Ascension

Three years ago, Plup was a Top-15 player looking for a breakout. Now he’s a consensus Top-5 player in the world. How did we get here?

Photo Credit: Jeff Mahieu / @Delta52_

There are some moments in your life where you can always remember exactly where you were when they happened. Whether it’s something as joyful as the first time you heard the Beatles, or something as somber as where you were on 9/11, they stick with you.

I’ll always remember where I was when Plup ascended to godhood.

You can see me 20 seconds in, top left corner, tweeting some dumb shit.

On October 8th, 2017, at The Big House 7, Plup defeated Armada and did something that only one other person has ever done in Melee history: beat all Five Gods. Plup had finally slain the final boss and has secured his spot in the most exclusive club Melee has to offer. Frankly, it was magnificent. A new height for a player that seemingly won’t stop climbing.

At the Big House 7 specifically, Plup took out Mew2King, Armada, and Leffen before getting 2nd at the 5th biggest tournament of all time. He just won DreamHack Atlanta over Hungrybox and Mew2King, the first time someone not named Leffen has won a tournament over two gods since 2010. He is unanimously considered to be the 5th best player alive, and is knocking on Mew2King’s door for 4th. He seemingly has a pocket everything to go along with his Sheik/Fox/Samus trifecta.

I could keep gushing on and on, but I think you get the point.

Yet only three years ago, Plup had never beaten a God outside of Florida. He had just gotten 9th at three consecutive supermajors (MLG 2014, EVO 2014, TBH4). He was sitting on the precipice of greatness…but couldn’t quite get over the top. So how did a Spongebob hat-wearing goofball go from a 9th place gatekeeper to Melee god?

What a cutie!
Quick Disclaimer: I am not counting monthlies/weeklies for this article, for clarity’s sake.

A New Low at an APEX

APEX 2015 was a landmark tournament for a multitude of reasons, most notably for being the largest melee tournament of all time (now the 11th biggest, jeez) and the triumphant run by PPMD. For me, it holds an even more sacred spot in my heart because it was my first out of state national.

I remember driving 10 hours through a blizzard and having to replace my windshield wipers that had frozen over. I remember 1,000 people standing in the lobby of a soon-to-be abandoned hotel, wondering if APEX 2015 was even going to happen. I remember witnessing the arguably greatest community effort put together in Melee history, with TOs stretching from Massachusetts to San Jose collaborating on how to save this forsaken event. I also remember going berserk for my good friend KJH as he took down Plup’s Sheik in losers, instead of his usual Samus, after Plup had been upset by another good friend of mine; Swedish Delight (I have very talented friends, it’s really no big deal). It was the first time he had gone Sheik at a supermajor.

That loss to KJH eliminated Plup in 49th, his worst tournament placing in recorded history. After his scene-shaking win over Leffen at Paragon Orlando, it seemed like APEX 2015 was supposed to be Plup’s true breakout tournament. Instead, it was a nightmarish performance that kept him from playing on Sunday. However, little did Plup, or anyone else for that matter, know that he had just found the key that would unlock the door to godhood.

I thought Plup’s decision to go Sheik against KJH was simply a salty decision after losing to Swedish Delight. What I didn’t understand at the time is that I was a front-row witness for one of the biggest character changes in Melee history. One that would change the competitive landscape forever.

2015

While he would still keep Samus in the rotation for specific stages and matchups (Ice Climbers, most notably), APEX 2015 marked the start of a new era for Plup. The decision to switch to Sheik allowed him to explore and abuse new movement options, as well as revolutionize the character’s usage of shield-dropping. By combining his already stellar neutral game with these new movement options, his superhuman-esque reaction timing for techchases, and a devastating punish game, Sheik was going to help propel Plup to heights he had never seen before.

After a few good regional performances with Sheik (2nd at Bad Moon Rising and Smash ’n’ Splash), he finally had a chance to show it off at a supermajor: CEO 2015. After beating Westballz, losing to Leffen, and beating Zhu, Plup matched up against Mang0 for a spot in Loser’s Quarters. I’ll let this clip speak for itself.

THE WINDMILL

Yes, this is a heartbreaking loss. 7th place at CEO is solid — but Plup was looking for more. He wouldn’t have to wait much longer.

At EVO 2015, he got his revenge on Mang0 and Leffen (with Samus, but still) before getting 4th place at the biggest tournament of all time (at the time). The win over Mang0 was his biggest ever. It was the first time he’d ever beaten a God not named Hungrybox. He followed his EVO performance with a couple sub-par performances (25th at HTC Throwdown, 13th at The Big House 5), but quickly got back on track at the first Smash Summit. In loser’s quarters, Plup was able to secure 4th place by beating PPMD in a nail-biter of a set. PPMD would be the third God on his résumé.

I mean, you don’t HAVE to watch the whole thing, but you should…

The final major tournament of Plup’s 2015 was DreamHack Winter, where he was double 3–0'd by Armada. At this point in Melee history (end of 2015), only 6 players had ever beaten 3 gods: Leffen, Shroomed, Wobbles, Axe, Fly Amanita, and Plup. Plup’s 2015 showed that he belonged in that elite tier of players, but that there was still a clear gap between Plup and The Big 6.

2016

2016 would take Plup to even higher results. I’d love to break down each and every result, but that would take forever. After a 9th place at Genesis 3, Plup wouldn’t place outside of Top 8 for another 10 months (17th at The Big House 6). He’d pick up God win #4 in the form of Mew2King at Battle of the Five Gods, where he’d also take his first game from Armada, beat PPMD again, and place 5th. He’d also get 5th at Pound 2016 and Smash Summit 2, and 4th at CEO 2016. It seemed as if the sky were the limit for the new consensus 7th best player in the world.

EVO 2016 confirmed it.

At the biggest Melee tournament of all time (this one still is!!), Plup had the best performance of his life. He beat Mang0 in Winner’s Quarters, and upset Hungrybox in Winner’s Semifinals. He was guaranteed top 3 at the biggest event ever. Unfortunately, Armada would be waiting in Winner’s Finals with another 3–0 (including two 3-stocks) for him, and Hungrybox would not be denied his shot at glory. His run is often overshadowed by Hungrybox’s, but it must be acknowledged.

Plup would pick up two more large-tournament Top 8s at Shine 2016 and Smash Summit 3 before 2016 would come to a close. At the latter, Plup would get one more shot at Armada, only to get absolutely annihilated to the tune of an 11-stock. It again reaffirmed that for all of Plup’s growth, he still had a ways to go.

NSFW

At this point (end of 2016), combined with PPMD’s retirement following Battle of the Five Gods, it’s clear that Plup is now the 6th best player alive. He’s beaten 4 Gods. A few people believe that he’s closer to The Big 6 than anyone beneath him…but there’s still one looming shadow. One final demon.

2017

For the first 7 months of 2017, Plup was the king of 5th place.

OK, so maybe Plup’s Falco isn’t that great.
He got 2nd.

There are a lot of interesting things to point out during this run, including getting 5th place at CEO Dreamland using only Luigi, and his surprising loss to Prince Abu and loser’s run at EVO 2017, beating Ryan Ford, Swedish Delight, Axe, and La Luna. Yet he, and the rest of the Plup Club, wanted more. He would go on a tear over the next three months:

With a couple 5ths, for the culture

I already mentioned the historical impact of the DreamHack Atlanta win. The third place at SSC 2017 included wins over Leffen and Hungrybox. He went all Samus at Shine and still got 5th. After an early loss to aMSa at GT-X, he beat MikeHaze, Leffen again, Syrox, Wizzrobe, and Druggedfox before losing to Hungrybox. The major tournament victory is there. The God wins are there. But there was still one thing missing…

Enter The Big House 7. The rest is history.

2018 and Beyond

336 days went between Armada’s thrashing of Plup at Smash Summit 3 and Plup’s victory at The Big House 7. In those 336 days, Plup has shown that he deserves to be in the echelon of the Gods. He has moved from a 9th place gatekeeper to a top 8 threat to the fifth best player in only 3 years. In 2017:

  • He holds winning records on Armada and Leffen.
  • He is undefeated against players like Westballz, Axe, Duck, Druggedfox, PewPewU, La Luna, MikeHaze, etc.
  • He has lost only one set as Sheik in 2017 to anyone not in The Big 6.

If history is any indication, Plup will continue to climb the ranks and could be one of the best players of all time, and could challenge the hierarchy that has sat atop the Melee world for years on end. And yet, even after beating Armada and ascending to godhood, maybe that is the most impressive, the most terrifying, and most insane thing about Plup.

He’s still getting better.

-Fendy

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