Friendlies: TSM Leffen, Smash's Loveable Villain
He's not always the crowd favorite, but TSM Leffen has skills - and he isn't afraid to say so.
Throughout the ages, there have been all sorts of Melee players. Even within the elite, different personality types run rampant: there have been aggressive types like Liquid'Chillin, calculated players like Mew2King, tacticians like EG PPMD, and even unconventional types such as MIOM|MattDotZeb. Within these personality types, there are often several people who fit the bill, with one exception. There’s only one villain. And that villain is Leffen.
Ever since his introduction to the scene, William "Leffen" Hjelte has never shied away from saying what’s on his mind. It’s gotten him into trouble at times – in the past, his outbursts have seen him permanently banned from Smashboards, very nearly banned from competition in Europe at the request of Armada and many others, and in constant conflict with players of all skill levels. But as his skills have grown, so have his maturity levels. A stranger to conflict he is not, but as the latest Melee player to be sponsored, it appears that TSM Leffen may be ready to put the trash talk to the side and let his play do all the talking.
But don’t cross him – just in case.
Latest and Greatest
Currently, Leffen is considered by most to be one of the top 6 players in Melee. But compared to his counterparts, he’s been a bit of a late bloomer. While many of the other current Top 6 players had broken out by the late 2000’s, Leffen didn’t even start playing Smash until 2009 – and had originally intended to play Brawl, not Melee. “I was invited to a weekly session by a guy named Pepito, who I had met online. I went to the session, originally most interested to play Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but when I got there we didn't have a Brawl disc, so I tried some Melee since everyone was playing it while we waited for someone to go get one.” His interest in Brawl didn’t last long. “While I did end up playing Brawl for a while that day, I've been stuck in a Melee craze ever since.”
Humble beginnings it may have been, but Leffen has been steadily climbing ever since. Unbeknownst to most players, Leffen played Falco for two years before switching to Yoshi, and then finally Fox. He still doesn’t know what caused him to suddenly change course after two years with Falco: “I still look back and can't quite find a solid reason why I suddenly found him so dull,” he told me. “I think it was just me finding Fox more fun, and the increased freedom you get with Fox gave me more room to change my playstyle on the fly while Falco required you to be more disciplined.” That switch proved to be the right one – over time, Leffen’s results improved until he was no longer a player that could be overlooked.
The Longest Year
2014 was the first year Leffen really proved himself as a threat to those at the very top. His first big international success came at Apex 2014. Even though he didn’t crack the Top 3 that day, finishing right outside at 4th, Leffen proved he could hang with the best. “I managed to upset both Axe and Hungrybox in winners, and while I ended up getting 4 stocked by Mango I still brought that set to 3-2. Since that tournament, I've been consistently placing among the best so I definitely think that was the game changer tournament for me.”
As a whole, 2014 was a big year for Smash. With several huge tournaments occurring during the ‘Summer of Smash’ including MLG, CEO and EVO, Leffen worked his hardest to compete. Unfortunately for him, his position as an unsponsored international player put him at a large disadvantage. “I've definitely had to make some sacrifices and trying to make everything work at the same time proved to be next to impossible at times.” Expensive travel costs and constant jet lag weighed on him heavily, to the point where Leffen thought about giving up the dream. “I considered quitting, but in the end I knew that I would never be able to forgive myself if I didn't purse my passion when I had the chance.”
In the end, his perseverance was worth it. After this year’s Apex 2015, Leffen ended up in contact with Reginald of Team SoloMid. “I was in talks with several different sponsors at the time, but once I ended up talking to TSM it didn't take long for me to realize that it was the team I wanted to go with.” To Leffen, it was more than just a great opportunity – TSM was the organization that mirrored his passion for success. “Other than just being a big team with lots of great sponsors and players under the name, I think it's the general attitude to always aim for the top that was the most important to me.”
Those who follow Smash and League should notice a similarity between Leffen and TSM: at times, they have played the same role in their respective communities. Both Leffen and TSM bring a big game to the table, but they also bring a lot of talk and they’re not afraid to use it to their advantage. TSM has found itself in hot water in the past for calling out other players and teams, and even on one occasion ignoring protocol when announcing a new player on their roster. Likewise, Leffen has regularly tested the fine line between common trash talk and truly inappropriate comments, a line he will readily admit that he has crossed more than once in the past. But now, he believes it’s a part of his identity, and one that will help the Smash community as a whole. “I've kinda gotten the role as the ‘villain’ or the ‘heel’ of the Smash community assigned to me, and while I've definitely overstepped in the past - on more than one occasion - I absolutely think it's necessary for there to be someone who's not afraid to say what's on their mind, and even more importantly someone who pushes everyone else to get better.”
“It's not really a role, but rather a side to me which I simply choose to display more in the Smash community because I think the community and the game is more fun when people have something more than just the game to compete about.”
This attitude was illustrated recently when Leffen criticized some of his fellow Top 6 players for not entering tournaments they were already attending. “I didn't intend to start a big debate or anything, it just comes down to the fact that I want to play the best possible opponents when I go to tournaments. The Top 6 of Melee is pretty much unrivalled at this point, so when one or two of us start slacking the others often take notice and follow suit. While that might have worked out for them before, I want to make sure that if the others decide to slack off I will still keep pushing myself. I think that it'd be really bad for the community if all the top players - essentially the faces of the community - suddenly stopped playing and I felt like I should do my part to stop that.”
That said, he already believes cracks are starting to form in the currently ‘untouchable’ Top 6. “Right now, I would say that the only real contenders that could win a big major with everyone in attendance consist of four players - Mango, PPMD, Armada and myself. Both M2K and HBox have never won one of these big majors, and both of them have had some of their lowest placements in years during the past half year, so if I had to pick someone to fall off it would definitely be those two.” Even The Kid isn’t free from Leffen’s scrutiny: “I could see Mango falling off too if I'm completely honest. While I would never count him out, he is currently sitting at a 0-4 record against the Top 6 in 2015, coupled with bad doubles results. Those wouldn't really be a big deal in most cases, but despite his big losses I don't see any motivation from him to get revenge. That could possibly be the beginning of the end, so to speak.”
He’s After You
Leffen has been a rising force in Melee for some time now, but with a new sponsor and redoubled work ethic, TSM Leffen is ready to take on the best at any time – and win. Ever since his sponsorship he’s been streaming, practicing, and preparing for the next big match. One could say that for the first time, Leffen has found himself in a position where the community is ready for his success. But if we’re being honest, Leffen is coming for his crown whether Melee is ready or not. “I'm really happy it all worked out the way it did, to be honest. I'm going to work even harder from now on to make both my fans and my team proud!”
Check back every Tuesday for another installment of Friendlies, a weekly series where we profile the people who make up the Smash community.
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