Hey everyone, welcome to my attempt at recapping the histories of some of the greatest players in Project M 3.6 history. With the advent of Project + over the last year, and the general slowdown of the Project M/+ scene, I’d like to take some time and talk about the players who defined the past, present, and hopefully, future of the game. While these articles are, and will be presented as, rankings of the greatest PM 3.6 players of all time, my goal is primarily to remember and celebrate the narratives that everyone on this list, from #50 to #1, helped to create over the last four years.
For those who don’t know me, at various points over the past few years I’ve led PMRank, Project M Nexus, and the Project M Back Room, revived the SoCal Project M Power Rankings, and created my own rankings of the best Project M doubles teams from a dataset of 2017-18 majors that can be found at the Medium link linked below this article. With that experience under my belt, I wanted to do my best to capture the stories that will be told over seven articles of the greatest Project M players of all time.
Over a few months, I manually collected data on every major tournament that happened between the release of version 3.6 in 2015 and Smash ‘n’ Splash 5 in May, 2019, the last major North American tournament to run on that version of the game. After completing that process, I sat down with Pikmon and Serbian Film (both longtime community members and contributors to PMRank 2019) to talk through our interpretations of the data and create this list. However, I want to acknowledge that despite our collective experiences in the PM scene, it’s impossible to say that we are truly qualified to make this list, or correct in what we came up with. For this reason, I have chosen to make the data that I collected for this project publicly accessible here, and would encourage anyone reading these articles to question our interpretation or suggest their own. In order to create a list of players that we could reasonably hope to rank, as you can see in the dataset provided, I collected information on every player that had ever been ranked on an iteration of PMRank, and removed players who had attended a total of fewer than 5 events that we considered throughout the “lifetime” of 3.6, or who were only ranked once within the 41-50 range (with one notable exception, as you’ll see next week).
While this decision excludes historically relevant players such as Jaden and Zhime from consideration, we agreed that having so few events to consider made it impossible to accurately evaluate their legacy. I also want to note that only having this ranking be 3.6, or having the 3.6 dataset end with SnS 5, is primarily to keep the data collection straightforward and evaluate one set of results within the same version of the game. If P+ lasts that long, or 3.6 experiences a resurgence, maybe one day I’ll feel the need to update this series.
I plan to release an article every week until the series is complete, going through 10 players per article until we reach the top 20, which I will break into four weeks to give due attention to the impact that these players had on our scene. With all those details out of the way, let’s talk about our first set of players!
# 50 - Hungrybox
Yup, getting 4th place at one of the biggest Project M tournaments of all time only gets you 50th on this list. Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma’s relationship with PM has always been interesting, and his results reflect that. In 2015 and 2016, the Melee god seemed to heavily enjoy the game, and offered vocal support pretty regularly. He had put up great results in previous patches, with victories over Sethlon and Oracle on his way to winning Forte 2, a Texas major hosted on version 3.5, but the clear highlight of his PM career came early on 3.6, where he placed 4th at Paragon Los Angeles. Before finally falling victim to one of his Melee rivals in Mew2King, Hungrybox tore through Jason Waterfalls, Lucky, iPunchKidsz, and even Professor Pro, at the time one of the best players in the world, and he honestly made it look easy.
He had some solid highlights in 2016 too, from beating Dakpo at Smash ‘n’ Splash 2 to knocking Emukiller and Switch into losers at Super Smash Con 2016, but even in 2016, he was beginning to struggle against the more versatile Project M cast as the meta developed. He was upset by Marshall in winners at SnS 2, and again in losers at EVO 2016, after falling short in a close set against Sosa. As the years went on, Hungrybox would often appear irritated by some of his losses and the characters that he fought against in PM, and his results declined as well. In 2017 he placed 17th at the Bigger Balc, his worst placement in PM since Apex 2014, after losing to GabPR and Emukiller.
He entered a handful of smaller events here and there, but his only other major that year was SnS 3, where he was sent to losers by Hyperflame and, visibly frustrated, quit out of his losers set against techboy to place 9th. His only other major of 3.6 was SnS 4, where he traded sets with Michigan Lucas player Frost, and was eliminated by reslived at 25th. Despite his frustrations with Project M, Hungrybox often served as a benchmark against which PM players compared themselves, especially those who played Melee-esque characters, and his results in 2015 and 2016 clearly showed that he could compete with the best players in the world.
#49 - XYK
After years of singlehandedly keeping Ohio on the map, Kyler “XYK” Curtis and his patient Luigi more than deserve a mention on this list. Unlike a lot of the players that I’ll talk about throughout this series, there is no real time-based trend of XYK’s results, from 2015-2018 there was only one thing you could say for sure about him: you could absolutely never sleep on XYK. Overall, I consider him one of the greatest PM players to have never placed top 8 at a major, which I hope doesn’t come across as a backhanded compliment but I think that it does encompass his legacy quite well. Despite being highly inconsistent, and having numerous poor losses that overall averaged out to low placements on both the 2016 and 2017 iterations of PMRank, there was never a point in XYK’s PM career where he couldn’t show up and wreck house on a good day.
In 2015 and early 2016 he put up top 16 placements at majors like We Tech Those, Shots Fired 2, and Smash ‘n’ Splash 2, with wins over the likes of Junebug, Hyperflame, Strong Bad, and Twisty, but also dropped sets to players that were considered less threatening at the time such as Sharkz, Morsecode762 (who would later grow into a bracket threat in his own right), and Drephen. 2017 was much the same, an unusual mix of poor losses and wins over top-ranked players like Phresh, Dirtboy, and Pikmon that made him almost impossible to seed with confidence at any given tournament. While XYK would stop entering PM as often after early 2018, and his results dropped off accordingly, he remains one of the pioneers of Project M Luigi and a scary opponent to face off against even today.
#48 - ilovebagelz
Despite playing the same character, nearly nothing that I just said about XYK holds true to Giovanny “ilovebagelz” Garcia. The relentlessly flashy Arizona Luigi player has always had a big reputation to uphold, in part due to the prominence of AZPM’s streams during the early years of 3.6, but in general, his best results have come at smaller, primarily in-region, events. While he proved capable each year of picking up just enough good wins to remain in the 41-50 range on PMRank, it was clear from smaller events, where he picked up wins over the likes of Sosa, Machiavelli, and iPunchKidsz, that his peaks were far higher. However, at majors he mostly came up short. His sole high point in 2016 was a win in pools over Junebug at EVO, a shocking upset at the time that was accompanied by the coveted 1st seed in the final bracket, but quickly followed by losses to Jose V and Spark. Otherwise, ilovebagelz mostly served as a gatekeeper of sorts at majors, beating anyone who was a borderline contender for top 50 but losing fairly consistently to those who would go on to be ranked above him.
However, the combination of impressive regional results and his uniquely explosive gameplay helped to accrue a loyal following that believed in his ability to show his stuff at a major, and finally, in 2018, he delivered on the biggest stage imaginable. At Even Bigger Balc, the largest PM event in history, ilovebagelz defeated Washington legend Aki to make it out of pools in winners, before going up against Malachi, a clear favorite to not only win their set in Round 1 of top 64, but to make top 3 at the event overall. With the Arizona crowd on their feet, Bagelz defeated first Malachi’s Sheik, then his Peach, taking a 2-0 lead and forcing one of the best players in the world to pick a tertiary, Mr Game & Watch, as a last-ditch attempt to rally. After three hard-fought games, ilovebagelz emerged victorious. One more game 5 set later and he made his way to winners’ quarters over Jfyst. While ilovebagelz fell to Blank and Fuzz at 9th place, his Even Bigger Balc run embodied the potential that so many of his fans had believed in for years, and cemented his place as a top-tier threat not only in the Southwest region, but in the world.
#47 - Boiko
A staple of the NY/NJ scene, Nick “Boiko” Boiko comes in at #47 on this list thanks to his strong performances all across the lifetime of 3.6. Originally a Ness main, he put up an impressive 13th place at Paragon Los Angeles after eliminating Hero of Time, and maintained solid results for much of 2016 prior to his switch to Meta Knight, with wins over players like Goode, Kycse, and Sora. However, shortly after making the transition to Meta Knight, Boiko had his breakout performance at Clutch City Clash. He placed 3rd at the top-heavy event, double eliminating Aero and knocking Oracle out of losers’ before being double eliminated himself by ThundeRz. Despite a rocky showing at Olympus, where he placed 25th, Boiko bounced back at Philadelphia Championships in early 2017, defeating BaconPancakes and Phresh on his way to a 9th place finish.
In general, however, this would mark the beginning of a downward trend in Boiko’s results. He was upset by Flarp at Blacklisted 3, placing 17th both there and at Supernova 2, and after a loss to Junebug in winners at We Tech Those 3 he chose to DQ himself from losers bracket due to hand pain. After over nine months, Boiko attended one last 3.6 major at the end of 2018, Blacklisted 4. He played Bowser in pools, an unusual decision to say the least, and was knocked into losers by Filthy Casual. Once in final bracket, he switched back to Meta Knight and eliminated both BaconPancakes and Flarp, two players who had often troubled him in the past, before placing just outside top 8. When his results over the entirety of 3.6 are taken into account, Boiko was incredibly consistent at major events, and with top 16 finishes at stacked majors to bookend his career, he clearly deserves a place on this list.
#46 - Ivayne
It took 5 spots into this list to come to someone who wasn’t considered a notable player by the beginning of 2016, but Ivan “Ivayne” Castaneda’s potential as a bracket was the worst kept secret in PM until his meteoric rise to the top in 2018. Ivayne attended his first out-of-region event in 2016, ranked 8th at the time in NorCal, and placed an ignominious 17th place at BroCal’s Gym: Leg Day. However, after travelling to Arizona for Rewired, he found himself thrust into the spotlight for the first time after defeating Chevy, hot off of his own upset over Envy. Victories over Jfyst and Tealz would complete Ivayne’s route to a 9th place finish. While Sosa himself termed Ivayne “the most underrated player in PM,” he actually didn’t pick up a single PMRank win at a major for over a year following Rewired, until early 2018.
At the local before We Tech Those 3, Ivayne made an unexpected bracket run to 2nd place, taking out Flarp, Twisty, Sothe, and Dirtboy along the way. For as shocking as this run was, it was only an indicator of things to come, as he tore through Envy and Hyperflame at WTT3 to put up his best major performance thus far… until a month later. At Cashed Out: Forbidden Fight Club, Ivayne found himself in losers early after facing off against Mr Lz, and proceeded to run the gauntlet of his NorCal rivals. One by one, he eliminated ThundeRz(‘s Ganon), Boringman, The Doctor, and Pikmon, gaining momentum with each set, before losing his runback to Mr Lz in finals. Although Ivayne never quite recaptured his peaks from early 2018, he remained a lock for high placements at every event he attended for the rest of 3.6. His worst event post-2017 was 17th place at Even Bigger Balc, arguably the hardest event of all time, and he bounced back with a win over Aidan for 13th at Low Tier City 6, and a 9th place finish at Smash ‘n’ Splash 5 after defeating Bubbles and Marshall.
While a lot of players have exploded to prominence over the past four years, I would argue that almost none of them were able to sustain that momentum through numerous events in the way that Ivayne did in early 2018, and to a lesser extent for the rest of 3.6.
#45 - Yung Quaff
Luke “Yung Quaff” Ferris is one of the hardest players to rank on this list, due to being both active for the entirety of PM’s lifespan and almost comically inconsistent the whole time. After a rough 2016 devoid of PMRank wins at major events, his first big win came over Envy at Downfall 6, which he followed up with the bracket run of his life at Bigger Balc. He defeated Blank, ilovebagelz, LoyaL, Dirtboy, and Hero of Time on his way to a 7th place finish at one of the most stacked events in PM history. He promptly proceeded to get 33rd at his next major, losing to Switch and Bongo at Blacklisted 3. The rest of his year was overall fairly solid, he placed 13th at Supernova 2 with a win over Dirtboy after losing in pools to Peachwave, and placed 7th at both CGC Redux and Tipped Off 12 with wins over MorKs, Envy, and Cala.
At the start of 2018, however, his inconsistency was on full display. He placed 25th at We Tech Those 3 after losses to Sothe and Ant, followed by wins over StereoKiDD, Boringman, and Twisty on his run to 7th place at the Flex Zone 3. Unfortunately, his Flex Zone run would precede a string of poor performances that would last until the end of our dataset. Quaff failed to make top 16 at Even Bigger Balc, Low Tier City 6, and Blacklisted 4, accruing losses to Cala, reslived, and Arsenals, and traded sets with Wyld to take 7th place at Frozen Phoenix 2019. While none of these losses are objectively that bad, when taken in context of the same player who had so recently taken out the likes of StereoKiDD and Boringman it’s easy to see why they can be interpreted as such in Quaff’s case. However, despite those less-than-stellar perforamnces, Yung Quaff’s incredible peaks have cemented his place in Project M history, and secure his place on our list.
#44 - Silver
While he was once notorious for how many characters he would regularly play in tournament, Thomas “Silver” Manning’s best performances have always come with his Fox and Falco, marking him as one of the only players to consistently show that the Melee spacies could hold their own against the Project M cast. He kicked off his 3.6 resume with a bang, defeating Phresh and Kycse on his way to a 9th place finish at Blacklisted 2, and hovered around the top 50 level with relatively consistent results in 2016 and early 2017, until a landmark performance at CGC Redux placed him squarely in the spotlight with wins over Yung Quaff, Phresh, and Flipp. Combined with wins over Filthy Casual at Bigger Balc, Ivayne at Even Bigger Balc, and a top 8 finish at Flex Zone 3 after taking down Boringman, Silver’s national results are nothing to scoff at.
But while Silver’s results are impressive across the board, he proved time and again to be scariest while on his home turf, with spectacular results at the Downfall series in New England. At Downfall 6 he defeated Stoks and Shiny Zubat, taking revenge for previous losses at We Tech Those 2 and ARLO 3, before taking on and defeating both Boiko and Flipp as well. This was only a warm-up, as at Downfall 7 he would go on to defeat Phresh, Kycse, Flipp, and Gallo for a 4th place finish at an incredibly stacked regional. From his great in-region wins to strong performances across the country across the past four years, Silver has been a consistent force to be reckoned with and remains one of the strongest players that New England has to offer.
#43 - Aidan
Once one of NY/NJ’s rising stars back in 2016, it didn’t take long for Aidan “Aidan” Shea to break out on a national scale, and with consistently strong placements thereafter he stayed in the spotlight for pretty much the rest of 3.6. The Zero Suit Samus main had a slow start, with 33rd and 49th place finishes at his first two majors, but after that he would pick up better and better wins at each tournament he attended, first Sora at Blacklisted 2, then Silver at We Tech Those 2, and finally, Aero at Olympus. However, as 2017 began, that steady improvement began to pick up speed. He defeated LUCK and Envy on his way to a 9th place finish at Flex Zone 2, and placed 2nd at Shuffle: Battle of the Midwest after sending Lucky and Goode to losers and double eliminating Hyperflame, losing only to Switch. He would go on to beat Switch at his next major, taking home 4th place at Philadelphia Championships after trading sets with the New Jersey titan and beating out both Bongo and Shiny Zubat.
Despite a few rough tournaments in mid-2017, Aidan made at least top 32 at every event that year, and picked up wins over the likes of Hyperflame, Envy, Mew2King, and Chevy, and ended the year as a top 20 player. The start of 2018 was arguably even better for Aidan, he defeated XYK, Emukiller, Junebug, StereoKiDD, and Kycse on his way to a 4th place finish at We Tech Those 3. While the rest of Aidan’s 2018 was less spectacular, 9th place at both Flex Zone 2 and Blacklisted 4, and 17th at Low Tier City 6 after being upset by Captain Birdman, he continued to pick up great wins over the likes of Zhime, BaconPancakes, and Fearless. While Aidan’s results aren’t quite as strong these days as they were in early 2017, when he had a genuine case for top 10 in the world, for the past two years he’s put up great results and placements at almost every event he attended and remains one of the best Zero Suit Samus players in the world.
#42 - Strong Badam
If there’s any one name that people associate with the origins of Project M, I think it’s safe to say that Adam “Strong Badam” Oliver claims the title. One of the leading members of the PMDT, Strong Badam also had an incredible competitive career prior to his retirement in 2017, and despite his inactivity since then he still stands out as one of the old-school top players of 3.6 that deserve recognition. After a rough showing at Paragon Los Angeles, placing 33rd after defeating Boiko and being eliminated by Westballz, Strong Badam ended his 2015 in explosive fashion, taking down Hyperflame and Junebug to place 3rd at Tipped Off 11, one of the most stacked events of the year. 2016 was a bit of a roller coaster for the flashy Wario player, but bookended by undeniably strong performances. Strong Badam placed top 8 at FinalBOSS, sending StereoKiDD to losers along the way, and at Low Tier City 4, defeating Hero of Time and BaconPancakes, but between these great showings were less than stellar performances at smaller events such as Super Bit Wars 4 and Shots Fired 2.
Strong Badam placed 49th at Olympus, the lowest placement of his entire PM career, but quickly silenced any doubts about his ability to compete in the advancing meta over the next few months. At his next major he placed 9th, sweeping the ascendent New Jersey threat Envy in a brutal 2-0, ending the set with two back-to-back zero-to-death combos, and one-upped himself at Flex Zone 2, where he placed 7th after defeating Kycse. Strong Badam stopped competing as seriously in early 2017, ending his competitive career with a pair of top 32 placements at The Bigger Balc and Low Tier City 5, but the forefather of the modern Wario meta had a career well worth recognizing when we look back at the best players of the game that he helped to create.
#41 - Machiavelli
Long before Sothe and Cala were striving for the crown of best Ivysaur in the world, SoCal’s own Corey “Machiavelli” Fields held the title without question. Patient, calculated, and endlessly creative, Machiavelli pushed the meta of a character that he helped to develop on the PMDT further than anyone had seen at the time, and put up consistently incredible performances before his retirement in late 2016. Machiavelli put up a show-stopping performance at Paragon Los Angeles, finishing at 7th after defeating Boiko and Jason Waterfalls, and dropping sets only to Mr Lz and Mew2King. While he had two poor performances at the start of 2016, placing 9th at both FinalBOSS and Super Bit Wars 4, he quickly returned to form with wins over Kycse and ThundeRz at Supernova, placing 13th at one of the most stacked events of 2016, and making top 16 at the Big Balc after eliminating Frozen.
From here on out, Machiavelli would only attend three more tournaments in his PM career, and they all showed his potential to succeed as a top player, if he wanted to. He placed 5th at Low Tier City 4, his best major placement ever, after defeating Bobby Frizz, BaconPancakes, LUCK, and Hero of Time. However, at his next big tournament, EVO 2016, he chose not to play Ivysaur, and drowned in pools. Despite questioning his competitive future, Machiavelli entered one last tournament, BOSS 3 in NorCal. At this event, he would defend SoCal’s pride and defeat Dr., Pikmon, and Boringman, and reset the bracket against ThundeRz before falling just short of first place in a bracket full of California’s best players.
If Machiavelli had continued to compete after 2016 he almost certainly would be higher on this list, but even in hindsight his competitive career was quite impressive. Sandbagging at EVO 2016 aside, Machiavelli made top 16 at every event he attended in 3.6, picked up impressive wins over some of the game’s best players at historic events, and proved to be one of the best players on the West Coast throughout the first year of 3.6.
That’s a wrap for the first article of this series! I’ll be back next week to talk about another 10 players and their legacies in Project M 3.6. If you enjoyed this article and want to stay updated on my content, feel free to follow me on Twitter at Sabre_Metrics, or subscribe to my YouTube channel and my Medium. See you next time!