SSBM 2020 Q1 Rank: 5-1 - Upcomer
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Welcome to the SSBM 2020 Q1 Rank, hosted by Daily Esports! With the coronavirus pandemic bringing esports competition to a halt, this ranking recognizes those who performed well in early 2020.

Today the series concludes with five of the best Melee players in the world. When offline tournaments return, they will all undoubtedly be vying for the coveted No. 1 spot on the MPGR.

#5 – Leffen

For nearly two years, William “Leffen” Hjelte was the beacon of consistency for top Melee players. After losing to Lovage at GTX 2017, he didn’t drop a set to another sub-top 10 player until Shine 2019, where moky defeated him. However, Leffen did not see quite the same success at the beginning of 2020.

Leffen started the year with a predictable 1st place finish at Valhalla III, convincingly beating Frenzy and Professor Pro (twice). At Genesis 7, Leffen reached top 8 by defeating MikeHaze, Hax, and Fiction. But in top 8, he immediately lost to Mang0 and Hax, ending his run in 5th place. This marked only his second loss in two years to a player not ranked top 10 at the time.

Leffen’s final tournament of the SSBM 2020 Q1 Rank season, Smash Summit 9, brought mixed results. He earned victories over bobby big ballz, Spark, n0ne, Wizzrobe, and Axe in pools, while losing to Zain. However, Leffen quickly lost to Mang0 and iBDW in the main bracket, finishing in a disappointing 9th place. This was his first time missing top 8 at a serious tournament since GTX 2017.

Despite spending two years comfortably in Melee‘s top 3, Leffen has barely snuck into this season’s top 5. Of course, it’s impressive that an off season by his standards still landed him such a high spot. With Hax and iBDW as his worst losses, Leffen boasts a consistency that few players can rival.

#4 – Plup

Justin “Plup” McGrath finished 2019 ranked No. 8 worldwide, his lowest placement on the global rankings since 2014. In addition, he went over a year without placing higher than 3rd at any major tournament. As 2020 began, diehard members of the Plup Club were undoubtedly hoping to see a resurgence for their hero. This resurgence didn’t happen right off the bat for Plup.

Plup spent the first portion of the SSBM 2020 Q1 Rank season playing Fox. He earned two predictable victories at CFL Smackdown locals, although he lost to Komodo along the way. Then, at Genesis, Plup had a rather strange route to an ultimately disappointing 25th place finish. Though he defeated Axe, he was also upset by PewPewU and ARMY.

Coming into Smash Summit 9, Plup had little confidence, even as he switched back to using Sheik. His performance in pools seemed promising, as he beat Mang0, Shroomed, and Magi. In the process, he lost to Hungrybox and experienced another upset at the hands of Hax. However, his run through the main bracket was even more spectacular. Plup defeated Axe, Zain, Mang0, and Hungrybox en route to a 2nd place finish, with two additional losses to Hungrybox.

It’s hard to overstate just how significant Plup’s run at Summit was. He didn’t win a single set over Axe, Mang0, or Hungrybox in 2019, but he defeated all of them at Summit. Naturally, his poor losses earlier in the year held him back on this list. Nevertheless, his high peak at Summit proved that Plup may still have what it takes to win a major tournament.

#3 – Mang0

Joseph “Mang0” Marquez has traditionally been one of the most volatile players among the gods of Super Smash Bros. Melee. He’s a GOAT and a buster, if you will. However, Mang0’s SSBM 2020 Q1 Rank season was marked by consistency.

Following his victories at The Big House 9 and Mang0’s Birthday Bash at the end of last year, many people had Mang0 picked as the favorite to win Genesis. Though he fell short of the gold, Mang0’s 3rd place finish was still nothing to scoff at. He beat Trif, aMSa, and Leffen, while losing five-game sets to both Zain and Hungrybox.

At Smash Summit 9, Mang0 pulled off yet another impressive run to 3rd place. In pools, he defeated Shroomed, Fiction, aMSa, and Hax, and lost to Hungrybox and Plup. Mang0 went on to beat Leffen, Axe, and Zain in the main bracket while losing another two sets to Hungrybox and Plup.

Mang0 suffered a brutal 1-6 record against the rest of the top 4. However, he was one of only two players with no losses outside of the top 4. Mang0’s solid results landed him comfortably in the top 3 of the SSBM 2020 Q1 Rank.

#2 – Zain

Since he began competing in 2014, Zain Naghmi has been one of Melee‘s fastest-rising stars. He made history when he won Shine 2018, his first major tournament victory over multiple Melee gods. Throughout 2019, Zain continued to hone his consistency, establishing himself firmly in the top 6. And yet, Zain’s 2020 started even better.

Zain earned his most significant tournament win to date at Genesis 7. He beat Boyd, Jakenshaken, S2J, and Shroomed to reach top 8. With a win over Mang0 and two wins over Hungrybox, Zain became the Genesis champion without dropping a set.

Because of his phenomenal performance at Genesis, Zain came into Smash Summit 9 as the first seed. As a result, his 4th place finish, while undeniably solid, was a bit underwhelming. Zain overcame n0ne, Wizzrobe, iBDW, and Leffen in pools, while dropping a single set to Axe. He proceeded to beat Fiction and iBDW before falling to Plup and Mang0.

This season, Zain still struggled against Axe and Plup, two of his biggest bracket demons from the past year. However, as the only player with a winning record against Hungrybox, it’s hardly farfetched to say that Zain could become the first doc kid to reach No. 1 in the world. A word of advice for anyone who has to face Golden Guardians’ newest member: don’t test him.

#1 – Hungrybox

Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma has continued to inch closer to GOAT status, daring opponents to usurp his throne. Hungrybox’s hold on the No. 1 spot has certainly gotten shakier as time has gone on. But in true Clutchgod fashion, he has continued to hold onto it even in the face of difficult competition.

Hungrybox’s first event of the year, GatorLAN Spring 2020, ended in a predictable 1st place finish as he double-eliminated Forrest. Later, at Genesis 7, Hungrybox defeated Spud, Captain Faceroll, and PewPewU before Zain sent him to losers. He proceeded to eliminate Fiction, Hax, and Mang0, ultimately losing another set to Zain in Grand Finals.

Of course, Hungrybox refused to let Zain stay the best in the world for long. In pools of Smash Summit 9, Hungrybox put together what was likely the most dominant performance in Smash Summit history. He earned 3-0 victories over Hax, aMSa, Mang0, Fiction, and Plup. Four of those players had defeated Hungrybox before (all but Fiction), meaning his pool was full of upset potential. And yet, he managed to sweep through it without even dropping a game.

In the main bracket, Hungrybox beat n0ne, Mang0, and Plup (twice), while losing one set to Plup in Grands. Hungrybox finished the season by winning the not-so-stacked CEO Dreamland 2020. Despite playing far from his best, he still defeated Krudo, n0ne, and Colbol (twice) with no losses.

With an 80% win rate against the 2019 MPGR top 15, Hungrybox’s 0-2 record against Zain was really the only blemish on his résumé. While Zain isn’t too far behind, Hungrybox can still hold the title of No. 1 in the world for now.

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.