We’re coming down to the wire! Here’s 30-21.
30 – Pink Fresh
Pound was a breakout tournament for Bayonetta. This was most prevalent through Pink Fresh’s stunning upset win vs. Mr. R. While upsets occur and are often rebuked quickly, their second set at the same event was down to the wire – Last stock, last hit, game 5.
While losing to Mr. R during their second exchange, he’d go on to beat him again at KTAR Saga and ultimately take the entire event, an unexpected peak for a player who sometimes has trouble at major events. Playing one of the most hyped up sets of the year vs. Marss, his 3-2 victory in winners finals gave him the ground he needed to rebuke Marss’ bracket reset.
29 – Samsora
Despite hailing from a state that doesn’t host big events, Samsora came out of the woodwork at Clutch City Clash to defeat Ally. As with many upsets at tournaments, you often expect the following bracket progression to simply not work out, but Samsora is among the few that defied this expectation. His runback vs. Ally at the same event saw him winning 3-2 in a 3 stock format, making his win about as definitive as you can get.
Samsora, however, does have the unfortunate honor of often running into players with well-tuned Meta Knights. Meta Knight appears to be an atrocious matchup for Peach to the extent that one single whiff on the Peach player’s part can lead to a stock-ending punish. We saw this at CCC against Abadango and again at KTAR XIX, where he had to fight the best Meta Knight.
Despite that tendency to have brackets that did or would’ve eventually led into the Meta Knight matchup, Samsora has stepped it up against a number of top players, including a huge win against Dabuz at KTAR XIX, not long after narrowly losing at Aftershock 2016.
28 – Rich Brown
Making unexpected leaps at EVO and SSC, Rich Brown’s consecutive 17ths at the Supermajor events were key in building his image as one of the best Mewtwo players in the world. Once a Brawl Olimar main, Rich’s rise to prominence in Smash 4 either began with him running through MVD, Tyroy, FOW, and SS at Evo, or, more likely, his win over Abadango at Super Smash Con 2016 in the ditto.
After that, his only significant roadblock appeared to be his 25th bomb at 2GG: Pay it Forward. He’s taken an additional set from Abadango at post-Aba Saga weekly MSM 67, defeated Kameme at Little Big House 2, and tore through Europe to get 2nd at Syndicate 2016.
27 – Captain Zack
A rise as unexpected as Samsora’s, the Louisiana Bayonetta main was likely noticed for his top 8 finish at Clutch City Clash and 4th at TGC8. However, his big break came when he upset Larry Lurr at Abadango Saga, followed a month later by him double eliminating Mew2King from TBH6 and even defeating ESAM.
At another big performance, Aftershock 2016 saw him shred his way past Dabuz and Cosmos to grand finals, where he then engaged Dabuz in a grueling 10 game set. While Dabuz’s perseverance and skill with Olimar won him the event, Zack seemed to be the equal of a player at the very top – a huge improvement from Zack’s early-year 97th at CEO.
26 – K9sbruce
Possibly SoCal’s most passionate player, K9 has enjoyed a successful set of regional performances backed by the highest attendance of any player on the contenders list. If he seems a bit highly placed, this may be the reason, but his in-region record is nothing to scoff at.
He’s defeated every relevant SoCal player on multiple occasions, including VoiD and Larry Lurr, and despite struggles at some major events and a tendency to be easily upset (no pun intended) by other players, he’s one of the region’s absolute strongest players.
25 – Mr. E
Arguably the first player to show what Marth was really capable of during 2016, Mr. E enjoyed an outstanding upset performance at EVO, defeating ZeRo, Salem, and Rich Brown.
He’s had trouble at major events before – most notably KTAR XIX, where he placed 65th – but his 9th at TBH6 that saw him defeating WaDi and 5th at UGC that saw him winning over Pugwest, DarkShad, and Marss all helped build a repertoire.
His 3-0 win over Dabuz at Invasion 8 was another often-forgotten peak of what he’s capable of – leaving hope for even more growth in 2017. He’s been a player of peaks and valleys, and 2016’s finish to Marth’s meta leaves the door open for Mr. E to grow with his character.
24 – Earth
“That 9th at EVO sure is worth a lot.” – Foreshadowing.
Earth’s performance at EVO and his wins at Sumabato 10 and the Umebura BenQ ZOWIE Cup are constant reminders that the Pit main (ft. Corrin/Fox) is one of Japan’s best players. He’d be even higher on the list, but he has a simple problem: Consistency issues. He may be the most easily upset top-player on this list, with a track record of several 33rd and 17th placings at Sumabato and Umebura events.
His neutral game is almost unparalleled, with Pit’s toolkit complimenting his play style perfectly, and he’s used his skill with the character to defeat most of Japan’s greats, with set wins on all of Japan’s best except Abadango during the post-patch 2016 cycle.
23 – Nietono
One of the Japan’s often-forgotten players, Nietono sneaks his way into the top 30 by having a great year both in Japan and in the U.S.A. His Apex 2016 run isn’t discussed much, but he ran through Mr. E, Umeki, Tweek, Marss, and Mew2King in it and placed 3rd overall.
The key reason he ranks so high, however, came from an unexpectedly great performance at the DNG Invitational Round Robin, a Round Robin tournament where be won in 10/12 sets, beating Kirihara, KEN, Abadango, and Kameme among several others.
22 – KEN
Considered to be the world’s best Sonic player, KEN is is one the three best players in the Kanto region and retains a good consistency record in-region. His first international venture, EVO, is easy to interpret as a success – double eliminating TLTC, beating Tyrant, and beating Dyr, only losing to VoiD and falling victim to a losers bracket ZeRo.
KEN’s followup one month later proved to be something that nobody saw coming. It started with a 3-0 on Nairo, who hadn’t dropped a game at the event until that point, and was followed up by another swift 3-0 on Dabuz, then a 3-1 in Grand Finals to take the event. For top 8 at Umebura S.A.T., KEN went 9-1 in games.
It wasn’t based on campy play, either. KEN’s Sonic, while not a stranger to campy play, is best known for looking very aggressive. His bait & punish game is quick, he has outstanding reads, he maximizes punishes and pushes an advantage until it can’t be pushed anymore.
This mindset and play style even allowed him to make an incredible comeback in the last game of grand finals where he was at high % on his last stock while Dabuz still had 2 on-hand. Sonic doing comebacks from a full stock deficit are uncommon enough, but KEN made it look convincing.
21 – Ranai
Even though Ranai had gone on a hiatus after two disappointing runs at Shots Fired 2 and KSB 2016, he came back at EVO full force. Running through Trela and Wrath, Ranai was brought to the brink by Nairo in winners side, ultimately clutching the set out 2-1, before going to lose to Abadango in winners quarters.
After beating Marss in losers bracket, Ranai defied expectations by also clutching it out against Dabuz in losers bracket, triumphing over what was assumed to be an extremely difficult matchup that Ranai notably struggled with at G3.
Despite a misfire at Umebura S.A.T., Ranai made a sudden return at Sumabato 14, taking the tournament over Komorikiri and Earth. His attendance seems to be on the upswing in 2017, with him slated for several events, so look out for the fan favorite Villager in the future.