Mainstage was an interesting event for Juan "Hungrybox" DeBiedma. He qualified for the Smash World Tour Championship but left the tournament feeling quite defeated. He came in second to Wizzrobe, who all-but dominated him with Captain Falcon — a surprise to most, including Hungrybox.
Before the finals, Inven Global sat down with Hungrybox to talk about the ever-changing competitive Melee landscape, his content creation, and who he sees as his biggest rivals.
Competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee has changed — and it's stressful
You were someone that wasn’t motivated in the online era due to other obligations. Now that you’ve been to a few LAN events, what are your current thoughts on the game?
The LAN events being back is a great thing. Online really put people to the test as to how well you can play at your very best in a new medium and environment. I’m still always going to be a believer that online will never be identical to LAN and I don't think that online results should be counted alongside LAN. They are slightly different.
At the same time, it’s a good test. It’s a giant exhibition to see where players are at. The lag is different, distance, location is different… But if you got outplayed, you got outplayed. I had players who destroyed me online but I destroy them every time I played offline. I can’t think of one. Polish, the Peach player, that was the first big upset I had. He’s just a brand new player that also beat iBDW. He's clearly very talented.
One thing that changed, the entire competitive edge — the talent pool — got way, way closer to each other. Top-tier players are even better. The bottom players usually struggling in pools, now there is almost no distinction. If that player grinds, they’re not gonna be bad and will put up a fight. It used to be child’s play but now you have to respect everyone.
How do you feel about that?
It’s stressful. Over the pandemic, I fell in love with content creation. Now that it’s slowing down, I feel like my content doesn't have to be as dedicated as it was. People may not be watching it as much. It's a good time to rediscover what it means to be a top Melee player. Hopefully, one day, if I go to enough events again... Rankings are opening in 2022 — by then it would be such poetry if I was able to get back to rank one, where I was for so many years.
As you mentioned, you have a focus on content creation now. How does your current practice/dedication to the game compare to the past?
Obviously before, I would play every day. It was just what I did. Now it’s not there anymore and content is a big thing. I only play before big tournaments. I’m still at a disadvantage from other grinders. I feel like not only can I not do that, it’s counter-intuitive for me. It’s never something that I’ve done.
I play best when my mind is clear and I can innovate on the spot. Trick your opponents — that's all there is to it. It's easy because I'd just correct mistakes. Now 50% of everyone you play doesn’t make mistakes anymore. You have to outplay them. It’s all neutral now.
Hungrybox continues to dominate Super Smash Bros. content creation
How do you feel about the growth of Ultimate on Twitch? Do you feel it’s good for the competitive scene?
Streams are always good. The more avenues for a game to have, the better it is. Never a bad thing. September and October were my biggest viewership months on YouTube.
How do you come up with content for your YouTube channel?
We go with the flow. Go with the news. News videos. New game coming out, report on it. Unfortunately, we went a little too crazy with the leaks. After the Warner leak, they shut it down. It sucks because there are consequences from that. Now I can’t work with those teams of devs. I’m sad about that and I learned my lesson.
But that game will be big for a couple of months maybe. I’ll still make money. But Nintendo news, that’s where I do the best. I’ll try to get back to the rind after this weekend.
You don't think Warner will really have long-lasting viewership. Do you feel that Nick and Warner and all these other Smash-style games are just trends but don't live up to the hype?
It all depends. The closer to Smash it is, the more staying power it has. For people who play Smash, it’s so difficult to emulate the game. So they try to create different thing, their own thing. But when it's too different it's apparent over time.
Nick has a lot of heart and a dedicated dev team — everything they could to make the game great. But they didn’t act as quickly as they should have when there were glitches being exploited. The game is better now and people wanna watch it. Juice Box especially. That was the home for Nick All-Stars. Juice Box 4 was the largest Nick tourney of all time. It was like an event. The Void grand finals was absolutely incredible. It was really crazy.
The Five Gods of Melee — and the players coming for the top spots
You mentioned how the current Melee meta forces you to play Jigglypuff really lame. Besides more people on Slippi getting Puff practice, why do you think that is?
Because of online. There is no more distance gap, no reason to be bad at matchups. It’s not just online, it’s rollback. That really good Puff player in Minnesota and you’re in California, you can play him virtually laglessly. Back in the day, you had to fly out there to have experience. Now people do it every single day. You have to rely on outplaying the opponent.
I have to try a lot harder. I don’t want to be cocky but it used to come a lot more naturally. I knew mistakes they’d make. It was an execution test over and over. Now it’s not the case. A top 10 player in 2017 — that now is like a player in Top 34 or pools. The same level of mental exercise and creativity, you have to employ all day.
When you played Polish at SWT, he took a set off you with Peach, something Armada couldn’t do. Was it a fluke or do you think the matchup isn’t as one-sided as you initially thought?
The matchup is a lot less bad... People thought it was unwinnable which is too fucking stupid. Now they learned the matchup. It’s honestly one of my hardest matchups. The frame-perfect nature of top Peach players and how immune they are to mistakes… She can kill Puff a lot earlier than I thought. She's a lot faster than Puff. You can’t get in their face like you used to. She has to swing first and a lot of Peach players know to not swing. It is what it is, but Peach has gotten way better than Armada in the matchup.
Polish, I should have won. Everyone made fun of me for it. It was the worst last stock. My brain turned off. I tried to finish quickly and got nervous. It was unprofessional. And I lost.
I haven’t been in the best mental state over the past month. It sometimes shows in my play. I’m trying to fix it. I practice less when I’m doing content too. Eventually, it will catch up with me.
How do you feel about the Marth matchup?
I used to be really good at it. Now Zain revolutionized the matchup and everyone emulates him. That is kind of what happens. You have to fight Zain or Zain Jr.
Most people have Zain and Mang0 etched in as the top two. Who would you rank personally as third?
iBDW. He's just by far the next best player. He beats everyone who isn’t Mang0 and Zain.
You are still considered a God. How do you feel about that distinction? Do you think it carries as much weight in the current Melee scene? How do you feel about new players emerging?
It does because the five Gods are so crazy. In terms of being active, there are only two left. Armada retired. Mew2King essentially retired. He’s a wildcard. Mang0 caught a second wind and was playing best in his life but only does one event a year. He was losing for a while. And I was winning. His eras come and go.
How does being considered one of the best Melee players of all time feel?
It’s exciting but stressful.
Yeah, in North America I’m number five right now. Worldwide I’m still top five probably. Zain, Mang0, with Zain having a slight edge because he’s more active. IBDW, Plup, and then me fifth. Leffen somewhere up there.
Do you think Melee will continue to grow despite the lack of support from Nintendo?
If we keep having things like Smash Summit 11 that redefine narrative, I can see it continuing to go. Mang0 saved the game when he had to. He proved that Fox can still beat Marth. He did the impossible.
You’ve stated in the past that you compete to prove yourself. You have had a pretty successful career so what is your current motivation for competition in Ultimate?
I’m honestly not good at that game. I’m good at Ultimate online. But it’s hard for me to balance both games. I'm a content creator for Ultimate. I like reacting to things and watching things with people. That will be more my thing. Right now
How are you feeling about the Smash community in 2021?
It’s been great. It’s nice to have that safety net of people who enjoy what I do. Honestly, I’m thankful for it. I don't take it for granted. I work at it. I only go to events I absolutely have to. Summits, Smash World Tour. I wouldn’t have been here if it wasn't a qualifier. The goal is to win.
Esports writer and editor with a passion for creating unique content for the gaming community.