Placing fifth at one of the most hyped Smash tournaments of the year is an incredible moment for most. For Cody “iBDW” Schwab, it’s a disappointment. After a stellar year in online tournaments, Panda’s Fox main was not satisfied with the outcome at Smash Summit 11. Inven Global had the chance to talk with iBDW, and discuss his performance this year, how he thinks top Smash competitors rank, and his goals for the future.
What were your impressions of Smash Summit 11? How did you expect to do and what are the biggest things you need to work on?
I wanted to have a fair shot of winning, but at the very least, I wanted to start showing that I can consistently compete with Zain and Mang0. Throughout quarantine, there were people who were occasionally with me to be "the third-best", though there's no third best, especially not knowing how good Leffen is. But over the course of all quarantine, I had the third-best results, which I think is not really debatable. And I kept losing to Zain and Mang0 over and over again. And I had a winning record on literally everybody else besides Moky (who I was even with because we only played two sets, which doesn't include [the time] before I left California, in which case I'm like 3-1 with him). So I wanted to prove that I could compete with them. I obviously didn't do that, which is frustrating.
My set with Zain was fine, but I would have enjoyed having one more because I think I could have finally done something against him. And I think my set with Mang0 was a dud. Mentally, after I lost to Hungrybox, I was kind of destroyed. I don't think I could've come back from that.
As far as what I have to work on, I think I put too much pressure on myself. I think leading up to it, it's fine being hard on yourself. But once I get into the tournament, I've already done everything that I can. And I need to remember to have fun with the game and not just freak out at any given time. That definitely came around to bite me.
"In contention for third? Obviously not Hungrybox after one tournament. If his best tournament is just getting third, that's not enough."
I appreciated that you were one of the people to dismiss all the recency bias that is going around. This is such an interesting era, in that it’s so hard to tell how people rank. Most people would probably argue for Zain and Mang0 being on top, but how many people do you think are in the argument for being ranked third?
For the sake of consistency, I'm going to say that every time I talk about ranking, I am excluding Leffen, because we don't know how good he is. And he could be anywhere from fifth to first. I know he doesn't think he's below second/third, but we don't know for sure. He was losing to people before quarantine, but he could have gotten a lot better. So I don't know where he would be. It's possible he's the best Fox and in contention for best player.
In contention for third? Obviously not Hungrybox after one tournament. If his best tournament is just getting third, that's not enough. I know he won Galint, but he dropped to Tyler Swift still. He took two sets from n0ne, which is awesome, but it's still not enough for me. It shows that he's top 10. Plup's definitely running for number three, especially now that he has two Mang0 wins. Wizzy is there but he hasn't entered that much, which is problematic for me.
One story of Summit was that Hungrybox came back strong. Many were quick to say, “This means online events are meaningless”. But I think you had a great point saying Hungrybox had a lot of focus on Ultimate during the bulk of the online era. How big do you think the online era was for players being able to adapt to Hungrybox? Do you think with more people getting Jigglypuff practice regularly, Hungrybox will continue having a hard time in top eights?
Yeah, absolutely. And you're gonna see a lot more tournaments where he doesn't make top eight. This is the first time we've seen Hungrybox try in a while. A lot of us got caught off guard because we didn't really know what his playstyle was gonna look like nowadays. But I do expect that's not going to be the case going forward. And I know the average skill level has risen dramatically, especially against Puff. So I do not expect that he's going to have an easy time. You're not going to see 15-0's anymore and you're not gonna see him — at his current level of play — dominate every tournament or even close, in my opinion.
With more people coming back, it makes top eights way more interesting. You said you're in contention for third, but couldn't you be second? With people like Plup and Axe coming back that have good results against Zain, do you think Zain will hold on to his placement as well as before?
It'll be more challenging, but I still think he will. Also for the record, I could definitely not be third. In terms of results, I [was third] throughout quarantine. That doesn't mean that I'm going to be third the rest of the year. I could do better. I could do worse. I'm not writing off either possibility.
But I do believe he [Zain] will have a rougher time. A lot of his problem matchups like Wizzy weren't entering that much. And even if I don't think Wizzy's going to beat Zain consistently, that's another matchup that he's going to have to focus on and be really ready for. He's gonna have to be ready for all three Falcons. He's gonna have to be ready for Hungrybox actually being good again. He'll have to be ready for Axe again, who really wasn't making it to him for a very long time. He's got to be ready for Plup again, which is something that he hasn't had to deal with. I don't think that it's going to crumble him, but it might make him less sharp, and so people might sneak a few extra sets off of him or even an extra tournament or two, just because he has to focus on more matchups.
When he was competing online who were the people playing him every Winners and Grand Finals?" It was either me or Mang0. So he had to deal with just spacies every single time. Not that spacies can't do well, but it's a lot easier when the two people that are routinely playing you are all Fox-Marth and Falco-Marth.
"As far as the GOAT debate, I think it's kind of silly because depending on how you frame the question, you could easily get a different answer every single time. What are you actually arguing?"
With that in mind, when you decided to bring a secondary to the matchup, what made you decide on Shiek over Falcon? A lot of people would say Falcon is easier to pick up for Foxes: he’s really good at overshooting Marth and is a matchup you've stated he's had trouble with. Was this ever a consideration for you?
The reason I picked up Sheik in the first place was because I felt like it was more consistent. And it wasn't that I didn't feel like Fox could do it, but I didn't know if I wanted to put in that level of effort for a single matchup when I still had other matchups to worry about. Because I felt it would help me be way more consistent in the matchup, and it would also help me with stages I don't like.
If someone takes me to Final Destination — like Axe or a Peach player — and I don't feel like dealing with it, I can just go Sheik. Even if Fox wins that matchup on that stage, which I think he does, it's just annoying. I don't feel like doing it, I don't like Final Destination. So I thought it was just more consistent, and I also thought it'd be more applicable to other matchups. Especially weirder ones where I could just play Sheik and not worry about it a lot. But also, Sheik has the same jump squat as Fox, so I don't have to readjust wavedash time which can be pretty important, especially if I wanted to ever switch in the middle of a set. I feel like it'd be a lot easier to transfer between two characters that have the same jump squat, as opposed to a character that has a different one. And I also just like Sheik. She's been my second favorite character since I started playing. I've always enjoyed playing her.
I was talking about this with Axe, who said he wants to start using secondaries a lot more in tournaments. Do you see this becoming more of a trend going forward for top players?
The worse the character: yes. I think with people like Axe and even aMSa — who hasn't had to deal with it yet but at some point probably will — their characters are inherently flawed. And I think people are getting to the point where. if they're good enough, will start having those flaws exposed over and over again. And so you'll have to have something else there to beat it. Pikachu has some horrendous matchups, and if you want to win tournaments, you should need a secondary character. I do not think that's gonna happen for the very top tiers. But for every other character right now, yeah, I expect to see more secondaries.
I recently had a very interesting conversation with Ice, a person who’s played a decent amount against you. And we talked about the Armada vs. Mang0 GOAT debate, something that he thinks Mang0 actually wins. He said that he wasn’t sure how Armada would perform in this era, specifically talking about you and Zain. Obviously, how Armada would adjust to this meta is a big consideration, but how do you think your style would work against him? What's your opinion of the GOAT debate?
Right now, if you take me versus him in 2018, I wash him. I am winning like 9/10 sets. I don't think he would contest that. I don't think anyone else would contest that. But he's also... this is simultaneously over- and underrated in the GOAT debate. He didn't lose to anyone for 10 years, he's going to figure out something against me. There's no one that dominated him. Nobody beat him consistently. Leffen beat him in his last year, yes, but I also think in his last year, Armada clearly was lacking some motivation. I even noticed every time he played, he wasn't looking as sharp as he had in the past.
To what extent he would figure something out? That I cannot tell you. He wasn't gonna drop off and not be a top 10 or top 5 player. But it's very possible that Zain would give him repeated problems. It's very possible that I would have given him repeated issues.
As far as the GOAT debate, I think it's kind of silly because depending on how you frame the question, you could easily get a different answer every single time. What are you actually arguing? Who is the best Melee player who has the best results spanning the entire history of the game, and has played the longest? That's clearly Mang0. There's no debate. He's still playing, and he won Summit. Who overall had the best and cleanest record for an extended period of time? That's clearly Armada. There's no question about that.
For some definitions, you don't even consider what present-day Armada would do. And for others, because Armada hasn't been around for four years and Mang0 played long in the first place, you literally can't even argue that he's the GOAT. So that's why I don't like the entire "GOAT debate". I think it's kind of silly, and it is almost always playing semantics on what question you're actually asking.
You want to see more character diversity at the top level. Who do you think is the most likely character that we don’t see in top 16's that could ascend to that level?
Easily Ice Climbers, without question. Even without wobbling, there's a lot the character can do, especially at first when you're going to be caught off guard. I know this is pretty controversial. Some people think the character sucks. I don't think a character with that kind of wavedashing, jump squat, tech chase, interesting handles, and a complex neutral can be that bad to the point where it's worse than Samus. I don't see that happening. I don't see that being significantly worse than Pikachu or Yoshi.
There’s been a lot of rising online players like Aklo, Pipsqueak, Ben. If you had to put money on it, who do you think is going to be considered a major contender soonest and why?
KoDoRiN, if you count him. KoDoRiN has the most time. He has dedicated full time to Melee. I like his approach to the game a lot. I think he's very smart, he's very analytical, and every time I play him, he's made drastic improvements from the last time. It's almost staggering. And I keep seeing him doing better and better.
I think Logan and Aklo are in a similar boat where I have one or two concerns about them going forward. I just don't know enough about Ben yet to put any money on him. But I would say KoDoRiN, followed by Aklo, who is probably hampered by the amount of time he can devote to the game because of college and other reasons. And Logan has shown inconsistencies in how much he wants to play. He took a break before summer for like three months, which is not a problem, but I think he has a tendency to burn himself out really easily and not take care of himself. And then also that forces him into a playstyle where he has really bad habits and doesn't think too hard when he plays, just because of how much he's playing and how much he's still developing.
Those are the concerns I have with their play, which are both alleviable, though. In the case of Aklo, he can just do a really good job balancing or not go to school after college and try full-time Melee. In terms of Logan, it's just a matter of budgeting his time better. To take a step back not from playing but to restructure how he's trying to improve instead of just over and over brute force playing eight hours continually and burning out.
"By the end of next year, I should be in contention for number one. I think I've made too much progress recently. I've improved faster than anyone in the history of the game besides Zain."
Any impressions of Pipsqueak? How would he have done at Summit 11?
I actually did play with him for a warm-up when I was going to play Ice in a showmatch. And he seems really good at the ditto. I'm sure he would have at least turned some heads even if he didn't take some sets, which I think he would have at least taken a set or two for sure. I think he's been a vastly improving player, and I think he would have made really good use of the opportunity, which sucks that he couldn't go. But at least we'll see him at Summit 12, hoping everything goes correct.
By the end of next year, where will we see iBDW ranked?
In contention for number one. I don't know if I'd ever even want to live in a universe where I was clearly number one over and over again forever, because I feel like that'd be kind of boring. And I would lose interest really fast. Not to say that I will do either but I think that by the end of next year, I should be in contention for number one. I think I've made too much progress recently. I've improved faster than anyone in the history of the game besides Zain.
I think even most of the top players agree that spacies, while the best characters, are also very, very hard to play consistently in bracket. It's one of the hardest things to get down with them. It's just a matter of getting some good tournaments together, getting some confidence, and stringing them together to put on some good performances.
Looking at your journey as a player and how good you've become in spite of all the challenges with stuff like your personal life and the pandemic that you’ve had to overcome: what advice would you give to other people in similar situations that you think could be of benefit?
Make sure you have a backup plan, no matter what. You don't need a college degree, but just as an example, if I didn't already have a college degree, I wouldn't have been able to mentally get through most of this. As far as personal life goes... you just got to be able to face yourself. In the sense that a lot of people try to hide from emotions, or they try to really suppress them and just move on and pretend like they're fine because they want to either have you think they're tough, or they don't want to really confront them because it's hard or whatever number of reasons.
And not only does that make you significantly less healthy mentally in the long term but it will also drastically affect your personal relationships, as I've learned over the past two years, in a capacity that I really wish I didn't have to learn. But I think I did because I needed to get over a lot of my qualms about being open. And if you're just in some of these situations, and you're just trying to hide from it over and over again instead of trying to find a way to deal with it, that's never gonna lead anywhere good.
And if you find a way to get out, and you don't make your absolute best to make it work... I don't know how much you know but I streamed like 300 hours for like four months in a row, including doing lessons after stream. And I was exhausted every single day on top of competing, which burnt me out so bad that I had to take a month off. But the reason I did that is because I had one chance to do this and get out of my previous life. And if you get that chance and you let it pass and you don't do it to the best of your ability, then I don't believe you have the right to complain or feel bad for yourself anymore.
I'm very at ease with my past at this point. I've done a lot of stuff wrong in my life, but I am very at ease with it. And I think that for my long-term goals, I just want to do philanthropy after I'm done. I want to make enough money that I can make my money work for itself and do philanthropy. That's honestly my goal at this point. I try to think a lot about how I can talk to people and try to help them. I didn't expect it to come through this interview, but it's something that I've given a decent amount of thought to and it's not like anything that's emotionally charged for me anymore.
I write. I rap. I run. That’s pretty much it.