EVO is by far the most important annual event for the fighting game community, having grown to a spectacular size since the humble beginnings in 2002. Although Smash is traditionally grassroots and features many events throughout the year with most of the relatively small top in attendance, there is no comparison to the stage EVO offers the scene. EVO 2015 shattered attendance records for both Smash Bros. for Wii U at 1926 and Melee at 1869 entrants. With only 516 players competing in both, a lot of players came out for Smash from across the globe, although the great majority was from the US. Some of the best European players for both games were able to make the trip and made a real impact in front of more than 200k viewers, further cementing Europe’s presence at the top.
Smash Bros. for Wii U
Players across five nations in Europe entered the Smash for Wii U event at Evo 2015. Three came from Britain but each fell in early pools matches. The same befell two Swiss players who couldn’t win a single match. French player Kesa made a decent dent in pools but also could not escape. While these players all fought and failed one player rose up and did quite a bit more than just break out of pools: LLL.Mr-R
Mr-R has been one of the best Smash 4 players worldwide since the release of the game, winning an early stacked invitational and taking 3rd at APEX 2015. In Europe he wins everything he attends and is one of few Smash 4 players going at least semi-professional with a large focus on streaming and attending events. The expectations for his summer of Smash were set high and somewhat shot down after his 9th place finish at CEO, where he lost to MVD and Larry Lurr. Although this event was not the focus of Mr-R’s trip, having arrived in the US just a few days prior, it showed he had his work cut out for him. He soon beat Larry back at a West Coast local and underwent a lot of practice to get ready for EVO. More details on this can be found in an interview he had with SmashEurope just prior to leaving for the US.
His preparation paid off spectacularly and he ran deep into the bracket with little trouble. While most names in pool E43 weren’t notable, aspiring Pit main DSW Aigachu came down from Canada with a determination to win. Mr. R sent him to losers where he would make a run to still break out of starting pools. Mr-R then worked his way through the second round of pools and found himself in the semi-finals.
From there he took down Mii Brawler main TRNP Dapuffster who was a favorite to go far in the customs on environment. He then went on to face GW FOW who was coming off hot from many wins that day and an impressive performance in the East Coast vs West Coast crew battle. Still Mr. R took the victory. He finally was sent to loser’s bracket after a close set against Nairo. Right after he was quoted as saying: “I came here to win. I’m not done yet. See you in grand finals!” Mr-R kept true to his word taking down Ally’s Mario and clutching out a close game two against his Marth in loser’s quarters. He went on to finally eliminate Japan from the tournament in a close set against ASA Abadando’s Wario and then found himself with a second chance against crowd favorite Nairo. This time things were different: in a tight set going to game five Mr. R took the win and went on to face on the most dominant force in Smash 4. Although he could have taken game 3 of the grand finals, he overall struggled to make a dent against ZeRo, who took the tournament without dropping a single game.
Mr-R’s second place demonstrates that he is still on top of the game and turns it up when the stakes are highest. It is also clear that there is a significant range of competitors he has to watch out for, particularly on bad days, which is further illustrated by his recent loss in Mexico. He is determined to give ZeRo a more difficult time in their inevitable next clash and will no doubt keep working hard to keep up with the American level. His summer of smash hasn’t ended yet: you will be able to see him compete at Smash Con, Paragon, various locals and perhaps even a few other tournaments.
Melee was just as exciting an affair. French player Joanna Dark, Swedish players Volvo and Zoler, and Annoobilation from the Netherlands all unfortunately drowned in pools. Two Swedish players unsurprisingly went far with TSM.Leffen and [A]rmada in attendance and Germany had a strong showing thanks to Ice.
The number one player in Germany was determined to make a great appearance. Unable to travel often to the US due to financial barriers his performances at majors have been sporadic. He placed 7th at Evo 2013 but came back the next year to only place 33rd. In an earlier interview with SmashEurope he said he was looking forward to the event and it showed: he easily worked through his first pool, then went on to take down Drephen, Tian, and MH Chudat (who would go on to tie for 7th).
Ice would face a serious challenger right off the bat in semi-finals however: C9 Mang0. “I had no confidence in the Fox vs Falco matchup since I don’t have a lot of experience in it” he said in an interview for SmashEurope. “I knew that it was probably his best matchup, so I chose Sheik just to see how it would turn out.” Unfortunately the Sheik pick didn’t work out and he was sent to the loser’s bracket. He wouldn’t let his run end there however. He went on to take out Fly Amanita’s Ice Climbers and Liquid`Ken’s Marth which tired him out before he had to take on fellow European Leffen. After these tough matches and the stress of international travel he just didn’t have enough left in the tank. “Fighting Leffen I had no energy left; even when I lost I didn’t have enough energy to be disappointed.”
Good games im out =)
— Mustafa Akcakaya (@Ice_Fights) July 19, 2015
Leffen had all the momentum going into EVO, winning CEO, FC Smash and WTFox. Over the span of these events he beat all 4 of the old top 5 players in attendance, namely Armada, Mang0, Hungrybox and Mew2King. While a few wins were shaky, mainly against Plup and M2K, he could have been seeded first for EVO without much argument. Of course, PPMD was still a wildcard, but Leffen had already come close at APEX 2015 and the onus of proof lies with the player who doesn’t attend as much. It wasn’t going to be easy, but he was a favourite to win it all.
Leffen would have other tough matches during the day prior to fighting Ice. DruggedFox, who became quite the fan favorite after his performance at the event, took the first game in their best of 3 set with Sheik. In their second game he switched to Marth on Leffen’s FD counterpick and very well could have made the upset then and there. Leffen toughed it out however and took a fairly dominant game 3, once again against Sheik.
Hungrybox has a nasty tendency to ruin the day of at least one person he usually loses to when it matters the most and this time he couldn’t be stopped till he ran into Armada. Leffen was the first of his major victims with a shocking 0-2 loss. This made Leffen’s EVO run suddenly a lot harder. Going into finals in the loser’s bracket he had this to say: “Going to have to win 6 sets in a row tomorrow, 3 of them bo3. With the way I’m playing, I’m going to have to dig very very deep.”
Getting into top 8 still didn’t prove too difficult, but Leffen had a mountain to climb against some of the greats. Although Axe gave him another scare, the real problem lied in Plup. He already came close to beating Leffen at CEO, stopped short by an untimely Stadium transformation. The crowd was excited for this rematch and one man was taking 2-1 $20 sidebets saying there was no way Leffen would go down. But then Plup pulled out Samus. Anyone who bet against Leffen would have brought home a nice sum as the best of three format alongside the matchup that had plagued Leffen in the past was too much for him to overcome. While he accepted his defeat graciously, he expressed his distaste for the best of three format quite vocally, which is an unfortunate reality of EVO even deep into top 8. The whole ordeal left one of the favourites at an unexpected 5th place.
“Bo3 in Melee is simply a different category than Bo5. There’s A LOT less adapting, it has a BAN, blind picks/counterpicks are EVERYTHING. Evo and events that run Bo3 that much will in my eyes always be inferior to every single little regional that runs Bo5. Going to make a serious effort to only go to events that prioritize Bo5 and the players over running Bo3 for more “upsets”.” -Leffen on Twitter
While Leffen fell short of becoming one of the greats of Smash this time around, nothing changes about his dominant record prior to EVO and he is arguably top 2 in the world. The event did show that he can still be beaten and has to deal with a bigger range of potential threats than a player like Armada.
Although Armada has had a period of complete dominance between summer 2011 and early 2013, including a Genesis and two APEX wins, he is also the master of second place finishes at the biggest events. While he can beat anyone in the world and has a dominant overall record against his peers, he seemingly has a hard time beating everyone on the same day. Furthermore, it hasn’t been easy for him to recover from his 2013 retirement, which came at the worst possible time considering the sudden growth of Melee. While EVO 2013 came too soon and his 4th place could easily be forgiven, EVO 2014 turned out rather sour when his Young Link failed him in two sets against Hungrybox. Making the switch to Fox since gave him some newfound momentum, but APEX 2015 involved yet another second place, this time to PPMD.
Armada did not win any of the events he attended in the weeks leading up to EVO (CEO, FC, WTFox) and frequent flight delays and controller problems were starting to make his trip a frustrating ordeal. Although he was seeded first, one could very well have given the odds to Leffen or perhaps even PPMD to take the gold at EVO, making for a third major disappointment for Armada.
He took down many names on his way towards the top 8, some of which include Eikelmann, MIOM Tafokints, Lovage, Silent Wolf, and CLG PewPewU. He opted to go Peach for these sets and had to dig deep against particularly Silent Wolf, but managed to reach the Sunday matches unscathed. Going all Fox, he beat Hungrybox in a 2-1 set, PPMD in a 3-0 winners finals and kept Hungrybox from resetting the bracket in a 3-2 grand finals. He finally overcame his losing streak, breaking the curse and winning the biggest Melee tournament to date.
It’s a performance that shows that he can win it all when the stakes are at its highest in terms of entrants, viewership and prize money. He has solidified his legacy among the best American champions of Melee (Ken and Mang0) and it will be hard for any European smasher to rival his impact on Europe’s worldwide image. While he is not as untouchable as he once was, he brought it when it mattered the most.
Even for those optimistic about the potential of Europe’s finest, it came as a pleasant surprise that Melee’s summer was completely dominated by two European players. The Swedes claimed all major events they attended and brought back the EVO crown. Armada and Leffen should generally be considered top 2 in the world and Ice has once again made himself part of the discussion with a solid performance, losing to two top 6 players. In this light it is unfortunate that most high level European Melee players rarely have the opportunity to compete against the far bigger American playerbase, although those who found their way to EVO are without question Europe’s top 3 players.