In little over a week since the end of MLG’s fourth stop of the 2006 Season, a chain reaction has begun that will change the landscape of the Pro Tour for the rest of the year. After some disappointing finishes and a few surprise upsets, all the little parts necessary for change were finally brought together and mixed. Add the heat of the Chicago tournament matches, and suddenly MLG’s Pros are making team changes that will surprise many and affect everyone on the tour.
The first domino to fall was Defy. He joined Str8 Rippin at the beginning of the 2006 Season and helped them to defeat all challengers except champions Final Boss in New York and again in Dallas. Their team appeared to have a rock-solid foundation, but gradually the chemistry came apart for reasons unknown. After falling to Carbon in Anaheim and getting hung up with a disappointing 7th place finish in Chicago, Defy began to look elsewhere. Within a few days of returning home from Chicago, Defy was already talking to former teammates Mack and Vash and the three agreed to reform Legendz.
Although they still placed third at MLG Chicago, Carbon felt that a roster change was necessary to break through to the next level, and StrongSide was released from the line-up. He now plays with Legendz alongside Defy, Mack and Vash.
“I just wasn’t having fun anymore playing with Str8,” Defy said as he explained his reasons for the team change. It seemed the pressure of being on a Top 3 team that was under-performing was frustrating for the pro. When asked whether the 7th place Chicago finish had anything to do with his decision to leave Str8 Rippin, Defy had this to say: “It was one of many factors, but it’s safe to say that if we had finished Top 3 in Chicago we would still be a team.”
The next major change has proven to be not only surprising, but somewhat controversial among the MLG fan base and within the pro ranks. Currently sitting in second place in the point standings, Carbon released StrongSide from their team this past weekend in a move that they claim was necessary to give them a shot to defeat Final Boss.
“StrongSide needed to be released because he wasn’t playing up to the standard of a Top 3 team,” Gandhi said in an interview Monday. Despite being one of the best individual slayers on the tour, the opinion of the members of Carbon was that StrongSide was struggling in his roles during 4v4 matches. They claim he often was too swept up in slaying to accomplish the tasks he was given or to patiently set up with the rest of his team.
After the disappointing 7th place finish in Chicago, Defy left Str8 Rippin to return to his Halo 2 roots as part of Legendz.
“I’m generally against team changes 100 percent,” said Shockwav3 in the interview. “But we let Ben (Karma) talk to StrongSide about it since they’re such good friends.” No one is sharing what went on in that particular conversation, but in the end StrongSide agreed to leave Carbon and the guys on the team all agreed to maintain their friendships. StrongSide himself said, “We’re still friends. I just hope it all works out for the best in the end.”
So that left two of the top teams on the tour with major holes to fill, which is where eX enters into the equation. Just days after returning from Chicago, Cpt Anarchy and GH057ayame met in an Xbox Live chatroom to discuss their team’s practice schedule, but instead ended up both making team changes. GH057 informed Anarchy that Carbon was discussing releasing StrongSide from their team, and if that happened he’d be joining the Carbon lineup.
“I told Carlos (Cpt. Anarchy) about possibly leaving to go to Carbon and that Str8 was also looking for a new fourth,” Ghost explained to MLGPro.com this week. “He left the room we were in and came back five minutes later to tell me he was moving to Str8 Rippin.” When Carbon officially released StrongSide over the weekend, GH057 immediately left eX and joined the new Carbon roster, filling out the remaining open hole at the top of the rankings. “I’ve always wanted to team with Carbon,” GH057ayame said later on. “I just never had the chance to team up with those guys. Now I’m finally getting my chance.”
Defy and the members of the new Legendz team had also made moves to secure a solid lineup. Realizing that StrongSide’s position on Carbon was in jeopardy and that his points would put their newly formed team into a Top 4 seed in Orlando’s Championship Bracket, they called him and offered him a spot on their team. Mack told MLGPro.com that, “Eventually he (StrongSide) kind of decided that it would be better to join our team since we actually wanted him and it would make things easier on everyone.”
With the Dream Team Clause in effect, Legendz should walk right through the Open Bracket and into a 4th place seed. Every member of the team has expressed excitement about the solid team chemistry they’ll have since all of them but StrongSide have played together in the past. Summing up their optimism nicely, Defy said, “I’d like to say that we’ll be a Top 6 team for sure at the Finals (National Championships), but I’d be shocked if we weren’t at least Top 8 in Orlando.”
GH057ayame fulfills one of his greatest goals, landing a spot with a Top 3 team in Carbon.
Of course, all of this team-changing left a few players out in the cold. Mimic and Pistol were the remaining members of eX, and after initially reporting that they would be sitting out the remainder of the 2006 season, both were picked up by new teams. Mimic will be joining the latest iteration of MoBDeep.net and Pistol will join Team Terrabite. Neither player, however, will be near the position they were in with eX.
So what does this mean for the competition in Orlando? It means all of the players orchestrating the team changes will have to put their money where their mouths are and perform well with their new teammates. As long as no upsets happen earlier in the tournament, Round 3 of the Winners Bracket should pit the new Carbon against Shook on3 Gaming, Str8 Rippin’s new lineup against XiT Woundz, Chicago surprise-heroes Storm Ventures against the newly formed Legendz, and Vanity Gaming (formerly PowerTripBev.com) against returning champions Final Boss.
Carbon has already set out to practice with their new lineup, and according to the team things are looking good. Gandhi has reported that the team chemistry has improved with GH057ayame in the mix and that they’ve already been able to settle into roles. If you’re watching Carbon on VoD during Orlando, look for them to settle into more defined roles than in previous events. GH057 will likely fill the objective role on the team, freeing Gandhi up to slay most of the match and reducing Shockwav3′s responsibilities on the ball or flag. Karma will be able to settle into his preferred role of support slayer, defending the objective carrier and finishing off kills with his spectacular battle rifle. The changes to Carbon might prove somewhat detrimental however, if some of the other pros on the tour are to be believed.
“I just don’t get it,” Storm Ventures’ Poon said over Xbox Live this weekend. “We placed like 16th at an event and everyone assumed we were going to break up. We stuck together, improved and took second in Chicago. Carbon still gets Top 3 and they make a roster change? That just doesn’t make sense.” Other members of Top 8 teams have made similar criticisms of the move, explaining that part of Carbon’s wild successes over the last seven months have stemmed from their amazing slaying abilities and their unpredictable charging. Without StrongSide in the mix, many believe that character of their team won’t be the same and it will make them susceptible to weaknesses they’re not prepared for. If other Pro teams find a way to leverage that against them, it could prove disastrous. Ogre 1 summed up the sentiment of many pros on the tour briefly in a conversation with MLGPro.com on Carbon’s team change. “It was a bad move. I don’t think Carbon should have changed a thing,” he commented.
Cpt Anarchy sits once again alongside Str8 Rippin, hoping to help bring the team back to glory after the rough ride in Chicago.
Str8 Rippin, on the other hand, seems to be getting much praise from not only other pros on the tour, but from their former teammate Defy as well. “Carlos (Anarchy) will fit very well on their team. They’re all great guys and I think they’ll do very well with him on the team,” Defy offered. That statement reflected the general opinion of the pros about Str8′s move to pick up Cpt Anarchy. Defy was an excellent slayer for their team, generally playing support-slayer behind Tsquared’s excellent use of power weapons to control a map for their team. Anarchy, too, is used to slaying off the power weapons and the consensus around the league is that pound-for-pound, he will not cause any drop in slaying proficiency for Str8. Anarchy has teamed with the men of Str8 Rippin before as well, meaning their team chemistry is unlikely to be thrown off too much by the change. All that said, do not expect a repeat of Chicago’s poor performance from the third ranked team on the tour.
The final team to watch out of all this is obviously the new Legendz. Opinions vary about their future on the tour. All of these players have had their moments to shine on the MLG stage and Mack, Vash and Defy have had success as a unit before with various fourth men, but many question the chemistry that they’ll have as a unit in the current competitive atmosphere. Vash will almost certainly run the objective for the team, but who will be the main slayer? Who will settle into a support role? Mack, StrongSide and Defy are all excellent slayers in their own right, but they will have to find some sort of comfortable system for choosing who gets power weapons and how they set up. Even Mack himself admitted they’ll be playing a more fluid style that could hurt them on maps like Sanctuary or Beaver Creek. On Midship, however, watch out for these impressive slayers to surprise their opponents again and again.
The tour continues to change and evolve, and with it, the players that make up the professional ranks. With the new rosters set in stone for the remainder of the 2006 Season, now they can only settle in to practice and work to pull off in-tournament what they are hoping for with their new teammates. Chicago was the catalyst and changes have been made, but we might not see the final results of the chain reaction until the National Championships. For the time being, sit back, tune into VoD and watch the fireworks in Orlando.