At the Super Smash Bros. major open Riptide last weekend, a spotlight was shone on the oft-neglected Melee Doubles format. Familiar names rounded out the top three teams: Plup and Hungrybox, Wizzrobe and Gahtzu, and iBDW and SFAT. Coming in as a dark horse in fourth place, however, were two names you might not know. Seeded to place 17th, Tempo and xRunRiot made a huge splash in Sandusky, causing many to wonder just where they came from and how they’re able to hang with the most formidable teams in the game.
Rivals Make Unlikely Teammates
Calvin “Tempo” Taylor started playing Melee in 2013 in northern New Jersey. An extremely competent singles player, he’s taken wins over Tri-State talent like 2Saint, JFlex, and theSWOOPER, but is hardly ever eligible for power rankings in his region. His real passion for Melee has always been in Doubles, due to its complexity and “the amount of things in Doubles that are physically impossible in Singles.” Tempo found enjoyment in Melee through Doubles online, hosted on delay-based netcode through the Anther’s Ladder website. On this website is where he would first meet his eventual teammate, xRunRiot.
Joseph “xRunRiot” Saunders got into Melee in 2014 after watching “The Smash Brothers” documentary. Uninterested in competing in his local scene, he began by playing Pikachu on netplay with an Xbox 360 controller. He would join an online east coast crew and begin teaming with MD/VA Fox main Milkman, who encouraged him to learn the character as well. xRunRiot and Tempo recall having met on delay-based netplay several times in 2016, but never teaming with each other, only on opposing teams. A friendly rivalry brewed for several years in the restrictive delay-based environment, until 2021 with the emergence of rollback Melee Doubles. Both testers of the beta, xRunRiot messaged Tempo to join a lobby one day. The two played out a session for the first time as a team, during which they executed what they remember as “an insane, double-digit teams combo.” Tempo’s finishing up air, unfortunately, did not kill, at which point xRunRiot paused the game to message Tempo, “Did you really end our amazing combo with a damn up air? What’s wrong with you??” The two found the moment inspirational and hilarious and decided to continue as a static team.
The Team Picks Up Steam
The two would practice as a team for several months without entering any events. Tempo eventually urged xRunRiot to enter the Allston Melee Bender on April 4th, and in their bracket debut, they would place 1st, beating top teams such as Rishi and lloD, JFlex and theSWOOPER, and Aklo and foxy grandpa. After a run of first and second placings in other online events, the two were picked up by Pulse Gaming, with xRunRiot being the first player signed to the team. Their jersey numbers, 1 and 5, reference January 5th, the first day they played on the same team.
Tempo and xRunRiot entered a handful of large Melee Doubles brackets over the course of Summer 2021, never placing lower than third. Wielding a Fox-Sheik team composition, which they both believe to be the best in the format, they attribute their success to their familiarity with the format and how similar their thought processes are. Interestingly, they rarely ever verbally communicate in-game, both being confident they are on the same page as their teammate and that they will both know the best option in any situation. Additionally, xRunRiot would say “What I like about when we team is that we both care, which is an important start. You’d think that’d be an easy start, both teammates caring about improving, but it’s not.” These aspects combined allow them to create and execute solid game plans, which xRunRiot claims is the difference between the good teams and the great teams.
See Them on LAN
Following up on their summer performances, the two decided to travel to the LAN major Riptide. Their 17th seed “motivated” them, in their words, to do all they could to put on their best performance. The team would practice Doubles at every opportunity, playing well into the night and cutting into their sleep schedules. xRunRiot would seek out lessons from legendary teams players Armada and Darkatma and give the lessons to Tempo secondhand. There were certainly aspects in the LAN environment that the two needed to adjust to, including playing on the stage, in front of hundreds of viewers, and next to each other in person for the first time ever. Reflecting on reaching Winner’s side Top 8 after defeating the teams Panda and Krudo and Silver and Twisty, Tempo would say: “The nerves start kicking in, you become more self-aware…and that’s where we started to struggle. The hardest part to deal with was staying grounded and playing the best we could.” Both agreed that they were satisfied with their 4th place finish, while their last-game loss in the losers bracket to Wizzrobe and Gahtzu was definitely heartbreaking. “We went back and watched our sets,” said Tempo, “and at that level, it’s just one or two mistakes that cost you the set.”
Overall, they were happy to prove that their online performances weren’t flukes. Tempo remarked, “News to anyone who doubted us, we actually know what we’re doing.” They hope to replicate their performance at the upcoming GENESIS 8, saying they were excited to face off against the static teams on the west coast.
Why They Love Doubles – and Why You Should Too
Tempo and xRunRiot are, without a doubt, the most passionate active Melee Doubles team. When asked what drives this love for the format, they would say the following:
“Why do something by yourself when you can do it with your best friend? Think about days when we used to play Halo, Call of Duty, Mario Party, whatever the game was, you’re always playing it with someone and you’re having fun because you’re doing it with someone else. Games are only as fun as the people you’re playing them with, so you can either have an experience that’s, you know, just okay, or you could be laughing and having the time of your life and loving every second. And that’s how I see Melee Doubles, I grew up on fighting games, I love Melee and it’s one of the only games that has teams in it. You’re telling me I can play this game I love to death with my friends, and we can beat someone up and feel that feeling of winning together? I’m always convinced that people who don’t like teams, they either don’t know how to play it, but often just haven’t found the right person to play teams with.”
“It’s special. Melee Doubles is so unbelievably nuanced and deep, and to be in sync with your teammate in every situation, to work on it and talk about it out of game, both of you win together. Having a teammate, it’s like having no one else. I don’t really team with anyone else because it’s just not the same, it’s not the same in-game conversations, it’s not the same game plans. But when it’s you and your buddy who worked really hard, beating two other people together, it’s like nothing else. The combos are sicker, in my opinion, but also the things Doubles rewards you for, like positioning correctly, are more fun to me. When I play good players in Singles I don’t feel I’m rewarded as much for deliberate decisions, but with Doubles I like that those are rewarded more.”
Both agreed that teams, in its current state, feels like a dying art. They attribute this to more top players becoming less interested in it over the years, as well as majors no longer hosting Doubles Finals on Sundays, and prestigious events like Smash Summit doing away with Melee Doubles after 2019. They believe Doubles doesn’t get the respect it deserves, mostly due to widespread community belief that the format is flawed or “less real” than Singles. To these people, Tempo and xRunRiot encourage them to give it an honest chance, find friends or make new friends through the format, and try to experience the feeling of improving and winning with friends. It may take some time, but they’re sure you’ll come around.
Tempo and xRunRiot would like to publicly give thanks to their sponsor Team Pulse, enzyme, who originally integrated doubles into rollback Melee, and their Doubles practice partners in the Crack Shack. xRunRiot also thanked the community hosted in the Dub Hub Discord server, a public resource and matchmaking server for Melee Doubles created by xRunRiot that will be linked below. Tempo also thanked Team Space, the crew that originally brought him into Melee. We at toptier thank both Tempo and xRunRiot for their time in contributing information for this piece.
Thumbnail courtesy of GDubs, who can be found at @GDubs___ on Twitter