Last weekend, Golden Guardians’ Zain emerged as the victor over 23 invited top players and 8 qualifying players to win the Super Smash Bros. Melee event at the Ludwig Smash Invitational. Due to the high density of top level talent at the event, it has been called one of the hardest tournaments to win in history, and is likely Zain’s crown jewel of tournament wins for the year- if not his most impressive win ever.
— Mogul Moves (@MogulMoves) October 24, 2022
In addition to the generally high level of talent at this event, it was further complicated by the format. The 32 players played Swiss pools for elimination into a top 16 bracket, which Zain barely qualified for by beating Soonsay, S2J, and Lucky and losing to Hungrybox and Mang0. He then beat Axe, iBDW, Leffen, and Hungrybox to win without dropping a set. The nature of the Swiss pools and large top-cut bracket lead to a stunning volume of sets between the best of the best in Melee. However, there were still matchups we didn’t see among these players. The year is far from over, with Summit 14 on the horizon, followed by Saving Mr. Lombardi 3, Apex, Dreamhack Atlanta, Mainstage 2022, and the finals for both the Smash World Tour and the Panda Cup. At those events, I’ll be looking out for these matches that were missed at the Ludwig Smash Invitational.
Hungrybox vs. Aklo
On his way to a 3rd place finish, Hungrybox faced very few Fox players. He had to double eliminate SluG’s Ice Climbers, split sets with Zain’s Marth and beat KoDoRiN by the skin of his teeth, and win a shockingly tight five-game set with Magi’s Falco. The only Fox he did play was Leffen in Losers’ Finals, which he won in a controversial 3-1. I would have loved to see Hungrybox tested by more Fox players in the field, and Aklo specifically comes to mind.
Aklo has built up a reputation online for being an exceedingly patient and disciplined Fox. This style has actually led to him holding an impressively even record with Hungrybox – they currently stand at 11-15 in Hungrybox’s favor, all of these sets being online. Aklo’s playstyle in the sets he wins seems to defy logic; he will counterpick to Dreamland, which is ostensibly Jigglypuff’s favorite stage, he will dash dance in place for minutes at a time if he doesn’t want to push Hungrybox’s position, and he is always willing to take a game to time, even winning time-out games at some tournaments. With the degree of controversy sparked by Hungrybox’s patient play against Leffen’s Fox, I’d be interested to see what happens when a Fox is able to match his patience on LAN. It’s probably for the best, however, if this set is played at a tournament where Ludwig can’t change the channel.
SluG vs. aMSa
What a year we have seen from SluG. In a matter of fewer than six months, he has taken sets from Magi, KJH, KoDoRiN, Zain, Aklo, and now n0ne, moky, Mang0, and Jmook at LSI. Previously, he took sets over Hungrybox and iBDW at an online tournament. For those keeping count, this is over half of the top 15 on the last MPGR. He’s defying many spectators’ expectations of a character like Ice Climbers but has yet to ever face aMSa, who is one of the scariest players against Ice Climbers.
AMSa holds an undefeated record against ChuDat and ARMY, two of the premiere Ice Climbers mains of the last five years. Even with wobbling legal, Ice Climbers against Yoshi seems hopeless if aMSa’s on the screen. On his current trajectory, I think SluG is exactly the player to break this hold that the Big House 10 champion holds over Ice Climbers, and it’s a win that would either catapult him into the Top 10, or cement aMSa as a staple of the Top 5.
Leffen vs. Pipsqueak
This initially sounds like an unfortunate team kill you’d hate to see in bracket, with both Leffen and Pipsqueak being from not only the same country but the same city of Stockholm, Sweden. While the two presumably play each other often, their bracket history is actually somewhat sparse. They have not played since Smash Summit 12 last winter, and before that, Pipsqueak managed three set wins online against Leffen, including winning Valhalla Online while Leffen was using a digital controller.
With how stratified European Melee is, it’s hard for players like Pipsqueak to break into the true upper echelon of the game. Pipsqueak did manage to break into the S+ tier of the PGR Contenders ranking at the end of 2021, but it’s hard to deny this was on the back of relative inactivity and slumping from Leffen, Professor Pro, and Trif. I believe Pipsqueak can genuinely challenge the supposed supremacy of Leffen in their continent if given the chance at a major or supermajor. Especially with Leffen’s relative weakness at the Fox ditto, losing recently to Soonsay and moky, the time is ripe for Pipsqueak to step it up.
Plup vs. Everyone
While we still have quite a bit longer to go for Melee in 2022, the importance of Big House, Off-Season, and LSI will likely lead to October being the most important month for the year-end rankings. And it is so, so unfortunate that Plup was absent for the month, especially after sporadic attendance for the rest of the year. After an underwhelming 13th at GENESIS 8, he seemed to bounce back with a win at CEO and second-place finishes at Smash Summit 13, Riptide, and Lost Tech City. CEO can still likely be labeled a major but is probably the least impressive major win compared to Mang0, Zain, iBDW, Hungrybox, Leffen, and aMSa’s major wins. It’s undeniable that Plup should be counted in this highest tier of players, but unless he kicks it into high gear for the rest of the year, I can easily see him landing at 7th or even 8th for 2022. I’m hopeful for his chances at Smash Summit 14, as well as the various circuit finals, but he’d have to show up for that to happen.