With a tournament winning streak that stretches back to the 2005 season, Karma stands atop Major League Gaming’s ranks as the undisputed 1v1 champion. While a select few players have presented significant opposition to his reign, Karma has overcome every trial thrown his way in pursuit of the 1v1 season crown. Surprisingly, much like his tournament record, the tactics employed by Karma to stay ahead of the pack have remained largely unchanged over the last year. Through talking with both Karma and his opponents, we have put together an analysis of the strategies he has employed in order to achieve such unprecedented success, as well as taken a look at what it might take to dethrone this frightfully-dominant juggernaut.

Predominantly, Karma is known for his tendency to occupy the top-center of Warlock more than any other player. When controlling this advantageous position, Karma employs a ‘peek double-shot’ technique with unparalleled marksmanship, retaining almost full coverage behind the top pillars while decimating opponents’ shields as they approach the top-center structure Although seemingly a simple technique, few possess the sheer precision and dexterity to implement the tactic as effectively as Karma. “His double-shot is just nasty with his peeking,” stated Orlando 1v1 finalist StrongSide. “When he peeks you just can’t do anything. He’s so good at it.”

Rather uniquely, Karma holds his top-center positioning even when being shot. Whereas others would drop down to the cover of bottom-center, Karma seeks refuge behind the top pillars. While seemingly leaving him vulnerable, his keen awareness of the radar and enemy approach angles allows him to hold his ground during many assaults, retaining the map and camouflage control provided by his commanding position.

While his opponent is out of sight, Karma tends to run in circles, visually patrolling the map from top-center, leaving his perch once he has gained a significant advantage in a skirmish as his opposition retreats under a platform or to a base’s grenade spawn. Often, Karma will rotate to the adjacent grenades (generally counter-clockwise) to his wounded foe, flushing the opposition out of hiding with his newly collected grenades and finishing the kill.

While Karma pursues with an aggressive bulldog spirit when he has his opponent on the retreating defensive, he employs a more stealthy approach once his control has been relinquished. Opting to lay low until the enemy has lost his trail, Karma then maneuvers to reclaim the high ground.

Karma sits clearly atop the heap with his superlative 1v1 skills, but upon close inspection, it appears as if he has relied upon the same general strategy for the duration of his reign…

Although Karma has been able to routinely obliterate other top caliber players through his main strategy, Karma’s true brilliance is put on display when facing an opponent who has formulated a counter-strategy, forcing Karma to abandon his primary gameplan. “His strategy has been the same for a long time now,” stated former teammate StrongSide, who was able to utilize his familiarity with Karma’s play style to take a game off the reigning champion during the Orlando Finals.

For the first Orlando Finals match, StrongSide had specifically geared his game around exploiting Karma’s noted tendencies. “He likes to stay top-center and run around in a circle. So I basically waited at one of the flags for him to come around the corner. When his back was toward me, that’s when it was go-time,” explained StrongSide, noting how he avoided Karma’s peek double-shot. StrongSide also ensured that Karma’s road to reclaiming top-center would be more taxing. “There are a couple of tricks on the map where you can get them to spawn only on the ground,” he noted.

To punish Karma’s habit of taking refuge behind top pillars when weakened, StrongSide attacked from the teleports. Karma explained, “He made sure that I had no grenades, and kept porting and shooting until I was forced to hide. He would launch grenades to the spot I was hiding, and would then port again and keep ‘nading the spot.” He added, “StrongSide was able to hold a near perfect strategy against my top middle tactic.”

While this game plan earned StrongSide a 15-10 Game 1 victory, it was rendered useless in Game 2 as Karma changed gears and took his game to the perimeter of the map. “Sometimes I have to shift up my strategy in-game, which is what defines me from other people; It’s my ability to adapt in-game to other people’s strategies,” offered Karma. During their second encounter, Karma dominated the run of play by stealthily moving about the map and catching StrongSide unaware. Implementing a play style that StrongSide had never witnessed, Karma rebounded to a 15-8 victory to take Orlando’s title.

Other than StrongSide, only two players have forced Karma to abandon his primary 1v1 strategy during the 2006 season. First is Hali, whose unique grenading expertise abused Karma’s tendency to predictably hold top-center. Keenly watching the radar, Hali precisely times his plasma grenades to catch Karma as he rounds the top pillars. When Karma sat stationary upon his perch for cover, Hali flushed him out of his hiding with frag grenades. Unable to rely upon commanding positioning, Karma was forced to engage Hali in a stealthy battle about the perimeter of the arena, collecting grenades and ultimately emerging victorious from their Anaheim and Chicago meetings after closely contested early stages of each match. Hali, who has qualified for New York’s Playoff Division, would face Karma in Round 1 of the Level 2 Playoff, should he advance that far. Amongst Hali’s Playoff Division opposition are KillerN, who took a game off Karma in the season opener, and the always-lethal Ogre 1.

Secondly is Final Boss’ captain, Walshy, who Karma views as the greatest threat to his title. Although Walshy failed to progress through the Free-for-All portions of the competition in Chicago and Orlando, he produced a thrilling 14-15 result in the Anaheim Finals, narrowly falling to Karma. In the eyes of the reigning champion, Walshy provides the most mentally engaging competition and always forces Karma to innovate his game play. With a strong variety of approaches, Walshy forces Karma to alter his game plan, as simply holding top-center lends Walshy the upper hand. Equally matched in skill, their clashes display highly developed mind-games, as the two lock wits in an effort to outsmart each other. Should they both emerge victorious from New York’s opening rounds, they will face a highly anticipated rematch of Anaheim’s Championship Match in New York’s Winners Bracket Finals.

Leading into New York, Karma looks to be facing the most difficult field of the season. Proven opponents Ogre 2, StrongSide and Walshy have each clinched Level 2 Playoff round berths, while Hali, KillerN and a wealth of other top talents battle for the final Level 2 seed and the right to face Karma in the first round. With increased prizes on the line, the opposition is sure to be gunning for Karma’s crown and New York’s top prize.

…but that’s not such a bad thing, because nobody has been able to beat him anyway. With the Playoffs getting closer, you can bet that the game’s top players will be looking to make their big move soon to snatch away the vastly increased prize money of the post-season tourneys.