Melee had a wild 2015. From the revival of the scene turning into a full-fledged rebirth, to some of the biggest tournaments the game has ever seen, to the Smash Summit, Melee is coming into 2016 strong. Genesis 3 is kicking off the year with what's set to be the second largest Melee tournament of all time, and the competition is stiff. Here are the players and storylines to watch out for heading into Genesis 3:
The Grudge Match:
Adam "Armada" Lindgren was on top of the world. If you ask the folks at Melee it On Me, who ranked him 2015's best Melee player, he still is. He took first at EVO, DreamHack London, The Big House 5 and Smash Summit, and then went down to Juan "Hungrybox" Diebedma in the grand finals of DreamHack Winter. Armada is going to be looking for revenge at Genesis 3, and hold on to his championship title from Genesis 2. Hbox is coming in with confidence, and there are a lot of emotional pride on the line. After beating Armada at DreamHack, Hbox broke down crying and those emotions are likely to carry over to his run at Genesis. He knows he can beat Armada's Fox, and he's coming to prove he can do it again.
In an interview with theScore eSports, Hungrybox said he was working on removing edgecamps from his anti-Fox game as he found they weren't working against Armada. Armada is likely to retaliate by mixing up his game and forcing Hungrybox into those situations that don't work for him. Armada's play has always been surgically precise, but a slightly more unpredictable playstyle offstage might be what he needs to stump Hbox. Meanwhile, Hbox is looking to hold on to his title, which means going through the gauntlet and bringing down his biggest competition at Genesis, Joey "Mang0" Marquez. Mang0 will be looking to make it to his third Genesis grand finals in a row, but his wild performance over the last few months won't do him any favours in bringing down Armada or Hbox. In fact, Armada's biggest boon might be that in-set coaching is banned at Genesis, something that Hbox relied on at DreamHack. Can Hbox beat Armada's surgical play when it's truly one-on-one? Only the grudge match can decide.
Storm clouds and silver linings:
2016 also provides the newest entries into some of the sadder stories from Melee champions. Jason "Mew2King" Zimmerman's hand problems only seem to be getting worse, and he's been having difficulty taking games off of players that used to be cakewalks for him. He barely posed a challenge to Hbox at the MLG Finals, and despite his unbelievable 6-0 over William "Leffen" Hjelte at PAX Prime, he's still playing through the pain, and it's going to get to him very soon.
Speaking of Leffen, the Swedish wunderkind is still struggling with visa issues, and can't make it out to Genesis. Leffen's skill is undeniable, but he's clearly not getting chances to play against the rest of the best. Leffen has B.E.A.S.T. 6 in February to look forward to, but if Team SoloMid can't get him out to NA by Pound 2016 in April, Leffen could have a serious mountain to climb when he returns to the international competitive scene.
It's not all depressing though, Kevin "PPMD" Nanney is apparently on the up-and-up, and his tournament appearances are much less rare these days. He says he's still not at peak condition, but he came out of 2015 with third at EVO 2015 and fifth at Smash Summit, and no one can deny he's not still one of the best of the world. His run at Genesis could be what puts the good doctor back in the spotlight, and he's definitely someone who can provide an upset.
If there's one thing that 2015 proved, it's that the the top non-god players have a lot more potential than anyone expected. It's not just Leffen either. Jeffrey "Axe" Williamson, Justin "Plup" McGrath and Weston "Westballz" Dennis played out of their minds towards the end of the year, and they're all worthy of watching out for as we kick off the new year of Melee.
Axe is constantly rewriting the meta with his stupendous Pikachu play, and despite not having a first place win at a Major in 2015, he's on the climb to the top. His match against Armada at Eclipse was among the closest games a non-god player has had with Armada in years, despite Axe's completely off-meta pick. Some argue that Pikachu is holding Axe back, but his unstoppable energy and passion for the character might just be what carry him to some possible upsets at Genesis.
Westballz is a man on a mission. He's unstoppable and he's everywhere and he's out for blood. He attended 25 tournaments in 2015, and he rarely dropped out of Top 8. Apex was rough for him at the beginning of the year, but he ended 2015 with fourth at DreamHack Winter, where he played some of the most incredible games of his life. He has wins against Hungrybox and Leffen under his belt now, and if he keeps it up, he could easily be taking first at a premier event before you know it.
Finally, Plup made some big changes in 2015, but it looks like they're really paying off. His huge loss at Apex pushed him to pick up Sheik, and he hasn't looked back since. While he still plays Samus in some matchups, his Sheik is among the best in the world, and he boasts an incredible tech-chase game. His third at DreamHack proved to the world that he's here to play, though he has a ton of trouble with Armada, who ended Plup's amazing run with a clean 3-0.
Genesis 3 runs from Jan. 15-17 in San Jose, California.
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore eSports We were all young and foolish, but he used to think Link was a good character. You can follow him on Twitter.