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PMRank 2019: 3-1

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Photo Credit: Delta (Jeff Mahieu)

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.


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Photo Credit: Delta (Jeff Mahieu)

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

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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

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Photo Credit: Delta (Jeff Mahieu)

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

1/26/2020 - PMRank 2019: The Edge of Glory
1/27/2020 - PMRank 2019: 50-41
1/28/2020 - PMRank 2019: 40-31
1/29/2020 - PMRank 2019: 30-21
1/30/2020 - PMRank 2019: 20-11
2/03/2019 - PMRank 2019: 10-7
2/04/2019 - PMRank 2019: 6-4

Last Year's Rankings

1/28/2019 - PMRank 2018: The Edge of Glory
1/29/2019 - PMRank 2018: 50-41
1/30/2019 - PMRank 2018: 40-31
1/31/2019 - PMRank 2018: 30-21
2/01/2019 - PMRank 2018: 20-11
2/05/2019 - PMRank 2018: 10-7
2/06/2019 - PMRank 2018: 6-4
2/07/2019 - PMRank 2018: 3-1

Credits

PMRank Staff:
  • Brennan “FlashingFire” Connolly
  • Paul “Motobug” Canavan
  • Kyle “Pegthaniel” Guo
  • Peter “Pikmon” Woodworth
  • Ryan “Sabre” Weinberg
Graphic Design and Character Renders:
  • Paul "Motobug" Canavan
  • Samoe "Samoe" Fuchs
  • Cosmetic Standardization Project (CSProject)
Editor-in-Chief:
  • Brennan “FlashingFire” Connolly
Additional Editing:
  • CND
  • Connor “Connor” Remington
  • Paul "Motobug" Canavan
  • Nick "Nick" Hluska
  • Kyle “Pegthaniel” Guo
  • Ryan "Sabre" Weinberg
 
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PMRank Staff

Comments

1st: Malachi:sheik::peach:(:bowser2:) +4
2nd: ThundeRzReiGN:dk2:(:falcon:) +2
3rd: techboy:popo:+3
4th: BaconPancakes:diddy:+9
5th: The Doctor:mario2:+12
6th: Morsecode762:samus2:+15
7th: Switch:wolf:-5
8th: Pikmon:gw:(:ike:) +11
9th: Rongunshu:marth::lucario:(:ike:) +13
10th: Sothe:ivysaur:(:fox:) +5
11th: Drugfreechu:gw:+15
12th: Kycse:charizard:0
13th: Dirtboy:squirtle:+10
14th: Flarp:luigi2::popo:+23
15th: Boringman:metaknight::sonic:(:lucario::mario2::mewtwopm:) +5
16th: Twisty:warioc:+8
17th: Yung Quaff:metaknight:(:ivysaur:) +27
18th: Connor:roypm:New
19th: Fearless:lucario:+16
20th: Bubbles:falcon:New
21st: Sneez:rob::diddy:New
22nd: Poilu:lucario:New
23rd: Silver:falco::fox:+8
24th: ORLY:falcon:New
25th: Mr. Watch & Learn:gw:New
26th: Nogh:dk2:(:bowser2::ivysaur:) +14
27th: Ivayne:wolf:-11
28th: Flipp:snake:-19
29th: ilovebagelz:luigi2:+1
30th: Tealz:metaknight:New
31st: Hyperflame:lucas:-4
32nd: Motobug:sonic:New
33rd: Narq:lucas:New
34th: Wyld:sonic:New
35th: Nezergy:gw:+15
36th: Godtouch:fox:New
37th: Captain Birdman:falco::dedede::wolf::falcon:+5
38th: American Bowser:bowser2:New
39th: Cloudburst:wolf::squirtle:New
40th: Sabre:ivysaur:New
41st: Arsenals:fox:New
42nd: Dumshiny:dedede:New
43rd: Wfycat:pikachu2::mewtwopm:New
44th: Ca$ino Wolf:mewtwopm:New
45th: Ripple:dedede:(:ike:) Returning
46th: FlashingFire:snake:New
47th: Qtip:metaknight:New
48th: altan:lucario:New
49th: Anthony:falco::mewtwopm:(:fox:) New
50th: Comb:rob:New
HM: LSDX:snake:New
HM: Grzly:zelda:New
HM: ~CP9~:olimar:New


This year has some the wackiest rankings I've seen in a long time in Project M.

Now something to note is that this year didn't have as many tournaments for PM, let long big events, as the previous 2 years, despite Project + spicing up the balance. Some of the big names of the previous years didn't really participate

I think this mostly has to do with the release of Ultimate. Things might change in the future for the game, but right now it is admittedly not at the best spot, at least in comparison to it's 2017 and 2018 performances.


Now here is a tier list in terms of character representation in the new rankings, which is mains only.
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And now a list of character representation when you include secondaries.
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Notable surprises:
:ness2::zerosuitsamus: Despite having a great ton of representation in the previous 2 years, some of the best in the game, these two are completely absent in this year's rankings. This is strange, because as far as I can tell, both characters weren't changed that much in the P+ patch (Ness in particular seems stronger after P+ judging from the patch notes alone). It may be likely due to most player's playerbase taking a back-seat during this year, which is what a lot of PM players have done this year due to Ultimate's release.
:wario: Wario's standing in this year suffered due to the lack of Sosa, who was the dominant #1 player last year (and top 3 in previous years). A few other Wario players taking a back-seat this year isn't helping him.
:dedede: This must be the year of Dedede in this game, because I have not seen this much Dedede representation with character ever (I am quite rusty with my early PM lifetime, so I am not sure if Dedede was represented this much before). One of the biggest benefactors of the P+ patch, this character's future is bright.
:bowser2: Though representation is not as exaggerate as Dedede, the former worst character in the game gained big buffs from P+, so much so that Malachi managed to take a tournament in dominant fashion (though admittedly it was mostly due to a lack of matchup experience from the opponents). Nevertheless, good to know that there is now a version of cramped-up Bowser that is actually good.
:rob: Similar to Bowser and Dedede, a lower tiered character that got pretty nice buffs from P+. In 3.6, it was once high tier, but then dropped off the map as time went on. Good to see that this year has finally breathed life into this robot.
:fox::falco: Both spacies got a really big increase in representation in comparison to previous years. Fox went from having only one representative last year (and only as a secondary), to having 3 this year (and 5 if secondaries are counted). I am not quite certain why this is the case, as the two weren't really changed much from P+, but this is interesting to see.
:gw::wolf::metaknight: Despite receiving mostly nerfs from P+, these three characters remain to be one of the most popular characters in the game. Not sure if it has to do with strong playerbase, the characters still being extremely powerful, or both, but these characters appear to still be one of the game's elite.
It should be noted that all three characters are more spread thinly across the rankings, and less concentrated towards the top.
:lucario: The final character I want to talk about. Despite having a good amount of representation in previous years, the character's representation was boosted even further this year, with a lot of those said representatives this year being in the top 25. This is somewhat strange considering the mixed bag of buffs and nerfs he received from P+. Regardless, this is fantastic year for Lucario, and he may rise from his already high tier status to be another one of Project M's elite.

Edit:
:diddy::mario2::samus2: Forgot to mention this, but these three characters reaching the top 10 in rankings (returning to the top 10 in the case for Diddy Kong), is huge for all three characters. Pretty great year all things considered for all three characters (especially Diddy), even if they aren't represented much in the rankings.
 
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