The 6 Phases of Mang0-Hungrybox
The 6 Phases of Mang0-Hungrybox
Over the years, there’s been no shortage of rivals for Hungrybox. Whether it’s Armada from 2015 to 2018, Leffen in 2019, or Zain and iBDW in the modern era, Hungrybox has had a knack for playing many sets against the best players in the world. It probably has something to do with the whole “being good at Melee” thing.
But if there’s any doubt who Hungrybox’s real rival is, Super Smash Con 2022 put that doubt to rest when Mang0, the most familiar opponent Hungrybox has ever had, defeated him twice to win the event. For the new Melee fans tuning in now - and the older ones seeking a nostalgia trip - you may wonder how deep this history goes. In this piece, we’re going to explore what makes this rivalry so special in narrative and numbers.
Mang0 and Hungrybox have both been playing Melee for over a decade. Think about that for a second. That timespan entails multiple presidential administrations, television series, and fashion trends. When it comes to Hungrybox vs. Mang0, there’s tons of stories and statistics for anyone in the community to sift through. Thankfully for the rest of you, I’m doing just that. First, let’s examine how often these two have played and compare it to some of Hungrybox’s other rivals.
Hungrybox and Mang0 have played a set each year for the last 13 years. Even further, Hungrybox has played more sets against Mang0 than anyone else. In terms of sheer volume, Hungrybox has struggled more against Mang0 than anybody - he is the only player in this group who Hungrybox has never taken the career head-to-head lead over at any point in their rivalry.
Regardless, Melee history is all about the little details hidden underneath the set count. After tracking their head-to-head, using Liquipedia, I decided to filter out Hungrybox-Mang0 sets that, broadly speaking, were significantly less legitimate. Though this was a bit of a subjective call, I trusted my historical instincts, which told me to cut the sets where Mang0 was sandbagging with Mario or Captain Falcon, as well as online matches, including ones where Hungrybox played with the massive delay from Bluetooth audio. How did one of the best players of all-time unintentionally do this? The world may never know.
In the next section, I’ll briefly recap what their rivalry was like during this entire stretch of time. Think of it like a symphony, with different movements and ‘phases,’ as well as one “quintessential” set per phase. Complementing these will be a few words from Hungrybox himself on what it was like to take on his greatest rival.
Phase 1: The Master and the Apprentice (2009 to 2010)
There’s no denying that Hungrybox once lived in Mang0’s shadow. Both of them played Jigglypuff; Mang0 was the one who won over crowds. Both of them were the best of their respective coasts at different points in this period; Mang0 was the best player in the country. When Armada came to America, it was Mang0 who gained “USA” cheers, not Hungrybox. Furthermore, when the two played, Mang0 would outclass him in the Jigglypuff ditto. Beating him with a variety of his other characters as well, Mang0 looked like he was playing a totally different game.
No set embodies the dynamic of this rivalry more than Pound 4’s legendary grand finals, where after losing Game 1 with Fox, Mang0 figuratively breaks Hungrybox’s back in the Jigglypuff ditto. Many people today forget that Mang0 won their winner's finals showdown by a thread. If you know how the grand finals end, you can’t blame them.
Not much to say, he just had my number, I could not beat him for so long. Mang0 knew Puff inside out, won nationals with Puff, then eventually switched to a better character than Puff. - Hungrybox
Phase 2: Cracks in the Armor (2010 to 2013)
After Mang0 quits Jigglypuff for good, Hungrybox takes a set over him for the first time ever at Don’t Go Down There Jeff. I know - back then, this is how we named tournaments. Regardless; Hbox’s victories in this era were often treated as flukes. After Hungrybox eliminated Mang0 from Apex 2012, Mang0 would go on to take six consecutive sets afterward. On one hand, it was undeniably progress for Hungrybox, as he proved himself able to compete with his personal kryptonite. At the same time, the kryptonite still won more often.
I wasn’t sure which Hungrybox-Mang0 set to go with. Their set at FC-Legacy, a close 3-1 Mang0 victory, has cultural staying power, having been covered in “The Smash Brothers” (AKA, the Smash Documentary). But the most important one for Hungrybox was when he held off Mang0 in the second set of grand finals to win NorCal Regionals 2013. That was his first tournament victory over Mang0 ever; a previously unthinkable first.
So when I went to NorCal Regionals, I was going all the way to his coast to beat him. It was a real emotional win for me. This happened when I was, like, a broke college student and had to win events so I could pay for stuff. The flight was 300 to 400 bucks, and first place got 700, so getting first at this tourney meant a lot to me, especially since our personalities didn’t mesh, as you know from the handshake incident, so I really wanted to beat him. - Hungrybox.
Phase 3: The Streak (2013 to 2015)
As of when this column was written, no player in Melee history has figured out Hungrybox as much as Mang0 did from 2013 to 2015. With 11 victories in a row, Mang0 continues to hold the lifetime record for most consecutive offline sets taken over Hungrybox. It may seem like an unbelievable feat to most audiences, but the fact remains that Hungrybox has never had a harder opponent than 2013-2015 Mang0.
The nadir was their CEO 2015 loser’s showdown, a set that nearly made Hungrybox retire. However, the next time they played was the infamous Evo 2015 loser’s quarterfinals, where after three unforced errors on Mang0’s end, Hungrybox held on to eliminate Mang0 from the tournament. Winning this set sparked a chain of events that drastically changed their rivalry forever.
I know it’s cliche and cheesy, but losing that much to Mang0, and Fox, put me on a lowkey Joker arc, so the aviators came out at Evo. I decided I was gonna win this time, no matter what it takes, and that everyone needed a taste of what it felt like. I wanted Mang0 to feel as bad as I did for the last 11 sets, so I camped him and just did my best to survive instead of trying to fight him. What I didn’t realize was how effective it would be, how fighting him, I had to treat it like waving a red flag in front of a bull. - Hungrybox
Phase 4: The Peak of Hungrybox-Mang0 (2015 to 2017)
When you think of Hungrybox vs. Mang0, chances are that you’re picking a set from this period of time. This was when the rivalry was at its peak. Ironically, it never felt like a coin flip. It was common for both of them to take turns destroying each other, whether it’s the quick 3-0, handshake and run to the airport we saw at EGLX or if it’s Mang0 smacking him around at Super Smash Con 2017, a tournament that we recently saw Mang0 win for a third time. That’s not to say that they didn’t have the occasional barnburner, but one of them always had the other’s number…at least until it was the other person’s turn.
The final set of this phase is the one that would determine the “winner” of this whole era: Shine 2017 grand finals. I’ll add a little personal flavor to it; the set’s Game 3 is the most exciting match of Melee I’ve seen live. Not only does Mang0 play some of the greatest Melee of his life, but Hungrybox somehow goes on to hold him off later in the set to turn it around, win the tournament, and kickstart the next phase of their rivalry.
It was just, like, knowing the guy who was making me believe I couldn’t do it for the longest time was getting afraid of me. No matter how hard a guy like Armada was, I knew there was some kind of tactic or jigsaw piece I could find because I was able to turn it around vs. Mang0 first. Shine 2017 in particular was a huge one. It was like, who’s going to take the current edge here? Instead of being scared of playing Mang0, I wanted to stop having my thunder taken by him. I still hadn’t been number one, and I thought to myself, I have to win this. - Hungrybox
Phase 5: Hungrybox Claws Back (2017 to 2020)
Over the next two and a half years, Hungrybox would dominantly gain the upper hand over Mang0. At times, it looked as lopsided for him as it used to for his rival back in the pre-documentary days. Even when Mang0 would take a set, as he did with Falco at Smash Summit 6, it never felt like he had Hungrybox solved. It didn’t matter what character Mang0 played - Hungrybox always had the edge.
Although it’s hard to find a great “quintessential” Hungrybox vs. Mang0 set from this period of time, it’s easy to pick one that embodies this whole period of time. My choice is simple: the final set of Pound 2019 grand finals, where Hungrybox 3-0’s Mang0 to win the tournament, and then gets a crab thrown at him - somehow an even lower point for the Smash community than the “Hungrybox checked his watch” controversy. By the end of this period, it seemed all but a sure thing that Hungrybox would both eventually take the career head-to-head lead over Mang0 and pass him on an all-time list. On a serious note, the crab-throwing was a turning point for his relationship with the community, where even if he was still a villain to parts of the community, the vitriol wasn’t nearly as personal. And, on a lighter note, if he was still your villain, he could be a well-memed villain.
Imagine, all of a sudden, the guy who used to beat you all the time, now gets a “moment” when he takes a set, like when he beat me with Falco in Summit pools. When I had this streak against Mang0, it was crazy to see his name in my projected bracket path and actually feel confident instead of worried. Instead of the other way around, he was trying to make adjustments against me, and at some point, he started trying to camp me more. - Hungrybox
Phase 6: The Old Man Era (2020 to now)
The world has shifted. Neither Hungrybox nor Mang0 are the highest ranked players of the scene. Melee itself has completely changed, with new characters coming to light and represented in ways that players of Hungrybox and Mang0’s generation could have only dreamed of. And yet, they’re still here, having transcended being defined by eras - in a way, defining the game itself as top three players of all-time. What’s on the line now goes beyond how it impacts a ranking; it defines their legacies.
It’s too soon to pick a definitive Mang0-Hungrybox set from this period. But although the recent Super Smash Con sets are objectively the most exciting, Hungrybox’s triple three stock of Mang0 at Genesis 8, which determined who would make top eight here, was probably the most ‘memorable.’ To date, it’s the most lopsided set they’ve ever had against each other in terms of stock count.
I think this new phase of the rivalry is very interesting. Genesis was the worst beatdown I think I ever gave him, and when we both played better at Summit, I was able to do it there. It’s really, like, we both just have these mental stretches against each other, where the tide is in one person’s favor until it suddenly isn’t. - Hungrybox
Rivals & Colleagues
Hungrybox-Mang0 is undeniably one of the greatest rivalries in esports, let alone Smash. Out of the active top-level head-to-heads in the scene, it’s the one with the most history and dynamism behind it. In the next few years, it may come to be that they’ll have played more than 100 lifetime sets against each other. By the end of 2022, it’s possible that these two players will be the two greatest to ever do it in the history of Melee.
Depending on how their careers turn out, the future sets that these two play could have all-time implications. Fast forward to Genesis 9. Is it so crazy to imagine a grand finals where the two literally fight for the title of greatest player of all-time? With these kinds of stakes, this rivalry could cement itself as the greatest in Smash history, if it isn’t already.
More than anything, we’ve displayed the absolute limits this game can be played on both dimensions. If you want an example of true Yin and Yang, the range of Melee, look no further than us. We’re just the absolute alpha and omega for philosophies. It’s fun to play those roles because we’ve had to adapt on the fly and phase out all the noise behind us - the fandom, catching up to his popularity, him not wanting to lose to me, our characters, our bad blood, rekindling, and now the old man era.
You know, people still ask me to this day, do we hate each other? I know for a fact, we have the most respect for each other as players as you could ask for, because we’re still in this mess. We’re trudging along, bags under our eyes, we hear everything the peanut gallery could ever play, and we still sit down at the setup, plug in our controllers and play against each other. At this point, Mang0 isn’t just a rival, he’s a colleague, and together we’ve done our best to keep our game alive. - Hungrybox