by Caspar “Mobiusman”  van der Sman (Twitter: @moby_osman)

August was an extremely busy month for Smash, with the summer rounded out by two almost Evo-scale majors, as well as the biggest ever Melee tournament outside of the US. While many will look to the results of Evo to inform their opinions for the rest of the year, in reality the struggle for number one has continued without missing a beat. The one exception to this is Armada, who took a break from travelling across the Atlantic and only attended Heir 3 this month. With him out of the picture, one might have expected Hungrybox to have a clear path to the top, but things didn’t quite turn out as planned.

For any new readers, this is a ranking using scores generated by the Glicko chess algorithm, with a data set consisting of large tournaments from the past 12 months. I went into a bit of detail about Glicko and why it fits for Melee in my first article, which you can check here. However, I also explained that these results should be taken with a pinch of salt and considered as just another perspective on the metagame – not an attempt at an authoritative, objective ranking. A couple of things to note on this list: PPMD, Hax, and aMSa would likely be scored high enough to make the top 30, but they are excluded due to lack of data. In addition, Leffen’s results from Heir 3 have been discounted.

Rank (Previous) Player Score Deviation
1 (2) Armada (Peach, Fox) 2293 59
2 (1) Hungrybox (Jigglypuff) 2290 45
3 (3) Mang0 (Fox, Falco, Marth) 2249 43
4 (4) Leffen (Fox) 2174 76
5 (5) Mew2King (Sheik, Marth) 2159 43
6 (6) Plup (Sheik, Samus, Fox) 2076 52
7 (9) SFAT (Fox) 2048 42
8 (7) Westballz (Falco) 2037 44
9 (8) Shroomed (Sheik) 2013 50
10 (10) Axe (Pikachu, Falco) 2009.0 47
11 (11) Swedish Delight (Sheik) 2008.5 56
12 (12) Wizzrobe (C. Falcon) 1994 47
13 (14) Duck (Samus) 1969 52
14 (27) ChuDat (Ice Climbers) 1954 67
15 (15) Colbol (Fox, Marth) 1947 57
16 (13) Lucky (Fox) 1946 49
17 (17) Ice (Fox) 1944 57
18 (21) PewPewU (Marth) 1943 58
19 (16) Druggedfox (Fox) 1942 56
20 (18) S2J (C. Falcon) 1937 45
21 (24) MacD (Peach) 1933 56
22 (19) n0ne (C. Falcon, Ganondorf) 1930 55
23 (20) Silent Wolf (Fox) 1921 62
24 (22) Nintendude (Ice Climbers) 1918 56
25 (23) Wobbles (Ice Climbers) 1917 56
26 (25) Laudandus (Sheik) 1906 70
27 (33) The Moon (Marth) 1901 52
28 (29) Professor Pro (Fox) 1889 66
29 (n/a) Abate (Luigi) 1882 82
30 (26) Zhu (Falco) 1872 64

Armada retakes first place by a razor-thin margin, as a direct result of Hungrybox picking up three losses to Mang0 and one to SFAT. I’m well aware that it is problematic for Armada to benefit from his own inactivity in this way, but this is an unavoidable consequence of this kind of ranking. We can only guess whether or not Armada would have sustained his consistency where Hbox did not, but it is worth noting that Armada has zero losses outside of the top 5 within the data set, while Hbox has been upset by SFAT, Plup, Wizzrobe and Professor Pro. So maybe this swap is justified, and maybe not, but with only 3 points separating the two, the distinction is largely academic anyway.

SFAT is justifiably the hottest ticket in Melee right now, notching up his third god slain this year (he beat M2K back at Genesis 3) while extending a winning record over Mang0 – proving that Clutch City Clash was no fluke. SFAT leapfrogs his closest rivals this month to join Plup in the demigod tier. While he had some consistency issues earlier in the year, it is worth noting that in the last 3 months SFAT has only lost twice to non-gods (Westballz and Chu). It’s hard to say how long he can keep riding this wave, but this should definitely be one of the storylines to watch going into The Big House.

By the far the most dramatic jump in this list belongs to Chu, who continues to throw a wrench in the unending battle for best Icies. Chu has stayed somewhat under the radar this year, and has only entered 6 tournaments in the data set. Between those 6, however, his worst loss was to Zhu at Evo – he has no losses to players not on this list (except Hax, who is unranked due to inactivity). It is true that Chu received a slight inflation from beating strong Europeans at Heir 3 (they tend to have less accurate ratings due to the comparative lack of data), but consider his wins over North American players in the last 6 months – including Druggedfox, SFAT, The Moon, n0ne, and Axe. Chu remains a perennial contender for the middle portion of this list and should not be forgotten.

Speaking of Icies, it seems unfair that Nintendude can lose placement after taking a set from Mang0 – added to wins over Plup, Shroomed, Westballz and of course M2K earlier this year. But despite these high points, Nintendude has not placed consistently in the latter part of 2016, losing to Kaeon in pools at Evo and then Cyrain a few weeks later at SSC. Wobbles of course remains as unpredictable as ever – he is the only player in the world who can beat Wizzrobe and lose to Zealous5000 only a few events apart – so the struggle for top Climbers is unlikely to be resolved any time soon.

As I predicted last month, The Moon makes his entry into the list following some extremely strong recent results, a total about face from his weak start to the year. I fully expect The Moon to continue to wax (sorry) as these early results rotate out of the data set. The other new name to make the cut is Abate, who was excluded last month due to inactivity. A 17th place finish at SSC was enough to squeak back into the rankings, but with his famous run at The Big House 5 soon to leave the data set, a new breakout performance will be needed to stay in the top 30.

In case you have not been keeping track, this month included more head-turning upsets than possibly ever before in Melee’s modern era. In addition to Wobbles’ and Nintendude’s losses mentioned above, Axe lost to Mafia at SSC, and n0ne lost to Austrian smasher Ares at Heir 3 (unfortunately, I don’t think this was recorded). I don’t want to try to draw any grand conclusions from a few outliers, but people have been talking for a long time about a plateauing of skill at the high level. If the pool of players who are “good enough” continues to grow, then these kind of results could become more commonplace. Despite his issues with Hbox and Mang0 in recent months, Armada remains unique in this aspect among his peers, having not dropped a set to anybody outside the Big 6 in a number of years. But with one seemingly impossible milestone reached this month – Armada losing a game to Chu at Heir, the first Icies player to do it in nobody knows how long – it may only be a matter of time.

September is looking like Smash’s first quiet month of the year, and as such, I may not post an update next month. 2016’s Summer of Smash seems to be drawing to close, leaving a number of its more compelling storylines on cliffhangers. While Hbox conquered his demons to put Armada into second place at Evo, after last week he looks more vulnerable than he has since before Dreamhack Winter last November. Mang0 has proven he can beat anyone, but ended the summer by being blocked out of two different grand finals in a single month by SFAT. And – least satisfying of all – Leffen has still not returned. Hopefully some of these storylines will pick up right where they left off at The Big House 6. This time last year, some people thought that Armada’s advancements in the metagame had “solved” Melee, but 12 months on it looks less predictable than ever. This may make winning fantasy brackets frustratingly difficult, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.