In 2011, Hungrybox claimed Plup was “the best Samus in the world.” While this doesn’t seem too bold of a claim now, back then, this was in the early stages of Plup’s career before he had traveled to any majors. Plup rarely spoke on his own behalf, but he already had skeptics and even out of region haters that argued that Plup wasn’t on that level. While Florida knew they had something special in Plup, the doubters became of his prime motivators in Melee. Flash forward to 2018 and not only did Plup earn the title of best Samus, but now has an argument for being the best player in the world after winning Genesis 5.

At Genesis 5, he defeated both Mang0 and Armada, eliminating any possibility of an Armada vs. Mang0 grand finals -rewriting the Melee script of yesterday and bringing it into a new chapter. The final boss to this story was none other than his friend and rival Hungrybox, the same Hungrybox who tragically ended his run a few months prior at The Big House 7. Though fans clamored for his Sheik, Plup opted for his secondary Fox, a character that had seen its ups and downs against Hungrybox. Earlier this year, he won DreamHack Atlanta against Hungrybox, but his overall set record in 2017 including locals was a paltry 5-19.

It would be wrong to say that Plup absolutely dominated Hungrybox at Genesis 5; the matches were excruciating close, boiling down to a last stock game five situation in the second set of the grand finals. Yet, Plup’s Fox did what no one else could on that Sunday evening: beat Hungrybox in a full set - something that Mang0, Leffen and Armada have not accomplished in a long time.

Keep in mind, Fox is Plup’s secondary, and also keep in mind, that he’s only seriously played him for less than two years. Yet, there’s something magical and different about his particular Fox. Unlike Armada, Plup loves engaging Hungrybox’s Jigglypuff and pressuring by staying in close proximity, but unlike Mang0’s Fox, his Fox wasn’t reckless or riddled with technical mistakes. In many ways, Plup’s Fox plays the matchup like Mew2King’s or Leffen’s, but with much better decision-making, especially in the mid-range game.

Mang0 once said that Plup is difficult to play against because he could never tell whether Plup would approach or disengage a situation. This particular trait to Plup’s game made it especially difficult for Hungrybox to formulate a game plan like he normally does against the other top Foxes. In some moments, Plup added an extra dash dance. In other moments, he’d fade back or stand in place, baiting Hungrybox into approaching incorrectly. Watch the game from Hungrybox’s perspective and you realize how many different types of zones and timing rhythms that Plup implemented into his mixups.

However, the key highlight may not even be Plup’s mixups and overall clean play. Aside from his intricate gameplay, Plup made noticeable improvements in his mental game. Hungrybox swept Plup in the first set of Grand Finals. Normally in these situations, we wonder if Plup would just fold over to Hungrybox’s rejuvenated self. Was this going to be another Hungrybox victory in a sea of wins or could Plup fight back?

The top players will tell you that the mental game is the most important aspect of tournaments once you get to a certain skill threshold, and at Genesis 5, we saw this come into play with Plup; He remained focused and fought for every opportunity to not let this tournament end in the way of The Big House 7. It’s tough to speculate whether this trend will continue beyond Genesis 5, but we’ve now seen Plup win DreamHack Atlanta last year and now Genesis 5 this year. If things come together for him, a Plup with a strong mental game might be the most complete player in all of Melee.

JOURNEY

The pieces came together over time, but every step of Plup’s journey was vital to the player he is today. Just three years ago, there was a sizeable gap between the gods of Melee and Plup. At Apex 2015, Leffen hit his stride as the newest god of Melee, placing in the Top 3 after defeating Mang0 and Mew2King, and at this very same tournament, Plup finished in a very quiet 49th place.

It’s important to note that this was also the first major tournament where he shifted away from Samus and into his newly formed Sheik. Still, it was a necessary change. The summer before, he flirted with ninth place finishes outside of the Top 8. Even though he proved Hungrybox’s old Smashboard Thread correct by distinguishing himself as “the best Samus in the World”, you couldn’t help but think that it was a struggle to play Samus against players that firmly knew how to play the matchup. Would Plup’s Samus be able to defeat Armada’s Peach or Hungrybox’s Jigglypuff consistently enough to win a super-major had he stuck with her? Probably not.

Normally, the transition to other characters comes with time, but Plup saw rapid improvement in his Sheik over a short time frame. In many ways, switching to a high tier character removed many of the limitations that frustrated Plup. Samus has a hard time finding consistent hits on elite level players and kill setups come from an influx of solid reads, which his opponents mitigated by abusing Samus’s lack of mobility. Despite these character weaknesses, Plup made the most of her toolkit with intricate tech skill and unrivaled platform movement. While today’s meta has made shield dropping, pivots, and ledge-dashing much more commonplace, Plup was one of the forerunners of the more difficult and modern tech skill.

Six months after Apex, Plup already saw better results with his Sheik, finishing in the Top 8 at CEO 2015 and placing 4th at EVO 2015. The Samus made the occasional appearance against certain players unfamiliar with the matchup, but now he had another character to deal with players that knew how to abuse Samus’s limitations. EVO 2015 marked the first time he defeated Mang0 with his Sheik, and in losers, he brought out his Samus to defeat Leffen. Unfortunately, controller issues plagued Plup in his set against PPMD and Hungrybox, but this marked the first time that people began to say that he was on the level of the gods.

In the years following, Plup continued to develop his Sheik and established himself as a member of the big six, a group that could win a set against anyone, but could never quite put together a run to win a super major. Several times he came close and it was very evident that it was only going to take a little more experience and time.

Every tournament continued to bring more breakthroughs. Florida locals gave Plup the confidence to develop his other characters such as his Young Link, Luigi, and Fox, and he began to see narrow losses against the gods turn into close victories. Sometimes, we’d see a sense of frustration and anger when he didn’t perform to his standards, but the adherence to the high standards have also made Plup one of the fastest improving players.

If there’s ever a player to highlight in Plup’s journey, it’s Armada. By 2016, Armada was the only god left that Plup hadn’t conquered and, to be frank, the sets were rarely close. It wasn’t until their fifth encounter that Plup took his first game ever at Battle of the Five Gods, and even after that set, Plup failed to win a game in their next two encounters at Evo 2016 and Smash Summit 3. Though Plup would start off the sets strong, in the end, Armada’s consistency, experience, and mental fortitude came out on top every time.

Strangely enough, a year passed between Smash Summit 3 and The Big House 7 where they would meet again. Normally, Armada was the one in control, picking his spots slowly in the beginning, and then he would gradually perfect his game plan, controlling the tempo of the game like a masterful puppeteer. At The Big House 7, the roles switched. No longer timid, Plup took total control of the set, dictating the tempo of the match and refusing to give Armada any free hits. At EVO 2016, Plup switched characters, desperately looking for an answer to the seemingly impossible; this time around, it was Armada desperately looking for a character to handle Plup. At the end, even an accidental transformation to Zelda was not enough for Armada to steal a victory from him. The set marked the celebration for Plup to defeat all of the gods and finally gave fans evidence that he could win a super major.

The story didn’t end in a happily ever after at The Big House 7. Hungrybox stole victory from the losers bracket and Plup settled for the silver medal. Maybe the Melee script writers didn’t think it was quite his time yet in 2017.

Just three years ago, Plup reached a low point after finishing in 49th at Apex 2015. Since then, he added in new characters to his arsenal and steadily improved year after year. Now in 2018, he won Genesis 5, his first ever super major. No longer is just about Armada, Mango, or Hungrybox, Melee has a new story with Plup as the new protagonist. This is his year to shine.

PLUP TIMELINE

Jan 2015 - Defeated Leffen at Paragon 2015

Apr 2015 - Defeated Hungrybox at CFL Smackdown Monthly 9

July 2015 - Defeated Mango at EVO 2015

Nov 2015 - Defeated PPMD at Smash Summit

Mar 2016 - Defeated Mew2King at Battle of the Five Gods

Oct 2017 - Defeated Armada at The Big House 7