Wizzrobe hopes to smash competition at CEO

Justin "Wizzrobe" Hallett plays in the finals of the Smash Masters Tournament during Super Smash Con at Dulles Expo Center. Provided by Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY Sports

In June 2010, tournament organizer Alex Jebailey pulled together a ramshackle fighting game event in Orlando, Florida, and somehow held together hundreds of entrants with only a handful of volunteers and a stream staff of one. Bolstered by the support of the Florida scene, "Community Effort Orlando" soon blossomed into one of the most popular tournament series in the United States.

This weekend, CEO will bring the hype northward to Daytona Beach with a stacked event featuring all of the world's most popular fighting games, including a talent-filled Super Smash Bros. Melee bracket.

Though the Melee community stands apart from the broader fighting game scene, the platform fighter has been a featured event at six of CEO's eight iterations. Over the years, Jebailey has become known for his semi-adversarial older-brotherly relationship with the Melee community, taking to Twitter both to celebrate the game and to exchange barbs with its top competitors.

"The reason I love Melee is just the drive behind the players," he said with a chuckle.

Jebailey is quick to point out his unique qualifications as a community organizer with his finger on the pulse of both the Melee and traditional fighting game scenes. It's a background that has informed many of the differences between CEO's Melee event and the Melee brackets at more traditional Smash majors.

"Most traditional Melee tournaments ... all they know is Melee," he said. "I'm all about catering to as many people as possible."

This blurring of the lines between Melee and traditional fighters can be seen in CEO's most controversial ruleset change for 2018. Jebailey and his group have allowed players to use alternative controllers during the tournament, such as controller company Hit Box's Smash Box, a device more akin to a fightstick than to the standard GameCube controller.

Afraid that box-style controllers of this type could give competitors an unfair advantage, most large Melee tournaments place a blanket ban on all alternative control devices.

"When you go to traditional fighting games, there's so many unique sticks and Hit Boxes and stuff like that, and that's what makes us so unique. It welcomes so many people because there's people who can't use a regular pad or whatever," Jebailey said. "I don't think [alternative controllers] should be banned from any event, and you'll never know if they're going to do anything bad unless it happens in tournament. This is the only way to find out."

Jebailey isn't the only person who hopes to break the mold at CEO 2018. Though the top seeds are "gods" of the game such as Juan "Hungrybox" Debiedma, Justin "Plup" McGrath and Jason "Mew2King" Zimmerman, the player entering CEO with perhaps the most to prove is Justin "Wizzrobe" Hallett, the electrifying Captain Falcon main from Apopka, Florida.

As a result of William "Leffen" Hjelte's 11th-hour decision to drop out of Melee in favor of CEO's Dragon Ball FighterZ tournament, Wizzrobe will effectively be the tournament's fifth seed.

Ranked seventh on the Spring 2018 Melee Stats Rankings, Wizzrobe is the pick by many in the Melee scene to be the next player to achieve "godhood." There's an argument to be made that he's already on the cusp; after all, he holds recent wins over two of the three "gods" seeded above him at CEO, with only Plup able to withstand his devastating tech chases and picture-perfect spacing.

Two weeks ago, Wizzrobe made Hungrybox look like a mortal by handing the Jigglypuff main a devastating 6-2 loss in the grand finals at Fort Worth's OpTic Arena, forcing his Floridian compatriot to play second fiddle to a player ranked outside the top six for the first time since 2009.

"It definitely feels like it would be doable consistently," Wizzrobe said of his breakthrough in Texas.

At CEO 2018, Wizzrobe hopes to use his precise edgeguards and patient dash dance game to defeat Hungrybox once more, but as fifth seed, he'll have to defeat Mew2King to get the opportunity.

"When it comes to Mew2King, it's always kind of like a coin flip," Wizzrobe said. "It's always Game 5; it's always super close."

Of course, Wizzrobe isn't the favorite to win CEO 2018; that distinction still goes to Hungrybox, whose once-unyielding grip on the metagame has weakened considerably over the past few months. Wizzrobe isn't the only rival whom Hungrybox will have to look out for: Plup, who beat Hungrybox at last month's Get On My Level 2018, has shown that he's more than capable of overcoming the SSBMRank No. 1 player.

It's Plup, not Hungrybox, who is the biggest roadblock in Wizzrobe's path to victory at CEO. Though he's never beaten Plup in a best-of-five set, Wizzrobe has taken him to the brink, bringing the Sheik main to Game 5 on two occasions in 2017. If Wizzrobe can pull off the upset this weekend, CEO 2018 might just be the young Falcon's chance to ascend.