Last night’s Smash Ultimate bracket at Don’t Park On The Grass 2018 was a celebration of everything new in the world of competitive Super Smash Bros.: a new game, bringing with it new characters, new stages, and new players. But the tournament’s grand final was a familiar sight to many Smash players who were around for the days of Super Smash Bros. Brawl: an all-Panda Global showdown between Jestise “MVD” Negron and Eric “ESAM” Lew.
In the end, it was MVD who defeated his practice partner to take home the first Smash Ultimate major trophy. Using his Brawl main, Snake, MVD showed that his talents with the character had not faded, using his grenades and mines to set up devastating kill combos against ESAM and the rest of his foes in last night’s bracket.
Though ESAM fell short at second place, he was still able to secure a win over a Panda Global Ranked competitor: third seed Calib “Konga” Byers, who defeated Dawson “Big D” Perron in loser’s semifinals to earn his placement. Big D, who used four different characters in top 8, provided a look into a potential counterpick-heavy metagame in Smash Ultimate’s future.
While several top Melee players competed in Smash Ultimate, none were able to make it to top 8, providing evidence that it might take more than a week to adjust their fundamentals and strategies from the faster and more technical Super Smash Bros. Melee. The highest-placing Melee professional in the Smash Ultimate bracket was Rishi “Rishi” Malhotra, who was at one point power ranked within his region in Smash 4; other top Melee players, such as Hugo “HugS” Gonzalez and Zachary “SFAT” Cordoni, failed to make it out of pools.
Don’t Park also featured a stacked Melee bracket, which was topped by Tempo Storm member Johnny “S2J” Kim after the Captain Falcon main mounted a stunning winner’s bracket run that saw him eke our game-five victories against top seed Zain “Zain” Naghmi and fourth seed James “Swedish Delight” Liu.
Visibly grimacing as he played through hand pain, Swedish Delight earned a Zain win of his own in loser’s finals after suffering a 3-0 loss to the Marth main in winner’s semifinals. To make it there, Swedish also squeaked out a 3-2 victory over Griffin “Captain Faceroll” Williams, whose impressive fourth-place finish featured victories over Edgard “n0ne” Sheleby, Jeremy “Squid” Deutsch, Ammon “Ka-Master” Styles, and Te Tuhi “Spud” Kelly.
Spud’s run at Don’t Park was impressive in its own right. The Australian No. 1, whose travels through the Pacific Northwest had already earned him several impressive wins, made it to fifth place on the strength of wins over Aziz “Hax$” Al-Yami and Zachary “SFAT” Cordoni. Though Spud doesn’t qualify for the year-end rankings based on the preliminary eligibility requirements laid out by Andrew “PracticalTAS” Nestico, Panda Global may alter these requirements in order to allow Spud, who is clearly playing at a top-100 level, to be acknowledged in the rankings. Hax$ made a run through loser’s to tie with Spud, securing wins over Michael “Michael41000” Rollberg and Kalindi “KJH” Jabari Henderson.
Though he didn’t qualify for top 8, Michael was involved in one of the most absurd moments of the tournament. In his loser’s round two, he and Texan Ice Climbers main Connor “Bananas” Lamb played a game in which neither player moved at all for eight full minutes. In past sets, Michael has timed Bananas out relentlessly, and after a time-out in game one of this set, both players decided to accept the inevitable and play out a shorter tiebreaker instead. Ultimately, Michael won the set, 3-0.
As 2018 comes to an end, S2J and MVD enter the off-season as the final major champions of the year. As Smash Ultimate’s first major champion, MVD can rest on his laurels knowing that he won’t be challenged until Genesis 6 in early February, while S2J’s strong finish to the season has all but secured him a spot within Melee’s top-15 rankings.