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Alexander Lee 17d

A Smash Summit 5 victory puts Hungrybox at the top in Melee

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Smash Summit 5 came to a close Sunday night, marking the end of 2017's tumultuous Super Smash Bros. Melee major season. While competitors battled for their share of the event's $80,000+ prize pool, this iteration of Melee's high-profile invitational became the most recent battleground in a struggle between the game's status quo and the threat of a new order.

In July, Adam "Armada" Lindgren was awarded the top ranking in the Summer 2017 edition of SSBMRank. At the time, he was unquestionably Melee's best player; his SSBMRank blurb quipped that life's only constants were "death, taxes and Armada in winner's semis." During last night's singles bracket, however, even this certainty seemed uncertain. In winner's quarterfinals, the Swede was pushed to his limit by Justin "Wizzrobe" Hallett, who took the set's first two games before Armada prevailed in a nerve-wracking 3-0 comeback. In winner's semifinals, Armada dropped his second set in as many weeks to William "Leffen" Hjelte. Motivated by these setbacks, the Armada rampaged through loser's bracket, scoring dominant victories over Jeffrey "Axe" Williamson, Joseph "Mang0" Marquez, and Leffen to face off against Juan "Hungrybox" Debiedma in grand finals.

This grand finals had the highest stakes of any set this year, and perhaps of any set in Melee history, featuring the game's top two players in competition for a $29,000 purse, the year-end number one ranking, and -- in Armada's case -- an unprecedented fivepeat. When it was over, Hungrybox stood atop the metaphorical podium, tears of joy glistening in his eyes. Through this victory, the Floridian Jigglypuff main clinched his spot as year-end number one for the first time in his career and captured his first Smash Summit title. Though Armada remains the second-best player in the world, it's obvious that the once-insurmountable gap between him and the rest of the field has shrunk by a considerable margin. Instead, Hungrybox stands apart from the rest, his Smash Summit victory an incredible fifth consecutive major title. Where Armada once looked invincible, Hungrybox now reigns supreme, demonstrating his dominance by crushing former demons such as Mang0 and Zachary "SFAT" Cordoni on his way to victory. There's no doubt about it: today, Hungrybox is the best Melee player in the world.

Hungrybox's victory was far from Smash Summit 5's only noteworthy result. Jason "Mew2King" Zimmerman entered the event with high hopes; only last weekend, he overcame both Armada and Leffen to win Canada Cup 2017 in a performance many lauded as his finest in many years. Unfortunately, Mew2King was unable to put together a similar run at Smash Summit 5, dropping sets to Zachary "SFAT" Cordoni and Axe to finish at a relatively low 9th place. Axe's performance deserves recognition in its own right, with the Pikachu main notching two wins apiece over both Mew2King and SFAT to all but ensure himself a year-end ranking at number seven.

Though some fell short, this Smash Summit featured impressive performances by its voted-in players. Jack "Crush" Hoyt justified his invitation in electrifying fashion by defeating Dajuan "Shroomed" McDaniel and Johnny "S2J" Kim and bringing Mang0 to the brink of defeat in a stunning five-game pools battle. At Summit 5, New England's rising star outshined players traditionally ranked within the top twenty, demonstrating his capacity to compete at the game's highest level. After qualifying for the invitational in a cloud of controversy, Michael "MikeHaze" Pulido was able to silence his critics by defeating Shroomed as well. While crowd favorite Masaya "aMSa" Chikamoto was unable to make a run in the singles bracket, he and his teammate Axe scored impressive victories over Hungrybox/Wizzrobe and SFAT/Shroomed in the invitational's doubles bracket.

At the end of the day, Melee's status quo remains somewhat intact-battered and bruised, but not yet entirely gone. Although Armada might be learning to play second fiddle to Hungrybox, the two of them still clearly occupy their own tier above all other competitors, with Mang0 following as the obvious third. Despite Mew2King's disappointing result, Melee's top six players retain their stranglehold upon the metagame. But unexpected performances by players such as Wizzrobe and Crush show that a new school of players have entered the ring, and they're playing to win. It's only a matter of time now until this new blood catches up with the leaders of the pack.

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