At this point in time, many are counting Kevin “PPMD” Nanney out. With his last appearance in a national tournament resulting in a relatively disappointing 5th place, and a loss to non-god Plup, a large portion of our community has essentially ruled out the Falco/Marth dual main as a threat to win Genesis 3, the second-largest tournament in Melee history up to this point. In the 2015 edition of SSBM Rank, many panelists even placed him under Plup, with critics stating that PPMD has fallen off, or that he no longer can keep up with other top players, much less threats like Armada.

Those players, though, are forgetting a good number of key factors. Since the beginning of 2014, the Good Doctor has only attended seven tournaments considered to be nationals; Apex 2014, SKTAR 3, MLG Anaheim 2014, EVO 2014, Apex 2015, EVO 2015, and the Smash Summit. Spaced over an even 2 years, that means PPMD attended an average of one tournament every three and a half months. Of those seven, he won three, with his worst placing being 5th place, at Smash Summit. Through these results, PPMD has demonstrated an uncanny ability not equaled by any other players; the ability to maintain his presence and skill despite a lack of practice against top players. Even at Smash Summit, likely his worst performance during 2014 or 2015, he managed to improve his play throughout the weekend through his practice against other top players for the first time in several months. In the first two days of exhibition matches, he lost to SFAT and S2J, but managed to pull it together the second half of the weekend in bracket to beat Swedish Delight and Westballz, take a game off of Armada, and take Plup to game 5.

A Doctor Missing in Action

So… where has PPMD been during those three and a half months between appearances? Why is he attending so few tournaments compared to his Big 6 peers? Well, the answer to that isn’t a happy one. Over the past two years, PPMD has unfortunately dealt with a number of health issues, including depression and a lasting case of physical fatigue. These health issues have kept the doctor busy tending to his own wounds, reasonably choosing his own wellbeing over the game he loves so dearly. But, unlike one robot the community is fond of, PPMD has actually gone to the doctor, and through both seeking medical help and through amazing willpower and personal strength, he has addressed his depression and improved in his mental struggle, and is currently in the process of solving his fatigue issues. In short, he is getting better. And with PPMD’s well-known championship mentality and mental fortitude in-game, combined with his physical health’s chains being broken, you can expect to see a restored PPMD in 2016.

Elegant Gameplay, Unmatched Mentality

So what exactly does a “restored PPMD” mean for the competition? What does PPMD bring to the table that is unique or without parallel? For those who missed Apex 2014, SKTAR 3, and Apex 2015 – a lot of things. Over the years, PP has proven that his tag isn’t just some meaningless, silly nickname for him because he spilled soda on his pants and his friends oh-so cleverly called him Doctor PeePee for it (although, not-so-coincidentally, that is how the name originated many years ago). No, PP has proven to in fact have doctor-like tendencies through his intense studying of the game and of his opponents. His ability to study and dissect the game is often said to be unrivaled by any top player. The more games his rivals provide him, the more he learns, and the more ready to adapt to them he is. Through devising methods to counter not just play the character or stage, but also the player’s habits, tendencies, and mentality, he can frustrate his opponents through surgically taking advantage of and forcing bad or impatient decisions they may not even realize they’re making. This ability allows him to achieve dominant stage presence, and in many situations even force his opponents into a frustrated mindset that inhibits their ability to play the game patiently. With his transition from a Falco main to a dual Falco/Marth main, he also now has twice as many counterpick options, and players are forced to adopt backup plans when going into sets with him, as you can’t expect what new methods of play or what character he might end up using. His exceedingly elegant neutral game and incredibly slick movement also allow him to win the vast majority of individual neutral exchanges, even against players such as Armada. Finally, he has something shared among the Big 6 players, but rarer among those outside that carefully guarded divide; an extremely powerful clutch factor. A challenger can have their best day, executing their neutral and punish games flawlessly, and overall outplay PPMD, but at the end of the day and by the last stock of the set, he somehow manages to clutch it out anyway, as we’ve seen him do time and time again.

So what can we expect at Genesis 3?

Although his last appearance in tournament at Smash Summit was maybe not the result he or his fans wanted, one thing can be said for certain; PPMD was looking more confident at the end of the weekend than at the beginning. He is clearly still present as an incredible competitor and as a threat for the crown. And when PPMD is confident, amazing things can happen. As my colleague Bryan Carter wrote for PPMD’s EVO 2015 article, “Confidence can be very crucial when last stock hits or a 0-death combo can separate the winner from the loser. Shaking the dust off his controller and jumping head first with his new mindset… could prove to be just what the doctor ordered.” I think this confident PPMD is the one that we will see at Genesis 3 – I suppose we’ll find out next weekend.