MkLeo's Incredible Reverse 3-0s

By Jack "Jackie Peanuts" Moore | 03/11/21

Anybody who watched Grand Finals at Evo 2019 understands the legend that is Game 4 MkLeo. Coming from losers side, Leo fell down 2-0 in Grand Finals against Tweek's explosive Pokemon Trainer. After barely taking Game 3, Leo fell behind immediately in Game 4. Less than two minutes into the game, Leo had his back against the wall, already down to his final stock and facing off against all three of Tweek's.

The rest, as they say, is history. But if you blinked, you might have missed it. After swiftly collecting Tweek's first stock, Leo harnessed the absurd kill power of Arsene and deleted Tweek's Squirtle within a mere 20 seconds. And then another 15 seconds later, Leo had the lead. He would go on to win Game 4, and Game 5, and take the second set of Grand Finals with a clean 3-0. The entire Smash world learned a valuable lesson that day: There is no such thing as a lead against MKLeo.
Game 4 of Set 1 begins at roughly 13:00 in the above video.
The Legend of Game 4 Leo is no tall tale. The data backs up Leo's clutch factor as truly extraordinary. Across the over 200 PGR-ranked tournaments conducted since ranked play began with Genesis 6 in January 2019, there have been 15,273 recorded sets in which a player has fallen behind 0-2 in a best-of-five set. Only 1,715 times (11.7 percent*) have they managed to bring it back—like Leo did on the biggest stage in fighting games against arguably the second-best player in the world at the time.
*Interestingly, that's only slightly below what you would expect if you were operating under the assumption that both players had a 50 percent chance of winning each game; the odds of a coin flip coming up tails three times in a row is 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 = 1/8 = 12.5 percent
Evo 2019 was neither the first nor last time Leo would pull off a reverse 3-0 deep in bracket. At Smash Conference United in Florida, a tournament held January 5-6, 2019, just a month after Smash Ultimate's release, Leo found himself down 2-0 in Grand Finals to Samsora's Peach only to pilot Ike and his spinning sword to victory.
Over the next year of ranked tournaments, Leo pulled off the feat five times, with the first being his timeless Evo 2019 comeback. The full list, with links to take you to the corresponding VoD page:
Only one other player, Nairo, had as many recorded reverse 3-0s in ranked play. He fell behind 0-2 16 times, though, second only to Samsora's 23. Leo notched his five reverse 3-0s across just nine sets with an 0-2 deficit, and was the only player with at least three chances to achieve a reverse 3-0 to do so at least 50 percent of the time.
Only two other players who have fallen behind 2-0 in at least eight sets, Nairo and Shuton, even have a reverse 3-0 rate above 25 percent. By the time most tournament brackets reach best-of-five sets, the competition is at its peak. Any player skilled enough to take a 2-0 lead on a PGR-ranked player is extremely talented—and, by this stage in bracket, chances are they're a PGR-ranked player themselves.
There's a danger in ascribing a clutch factor to a player in such a small sample. In most cases, five sets of Smash Ultimate don't tell you much about a player. We simply wouldn't have enough information about how they perform in this kind of situation; judging by the skill level they've shown throughout their entire set history would be more predictive.
But the likelihood of a player with a simply average ability to reverse 3-0 performing this feat—which we've already established to be barely more than 10 percent likely—five times in nine chances would be approaching 1 in 10000. That's the rough equivalent of tossing a coin and getting heads 13 times in a row. At some point, you'd start to assume the coin was weighted.
MkLeo is already skilled enough to take down any opponent. With such a mental ally in his corner as the specter of Game 4 Leo taunting anyone who manages to grab an unexpected early lead, his place atop Smash Ultimate's competitive hierarchy is near untouchable.