by Matt “Dr. Hunk” Koester
Last year, Riptide 2021 made a huge splash, returning Smash majors to the corporeal world and crowning Cody “iBDW” as a Melee major winner for the first time. This weekend, a new winner will be crowned in the heart of Ohio.
So much has changed in the past year. Narratives have risen and fallen, the meta has shifted yet again, and Melee is in the midst of a year marked by the tension between its gatekeepers and its rising grinders. From Sept. 9 through 11, these competitor will get another chance to prove themselves.
Is there any better venue for this time of monsters than at a waterpark resort in Ohio?
Last year’s winner will not be present, but some of Melee’s biggest names will be. Zain will attempt to follow up on his Shine 2022 win to cement his position as Melee’s #1 player. Plup will make his long-awaited return to competition after his dominant run at CEO 2022. Modern Melee’s greatest perennial runner-up Jmook will get another shot at taking his first major less than a month after his first ever PGR ranking.
Even with these top seeds out of the way, there’s no telling what could happen this year. Will lloD be able to follow up on his dominant first half of the year with another surgical showing? Will Axe be able to cement his return to prominence at the top level following Shine and Super Smash Con? Canada’s top fox Moky will also be, as he tends to be, a wildcard. Plenty of other talents will make their own case, of course.
Rising Marth Grab, Midwest legends Ginger and Zamu and speed freaks Magi and Zuppy are expected to finish near the top of the tournament, but what happens at the event won’t be known for sure until the weekend is through.
With 449 entrants, the room for upsets at the event is almost as vast as the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio itself.
Can Chicago prove itself?
Don’t let its existence as a tournament way out in Ohio fool you. Riptide may just be a real showcase of Chicago talent. CLM’s retiring TO Unsure has already washed his hand of regionals and locals, and Riptide will be his final foray in the foreseeable future into tournament organizing.
Chicago names like Prince Abu, Shabo, Eggy and Skerzo are all slated to make the top 32 at Riptide. Coming off of a long hiatus that he broke earlier this year at Hold That L, Abu’s skill remains, but he’s yet to make a true breakout performance.
Shabo has quietly become Chicago’s best player in-region, dominating Midlane Melee even against players like Melee’s 33rd best player, Skerzo. It can take time for the strongest players to make moves at larger tournaments. Perhaps Shabo can pull off an upset in Top 32, where he is expected to be eliminated by Louisiana Falco Magi.
Fox has historically been one of Magi’s best matchups, but perhaps Shabo could avoid playing Magi altogether. He is expected to play against Moky in Winners before Top 32. If there’s any matchup the fox has shown proficiency in, it may be the ditto.
Skerzo will seek to recreate the magic of his Top 8 Super Smash Con performance as Riptide’s 13th seed. The MPGR Rank 33 fox has a laundry list of wins this year includes Ginger, Professor Pro, Frenzy, Zuppy and most of Chicago just to name a few. At time, it feels like Skerzo can beat anybody, but also lose t quite a few players as well. His most recent major performance at Shine 2022 ended with a 33rd place finish as the 13th seed.
If Skerzo can overcome 12th seed Jflex, who he beat most recently in his powerhouse run at The Function 2, he will then have to play the loser of the tournament’s Winners Quarter-Final match, likely Jmook or Axe. The recently signed Fox player could get knocked out of the winners bracket early as well, though, with rising Marth Khryke likely to stand in his winners side path.
CLM’s top ranked Peach Eggy will try to follow up on his recent rise to prominence in Melee. This rise began with the Daisy player’s 25th place finish at last year’s Riptide, the best performance of any Chicago player at that event.
Who will Eggy crack next? He is expected to lose in the second round of Losers Top 32 to Ginger, a player with a very good record against Peach. Perhaps he could even stay in Winners longer though and avoid the Michigan Falco altogether. Eggy could stay in the upper bracket by winning the Peach ditto over lloD, where he is seeded to lose in Round 2 Pools. This seems unlikely, but his recent win over Zain-slayer Wally shows that Eggy is no slouch in the ditto.
Other Chicagoans are expected to be knocked out earlier, but their future is far from set in tone.
Equipped with a copy of Psycho-Cybernetics and an improvement mindset, Falco grinder Mattchu could lengthen his run with a win on Techboy.
CLM Sheik Pleeba is seeded to lose to Khryke in Losers prior to Top 32, but could find himself facing his Chi-town rival Skerzo if he manages to upset the Pittsburgh Marth.
Q?, arguably the world’s best Doc main, could make an upset on Reeve’s Marth to also make Top 32. His last set against the Louisville player did end in his favor last month at We Need Some Space 3. With a bag of tricks and an infinite supply of gigantic cartoon pills, Q? might befuddle players expecting a free win against mid-tiers.
JustJoe has a unique and punishing style that has made him a Midwest hidden boss. His major appearances have been limited over the years, having only attended the previous Riptide as a spectator, but his growth this year as a player has been undeniable.
Seeded to lose to Kalvar, Joe has shown the ability to make strong runs so far this year, both at locals and out of town. The Fuddbrudders legend took Fiction and Grab to Game 5 just last month at a regional where he also defeated Ben, the midwest’s top Sheik. He could also take the upper hand in Round One pools, where he is expected to lose to Slowking on Winners Side.
NoFluxes is fresh off of perhaps the best win of his career, beating TheSWOOPER last weekend at Shine. He will have a mountain to climb in Drephen’s Sheik if he wants to make it to round two pools on winners side. Still, CLM’s villain and/or hero is known for overcoming the odds whenever we least expect it.
Falcos Ober and Killablue are both expected to lose prior to Round 2 pools, making their way out in losers. In Round 2, Ober is expected to overcome Majersk but lose to Drephen, while Killablue is expected to fall in pools against the dastardly DK main, Ringler. Maybe these birds will overcome the odds and fly their way into Top 32.
Not to be forgotten, CLM’s premiere box controler Peach Ferocitii will have to overcome Zuppy in pools if he truly wants to lengthen his run. The fierce Peach is seeded to lose to Utah PIkachu OkayPi in the second phase of pools. With the Peach having had his come up playing against CLM’s own Trix, perhaps this set will end in Chicago’s favor. Fellow rectangle wrangler Phalanx could also break from the pack.
Plenty of other CLM players, such as Grab2Win, GIOGOAT and Frost could also show their stuff. In a year full of upsets, it’s anybody’s game.
Doubles, Donkey Kong, etc.
In Riptide’s doubles brackets, teams featuring Chicago players such as Eggy/NoFluxes, Skerzo/Reeve, DannyPhantom/ORLY and Prince Abu/Azel are all seeded to finish in the top 16. Whether they will be able to beat the classic team of Hungrybox and Plup, seeded to win the event, seems unlikely.
Second seed team Polish and Free Palestine will also be a mountain to climb, with Polish looking like one of Melee’s greatest team players so far this year.
More importantly, Riptide will feature Melee’s first ever Monkey bracket. This event will feature Donkey Kong, and only Donkey Kong.
CLM is no stranger to the Kong, but who actually shows up for the bracket is unclear, as registration won’t open until Friday morning. Melee’s best active Kong Ringler will not be entering,
“I would rather watch the slow excruciating death of everyone I’ve ever loved and cared about before I enter a Donkey Kong only bracket,” Ringler told CLM.
According to CLM’s own Azzu, other area apes may also choose to skip the event. Still, somebody will leave this bracket as top banana. In this ape-based power vacuum, perhaps a CLM Kong will leave Riptide a champion.
Other games will be featured at Riptide as well, such as Splatoon, Rivals of Aether, and of course Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Those who cling to the margins will also be able to play P+ at the unrelated Undertow event at an undisclosed nearby location. Here’s hoping Chicago wins everything! And if not, here’s hoping that everyone has a nice time.