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Photos to go along with the article on Hungrybox and Armada
NEWS

Monster Family Showdown at EVO

Jul 132017

For the greater part of a decade, Super Smash Bros. Melee has been defined by a small group of players, with two consistently rising above the rest: Mango and Armada. Their storied rivalry has defined the past six years of Melee, giving the game some of its greatest moments. However, over the past year or so, the tide has shifted. The new rivalry that is defining this Golden Age of Melee has become Hungrybox versus Armada. 

The Swede and the Argentine have thrown down in six Top-8’s since they last met at EVO 2016, and have squared off against one another in the Grand Finals in four of those instances. Where Mango and other Melee greats have had slumps and peaks, Hungrybox and Armada have seemingly experienced an unstoppable rise in their skill. 2015 and 2016 were defined by Armada and Hbox’s respective streaks of tournament wins, including trading EVO titles. 

It can be argued that the two world champions get better because the other is doing the same. After years of dealing with the difficulty of the Peach/Puff matchup, Armada finally relented. Gone were the counter-pick shenanigans, with Young Link being pushed to the wayside. Instead, Armada devoted his energies to picking up the most challenging character in the game, Fox. His smooth, almost effortless stage control, in turn, pushed Hungrybox to adopt a more passive style, focusing on ledge control and baiting approaches through planking. 

All of this came to a head at The Big House 6. Despite winning EVO just three months prior, Hungrybox had been in an uncharacteristic slump. Saddled with a full-time job, he began to lag behind in his development, where Armada and others continued to press forward at full steam. When the two met in Losers’ Bracket, fighting for a chance to crack into the top four, Armada won in dominant fashion. Hungrybox, looking crushed, slowly walked off the stage to a few scattered claps and boos. Little did the crowd know that they were witness to the lighting of Hungrybox’s internal fire.

Since that time, Hungrybox quit his other job as a chemical engineer and dedicated himself fully to Smash. With his focus shifted, the reigning world champ completely rewrote his playbook thanks to the assistance of his coach, Captain Crunch. In response to Armada’s technical play, Hungrybox changed his own to fit a more aggressive mold. Before he would follow upthrows or upairs with a chain of aerials and then reset to center stage control, whereas now, we see him chasing rests off of platform techs. Hbox is also utilizing down airs as a setup for grounded smash attacks with more frequency.

 

At the same time, Armada had been on a tear, having won seven tournaments since Big House 6. The Swedish Sniper was arguably in his best form to date, with a dominant win at Genesis 4 that stirred up talks of his status as the greatest player in Melee’s history. Following that championship, he did not rest on his laurels, and immediately jetted back to Sweden to compete in his home major, BEAST 7. Even after a dominant victory, Armada managed to grow even stronger, perfecting his ledgedash technique, which allowed him to exert even more powerful stage control. He then returned to the States and bested Hbox in the Grand Finals of Smash Summit Spring, taking home the largest prize Melee had ever paid out. The development of both players shone through when Hbox met once more with Armada at Smash ‘N’ Splash 3 in June.

 

Here, the two Melee giants would inevitably clash yet again in the Winner’s Finals. Hbox immediately played to his strengths, hugging platforms and staying near the edge to bait Armada. Armada responded with near perfect spacing, pulling ahead, bit by bit, using crisp combos and a heavier laser style. Despite the Swede’s best efforts, Hungrybox’s ability to set the pace was simply too much. With his unrelenting patience, Hbox wore away at Armada, alternating between planking and tossing out beautifully executed combos. Finally, in classic Clutch-box fashion, Hungrybox ended the set with a perfectly timed rest, cementing his place in Grand Finals where he would go on to defeat Leffen and take home the gold. 

So, what can we expect from these two Gods of Smash as Evo comes around? That question is truly too difficult to call in the air. While Hungrybox has remained highly active since Smash Summit – attending 12 major events since then, winning nine – Armada has only attended four, winning two. We do know that Armada has been continuing to improve his overall play, streaming dozens of hours of movement drills and training with NTSC Fox. However, he is at the disadvantage of not having high level character specific practice, with Europe’s best Puff some 1200km away. Hungrybox, on the other hand, has had a multitude of practice against top level Foxes, with five of his tournament golds coming off the back of a Puff vs Fox Grand Final.

 

One thing, though, is for certain — Evo is not like any other tournament. There is a certain air to it; the prestige, the spectacle, and the ability for anyone to upset one of the greats on the biggest of stages all lend to a competitive environment like no other. Hungrybox thrives on the intense emotion that EVO brings out, having reached the Grand Finals on three different occasions. Armada, in contrast, uses his calm, technical mindset to walk through the eye of the storm. His EVO runs, with two Grand Final appearances, are marked by a crisp professionalism. These different approaches put both men on a collision course this weekend, headed directly towards one another for one of the most exciting rubber matches in the history of Melee.

 

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