Last weekend, William "Leffen" Hjelte vaulted to the top of the Super Smash Bros. Melee scene, blowing past the competition to win his first Evolution Championship Series title. Awed by Leffen's transcendent play, commentator Bobby "Scar" Scarnewman dubbed him the hero of the tournament, an unusual turn for a player once notorious for his antagonistic behavior. Regardless, there's no rest in the "Summer of Smash" -- neither for the wicked nor weary -- and this weekend, Leffen and his peers will trade the flash of Las Vegas for the farmland of Chantilly, Virginia, to compete at Super Smash Con 2018.
From its humble origins as a mid-sized East Coast national, Super Smash Con has grown to become a tournament of consequence, arguably on the cusp of supermajor status. Smash Con is unique among major Super Smash Bros. events in that it proudly markets itself as both a tournament and a full-blown Smash convention.
"I think what has made Super Smash Con the 'smash' hit it is today is the passion of the community," punned tournament organizer Scott "Tantalus" Robertson. "Smash Con is an event by the community, for the community. It specifically targets and caters towards the thing we all love the most, which is Super Smash Bros."
This time around, all of the "gods" in Melee's top six will be in attendance, alongside 22 other members of the recently released Melee Panda Global Summer 2018 Top 50 Rankings. Across all titles, Super Smash Con 2018 boasts over 2,700 individual attendees.
"Each year always seems to be bigger and better than the last," said Smash Con founder Justin Wykowski.
From godslayer to god-king?
Leffen made his name as the first player to defeat all of Melee's original "Five Gods," rocketing to prominence after his first victory over Adam "Armada" Lindgren at BEAST 4 in early 2014. By summer of the next year, Leffen looked nigh-unstoppable, capturing three consecutive major titles and exhibiting a never-before-seen level of prowess in the Fox ditto. Unfortunately, the Swede's rise to greatness was stymied for over a year due to visa issues that prevented him from entering the U.S., and while he's remained an elite-level player since his return to competitive play, he hasn't quite been able to recreate the glory of summer 2015.
That is, until last weekend. At Evo, Leffen utterly steamrolled the competition, defeating both Armada and Justin "Plup" McGrath -- both players perceived as Leffen's demon at various times -- in consecutive 3-0 sets. Even Juan "Hungrybox" Debiedma, who nearly four-stocked Leffen to begin their winners semifinals set, looked dumbfounded and seemingly incapable of approaching the Team SoloMid member by the end of their match.
For the first time in almost three years, Leffen might just be putting together an argument for the world No. 1 ranking, boasting positive or even records against every other player, bar Hungrybox, in the top 10. If he can maintain the level of play that he exhibited at Evo, there's no doubt that he will be the grand champion of Super Smash Con 2018. However, the jury is out on whether Leffen's Evo success is a sign that the mercurial Swede has truly leveled up or that it's just a particularly impressive outlier.
A chance at redemption
Super Smash Con's two-time defending champion is Joseph "Mang0" Marquez, who defeated Jason "Mew2King" Zimmerman in last year's grand finals to capture his biggest tournament win of 2017. 2018 has not been as kind to Mang0, who has posted respectable placements but has so far been unable to achieve a major victory of his own.
In fact, Mang0 is the only member of Melee's elite to have missed out on a major win this year; Super Smash Con's final day will mark the one-year anniversary of the Falco main's most recent grand finals victory. Despite this drought, Mang0 has shown that he's still able to hang with the best, and seeing his peers on the podium is sure to light a fire beneath the longtime Cloud9 member. Tomorrow, Mang0 will see if he has what it takes to put together another weekend of major-winning play.
Mew2King is another competitor who will look to redeem himself at Super Smash Con. The original "god" of Melee placed a dismal 13th at Evo, suffering an upset at the hands of Rishi "Rishi" Malhotra in the winners bracket before falling victim to a fired-up Armada in losers.
Though Mew2King rode his Marth to an astonishing victory at Smash Summit 6, he's also finished outside of the top 8 at multiple majors, dividing his attention between Melee and endeavors outside the game. Rollercoaster year notwithstanding, Mew2King can't be counted out at Smash Con. After all, he has a habit of winning majors when everyone least expects it.
With a prize pool inflated by a 1,053-entrant Melee Singles bracket, Super Smash Con will send its winner home with a pretty penny indeed. But money is only half of the reward; in a year in which major titles have been split evenly among the top six, each victory matters all the more in the battle for the year-end No. 1 ranking. For now, the field is as even as it gets, but after Super Smash Con, there will be a frontrunner.