What is Apex?
Apex is a tournament series that mainly focuses on the Super Smash Bros. games, though it also runs games typical to the fighting game community. Apex 2015 is the sixth installment of these tournaments, and is the first major of a new year, starting January 30th to February 1st. The premier event of Apex being Super Smash Brothers: Melee, which in the past two years has seen a tremendous amount of growth. Thanks in part to both the tournament Evolution 2013 and East Point Picture’s The Smash Brothers documentary, the Melee competitive scene has resurged into a frenzy of activity. Just a few days ago, Melee set a new record by having six tournaments with over a hundred participants in a single day. Even more impressive is Apex 2015’s entry list, sporting over a thousand players competing in a thirteen-year-old game, for a prize pool of over $18,000.
The Storylines Coming into Apex 2015:
In the eSports scenes of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends, the figure Duncan “Thorin” Shields has a written feature where the storylines coming into play at a major tournament are analyzed to provide a narrative context coming into the event. Likewise, Apex 2015 proves to be a dramatic tournament for Melee, as the stories converging onto the blizzard-run Secaucus, New Jersey may set the stage for a volatile and exciting 2015 year of Smash.
First however, let’s identify a term that will reoccur throughout this article. Who are the “gods” of Smash? These are five players whose consistency and performances throughout the years have cemented them as “gods” above other players. Just like how Ken will forever be known as the “King of Smash,” these top five players will forever be known as “gods.” They are in order of the Melee It On Me Rankings as:
- Joseph “Mango” Marquez of Cloud 9
- Adam “Armada” Lindgren of Alliance
- Kevin “PPMD” Nanny of Evil Geniuses
- Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman
- Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma of Team Liquid
1. Mango: A New Year of Domination?
2014 was a big year for Joseph “Mango” Marquez, a Melee player from California. Mango was picked up by the eSports behemoth Cloud 9 in May, and proceeded to secure first place finishes at MLG Anaheim, Kings of Cali 4, Evolution 2014, and Big House 4. Even more impressive is the fact that Mango did not drop below third place at any major tournament throughout 2014. Coming into 2015, it seemed that the proclaimed “greatest Melee player of all time” would continue his run of domination. However, Mango’s reign seemed to waver with the coming of January.
Mango found himself in Sweden, attending the Apex qualifier of B.E.A.S.T 5. Mango went through the bracket well, until he faced off the rising star Leffen in winner’s finals. An upsetting 3-2 victory in Leffen’s favor dropped Mango into loser’s bracket, where he faced off his international rival, Armada. A disastrous 3-0 in Armada’s favor knocked Mango out of the bracket. Thus Mango failed to earn free flight and free boarding for the upcoming Apex 2015, and would now have to go through the rigorous pools in order to reach Apex’s main bracket.
In the long term context, this loss signaled nothing. Mango still placed third, which was an uncommon, but not rare, occurrence. Indeed, this defeat was dismissed for various reasons. Many felt that Mango was jetlagged and tired coming into B.E.A.S.T 5, all of which were valid comments.
Mango returned to the United States, and declined from entering the next Apex qualifier, Paragon, which was being hosted in Orlando, Florida. Mango instead experienced Paragon as a spectator from his home, and after witnessing a rather lackluster grand finals set between Mew2King and Hungrybox, Mango responded to the set matter-of-factly:
With Apex 2015 looming, it seems probable that Mango will have at least a top four finish. First place would cement Mango’s position as the best player currently, and a top three finish would show consistency. However, if Mango were to place below top four or even top five, his defeat at B.E.A.S.T 5 might come into reconsideration. It might signal the beginnings of a slump, or even be a sign of the fall of a God.
2. Armada: The Rising Tide of 20XX
Considered the counterpart to the aggressive Mango, Alliance’s Adam “Armada” Lindgren also had a commendable year of 2014. Coined as the “Master of Punishes” for his immaculate punish game, Armada secured first place finishes at Super Sweet and CEO 2014. He obtained second place finishes at MLG Anaheim and Kings of Cali 4, losing only to Mango. He also placed third at Evolution 2014. The new year started favorably for Armada. However as time continued, 2015 seemed to be a stark contrast from his dominant performances in the previous year.
At B.E.A.S.T 5, Armada faced fellow Swede Leffen in winner’s semifinals. A 3-1 victory in the favor of Leffen dropped Armada into the loser’s bracket. Armada dispatched German player Ice, and went on to 3-0 Mango in loser’s finals. In the grand finals of B.E.A.S.T 5 Armada was faced with the infamous Leffen.
Armada began with a close victory to secure game one. In game two, Leffen quickly counter picked stages to Pokemon Stadium and defeated Armada with a two stock lead. Game three would showcase Leffen’s upper hand in the Peach versus Fox match up and secured both the game and match point. Armada would then secure game four, but in a tight and tense game five, Leffen was able to secure the victory. It should be noted that Armada was not only a competitor at B.E.A.S.T 5, but was also a tournament organizer there. Armada’s second place finish in this context is rather impressive. Indeed Armada commented:
One week later, Armada flew to the United States to attend the Florida tournament Paragon. Armada did well in the winner’s bracket, dispatching notable individuals such as Hugs and Colbol. Armada met Hungrybox in winner’s semifinals. A close 3-2 defeat at the hands of Team Liquid’s own Jigglypuff player knocked Armada into loser’s bracket. Leffen was waiting for Armada once again.
Leffen versus Armada would be heralded by some as the greatest set ever. Leffen demonstrated his dominance over the Peach versus Fox match up, and Leffen quickly took a 2-0 lead over Armada. Armada switched over, rather unexpectedly, to Fox. The set had now transformed from Peach against Fox, to the jokingly labeled “20XX” of Fox against Fox match up. Armada would then shock everyone by four-stocking Leffen in game three of this incredible set. Armada quickly took over game four, and the set transpired the entire five games. Game five proved incredibly hype. Both players were at high percentages and Armada seemed so close to inching out a victory over Leffen. Armada lost, and yet at the same time, it could be argued that Armada was a victor. His performance on Fox was dominating, stating anything less would be a large understatement.
Furthermore spectators claimed that a “phantom jab” robbed Armada of his victory. Others accepted this set as confirmation that Leffen was “the sixth god.” Everyone however agreed that this set at Paragon was perhaps, the greatest set ever played.
With this set however, people feared that the prophecy of “20XX” was coming to fruition. The champion of Peach (and a frequent user of Young Link) seemed close to converting to Fox, a thought that was scary to most. Even Armada seemed to be concerned with this notion:
Mango too expressed disappointment:
Perhaps even more alarming is Armada’s placing at Paragon. Armada placed 5th at Paragon, failing to reach top four for the first time since 2007. With Apex 2015 approaching, several questions emerge regarding Armada. Will Armada be able to brush off his low placing at Paragon? Will Armada’s Fox become a more common feature in his matches? Even more curious is if Leffen were to face Armada once more, which of the Swedes will emerge victorious?
3. Mew2King: The Robot Fueled By Emotions
For someone known as “the Robot,” Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman is, of the Gods, the one most easily influenced by his emotions. On a good day, Mew2King has the potential to dominate the competition so strongly and play so perfectly that the epithet of “the Robot” seems aptly appropriate. Then there are days where Mew2King finds himself disappointed in his play or finds his thoughts clouded by some inescapable darkness that he descends into pits such as… Jigglypuff dittos. 2014 for Mew2King was a decent year, with second place finishes at Big House 4 and SKTAR 3. He also placed third at Kings of Cali 4 and MLG Anaheim. Mew2King’s only notable first place finish however was at Zenith 2014, and perhaps even more alarming was a 13th place finish at the Northern Californian tournament of Do You Fox Wit It, where Mew2King was the only “god” in attendance. 2015 would provide Mew2King with the opportunity to find himself a first place title, and yet at the same time, provided him with a rather unique opportunity.
Mew2King focused much of his time and dedication away from Melee, placing more emphasis on the newly released Smash 4. Indeed, Mew2King expressed disappointment in his Melee play and seemed to lack confidence coming into his first tournament of the new year: Paragon.
Many however predicted otherwise. While Mew2King claimed that he would not even place top five at Paragon, there were those who believed otherwise. Jonny Gamble, a guest writer for MIOM (Melee It On Me), aptly gambled that Mew2King would defy his own words, with Paragon “shaping up to be a perfect storm for Mew2king to win his first major since The Big House 3”.
On January 17th, Paragon began. As noted above, Paragon was an incredible and interesting tournament, with individuals such as Plup putting Leffen into loser’s bracket, and with Armada not placing top four. For Mew2King, Paragon was a chance for him to eat his own words.
One of the most interesting aspects coming into the tournament’s loser’s finals was Leffen versus Mew2King. Leffen at this point had nearly beaten every “god”, securing victories against Mango and Armada at B.E.A.S.T 5, and beating Hungrybox and PPMD in 2014. All Leffen needed to do was defeat Mew2King. In a ridiculous match however, Mew2King showed his dominance over the Swede, and quenched the rising flame of Leffen. Even Mango was slightly humbled by this set:
After a disappointing set in grand finals where Mew2King once again showed his emotion-influenced play, Mew2King emerged in second place at Paragon, a much higher placing than Mew2King predicted for himself. Even more remarkable is his first place titles in Smash 4 and Project Melee.
Though Mew2King has a history of saying certain things on social media, his play at Paragon should be an optimistic point for him. With this fantastic performance under his belt, Mew2King should have the emotional inspiration needed for the upcoming Apex tournament. However a second place finish at Arizona’s MVG tournament, in which the Pikachu main Axe reset the bracket and 3-0′d Mew2King in the second set, might act as a balancing point for Jason’s morale.
Having historically dominated multiple games at once, it would not be a surprise if Mew2King took a top four finish in Melee, and a top four finish in Smash 4. As the words of commentator Prog echoed in The Smash Brothers documentary:
“If I see Apex 2016, and [Mew2King] gets top three in Melee, top three in Brawl, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
One more year Mew2King. One more year to make Prog’s words into reality.
4. Hungrybox: Solidifying Liquid
Hungrybox seemed shaky throughout the middle portion of 2014. Indeed Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma was the shakiest of all the “gods” during this period of time. Though Hungrybox once had a strong reign throughout the Melee scene, his placings in 2014 painted a new picture for the Jigglypuff main. Placing 7th at MLG Anaheim and 9th at Big House 4, it seemed that his status as a “god” was slowly diminishing. During this time he gave up sets to lower ranked individuals such as Lucky and Axe. At the same time however, Hungrybox seemed to have moments where he surged. At Evolution 2014, Juan made an incredible run, taking second in the tournament.
Hungrybox’s recent performances have been stellar. He took first place finishes at Fight Pitt 5 and at Forte 2. Hungrybox’s first tournament of the 2015 year would be at Paragon, and he would be entering the tournament with a new title sponsor: Team Liquid. Taking out individuals such as the newly returned DaShizWhiz and old teammates such as MacD, Hungrybox found himself in the finals with Mew2King. After clear victories in the first two games, Mew2King chose Jigglypuff and surrendered himself to a rather disappointing grand final. In the end, Hungrybox emerged from Paragon with a first place finish, and almost certainly impressed his new sponsor, Team Liquid.
Apex 2015 should prove the perfect opportunity for Hungrybox to solidify his position. With his recent accomplishments, one more major victory might be all that it takes to silence some of his critics. However, a stunning loss at Apex resulting in him placing less than top four, would only help but solidify the notion that Team Liquid’s Hungrybox is still the weakest of the top five.
5. PPMD: The Wildcard
Whatever happened to Evil Geniuses’ Kevin “PPMD” Nanney? 2014 for the Falco main was an interesting one. It can’t be said that PPMD played disappointingly, and yet at the same time it can’t be said that PPMD played superbly. The truth of the matter is that throughout 2014, PPMD had relatively little activity compared to the other “gods.” While the others attended major tournaments such as Big House 4 and CEO 2014, PPMD during the summer only attended MLG Anaheim and Evolution 2014, both of which he took fourth place.
Yet the North Carolinian Falco was the champion of Apex 2014, and with this year’s Apex, PPMD has a chance to both retain the title of Apex champion, but also has the chance to solidify his position in the competitive scene.
In an article for Evil Geniuses, PPMD commented on his inactivity stating:
Indeed PPMD reiterated the point that he would continue his inactivity at tournaments to focus on improvement, and also revealed that he would be making his debut at Apex 2015.
It is this very inactivity that gives PPMD an edge on the competition. His competitors have almost no information as to what PPMD might pull or how he might play at Apex. Perhaps even more noteworthy is that while no one seems to have much information on PPMD’s playstyle, PPMD has been given a large amount of knowledge on his opponents’ playstyles due to events such as B.E.A.S.T 5 and Paragon. PPMD has always been noted as having an exceptional ability to study and learn his opponents, using what he has learned to his advantage. Whether or not PPMD has solidly prepared himself for Apex however remains unknown. However for these factors, PPMD comes into Apex as the largest wildcard factor, and any predictions on the top eight placings are just tossups.
6. Leffen: The God Slayer
William “Leffen” Hjelte was already making waves onto the Melee scene throughout 2014. His caustic yet bold nature coupled with his incredible skill at the game made Leffen into both an international superstar and a villain. He had respectable placings at events, including a fifth place title at MLG Anaheim and a ninth place finish at Evolution 2014. Though he seems to have an affinity at being four-stocked, Leffen’s ability to take games and sets off four of the five “gods” has bestowed Leffen with the monikers such as “the sixth god,” or “the god slayer.”
Leffen was close to achieving his goal of defeating each member of the top five Melee players. He defeated Mango and Armada at B.E.A.S.T 5 and earlier in 2014 he had defeated both Hungrybox and PPMD. With Mew2King left, Leffen set off to the United States to attend Paragon. However Leffen’s attempt was thwarted by the Marth playing Mew2King, and Leffen took third at the event.
With Apex 2015 looming ahead, Leffen now has the chance for a rematch against Mew2King. Furthermore, victories over the other “gods” would simply solidify Leffen’s position, and would add even more proof that the “top five and Leffen” should be renamed to the “top six.”
Axe–Ranked seventh at Melee It On Me’s “SSBM Rank 2014,” the Arizonian Pikachu main has proved that mid tiers have a chance in the competition against the likes of Fox and Falco. Axe has shown his prowess with a close set against Leffen at Paragon as well as 3-0’ing Mew2King at the recent MVG tournament in Arizona. Axe has a good shot at reaching top eight, and has a possibility of getting a top four finish at Apex 2015.
Wobbles–The second place finisher at Evolution 2013 was missed throughout the summer of the Platinum Age of Melee. Having taken a hiatus from the game, the top tier Ice Climber Wobbles has a lot of competition facing him at Apex 2015. Incidentally, Wobbles and Leffen have very similar situations. Both were top tier players just inches away from breaking into the top five position, and both have taken sets off of four of the five gods.
Apex 2015 is proving to be an incredible tournament. With the largest amount of players in attendance and the largest prize pool to date, the entire tournament is a tossup as to who will take it all. Indeed, what better way to start an explosive for Smash and Melee than with the largest tournament ever?