Previously on the Inven Global Awards
The best stories and worst dramas of 2020
The most outstanding community members of 2020
The best Smash Melee tournaments of 2020
The best Smash Melee matches of 2020
Let’s get this out of the way right now: 2020 may be the weirdest and most important year of Melee esports yet. The game saw a brand new circuit cut short by a global pandemic, a rough battle with justice and accountability as a grassroots esport, and the implementation of top of the line competitive rollback netcode (Slippi). At points, Melee’s looked near death and near a brand new life.
The transformational nature of the year also makes it very hard to rank the players involved. The legitimacy of online tournaments varies depending on who you talk to and when they happened — pre-Slippi or post-Slippi. Just the move from off to online shook up many player’s mentalities and focuses, causing many top competitors to go on large breaks, play secondaries, and generally fall out of form.
The result has been a year of upsets for all but a few competitors. It’s hard to parse what 2020 will mean in Melee’s wider legacy and this article won’t try to. The goal is simple: rank the top 5 professional players in Melee based on their performance across 2020.
2-5. Schrodinger’s Leffen
- 5th — Genesis 7
- 9th — Summit 9
- 1st — Valhalla III
- 1st — Smash Summit 10
- 1st — Poilon Arena #3
- 1st — Poilon Arena #2
- 1st — Battle of the Armada 2
- 1st — Untitled Europe #10 (all-random)
- Worst loss in the entire year is to Hax$
Since the beginning of the rollback era, William “Leffen” Hjelte has not lost a tournament. There’s a chance that if he were only playing Fox he would never have seen a game 5.
This is because Leffen is in Europe, which is considerably weaker than North America. However, Europe isn’t a bad region and looks to have improved via Slippi. And Leffen is looking really good even for his European performances. In Summit 10, he went 15-2 in games in the EU bracket. In Poilon Arena #3, he dropped a single game to one of Europe’s fastest rising talents, Pipsqueak. That’s 21-1 in games in a tournament with the rank 34 player and a few top European players.
At Battle of the Armada 2, he won convincingly with his secondary — Sheik — beating Trif (#16 world, #2 Europe) along the way. At Untitled Europe 10, he won using random, beating Levingy (one of Finland’s best players). There’s winning, and then there’s whatever Leffen is doing in Europe.
Prior to COVID, Leffen’s international results were solid and his worst loss was to a resurgent Hax$. It is a genuine and open question on what 2020 Melee would look like if Leffen could play in NA tournaments. It’s possible he could have landed anywhere between 2 and 5. This makes Leffen functionally impossible to rate without displacing a player who could attend the rollback majors Leffen couldn’t. He simultaneously could be anywhere in the top 5 — or not in the top 5 at all. Hence, Schrodinger’s Leffen.
5. Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma
- 1st — Smash Summit 9
- 2nd — Genesis 7
- 1st — CEO Dreamland
- 1st — Quarantine Series (non-rollback online)
- 3rd — The CLG Mixup
- 7th — Smash Summit 10
- 7th — Get On My Line
- 9th — LACS 3
- Online wins over n0ne, SFAT, Shroomed, Spark, LSD, bobby big ballz offline.
- Offline wins over Hax$, Mang0, Fiction, Plup, aMSa.
Hungrybox making this list at all will surprise some people. In 2020, he’s taken some of the worst losses of his career — Golden, Dawson, Kuyashi, Llod, Azel, LSD, and plenty more. All these players are strong talents that would make fine losses for a player that wasn’t Melee’s #1 for three years running.
Anyone watching could clearly see that the switch from offline to online hit Hbox hard. Add a full-time stream commitment to Ultimate and a death in the family to the mix and it’s no wonder Hbox hasn’t played at 100%. However, Hbox does not make the list because of sympathy.
It may be hard to remember given 2020 has felt five years long, but Hbox did very well prior to COVID. He landed 2nd at Genesis, 1st at Summit 9, and 1st at CEO Dreamland. That Summit 9 win is particularly notable because it was disgustingly strong. Hbox went 21-2 in games against everyone, Plup excluded.
Hbox does have a slew of good online wins too, like n0ne, SFAT, bobby big ballz, Shroomed, Spark, Aklo, Captain Faceroll, and even iBDW. And win or lose, iBDW is crucial to understanding Hbox’s year. iBDW has shadowed Hbox in the brackets for most big events in 2020 and is a big part of why the once-dominant Puff gets locked out of top 4 much more often. Unlike n0ne and Zain, Hungrybox has had the terrible bracket luck of regularly running into his demon. They’ve played 11 sets in 2020 and iBDW has knocked Hbox out of the bracket five times (six, counting the SCL)!
Make no mistake, Hbox declined in 2020. However, there are situational elements to that decline and even in what has been his worst run in over five years, Hbox has outperformed most players.
4. Edgard “n0ne” Sheleby
- 1st — Get On My Line
- 2nd — Slippi Champions League Week 2
- 5th — LACS 2
- 5th — Smash Summit 10
- 7th — Genesis 7
- 7th — LACS 3
- 5th — The CLG Mixup
- 3rd — CEO Dreamland
- Wins on Mang0, iBDW, and Hungrybox
This electric Falcon main never skipped a beat during Melee’s many format switches and kept improving. Most notably, he won Melee’s largest online tournament of the year (Get On My Line) by beating iBDW. N0ne also managed to do what iBDW couldn’t: beating Mang0 in the Slippi Champions League.
Despite his wins over iBDW and Mang0, n0ne doesn’t have winning records over either competitor and has worse losses against the field (Pain, Cami, Kuyashi, for example). Looking past the top 3 competitors, no one else quite has the wins or the record n0ne does. That’s in part because few players benefited more from Hbox’s decline and Leffen’s absence.
N0ne has very rough records against both players and hadn’t beaten either until SCL week 2, where he beat Hbox. While he has consistently improved against Hbox over the years, his win doesn’t necessarily indicate a breakthrough either. Hbox was at a historic low for the SCL and has since come back in Summit 10 to beat n0ne 3-1.
3. Cody “iBDW” Schwab
- 1st — Frame Perfect Series 2
- 1st — Frame Perfect Series 3
- 2nd — LACS 3
- 2nd — Get On My Line
- 2nd — The CLG Mixup
- 3rd — LACS 2
- 3rd — Smash Summit 10
- 5th — Smash Summit 9
- 9-2 record on Hungrybox
For iBDW, 2020 has been a year of incessant activity and incredible breakthroughs. He’s easily been the most active between Zain and Mang0. In turn, he’s beaten just about everybody but them too, cementing a clear top 3.
While iBDW overall does well against the field, his record is worse compared to Zain and Mang0. He’s also shown some inklings of a Falco problem, not only against Mang0 but Ginger as well, who he’s 2-2 against. He’s also picked up the odd occasional losses to other Falcos like Albert, bobby big ballz.
Counter to Falco, he’s been meta-leading against Falcon and Puff. He’s 5-2 over Wizzrobe and 10-3 over S2J, with only n0ne keeping pace at 3-3. To understand his mastery of the Puff matchup, just look at his 9-2 record over Hungrybox.
RUNNER-UP: Joseph “Mang0” Marquez
- 1st — LACS 3
- 1st — The CLG Mixup
- 2nd — LACS 2
- 2nd — Smash Summit 10
- 3rd — Genesis 7
- 3rd — Smash Summit 9
- 7-0 record over iBDW
Mang0 winning LACS 3 was the most fitting ending to the bizarre, survivalist of a year that was 2020. The data shows, that Mang0’s Falco has only lost to Hungrybox, Plup, Zain, N0ne, Spark, and Captain Faceroll.
This year has seen much less Leffen than normal, but Mang0 still hasn’t needed to fear the field. He has a staggering record against every other competitor than Zain: 7-0 over iBDW, 4-0 over Wizzrobe, 4-0 over Axe. That consistency is truly staggering, even for Mang0.
In the entire year, he only has a handful of rivals. In the rollback era, he only has Zain.
WINNER: Zain “Zain” Naghmi
- 1st — Genesis 7
- 1st — Smash Summit 10
- 1st — LACS 2
- 4th — Smash Summit 9
- 5th — LACS 3
- 1st — Quarantine Series (non-rollback online)
- 5-2 Record on Mang0
Zain is Melee’s new king in crimson. He opened up the year with a colossal offline win at Genesis 7 that saw him defeating both Mang0 and Hungrybox. As the rollback era came around and Hungrybox’s star waned, Zain achieved a dominance that rivals what only the five gods of Melee had achieved.
Bones, Aklo, Ginger, Ryobeat, bobby big ballz — these are the players that Zain has beaten using Roy. In 2020, Zain’s low-tier hero alter ego is a top 50 player.
When it comes to his Marth, Zain has lost just two tournaments in the entire year. He has winning records on pretty much every competitor in this top 5 as well. In 2020, Zain has shown he can do just about anything — except beat Axe!
It warrants saying: Zain’s tremendous 2020 comes in no small part from Axe and Plup both playing less often and the two tournaments he lost was where he ran into them. These rollback absences do not invalidate Zain’s well-earned climb to the to — they just set up for a 2021 where Zain will hopefully get his chance to defeat his demons.