Cloudhead Live: Real Smash 4 Rankings In Real Time, and an EVO Preview!

Cloudhead - July 13, 2017

In a game as unpredictable as Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, it's important to appreciate the few consistent things that the competitive scene has to offer. No matter which coach helps their player clutch out a victory, there will always be spectators and players alike questioning the validity of mid-set coaching. No matter which top Bayonetta nets a key win, hot debates will always erupt over whether or not the character is totally broken and requires no skill. No matter what jank or lack thereof happens on Lylat Cruise, a large crowd of people will always call for its ban (and more than likely, MVD will defend his beloved starship to his last breath). Maybe the game is unpredictable, but the community always has those lovable(?) traits that never change.

And one of those traits is a desire to know. On the eve of any supermajor, fans of the game want to know one thing: Who's gonna win this whole thing? After an impressive and unexpected run with some big-name upsets: Is this guy a real top competitor? After a series of tournaments of BEING upset again and again: Is he falling off the face of competitive Smash Bros. and becoming just another face in the sea of players who used to be good? Well, admittedly, no one says it like that. Usually they just throw the word "washed" around a lot.

But the bottom line is: We ALL want to see how these tournaments, these upsets, these losers runs, and these slumps affect how good a player is. And the best way to tell how good a player is (and answer ALL those questions) is by looking at the rankings. Last season, everyone wanted to know if MkLeo was truly a top five player after taking home the GENESIS 4 title. PGRv3 came out, and it turns out that right now, he's second only to ZeRo himself. Everyone wanted to know if Fatality, Kirihara, and Locus's runs at 2GGC: Civil War meant something for their standings as players. PGRv3 came out, and each one rose up from the bottom half to well within the top 25. Everyone wanted to know if ANTi could truly still be a top 20 competitor after some uncharacteristically okay placings. PGRv3 came out, and now the King of Twitter is the one with everything to prove this season. We had to wait, but come June, PGRv3 answered all of our questions.

But sometimes, we don't want to wait. And that makes sense. We're Smash players and fans. We can barely wait six minutes for a campy Sonic to close out a game. How are we going to wait six months for an official ranking system to come out?

Well, perhaps they say you can only get a season PR once a season... but limits are meant to be broken.

 

Cloudhead Live Rankings - Standings, Stats, and Smash, Right On Schedule

The Cloudhead Live Rank is something I created to break that limit, so to speak. Using the magic of Google Sheets and a couple friends who know more about those equations than me, the CLR organizes every notable tournament of the season so far into an in-progress standings list. I give every smasher points based on how well they do every tournament, using a formula that divides the tournament's TTS points by the square root of their placing. In addition, they get points based on PGRv3 player wins, going from 8 points for beating FOW at #50 to 400 for beating ZeRo. I will continue to add the results for tournaments as they occur, to try and create a way to see the top performers of the season so far!

Thanks to this, we've got a simple way to see who's been doing well recently. Will Charliedaking's 5th place and top wins at 2GGC: ARMS Saga help vault him to the PGR? While we still don't know the answer, we do know that he's got the 12th best results in the three weeks up to the time of this writing. (Or did know, if you're reading this later on.) What will Dabuz's win over ZeRo mean for him in the long run? Well, it means that if he can keep doing what he's been doing, he'd remain in first place over ZeRo. (Understand that not everything will remain in life.) The Cloudhead Live Rank, while not giving a perfect projection of the end-of-season standings, is a good sort of compass to look at and say, "here's what will happen if this player can keep it up."

For those who did not click the link, here are your top 20 so far this season.

  1. RNG Dabuz
  2. TSM ZeRo
  3. KEN
  4. LG Abadango
  5. PG ESAM
  6. P1 Tweek
  7. CLG VoiD
  8. Tsu-
  9. 2GG komorikiri
  10. NRG Nairo
  11. Noble Manny
  12. LH Charliedaking
  13. Kirihara
  14. DNG Kameme
  15. Choco
  16. Cosmos
  17. MVG Salem
  18. Masha
  19. Vinnie
  20. takera

Understand that with just three weeks to the season's name so far, these ranks are more subject to change than any rankings will be going forward. Several players not normally ranked this high, such as Manny, Charliedaking, Cosmos, and Masha, will remain high only if they can replicate the success they had in the single tournaments that brought them here. Several regular top players not shown have not yet been to a TTS-ranked tournament this season (MkLeo, Ally, Mr. R, Marss). Take this entire list with a grain of salt for a good while. So, with that said... EVO is coming up. And I'm sure we've all got questions about that. Let's look at the Cloudhead Live Rank to answer them!

 

Player Spotlights: Pre-EVO

Top Threats

TSM | ZeRo, #2 on CLR July 13th: You won't hear me spotlight this player in many of these blogs, to tell you the truth. That's not because he won't be deserving of mention all the time. In fact, it's quite the opposite: he's so invariably a threat at the top of the top, that his place among these names just plain goes without saying. ZeRo is the king of Smash 4, and while individual opinions may vary, he's likely got the best odds to take home his second EVO championship title. The reputation that tells us this is backed up by an ever-growing list of results pouring in. To start Season 4, he and his outstanding Diddy Kong play took Midwest Mayhem 9: Old vs. New, breaking straight through players like Zinoto & Tweek and forcing Nairo into secondaries twice before securing the 3-0 Grand Finals victory. This past weekend, he came to make his latest mark on the 2GG Championship Circuit as he often does - three of those have been big, fat, 1st place marks. While he did not take 2GGC: ARMS Saga, he still showed exactly why he's been atop the PGR for three seasons running. ZeRo knocked Raito, VoiD, and Charliedaking into losers in quick succession, ending the latter's impressive winners run; and after falling to losers bracket in a close set, he eliminated Japan's #1, KEN, in a nailbiter comeback. ZeRo is notoriously resilient, and his still impressive second place will only serve to motivate him more to take the EVO title.

ZeRo and Dabuz at 2GGC: ARMS Saga. Photo by @2GGLakitu.

RNG | Dabuz, #1 on CLR July 13th: Our second top threat spotlight is none other than the player who took ARMS Saga from the #1 player in the world: Dabuz. Known for his impeccable defensive play with Rosalina & Luma, he showed his skill once again at 2GGC: ARMS Saga, the new season's first A-tier. After a reverse 3-0 on Locus to start off top 32, he took down Japan's resident Villager pro Ranai to make a top 8 filled with his demons. Once there, he dispatched komorikiri's Cloud 3-2 in Winners' Semifinals, taking down one of the best players of a character both he and Rosalina historically struggle against. Winners' Finals pitted him against ZeRo, an opponent who he had beaten only once, and not since more than a year before. In the only upset a player of Dabuz's caliber could ever win, he took the set 3-1 against his opponent's Diddy Kong. ZeRo came back strong in the Grand Finals runback, switching to Cloud midway through and clutching out the set 3-2. But Dabuz was having none of it, and finished his opponent off 3-0 in set 2 to take his second Saga of the year. This win has secured him the top spot on the CLR for the time being; look for him to continue his momentum and use it, along with some gratuitous up airs, to make a run for the prize at EVO.

On the Rise

Charliedaking at 2GGC: ARMS Saga. Photo by 2GG | Lakitu (@2GGLakitu).

LH | Charliedaking, #12 on CLR July 13th: No player was more of a surprise at 2GGC: ARMS Saga, however, than SoCal resident Charliedaking. A Fox main in perhaps the most Fox-dense region of all, he made his breakout to show that he's far from just another member of the pack. It was upset after upset for Charlie - first a 2-0 over 10th-ranked player Abadango to make it out of pools in winners' side, then a 3-2 win on PGR returnee NAKAT, and finally an unprecedented 3-0 over Kameme, Japan and the world's best Mega Man. In top 8, he took ZeRo to a close Game 5 situation, displaying impressive knowledge of Fox's tools along the way and stunning all spectators, even some SoCal players familiar with him. While his tournament would end shortly after, as KEN defeated him 3-0 in losers' quarters, Charlie's 5th place finish has most certainly broken him out on the national scene, and is a player to watch at EVO. His bracket is a curious thing, however - among others, he has to go through KEN's Sonic again to progress through the winners' bracket, a character who is traditionally a sort of demon for him. If the current #12 on the CLR breaks out the same skill we saw at ARMS Saga, and perhaps some bracket luck to boot, he may make it further than many expect.

Free Agent | takera, #20 on CLR July 13th: Another player who wants to make some waves at EVO doesn't have as much notoriety as Charliedaking has now - his best placings and biggest wins have all come while most people in the United States are fast asleep. But takera, one of Japan's two best Ryu players, is set to open some eyes this weekend. The Ryu main and occasional Ryu cosplayer went to the highest-tiered Umebura of the year and started things off hot by defeating KEN, who is not only the nation's highest ranked player, but Sonic is a matchup that takera's character is not considered to have the advantage in. He continued to run through top competitors by defeating Tsu-'s Lucario in the following round. His tournament came to an end at 5th place as well, with consecutive losses to Kirihara, whose Rosalina forms arguably Ryu's worst matchup, and Choco, whose Zero Suit Samus is a threat in any tournament he attends. However, takera is still hot off of a great tournament and a win that many in Japan can only dream of. After defeating KEN, he tweeted out "I will kill god." If that means giving competitors a run for their money at EVO and proving he is the world talent Ryu that many believe he is, he should have a good chance to achieve his goal.

Bouncing Back

beast | Mr. R, unranked on CLR July 13th: It may be surprising to see Mr. R listed as a candidate to bounce back, considering that along with ZeRo and Dabuz, he is one of the prime pillars of consistency in Smash 4. However, he finished out the PGRv3 season with two 17th places at back-to-back S-tiers, an unfamiliar series of lows for a player who is a relative stranger to falling outside top 8 and especially top 16. Sickness caused him to drop out of ARMS Saga singles, which would otherwise have been his first PGR-ranked tournament since CEO 2017. As such, he goes into EVO with no Season 4 results to his name. However, Mr. R will be sporting a new turquoise outfit from his new sponsor, beastcoast, this weekend. The perpetual top 10 player will look to use his unparalleled Sheik and reliable Cloud secondary to represent his new team deep in bracket, and show off his usual prowess that has resulted in second place at EVO's 2015 iteration and high finishes at countless other tournaments. Be surprised if he and his Bouncing Fish don't bounce back.

 

EVO Bracket Preview

EVO is the largest tournament of the year so far, with 1,515 entrants, and is easily one of the top three in terms of top player turnout. As such, top players will be dueling long before top 32 starts, and upsets and high-octane matches are to be expected. Here are a few matches to look out for this weekend.

CaptainZack (CLR 44) vs. Cosmos (CLR 16), Round 2 Pools WSF: Don't let the CLR numbers fool you - CaptainZack is officially ranked #7 in the world, and he's notable as the only player save for ZeRo and MKLeo to reach top 8 in three different S-tier tournaments last season. Cosmos, on the other hand, has the higher CLR rank by virtue of attending one more TTS-ranked tournament so far this season, but has largely yet to break out in the same way as Zack has. On paper, this should be your average match - close, and with the potential for an upset like any other, but most likely the higher seeded player will take it - and that's Zack. However, Cosmos and Zack's most recent meeting came at Climax 2, a tournament unranked by TTS. Zack, the only PGR player there, saw his Bayonetta fall unexpectedly to Cosmos's Corrin in Losers' Finals. With this being one of the matches with historical precedence for an upset, keep an eye on the potential match between the Prince of Hoshido & Nohr and the Queen of Style.

FOW at 2GGC: Nairo Saga. Photo by 2GG | Lakitu (@2GGLakitu).

Nairo (CLR 10) vs. FOW (CLR N/A), Round 2 Pools WF: This is another projected match where the numbers can be deceiving. Nairo has been top 3 on the PGR for all of its existence, and is sitting pretty at #10 on the CLR with just a single tournament attended. FOW is unranked thus far, and squeaked in so close at #50 on the PGR, they didn't have time to give him an X-factor. Again, on paper, FOW should put up a fight, but Nairo should win the set. However, FOW is not your ordinary Mr. Irrelevant. He boasts top player wins for Season 3 that many in his area of the PGR can only dream of, including Larry Lurr, Locus, and Marss - he's a player whose playstyle is as explosive as his popoffs, and can give any player above him a run for his money. His win on Marss at 2GGC: Nairo Saga raises eyebrows in particular. Could he pull off a similar win against the only better ZSS in the business? If the very capable preceding opponents of the two don't have anything to say about it, this question will be answered in paralyzing, PK Thundering, electric fashion.

ZeRo (CLR 2) vs. Ranai (CLR 22), Winners' Top 24: This set isn't here because of any particular upset potential, or any particular recent narrative that says it should be exciting. No, this set is here because it's what the fans have been waiting for. While they've met in doubles once or twice recently, it's been more than a year and a half since ZeRo and Ranai have played without Nairo/Tsu- and komorikiri being at their sides on the battlefield. And this isn't just any long-overdue top player matchup, either. Their only bracket meeting in singles thus far, GENESIS 3, is one that many hold in high regard as one of the best - or even the best - of all time. ZeRo was the undisputed and unchallenged best in the world, and Ranai was making his first trip over to Japan as their best player, and people believed he could take ZeRo's title. The set went to a close Game 5, with ZeRo's old main Sheik narrowly defeating Ranai's Villager in an edge-of-your-seat matchup full of adaptation and intelligent play. Now, ZeRo remains undisputed, but now occasionally challenged, as the best, and Ranai's place in the world standings are more solidified in the 11-20 range, as KEN has taken his title of best in Japan. Still, the world's premier Villager is not to be forgotten - keep an eye on this nostalgic and intense projected set.

KEN at 2GGC: ARMS Saga. Photo by 2GG | Lakitu (@2GGLakitu).

ZeRo (CLR 2) vs. KEN (CLR 3), Winners' Quarters: This is the first set I will mention that is not projected by bracket; it requires ZeRo's run to go as expected, with KEN "upsetting" VoiD in the round just before (I put it in quotes because the two are on such equal footing as players, you can hardly call it what the seeding says it is.) The world's best Sonic is most certainly capable of doing so, as he eliminated VoiD at ARMS Saga and has defeated him in multiple Mega Smash Monday weeklies. If KEN indeed does defeat him and faces ZeRo, however, the narrative becomes more than just a match between two top players. ZeRo has become KEN's bane through his recent trip to the United States. At 2GGC: Nairo Saga, KEN went down 3-0 in winners' quarters. He lost his first losers' set and came in 9th. At CEO 2017, KEN lost to him 3-2 in winners' semis, and was forced to play another demon, MkLeo, in losers. He lost the set, and came in 5th. And at 2GGC: ARMS Saga just last weekend, he met ZeRo in losers' finals and watched as his lead slipped away, with ZeRo finishing him off with a stage spike back air. 9th, 5th, 3rd. KEN's sets have gotten closer and closer with ZeRo, and he has placed better and better in the US. Any set between these two could be the one in which Japan's number one breaks through.

MkLeo (CLR N/A) vs. Fatality (CLR N/A), Winners' Top 24: Every time I do this, I'm going to throw in a potential matchup that doesn't necessarily have any significance beyond face value, but is a set that I personally want to see. For me, that's one between the Prince of Smash 4 and the Fatal Falcon. The two have never met in bracket; in order to do so here, Fatality will have to defeat Kirihara in his pool's winners finals. This is admittedly a match I could have highlighted in its own right - two top 20 players battling for winners' side out of pools. But if Fatality and his stylishly effective Captain Falcon is victorious, he will meet the most dangerous swordsman in the business. MkLeo is precise, cool, and calculated; his spacing leaves nothing to be desired, whether he's pivoting and striking with his Marth's tipper, smothering the opponent with Cloud's huge hitboxes, or getting up close to take his foe on a ride to the sky with his Meta Knight. Fatality, on the other hand, has only one character, and needs only one character. He's taken Captain Falcon to new heights, using Captain Falcon's surplus of killing options to overwhelm and obliterate the opponent, and displaying unmatched reliability with setting up to land his hard-to-land finishers. If he catches you just right with an up air, or gets you in a footstool combo, consider your stock kneed. With playstyles that are so different intrinsically, but so similarly effective, a set between these two would be a fast-paced bloodbath that can only end in a single hero standing.

 

All That Said...

EVO isn't just one of the most important tournaments for players to compete in; it's also one of the most exciting tournaments for spectators (like me) to watch. Talent from around the world that rarely gets to compete in the United States will get their one shot at glory here. With many fans preferring to cheer on the underdog, rest assured that there will be more than a few players making waves well beyond what many expect them to. On the subject of upsets, there is literally no tournament that is more built for upsets than EVO (on paper, at least, because 2GGC: Civil War is a monster of its own). Only four sets at most will be played best of 5, with all sets before the top 3 requiring just two games to win. Players rely on a best-of-5 system to allow for more adaptation and consistency. But in a best of 3, anything can happen. There's so much less room for error. One jank game can mean an early end to a set where it would ordinarily just mean a deficit. With the competition even in Round 2 pools, the top 48 bracket is practically guaranteed to look nothing like it's projected to.

In addition, coming back to the rankings, EVO will mean everything for the end-of-season ranks. Last season, every single player who made top 8 at an S-tier event made it onto the PGR, which was especially important for newcomers like Elegant, T, and HIKARU. Whichever player wins this event, given the near-guaranteed top player wins, will rise well above all others on the CLR (EVO's TTS ranking is 4256; Dabuz has 4485 points at #1) They still won't score a top 2 spot on the PGR like Ally last season unless they keep up the top placings just like him, but it stands to reason that if a player can win EVO, they can do anything. This is the big stage. These are the big leagues. To many, this tournament is - if you will - the Final Destination.

EVO 2017 is without question going to be one of the most electric events of the year. With Smash action on all three days this weekend, there's going to be no shortage of excitement and destruction going on at all hours of the day. Make sure to catch the Smash 4 Top 8 at 6 PM EDT/3 PM PDT on Sunday afternoon to see who's going to take this year's title and cement their place in the fight for the top!

All that said... enjoy the show, and happy smashing!

Cloudhead :)

 

All photos by 2GG Lakitu (@2GGLakitu). One of the best photographers in the scene! Give him some love!

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