Beyond the Summit welcomes in Smash Ultimate

Super Smash Bros. Melee player William "Leffen" Hjelte reacts after his victory at the Evolution Championship Series on Aug. 5 in Las Vegas. Caitlin O'Hara for ESPN

In 2015 Beyond the Summit conceptually revamped the Super Smash Bros. Melee major by establishing the Smash Summit series, a biannual invitational featuring ten of Melee's best players and six fan-favorites for four days of humorous skits, expert commentary and top-level play. This weekend, the streaming organization will look to do the same for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate by hosting the first ever Smash Ultimate Summit.

Organizing an Ultimate event was a natural decision for the Beyond the Summit team.

"The game is fun to play, it's fresh and fast and there's a lot to be explored. Our staff love it, and we run events for the games our company is passionate about," explained BtS creative producer and "Bad Melee Podcast" alumnus Anthony "Slime" Bruno. "We think there's a lot of untapped talent and content that the Smash 4 community wants to see."

Beyond the Summit didn't hold a Smash 4 Summit during the Wii U title's competitive lifespan, and the liquor-fueled laxity of their content may resonate differently with the younger demographic of the post-Brawl Smash games. But despite the different game the BtS team is confident in its ability to run a successful event.

"Many [Ultimate fans] have an idea of what to expect from our event, but at the same time there are those who will be introduced to us for the first time at Ultimate Summit," said Slime. "For the latter, we're hoping we do their game justice. Melee does have more history and relationships since it's been around longer, but we hope we can help contribute to building that in Ultimate."

Past Smash Summits have boasted some of the largest payouts in Melee history, but the significance of the series goes beyond its record-setting prize pools. For the last two years, the November Smash Summit has acted as a de facto year-end championship, the capstone of successful SSBMRank campaigns by both Juan "Hungrybox" DeBiedma and Adam "Armada" Lindgren.

The outcome of this first Smash Ultimate Summit is important for a different reason. So far, there have been very few Ultimate majors, and each major victory holds considerable weight in the battle to be Ultimate's undisputed No.1.

Unfortunately, the results of the Ultimate Summit are fated to be accompanied by an asterisk: the absence of Gavin "Tweek" Dempsey from the invitational's lineup. After defeating Leonardo "MkLeo" Lopez Perez in two sets to win Frostbite 2019, the Team SoloMid member has a firm claim to the title of best Ultimate player in the world. However, he was not auto-invited to the event and declined to campaign for a spot during the voting round. Last weekend, he traveled to qualifier event Ultimate Nimbus in an attempt to grab the last open Summit berth but failed after suffering premature losses to Zack "ZD" Darby and Guillermo "Stroder" Martinez.

"A lot of people will be disappointed in the fact that he's not there," said Ezra "Samsora" Morris. In Tweek's absence, MkLeo will be the man to beat at the Summit, and Samsora is one of the few players at the invitational who has done so in the past, along with Paris "Light" Ramirez and Nairoby "Nairo" Quezada.

"My placing at Genesis, that gives me more confidence," said Samsora. "I feel fairly confident that I could take on all the players there if I maintain a certain gameplan, and there are only three players there that have beaten me before in bracket."

Though Samsora was a top player in Smash 4, he has achieved a new level of success in Smash Ultimate. Even before the Peach main placed third at Genesis 6, his name was being bruited about as a potential contender for world No. 1. A longtime Peach loyalist, Samsora attributes his rapid rise to the buffs that the character has received in Ultimate. After languishing in the middle ground between mid tier and high tier in the last two Smash titles, Peach has become a top-tier character in Ultimate thanks to her buffed combo tools and ability to bypass the short-hop aerial damage multiplier using her float cancel technique.

"I never got bored playing her for the last ten years, from Brawl to Smash 4 and now to Ultimate," laughed the Floridian. "I like how she feels, and I love her demeanor, even in her victory screen. 'Oh, did I win?'"

Samsora is far from the only heavy hitter slated to make an appearance at the Ultimate Summit. The Smash Ultimate metagame is still taking shape, and the unpredictability of results thus far has made it clear that anyone can make a deep run if they get the right bracket, even the five attendees who will be crossing over from Super Smash Bros. Melee.

"Mang0 and Plup, they actually take games off me fairly consistently, and their Melee skills transfer over to Ultimate," said Samsora. "They're getting better very fast."

Neither Joseph "Mang0" Marquez nor Justin "Plup" McGrath is the biggest threat coming from the Melee camp; that honor goes to William "Leffen" Hjelte, who has claimed bracket wins over high-level Ultimate players such as Chris "WaDi" Boston and Dustin "Zenyou" Rice.

And, of course, the presence of top players from the Smash 4 scene, such as James "VoiD" Makekau-Tyson, Samuel "Dabuz" Buzby and Brian "Cosmos" Kalu, adds to the invitational's prestige. Notably, Gonzalo "ZeRo" Barrios will be in attendance for his second-ever Ultimate tournament following a disappointing ninth-place finish at Smash Conference United in January.

This weekend, MkLeo could very well shore up his argument for world No. 1 -- but it's just as likely that a new challenger for that title could come out of the woodwork. According to Samsora, only one outcome is guaranteed: "I'm going to win Mafia for sure."