Interview with Zain, Melee's Rising Star



Fri 8th Jun 2018 - 4:16pm

Disclaimer: This is a guest contribution by Matthew Lewis and the events/matches discussed have already passed so the information may not be completely up to date.

Zain "Zain" Naghmi is by far one of the brightest rising stars in recent Melee history. He is coming off an incredible run at Smash Summit where he finished at an unprecedented 3rd place, beating some of Melee all-time greats like mang0 and Plup. Zain is also known for his proficiency with Marth, utilizing flashy edge cancels and pivots to create new and exciting setups and combos. We got the opportunity to talk to Zain about his phenomenal Summit run and his personal opinions on various Smash subjects.

Summit just happened, you practically surprised everybody with your 3rd place finish. How were you feeling going into it?

Zain: I felt pretty good, honestly. I knew I could beat a lot of them. A lot of the matchups I’ve played I’m really good at. I also went in wanting to level up across the board in every single matchup and I think I did that because I got to play against a bunch of different guys throughout the course the week.

Let's talk about your biggest win at the Summit, winning Mario Party. How did that make you feel?

Zain: So I've actually been playing like a lot of Mario Party with my friends in college. I had no idea it was a side event and I especially didn't know that it was for money. I won 250 bucks. I was like drinking and playing and then like Grace, one of the Summit staff, was like “yeah you want 250 bucks” and I was like “what”.

Out of all of the wins you've had in 2018, which ones are you the proudest of?

Zain: It would have to be Plup honestly. I had beaten him before at Big House 6 but I think we’ve both improved since then. He’s definitely a top 6 player now, like he won Genesis. I've been working on the Sheik matchup a lot and it was just good to see that I improved versus Sheik. He might not have played as best as he could but he was better than Big House and I felt good about it. I felt like I played well. 

Do you have any specific goals that you are trying to reach by the end of 2018?

Zain: I want to be solidified like top 8 in the world so that I can just get invited into Summit. I don't want to campaign honestly. I feel like me getting third at the last one is like pretty big in terms of coming back, but I definitely don't want to keep campaigning. It's so stressful so I want to be solidified as top 8 in the world.

If you had to give one sentence of advice to a beginning player, what would it be?

Zain: Just don't be afraid of losing. Keep playing, like if you really like Melee, you’ll just keep playing no matter what. It's okay to get salty, it's okay to get sad. That's normal, just keep it all in check and use it as fuel to better yourself. Make sure you watch videos and get as much stuff recorded as possible, even if you just lost. Just rip off the Band-Aid and watch your set and see how you can improve because it's still fresh in your mind. That would be the advice I give. 

Thoughts on Smash for the Switch. Are you interested in playing competitively?

Zain: I'm interested in trying it out. I'll give it a shot. Melee will always be my primary focus. I just love it too much. But I'll definitely try it, yeah.

If Melee didn't exist, what game do you think you would be into competitively?

Zain: Oooo that's a tricky one, maybe...

Mario Party?

Zain: Yeah, I'd find my own Mario Party scene. I've been playing Fortnite pretty casually. But I don't even know if there is a super competitive scene. Melee is the only eSport I've gotten into and like I don't pay too much attention to any others. Maybe DBZ fighters. I’d invest time into that for sure.  

Where do you see yourself on the MDVA Power rankings right now?

Zain: I think I’m first.

Favorite matchup?

Zain: Favorite matchups would have to be Spacies and Puff.

You like fighting Puff?

Zain: I like Puff, yeah. Because it was one of the first matchups I got good at and it utilizes a lot of Marth's unique toolset that you don't see very often in like normal matchups. Like the punish is completely surrounded around pivot forward smash. Yeah, I just like that match up a lot. It's just Hungrybox is really good and he just makes every Marth look bad, but our last set at Smash Valley. I got 3-0'd but every game was down to the wire and was like “I know I can do it.” I just need to put more focus in it. 

Least favorite matchup?

Zain: I just like playing Melee so it's hard for me to say that I have a least favorite matchup. I'd say it's Marth dittos for now. I think I'm getting better at it. I had a pretty good showing against Mew2king. Like, it was close, he definitely edged me out. On the ledge especially, he just has more situational experience at the ditto I think. Once I become more comfortable with it I think I'll be fine.  

Last question, who's going to win today?

Zain: Me! (And he won, winning 3-0 in the Grand Finals!)

We’d like to give our thanks to Zain for taking time out of his day for this interview. We wish him the best for the rest of 2018.