A crew battle is a form of competition between two groups of Smashers, known as crews. Crew battles may be declared due to rivalries such as West vs. East Coast, a form of exhibition, or simply in all due fun. Each team starts out with the same number of stocks, divided evenly amongst the members of each team. For example, a Melee crew battle with five members on each team might have 20 stocks per team, four for each member.
Players from the opposing teams then take turns fighting in 1v1 matches, with the winner of a match carrying their remaining stock(s) to face the next member of the opposing team. Stocks lost by the winning player in a previous match are subtracted from the player's stocks by self-destructing at the beginning of the next match. For example, say there were two teams, A and B, and were playing with four stocks for each player. If Player A defeats the other team's Player B with two stocks remaining, they would need to SD until only two stocks remain for the next match against the second member of Team B, Player B2, who starts with a full four stocks. This process continues until one crew runs completely out of stocks, in which case the other crew is declared the winner.
There are strategies and variations when it comes to crew battles such as predetermining the order that the members of a crew will play and requiring players to declare a character that they will use before the crew battle begins. Another is to counterpick characters and players against the rival crew. An example would be say that Player A and Player B main Sheik and Ice Climbers respectively. Player A loses by two stocks and is switched out. Team A can now decide to character counterpick Player B with an advantageous matchup. Team A sends Player A2, who mains Peach who has an advantageous matchup against Ice Climbers and subsequently wins the match. The process of this counterpicking will continue until the end of the crew battle or no counterpicks can be made.
The crew battle is a variant of "team" battles found in many Japanese 2D fighting games. Traditionally, each player will select 3-5 characters to play, and they must play through the other player's line-up before they lose all of their own characters. KishSquared, a member of the crew "Ship of Fools", located in South Bend, Indiana, decided to try to apply these mechanics found in other fighting games to Melee.
The first crew battle did not track stocks between matches despite KishSquared's original design due to the awkwardness of starting a match with varying stock counts. It occurred in August 2003 at the "Midwest Challenge," held by the Ship of Fools, between the Ship and a crew consisting of Eddie (BigGMan) and 4 Ohio players. The Ship of Fools' Ignatius proceeded to defeat four members of the opposing crew, helped greatly by the fact that he regained all his stocks between matches. Finally, Eddie went in and proceeded to defeat each member of the Ship - and regained all of his stocks between matches - before losing to KishSquared.
The flaws of the original crew battle were obvious - whoever won the match of "best vs best" would win the entire crew battle, regardless of the skill levels of the other players. The best player on each crew would sweep through the rest without taking any damage. KishSquared returned to his original idea: tracking stocks between sets and having one player jump off the stage as needed before the match began, which was soon implemented.
Crew battles did not gain much popularity until July of 2004, when the first national crew battle was held at MELEE-FC. Ken and Isai formed a crew and outplayed the other seven crews, laying seed for the following year.
MELEE-FC3 is perhaps best known for the regional crew battle that was held. The entrants included the West Coast, the East Coast, the South, and the Midwest. The major players were the East and West Coasts, who used this opportunity to settle a rivalry that had existed for years. Wes and Ken were the organizers of this event, and KishPrime set some new rules for counterpicks and character selections.
The FC3 regional crew battle set the precedent for nearly every crew battle that followed, and those rules are still used today. The rules were largely designed by the Ship of Fools with minor influences from other parties.
Today, crew battles are still commonly held at large tournaments, though they are now considered more of a side event instead of serious competition. Regardless, regional teams, many times strive for crew battle victories at national level tournaments for bragging rights.
Notable crew battles
MELEE-FC3 is perhaps best known for the regional crew battle that was held. The entrants included the West Coast, the East Coast, the South, and the Midwest. The major players were the East and West Coasts, who used this opportunity to settle a rivalry that had existed for years. Wes and Ken were the organizers of this event, and KishPrime set some new rules for counterpicks and character selections. The outcome of this crew battle set the guidelines and rulesets for crew battles later and dictated the control of the Smash competitive scene in Ken and Isai's hands.
In more recent times, the "USA vs. The World" crew battles at Apex 2012 and Apex 2013 have become some of the most famous crew battles. Although regional rivalries in competitive Smash have since died down a bit, crew battles still remain popular side events at major tournaments. For example, The Big House has hosted crews with teams for different regions of the U.S., as well as Canada and Europe. The Heir tournament series in Europe has hosted crew battles with teams for individual European countries.
In Smash 4, a noteworthy crew battle is the battle that took at 2GGT: ZeRo Saga which pitted the best American smashers versus the bestforeign smashers. The crews were lead by ZeRo and Ally, which lead US and the World respectively. Top players Larry Lurr, VoiD, ZeRo, Nairo, Salem, and Dabuz fought for the US whereas top players komorikiri, Abadango, MkLeo, kameme, Ally, and Mr.R fought for the world. The battle ended with a crushing victory for the World, who ended with eight stocks remaining.
In the same note, while not necessarily a crew battle in the original sense, at the same tournament, a side event, ZeRo's Runback occurred which pitted himself against every opponent he had lost to in the span of his Smash 4 career. ZeRo defeated every opponent with the exception of Mew2King, Mr. Concon, and Dabuz, who did not make it or want to compete in the event.
2GGC: Civil War had one of the most hyped and important crew battles in Smash 4 history with the rivalry between the two contending Smash players ZeRo and Ally. The rivalry began with ZeRo's monumental losses to Ally at Get On My Level 2016 and Smash 'N' Splash 2 and the many instances of trash talk on Twitter, which created the twitter hashtags of #TeamZeRo and #TeamAlly. Players within the PGR chose their side, and in the pool of players, the crews were picked and the battle ensued.
Team ZeRo won the battle with an astonishing performance of komorikiri who fought back against a major deficit in order to bring the victory home.
Japanese tournaments follow similar rules, though crews are usually limited to three members. Another difference is that crew battles are still considered a tournament format, with some tournaments consisting of only a single-elimination crews bracket.
With the serious growth of the online community in Smash 4 and Ultimate, "netplay crews" are gaining popularity. In an online environment, matches are played much like a standard crew battle, with minor differences.
Special conditions like character specific teams are commonplace. Online crews make it more accessible for a wide variety of members from around the world to participate as a team in battles.