Leffen, the God Slayer Still Throneless

Jun 2, 2016

Confident, driven, precise, skilled, marketable, polarizing; William “Leffen” Hjelte has all the hallmarks of a superstar player any organization would kill to have on their roster. His sometimes brutal honesty during interviews has gained him a lot of enemies over the years, but his tactical and aggressive play has earned just as many fans. Love him or hate him, it is undeniable that Leffen has already left a hefty mark on the history of Super Smash Bros. Melee. If you ask him, he’ll tell you he’s not even close to finished.

After a long 8-month break from major competitive play due to visa issues, Leffen has returned to the U.S. and Team SoloMid to continue building his legacy as one of the best Smash Bros. players who ever lived. Known as the “God Slayer” by many in the community, Leffen has become a superstar in not only Smash, but the world of esports in general and seems to be primed to continue his meteoric rise. How did a Swedish player who had not even played Super Smash Brothers until 2009 become a worldwide phenom, scene-wide villain, and earn his title as the God Slayer? After a ban from several tournaments within his own country, the vilified top Fox moved into 2014 with one goal: Proving he was better than anyone who has ever played the game.

The Five Gods:

In Super Smash Bros. Melee there is a group of five players (Mango, PPMD, Hungrybox, Armada, and Mew2King) who had completely dominated major tournaments throughout the world from about 2007 – 2014. All five of the players are considered the “Five Gods” of Smash because their play seemed to transcend that of all other competitors. Although the five of them were able to defeat one another, competitors from the outside stood no chance at dethroning any of these gods. So for nearly 8 years the gods stood at their rightful place at the head of the competitive Smash world, daring all challengers to attempt an uprising. As it turns out, 2014 was the year that a proverbial Kratos would enter their world.

Gods Do Bleed:

Leffen never became even a blip on the radar of anyone in the SSBM scene until 2014. Although he had been placing well in smaller tournaments in the previous years, this was the year he first drew blood from one of the gods of Smash. At Apex 2014, after coming through a difficult group containing Axe (another player who some think has the potential to become a god himself), Leffen was able to defeat Hungrybox’s Jigglypuff despite some sloppy play in the first game of the set. 

(video via CLASH Tournaments)

The loss of this set and elimination from the tournament is notorious for putting Hungrybox on tilt at the event. Taking the loss hard, Hungrybox shed his usual collected personality for one of anger and disbelief supposedly lashing out at fans and players for the remainder of the day. After all, at the time Leffen was an unknown and an upset of this magnitude is rare. This was the first time the young player was able to take a set off one of the Five Gods of Smash and he wanted to make sure it wasn’t the last. After the massive win over Hungrybox to finish top in his group, Leffen would then go on to place 4th overall at the tournament and find himself in the sights of the Smash world.

Slaying a B.E.A.S.T.:

After pulling off an incredible upset over Hungrybox at Apex early in 2014, Leffen continued to accelerate through the year. Only a month after Apex 2014 came the first major tournament which would see Leffen take home the top prize: B.E.A.S.T. 4.

Although he has proven he was able to show up and play at the top level during clutch situations, Leffen was still rough around the edges. Coming through the group stage of 160 players with little to no trouble, Leffen’s Fox was sent into the losers’ bracket after dropping a close best of 5 set to Ice 2-3. Fighting his way through the bracket by handily defeating Fuzzyness and Overtriforce (3-0 and 3-1, respectively), Leffen got his chance at a rematch with Ice in the losers’ bracket finals. This time he was able to out-fox Ice and claim the win this time in another close 3-2 set. The next round placed Leffen in the grand finals against the second god of Smash, Armada.

(Set 1)

(Set 2)

(Videos via SaltyPlayground)

The win over Armada was not only unexpected, but unfathomable. At the time of the tournament (Feb 2014) Armada had not lost a European tournament since 2007, not even dropping a set in one since 2008. If there was ever a true embodiment of David versus Goliath in Super Smash Bros. Melee, this was it. Leffen, after playing a brilliant tournament, was able to win his first major in style. Chalking up another win over a god of the game, this time in his home country. Many began to wonder just how high this young talent could soar.

Not All Victories Are Absolute:

2014 continued to be the year of the Fox as Leffen plowed his way to another 1st place finish at Republic of Fighters 3 using his signature character. A month after this win, he set his sights on another top finish at the massive MLG Anaheim tournament. Entering the tourney on a high after a recent resounding victory in RoF3, Leffen came out swinging taking a close set off of yet another of the Five Gods, PPMD. Although the victory was sweet, it was short lived as a god Leffen had yet to defeat, Mew2King, took him down handily in a 1-3 set.

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Now in the MLG Anaheim losers’ bracket (the very place Leffen had come from to win his last major tournament), Leffen picked up a few more sets and was matched once again with PPMD. Even though he had managed to ruffle PPMD’s feathers in their first meeting, the god put Leffen back in his place defeating him in a 3-1 set. The loss sent Leffen packing in 5th place and proved to the young star that winning a set over a god of Smash does not necessarily mean you can play at their level. The Five Gods are known as the pinnacle of Smash skill for a reason.

(Video via MLGSmash)

The Sweet Taste of Victory:

After seeing great success in B.E.A.S.T. 4 (where he was able to take down fellow Swede, Armada, and go on to win his first major), Leffen returned to his homeland for B.E.A.S.T. 5 looking for blood. Showing he was in top form, Leffen managed to run a clean sweep in each set he played for the first 4 rounds. In round 5, he was met the very man he had defeated a year ago, Armada. After winning the set decisively and sending Armada to the losers’ bracket, Leffen finally was given another go at the 4th god on his hit list: Mango.

(Video via VGBootcamp)

In a classic Fox vs. Falco matchup, Leffen used deadly combos and precision timing to bring down Mang0 for the first time in a close 3-2 set. This set marked his first win over the 4th of the Five Gods. Not only did he get the win over Mango, but Leffen also went on to face Armada again in the grand finals, taking him down for a second time in one tournament, sealing the deal, and walking away from B.E.A.S.T. with the first place prize for the second year in a row.

Mew2King on His Mind:

About halfway through 2014, Leffen had begun finding real success as a SSBM pro and started taking sets off of other top names in the game on a regular basis. Placing high in most tournaments he entered, being “great” was no longer a sufficient goal. In early 2015 Leffen started looking at becoming the best there ever was to play the game, but there was still 1 god-tier player he had not defeated. Unfortunately, the 5th is arguably the most intimidating of all the Five Gods, and a man who had sent Leffen packing in a few tournaments prior: Mew2King.

The two players had met a few times previously, and every time M2K was able to get the better of Leffen. Mew2King not only took the sets, but seemed to completely overpower Leffen, beating him 0-2 at Evo 2014 and later defeating him in another clean-sweep set at The Big House 4 near the end of that same year. Mew2King had Leffen’s number and was not going to go down easily. Mew2King would continue to be a thorn in Leffen’s side, not allowing him to win a single set between the two until they met in early 2015 at Apex.

(Video via VGBootcamp)

This monumental win cemented Leffen’s place as one of the top Super Smash Bros. Melee players in the world and put him as the first and only player ever to defeat all of the Five Gods.

The gods had all gained their status through years of play and domination of tournaments. Armada, Hungrybox, PPMD, Mango, and Mew2King all have been given god status by general consensus as any player or viewer could tell that the 5 of them seemed to play at a higher level than all other contenders. So that begs the question, is slaying all 5 gods enough to make a mortal ascend?

Does Running the Gauntlet = God Status?:

The question is interesting as clearly Leffen is a highly skilled player, but most of the Smash community seems to feel like he is in some kind of limbo; above nearly all other players, but still below the Five Gods. After such great results over the last several years (10 first place finishes in large tournaments over the last 3 years), and proving he can compete at the highest level, I think whether or not he belongs on the Mount Olympus of Smash Bros. depends on what you consider “godly.”

Leffen has been involved in a bit of controversy over the years after several blunt interviews, brazen statements, and disrespectful moves both in and out of the game. Although many feel Leffen will never be able to reach the level of the gods and consider his villainous image an issue with the status, many fail to remember that Mango also saw his fair share of controversy early in his career.

It is also important to point out that the title of the Five Gods was given at a time before Leffen was in competitive play and now seems to be more of a legacy title from a time when Mango, PPMD, Hungrybox, Armada, and Mew2King ruled the Smash world. Leffen likely will not extend the title to the “Six Gods” or replace any of the now galvanized thrones of those who have sat atop competitive Smash for years, but he doesn’t seem to care. “God” is a nice title for anyone, but being placed on a pedestal with 5 other players is not what Leffen is looking for:

“My goal is not only to win more majors than everybody this year, it’s not to win more than everybody has done this year and next year, it’s to win so many majors and tournaments and to go on such a streak that nobody has ever performed better, and no one will ever pick up the game and ever run on a better streak. If you’re the best of all time, you’re not only the best now, but you have such a good legacy that no one in the future can ever say, ‘Is this FalcoMaster55 who starts playing in 2050, is he gonna be better than Leffen?’”
“No, because I was too good for my time.” Leffen in an interview with Daniel Rosen from theScore esports.

Mar 30, 2016
Cameron Rogowski
Long-time blogger, esports fan, last of the AP Tryndamere. I follow every game I can find the time to watch and have an unhealthy fascination with esports in the Southeast Asian region. You can catch me on twitter @cdrogowski.
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