Photo Credit: Princess Hyrule Photography
At long last, PMRank 2017 has arrived at the top! Today we conclude out top 50 rankings with three venerated players who have achieved unparalleled success at dozens of highly competitive tournaments throughout the year.
PMRank is a panel-based Power Ranking of the top 50 Project M players worldwide. Players, commentators, and tournament organizers within the community had the opportunity to apply to be panelists, and we ended up with a little less than 20 panelists by the time of the project's conclusion. Initially, 77 players were qualified to be ranked based on their placings and attendance at major Project M events throughout 2017. Only 50 highly skilled players made the final list.
With that information in mind, the panelists were given a large collection of tournament data and the following prompt:
List all candidates on the ballot in order based on your perception of what is valuable in a competitor (recency, consistency vs. peaks, placings vs. head to head ratios, etc.).
Panelists were also tasked with rating each player on their list from 1-10, with the lowest ranking player given a 1 and the highest a 10, scaling it appropriately. For each player, the highest and lowest rating on all panelists’ lists were removed when averaging votes to reduce variance.
This project would not have been possible without the dedicated volunteers who helped us engineer spreadsheets, track down tournament data, construct head-to-head charts, create and revise ranking ballots, write and edit player summaries, and gather photographs. A number of photographers have given us permission to use their high-quality photographs of Project M players for the purposes of this project as well.
Before we continue:
Take a moment to re-read that last paragraph. PMRank is a volunteer project staffed and assisted by passionate members of the Project M community. Graphic designers, writers, editors, photographers, stats nerds, leaders, and panelists all came together to make PMRank what it is. If you have enjoyed the finished product, please take a moment to thank some or all of them (credits are at the bottom) in whatever way you can. I know they will appreciate it.
Without further ado, here are the top 3 Project M players of 2017!
Photo Credit: Tram Tram Esports Photography
Jonathan “Sosa” Sosa is one of the most important players in the global Project M community. After a breakout year that resulted in him being awarded #3 in the world for PMRank 2016, one might imagine that it would be difficult to recreate that level of success. Yet where other players have lost their competitive drive after reaching the top level of play, Sosa remains hungrier than ever for the gold. This tenacity has paid dividends for him, as his results for 2017 speak for themselves.
To begin, Sosa is nothing short of dominant in-region, having earned the #1 spot on the SoCal PR every season dating back to the start of 2016. In March, SoCal PM hosted a “Triple Tourney Weekend,” which featured all of the local threats as well as a strong out-of-region presence with challengers from Arizona, the Midwest, and even NY/NJ. Though Sosa dropped one set to Tealz in pools at The Balcony 89 and another to ilovebagelz in winners’ side of We Livin’ V, ultimately he would sweep 1st place at all three tourneys. This included a losers’ run at We Livin’ V where he dispatched Sneez, LoyaL, Aidan, Gallo, ilovebagelz, and Sothe in two straight sets of Grand Finals to clinch the event. He also performed well at The Bigger Balc, the largest tournament of the year and SoCal’s premiere major. In top 64, he took out BaconPancakes and JFyst to reach Winners Quarters. After being dealt a shocking 3-1 upset by up-and-comer Fuzz, Sosa continued taking names in losers’ bracket, eliminating Emukiller, Malachi, and Anther to reach Losers Semis. It was at this point that he fell to ThundeRzReiGN, his NorCal rival who was on a warpath after being sent to losers’ bracket in round 2. Though the Riverside savage failed to fully defend his home turf, his 4th place finish marks an improvement over his 7th place result the year prior, and reinforces just how consistent his Wario is even amongst a field of 372 competitors.
The kingpin of Southern California is more than just the region’s best player, however. He is also their most well-traveled, having attended multiple majors on both coasts as well as in Texas. All of this travel has accumulated in dozens of wins over PMRank hopefuls and only a handful of losses. In fact, Sosa boasts a 43-4 set count over the players ranked in the #11-50 range for 2017. Further illustrating his success, Sosa made top 8 at every single major he attended last year. At The Flex Zone 2 in New York, Sosa consecutively defeated Anther, Strong Bad, HyperFlame and Flipp before succumbing to Malachi in Grand Finals. He would produce another run at Philadelphia Championships, beating Envy, HyperFlame, Aidan, and Malachi to once again reach Grand Finals. This time, he took 1st place after trading sets with Switch. His dominance was tested at Low Tier City 5, however, where his Wario ran into two problem matchups in the form of the Phresh’s Ice Climbers and dvd’s Toon Link. The former edged him out in Winners Quarters in what will likely become one of the most iconic sets of all time, with the two exchanging trash talk and miniature pop-offs throughout the set. It is rare to see Sosa rattled, but he continued to look on-edge in his losers’ set with The Doctor. With a top 8 berth on the line, Sosa hunkered down and withstood the Mario phenom’s onslaught, seizing victory from the jaws of defeat. The set was perhaps one of the best demonstrations of Sosa’s trademark mental fortitude and tenacity.
Unfortunately, dvd would overcome Sosa in one of the first sets of top 8, dealing him his lowest placing of the year at 7th. Nevertheless, Sosa ended the year with strong performances and contentious sets with other members of this year’s top 10. At Salty Juan’s 4, he was knocked into losers’ after a game 5 set with Fuzz, but he went on to overpower ThundeRz in Loser’s Finals and trade sets with Fuzz en route to a 2nd place finish. Clutch City Clash 2 played out somewhat similarly in that Sosa defeated Thunderz and traded sets with Fuzz in Grand Finals. But this time, his victory over the DK main occurred in Winners Finals, meaning the trade against the Houston hopeful left Sosa at the top of the totem pole. In his final major of the season, Fair and Balanced, Sosa picked up wins on The Doctor and Pikmon but was ultimately eliminated by ThundeRz and Malachi for 3rd.
With stellar performances at almost all of these events in the books, Sosa’s record vs. the other top 10 on this year’s rankings clearly proclaims that he is one of the titans of Project M. His worst stat is an 0-1 head-to-head with dvd, but he is undefeated versus Sothe, HyperFlame, and Flipp. He has a 3-4 record with Fuzz and has been extremely competitive with the rest of top 4, with respectable set counts of 2-3 against Switch, 3-3 versus Malachi, and 2-3 in serious sets with his NorCal rival ThundeRzReiGN.
Beneath Sosa’s recurring cockiness and an abrasive social media presence, there is a player who can walk the walk just as much as he can talk the talk. No other Wario player possesses Sosa’s ability to apply deceptively safe shield pressure, extend combos past their expected conclusions, and emerge from bad spots with an advantage. His results this past year were exemplary, and befitting of someone who has worked so hard to reach the upper echelon of competition. If Sosa remains committed to the path he has pursued over the past few years, he may yet be able to become the greatest player in the world.
Written By: Alex "Darth Shard" Elert
Photo Credit: Princess Hyrule Photography
In 2017, Malachi “Bob Bobberson” Covington continued and improved upon his exceptional blend of tech chases, shield drops, and vicious punishes. Very, very few players can claim winning records against Malachi, seeing as he is positive against ThundeRzReiGN, Fuzz, and Switch, three of his fellow top ten players and some of the greatest tournament threats of 2017. While Malachi has been upset by a select few, his overall dominance at regionals and nationals speaks volumes about his skill. In fact, his play has become so good that some people have compared him to Melee Peach juggernaut Armada, a topic that came up in one of Armada’s YouTube videos. While the merit of such comparisons is debatable, there is no doubt that Malachi’s Peach and Sheik remain incredible forces in the Project M metagame.
Perhaps the beginning of the year was the fuel that drove Malachi’s peaks in 2017. His performance at East Coast regional The True King was disappointing for a PMRank 2016 top five player. His loss to fellow New York native Aidan in a shocking 0-2 led to an early entry into losers’ side. While he did rack up wins on other strong NY/NJ local players, such as dvd and Envy, Malachi’s tournament run ended in a nail-biting 2-3 loss to Switch. At the pre-Flex Zone 2 Nebulous Prime, Malachi was also dealt a shocking defeat by Midwest Pikachu main Anther, and longtime West Coast rival Sosa ended up eliminating him from the tournament. He was even sent into the losers’ side of top 8 at The Flex Zone 2 by Flipp in a tight 2-3. While these players would be perfectly reasonable losses for most anyone else, Malachi was far from satisfied, and he channelled his inner rabid koala as he ventured into losers’ side of top 8.
There, he took vengeance on Switch with an incredibly dominant 3-0, beat HyperFlame 3-1, and destroyed Flipp in a clinical 3-0. In Grand Finals, Malachi reset the bracket against Sosa before taking home the whole tournament, winning both sets 3 to 1. This kind of dominance became commonplace for much of the rest of the year. In the spring, Malachi continued to place at the top, racking up another 1st place at Downfall 6 with a long series of 3-0s on other top 50 players like Boiko, Flipp, Switch, and Gallo. In fact, he ended up winning the entire tournament with only three games lost total. At Philadelphia Championships he placed 3rd, losing only to his classic rivals Switch and Sosa.
In the summer, Malachi continued to travel and compete for victories at events such as the Michigan regional Bounty Hunters. There, he won the pre-regional local, Perfect Cherry Blossom #1, as well as the actual Bounty Hunters tournament, defeating techboy for 1st place both times. Notably, Malachi did not meet Anther, a player who had given him trouble before. However, a reckoning could not be postponed indefinitely. At the next national, The Bigger Balc, a loss to Chevy in pools caused Malachi to be seeded much lower than usual. This resulted in an early showdown between Malachi and his strongest rival of 2017, ThundeRzReiGN. While Malachi won in an intense 3-2, Anther beat him immediately afterward. The New York titan defeated Phresh, MorKs and Jose v in losers’ side, but he had to settle for 7th place after losing to Sosa yet again. Things continued to look discouraging as hand pain caused him to drop out of Supernova 2 after day 1 pools.
However, all doubts were put to rest as Summer ended and Fall began. Malachi came back in full force and in better health during Low Tier City 5, defeating Phresh and Twisty in the top 8 to face off once again against the West Coast champion, ThundeRzReiGN. At first it seemed that ThundeRz had Malachi’s number, beating both the Sheik and the Peach in a 3-0 to reset the bracket. However, Malachi rallied back with renewed confidence in his Peach, eventually prompting a character switch for ThundeRzReiGN from Donkey Kong to Captain Falcon. Malachi quickly adapted to the counterpick and ultimately won 3-1 with a beautifully aimed “stitch face” turnip to finish off the final edgeguard. After his adventures around the country, Malachi continued to win at East Coast regionals Immunity 2 and Smash Bros University 3.0, meeting and beating Switch in both Winners and Grand Finals of both events.
To finish the year, Malachi went to the NorCal super-regional, Fair and Balanced. At the pre-regional tournament, Malachi snagged a win on Fuzz in their first and only encounter of 2017. At the regional itself, the coastal rivalries between Malachi, Sosa, and ThundeRzReiGN were put on display for one final time. Malachi cleared Pikmon and Boringman to reach Winners Finals against ThundeRzReiGN, but his Peach faltered this time, forcing him to play Sosa in Losers Finals. There, Sosa managed to put the Peach on the ropes by going up 2-0 to start the set. Digging deep, Malachi brought out the Sheik and summoned one of his most precise and dominating performances of 2017, clinching an incredible reverse 3-0 that included two 3-stock wins on Sosa’s counterpick stages. Malachi’s hot streak kept up as he tech chased and edgeguarded ThundeRz for a jaw-dropping 3-0 to reset the bracket. While ThundeRz came back to win the tournament with his own 3-0, it seems fitting that the only one capable of beating the #2 player of Project M was the #1 player, and their final sets of the year showed off some truly awe-inspiring play.
While the storyline of Malachi against the world came to a neat conclusion at Fair and Balanced, 2018 looks much murkier with the retirement of ThundeRzReiGN from serious competition. Project M has seen several of its top players weighed down by pressure and expectations–can anyone remain strong under ever increasing scrutiny by the public eye? In the words of Junebug, the first Project M 3.6 player to stake a clear claim to the #1 title, “Throne is heavy af.” Going into 2018, the crown falls by succession to Malachi.
The old king is dead. Long live the king!
Written By: Pegthaniel
Photo Credit: Remzi Hazboun Photography
If 2016 was the story of Xayya “ThundeRzReiGN” Thammavongsa’s rise to national dominance over the Project M scene, 2017 was the test to see if he could keep his throne against the rising tide of competition. While last year’s PMRank panel unanimously placed ThundeRz as the best player in the world, this year’s voting came down to the wire. In the end, NorCal’s hero reigned supreme for the second time in a row.
ThundeRz started the year shakily, placing 3rd at SoCal regional Brocal’s Gym: Bulking Season after being double eliminated by LoyaL in a shocking pair of upsets, but quickly bounced back. He attended the Cashed Out Invitational in February, deciding to play only his secondary Captain Falcon through the bracket, and still won the tourney from winner’s bracket over ilovebagelz, Jose v, Mr. Lz, and Sosa. While this was the first time ThundeRz would use secondaries to that degree of success in bracket, it would not be his last. In addition to his revolutionary Donkey Kong, his tenacious Captain Falcon would become something of a second main over the course of the year, and 2017 featured appearances from characters including Ganondorf, Fox, Falco, and Sopo in Grand Finals of various events. After Cashed Out, ThundeRz would go on to take a dominant 1st place at Frozen Phoenix 2017, defeating the finest Midwest and Canadian players in attendance without dropping a single game. At his last big tourney before the summer, Community Gaming Celebration in New York, he would lose a total of two games as he swept to victory over Twisty, Kycse, and Flipp twice in Grand Finals.
While ThundeRz had asserted himself over the West Coast in the first half of the year, taking down the likes of Sosa and Boringman with relative ease, he had yet to run up against Malachi or Switch, who had been establishing themselves as the two best players on the East Coast. This would change at Bigger Balc. Malachi was upset in pools by Chevy, and subsequently seeded to play ThundeRz in just Winners Round 2 of top 64. In one of the hypest and most intense sets of the year, full of incredible combos and fast-paced neutral, Malachi would clutch out a victory in game 5, sending ThundeRz down to the stacked losers’ bracket. ThundeRz then stormed through Cloudburst, Jfyst, Twisty, Boringman, HyperFlame, Yung Quaff, Switch, Sosa, and Fuzz, ending the tournament with a dominant 6-1 victory over Flipp. It was a legendary losers run, possibly the greatest in Project M history. While he did not find his opportunity to take revenge on Malachi after his loss in winners’ bracket, ThundeRzReiGN’s victory at the biggest tournament of 2017 reminded the world why the red Donkey Kong was the most fearsome opponent they could imagine in their bracket.
However, his struggle against Malachi would continue as just a few weeks later the two faced off again at Blacklisted 3. This time, Malachi’s Sheik would 3-0 ThundeRz in dominant fashion in winners side, and while ThundeRz climbed back through the bracket to Losers Finals, he would once again be eliminated by his New York rival. This time, Malachi went up 2-0 with his Peach, prompting a character switch to Captain Falcon from ThundeRz. Only one stock separated him from a reverse 3-0 and from Grand Finals, but it was not to be. The two would face off once again at Low Tier City 5, where ThundeRz would make another monstrous losers’ run after losing to Twisty in top 16, defeating Blank, Switch, Phresh, dvd, and Twisty before meeting Malachi in Grand Finals. Forgoing the Captain Falcon that found such success at Blacklisted, ThundeRz reset the bracket in a 3-0 with Donkey Kong, his first victory over Malachi. However, Malachi’s Peach proved too strong, and Malachi continued to rack up in wins their head-to-head matchup.
The two would only face off once more in 2017, at Fair and Balanced in November, but in the interim ThundeRz began to look more mortal than ever. Sothe took him to game 5 twice at Balcy’s Palace, and although ThundeRz came out on top in Vegas, a number of his other challengers were out for blood. He travelled to the Midwest for Showdown: Battle Royale 2, where he faced off against Michigan prodigy techboy. In an incredible display of technical proficiency and matchup awareness, techboy would defeat ThundeRz in two sets, 3-1 and 3-0. Two weeks later, ThundeRz would fall to Fuzz and Sosa at Salty Juan’s 4, his first loss to either player in 2017, and he would lose to the same players at Clutch City Clash 2 to take 3rd at both events. While he had still never placed outside of top 3 in 2017, ThundeRz was far from displaying the sheer dominance that had characterized the first half of the year. Additionally, he was beginning to feel the strain of attending so many events and the pressure of maintaining his throne. He attended more notable tourneys and played more sets against the rest of the top 50 than any other player this year, but eventually ThundeRz decided that Fair and Balanced, a NorCal tourney, would be his last event as a serious competitor.
Fair and Balanced, originally planned as a regional, became the de facto finale of 2017 after the Project M Championship Circuit failed to organize one. With Malachi, Sosa, and Fuzz all in attendance, the odds seemed stacked against him, but ThundeRz drew strength from the home crowd and advanced through the bracket. Fuzz was eliminated from the tournament at 9th, but ThundeRz and Sosa would meet in Winners Semis, and in a grueling game 5 set, ThundeRz would redeem himself for those losses in Texas and New Mexico. This set up a Winners Finals between him and his greatest rival, Malachi. At first, ThundeRz struggled to find his stride against Malachi’s Peach, trying both Donkey Kong and Ganondorf to no avail before switching to Captain Falcon. With the crowd on their feet, ThundeRz would complete the 3-0 comeback that had eluded him at Blacklisted 3. Malachi returned in Grand Finals, where his Sheik demonstrated a clinical mastery of tech chasing and edge-guarding, resetting the bracket with a brutal 3-0. Nevertheless, ThundeRz collected himself and fought back with a vengeance, taking the tournament a 3-0 of his own and inciting the crowd to rush the stage. Just as ThundeRz burst onto the national stage in January of 2016 with a 2nd place finish at FinalBOSS, he would end his own career, on his terms, by taking 1st in that same venue.
Over the last two years, ThundeRzReiGN has come to define the Project M metagame. His unparalleled punish game, threatening yet patient neutral, and mastery of multiple characters has taken NorCal’s local hero and made him an internationally recognized titan whose impact on the game, and those who play it, is inescapable. While his hold on the title of #1 was tenuous at times, ThundeRz is the only player to have held a win rate of over 80% against the top 50 in over the last year. It is indeed sad to see him abdicate the throne and let competition take a backseat, but in the end, he just wants to have fun playing the game like anyone else. The stage is now set for a new player to claim the title of the best Project M player in the world.
Let the battle begin.
Written By: Sabre
Rest of the List
- Adam “Strong Bad” Oliver
- Brennan “FlashingFire” Connolly
- Cody “Yata!” Anderson
- Devin “Reslived” Gajewski
- Ryan “Sabre” Weinberg
- Anna “Kumatora” Mayorskiy
- Cody “Yata!” Anderson
- Courtney “Zesty” Coffman
- Eric “FingerStripes” Bohorquez
- David "davidvkimball" Kimball
- Eric “FingerStripes” Bohorquez
- Mike "Kuro Kairaku" Nickerson
- Brennan “FlashingFire” Connolly
- Adam "Strong Bad" Oliver
- Ahmed “Apollo Ali” Akbar
- Anna “Kumatora” Mayorskiy
- Cody “Yata!” Anderson
- Kyle "Pegthaniel" Guo