (sandbagging as Scorpion Master), DaShizWiz and Silent Wolf. A year later, Wobbles finished a strong ninth at GENESIS 2, even defeating Mew2King, Lovage and Axe in pools. To prove the win over Mew2King wasn’t a fluke, Wobbles beat him again at Apex 2012, where he placed ninth, losing to Dr. PeePee and Hungrybox.

This marked three straight years for Wobbles where he placed top 12 at a national tournament. In the short-lived ELO rankings of 2012, Wobbles actually ranked ahead of Mango as the No. 5 player in the world, likely due to his consistently outstanding national performances and Mango’s penchant for sandbagging.

For most people, this would be satisfactory – but for Wobbles, three years of strong nationals was only the beginning. After an unfortunate Peach-ridden bracket at Apex 2013 garnered him 17th place, Wobbles had one of the best losers bracket runs of all time at Kings of Cali 2, defeating Sung, Westballz, Fly Amanita, PewPewU and Shroomed to get second place to Mango.

As if that wasn’t enough, Wobbles then had one of the greatest cinderella runs in Melee history – one that was initially going to be his last tournament ever.

The Wobbler Era (mid 2013 to now)
Notable players: Chu Dat, Wobbles, Nintendude, dizzkidboogie, Infinite Numbers, ARMY, Drunk Sloth

Wobbles’ run at EVO 2013 may as well transcend time and space. To even conceive of such a tournament from a non-god at the time was ridiculous, considering that Jman was the only person to ever win a tournament with two gods in attendance – no one had ever come close with all five.

Through winners bracket, Wobbles defeated Fiction, Lord, Shroomed and then beat three gods in a row between Mango, Dr. PeePee and Hungrybox to make it to grand finals of easily the most important Melee tournament of all-time. This was the first time an Ice Climbers finished top three at a national tournament featuring four or more attending top five players since Chu Dat in the previous decade. Had Wobbles actually won the tournament, it would have surpassed even Mango at Pound 3 as the biggest underdog run ever.

Though it would be foolish to dismiss Wobbles’ run as a mere account of Mr. Wizard legalizing wobbling again at EVO 2013, it unquestionably played a factor into Wobbles’ success. It also proved that the Ice Climbers had a place in the modern metagame, but weren’t necessarily overpowered with the technique.

Not every tournament was on board with wobbling being legal. Juggleguy, creator of The Big House and one of the Melee community’s biggest tournament organizers, banned it at his tournaments.

However, after a little over a year of community pressure, with tourneys like Apex now legalizing wobbling, along with Ice Climbers still succeeding at his own tournaments without it, Juggleguy caved in. Though he still stood by some of the reasons he held for why he banned wobbling, in a blog post for Melee it On Me, he announced his intention to legalize it for The Big House 5.

Although this hasn’t stopped the decade-long community debate over wobbling’s legality, Juggleguy’s decision concurred with Mr. Wizard’s from 2013 and effectively set the standard for most majors. As a result, the Ice Climbers have seen a bit of a renaissance, with more top level representatives across the world than ever before.

Along with players like dizzkidboogie and Infinite Numbers, who have risen in recent times with other wobbling prodigies, the character’s greatest player of all-time is back: Chu Dat.

Moreover, he’s at the best he’s ever played, consistently placing top eight, boasting a solo climber better than anyone else in the world, taking games off Armada in tournament, winning three consecutive sets on Mango and generally making 2017 look like 2007. You’d be hard pressed to dismiss Chu’s results as unsustainable or coming from only wobbling, given his long-term legacy.

At one point in his career, Wobbles wrote about why he was reluctant to wobble, even in tournament. You can read the post here, but the gist was that Ice Climber players had a tendency to rely on it too much and struggle in other areas of their game, like tech chasing, DI, etc because they were too one dimensional.

Today, not only are Ice Climbers players more intelligent, balanced and varied in their wobbling setups, but they also have other tools that keep them successful, even if they don’t opt to do it. For example, take Infinite Numbers, whose game against Falco is so strong that he once boasted how he’d never lose to a Falco again. 

It’s hard to say whether Ice Climbers are actually top tier or not. By results, they are inarguably up there, but many argue about how sustainable their success actually can be at the top level. Just as easily as they can exploit a grab infinite, players can still exploit many of the Ice Climbers’ weaknesses, making them an innately high variance characters. Ask Kira and Mew2King about where they’d place them on a tier list and you’d get two wildly different answers.

Whether they’re simply a high-execution test level opponent or a broken gimmick, the Ice Climbers are here to stay – and they deserve a place in top tier history.

Top Tier History: Peach

Peach may look like a helpless princess, but she’s a force to reckon with in Super Smash Bros. Melee. A mainstay of competitive play, Peach is one of the most consistently high-placing, played and influential characters in Melee’s metagame.

Although she may not be technically “top tier” by the current Melee tier list, today’s smashers view the character as synonymous to Armada: the world’s unquestionably best Melee player of all-time. However, Peach’s success and impact was present even before Armada.

Downsmashers (late 2001 to mid 2004):
Notable players: Mike G, KrazyJones, Azen, Eric, Vidjogamer

Peach’s downsmash is possibly her most recognizable move in the game. You don’t have to be an expert to know that when used correctly, it can work as a combo starter, “get off me” defensive tool and combo finisher. In one of the oldest guides for Peach available online, a GameFAQs player called “SPACE CATS SOIREE” wrote the following about Peach’s downsmash:

Spinning cyclone attack. Very useful to clear out foes if you are
ambushed. Also good if you and your opponent roll around a lot. This is also
one of her strongest moves and should be used often.

His description of downsmash is pretty much spot on for 2002. Because strong hitboxes, range and knockback were prioritized over movement back then, Peach’s downsmash gave her a tool to already compete with anyone else she faced.

Moreover, because crossup moves on shield were seen as a counter to a popular strategy of shield grabbing, Peach’s dash attack gave her yet another effective attack. When combined with the strength of her aerials and range of her projectiles, Peach was a character that had intuitive spacing and combos. Her float also gave her one of the game’s best recoveries, as well as made her difficult to hit without her getting away or suffering a trade.

After initially being placed at ninth on Melee’s October 2002 tier list, she eventually moved up to fourth on the next one in December. Characters like Sheik, Fox and Marth were almost always seen as superior throughout Melee’s history, but Peach’s success and solid matchup spread gave her a wealth of advantages over other characters, like the Ice Climbers and arguably even Falco.

Within the modern competitive era of Melee (post-Game Over in early 2004), Peach’s first notable finish at a major from her main came from Deadly Alliance’s Mike G, who is often considered one of the character’s forefathers. He finished second at MLG Atlanta 2004, higher than Chillin, who defeated Ken earlier that year, and just under the East Coast’s best in Azen.

Around June 2004 came Smash 4 Cash – a New York Melee tournament that featured some of MDVA’s best, DA and the Fall River crew from Massachusetts. Here, a player named KrazyJones, from New England, upset the DA captain Wes, who had practice against Mike G. Though KrazyJones ended up placing fourth, Mike G placed second, just under Isai.

Two months later, Peach was shown as a character capable of beating even the best player in the world, with Washington’s Sastopher defeating Ken’s Marth in winners at Tournament Go 6. Keep in mind that at this point, Marth was seen as Peach’s most difficult matchup. For a modern comparison, this victory would be like if Trifasia suddenly defeated Hungrybox before top eight at EVO.

Royal Treatment (Mid 2004 to Late 2007):
Notable players: Cort, PC Chris, Sastopher, Mike G, Vidjogamer, Kei, Wife, Kupo, Mikael, Mikey Lenetia

Unlike other top tier characters of the time who had one or two clear contenders for best representatives, Peach was different. During the MLG era, nearly every region had a Peach that played differently, was among the best players of their contemporaries and were close in skill level.

For instance, take Wife, who was considered around a top 20 player at the time, but consistently attended MLG tournaments enough to finish in the top ten for points. At the time, he was known for his immense prowess in the Marth matchup, notably almost defeating Ken at MLG Atlanta 2005.

If Wife’s moderate success wasn’t enough, the international success of East Australia’s Kupo and East Japan’s Mikael gave another perspective to view Peach’s character growth through. These players were dominant in their respect regions, rarely losing and also giving the character its first bit of notable representation outside of the United States. Mikael was especially one of Armada’s biggest motivations for improving his game.

Another underrated contributor to the Peach metagame is Australia’s Quetzlcoatl, who frequently posted on Smashboards and gave advice to newer Peach players. In July 2006, Quetzlcoatl posted one of the most notable and still-useful resources for smashers in his extensive turnip guide.

This set the bar for what would later become standard Peach techniques, including using them as edgeguards, Z-dropping, etc. When you take into account Peach players also now adjusting their float heights, going off-stage to edgeguard opponents and also using turnips more effectively, Peach now had a new level of technicality, in sharp contrast to her previously simplistic playstyle.

Also helping Peach’s success was how she was perceived on her counterpick stages. Today, stages like Dreamland and Fountain of Dreams are seen as favorable Peach picks, but back in the MLG era, she also had Brinstar, Mute City and Kongo Jungle 64. These were seen as great counterpicks against space animals and places with large ceilings, which prevented opponents from getting easy KOs and also made her frustrating to play against.

The Armada Mob (Early 2008 to early 2014):
Notable players: Armada, Cort, Vwins, Pink Shinobi, VanZ, DoH, Hanky Panky, MacD, Bladewise

I’ll try not to go into too much detail, but chances are that you’re already familiar with Melee’s greatest player ever. When word started getting out about his skill and dominance in Europe, reception was mostly skeptical in the United States, as Europe lacked significant representation (outside of Amsah) within the Melee scene.

Back then, several smashers argued that his combos only worked on opponents who couldn’t DI or didn’t know how to fight Peach. Given the massive amount of notable Peach players in the United States, it wasn’t unreasonable to think Armada was talented, but you would have been crazy to predict his success translating seamlessly as it did to the top-level.

Think about how young Armada was at the time. Could you imagine that a teenager from Sweden, with no experience playing in the United States, could come there and beat all of the world’s established players in one fell swoop? Peach wasn’t anywhere close to being a bad character, but Armada brought a level of meticulous positioning, destructive punishes and mental grit that no other Peach before had ever had.

With most characters, several players contributed equal amounts to their technical development and tournament results, like Ken and Mew2King with Marth and PC Chris and Leffen with Fox. Yet with Peach, it was more like a group of players each contributed to the rise of a person who far surpassed his contemporaries.

A top eight performance at a major wasn’t initially unthinkable for Peach, but beating DaShizWiz, Mew2King and Mango en route to a second place at GENESIS was the most significant tournament run for the character in years. If you’ve followed Melee for any period of time and know anything about its competitive history, you know that this was just the beginning for Armada.

It would be unfair to claim that he was the only Peach of note – or that there were no other good Peach players. DoH and Smiles were notable powershielders with aggressive play styles, while people like Vwins, VanZ and Pink Shinobi were more defensive and able to swing of Peach’s more traditionally tricky matchups (like Ganondorf) swing more in her favor. Often, it’s easy to “Armada-wash” Peach’s history, as these players and the Peaches before them played a crucial role in advancing her as a character. For reference, I had Cort as my No. 3 player of 2008, based on results.

But while it’s not true that Armada’s success somehow invalidated them, he was clearly different. For smashers back then, Armada looked like he had actually solved Peach, since he was winning matchups that many thought were at least her soft counters (Fox, Marth, Sheik, etc).

Any Peach main could tell you something different that Armada does from other Peaches, but in a nutshell he’s faster and more responsive. His success in the post-Brawl era, where shield pressure was becoming more advanced, was also partially due to out of shield game, which was years ahead of its time in terms of application and how he’d quickly flip losing situations into ones where he could turn the table on his opponent.

Armada’s success with Peach gave a strange conundrum with how she was considered. While he had wins over nearly everyone in America with Peach, only one player looked like the natural Armada and Peach counter: Hungrybox, who dominantly 6-0’d him at Apex 2010. Peach was clearly good, but not exactly carrying him.

When Armada successfully brought out Young Link to counter Jigglypuff, it proved two things: that Armada was just that good and that Peach could still be countered. Outside of maybe Pikachu with Axe and Yoshi with aMSa, I would argue that Armada is the only all-time great whose character is primarily associated with him, rather than vice versa.

Yet even when Armada first retired, Peach still had strong representatives. MacD, a Southern California Peach player who broke out at Revival of Melee (3) when he defeated Hax, was known for both his teams excellence and for his expertise against Fox and Falco. Washington’s Bladewise, who ruled his region with Silent Wolf continued to be one of the premier Peach players in the world, having also taken a set from Mango in 2012.

Top Tier? (Mid 2014 to now):
Notable players: Armada, MacD, Bladewise, Trifasia, Mafia, Azusa, CDK, Llod and Kalamazhu

Judging by representation, it’s hard to deny Peach’s place in the current meta. Almost every region has its own top-level Peach, with a claim to be right under Armada as part of the next tier of skill.

Trifasia and Vanity Angel in particular are not exactly identical to Armada, but as European Peach mains, they still show a great deal of inspiration from his punish-heavy and deliberate play style. New England’s Mafia has a reputation as a rushdown Peach, but is well balanced in his skill set, having taken sets off Jigglypuff players Darc and s0ft: a matchup that Armada claimed was the most lopsided among top tier characters (though it’s still debated today).

MDVA has Llod, who Smash G0D – a man who took Armada to last stock, last game at EVO 2016 – called the best Peach against Marth in the world. NorCal’s two Peach players: Kalamazhu and Azusa also are underrated, with Kalamazhu notably making a legendary ninth place run at The Big House 4: the third of the tournament series’ notable Peach runs (VanZ at TBH and Hanky Panky at TBH2).

In practice, Peach seems to be doing just fine, but her sixth place ranking on the current NTSC tier list shows a character that’s still not quite respected enough to be technically considered “top tier.”

However, her matchups among the top tiers are concerning for her long-term goals. Though Peach-Falco is intensely debated to this day (with even Armada claiming that Falco slightly wins), in theory, she still struggles against Fox, Marth, Sheik, Jigglypuff, and Captain Falcon. Against Leffen in particular, Armada’s Peach was so thoroughly dismantled during his return from his initial retirement that now Armada opts to ditto him. This was years after dominating Leffen in their head to head.

So is Peach top tier or not? The truth is more ambiguous than a simple “yes” or “no.” It’s important to consider that Armada’s Peach to this day is the most terrifying player/character combination in the world, but if he runs into Leffen or Hungrybox (maybe healthy PPMD), he almost assuredly would have played Fox instead. Winning GENESIS 4 attests to both Armada’s skill, Peach’s ability as a character, but also her need for a bit of bracket luck in today’s metagame.

Regardless of whether you view her as top tier, high tier or just hate her, you have to admit that Peach’s impact on Melee’s history has been pretty sweet.

Top Tier History: Jigglypuff

For most people who play Super Smash Bros. Melee, Jigglypuff is an equally adorable alternative to Kirby, but for competitors, she’s quite a bit more. Melee enthusiasts are well-accustomed to her immortality within the game’s tournament history.

Before becoming a mainstay within the Super Smash Bros. franchise, Jigglypuff was popular within the Pokemon franchise, known as Purin in Japan. Her success was notable because of her franchise’s boom within the late 90s and early 00s, thanks to the television show’s and video game series’ popularity.

Though she gained a little bit of criticism for having a, well, simple appearance, Jigglypuff was still beloved, leading to her inclusion within the original Super Smash Bros. Here, she’s the game’s first unlockable character.

Although she isn’t as good as Kirby, mostly due to not having as good frame data, Jigglypuff still has quite a few tricks you can use. Most notably, her down-B, also known as “rest,” was a great combo finisher, able to end opponents’ stocks relatively early.

Better than Kirby (late 2001 to late 2003):
Notable players: Anden, KishPrime, Grid

After Melee’s release, both Jigglypuff and Kirby switched roles in terms of dominance. While Kirby lost all his ground speed and was severely nerfed, Jigglypuff gained greater aerial mobility within Melee’s engine, bigger hitboxes and greater power in her attacks.

Although she was initially seen as within the bottom half of the cast, due to her extremely slow dashing speed and light weight, it soon became clear that Melee complemented Jigglypuff far more than its predecessor. Previously, her floaty characteristics made her easy to knock off stage, edge guard and maintain positioning against. In Melee, her buffed aerial mobility gave Jigglypuff a distinct advantage.

Moreover, she still had rest, which was now harder to hit, but also even more powerful, adding eight percent more damage and also having even more knockback. Jigglypuff also had one other move that made her dangerous to deal with in the neutral game: her back air. Having ridiculous range and speed, this attack also did double-digit damage, meaning that getting hit by multiple back airs could quickly build up percent.

It’s easy to see why people might have hated playing against Jigglypuff. Her ability to safely poke her opponents and endlessly space retreating aerials eventually became known as “the Wall of Pain,” though this term isn’t used as much any more.

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 3.26.14 PM.png
The December 19, 2002 NTSC tier list, per SSBWiki.
Puff Stuff and Puff Struggles (early 2004 to mid 2006)
Notable players: AOB, KillaOR, KishPrime, KishSquared

Though  Jigglypuff was a bit of a nuisance for less experienced players, she still wasn’t seen as favorably as characters like Sheik, Fox, Falco or even Marth, as shown by Ken’s success. However, it soon became clear that the character had quite a devastating combo game if she could get started.

In January 2004, a Melee video maker, tournament organizer and Jigglypuff player by the name of AOB released a combo video called “PuffStuff.” To this day, it’s one of the earliest examples of a combo video ever, along with being one of the first examples of a video showing players how to use their character.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If anyone has the original version of this video, with the proper music, please post it! I wasn’t able to find a working link.

Along with showcasing Jigglypuff’s ability to combo well in the air, AOB showed simple edge guard techniques with Jigglypuff, along with her ability to weave in and out of her opponents’ space. Using even basic moves like her crouch to duck grabs and the range of her forward smash, AOB essentially innovated how to use Jigglypuff – even if he wasn’t her top-level representation.

For Jigglypuff players, this video was the equivalent of Shined Blind for Fox players. Rather than just being seen as a campy character, based around defensively walling out opponents and playing conservatively, Jigglypuff now had deadly mixups and combos that could lead to early stocks. Upthrow rest on both Fox and Falco was now becoming more standardized, along with combos like uptilt rest, upair rest and any flurry of aerials off stage.

Of course, the character didn’t immediately benefit. After a quick April Fools Joke by the Melee backroom put Jigglypuff as Melee’s second best character in early 2004 (due to her “ruling the air”), future iterations of it estimated her impact on the meta fairly conservatively. Ranked beneath characters like Peach, Captain Falcon and Samus, Jigglypuff still had a way to go before national recognition.

That didn’t mean she lacked success. In October of 2005, KillaOR, a Jigglypuff main from New York and member of Deadly Alliance, became the first player to ever to be sponsored by MLG. Along with being featured on MTV, KillaOR also is given credit for his pound to rest combo on Balefireboy at the FC3 regional crew battles, along with his third at MLG Los Angeles 2005.

However, as KishPrime details in his “Melee History Lesson” post on Smashboards, these three years signified a bit of a dark time for Jigglypuff.

Following MELEE-FC3, when the highest placing Jigglypuffs were only able to manage 65th place, it was a bleak time for the character. Most Jigglypuff players started giving her up for good, including long time Jigglypuff mainstays KillaOR and AOB, and I myself put considerable effort into other characters again.

KishPrime also brought up how the stagelist was particularly unfavorable toward Jigglypuff. Because stages like Green Greens, Corneria and other low-ceiling stages were still around, Jigglypuff could easily lose a stock and have to play from behind. With Fox and Falco players now being inspired by technical mains like Zelgadis and Bombsoldier, it felt like AOB’s path for Jigglypuff was fairly limited.

However, as KishPrime noted later, once many of these stages started being banned, the character started doing a lot better. AOB’s path for the character was just the beginning.

The Villain of Melee (early 2006 to mid 2010)
Notable players: Mango, Hungrybox, The King, Darc, Raistlin,

Before moving into the more well-known names, let’s talk about the birth of aggressive Jigglypuff. Hailing from the famous West Coast crew DBR and originally from Calgary, Alberta, The King was a source of inspiration for Jigglypuff mains.

Creatively coming up with combos like nair-rest, using drill as an edgeguarding tool and being far more proactive in how he approached his opponents, The King broke out at MLG Dallas 2006, beating players like Tink, Dope and NEO en route to a fifth place performance: a notable breakout for the character. He also was an avid Smashboards poster, regularly answering questions about his character and giving matchup advice online.

Even as the character still had up and down showings, one particular Jigglypuff main was inspired enough to begin playing her in tournament a lot more. Ever heard of Mango?

While he did this with all of his characters, Mango’s Jigglypuff was deadly because of how she showcased his ability to mix up subtle attack timings to condition his opponent and exploit them. Mango both reactively covered what his opponents did in these situations and went for flashy reads, showcasing Jigglypuff as the best she had ever been seen.

After shocking the world by initially defeating Mew2King and Ken in his third place showing at EVO World 2007, Mango proceeded to finish third at Super Champ Combo (defeating PC Chris in winners) and then deliver Melee’s greatest losers bracket run ever at Pound 3, in what was supposed to be Melee’s final national tournament.

At the time, many dismissed the tournament as a fluke – or at least just proof that no one knew how to deal with Jigglypuff. But at Revival of Melee, he beat Mew2King so badly with Jigglypuff that he played Falco in grand finals just because Mew2King begged him to play someone else. It became clear that not only was Mango legitimately better than everyone else, but his character was also extremely deadly.

A bit after Mango’s rise to prominence, Hungrybox soon became the best in his state, eventually becoming a mainstay in national top eights. This is especially impressive because of how people intensely hated Jigglypuff, often underseeding her mains or straight up rigging brackets to give them unfavorable matchups, like when Hungrybox was matched up against Mango in GENESIS a round before winners quarters.

In contrast to Mango’s aggression, Hungrybox had a knack for simply zoning better than his opponents and playing patiently and defensively. In contrast to Mango, who went for extended combos and rests out of shield when threatened, Hungrybox often chose to back air safely from his opponents and maintain a long range, making him difficult to hit.

This garnered both Hungrybox and Jigglypuff derision. Mango himself hated how Hungrybox was “gimmicking” his way to victory by playing passively and abusing Jigglypuff’s frustrating strengths. For a long time, Mango and others in the community begrudgingly admitted Hungrybox’s results, but not his overall skill.

From Pound 3 to Apex 2010, Jigglypuff won every single notable major, including the Revival of Melee, GENESIS, Revival of Melee 2 and Pound 4. That’s a six tournament stretch for a character’s success – the most Melee had seen since Ken’s reign with Marth. At Revival of Melee 2, the tournament’s top eight had more Jigglypuff representatives than any other character, with Darc, one of New England’s best at the time, as its lowest placer at a still-impressive fifth.

In the game’s 2010 tier list, she was originally tied for first with Fox and Falco, but the results clearly showed that Jigglypuff was then easily the game’s most successful character in the post-Brawl era. Most people agreed that she wasn’t ban-worthy, but many hated how relatively easy her combos were to execute and how simplistic her playstyle looked.

The Gatekeeper: late 2010 to mid 2015
Notable mains: Hungrybox, Darc, s0ft, Tekk, BlueFoxXT

Around this period of time, Mango stopped playing Jigglypuff in tournament, now playing his secondaries (Mario, Captain Falcon and Marth), Falco or Fox. Part of this was because he wanted to prove that Jigglypuff didn’t carry him, but he also lacked faith in the character, at numerous times saying that he thought she was overrated.

Even as players like Darc and s0ft managed to do well, Jigglypuff slowly became figured out a lot more. Hungrybox was her only consistent representation at the top level – and with the threat of Armada’s Young Link, along with Hungrybox losing to KirbyKaze at Apex 2012, Jigglypuff slowly became more exploitable herself. Even Doctor Mario and Ice Climbers were seen as a tough matchups for her by the 2013 matchup chart.

Hungrybox continued to do well and place consistently at each national, but his frequent losses to Mango, Dr. PeePee and Armada illustrated a barrier for his character. To this day, Armada’s Young Link is the only character that Hungrybox has ever attempted a serious counterpick against, trying Ness and Fox in different times.

At The Big House 3, Hungrybox lost his first set in years to Mew2King and was dominantly put down in grand finals, making people wonder if even the former “gatekeeper,” who notoriously struggled against Jigglypuff, had figured out how to abuse her.

Though s0ft’s out-of-nowhere seventh place showing at Apex 2014 showed that there was still hope, Hungrybox’s overall decline gave a different picture. With Leffen now posing as yet another threat to consistently beat him, other Fox players like Lucky began to give Hungrybox fits or close calls in bracket, even as he finished second at EVO 2014 (finally overcoming Armada’s Young Link).

However, Hungrybox’s seventh place at MLG Anaheim 2014 and ninth place at The Big House 4 showed both a god – and his character – on the way out. Moreover, at Apex 2014, Mango’s attempt to play Jigglypuff against Mew2King also failed, showing that the most dominant Jigglypuff player in Melee history was both rusty and perhaps not as well-translated to the modern Melee era.

After initially silencing Jigglypuff doubters at Paragon Orlando 2015, Hungrybox faltered at a lackluster fifth place performance at Apex 2015, losing to Armada in losers and PewPewU in winners: the first time a Marth had defeated Hungrybox in years. As Hungrybox continued to struggle, losing to Lucky at Press Start and remaining mostly an underdog against Leffen, the Paragon Orlando title looked more like the exception for an era in which Jigglypuff struggled.

With many wondering if Jigglypuff had a successful future, Tafokints announced his June 2015 tier list, in which he listed Jigglypuff in the same tier as Captain Falcon, Ice Climbers, Peach and Pikachu.

This sounds unreasonable, but think about how it looked at the time for Jigglypuff. Leffen, Mango, Armada’s new Fox and almost every second-tier Fox were scary propositions for any Jigglypuff player in bracket. With Hungrybox also having dropped sets to Plup, Colbol, Wizzrobe and Westballz, the character looked like she had no way to safely approach her opponents.

In particular, people learned to abuse her lack of ground mobility and light weight, with many characters like Marth and Sheik playing the neutral game with far more discipline than in the past. Some hypothesized that Jigglypuff’s path toward success involved stalling and timing out her opponents instead of only aiming to take their stocks out.

According to Captain Crunch, Hungrybox’s coach and best friend, around CEO 2015, the Florida Jigglypuff considered quitting Melee because he felt that Jigglypuff couldn’t win any more. Yet with the help of his hometown friend Crunch, Hungrybox showed refined execution of previous Jigglypuff ideas and new ones, could prove Jigglypuff as a force to be reckoned with.

Crouching Puff, Hidden Monster (mid 2015 to now):
Notable mains: Hungrybox, Prince Abu, 4%, PsychoMidget, 2Saint, Envy, Aglet

Unlike other representatives for their characters, Hungrybox didn’t innovate as much as he showed the kind of unbreakable discipline, consistency and execution that Jigglypuff needed to succeed in the modern, Fox-ravaged, punish-game heavy era.

Known previously as a passive player, preferring to back air safely from his opponents when threatened or conceding stage position, Hungrybox’s first anti-Fox strategy involved a whole lot of camping. For example, at FC Return, he defeated Armada through taking a lead, camping the ledge and simply waiting for his opponents to get impatient.

Many at the time wondered if this strategy was even effective as much as it was psychologically annoying, but at EVO 2015, Hungrybox’s renowned patience and discipline rewarded him.

It gave him the edge over his arch nemesis Mango, who gave his own stocks by accident while trying to pursue Hungrybox on the ledge. To prove it wasn’t a fluke, Hungrybox defeated him yet again at The Big House 5. If you’ve been following the scene from 2016 onward, you know the rest – Hungrybox won a flurry of titles, including EVO 2016 and finished the year as the world No. 2 player.

It’s easy to dismiss Hungrybox’s success as him playing campy and exploiting his opponent’s mistakes, but you could argue that his resurgence – along with Jigglypuff’s resurgence – came because of how aggressively he converted off hits.  Outside of maybe Armada with Peach and Mew2King with Marth, no one has consistently pushed the limits of their character’s punish game as much as Hungrybox, who converts off grabs as brutally as anyone in the world. Furthermore, with more Fox’s attempting to camp Jigglypuff, she’s often forced to approach, causing a player like Hungrybox to “optimize” her neutral game and find ways to win skirmishes with her tool set.

It would also be silly to ignore the massive amount of modern resources for the Jigglypuff meta. Both contributing to Hungrybox’s success, as well as being influenced by it, the popular blog “Alex’s Puff Stuff” remains a valuable tool for all Melee players, as well as holding far more forward-thinking and influential ideas about the future of Jigglypuff in Melee. If you’d like to learn more, I highly recommend this blog for more modern Jigglypuff insight than I could ever go into.

Today, players like Armada and Mew2King have the character within their top three, pointing to her rest setups, powerful edgeguarding ability and Hungrybox’s success as proof of the character’s potential. However, some are fairly skeptical of her often pointing out that despite her theoretical ability, Hungrybox is still the only Jigglypuff to enter the highest echelon of play. Additionally, many are now wondering if Wizzrobe’s latest victories over Hungrybox are proof of the character perhaps struggling against Captain Falcon.

Either way, consider some of Melee’s biggest moments. Perhaps it’s hindsight, but almost all of Melee’s most memorable moments involve Jigglypuff, whether it’s the GENESIS grand finals, EVO 2016 grand finals, Mango’s Arwing rest at Pound 3 or the first MLG-sponsored player to be a Jigglypuff.

There’s a lot about this pink puffball, one that’s kept Melee’s legacy growing. Maybe instead of killing Melee, as many initially thought in the post-Brawl era, it’s only added to the game’s rich, immortal history.