Recent tournaments like Press Start, CEO 2015, and WTFox have set the stage for one of the most exciting smash tournaments of all time this Friday. Not only will we witness some of the highest-level play of all time, but for the first time there is not a favorite to win the tournament. Sure, any of the top players could have won the previous two EVOs, but Mango was the definite frontrunner. This year, the title is completely up in the air. Each of the six elite players has something to prove. Any of them could come out on top. To prepare for the weekend, I’ve summarized the recent events surrounding each player so that we can fully understand and appreciate the storylines at hand.
Mango has more to lose than anyone else on this list. As the back-to-back EVO champ, all eyes will be on him to come up with the three-peat. He cares more about EVO than any other tournament, which can only add on to the pressure he’ll be feeling. If you spend any amount of time on his stream or watching his interviews, you’ve heard him talk about his trophies. Mango is known for sandbagging at other tournaments, and he has been vocal with his criticism of some of the other majors – most notably Apex. EVO is different. EVO is his tournament.
And yet it might not be his tournament this year. Mango recently placed 3rd at CEO 2015, losing to Shroomed and Armada. In June, he lost to Westballz in the grand finals of Mayhem. Before that was a 5th place spot at Sandstorm (losses to Axe and Westballz) and a 2nd place finish at I’m Not Yelling (edged out of grand finals by Armada). Although he has a few wins under his belt too (two Mayhems and Press Start), Mango’s reign as the undisputed #1 smasher has come into question – which might actually be a good thing.
Throughout his career, Mango has played best when he is seen as the underdog. Why do you think “losers bracket Mango” exists? The last time his rank at the top was completely solidified, he had to change his name to Scorpion Master and start playing Mario. Silencing his skeptics has always been one of his main motivators, and this year’s EVO is the perfect place to do just that. Plus, if we know anything about Mango, it’s that he thrives under pressure, which this tournament will have in spades.
- Key Advantages
- Tournament is held on the West Coast, giving him home field advantage.
- Mango thrives under pressure, and is the most “clutch” player in the tournament.
- Has recently lost to both Leffen and Armada, although his most recent set with Armada at WTFox was a victory.
- Struggled against players outside of the top 6 at CEO, such as Shroomed, Plup and MacD.
- His volatile, aggressive playstyle may not be ideal when most sets are 2 out of 3, as the margin for error becomes much thinner.
EVO 2014 may have been the most devastating tournament in all of Armada’s time as a competitive player. The tournament capped off a long summer of intense practice and tournament success. More importantly, he finally seemed to have the edge on his long-time rival Mango. With Mango no longer acting as an insurmountable obstacle, Armada seemed poised to take the whole tournament. And then, as is often the case in Melee, the unexpected happened.
In top 8, on the final day of EVO 2014, Armada was double-eliminated by Hungrybox. He was knocked out of the tournament without a chance to even play Mango once. He was one win away from getting to square off against his rival. Twice. For nearly any other player, ending the largest smash tournament ever in 3rd place would have been a great achievement. For Armada, it was a colossal disappointment. If you have any doubt as to how hard he took the losses, just watch the top 8 awards being given out. His face says it all.
This year’s EVO is a shot at redemption. Now that Armada has mastered Fox as well as Peach, he no longer has to worry about matchup disadvantages. Recently, he came in 1st at I’m Not Yelling and MVG Sandstorm, as well as finishing 2nd at CEO. In fact, I might be ready to call him as the favorite to take EVO if it weren’t for the one player he has been struggling against recently – his fellow Swede Leffen. Armada and Leffen have been going back and forth throughout all of 2015, with Leffen coming out on top at BEAST 5, Paragon Orlando, CEO, FC Return and WTFox, but Armada taking Apex, Beauty 10, I’m Not Yelling, and DrommeLAN 4.5. Leffen has won the last 3 tournaments in a row, so the ball is in Armada’s court to prove himself when it matters most.
- Key Advantages
- Dual-maining provides for more versatility than all of the other top 6, except for PPMD.
- Least likely person to lose to a non-God. Since his breakout at Genesis 1, he has only placed below a non-God 3 times (Pound 4, EVO 2013, Paragon Orlando 2015).
- Has recently dropped sets to Mango, Leffen, and Hungrybox.
- Has not won a super-major tournament since Apex 2013, which may cause a lot of mental pressure.
Leffen is the newest member of the elite players, so EVO 2015 is his opportunity to show us all what he’s really made of. A couple of years ago, he was a young upstart known more for his out-of-game antics than for his play. Now he is unanimously considered one of the best in the world. It’s time to find out whether his meteoric rise will reach its zenith at EVO, or if he is not quite ready to take a tournament of this scale yet. His biggest ally is momentum, as he just won the last three major tournaments in a row – CEO, FC Return, and WTFox. Will he be able to carry on this success, or will his wins fuel his opponents to come back with an even more intense hunger for victory? If you ask Leffen, he seems to think he’s ready:
Despite the recent win, Leffen’s consistency remains in question. He has the worst recent placing of any of the elite players, coming in 9th at Press Start in May, in addition to getting 5th at MVG Sandstorm. All of this begs the question – which version of Leffen are we going to see at EVO? Will he be edged out by a non-elite player early in the tournament and let his frustration overcome him, or will he continue playing on the level that he has in June and July? If he is able to keep it up, the EVO trophy is definitely within his reach.
- Key Advantages
- Recent major wins against all of the top 6, aside from PPMD.
- Momentum is on his side after winning CEO, FC Return, and WTFox.
- Leffen is a master of the Fox ditto, which will be the most common character in bracket.
- Marth has historically been effective against Leffen, and PPMD will be in attendance.
PPMD is the “wild card” of the tournament. The rest of the elite smashers have been playing all spring and summer long, so we have a good idea of how they fare against each other. PPMD, on the other hand, has been missing in action. He got 4th at last year’s EVO and then did not attend another major tournament until Apex 2015, which he won. To make things even more confusing, he won the tournament by using Marth despite being primarily known as a Falco main up until that point. Staying true to form, PPMD has not attended a major tournament since Apex.
When it comes to his EVO performance, no one really knows what to expect. Every other elite player has been improving and adding new tricks to their repertoire since January. Will PPMD be able to keep up? Armada’s fox is much more refined now than it was at Apex, and Leffen has been playing with much more precision. Players outside of the top 6 have been leveling up as well – just look at Axe, Westballz, Shroomed, and Plup.
On the other hand, PPMD was able to win Apex without going to any majors beforehand. Clearly, he is able to prepare effectively without having to be flown out to tournaments every month. Plus, his seclusion gives him the element of surprise. He has hours and hours of tournament footage to study for all of his main competitors. The rest of the elite players can only turn to five-month-old Apex recordings, and who knows how helpful those will be by now. At this point, all we can really do is wait and see what the doctor has in store for us.
- Key Advantages
- Like Armada, he is able to dual-main to preserve matchup advantages.
- His Marth has been very effective vs. Fox, who most of his competitors play.
- No one knows what to expect in terms of playstyle.
- May be rusty, as he has not attended a large tournament since January.
- The gap between the top 6 players and the rest of the community has shrunk dramatically. Is he safe from the rest of the top players?
Around the time of last year’s EVO, Hungrybox was a force to be reckoned with. He came within one game of defeating Mango in both winner’s finals and grand finals, coming in as the runner-up in 2nd place. After EVO 2014, he went on to win 7 out of 8 of the tournaments he entered from August to January (The Big House 4 being the sole tournament he didn’t win). Despite using a character with an awful matchup against Fox, Hungrybox was flying high.
Unfortunately 2015 has not been as kind to the Floridian puff player. Early on in the year, he placed 5th at Apex, 4th at Sandstorm, 4th at Press Start, and 5th at CEO. Part of this has been due to Armada and Leffen using the “run and gun” style of Fox play so effectively. What’s even worse for Hungrybox fans, though, is that he’s been dropping sets to players outside of the top 6. Hbox lost to PewPewU at Apex, Westballz at Sandstorm, and nearly lost to SFAT at Press Start. The bracket at EVO will be humongous, and it will almost entirely consist of 2/3 sets. If he does not get his consistency issues in check, an early upset is definitely a possibility.
That doesn’t mean we can count him out. Just last week, the Box of Hunger took out Armada’s fox at FC Return, finishing in 2nd place after Leffen. In his post-tournament interview, he pointed out that he received 3rd and 2nd at the last two EVOs, so he is trending towards a trip home with the trophy in tow.
- Key Advantages
- He’s proven himself to perform well on the biggest stage in fighting games, placing in the top 3 at the last two EVOs
- At some point in his career, has done well against all other elite players.
- His character is the least technically demanding, so nerves and pressure may not affect him as much.
- Has momentum with his recent 2nd place finish at FC Return.
- Has started losing to players outside of the top 6
- Before FC Return, has not placed as well in major tournaments in 2015 as the rest of the smash gods.
- “Run and gun” foxes are verify difficult for Jigglypuff to counter.
EDIT: Apparently, Mew2king will not be entering EVO. As much as I’m sure we would all like to see him take on the rest of the elite players on the big stage, this is most likely the best decision for his health and for his long-term career in Smash. I hope that he is able to see a hand specialist soon and someday play Melee without feeling pain.