Image Credit: Beyond the Summit
Youtube: Melee Singles Top 8 - All Games
Long considered by players to be one of the best recurring Super Smash Bros. Melee tournaments, Shine 2018 managed to capture the minds and hearts of players and viewers alike with one of the most action packed top 8’s in recent memory. In fact, when you combine the results of Shine 2018 with Leffen’s recent victory at Evolution, you get an exciting, new view of Melee’s competitive landscape, a view that showcases the leaps and bounds players are capable of and the ever closing gap between the “gods” and the field. With all that being said, let’s take a look at the finalists of Shine, and explore some of the more notable performances from the weekend.
Top 8 Finalists
Top 8 Wins
Zain “Zain” Naghmi
Hungrybox, Mang0, HungryboxJuan “Hungrybox” Debiedma
Gahtzu, Plup, Mang0Joseph “Mang0” Marquez
PlupJustin “Plup” McGrath
S2JJohnny “S2J” Kim
ShroomedJason “Gahtzu” Diehl
SFATZachary “SFAT” Cordoni
Dajuan “Shroomed” Mcdaniel
Loser Round 1: S2J vs. Shroomed
While Shroomed versus S2J wasn’t the most anticipated match of top 8, it was a fast paced, tight match that really set the tone for the remainder of Shine. Game one was a nail biting back-and-forth match on battlefield. Shroomed started this match faster, and with a more brutal punish game than we’ve seen from his Sheik in a long time, but S2J’s mix of tech chases and explosive punishes helped him choke out the game. Game two was a surprisingly dominant game for Shroomed, who showcased his improved tech chases on Yoshi’s Story. Game three was on Pokemon Stadium, and it played out in a strikingly similar fashion to game one, both games were seemingly dead even until the last few moments when S2J would pull ahead. Game four, while fairly even as well, felt like a war of inches with Shroomed always holding that slight lead until he unfortunately SD’d on his third stock. This put both players in a last stock situation that would ultimately end with S2J as the victor.
Loser Round 1: Gahtzu vs. SFAT
If you looked at the list of top 8 finalist above, then you know how this set ends, but the results of this set just barely begin to scratch the story it’s matches told. Game one was set to Dreamland and while Gahtzu started the match with some sloppy edge guards, he quickly began to earn the lead over SFAT through his precise tech chases and his ability to pick apart SFAT’s neutral for openings. Game two gave us an SFAT that was more methodical, and much safer in neutral. On Fountain of Dreams, Gahtzu consistently found larger punishes, but SFAT’s ability to punish Falcon’s lackluster recovery would eventually take the game. In stark contrast to games one and two, Gahtzu managed to clean up his edge guards in an oppressive display on Battlefield, the optiome of this improvement was shown in Gahtzu’s brutal suicide-dair to take the last stock. Game four was an equally impressive rebuttal by SFAT on Final Destination. The set culminated in an exciting game 5 battle on Pokemon Stadium. Gahtzu started the final game by quickly taking SFAT’s first three stocks, and while SFAT nearly made the full four stock comeback, Gahtzu managed to close out the game with a perfectly placed knee set to thunderous applause.
Winner’s Semi-Finals: Plup vs. Mang0
Game one starts on Dreamland with Plup playing Samus and Mang0 playing Falco. Samus kept the game competitive for the initial stock, and then quickly took a second shot with a two hit combo that ended with charge shot. However, Mang0 quickly evened up the game before finishing Plup off with a dominant two stocks. This quick comeback was enough to scare Plup off of Samus, and into the loving arms of his classic green Fox. Game two was an extremely evenly matched, action packed Fox versus Falco match on Pokemon Stadium. While there were alot of great moments during this game, it’s hard to beat the shaky high percent combo Plup used to take Mang0’s last stock. Games three and four were both down to the wire, but Mang0 managed to take both in a series of flashy Falco combos. Mang0 moved onto Winners Finals, giving hope to fans who were hoping he would take the tournament.
Winner’s Semi-Finals: Zain vs. Hungrybox
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Zain take on Hungrybox this year, and it most certainly won’t be the last. This is, however, the first time that we’ve seen the young Marth player push Hungrybox to his absolute limit. Game one was on Battlefield, and it started with a quick tech chase rest by Hungrybox. Zain had small moments of brilliance on Battlefield, but Hungrybox ended the game with a relatively impressive two stock. Momentum shifted dramatically in game two, with Hungrybox missing multiple rests, looking slightly lost, and getting bullied and three stocked on Yoshi’s Story. In an effort to slow the game down, Hungrybox counterpicked Zain to Dreamland. While the game certainly was slower, Zain managed to find effective and unexpected openings ins Hungrybox’s neutral, opening him up, and beating Jigglypuff on her most powerful counterpick. Game four was more of what we usually see in Hungrybox versus Zain sets, a methodical neutral and one of the best punish games in Melee swung the match into Hungrybox’s favor, forcing a game 5. The last game of the set was on Pokemon Stadium. The match opened with back-and-forth punishes, both players very clearly wanted to win the set, and both players were playing extremely well. While most of the exchanges were relatively even, Zain’s ability to find multiple early kills with his trademark pivot forward smashes were enough to put Zain ahead. Ultimately, the set ended in one of the most historical upsets in recent Melee history. It also placed the Zain in Winners Finals, setting him up against Mang0 in a battle to advance into winners side of Grand Finals.
Quick Westballz Break:
Losers Quarter Finals: Plup vs. S2J
For those of us that love the idea of Frozen Pokemon Stadium ever being legal, Plup versus S2J gave us a little more evidence that the normal version of the stage has its issues. While the majority of the games in this set were handled without worry by Plup’s Fox, S2J did manage to take game 2 from Plup on Pokemon Stadium, when Fox glitched through the stage only to get stomped by S2J’s Falcon to seal the final stock. While this set may not have been as close as some of the others in top 8, it was certainly one of the most memorable sets of the night with Plup moving onto Losers Semi-Finals to face Mang0.
Losers Quarter Finals: Hungrybox vs. Gahtzu
There was some speculation going into this match that Gahtzu might be able to beat Hungrybox, most of this speculation was due Hungrybox sharing a region with Gahtzu and the Falcon’s overall prowess in the matchup. Hungrybox, however, had a different idea. Game one started with Gahtzu on his back foot and with Hungrybox nailing a rest in the first ten seconds of the match on Battlefield. Hungrybox used the rest of the set to remind the world why he’s considered the best Melee player, making quick work of the set and winning 3-0.
Winners Finals: Zain vs. Mango
Mang0’s odds weren’t looking good going into Winners Finals. His recent history against Zain has been anything but stellar, and fresh off of his victory over Hungrybox, Zain was looking impossible to beat. At least, he was looking impossible to beat until game one versus Mang0. Game one was on Yoshi’s Story, a stage that Zain looked completely in control of during his set versus Hungrybox. Mang0 opened the set strong, managing to keep his lead until the end of the first game. While Zain wasn’t without his own moments of brilliance, he didn’t truly look at home until counter picking to Final Destination for game two. Mang0 put up an impressive fight, displaying an impressive array of extended Falco combos, before falling to Zain’s masterfully executed chain grab. In response, Mang0 took Zain to the classic counterpick against Marth: Dreamland. At this point, it’s become a cliche’ for writers and commentators to talk about how good Zain is on the stage, but during his game versus Mang0 it was clear that Marth still struggled on the stage. Overall, the match was still close, but Zain struggled to land the early kills he needed to keep pace with Mang0. Game four was a relatively close game, but Zain felt in-control for the majority of the match on Fountain of Dreams. He effectively abused the stage during it’s FD-esc transformations, putting together lengthy combos that ended with Falco’s stocks coming to premature, flashy finishes. If game four was under Zain’s control, then game five was Zain’s personal property. His Marth managed to stay ahead of Mang0 for the entire game, catapulting Zain to Grand Finals with ingenious edge guards that managed to catch Mang0 off guard over and over again.
Losers Semi-Finals: Plup vs. Hungrybox
Plup’s use of Fox against S2J and Mang0 paid off. Game one between Plup and Hungrybox was set on Battlefield. Plup’s Fox came out fast and hot, quickly taking the first stock. Hungrybox answered back quickly with a rest, and from there the game stayed solidly in his favor. The biggest difference between Hungrybox’s play during this game and his usual play style, was his heavy use of tech chase rest. This plan of attack netted Hungrybox the early kills he needed to build a comfortable lead that he could use to bait Plup into unsafe approaches. Plup managed to take the second game, counter picking Jigglypuff to stadium, but it wasn’t enough. Hungrybox must have figured something out between game two and three, because the final two games of the set were firmly in his grasp. Defeating Plup in a convincing 3-1, Hungrybox would move onto Loser Finals to face Mango.
Quick Wes Anderson Parody Sketch by Beyond the Summit Break:
Losers Finals: Mango vs. Hungrybox
Mango went into this set with everything to prove. Fans had a lot of expectations for the famed Falco since his sets against Hungrybox at Summit, and his performance at Shine to this point was nothing but a shining example of what Mang0 is capable of when he’s playing well. For everything seemingly in Mang0’s favor, there was something pushing Hungrybox to do better. Both players wanted to earn there chance to rematch Zain for the tournament, but in the end, it was clear that Hungrybox had what it took to push through Mang0. While Mang0 made sure each game was close, Hungrybox made sure that each game ended with the same results: him winning. The result was a relatively quick 3-0, with a lot of memorable moments to keep Mang0 fans satiated until his next performance.
Grand Finals: Zain vs. Hungrybox
This was it. The set that all of Sunday was leading up to. Zain clearly playing at a level we’ve never quite seen him at before, and Hungrybox in a familiar position, fighting his way to Grand Finals from losers bracket. We’ve seen this scenario before, not with Zain, but with numerous other potential tournament champions. Another common cliche’ we’ve come to know in Melee is the idea of “Clutchbox”, and while the nickname has certainly been driven into the ground, the message is carries contains a granule of truth. Hungrybox is remarkably consistent in his performances, and he his ability to perform under pressure is hard to deny. Grand Finals of Shine was a toss-up to say the least. We once again saw the two players start their set on Battlefield. Zain started game one by out spacing Jigglypuff and starting a combo of his own, building a lead for himself that he would hold throughout the remainder of the game. Unlike the previous set, which looked like any player could take the game at any time, this game was being controlled by a calm and collected Zain. Hungrybox chose Dreamland as his first counterpick, sticking to his guns and continuing his tried and true game plan against Marth. Unfortunately for Hungrybox, his stubborn decision to stick to his guns may have been his undoing. Zain managed to hit Jigglypuff with pivot tipper after pivot tipper throughout game two, putting Hungrybox into uncomfortable and unfamiliar situations by utilizing a toolbox of unique tactics rarely showcased by other Marths. These tools won Zain the first game on Dreamland, comfortably giving him a 2-0 lead on the MPGR ranked best player in the world. Game three gave us a return to Dreamland, and with that return came a slightly more confident Hungrybox. Throughout game 3, Hungrybox went for riskier rests giving him a comfortable stock lead that would ultimately allow him to take the game. Zain’s counter pick was Yoshi’s Story, and for good reason. In winners, Zain managed to nearly four stock the god on Yoshi’s during their previous set in Winner’s Semi-Finals. The game was tense, energetic, down to the wire, and one of the most exciting last stock situations of 2018. Hungrybox tried his best to force a game five situation, but Zain’s persistence won out, giving him the game, the set, and the tournament. Zain won Shine over Hungrybox, Mang0, Plup, and a slew of other top 100 Melee players. No matter what happens during the remainder of the year, Zain cemented his legacy as a top Melee player.
When all is said and done, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Shine 2018 will be recognized as one of the most exciting tournaments of the year. Between Shroomed’s return to form, S2J and Gahtzu’s electrifying Falcon game play, Mang0’s best performance in quite some time, and Zain’s complete domination of his opponents, there’s a lot to love about these results. If you haven’t had the chance to watch Shine’s top 8, I highly recommend that you do. The MPGR is going to have their hands full when it comes to the rankings this year, but the field is more competitive than it has been in a very long time. It’s a good time to be a Melee fan.