Smash Summit brings four 'gods' together again

Justin "Plup" McGrath, right, defeated Juan "Hungrybox" Debiedma in the finals of Genesis 5. The two might face off again at Smash Summit 6 this weekend. YouTube via VGBootCamp VoDs

Since its inception in late 2015, the Smash Summit series has become a fixture in the competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee scene. With two events each year -- one in the spring, one in the fall -- the invitational has lent consistency to the Melee tournament calendar, regularly providing viewers with an in-depth look into the personalities and playstyles of top-level competitors.

This weekend, 16 of the strongest Melee players in the world will travel to the Beyond the Summit house for the next iteration of the series: Smash Summit 6.

A changed Summit

Last November's Smash Summit 5 paid out a staggering $83,758 to its entrants, the competitive Smash scene's largest prize pool of all time. However, this bounty was largely drawn from the coffers of the community itself, as fans threw hundreds of thousands of dollars into Beyond the Summit's voting system in order to help their favorite players qualify for the tournament.

Wealthy donors dominated the process, and players such as Daniel "ChuDat" Rodriguez, whose fans purchased nearly 85,000 votes only to see him fall just short of qualifying, felt justifiably bitter.

The upcoming Summit's prize pool is significantly lower than its predecessor's, coming in at just under $13,000.

"I think that there's some level of fundraising fatigue," said Ken "Hot_Bid" Chen, one of the head organizers of Smash Summit 6. "When we put on an event, it's not like we're saying that you need to raise $290,000. ... The event can go on and be successful without raising that level of funding."

Furthermore, Beyond the Summit has instituted a policy for Smash Summit 6 wherein players who don't qualify for the event through voting are awarded a consolation prize based on the number of votes they received.

"We want them to feel like, if they campaigned and they tried, that they get something out of it," Hot_Bid said. "It might not be a lot of money, but it is something for them."

Assigning payouts to non-qualifying players isn't the only change that Beyond the Summit has implemented this time around. Unlike past events, where players were allowed to pick their own opponents during the group stage, competitors will play through several rounds of a modified Swiss bracket before the event's top-16.

The top dogs

Leading the field at Smash Summit 6 is the indomitable Juan "Hungrybox" Debiedma, fresh off of a major victory at March's Full Bloom 4. Though he stumbled at January's Genesis 5, coming in second behind Justin "Plup" McGrath, the Jigglypuff main has otherwise spent the year proving that his No. 1 ranking on SSBMRank 2017 was no mistake.

Apart from a few just-for-fun Orlando locals, he's won every single tournament he has entered since Genesis, with an 11-1 record against the SSBMRank top-10 during that time period.

While Hungrybox and Plup have been the only players to achieve a major victory in 2018, Smash Summit 6 features a short list of other contenders who have shown their ability to win tournaments at the highest level of play. Smash luminaries Adam "Armada" Lindgren, William "Leffen" Hjelte, Joseph "Mang0" Marquez and Jason "Mew2King" Zimmerman will also be in attendance.

The qualifiers

At the Summit, for the first time since Genesis 5, four of Melee's "gods" will be in one building. While many in the Smash community would love to see their idols duke it out once more, this Summit, more than any other, is riddled with spoilers who have the potential to eliminate higher-ranked players in the early rounds of bracket.

Smash Summit 6's list of qualifying players is a mix of well-known talent and new blood. Of the eight entrants who weren't automatically invited to the event, five have entered at least one Summit event in the past.

"During the first Summit [I attended], I had some personal things going on that really were in my head while Summit was happening," Hugo "HugS" Gonzalez said. "This time, my life is great; I don't really have anything like that going on."

Sponsored by Team Dignitas at the beginning of the year, the veteran Samus main has experienced a renaissance in 2018 and is primed to make a run at Smash Summit 6.

"The fact that I am playing for someone other than myself kind of inspires me to just work a little harder," HugS said, "and I think that's helped me out a lot in my recent results."

Like HugS, Masaya "aMSa" Chikamoto is riding a wave of impressive victories heading into his second Summit event.

"Getting my coach, old school Japanese Melee player [Akihiro] 'Kaito' [Nomura], was one of the big factors for me," aMSa said. "He gives me a lot of tips, advice and training and makes me better."

The sole representative of the tri-state area at Smash Summit 6 is Toussaint "2saint" Turnier, the No. 100 player on the most recent edition of SSBMRank. Avery "Ginger" Wilson is another newcomer to the Summit: The up-and-coming Falco main beat Weston "Westballz" Dennis at last year's The Big House 7. After debuting in the SSBMRank top 50 this year, he backed up his newfound ranking with a victory over Jeffrey "Axe" Williamson at Full Bloom 4. Westballz and Axe will both be in attendance as well.

Zain "Zain" Naghmi might be the newcomer entering Smash Summit 6 with the most hype. The fast-improving Marth main ranked 22nd in SSBMRank 2017, and over the past three months, Zain has been playing at an even higher level than his ranking would indicate with wins over SSBMRank top-20 players such as Zachary "SFAT" Cordoni, Jack "Crush" Hoyt, and James "Duck" Ma.

On April 12, Panda Global announced that Zain would be joining its organization, putting him on the same squad as Plup, whom he defeated in 2016 to kick off his breakout performance at The Big House 6.

"They're a group of awesome, awesome people," said Zain. "I'm really glad I joined."