Super Smash Bros. for Melee at Dreamhack Atlanta was, for the lack of a better word, turbulent. Being that it was the follow up tournament to the Evolution Championship Series, some of the top competitors in the game sought to capitalize on -- or improve upon -- their performances. Heavy-hitters in attendance included Juan "Hungrybox" Debiedma, Jason "Mew2King" Zimmerman, Justin "Plup" McGrath, Zachary "SFAT" Cordoni, Jeffrey "Axe" Williamson and Ryan "The Moon" Coker-Welch.
For a majority of the tournament, everything went as expected. But invariability increased the closer the players got to the Top 8. It goes without saying that Hungrybox was the favorite to win it all; however, fate decided to throw a curveball and Dreamhack Atlanta went down in the books as the tournament where Plup took first over Hungrybox.
The tumultuous Top 8
In a series of games that dipped in and out Plup and Axe's favor, both players gave an impressive showing during Round 2. Axe had the upper hand in the first few games, and at one point had his opponent backed into a corner, but Plup bounced back to finally bring an end to an unforgettable set.
After sending Daniel "ChuDat" Rodriguez to the losers bracket in Round 2, SFAT geared up to face Hungrybox. It was a set that will forever be etched into the minds of Smash fans, one complete with taunt-canceling, phantom rests, and of course, many back airs. Having been up two games to one mid-set, SFAT looked dominant.
But then, something clicked in Hungrybox. Before you knew it, the game count was tied. In a last-game, last-stock situation, the Puff main clutched it out with an unorthodox dash attack to K.O. SFAT. Needless to say, a disappointed SFAT made his way to the losers bracket while Hungrybox carried on to the Top 8 of the winners bracket.
Meeting Mew2King in the winners semifinals was Plup, who, confident after his win against Axe, was out for more blood. In a blow-for-blow Sheik ditto, Plup slowly began to pull away to defeat Mew2King 3-1. M2K was historically a difficult opponent for Plup, so the win boded very well for the latter's prospects going into the remainder of Top 8.
Alas, winners finals. The much anticipated match starring Hungrybox and Plup. Every time they met up, Hungrybox generally emerged the victor. That was not to say Plup hasn't taken sets off him; he has, a few times in fact. And after losing to him the week before Evo, Plup was determined to add another victory to his resume against Hungrybox. And he did.
It was close. Really close. At first, it was looking like a 3-0 and a handshake; Plup, using his Fox, was up 2-0 and had Hungrybox on his last stock. But Hungrybox's punish game was on point, and he managed to mount the comeback despite all odds. All of a sudden, fans were watching Game 5.
In what was arguably the most chaotic, dynamic and energetic game of the tournament, both players fought with every ounce of passion they had, but only Plup would advance to the grand finals.
It was by a slim margin. Both players had one stock left and were nervously playing footsies with one another. The crowd's anxiety was palpable. Plup was knocked off stage at a high percent several times, and each time this happened, it looked like the death of his winners bracket life. But with one last seismic back-air, Plup sent Hbox to "the Underworld."
In the losers bracket, both Axe and M2K tore through their respective opponents before finally facing each other. M2K won decidedly, and after losing 3-0 to Hungrybox in the losers finals, the stage was set for a Plup/Hungrybox rematch.
Hungrybox took Game 1. Then Game 2. And Game 3. First set went to Hungrybox. Doubts began to seep in. Could Plup finish what he started?
Plup's Fox played almost impeccably the next set, from his movements to his punishes to his executions. It was the same pattern as the first grand finals set. But this time, fans witnessed the opposite outcome.
Plup took Game 1. Then Game 2. And Game 3.
Then, the tournament.