Mang0 Solidifies His Title as the GOAT at Smash Summit 11

by in Fighting Games | Jul, 23rd 2021

It’s a good day for me when I get to talk about Melee to the fine readers of Esports Talk. This hallmark entry in the Super Smash Bros. franchise is what got me into competitive video gaming, way back in the bygone age of 2014. The way I usually phrase it is that it’s the best platformer and the best fighting game I’ve ever played at the same time. It’s such a joy to learn, watch, try to understand, a veritable Mariana Trench of depth, and the art style, music, and sound effects still more than hold up to this day. It also has the best single-player of any Smash game. Don’t @ me; play Target Test instead.

The community around Melee still stands strong despite several setbacks in our history. Our community is proof that the love of the game is what holds esports together. Even with all the prize money globally, an unfun game won’t attract the strongest competitors. In just about every match of Melee, situations that have never been seen before and never will be seen again arise and pass—sometimes passing quickly into another engaging interaction for the commentators to mention its peculiarity.

A similar phenomenon of uniqueness seems to occur in Melee tournaments. As a mountain shifts and grows, so too does this ancient metagame. The shifts are sometimes unnoticeable, with perhaps the same player winning a stretch of tournaments in a row. But the game is always developing and new techniques are always being forged, tested, and countered. 

To remain at the top of that mountain for any length of time is a Herculean task that can seem beyond the reach of us mere mortals. Despite all the slow changes its metagame had undergone, despite the game being composed of mostly the same code as when it was released in 2001, Melee introduced its players to several memorable top player personalities, some now retired. None are more recognizable in the world of esports than Cloud9’s Joseph “Mang0” Marquez. He was once branded one of the “five gods of the game,” and to this day, Mang0 remains one of the best Melee players in the world. I believed that he is the greatest of all time, a hefty title to live up to, but one for which more and more evidence continues to pile up. In the wake of a run like his at Smash Summit 11, which I recommend watching if you know even the first thing about Smash (and recommend re-watching even if you saw it live), it’s hard to deny such a claim.

What It Means to Be the Goat

To declare someone the greatest of all time in anything, it’s useful to look at other examples of that title being earned. Sports are a great example, with the lion’s share of GOATs. Earl Manigault of street basketball fame is the original “GOAT” because of a mispronunciation of his last name that became the acronym we’re all familiar with.

Kareem Abdul-Jabaar lauded Manigault as the greatest he’d ever played with or against. His work on and off the court solidified his legend, and he remains “the GOAT” to this day. Sure, he may have been surpassed in basketball by the likes of LeBron James and Michael Jordan and, honestly, probably most pros since his time, but a title like that doesn’t go away.

That’s the point of bringing up Earl Manigault: to illustrate that once you earn the title of the GOAT, it stays with you. You’re the greatest of ALL time, not the best player at the current moment. And yes, we can only know who that would be in the present moment, so the titles of best and greatest may eventually shift. But to ever be seriously called such a title as GOAT is perhaps the highest praise that could be given to any game player. 

To be the greatest, you have to elevate your particular game to previously unseen heights, draw in crowds to chant your name, and play in a way no one else can. 

And this brings us back to Mang0. He hasn’t always been the best. He began playing in Melee tournaments at the ripe old age of 14 years old and had a lot of growing to become No. 1. Life isn’t a game on easy mode. We all take Ls, even the greatest players. There’s no save to go back to once the set is over; if you lose, you lose. 

And Mang0 has taken many Ls in his day, no disrespect intended. It’s unavoidable. It’s just what happens when competition evolves or when he takes certain tournaments less seriously. He’s “buster’d” out of enough brackets that it became part of his brand: “The Kid, the Buster, the GOAT.” No one can win everything. It’s impossible. As Buster himself would say in the post-Apex 2015 interview that earned him the nickname, “I realize life- life is this crazy, mystical thing, and sometimes you go out like a buster. And there is nothing you can do about it.”

To have lost, to have not always been No. 1 in the world doesn’t take away from years of greatness, years of putting in work to keep Melee on the map, and his continued success more than a decade after picking up a GameCube controller for the first time. There’s a long list of good reasons why his fans remind people to never “sleep on The Kid,” even though he now has a kid.

There’s also the happy coincidence that having a nickname like “The Kid” already lends itself well to being called the “GOAT.” Goats have kids too. 

I can’t get into every single success Mang0 has enjoyed over his years-long career. Still, I can say that he has won many events across various tournament series. He also has an incredibly high Twitch sub count for a Melee player and has always elevated my favorite game to new heights, both in terms of techniques and the player base. No one knows how many people he has singlehandedly brought to Melee, but it has to be in the hundreds, if not the thousands. And he should be an inspiration to anyone who picks up his mains, Fox and Falco, as an artist in motion. Mang0’s combos are out of this world, as demonstrated in countless videos across the internet. Here’s a recent favorite of mine, by c0rnflake.

Smash Summit 11: The Cherry on Top of the GOAT’s Legacy

In the historic eleventh entry in the Smash events hosted by Beyond the Summit, the first in-person event for Melee since the coronavirus pandemic began, we saw an emphatic demonstration of what it takes to be the GOAT.

Mang0 faced adversity early on, losing a set in the “Gauntlet” stage to Japan’s Yoshi player, aMSa, and then dropped into the Losers’ Bracket after a heartbreaker of a set against Plup.

But Mang0 is no stranger to legendary Losers’ runs in Melee’s tried and true double-elimination format. One of the earliest chapters in his story is his run at Pound 3, where he dropped a Link vs. Link set against SilentWolf in the first round of the bracket and came back through Losers’ to win the whole thing.

Nothing demonstrates greatness better than overcoming adversity, in my eyes, and coming so far through a double-elimination bracket on his “last life,” so to speak, is a testament to Mang0’s skills. 

That was just one of many such runs in his storied career. And Mang0 did it again at Smash Summit 11. After falling into the losers’ bracket, Mang0 clawed his way back to victory after victory. Down there, he crushed Moky and n0ne, beasts in their own right, got through top 10 player iBDW with relative ease, and exacted his revenge on Plup in a convincing 3-1 set. 

And when Mang0 finally met Zain, the up-and-coming Marth main who has established himself as one of the two best players in the world, fireworks flew. In a grueling ten-game set between some of the most skilled players to ever pick up a GameCube controller, both men were tested to their limits.

Mang0 ended up losing the first two games of the first set, leaving Zain needing to win just one more to take the largest portion of the largest prize pot in Smash history. 

But Mang0 won the second game on his anti-Marth stage of choice, Dream Land, leaving the set at 2-1. This left Zain with his strongest counter-pick stage – Final Destination. “FD” is so good for Marth against Fox because of a deadly chain-throw that can be taken from 0% to death in most cases… but not all. 

Even the best players make some mistakes. And Zain made enough mistakes, with Mang0 playing as well as he needed to, for the latter player to pull off a stunning three-game comeback, with the final two games on Marth’s strongest stage in the matchup. 

But that improbable victory was not the final stop for this cherry on top of a legacy that will continue to unfold long after this article is published. Mang0 had to win another set, and this time, neither player won two games in a row. 

Instead, we found ourselves on Battlefield for the final game of Smash Summit 11, where Mang0 capitalized on a single frame – one-sixtieth of a second – of mistiming from Zain to escape what could have been the championship-winning combo. Mang0 then executed his two-piece punishment to end the tournament.

With that final, pivotal “Shine” – a link where you can also find out what “The Mang0” is – that sent Zain to the bottom blast zone of Battlefield, Mang0 won Smash Summit 11. Even when it looked impossible, he overcame the odds to defeat his latest and greatest rival.

To do so in such stunning fashion, to win his first-ever Summit main bracket, these stunning showcases of skill have solidified Mang0 as the GOAT of Melee, maybe the GOAT of Smash in general. With such precision and style, with such a bracket run on top of such a historic legacy, it’s hard to consider anyone else Melee’s GOAT, even if you’re one of the other people in the running. 

Competitors for the Title of Melee’s Goat

To gain an excellent like Greatest, especially of All Time, one must show why they stand above the rest of the people in contention for that title. Mang0 has certainly done so. Still, it would be helpful to both pay respects to and compare legacies with these other players.

Hungrybox of Never Ever fame got third at Smash Summit 11, which may have been unexpected for some, but I saw it coming a mile away. I knew he’d at least be on the podium before the weekend even began. “Hbox” is known for out-of-game shenanigans, like standing up while playing, “popping off” for victories, or even just taking singular stocks, and watching opponent’s controllers to see which way they’ll influence their launch angle while he’s throwing them. None of these things but the pop-offs are relevant or possible in a netplay environment. 

Now, Hungrybox is a fantastic player, worthy of respect and admiration for his skill. However, it’s hard for a “heel” to become the GOAT because to be truly great seems to invite respect from even rivals. It’s not 

Hungrybox’s fault that so many Melee players and enthusiasts hate his character, but it’s certainly a detractor from his admiration. I admit that Tom Brady might be rightfully considered the greatest football player of all time, but it just doesn’t feel right to me. He’s too widely disliked. And Hbox doesn’t exactly have the equivalent of Mr. Tom “Punchable Face” Brady’s ever-growing collection of Super Bowl rings, nor Mang0’s past and present championships.

To be clear, I respect and admire Hbox and think he’s done tremendously by our community despite the constant flak he’s caught, especially in connecting Melee and Ultimate players via his Twitch stream. But I don’t think he’s the GOAT.

Adam “Armada” Lindgren of Sweden has a horse in this race too, but he’s retired to become a Twitch streamer… let’s check his channel here… Super Mario 64 speedruns. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but if you want to be the GOAT, come back. That’s all I have to say to Mr. Lindgren. His legacy is storied, but it stopped too abruptly and too soon to be the Greatest of All Time. As Mang0 said at The Big House 9, “There is so much more Melee to be played.” And so much has been played since Armada left the scene. Resting on one’s laurels just as they started to enter a decline isn’t a recipe for GOAT-hood.

There are players in the running now who may knock Mang0 off of his pedestal way down the line, but I doubt it. Leffen, who I’m glad is rapidly moving past the last time he was in an article of mine, Plup, and even Zain. These are all great players, but it will be hard to overcome even for them, such a storied legacy as Mang0’s. 

Mew2King, though now mostly moved on from Melee, may be the GOAT of American Smash, with pinpoint precision in each title in the series. Still, there can be only one GOAT for each game, and the King has nothing on The Kid in the second Smash title.

Becoming a godlike player at such a young age, overcoming anti-Jigglypuff adversity by switching to Fox and Falco, dominating the competition for years, winning Melee’s first appearance at Evo in 2013, then winning it again the next year, attracting a wild number of Twitch subs, helping to keep Melee alive through the pandemic… and now, Smash Summit 11 is in the books for Mang0. The largest share of the largest prize pot in Smash history is now a part of Mang0’s bank account.

Before and after this historic tournament, The Kid is, was, and will be the GOAT.


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