Eight Matches We Should See at The Octagon: 2022

By on August 21, 2022

Screenshot of Melee gameplay between Zain and Mang0 from Octagon 2

Recently, the esports organization Golden Guardians posted the below tweet, teasing a return of their annual exhibition series, The Octagon.

Typically played online, this series has hosted first-to-five sets between a variety of top players such as Mang0, Zain, iBDW, and n0ne. If they’re taking suggestions for matches this time around, I have eight: one for each side of The Octagon.

Fiction vs. Lucky

It’s been hard to really determine how good these two players are this year. With Fiction’s switch from Fox to Falco, it can be hard to evaluate his results. He’ll take odd losses to Khalid and SmashDaddy at Verdugo, but can place third at Double Down, fifth at Wavedash, and win the smaller Indiana regional We Need Some Space 3. Similarly, data for Lucky is hard to come by this year due to his inactivity stemming from hand pain. From the data we have, we can see he’s fallen behind his contemporaries in S2J and null. Outside of his 4th at Phantom 2022 and 5th at Smash Factor 9, he hasn’t been able to secure a major Top 8 this year.

Given this information, it’s not surprising or wrong that Fiction was ranked higher in the recent Summer Top 50. However, Falco has always been a comfort matchup for Lucky due to his years of playing against Mang0. And Fiction, while being a former Fox main, seems to have trouble with him since the switch to Falco, holding losses this year to Soonsay, null, SmashDaddy, and iBDW. The clash of these two players is sure to be entertaining if we can get them in The Octagon.

Toph vs. The Crimson Blur

Oftentimes, commentators and tournament organizers will step out of their roles to insist that they are still talented players. Both Toph and The Crimson Blur did so in the past year, with Toph beating fellow commentator Scar 5-0 during The Octagon 2 and Blur defeating Slime 5-2 in a GenAssist show match. While we all tune in for the high-level play we expect from nationally ranked players, it’s still fun to see a slugfest between any two players of equal skill. And with Blur recently speaking up on Twitter about how underrated he is (again), what better opportunity for him to put his money where his mouth is?

SFAT vs. Spark

On the 2022 Summer Top 50, SFAT was ranked 23rd in North America. This is the lowest SFAT has ever finished on an official ranking, beating out his previous lowest placing of 20th in 2014. Placing one spot above him at 22nd is his former NorCal contemporary, Spark. Both placed similarly enough to be ranked so close together in 2022 – they tied for 17th at GENESIS 8, and while SFAT would miss Top 8 at Pound 2022, Battle of BC 4, and Double Down, Spark won the smaller Emerald City X over Joshman. For two players who have handed the #1 spot in NorCal back-and-forth, their final summer rankings are reasonable but disappointing.

SFAT has historically had an edge on Spark in the head-to-head, as he has over many top Sheik players. Something about SFAT’s playstyle is extremely consistent at exploiting Sheik’s weaknesses in the match-up. At the same time, Spark has heavily developed his game against Fox, beating both FatGoku and Joshman at Emerald City X. Both have had quietly impressive seasons so far and would certainly benefit from the exposure of an event like The Octagon.

Justus/Salt vs. iBDW/Jmook

In the past two iterations of The Octagon, we have not seen any team exhibition matches. While it is more of a niche event for most Melee spectators, exhibitions are probably the perfect forum to get more eyes on the format. Over the course of a longer set between two teams, the adaptations and set play can be more obvious than watching a longer doubles bracket. And specifically, to get the most exciting teams exhibition, the characters represented by Justus, Salt, iBDW, and Jmook are perfect.

Justus and Salt have been consistently playing teams in online brackets since 2021. They consistently place in Top 8 but haven’t been able to clinch a bracket win online. Earlier this summer, they won the LAN teams bracket at DreamHack Dallas over JSalt and Adust. They followed this up with a 4th at Double Down. iBDW and Jmook, on the other hand, have not consistently played teams, but were able to dominate the doubles bracket at Get On My Level 2022, dropping only two games in Grand Finals. Even with this disparity in results, this is still a hard match to call for me – Justus and Salt have the edge in experience and dedication to the format, but iBDW and Jmook might simply power through as the “on-paper” better players. With both teams having a Fox player, the match can get volatile and hectic, which is perfect for a spectator event like The Octagon.

Frenzy vs. Professor Pro

Time zones permitting, I’d like to see European representation at The Octagon 2022; it’s something that has been critically missing from the previous two iterations. However, the performances at Fête 2 and last year’s Smash World Tour Regional Finals have shown severe stratification in the European scene. Leffen is indisputably at the top, with players like Pipsqueak and Trif (when he’s in practice) nipping at his heels. In the next “tier,” as it were, of European competitors are players like Jah Ridin’, Fat Tino, Rikzz, and the long-standing rivalry of Frenzy and Professor Pro.

Professor Pro and Frenzy have long held the #1 and #2 spots, respectively, in UK Melee. The rivalry is so iconic it was used to advertise Fête 2 in this video trailer. It’s certainly not a novel match – PGStats has a recorded 89 sets between the two, going back to Schism in 2017. Professor Pro holds a 76% win rate in these sets, which likely does not represent all of the sets played between the two at locals. But if The Octagon would like to get North Americans interested in European Melee, this is an easy route.

Hungrybox vs. moky

It’s hard to tell in the heavily Twitter and Twitch-centric Melee ecosystem if conflicts between players are genuine or overdramatized for content. BBB and NoFluxes, for example, will regularly talk down to their opponents after losing as part of their on-stream personality. And we’ve seen similar reactions from moky towards Hungrybox over the past year. It began with Hungrybox ranking moky 17th on a pretty low-effort Melee ranking on stream. On Twitter, moky responded with vitriol, essentially calling Hungrybox washed-up.

The two faced off a few months later at LACS 4, where moky won and had some choice words for Hungrybox on his stream. All was quiet until just a few weeks ago when the two traded sets in a Training Mode Tuesday that moky would eventually win. On his stream, moky complained about Hungrybox’s passive playstyle before deconstructing him in two sets in Grand Finals.

Now, it can be hard to tell how genuine this beef is since we really don’t know what’s in these players’ hearts. With that in mind, maybe an exhibition isn’t the greatest idea – but if the two can be good sports about it no matter the result, I’m sure we would be in for an emotionally-charged set.

NJ vs. NYC

Over the past few months community members like Bbatts, Aklo, JFlex, and TheSWOOPER have stirred up discussion over the Melee rivalry between New Jersey and New York City. It all seems to be in good fun, especially considering the players see each other nearly weekly at The Nightclub. Regardless, there is real discussion to be had over which region is stronger, which region has deeper talent, and which region would win in a crew battle.

Unfortunately, a full crew battle would take far too long for an event like The Octagon. Hopefully, one can be arranged at a later large East Coast event, like Shine or Apex. In the meantime, to keep momentum in the rivalry, it would be great content to have one representative from New Jersey and New York City face off. Ideally, these would be consistent Nightclub attendees – bringing in a ringer like iBDW for New York City almost seems like cheating. On paper, the best players from the respective regions would be JFlex and 2Saint, but I could see players like Bbatts, Wally, or TheSWOOPER subbing in for NJ, or Rishi, Aklo, JoJo, or Whiskers coming in for NYC.

Mang0 vs. Zain

Mang0 vs. Zain was the top billing of The Octagon 2020, the punchline of a video Zain had released earlier in the year. In a historic context, the match also served as a showdown between the two ostensible best players in the early months of the pandemic. Of course, the two faced off during The Octagon 2021 as well, this time on LAN. Zain was able to pull out the match convincingly both times but was far from shutting out Mang0 entirely – as is so often the case when the two play.

It almost feels obligatory to include this match in the next iteration of The Octagon. While the series is in its infancy, Mang0 vs. Zain feels like a strong part of its identity. And while this match in 2022 likely won’t stand for who the best player in the world is, it will say a lot about either player if they can win. Mang0 stock is on a strong rise after his supermajor victory at Super Smash Con 2022, breaking his early-year slump. Meanwhile, Zain seems to have slipped into a rut, taking losses to aMSa, Jmook, Hungrybox, and Slug that have prevented another major victory for the Marth main. This match at The Octagon could be written off as a neat online exhibition, but I think we will all be able to look back on it as a part of the year-long arcs these players are creating.

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