Death, taxes, Super Smash Bros. ruleset overhauls: the constants of life. While there is often talk of making sweeping changes to the rules of a Smash game, relatively few see use in tournament play, much less widespread adoption. Examples of “successful” ruleset changes in Melee recently include wobbling bans and ledgegrab limits. Both have seen regional adoption, which is better than a 6 minute timer or frozen Pokémon Stadium, for example, have ever done.
These examples of ruleset changes aren’t all that impactful to the average player, though. They don’t fundamentally change the way Melee is played, which hasn’t changed since the MLG era. Players strike to a single stage from a defined set of “neutral” or “starter” stages, after which the losing player can choose the next stage, with the winner sometimes being allowed to ban a stage. Players have 4 stocks and 8 minutes per game, and a set is either best of 3 games and best of 5 games. This paradigm can broadly be described as Melee’s format. A wobbling ban or ledgegrab limit doesn’t by itself change Melee’s format.
It’s hard to imagine a total paradigm shift, but that hasn’t stopped players from looking for new ways to play Melee. Recently, a tweet by Sami “Druggedfox” Muhanna made the rounds on Twitter with a radical redesign of Melee’s format.
I'm grinding 1 stock 1 minute melee on yoshis, bo9 and it feels amazing. Solves everything I dislike about the game, is insanely hype, better player wins consistently, and it buffs low tiers a LOT. In case of time out, 40 second airtime auto loses.— Druggedfox (@Druggedfox) December 14, 2019
While this might sound insane, it’s not coming from a nobody. Druggedfox has been ranked as high as 12th in 2017 with wins over Mango, Leffen, and Axe over his career. He’s well known for his theoretical understanding of Melee and ability to play many characters at a high level, in addition to being a popular coach. He coaches players such as Avery “Ginger” Wilson, James “Swedish Delight” Liu, Kalindi “KJH” Henderson, Zaid “Spark” Ali, Kyle “Kalamazhu” Zhu, and many more. Let’s break it down.
What Druggedfox is proposing is for a best of 9 set, one stock per game, with a 1 minute timer, all games played on Yoshi’s Story. In case of a timeout, going over 40 seconds of airtime is an automatic game loss. This format removes other stages which have elements that promote defensive play or have random elements. Yoshi’s is arguably the “most balanced” stage. It is the smallest stage and its platforms aren’t high enough to prevent any character from approaching safely. Battlefield has a high top platform that some characters have trouble reaching, and Dreamland is huge. Fountain of Dreams has random side platforms and Pokémon has transformations. Final Destination has no platforms.
Why 1 stock? According to Druggedfox, the interactions that occur with a stock disparity necessitate one stock games. Currently, attempting to level a stock lead requires the losing player to make risky approaches, while the timer incentivizes waiting given how long a player has to make something happen. In addition, players have to play defensively at the beginning of a stock because their opponent will come back with invincibility. The one minute timer ensures that interaction will happen in a timely fashion.
Believe it or not, this isn’t a wholly original idea. Remember one stock Brawl? Probably not, and there’s a reason for that. Despite being a popular format and even used at larger tournaments like GOML 2014, it never saw widespread adoption. At major Brawl tournaments today, the 3 stock 8 minute ruleset is used because top players didn’t like one stock.
Read what top players thought in this thread from 2014
Of course, Brawl is not Melee, but it always seems that today’s problems in Melee were yesterday’s problems in Brawl. Banning infinites, changing the timer, ledge grab limits, and now 1 stock. Perhaps Melee’s format has some learning to do from Brawl’s history.
In his 1962 book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” Thomas Kuhn broke up scientific development into two periods: normal science, followed by a paradigm shift which throws out all previous knowledge except what fits the new paradigm. It has been a long time since Melee has seen such a paradigm shift in its ruleset, and it’s not exactly clear what that would look like. Perhaps with the growth of the community since 2013, a paradigm shift to bring Melee in line with modern tastes could be in order.
Author's Note: How do you feel about 1 stock Melee? Let us know in the comments!