Today, PMRank 2019 concludes its main course, and today, we honor the players at the absolute highest level of the game.
PMRank is a panel-based Power Ranking of the top 50 Project M and Project+ 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, 70 players were qualified to be ranked based on their placings and attendance at major Project M/+ events throughout 2019. Only 50 highly skilled players made the final list.
PMRank staff collected and organized data from dozens of Project M/+ events from the past year, seeking out tournaments with significant inter-regional competition. Panelists were tasked with reviewing this data and ranking each player in order, from #1 to #70. For each player, the highest and lowest rankings on all panelists’ lists were removed when averaging votes to reduce variance. After an initial ballot, panelists were given time to discuss the aggregated results and move closer to consensus in the case of players with high standard deviations. Then, panelists submitted a second and final ballot.
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.
Young Ice Climbers prodigy Michael “techboy” Leleniewski has outdone himself after an already incredible 2018. Every year since his breakout, techboy has appeared in the top 10 of PMRank, and every year he has risen in ranking as well. This year is no exception as techboy has continued to astound his fans with a deep understanding of the ICs’ complexities and implement cutting edge techniques into his brutal punish game. The conventional wisdom against Ice Climbers is to remain on platforms and in the air to avoid their powerful grab game; however, against techboy such elusive maneuvers seem equally doomed to failure as he rapidly picks up on and punishes his opponents’ habits.
Early in the year, techboy accomplished a previously unseen feat by winning Frozen Phoenix twice in a row, defeating great players such as Yung Quaff, Dirtboy, and Sothe twice. In fact, he improved on his previous performance by winning the event even more cleanly than before. In 2018, he at least appeared challenged by Rongunshu as techboy was forced into a second set of Grand Finals. No such challenge appeared this year, and techboy cleaned up every set including a dominant 3-0 in the final set against Sothe.
By summertime, techboy was ready to face some of the greatest players PM has ever put forward, and he showed it at Smash‘N’Splash 5. There, he quickly qualified for the final bracket by blazing through the first qualification round. In the top 32 bracket, techboy defeated Washington powerhouses Aki and Pikmon before squeaking past ThundeRzReiGN in a nail-biting 3-2 win, clutching the set out with an unbelievable single-climber juggle. Then in Winners Finals, techboy hit his first major roadblock of the year: Malachi’s tenacious Peach. While he was sent to losers’ with a resounding 0-3 loss, techboy did not lose sight of the prize. In Losers Finals, he sent ThundeRz home in a 3-0 with a shocking display of dominance. His momentum carried him into a bracket reset against Malachi in Grand Finals, but Malachi ultimately regained his footing and won, leaving techboy with a 2nd place finish.
Unfortunately for techboy, he did not finish the summer as strong as he started. At the second premier event of the summer, Blacklisted 5, he was looking every bit like the Frozen Phoenix champion until he ran into Lunchables. The Texas savant seemed to have the Roy-Ice Climbers matchup locked down as he unpredictably flowed around the platforms and repeatedly separated Popo from Nana throughout his 3-0 win. In losers’ bracket, techboy ran into another tough opponent: DVD, who has been famous for his hit-and-run “chip” damage wins against techboy in the past. Unable to pin down the evasive Toon Link, Techboy would leave Blacklisted 5 with a 9th place finish.
Overall, techboy had a killer 2019 performance featuring wins over both Malachi and ThundeRzReiGN, and his precision and knowledge continue to dazzle opponents and admirers alike. While Project+ has required techboy to rebuild his understanding of his highly nuanced character, it has always taken current or former top 10 players of extraordinary skill to beat him. Will 2020 be the year techboy ascends to the throne as these changes settle down?
Written By: Pegthaniel
Photo Credit: Princess Hyrule
A staple of Project M top 8’s across North America, Xayya “ThundeRzReiGN” Thammavongsa once again proved himself to be one of the very best players in the world in 2019. However much his competitive drive has wavered, his eye-catching combos and constant X-factor are a delight to behold when he does commit to his sets. The classic red Donkey Kong was out in force at the beginning of the year, defeating Lucky and The Doctor to claim 1st place at Hawaii’s Poi Poundaz 2, ending the tournament on with 4-stock. ThundeRz also took the gold on his NorCal home turf at Neon Genesix Evangelion, this time claiming wins over Reslived, Pikmon, and The Doctor again on his way to victory.
At his first major of the year, Smash’N’Splash 5, ThundeRz put up a strong showing as he defeated Poilu, Junebug, and Ivayne on his way to Winners Semis, where he faced off against techboy, a familiar stumbling block. These two hadn’t faced off in nearly two years since techboy’s 6-0 victory over him at Showdown: Battle Royale 2 in 2017. Although it was clear that ThundeRz had put some thought into how to approach the matchup, techboy emerged victorious from the last-stock set. ThundeRz would eliminate Aki and Pikmon from the tournament before being eliminated by techboy at 3rd place, this time without even taking a game. ThundeRz wouldn’t get the chance to face off against Malachi, the eventual champion of Smash‘N’Splash 5, and he would have to overcome some heavy challenges before getting that chance at Blacklisted 5. At the New England event, ThundeRz was sent to losers’ by Connor in a stunning upset by Minnesota’s #1 player. Once in losers’ bracket, ThundeRz tore through Boiko, Narq, Shiny Zubat, DVD, Flarp, Twisty, and Switch to face off against Malachi’s Bowser in Grand Finals. Despite his growing momentum through losers’, ThundeRz seemed lost with both Donkey Kong and Captain Falcon against the newly-buffed Koopa King, and he once again fell short against one of his historic rivals, ending his gargantuan run at 2nd place.
While ThundeRz had proven capable of outlasting the field in his huge losers’ runs, he had yet to take 1st place at one of the year’s summer majors. That wouldn’t last much longer. At Low Tier City 7, ThundeRz dominated the bracket on his way to victory, taking out LUCK, Mr. Watch & Learn, Sneez, and Fuzz to reach Grand Finals without dropping a game, and then eliminating Morsecode762 in a game 5 set to close out his tournament win. At his next and final event of the year, ThundeRz would have another chance to face off against Malachi at SoCal’s The Encore. After making it into top 8 following a close set with Rongunshu, ThundeRz would find himself in losers’ earlier than expected thanks to an early loss to a fellow NorCal player, Sugydye. Just as he did at Blacklisted 5, ThundeRz began yet another one of the formidable losers’ runs that have defined his Project M career. ThundeRz eliminated both Yung Quaff and The Doctor to earn his rematch against Sugydye and dismantled the latter’s Mr. Game & Watch in a commanding 3-0 victory. Malachi, however, was a different beast. There was no Bowser in sight as Malachi tech chased and edgeguarded ThundeRz with oppressive consistency, and Malachi jumped to a 2-0 lead in the set. ThundeRz’s own punish game began to improve as the set continued, allowing him to take one game, then a second, and a third in game 5 to complete a reverse 3-0 comeback that would reset the bracket. As with so many of his historic losers’ runs, the second set of Grand Finals may as well have been a formality. Malachi held his own, but the brutal punishes and tricky neutral that have made ThundeRz one of the game’s elite for so long once again prevailed, earning ThundeRz his second major win of the year and his first wins over Malachi since Fair and Balanced 2 in 2017.
Despite early losses at Blacklisted 5 and The Encore, ThundeRz proved to be a consistent top-level threat at any tournament that he attended in 2019. He boasts 1st place finishes at two of the year’s largest events and two wins over Malachi’s Sheik, something nobody else in the world can claim in 2019, but ultimately he falls just short of reclaiming his #1 spot on PMRank. Heading into 2020, ThundeRz has all the potential he needs to once again cement himself as the best player in the world, but in order to so, he’ll need to not only maintain his winning record against Malachi but also overcome a lifetime winless record against techboy, who moves ever closer to making a case for the #1 spot himself. With all three players, along with BaconPancakes, The Doctor, and more all jostling for the crown, ThundeRzReiGN has his work cut out for him in 2020.
Written By: Sabre
The great attraction of competitive Project M (and Super Smash Bros as a franchise) is how the game lets players express themselves through quick, nuanced interactions between them and their opponents. Every good match has moments that distinguish players, moments that surprise and awe, moments that help viewers understand each human being. So when people say that Malachi “Malachi” Covington turns Project M into a one-player game, what they mean is this: in the face of his skill and execution, all practice and game knowledge, all fight and flair, all blood, sweat, tears and *choice* ultimately lead to the same inexorable outcome. Malachi wins.
After a tumultuous 2018, Malachi emerges from the final throes of the 2010s as the near-unanimous pick for the #1 Project M player in the world. While his dominance was not as universal as the reigns of certain prior years, he emerged victorious at the most hotly contested events of 2019. He wielded his patently efficient Sheik and Peach for the majority of his tournament sets, but he also committed to a wildcard character at Blacklisted 5 to incredible effect.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. While this year would prove to be a fruitful one for Malachi, he endured some setbacks while planting his roots. His first notable event of the year was MD/VA’s Immunity 3 in late February. MD/VA Fox main Hondo pulled off an upset against Malachi in Winners Quarterfinals, a relatively early loss that echoed last year’s set against Bobby Frizz. Malachi swiftly 3-0’d Vaporeon and GodTouch in the loser’s bracket, but HyperFlame clutched out a game 5 win to leave Malachi with 5th place. Malachi’s next significant appearance was at Don’t Sleep! 3 in Texas, where he took down American Bowser and narrowly avoided being upset by Arsenals, whose Fox pushed Malachi to game 5. But BaconPancakes had also travelled to this particular event, and he was in rare form. Malachi lost to BP in Winners Finals, and although he immediately defeated Dirtboy to secure the rematch, he ultimately settled for an All-Star mode, random characters match instead of another stab at the versatile Diddy Kong. Malachi took home 2nd place at the April regional.
Up to this point, it appeared that Malachi was still experiencing the consistency issues that had negatively impacted his PMRank 2018 placement. By the time June rolled around, it had been a while since he stood on top of the world of Project M. Enter Smash’N’Splash 5. The summer blockbuster event, held at the Kalahari waterpark resort in Wisconsin, attracted 392 entrants for what was perceived as possibly the last national Project M 3.6 event before Project+ took over. Here Malachi recovered his focus by soundly defeating Captain Birdman, Florida Ivysaur Cala, and another Ivysaur in Sothe. He was met by east coast rival Switch in Winners Semis, but Malachi’s stoic Peach emerged victorious from their five-game flurry. From then on, only one opponent stood in his way: techboy, fresh off a victory against ThundeRzReiGN. While Malachi took the Winners Finals set three games to none in the historically advantageous Peach vs Ice Climbers matchup, techboy re-emerged in Grand Finals and forced a bracket reset. Malachi dug deep in response, and with an even more surgical game plan than before, he closed out Grand Finals 3-1 to secure the Smash’N’Splash victory towel. Peak Malachi had returned.
After SNS5, most of the remaining tournaments in 2019 elected to run Project+ over Project M 3.6, and Blacklisted 5 was first in line to do so. In an unprecedented move, Malachi opted to play as solo Bowser, one of the most noticeably adjusted characters, for the entire event. Sabre, Rongunshu, Shiny Zubat, Lunchables, and Switch all fell victim to the rampaging Koopa King, leaving ThundeRzReiGN as the final challenger in Grand Finals. Malachi cleaned up ThundeRz 3-0 to wrap up his most dominant tournament of the year thus far. While detractors might point to the recent Bowser changes as the explanation for this feat, no other top player has even attempted a Bowser switch on this scale, let alone succeeded at it. The common denominator in Malachi’s best performances has always been Malachi.
Malachi rounded out his year of excellence by attending The Encore in the west and Resting Stitch Face 2 in the east. Having ended his Bowser experiment, Malachi charged straight to Grand Finals of the first event through Arsenals, Sneez, The Doctor, and Sugydye. ThundeRzReiGN caught up to him again, and this time he pulled off a comeback victory over the course of two heavily contested sets, defending the West Coast and handing Malachi 2nd place. At the latter tournament, Malachi simply could not be stopped. He defeated Mr. Watch & Learn, plucked out former thorn in his side Kycse, put on a show against Rongunshu in Winners Finals, and repeated the Rongunshu win to place 1st. In spite of Rongunshu’s growing skill, there were points in those sets where Malachi simply overwhelmed the Canadian competitor in ways no one else could.
In some ways, that’s Malachi in a nutshell. He does things no one else has been able to do to the same degree of consistency, whether it be tech chasing, cornering opponents, owning platforms, or any number of elements. He takes the game we all play and love, and elevates it to that next level. That next, awe-inspiring level. Players like Malachi are why competing in Project M is so alluring. Because without that next level, what would we aim for?
Written By: FlashingFire
Other PMRank 2019 Articles
Last Year's Rankings
- Brennan “FlashingFire” Connolly
- Paul “Motobug” Canavan
- Kyle “Pegthaniel” Guo
- Peter “Pikmon” Woodworth
- Ryan “Sabre” Weinberg
- Paul "Motobug" Canavan
- Samoe "Samoe" Fuchs
- Cosmetic Standardization Project (CSProject)
- Brennan “FlashingFire” Connolly
- Connor “Connor” Remington
- Paul "Motobug" Canavan
- Nick "Nick" Hluska
- Kyle “Pegthaniel” Guo
- Ryan "Sabre" Weinberg