History 2002-2008: The Elite

MLG_JV

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#1
Game-Changers: The Elite
by Kishprime
To be in this category of player, you essentially had to be a player who revolutionized the game in some way and won multiple national tournaments (or, in some cases, were far enough ahead of the competition to realistically be in contention). I believe these are the only eight players who fully fit that description.

1. Ken – Ken took a character that few expected to be great and won for years. He demonstrated his ability to win regional tournaments with other characters, including Sheik and Fox, but never left his main, Marth, for the highest levels of competition. He played a very non-flashy style, yet was nearly perfect at reacting to opportunities and capitalizing - finishing every combo in devastating fashion. His long record of dominance only began to falter near the end of MLG Melee, when competition reached its peak and his interest began to wane. Thanks to the infusion of cash from the MLG era, his prize winnings are unmatched with the possible exception of PC Chris.

2. PC Chris – While his was not the first excellent Falco, he was the first to demonstrate an elite, tournament-winning Falco in the MLG era. His victory at MLG New York was the first to break up the KAI string of dominance from the prior few years and allowed the second generation of Smashers to begin challenging for titles. He had many memorable sets with Ken and Mew2King, and bridged the gap from the original greats to the second generation, winning many of the tournaments among both groups simultaneously. His signature accomplishments were winning both the opening and closing MLG events of the most competitive year in Smash history, 2006, when the prizes and quantity of players were at their highest. He continued to dominate well into 2007, plowing through one of the most difficult brackets in history at 0C3 for first and taking second at FCD.

3. Azen – Azen perfected his knowledge of the game by playing as many characters as possible. He often selected his characters before the tournament and played them straight through, regardless of the consequences. Because of this, he made some fairly dramatic statements with a number of different characters, but made the most noise with his unique take on Marth. Azen arguably knew matchups as well as anyone in Smash history, but seemed to love dittos most of all, regarding them as the true measure of player skill. My own suspicion is that this is what drove him to pick up Marth following his early losses to Ken with Sheik. His list of accomplishments does not well represent his true skill, since he often used tournaments, even major ones (FC3 comes to mind), as training grounds for his lesser characters. Following a brief retirement, Azen came back to take first place at the MLG Playoffs in 2006 when nearly every player on this list was competing at a very high level.

4. Mew2King – From his early compilations of raw numbers to his displays of technical excellence in the later MLG era, he was a game-changer in many ways, but most importantly by his ability to take his technical brilliance and win tournaments. Many players over the years have become known for their technical perfection, but strangely that does not usually translate into tournament wins. M2K was the exception. He set the bar for Fox play and pushed both Marth and Sheik extremely far. His speed and precision revolutionized what was possible for all three characters. It could be argued that he was the best player in Melee from late 2007 through the beginning of Brawl.

5. Chu Dat – Chu showed a versatility that neared Azen’s, but his stardom surrounds his use of the Ice Climbers to a more successful degree than anyone before or since, winning second place for a year or more in every national tournament he played in. If not for Ken, would likely have also won himself several national tournaments during this span. As it is, he won countless regional tournaments and was still able to snag a few MLG titles as well.

6. Recipherus – His career was brief, but very meaningful in the era that he played. He retired after traveling to different regions of the country and winning multiple tournaments in the earliest days of Smash. His Sheik was the original incarnation that drove her to the top of the first few tier lists. He was one of the first to consistently incorporate l-canceling into his game, and won several major tournaments before Ken took over the title, including the big-money FFA tournament in Seattle that awarded $5,000. His group was the first to travel the country in search of additional competition. From what I understand, after his 2nd place finish at TG5 he retired to focus on his chess game, though he did return briefly to place well at TG6.

7. KoreanDJ – In his exceptional but short career, KDJ did everything but win a major national tournament, downing almost every member of the list above him at least once. The closest he came to winning one was earning 2nd place at the final MLG-operated event, MLG Nationals 2006. After winning the MLG-sponsored Long Island, NY tournament, he stepped out of Smash and only returned a couple times later to enter tournaments for fun. If he’d played longer, I believe he would have been much higher on this list.

8. Isai – Brought his perfection of Smash 64 into Melee and highlighted one of the most technical characters in the game. His command of the small skills and mindgames separated him from the pack for years until, frankly, he didn’t care to keep getting better. At different points in his career, he played at least 4 characters well enough to be a Top 3 player, though his association with Falcon drove both of their images into legend status. It could certainly be argued that he was the best teams player in the history of the game, with his unique combination of raw skill and teamwork. Other than Ken, he also won major teams tournaments with other players, including Recipherus and Captain Jack.

Honorable Mentions:
Drephen – Drephen brought simplicity back to the game during an extremely complex era, utilizing Sheik’s grabs, jabs, and downsmashes almost to a fault. Yet his style proved effective, and he was excellent for a very long time, longer than most Smashers play the game. Despite occasional major tournament wins, he remained mired in the middle of the Midwest’s Big 5 (Drephen plus Dope, Darkrain, Tink, and Vidjogamer split Midwest regional titles for the majority of the MLG era and beyond) for most of his career. He defeated PC Chris to take an East Coast tournament, and took out Bombsoldier at 0C3. While Darkrain comes close, I’d have to give the title of Midwest’s best to Drephen, by the slimmest of hairs.

Chillindude – I can’t really cite a lot of tournament placings when describing why Chillindude829 makes my list, yet I can’t take him off. He was only 13 when he was at his best in singles and he could not travel very much, which is part of the reason for that. During the first few years of competitive Smash, he was arguably the East Coast’s next best player to Azen until Chu Dat surpassed him, and he shocked the country with his win over Ken at Game Over. He had an amazing crew battle in the finals of Gettin’ Schooled 2 against top players, which he recaps himself during BACH’s montage of the event. Azen and Chillin made for an amazing team for many years, becoming the first team to knock off Ken and Isai. Most important of all, he’s got a great name. He was an elite player in the earliest days and, like Isai, remained an elite teams player for long past his singles prime. Still, he couldn’t quite stay elite in singles once competition picked up, remaining only an excellent player. No shame in that.

Sastopher – His placings at the major tournaments from 2004-2005 are astonishing to note (Eliminated Ken for 4th – TG6, 2nd – MELEE-FC3). It’s difficult to understand how most players have never heard of the best Peach in United States Smash history. Nevertheless, his career was limited in his ability and desire to travel, and his high placings did not come during the MLG heyday. He’s close to the list above, but doesn’t have a quality+quantity of tournament results to quite push him over the top.

Darkrain – I’ll give some credit to Big D since he recently summed it up well, so I’ll paraphrase him. Isai may be synonymous with Falcon for most people, but Darkrain created the modern Falcon. His relentless studies of combos and follow-ups led him to take the character in a much different direction than Isai took him. Where Isai dominated with precision control and mindgames, Darkrain dominated with deeper game knowledge about the character and perfect timing. Similar to Drephen, he too remained mired in the Midwest’s Big 5 during regional tournaments, but he always stood out at major and national tournaments, often placing in the Top 5 over many years.

There are other players that I think made major contributions and were huge innovators in the game: DA Dave, Wes, King, and Forward to name just a few. I’m sure there are others that I’m forgetting. However, the list above is a pretty comprehensive look at the best, most influential players in 6 years of Melee history.
 

Mike G

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#10
Lol. HugS needs to be in there as well.



But it's whatever, Hugo. Yo, I say we just MM JV and Kishprime and take their money for old times sake. And don't worry, Prime. I still remember that I lost to you at inn 5. Unlike your old ***, I still remember stuff like that.

/trash talk. <3

Good work to both you guys overall :)
 

Teran

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#11
Mike G is so unbelievably pro, he needs to MM JV, and if he wins he gets SWF.
 

HugS™

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#12
I think Mango could certainly be mentioned here. His rise was established during the summer of 2007 during Super Champ Combo and EVO 2k7, and his status as world's best was almost cemented after Pound3 in 2008. Much like PC Chris, he bridged the gap between 2nd generation and 3rd generation smashers.

He fits the time frame, and should have no reason to be omitted.

Also, it sucks that I'd be omitted from honorable mentions, despite being the only player not within the dreaded "elite 7" to make MLG nationals during Smash's most competitive year, as Samus. Plus, I've had many other contributions/accomplishments. I guess that's the downside of this being written by 1 person from 1 region :p

I mean, Chillindude, a guarantee as an honorable mention, was admittedly a near exclusion, or an implied near exclusion, because his tournament results couldn't be recalled. I'm sure an EC player could recall his results. But what can you do.

If I exclude those 8 (9 if you include mango) that deserve their own category for showing world class dominance, I could easily make a deserving top 10 list. It seems silly to exclude so many people. I couldn't bring myself to make a list with only 4 people, especially when the quantity of 4 seems so arbitrary. Why just 4?

Oh, and Taj + Forward were the first team to take out Ken and Isai, not Azen + Chillin
 

AlphaZealot

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#13
Oh, and Taj + Forward were the first team to take out Ken and Isai, not Azen + Chillin
Yeap. And the second team to do it was Wes and PC Chris.

Technically Azen/Chillin were the first to completely ELIMINATE Ken/Isai from a tournament, but not the first to take a set from them. Heck, Mew2King/KDJ were the 3rd people to take a set from them (they put Ken/Isai in losers at the tournament that Azen/Chillin eliminated them in the grand finals).
 
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#18
Fun fact for Sastopher:
He lives in Mass, near Boston.
Though he doesn't play and all my attempts aside from one to contact him have been futile D:
 

KishPrime

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#20
Shrug. I'm happy people have other ideas, and I'm not gonna say anyone is wrong. I tried to keep the list to people who were actually in contention for winning national tournaments, which included the top 12. All of the guys mentioned so far (Hugs, Mike G, Caveman, Rob$ etc.) could be added to the last little paragraph (see "to name just a few"), but I didn't want to try to be inclusive with that one because I'd almost assuredly leave people off. I'd still stand by my list as including everyone who fits into that category - I don't really feel that any of the others mentioned were really contenders to win national titles. Sorry Hugs, you had plenty of good wins, still.

Mango, eh, he could be on there, but if you're just looking at up until Brawl (which is really what I did), I don't think he was quite established that well yet.

Mike G, I don't remember beating you at INN, I just remember losing to you at FC3 and getting eliminated because I couldn't kill you at 180%. It's like my greatest Smash regret. :p

Azen and Chillin were the first team to take a tournament from Ken/Isai...sorry if that's unclear. That can be edited. And regarding Chillin's tournament placings, my point is that he doesn't have a lot of national tournament results from the time when he was that good, not that I can't recall them.

And yeah, I'd take some money matches if I ever see you jokers again. :p I ain't afraid of anyone.
 

HugS™

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#23
Sastopher was the closest of those 4 to win a national, by actually placing 2nd at what is considered a national tournament. How did drephen/Darkrain ever come close to winning a national? Chillin arguably won a national with his MLG orlando win and came very close with his pound2 performance. But while Drephen and Darkrain are certainly amazing players, they don't meet your criteria.

My memory might be shaky, but I don't recall Darkrain or Drephen ever placing 2nd at a national. That's your midwest bias getting mixed in there.

Now, there WAS a national in 2007 where I got 2nd, EVO 2k7. It was the biggest Melee tournament within your time frame at 270 entrants. 2nd is as close as one could get to winning a national without actually winning. Not to mention, I was the only player not in your elite 7 to make it to the toughest national smash event of all time, MLG 2006 nationals. How would anyone besides Chillin/Sastopher be more qualified than myself for a "contender" title if you're judging based on an ability to win nationals.

Also, Mango was well established pre brawl. Taking 3rd at EVO 2k7 (Biggest national up until then) and 3rd at Super Champ Combo. Then, within the first month of 2008, he took 1st at arguably the 2nd most stacked tournament of all time, Pound 3. You're not going with the facts here Kishy boy.
 

KishPrime

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#24
I might be off. I remember Darkrain taking 2nd at a major EC tournament. I remember Drephen winning a major tournament with the likes of Azen/PC there. And both were Top 5 at basically every national tournament for awhile, usually right behind the elite guys and ahead of a couple others, which is why they got a nod. But yes, that's why they're honorable mentions.

Given the facts you present, I'd probably toss you in to the honorable mentions as well. To be honest, EvoK7 was off my radar. So there you go! In my defense, you were on my close but close but no cigar list.

That's a good record for Mango, and arguably as stacked as Sas is, so I'll give you that he could probably make it into the honorable mentions at least, given that those do occur before my cutoff. I mostly left him off because I thought his better days were past Brawl launch.
 

HugS™

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#25
I think the problem here is that you left too soon Kish, you didn't feel the full impact that some players left in their rise.

LoL and I didn't mean to say Darkrain and Drephen don't deserve a mention, they certainly do. I just feel your omissions showcase the legendary status of your Midwest love :p
 

KishPrime

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#26
I think it's hilarious that people think I have Midwest love. I don't know why I would be biased toward people who live 300 miles away from me as opposed to 1500.

By the way, does anyone know what Sas pulled at OC2? I thought that was another one he placed well at.
 

HugS™

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#27
LOL because it became apparent when 8 panelist voted darkrain within the 15-20 range on the national rankings, and only you threw him in 8th or 7th.
 

KishPrime

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#28
Oh no, I disagreed on one player's ranking and I have a legendary Midwest bias?

lolz...well reasoned.

You don't post lists like this without some disagreement, so I'm good with it.
 

SSSnake

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#33
very nice list but i thought silentwolf would be in the honorable mentions. honestly, he may not be m2k, but he is a very good smasher with one of the most devistating foxs in the game
 

The Good Doctor

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#35
very nice list but i thought silentwolf would be in the honorable mentions. honestly, he may not be m2k, but he is a very good smasher with one of the most devistating foxs in the game
This topic is about smashers that changed the game, not about "good smashers that don't win"
This refers to HugS or anyone else that isn't mentioned besides Mango.

SWF just hates on Mango....
Haha
 

iamjason8

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#39
Great read!

But it could have been even better if you added a segment like "where are they now?"

e.g. Ken has a job working for this company as an artist and has never played Smash since 2008...etc.

Just really curious. Melee da bess!
 
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