Josef “Fluid” Ayupan
“An Arcadian showcases not only the burgeoning talent laden throughout a scene, but an Arcadian is also a celebration. A celebration for all the players of this game who come out whether to improve competitively as a player, to see friends and meet new people, or celebrate one of the most beloved games of our generation. Regardless of one’s reasons to congregate with kindred spirits over a game older than a good portion of its own player base (top players too!), we must remember that all forms are legitimate and should be treated with their own equal level of respect.”
These words were written about a year ago for my article on the 2021 Chicago Arcadian, and as I reflect on its meaning, I believe I failed to properly acknowledge some aspects of the beauty of melee and its community. Furthermore, for this upcoming Arcadian, we are truly blessed to have some of the best commentators, tournament organizers, and content creators to grace the Smash scene. To appreciate them fully, a section will be included in the latter half of this article to highlight these peoples.
Nevertheless, this Arcadian signifies a major new chapter in the history of CLM. Adrian “Skerzo” Chavez stands as the undisputed “King of Chicago”. Unsure retires his five-year legacy as one of the greatest tournament organizers to not only grace Chicago’s Melee scene, but the national scene as well. Fluid has moved away. Pleasantries has focused onto his music career. Our longtime top echelon of Kels, Michael41000, and ORLY have taken a step back from the game.
Yet, despite these losses from our scene, I am confident that Chicago has a path paved forward to reach new heights and reach new peaks. This of course is in thanks to the wonderful storylines continuing to be weaved throughout our local competitions as well our abundance of individuals willing to step up to the plate to deliver the best tournament experiences possible.
Thus, we are left with a passing of the torch moment as we usher in a new era of Chicagoland Melee. And that moment all begins in a conference hall in Lincoln Park, Chicago.
Six players from different corners of the Midwest can be deemed as the most likely contenders to take the Chicago Arcadian in 2022. In a borderline reversal from last year, this year has zero floaty players posing a major threat to the crown.
Chicago-raised and Michigan-trained Captain Falcon player, Josh “Jopps” Opperman enters the Arcadian fray with a calm and composed demeanor and as a heavy favorite. Jopps started playing in 2015 after being introduced to competitive Melee through Innuendo Studio’s Things of Beauty: Super Smash Bros. As Spectator Sport on YouTube. He would bring his Falcon to Michigan State, where he would be taken under the mentorship of Quang, also known as Tentpoles or ckyulmiqnudaetr. Not only would Quang teach Jopps the finer details of Melee, but he would also go out of his way to introduce Jopps to different people throughout the small scene. Quang’s assistance would pay off as Jopps would go on to take a set off Kuyashi (after losing countless times to her) at a Michigan tournament, and he would produce an epic performance during his 5th place run at the Michigan Melee 2020 Arcadian. After getting knocked into Loser’s after Winner’s Round 1 in top 64, Jopps would go on a monumental tear and would eventually be eliminated by 2nd place finisher Wishblade.
After graduation, Jopps moved back to Chicago where he found the Chicagoland Melee community to be one of the friendliest and welcoming he has ever known. He immersed himself into his local competition and would demonstrate his Captain Falcon prowess by taking wins over Yuk, Killablue, Coffee, Arpy, Larfen, Hyunnies, Azzu, FoxCap, and Unsure.
When asked about his approach towards this upcoming Arcadian, Jopps replied in earnest:
“I’m just hoping to do well and maybe get food after”
John “Dragoid” Sori began his Melee journey in self-imposed exile after having been absolutely destroyed by Illinois veteran M00nshoez. This exile lasted several years, until the card game community of Yu-Gi-Oh! in his area of Carbondale, Illinois introduced him to players such as Tzar Nikolas and Atomsk. In particular, Atomsk showed Dragoid how to truly succeed with the blue bird Falco Lombardi. Falco enchanted Dragoid at first impression with the likes of Mang0 and PC Chris exhibiting the intoxicating play that Dragoid quickly grew to love and admire. Falco, he says, is clearly up there with the best characters in the game. But he cautions, Falco must put in a lot more time into their play to find success.
Indeed, Dragoid is a practitioner of what he preaches boasting some 40 tournaments since the beginning of the year and the highest tournament attendance of any person on this list. Among his wins include Skerzo, Unsure, Yuk, Hyunnies, Mattchu, Larfen, Frost, Forest, Nox, and macdaddy69.
Heading into the Arcadian, Dragoid is quite confident and determined in his play. He believes winning the event will be a testament to his efforts throughout the years as well as a steppingstone to his overral goal of dominating the Chicagoland Melee space. He explicitly stated that he wants to play all the favorites to prove that he is the rightful best in that Lincoln Park room.
SSB_Seal LOVES Melee.
He is no stranger to competitive Melee. In fact, it is quite the opposite for the crimson Sheik from Chicago who has perhaps the most recorded watched Melee content hours of all time. How can I back up said statement, you may ask? Peruse any Melee video with over one thousand views and there is about a one in fifty chance that SSB_Seal will show up in the comments section. Considering the sheer amount of videos of that caliber exist on the internet, and we can begin to estimate that Seal most have some hundreds of comments out there on the YouTube platform.
Seal began his smasher story like most of us: Super Smash Bros. Melee was brought forward in a family setting where his love for the game would be carried through the character Mewtwo. He would come around to competitive Smash during his high school years where he was influenced by his friends to play the dominating Smash game at the time, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. At one of these events, a Melee setup was found lingering in its corner. Drawn to this titan’s lone presence in a competitive setting, Seal took it upon himself to introduce a Melee side event to these tournaments. To perfect his play, Seal switched off from his Mario to Sheik whom he continues to play to this day.
Coming into the Arcadian, Seal enters the running with newfound momentum. At the previous Chicago Arcadian, Seal surpassed his eighth seed placing to make fifth place narrowly losing to fourth place finisher Scal. Since then, Seal has had two very impressive performances in tournaments. The two performances include a top 64 showing at Genesis 8 as the 269th seed beating Tribe, Zbert, and blargh257 and winning Southside Sunday over Indiana staple Phrigid. At the Arcadian, Seal wishes to exhibit the pure passion and love he has for game.
“I want to be involved with [Melee] in every aspect that I can. Competition, commentary, TOing, spectating, doing ranking ballots, reading brackets, consuming content, attending events, and meeting others who love the game equally are all ways that I can engage with Melee.”
Seal LOVES Melee.
Smash journeyman Marth main Hyunwoo “Umma” Ward has made recent waves within the Chicago Melee community. Ever since moving back to Chicago from New York City, Umma has entered the space with a bang. Most notably, Umma would get third place at Midlane Melee #50 beating Dragoid, Unsure, and Forest. On a grander scale, Umma has picked up wins over Slox, Slop, Plata, and FoxCap.
Marth player Pablo “Pablo” Delgado hails from the burgeoning scene of Northwest Indiana where players such as Frost, Monolith, pregnantand16, Latin, macdaddy69, FeelinGood, Michael, and recent Smash Summit attendee Blue call their home. For Pablo, Melee’s competitive scene was something he was always aware of but never really gave much thought in its pursuit. It was not until his friend and local Chicago player Saffron introduced him to The Smash Brothers documentary that he would delve into this endeavor and go on to become a mainstay at Northwest Indiana events.
Pablo has an interesting background as a player to say the least. He seldom watches Melee, let alone other Marths and attributes most of his Marth’s playstyle to watching compilations from popular Smash Melee YouTuber GRSmash. He claims only several months ago has he finally began to watch his own sets and uses most of his non-Melee time to think about the game in a vacuum.
Otherwise, Pablo plays Melee and lots of it. Since the start of this year, Pablo has attended some fifty or so IRL brackets. His commitment to the grind has borne fruit, leading to wins over players such as JustJoe, Ober, ORLY, Ferocitii, Azzu, Unsure, Frost, Latin, Killablue, FoxCap, Blendtec, and macdaddy69.
Perhaps Pablo is a testament that greatness is not isolated to a single path.
Daniel “Scal” McGuire returns to the Arcadian spotlight with a vengeance. Having been a clear favorite at the previous Arcadian, Scal fell short from his goal of sitting at the top. Since then, Scal has kept a modest showing at several tournaments both online and offline. Nonetheless, he would garner wins over ORLY and NoFluxes. However, make no mistake, Scal is coming to the Arcadian to take back what he believes is rightfully his.
He sees the last Arcadian as a major learning experience. The long tourney day was an unfamiliar environment for the young Fox main, and he believes playing Frost into Seal was a draining experience for his stamina. No wonder he found himself crumbling to the overbearing prowess of GIOG0AT in Losers’ Semis.
Working out and deep visualization are two methods one does not typically hear when preparing for a tournament. Yet, Scal has incorporated both activities into his training regimen as a means of both increasing his ability to maintain his play and preparing for anything and anyone. In my interview with him a year ago, Scal seemed borderline overconfident and cocky in his play and believed that he could take the tournament. Now as a favorite, Scal’s mindset has changed. Anyone can beat anyone in this tournament battle royale, but it is the one most prepared for anything that will surely come out on top.
An Arcadian can be like a crapshoot, especially when so little floaties pose a threat to winning the whole thing. As such, these players have demonstrated success against the favorites in the past, and due to the lack of floaties in general, these challengers have a much greater chance of taking the whole tournament by storm.
Dustin “Phalanx” Rahier got into competitive Smash in 2014 when his friend showed him videos of Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman which led Phalanx down the rabbit hole that is the Smash Bros. documentary. Anecdotally, Phalanx watched the whole film in one sitting, neglecting to do his chemistry homework that night.
On the evening of January 30th, 2015, in Secaucus, New Jersey, fire marshals declared that the Meadowlands Exposition Center was deemed unsafe and unfit to operate its typical business needs. During that announcement, Phalanx found himself gobsmacked at the recent turn of events. For this being his first ever tournament, Phalanx did not know what to do, and what to tell his mom who joined him and his friend on this adventure. Then in a logistical Smash miracle, a new venue was announced an hour drive away from its original location that same day.
Phalanx fondly looks back at Apex 2015 as his “peak” Smash experience to this day. He befriended several Smash 4 friends that weekend who would drive him and his friend back and forth to Apex’s distant domain. Michael “Mike Haze” Pulido talked to him out of the blue, noticing that it was possibly Phalanx’s first tournament. Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma pat Phalanx on the back after getting eliminated from bracket. And of course, Phalanx would be there to watch the infamous William “Leffen” Hjelte versus Kashan “Chillindude” Khan “5-0” Salty Suite match followed by the epic Kevin “PPMD” Nanney triumph over Leffen to win the whole tournament.
Phalanx believes he can beat anyone who comes across his path at the Arcadian. He highlights how entertaining it would be to fight his friend Dragoid whom he lives with and plays the most with. When the topic of Marth versus Peach came up, a noticeably difficult matchup for Peach, Phalanx words began to ooze with confidence. A certain character has been in the works for several months now for said matchup, and what better time to pull out such a trump card then at an Arcadian.
Jake “Jakespeare” Saleh can remember playing Melee the time it came out as a teenager. For the next several years, Jakespeare would essentially dabble in all the iterations of Smash and would regularly challenge his friends and colleagues in these games to show his superiority as a player. It was his brother Mike “MF Mike” Saleh who initiated him into Melee and its local scene within Chicago. When Jake went to his first tournament at the now defunct EXP Gaming Lounge, Jake underwent a hazing ritual of sorts among the CLM community by getting double four-stocked by then “King of Chicago” Kelly “Kels” Smith. While others tend to crumble under such a dramatic showing, Jakespeare’s heart was lit aflame with a fire that still burns to this day. One of the reasons he plays, he tells me, is to beat the players who have thwarted him in the past such as Hyunnies and Unsure.
Originally a Doctor Mario main, Jakespeare loved the idea of pushing a mid-tier character to its limits and doing cool things. One of the first pioneers of performing Doc’s Up-B cancel consistently, Jakespeare impressed Melee commentator stalwart Brandon “YungWaff” Collier who exclaimed that he has never seen someone perform the technique at that caliber. However, it was this same effort that ultimately led Jake to switch over to Falco. He reckoned that time being used to perfect a situational technique (Doc’s Up-B) would better if channeled through a different character. Thus, Falco was the most logical character as Falco both exhibits the technical prowess that Doc is only able to utilize a modicum of and the projectile spacing neutral game that Doc performs with his pills.
At the Arcadian, there is one player who Jakespeare really wants to play. That player is none other than Pablo whom Jake currently has a one-to-one record with. Jakespeare has dedicated several of the past weeks to vie for the absolute top at this event, and he claims that he is doing it for all the middle-aged people who continue to compete at smash.
Nowadays, Jakespeare is most known for his commentary, having worked at large events such as Riptide and Get On My Level in premier top 64 matches. When asked about his proudest achievement in Smash, he pays little acknowledgement to commentating at some of the biggest stages in Melee. No, the one he takes pride in is the charity tournament Netplay For Palestine, an online tournament which “aims to raise awareness about what is happening in Palestine, as well as raise money for Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), which provides direct care to children and supports community projects in Palestine.”
Jake tells me that Melee culture is a lot like theater culture, having been active participants in both. We work so hard and get so little out of it all because we love the craft.
Adrian “FeelinGood” Vargas is yet another Northwest Indiana player whose been making marked strides within that scene. FeelinGood has perhaps the fastest and most chaotic Fox McCloud in the whole tournament and is also known to switch up characters on a dime.
This dynamo has the wins to back up his claim over names such as Frost (whom he has a close 40% record against in 10 games), GIOG0AT, Deegs, and Unsure.
Ryan “Moy” Moy embarked on his smash tourney in 2008 and was a frequent attendee of Bobby Gray’s EXP Gaming Lounge in Oak Park, Illinois from 2013 until its demise five years later. Moy looks back at EXP Gaming Lounge with nostalgia. Yet, he deems that it was perhaps necessary for the improvement of the scene as a whole as it led to two major local series to prop up: ASH@WIT in Aurora and CCC in downtown Chicago.
The Garudo warlock Ganondorf was Moy’s first choice coming into Melee. Self-professedly, Moy loves to play bulky dudes who can pack a punch and relates Ganondorf’s demeanor to characters such as Potemkin from Guilty Gear and Azrael from BlazBlue. Despite his love for the character, in the end it took platform camping to drive him away from using the Legend of Zelda villain.
Captain Falcon was the next logical step in choosing a successor to Ganon. Falcon carries a similar move set to Ganondorf with the added bonus of having lightning-fast dexterity. Speed, Moy emphasizes, is the key to success in Super Smash Bros. Melee, and with the character change, Moy has enjoyed some steady success throughout the years.
The reason I have Moy on this list is simple: he is a veteran to the game. It is not a matter of if he will play any of the favorites it is a matter of how he will do against the favorites. And on any given day, Moy’s steadfast resolve might just upset a player or two.
Daniel “pregnantand16” Lopez was perusing through Twitch.tv on a hot summer day in 2014 while queuing up for a match on League of Legends. On the VGBootCamp stream, Danny saw a match that would change his life. A red Yoshi player was about to win against one of the best players in the world, Mew2King. That red Yoshi was none other than Japanese player aMSa who would go on to take the match over Mew2King and would further launch him into becoming a household name in Melee circles.
Inspired by aMSa’s cerebral play, pregnantand16 would main Yoshi for the first several tournaments of his career. Quickly, he would learn that the green dinosaur required a bit too much skill and effort for his likings. Danny would gravitate towards Captain Falcon, partly due to the disdain towards the other top tiers and partly due to the flashiness that Captain Falcon exudes. His results would quickly pick up soon after once he became a regular at Chicago’s NMGs.
Pregnantand16 enters this Arcadian with the same mindset he entered all the ones he entered previously before: he himself possesses all the tools and experience needed to take the crown, but one can easily stumble on this path towards victory. Additionally, pregnantand16 wishes to be the best player he could possibly be and fears no one in bracket save for Seal, the lone Sheik player and top seed.
Despite the origins of his Smash ongoings taking place in Chicago, pregnantand16 considers himself yet another Northwest Indiana player. Danny aligns himself with the underdog and competitive culture that has sprung out from that scene due to the likes of players such as Blue. Even if he does not win the Arcadian, he figures that it does not stop him from achieving his first and continued goal within the overall scene: to become PR in Chicago.
What is the Melee scene without its people? Our grassroots nature and circumstances draw envy from even the biggest eSports scenes throughout the world. From influencers such as Ninja to creative directors of major esports organizations like OpTic Hitch, it is hard not to become entranced by the passion that seeps every corner of the Melee space. As I mentioned before, an Arcadian celebrates all players who make the game what it is, and inevitably, I must draw attention to the content creators and tournament organizers who draw people into the game and run the backbone of our community.
Photo credit: @theeditorialstyle
Northeastern Ohio’s Sahara remembers Melee as a constant companion throughout her life. Melee was with her there from childhood, through many birthdays, high school prom, graduation, and most notably, the social media platform TikTok.
Growing up, she would attend tournaments here and there throughout her local community, but it was the national Super Smash Con 2017 that really shook her to her core. She remembers being deathly intimidated in such an intense setting, so much in fact that she switched off her then main Sheik to Marth mid-tournament. Yet it was this singular experience which drove her to continue playing the game into her young adulthood.
Around this time, Sahara came up with an idea to take current TikTok trends and add her own Melee flair into it. At first, she was expecting her content to only reach her friends, but she blew up within the TikTok space. In a span of several years, Sahara has garnered some 89,000 followers on TikTok, with a good chunk of her videos having some relation to her passion.
Now a Chicago inhabitant, Sahara aims to expose more people to Melee using her platform. She claims she has already converted several of her content creation friends into being Melee fanatics.
“I really like to bring new players and spectators into the scene… so many people appreciate melee once they start getting exposed to it/ learning more about it … I also want people to feel like they don’t have to be the best to enjoy the competitive scene- I think the fun part about competing is learning and challenging yourself. Not to mention all of the cool and interesting people who play melee and HOW they play melee all being different and unique”
NU | trade war
Hugh-Jay “trade war” Yu’s introduction to competitive Smash was through EVO 2019 when he watched one of the greatest Ultimate sets of all time: Leonardo “MKLeo” Perez versus Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey in Grand Finals where MKLeo turned the tables on Tweek despite being two games and two stocks down to come back and win the entirety of the tournament on the biggest stage imaginable.
With this newfound passion, Trade War brought this same energy towards the Smash scene at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Trade war soon garnered the attention of the tournament organizers at Northwestern who was intrigued by the art of running events. The organizers noticed his willingness to help the tournament run smoothly, and it was only natural for trade war to become their successor to the Northwestern scene. However, online Ultimate became the norm during the pandemic, which led trade war to become disillusioned with the game due to Ultimate’s infamously atrocious net code. Despite this disillusionment, trade war would head-TO ICCS 5 for Smash Ultimate.
He would finally make the transition into Melee several months later as well as Granblue and Guilty Gear. Then during the summer, Trade War was given an enormous opportunity to intern at top-tier eSports organization Counter Logic Gaming. His proudest accomplishment of many during his time with CLG includes helping to create Evolution spectator watch guide featuring several top players for many different fighting games.
Kevin “Tenacity” Donnelly is the head tournament organizer for the Blue Demon Arcadian joined by Aval “Oval” Zaucha. For the longest time, however, Tenacity had Super Smash Bros. as his side gig while he focused on his main love of Call of Duty. Since 2016, Tenacity would follow both Melee and Call of Duty alongside his friend. Together, those two would regularly complete in Call of Duty duo tournaments, and Tenacity would revel in the teamwork needed to be successful in these competitive ventures.
One could say that it was due to his teamwork-oriented mindset that he was able to transition into a managerial role when he enrolled at DePaul University which began to develop its robust eSports program. Tenacity would oversee the school’s Call of Duty team while helping to run events for DePaul’s Smash club, DeSmash, until a new opportunity stumbled onto his lap. He was called upon to run the premier Chicago local, Midlane Melee, in the place of Chicago legend Unsure who would be stepping down as a tournament organizer within the Smash scene. Tenacity and Oval joined up to build upon the foundation that Unsure created, and they still continue to do so.
Coming into this Arcadian, Tenacity is confident and hopeful about the turnout of the event. He hopes that the large body count will draw attention from the higher ups at the university who in turn will dedicate more resources into the DePaul Esports community. The program itself already boasts over a thousand enrolled students, and it continues to grow at a marked pace.
“I truly think [the Arcadian] will be eye opening for [DePaul] and show them how we can create an event that is greater than the sum of its parts.”
The Blue Demon Arcadian is taking place October 1st .
Signups can be found at start.gg/demon and close on Wednesday, September 28th .