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In Melee’s history, there are few players who truly stand the test of the time. Who have been there since the beginning and continue to crop up in major tournaments to this day. Even rarer are players who continue to play at a top level, as many slowly fade away as competition gets more and more stiff in future years. Textbook examples of that type of player would be Mew2King and ChuDat, well known bastions of longevity. However, among those legends of the game exists another. A Sheik main with a simplistic style that would seem out of place in 2006, let alone 2019. A player that it almost seems baffling to the casual eye made it to the top of our game in the first place, yet has stayed there for almost 15 years. That player is Drephen, one of the all-time greatest to ever touch a Gamecube controller, and a man who truly loves this game we all play.
Drephen made his major debut at MELEE-FC in 2004, then the largest tournament of all-time at 98 entrants. He didn’t even have his famous tag yet, opting to go by his real name, Drew Scoles. He ended up at 65th at the event, close to the absolute lowest placing possible, but only continued to climb from there. While he sparsely appeared at the larger tournaments that occured throughout 2004 and 2005, Drephen eventually made himself known at what many may still consider the most stacked Melee tournament of all-time, MELEE-FC3. There, Drephen, now fully engrossed in his identity, garnered 17th, tying in placing with top players from the region such as Vidjogamer and Ignatius, known sometimes as Iggy. He would follow this up with an impressive 5th place MLG Nashville 2005, only placing behind the best in MDVA and tying with the then best in the Midwest, Falcon icon Darkrain. He would then go on to place an extremely impressive 13th at MLG Los Angeles 2005. An often underrated event, MLG LA was the Western Conference Championships for the year, and featured pretty much every top player under the sun, including nearly every single member of the Top 25. Drephen accomplishing a Top 16 at the event was no small feat, outplacing players such as Midwest’s former best Eddie and current best Darkrain, as well as other top level talent during that time like Kei (AKA Takagi, who defeated Drephen at FC3), arguably the best in the Pacific Northwest, and Zulu, one of the best in the South.
Drephen would have underwhelming performances as the 2005 went on, but 2006 began with a bang as our wonderful Sheik main soared to his first big victory with Show Me Your Moves 5. Winning over top players at the time such as Eddie, CunningKitsune, and the fast-rising Tink, Drephen established himself as a member of what would later be known as the “Midwest Five”. Comprised of Drephen, Darkrain, Vidjogamer, Dope and Tink, these five players would define the region for the next several years. Drephen would continue his success with a solid 9th place finish at MELEE-FC6, another record breaking event, before finding himself in the famous 2006 MLG Circuit. After an initial stumble at MLG Chicago, Drephen would fire back with yet another 9th place in Orlando, defeating top MDVA player Wife and fellow Midwest player Tink, whom ended his run at MELEE-FC6, before losing to both Azen and Chillin. Drephen would eventually end the year after strong regional placings solidly within the Top 25 for the game, ranked as 18th in the world by the official Smash Panel Power Rankings at the end of the year (and 21st by Smash History for RetroSSBMRank!). However, despite how good a year this was for him, Drephen’s peak was yet to come.
2007 rolled around, and immediately gave off signs that Drephen was somebody to be feared. Drephen travelled to MDVA and successfully conquered it, winning C3 Smash Battle over the likes of Chillin, ChuDat and Azen, defeating the former and double eliminating the latter. This trend would only continue as Drephen earned his very first major Top 8, garnering 5th place at Pound 2. There, Drephen defeated up and coming players such as Darc and DaShizWiz, in addition top level talent such as Wife and especially Forward, the latter of which recently travelled to the Midwest and dominated it. He would follow this up with a win at EVO North and an insane 4th place finish at MELEE-FC Diamond, his highest major placing of all-time. Another impressive run to 5th at Zero Challenge 3, where Drephen stopped legendary players like The King and Bombsoldier, and things were looking up. This all came to a head with possibly Drephen’s greatest achievement. At Viva La Smashtaclysm, Drephen would earn the biggest win of his career, as he defeated the best in the world at the time, Mew2King, to ensure another 5th place performance. Mew2King and Drephen were known to often beef with each other on Smashboards, the primary form of communication for smashers back in the day. M2K would often accuse Drephen of having little to no skill, relying on cheap tactics and chaingrabbing to get the wins he earned in tournament. In a way, Drephen defeating Mew2King in tournament was karmic justice, punishment for doubting Drephen’s expertise at the game. Drephen would eventually end the year as a comfortable Top 10 player in the world, his highest ranking to date.
Upon mentioning the arguments with Mew2King, I feel this would be a good time to go over what makes Drephen so special, and why he is such an interesting player to watch, even to this day. Drephen, in a way, encapsulates what made the old-school crop of players so good at the game. Sure, they didn’t quite have the technical skill that many players nowadays possess, and could easily be overwhelmed by said skill if they played in today’s meta. However, in lieu of this, they possessed an uncanny ability to get inside the opposing player’s head, and understand what they were thinking. At the highest level of play back then, this was shown no better than by the mythical Azen, who used his ability to read opponents and understand their habits to make devastating, hard calls and end stocks when one would least expect it. Drephen is of the same general camp, encorporating his own style of getting into the opponent’s head. He will read your patterns and do the bare minimum to expose them, using relatively simple options to poke at you, as well as timing mixups to throw off your innate rhythm. This often annoys players, and causes them to lose focus and become even more predictable and open to attack, allowing Drephen to seize victory. This is obviously helped by Drephen’s character choice of Sheik, a main players often consider quite simple, with easy to execute combos as well as getting quite a bit off of grabbing, something that is also quite trivial to perform. Drephen would also utilize Sheik’s amazing defensive tools, such as her spotdodge, crouch cancel, or tech roll, all of which are some of the best in the game compared to other characters thanks to her other options that support these choices. Drephen gets into your head, and stays there, making you think he’s just lucky or using cheap tactics to get ahead. The reality is…he’s just that much smarter than you.
Drephen would follow his 2007 with an arguably underwhelming 9th place at Pound 3, before fading from the public after Brawl’s release. He would show up to roughly one large tournament a year in the years before EVO 2013, a time often called the “Dark Ages” of Melee, and perform decently but never score that groundbreaking win. He was even losing to other old-school Midwest players, such as Trail or CunningKitsune. It seemed as if Melee had finally passed him by…
That was, until 2014, where Drephen began to come alive again. A solid showing at Super SWEET, including a win over Duck, to earn 9th place, as well as a 33rd placing at The Big House 4 with wins over players like Darkatma and NMW showed that Drephen still had some gas left in the tank. Another Top 48 showing at a supermajor with APEX 2015 showed this was near fluke, as he defeated Tai and Gahtzu, in addition to his infamous chaingrabbing of Android, before losing in a nailbiter to MacD, who was quickly becoming a top end player himself. 2015 would continue at a similar pace for Drephen, just missing the Top 100 ranking by the end of the year. 2016, however, would be a different case.
Drephen started the year off strong with his first big win since his return, taking home gold at SWEET XXI over Prince Abu. As the Spring rolled around, Drephen would begin to tally up his first top level wins in many years, defeating HugS at OUTFOXX’D and Dizzkidboogie at Pound 2016. As the year drew on, Drephen would also slowly bolster his regional prowess, beginning to take sets o;ff of the best in the region at the time, like the nearly untouchable Kels, as well as consistently beat other strong Top 100 level talent like ESAM. Probably the most well-known part of Drephen’s late year run would be his extremely close set against easy Top 10 candidate SFAT at The Big House 6, proving Drephen could still contend with the highest echelon of play. By it’s end, Drephen would be ranked as the 75th best player in the world, his first national ranking since 2008.
2017 would prove no worse, as Drephen gained another win over HugS early in the year at Full Bloom 3, in addition to a multitude of wins on Duck, proving his expertise at the Samus matchup. He would continue to place consistently, most notably an impressive 3rd place in the Gods & Gatekeepers singles bracket, and earn a ranking of 68th in the world by the end. 2018, however, would be when Drephen truly began to return to form.
It would start with a modest 49th at GENESIS 5, where he defeated fellow Top 100 player Ralph, in addition to Top 60 ranked Arizona Fox main Medz. It would then continue with an astonishing 4th place at large regional tournament, The Gang Hosts a Melee Tournament. There, Drephen would defeat Top 50 level Fox mains in Slox and KJH, the latter having given Drephen trouble for years now. At Smashadelphia, Drephen would take both Wizzrobe, a Top 10 player, and lloD, a Top 30 ranked player, to the brink, in addition to double eliminating Junebug, Project M legend and a fastly rising Melee Sheik main. Consistent wins over Top 50 player Ginger also came, with Drephen going undefeated against the Falco all year. However, despite incredible success at the regional level, Drephen just couldn’t seem to put it together at the majors without a favorable bracket, suffering poor losses to players like Zuppy and Flamin Roy. Drephen would be 60th in the world by the end of the year, but it seemed his ceiling had finally been reached.
But then…he returned. When all seemed lost, the Drephen we all know and love came back to us as he spotdodged and grabbed his way to an absolutely shocking 9th place at supermajor Smash N Splash 5. This tournament was to award a spot at Smash Summit 8 to the highest placing non-invited player. There were many in talks of potentially earning the spot, but there is almost no way anybody expected Drephen to earn that right. While Drephen had been improving, it seemed highly unlikely that he could return to his days of old and outlast all the new, hungry and far superior players in today’s age. Drephen could easily even be written off after an early loss to Techboy, a young Ice Climbers main who more focuses on Project M than Melee. And yet, Drephen perservered. Defeating Rik, Morsecode762, TheSWOOPER, n0ne and Westballz, Drephen found his way to an astonishing 9th place at the event, his best supermajor placing since Pound 3, 11 years prior. He then went on to win the tiebreaker, defeating both KJH and Shroomed in thrilling contests to earn his place in one of Melee’s most prestigious events. His final stock against Shroomed is almost emblematic of what Drephen’s all about: devastating Sheik play, hard reads, and claiming victory where it didn’t seem to exist. Drephen had the Summit spot, and would go to the gathering of Melee’s elite.
Drephen did not perform well at Smash Summit 8, but that is not the point of this article. The point of this article is to show Drephen’s long, illustrious career. Through thick and thin, through all of Melee’s eras, Drephen has been there. Seemingly never changing, but yet always improving, his love of the game is forever, as is his impressive gameplay. Anybody can watch Drephen, and understand him, emulate him, and learn to love Melee just as much as he does. Drephen proves that you don’t need fast fingers to break into this game, to be truly great. All you need is love, and a gameplan. Drephen is a player who goes down in the history books as likely the greatest Midwest player of all-time, and showcases the very essence of what Melee’s about. He, like Melee, is forever.
Keep spotdodging, you crazy man. Keep spotdoding.