Cloudhead Live: The In-Progress Rankings & the July 2017 Smash 4 Recap!

Cloudhead - July 31, 2017

While it may be absurd to think now, there exist a lot of people who never believed in Bayonetta. They never believed she was truly the best in the game, like many others did. The thought process kind of went like this: "Okay, sure, Bayo's good, but what's she done? She has no results besides getting top 8 at some major tournaments. A lot of characters get top 8 at some majors. She's got no reason to be that high on the tier list." Depending on how you look at it, maybe they had a point. Bayonetta didn't have all that much proving that she could do what other top tiers could do: win it all at the highest level. The only thing that could prove that was a win at the highest level. Diddy Kong, Rosalina, Zero Suit Samus, Mario, and even Marth had won supermajors and S-tier tournaments, the biggest and most illustrious ones in the scene. If Bayonetta was the best character in the game, they argued, why hadn't she done the same?

Cut to the day after DreamHack Atlanta 2017, the most recent S-tier, and those same people are probably somewhere calling for her ban right about now.

The story of Season 4 so far has been Bayonetta. More specifically, one Bayonetta player. He's been a top tier player in games past, and after going on a year of being on the cusp of the top 10 in Smash 4, he's finally broken to the highest level. What's going on here? Well, let's take a quick recap of what's happened this past month, what they mean for the season rankings, and what to look for next month!

 

July Recap

The Summer of Salem: Salem, arguably the world's top Bayonetta player, wins EVO 2017 and DreamHack Atlanta 2017, two S-tier tournaments, in back-to-back weekends. Between the two tournaments, he amassed thirteen set victories against players ranked in the top 50 by the Panda Global Rankings (PGR); including double-eliminating ZeRo, the #1 in the world, at EVO. Salem is no stranger to winning at the highest level, but prior to this month, he'd only gotten to the grand prize in Brawl - most notably in his historic Apex 2013 run with Zero Suit Samus, in which he outplaced several top players of Meta Knight, by far the best character in that game. Now, he's proved he can do it in Smash 4 too, and given Bayonetta the results to match the #1 character many believe she is. He may not be the best player in the world just yet, but he's the man to beat heading into the next part of the season.

Bayo Takes Over EVO: Abadango, JK, and Lima, all Bayonetta players, placed 9th at EVO. Their accomplishments were largely washed out in Salem's spotlight, but their Day 2 performances can't be forgotten. They each took top names out, with Aba defeating falln and Raito, JK eliminating Locus and Zinoto, and Lima taking out Mistake and NAKAT. Mistake himself opened eyes as well, defeating ZD, Kirihara, and Fatality, and being the only Bayonetta besides Salem to leave pools on winners' side. All four equaled or bested the performances of CaptainZack and 9B, who are considered to round out the world's three best Bayonetta players along with Salem. While some may choose to see it as unknowns (and Abadango, who has been a top 10 Mewtwo for years) getting carried to the top by a good character, keep in mind that it's taken them a year and a half. This is just a crop of new, young players finally reaching their potential with the newest character in the game - and, of course, Abadango.

The Top Two's Blues: ZeRo and MkLeo, who are ranked #1 and #2 on the PGR top 50, respectively, have not had the seasons that many thought they would have. MkLeo has attended two tournaments so far, and neither ended particularly well for him. EVO saw him fall into 65th in shocking upsets to False and MuteAce; his run at DreamHack ended at 17th, with losses to Vinnie and ZeRo, meeting the latter early due to both being upset. ZeRo's placings are similarly uncharacteristic, if only by his standards. At 2GGC: ARMS Saga, he fell twice to Dabuz for 2nd, and at EVO, Salem double-eliminated him in Grands for the same result. DreamHack was his most surprising placement, losing to Samsora in winners' top 24 and being knocked out of bracket by Nairo's Bowser, ending his run at 9th. To put this in perspective, these losses mark the first three tournaments he has consecutively failed to win since almost a year ago. Few doubt that either will be defined by these placements moving forward, but the point remains that both should be hungry to return to the glory with which they earned their current top 2 statuses.

Guess Who's Back: False and Vinnie, two top players who fell out of the top 50 last season, are back in the mix. It would have been easy to forget about these players last season, as they went quietly with three PGR-relevant placings between the two of them. However, they're both looking to make season 4 different. Vinnie placed 9th at ARMS Saga and DreamHack, defeating Locus at the former, MkLeo at the latter, and falln once at each event. False took the spotlight at EVO, defeating MkLeo, WaDi, and Mistake, and ending as the only 9th place spot not occupied by a Bayonetta player. Their PGR dropoffs last season are beginning to look like matters of low attendance rather than truly falling off; if they keep racking up solid placings, a return to their rankings could be in store for both.

 

Cloudhead Live Rankings

For those who don't know the CLR, it's a way to statistically list the top players so far in the season for Smash 4, as a sort of in-progress analogue to official rankings. By giving points based on tournament placement and PGR wins, we get to see who's doing the best so far this season. Here's the top 20 players for the season so far, aka for everything between SMASHADELPHIA 2017 and Get On My Level 2017! (The full rankings are here.)

  1. MVG Salem
  2. TSM ZeRo
  3. RNG Dabuz
  4. NRG Nairo
  5. P1 Tweek
  6. MSF Larry Lurr
  7. CLG VoiD
  8. KEN
  9. LG Abadango
  10. IMT ANTi
  11. PG ESAM
  12. Noble Manny
  13. 2GG komorikiri
  14. CLG NAKAT
  15. WaDi
  16. P1 CaptainZack
  17. bc Mr. R
  18. Tsu-
  19. Mistake
  20. Vinnie

The first thing that jumps out at anyone, seeing as it's at the top of the list, is Salem. With his two S-tier wins, he's taken the top spot from not only Dabuz, who held it prior to EVO thanks to his win at ARMS Saga, but more importantly from ZeRo, who has held the spot on every end-season PGR and historically does for most of the season in progress, too. His dominance in the rankings is especially impressive when you consider that so far this season, Salem has only been to two tournaments. ZeRo has been to four tournaments, including the two S-tiers, and every single competitor below him up until NAKAT (CLR 14) has attended at least three. With two wins in two tournaments, he's making the absolute most out of every opportunity. It remains to be seen whether or not he will continue his high placings and truly challenge for the title of #1 in the world. To do so, he would have to have consistency rivaling or surpassing that of ZeRo, which historically, no one has ever been able to do. But it's worth noting that before DreamHack, no one had ever been able to win two S-tiers in a season besides ZeRo. We can only wait and see whether Salem can keep ramping it up and truly do the impossible.

Other names later in the bracket are worth noting, too. Tweek (CLR 5) and KEN (CLR 8) are similar in that they're among the best players of their character (Cloud and Sonic, respectively), have made impressive runs in major tournaments as of late, and are pushing for top 10 so far this July. Neither one has ever reached that high in any official rankings, but they're showing signs of being for real - Tweek's 4th and 3rd at the two S-tiers are the best dual placements of anyone not named Salem; and KEN has placed 9th or higher at every single tournament he's been to in the United States this past few months, all of which were S-tier or higher. It goes without saying, but if they can keep doing what they've been doing, they're poised to continue challenging for top 10 spots. Many more players sit at new heights in July as well. Manny (CLR 12) is bolstered by dominance in his home state of Florida and a 13th place finish at EVO. WaDi (CLR 15) breaks into top 20 with an EVO that saw him defeat Ranai, 9B, and Samsora, three top 25 players in the world. Mistake (CLR 19) is among those leading the charge of the new Bayonettas, with 17th place at EVO and an impressive 3rd place at Get On My Level, defeating Larry Lurr on the way.

However, this early in the season, there are bound to be some notable omissions, as many top players have had unfortunate starts to their months. Ally (CLR 42) is top 5 on the PGR, but has not kicked off Season 4 like he would have wanted to. His EVO run was cut short by upsets and ended at a disappointing 49th; his time at DreamHack was somewhat better, but still ended prematurely at 13th after ZeRo met him unexpectedly in losers' bracket after being upset himself. Kirihara (CLR 44), who is top 20 according to the PGR and who many believe could be ranked even higher, missed out on his big chance for points with 65th place at EVO, sliding just out of the relevant placing threshold (only top 64 recieve points in S-tier tournaments). MkLeo (CLR 53), despite earning a C-tier win at Texas's International Gaming Expo, misses the top 50 entirely so far. His 65th at EVO, like Kirihara, missed out on earning points, and his 17th place at DreamHack, like Ally, was snuffed out by losers' bracket ZeRo. Other top threats, like Marss, 6WX, and Javi are all unranked so far, due to either having no PGR attendance so far, or having missed the relevance threshold when they did attend. All of them are likely too talented for their current standings, and should rise further into favor as the season goes on; however, one underachieving month gives everyone above them a head start they can't afford to give. The rest of the season now means that much more for them and for everyone else in situations like theirs.

 

What's Up In August?

Smash Factor 6 (B-tier): August 4th-6th @ Puebla, Puebla, Mexico; ft. MkLeo, ANTi, Mr. R, Marss, Kameme, NAKAT, Javi, Regi. MkLeo will be playing for his three-peat in Mexico's largest Smash 4 tournament of the year. He and the rest of Mexico's best, such as Javi, Regi, and Serge, will try to defend their home turf against invaders from across the U.S., Europe, and Japan, and nab the biggest piece of the 50,000 peso prize.

Low Tier City 5 (B-tier): August 5th-6th @ Irving, Texas, USA; ft. ZeRo, Dabuz, Larry Lurr, Tweek, Abadango, CaptainZack, ESAM,  Lima. With last year's champ ZeRo returning for his title, Texas will be filled to the brim with smashers trying to make it to the top of the bracket and take his throne, from PGR champs like Dabuz, Larry, Zack, and Aba to local Texas heroes like Lima, Karna, Illusion, and more. Expect top tier excitement and action from this year's Low Tier City.

Super Smash Con 2017 (S-tier): August 10th-13h @ Chantilly, Virginia, USA; ft. ZeRo, MkLeo, Nairo, Dabuz, Salem, Ally, Fatality, WaDi. Made for Smashers, by Smashers. The Smash-dedicated convention and S-tier tournament is back with 1000+ entrants in Smash 4, singles and doubles for all four official Smash games. ZeRo is eyeing a return to the title, Nairo is looking for a repeat, and practically every top competitor there is will be right up with them to break through and claim the SSC title. The biggest tournament in August will be an important one.

2GGC: SCR Saga (A-tier): August 19th-20th @ Santa Ana, California, USA, ft. MkLeo, Nairo, Ally, Tweek, VoiD, komorikiri, Fatality, ANTi. The seventh qualifier for 2GGaming's Smash championship circuit lends its hand to the rest of the fighting game community. With brackets for Smash 4, SFV, Tekken 7, Guilty Gear, and Injustice 2, as well as points on the championship ladder and loads of top Ryu players flown out courtesy of 2GG, this is going to be one of the most diverse Smash/FGC tournaments of the year. If you're a stranger to fighting games outside Smash and you're down for something different, save the date.

Shine 2017 (S-tier): August 25th-27th @ Boston, Massachusetts, USA; ft. ZeRo, MkLeo, Nairo, Dabuz, Salem, Ally, ESAM, Marss. The new S-tier on the scene is in New England. In just its second year, Shine has become one of the most important tournament series of the scene, and this year it's bigger and better than before. ZeRo is back in Boston to defend yet another title against returnees like Larry Lurr, Marss, and ESAM, and newcomers like Leo, Nairo, Dabuz, Ally, and Salem; strap in as we head to the harbor for a wicked ride.

 

All That Said...

August is going to be big. That's all there is to say. Two more S-tier tournaments that could easily become S+ tiers as the month goes on will mean big things for the rankings, as always. No need to elaborate any further - just enjoy the preludes and the saga sandwiched in between, and sit back as we get some good Smash to watch.

Now, predictions about these tournaments? Let's see. LTC is gonna have a low tier character win it for the second straight year, after ZeRo's Diddy last year (he's easily top 58). Super Smash Con is gonna be Mr. ConCon's tournament if he goes, because having half your name in the tournament title has gotta give you some sort of powerup. Someone's finally going to break the Saga curse and win Smash 4 at SCR Saga playing as Chun-Li. Salem is gonna take another S-tier in Shine, because when I was looking at the map, I discovered that Salem, Massachusetts is just 22 miles away from Boston. But he has to take a trip up there first. Otherwise he doesn't get the powerup. Sorry, I don't make the rules. (Real predictions? Maybe for September.)

No matter what, keep tabs on all the major events this month - they're all can't-miss tournaments! Meanwhile, I'm going to try to find someone to switch shifts with at work every Sunday so I'm not making pizzas while top 8 is happening for four weeks straight.

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

Cloudhead :)

 

Photo Credits

  • KEN, MkLeo/Javi: @2GGLakitu
  • Tournament logos/banners: Respective tournaments' smash.gg pages. Links are on the names!

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