LumiRank 2023 | 31 - 40

Welcome back to LumiRank 2023. Smash Ultimate has only seen its competition grow stronger week after week in one of its busiest years yet. LumiRank is thus proud to bring you the 150 strongest players in the world, based on the period from December 19th, 2022 to December 17th, 2023.

For information on the LumiRank 2023 schedule, check out the landing page here.

Jagaimo || Photo: 限界社会人ナナミ / Genkai Syakaijin Nanami (@takatou0711)

Palutena mains have always been among the nobility of Ultimate. Just this year we’ve had Raflow beating the GOAT, Chase’s amazing Crown 3 run, and Lui$ voted into Watch the Throne. But one of the best is perhaps one of the less well-known outside his own country.

Jagaimo has long been a threat in Japan, with runs like his 9th place at EVO Japan 2020, but this year he finally put it all together to achieve his first worldwide ranking, logging a season most players could only envy. Jagaimo started the year off right with a C-tier win at DAWN #10, but it wouldn’t be his last tournament victory. He beat at least one top-100 player at each event he attended from Gen 1.0 to Kagaribi 9, an impressive five-month streak, save for WINNER! NEXT #3, where he “only” took down Reno, Gorioka, and Abadango. His strongest gold finish came at his third of six WAVE series tournaments this year, where our favorite potato boiled and mashed his way through losers, dropping a total of three games in his five set run to victory.

Thanks to Japan’s amazing transportation and Smash Bros infrastructure, Jagaimo was able to accomplish all of this without leaving Kanto at all, with tournament series like Kagaribi, DELTA, and Seibugeki all taking place in the extremely populous region. Traveling out of Japan might take him the farthest away from home he’s ever been, but we can hope we’ll get to see Jagaimo at an international event sometime in 2024.

— James “Doxazo” Rivers

BMS | Raflow || Photo: Gauthier Mercier (@Myrdwin)

Having been one of France’s biggest names of post-quarantine smash, Raflow finally debuts on the worldwide top 50 ranking. The young Palutena extraordinaire had some of his best performances yet, as he showcased his excellence on some of the biggest stages the year had to offer.

The charismatic Frenchman ruled over Europe with a certain je ne sais quoi, being only outdone by the continent’s top 3. That being said, his performances weren’t strong only in Europe. Au contraire: he achieved a remarkable 13th place at the year’s largest tournament at Super Smash Con.

His elegant, avant-garde style of Palutena took down top names like Tarik, big chungus and Yoshidora en route to a 5th place at Tera, which ended up not even being his best performance at this genre of events with over 1000 entrants. Fighting game supermajor UFA would be the decor for a spectacular 3rd place finish. Wins over top European competitors like Mukuro~, crêpe salée and Flow ended up becoming only an aperitif to double eliminating invader MKBigBoss and closing out his run with an impressive victory over none other than MkLeo.

As we bid adieu to 2023, Raflow looks to improve upon his already strong résumé with an even stronger 2024. And as cliché as it may be to say, there should be no doubt that he has the capability to do so.

— Alice “Alice” Len

MASA || Photo: さきょう / sakyo (@sakyooooou)

Despite playing a character known for his cutscene combos, they never used to be MASA’s strong suit. The Tokyo Falco used to win most of his games by playing a patient neutral and nickel and diming his opponents with two-piece combos, rather than Falco’s flashier bread and butters that you would see from players like Tilde and M0tsunabE.

After the Gen 1.1 champion moved to Kansai, this seemed to change, though, as practice at tournament series like MaesumaHIT and Sumabato resulted in MASA becoming one of the flashiest players on the block. And of course, the player that was already the best representative of Falco having a powerful upgrade to his advantage state and combo routing lead to a very logical conclusion: MASA’s best year yet.

While his victory at national Gen 1.1 was barely not enough to enter him into the mid-year top 50, MASA finished strong with a slew of impressive performances. He took down some of Japan’s strongest names such as Asimo and Jogibu during strong showings at Sumabatos and MaesumaTOPs, and managed an impressive top 16 finish at Kanto Premier Kagaribi 11 where he defeated alice, Toriguri and Gackt along the way.

It’s clear that MASA has somewhat reinvented his style of Falco recently, but he never strayed far from what made him great. The combination of his strong neutral and smart setplay, now coupled with a more explosive combo game, makes him one of the scariest players to face, and while 2023 was MASA’s best year yet, he has shown no signs of slowing down.

— Alice “Alice” Len

Ron || Photo: アルファ / Alfa in Japan (@alfa_gorinne)

Ron, as a player, is quite a mystical existence. After he was included on the PGRU v2, he has become quite an infamous figure in the smash community. In the years since then, he hasn't been ranked in the global top 100 even once. But that wasn’t for a lack of skill; he just didn’t find the opportunity to actually attend anything.

This year, however, seemed to be different. His first few tournaments were very solid, but there were no particular standout performances. Very solid losses with wins on players like DIO, Karaage and Doramigi managed to secure him a solid spot on the mid-year ranking, but everyone knew this wasn’t what he was truly capable of. He’d probably only attend a few more events this year, but one of them should be able to showcase his skills better than the previous ones did.

His next outing would deliver exactly that. With the biggest and most stacked Sumabato in a while, a perfect opportunity to strike presented itself. After making it through pools without breaking a sweat, his stay in winners side was cut relatively short. But what followed was a performance that would make people remember who he was. Beating some of Kansai’s best in Ryuoh, Snow, Doramigi, MASA and Rarukun, his run culminated in a resounding statement, a dominating 3-0 over the prince of Kansai, Miya.

— Jonas “Fortuna” Stritzinger

Moist | Kola || Photo: Dylan Revezzo (@RedShirt__)

It’s quite common to see people call Roy “bad” in today’s meta, but Kola’s return seems to have silenced the deniers. After many thought he was a player who simply couldn’t keep up with his peaks, Kola bounces back as the best Roy in the world. 

2023’s first season saw Kola playing like he was before. Other than 33rd at LMBM and Collision, he was still jumping over people and making Roy look less like a handicap than most people thought he would be in today’s meta. He was still able to compete with the top, getting wins over BassMage, DDee, Marss, and Zomba. However, even from the beginning of the season, it was shown that just about anyone can get upset. Even at some of his better placements he would suffer early losses to NaetorU, Bobo, and MKBigBoss. After a DQ before MomoCon top 8, Kola would decide to take a break. 

He would return in October for Luminosity Makes Moves Miami, pleasantly shocking everybody by getting his best placement of the year at 5th, even taking Sparg0 to a last stock situation. Kola would continue to place well for the rest of the season, getting his best P tier placement of the year at Port Priority, and picking up his best wins of the season over Dabuz and Zomba. His comeback story is one of the best that Ultimate has seen, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him further evolve Roy to compete in today’s meta. 

— Benjamin "BennyTheGreat" Schmid

MRG | Kaninabe || Photo: ふかせ / fukase (@yoroisan)

When Wi-Fi warrior Kaninabe made the switch from online to offline play in mid-2021, his high potential became apparent very quickly. The Japanese Fox specialist’s fast-paced approach to the game made him an instant fan-favorite, with his relentless aggression proving to be an effective counter to many of Japan's top players’ more calculated playstyles. It took a couple years for Kaninabe to truly establish himself at the top, but his promise was fulfilled in 2023.

While he struggled to find his footing in the first half of the year, by the fall of 2023 Kaninabe had fully made the transition from exciting up-and-comer to formidable bracket threat. He notched three major top 8s in September and October, at Sumabato SP Ultimate, Kagaribi #11, and MaesumaTOP #14. Those runs included wins on players like Shuton, Kameme, Doramigi, and Yaura, proving that Kaninabe was ready to hang with the best. The message was clear: Japan's new best Fox player was here to stay. Only one question remained: how much damage could he do outside of his home continent?

Kaninabe answered that question confidently at Port Priority 8 in November, his first (and currently only) venture to the United States. At Seattle's premier event, his confident play caught some of North America's best players off guard. Kaninabe completed a gutsy reverse 3-0 over Tweek to qualify for top 32, then took wins over MkLeo and Onin before narrowly losing a five-game set in the mirror match against Light, ending his run at an impressive 7th place and putting the world on notice.

The sky's the limit for Kaninabe, who seems to just keep getting better and better. Don't be surprised to see him deep in bracket at some of 2024's biggest tournaments.

— Victor “AnonymousBadger” Mujat

Shory’s | ShinyMark || Photo: Ramz Baltodano (@BustedDrones)

ESAM has long been known as the best Pikachu in the world, retaining that title even as his results and attendance have waned. But astute observers have paid attention to a Guatemalan grinder getting ready to take his place. That would be ShinyMark, an online legend who was able to travel more than ever in 2023, and used those opportunities to show the world what he was made of.

One of ShinyMark’s most impressive traits is his ability to remain consistent with a difficult, technical character like Pikachu. His only non-top 100 loss at a major this year was Soar at Battle of BC 5. We might attribute this to his training online, in an environment disadvantageous to precise spacing and execution.

ShinyMark jumped onto the map this year at Collision 2023, where he eliminated SHADIC and MkLeo on his way to top 8. He returned to the States with a 5th place at B+ tier Patchwork, then 13th at supermajor Smash Factor X, before making his best run of the year all the way to 3rd at Delfino Maza, defeating Gackt, Glutonny, and Skyjay. ShinyMark was able to hold the line for the rest of the year with a win over Sparg0 at the Rankings #2 regional, and strong runs to win and finish third at BLINK RESPAWN and Santa Paws, respectively.

Pikachu has fallen from the top of many tier lists, but with a representative like ShinyMark consistently making top 8s, we may soon see him return to those heights.

— James “Doxazo” Rivers

MRG VGBC | Umeki || Photo: Brandon Prudencio (@TridentSkrt)

Being a certified legend of the game, Umeki doesn't really have to prove himself to anyone anymore. Not only is he a competitor at top level, but he is also the head TO of possibly the most prestigious tournament series Japan has to offer.

Through a number of outstanding performances, Umeki managed to snag himself a spot in the top 40 of the mid-year ranking. For a good while, it seemed like that was where he would stay. He often had the fortune (or misfortune) of getting rather empty bracket paths, rendering him unable to get the wins he so desperately needed.

But all that changed when a piece of information dropped, shocking his fans to the core. You see, Umeki was one of the biggest international travelers pre-quarantine, visiting the U.S. a whopping seven times, but for one reason or another, he stopped altogether post-quarantine. So when his participation in Port Priority 8 was announced, fans were naturally ecstatic. And it also seemed to be the motivation Umeki needed to push his play to the next level.

In his next 2 events in Japan, he achieved a 2nd place at ITSUKUSHIMA #2, as well as a top 8 finish at Seibugeki #15. And to top it all off, as a crowning achievement, his Port Priority was indubitably his best event of the year, as he got a whopping four top 25 wins, as well as a well-deserved 5th place finish, fighting through three game fives against Zomba, Skyjay and his fellow Paisy aficionado Muteace.

Whether as a TO, a content creator or a top player, Umeki’s influence on the scene doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon, and I’m all here for it.

— Jonas “Fortuna” Stritzinger

Skyjay || Photo: Dylan Revezzo (@RedShirt__)

“Is Incineroar better than Palutena?” — the greatest debate in the history of forums, locked by a moderator after 12,239 pages of heated discourse. But it wasn’t always this way! If you went back to 2019 with this take, they’d probably laugh you out of the room. Nowadays? Well, they’ll still probably laugh, but it even being a question is sheerly because of a singular character specialist: Skyjay, a man able to find stable placings with a character deemed to be fundamentally inconsistent.

This year, Skyjay found himself atop unprecedented peaks. I mean, who could forget Collision, where he beat Dabuz, Maister, Lima, and Sparg0 twice en route to 2nd? How about the time when Skyjay punched himself a last-LAST minute ticket into Summit, and won his runback against Riddles? Hell, while the Melee world sat down to watch Zain and Cody run a FT10 for the #1 spot, Skyjay got to smile, knowing that he wiped the floor with both of them without dropping a single stock.

It’s no surprise that the general consensus is that Skyjay is one of the most beloved players to watch; his naturally explosive Incineroar makes him responsible for multiple contenders for the set of the year. (Here’s a personal favorite of mine.) If you take a look in the playercams, you’ll notice something important: Skyjay is, perhaps, having the most fun playing the game out of any top player.

Skyjay ends this year ranked higher than any Palutena player, but he’ll be the first to tell you that Incineroar is nowhere near as good of a character: he’s just better.

— Hugh-Jay “trade war” Yu

ApolloKage || Photo: Bekah Wong (@alonelychime)

This year, ApolloKage, the St. Louis Snake specialist, went to tournaments. A lot of them, in fact: not only did he attend thirty-nine ranked events this season, but he probably attended the most locals out of any top player this year. In fact, ApolloKage found himself rank #1 in SoCal, an impressive feat made absurd by the fact that he does not live there. AK, his iconic straw hat, and his multicolored sweater took Snake all around North America. From his invasion of Quebec that saw him beat Zomba to win Battle of Z, to his invasion of NorCal that… also saw him beat Zomba to win GENESIS: BLACK, ApolloKage has explored every nook and cranny of this continent in his pursuit to become one of the greats. I mean, who could forget his monumental sets against Glutonny and MkLeo at Summit? 

I can think of few players with as strong of a tireless commitment to improvement and a love for the game that they play than ApolloKage. I can think of no player in Smash’s history as in love with the journey of growth that competition provides than him, and whether it be cultivating (and farming) his locals at SLU or pushing himself to his limits across the world in Japan, I can think of few people with positivity as infectious. In an era where dooming seems more and more common, ApolloKage has seemed to internalize that overcoming hardships helps the peaks feel that much sweeter. 

— Hugh-Jay “trade war” Yu

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