Four takeaways from Melee Singles at Smash Summit 12
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“He quit law school for this,” commentator Vish “Vish” Kumar exclaimed as Edgard “n0ne” Sheleby three-stocked Cody “iBDW” Schwab in the final game of their set at Super Smash Con 2019. Although iBDW had actually dropped out of law school for reasons unrelated to Super Smash Bros. Melee, Vish’s humorous line highlighted the precarity of pursuing a career in esports after abandoning a potential career as a lawyer.

More than two years later, Vish made the same remark after iBDW’s historic victory at Smash Summit 12. It indicated how things had come full circle for the new Summit champion. Though he had turned to full-time Melee as a plan B after his law school aspirations fell through, iBDW’s future now looks secure as he has cemented his status as one of the best players in the world.

Let’s take a closer look at iBDW’s win and other major takeaways from Beyond the Summit’s latest invitational.

iBDW overcomes his demons in his most important win to date at Smash Summit 12

Three months ago, iBDW earned his first major victory at Riptide, but with an asterisk; Zain “Zain” Naghmi and Joseph “Mang0” Marquez, the two best players in the world, weren’t at Riptide. Prior to this event, he had never beaten Zain and had incurred 10 consecutive losses against Mang0. As a result, a first-place finish seemed far-fetched for iBDW going into Smash Summit 12.

Despite tough competition, iBDW managed to finish first in his round-robin pool. He beat Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma 3-1, Linus “Pipsqueak” Nordin 3-2 and Dan “Tyler Swift” Petruso 3-1. As a result, he skipped the gauntlet phase of the bracket and began the final bracket on the winners side. There, his first opponent was William “Leffen” Hjelte.

After suffering a three-stock loss in Game 2, iBDW took a few deep breaths and went into Game 3 a seemingly new player. He two-stocked or three-stocked Leffen in each remaining game to pull off the reverse 3-0 and advance into the top eight. In winners semis, iBDW earned a 3-1 win against Masaya “aMSa” Chikamoto, who had only dropped a single game all weekend prior to their set.

Then came his first demon, Zain. After losing Game 1, iBDW stayed true to a promise he made last month and counterpicked Final Destination, Fox’s worst stage against Marth. In doing so, he guaranteed that, even if he lost the game, he would not have to win twice on Final Destination later in the set. The unorthodox counterpick paid off even more when iBDW managed to win Game 2. Though Zain won Game 3 on Final Destination, the crucial Game 2 set iBDW up for a 3-2 victory, marking his first set win over Zain.

Grand finals brought iBDW one more challenging match-up against reigning Summit champion Mang0. Previously, his only win against Mang0 had come during his breakout performance at Smash Summit 8. But, after a long losing streak, iBDW was able to repeat his previous accomplishment by convincingly defeating Mang0 3-0. As a result, iBDW added another major victory to his resume, this time proving that he could do so with all of the best players in attendance.

Mang0 can make a losers run even on an off day

In late 2019, the Smash community saw two sides of Mang0. One version overwhelmed even top-level competitors with his aggressive punish game, dominating his opponents to the extent that he seemed unbeatable. This Mang0 won Mang0’s Birthday Bash. The other version struggled to string together extensive combos, staying alive only through solid defense and good recoveries despite his generally sloppy play. This Mang0 won The Big House 9.

Smash Summit 12 Mang0 looked closer to the latter than the former. But, just as he had at The Big House, Mang0 proved his ability to run through some of the best players in the world even while not playing at his best. His shakiness was evident in pools, as Mang0 finished third in his pool despite being the overall No. 1 seed. Though he beat Anees “Free Palestine” Assaf 3-1, he lost to Zachary “SFAT” Cordoni 3-1, marking his first set loss to SFAT since 2016 and his first game losses to SFAT since 2018. Additionally, Mang0 lost to aMSa 3-1.

Mang0’s mediocre pools performance forced him to start at the bottom end of the gauntlet phase, where he used Falco to defeat Tyler Swift 3-2 and John “KoDoRiN” Ko 3-1. Because of these two wins, Mang0 was still able to start on the winners side of the final bracket.

In winners quarters, Mang0 faced Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett in what has historically been one of his best match-ups: Falco versus Captain Falcon. However, Wizzrobe showcased his own prowess in the match-up, four-stocking Mang0 in Game 1 and three-stocking him in Game 4. Nevertheless, Mang0 managed to eke out a victory in Game 5 despite being on the back foot for much of the set. Soon afterward, Mang0’s Fox proved unable to overcome Zain as it had at Smash Summit 11; Zain won 3-0, sending Mang0 to the losers bracket.

From there, Mang0 made an impressive losers run against all odds. Leffen all but handed him a victory in their losers quarters set. Though Leffen was poised to win the set 3-1, he self-destructed on his last stock of Game 4. This gave Mang0 the game win and set up for his Game 5 victory. Then, in losers semis, Mang0 won yet another five-game set against Wizzrobe.

Mang0’s run climaxed in his losers finals rematch against Zain. This time, he eschewed his Fox for his Falco and managed to eliminate Zain 3-1 as a result. Ultimately, Mang0 had run out of steam by the time he reached iBDW in grand finals. Even so, he pulled off yet another impressive run despite not playing at his peak for most of the tournament.

aMSa struggles on Championship Sunday

Throughout much of Smash Summit 12, aMSa seemed poised for a spectacular performance. He swept SFAT and Free Palestine in pools. After defeating Mang0 3-1, aMSa advanced to the final bracket as the de facto first seed. It seemed as though the Japanese Yoshi main could make history with his first-ever major victory thanks to his continued innovations with his rarely-seen character.

Of course, aMSa had similar momentum at the start of Smash Summit 11. He barely lost to Zain in pools and beat Mang0 during the gauntlet phase. However, aMSa went 0-2 in the final bracket at Summit 11, finishing in ninth place after losing to Hungrybox and Jeffrey “Axe” Williamson.

This Championship Sunday curse carried over for aMSa at Smash Summit 12. He did manage to beat Hungrybox this time around. While he had won a pair of five-game sets against Hungrybox in the past, his 3-0 victory at Summit 12 was by far the most convincing. But, he proceeded to lose 3-1 to both iBDW and Wizzrobe. This brought aMSa’s run to a close at an impressive but still disappointing fifth place. Going forward, aMSa will have to prove he can close out the most important sets if he wants to remain competitive with the best of the best.

Leffen is still good but not quite back to world-class

Leffen was a hard-to-predict variable going into his first American major post-quarantine. Despite his dominance in Europe, it was unclear if he’d improved at the same rate as North America’s strongest competitors. Leffen undoubtedly proved to be a threat at Smash Summit 12. However, he failed to reassert himself as a contender for No. 1 in the world.

As multiple commentators noted throughout the event, Leffen’s strong punish game was countered by his mediocre defensive play. Since he had spent so long playing only in Europe, where he is the undisputed best player, Leffen had few opportunities to practice playing from behind. As a result, Leffen struggled whenever his opponents put him on the back foot at Summit. He even incurred three reverse 3-0 losses because of this weakness in his gameplay.

In his pool, Leffen defeated Sasha “Magi” Sullivan 3-0 and Gio “null” Rossi 3-1. However, he suffered his first reverse 3-0 of the weekend against Wizzrobe. This set up for a best-of-three tiebreaker match, where Wizzrobe beat Leffen 2-1. Despite this, Leffen still started on the winners side of the main bracket after beating his fellow Swede, Pipsqueak, in the gauntlet phase.

In winners quarters, Leffen experienced his next reverse 3-0 loss against iBDW. Afterward, he faced Tyler Swift in the losers bracket. His rust in the Pikachu match-up showed as Tyler Swift forced him to Game 5. However, Leffen exploded in Game 5, four-stocking Tyler Swift on Fountain of Dreams while only taking 30%.

In top eight, Leffen was able to earn his first and only big win of the tournament, defeating Hungrybox 3-1. But, his next set saw him self-destruct to throw away an all-but-guaranteed win against Mang0. This set the stage for Leffen’s final reverse 3-0 loss of the event. Going forward, Leffen’s future with Melee is as uncertain as ever, since he has expressed his intention to drop out of the Smash World Tour Championships. Much of his time playing Melee has involved a struggle to resolve visa issues and keep up with his fellow competitors overseas. It doesn’t seem this struggle will dissipate for Leffen any time soon.

Dylan Tate is an alumnus of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a gaming journalist with a love for Nintendo esports, particularly Super Smash Bros. and Pokémon.