By Joe “Dyslexia” Renaud

Just after Houston I got a chance to sit down with Str8 Rippin’s Foulacy over XBL to discuss his team’s continuing success at MLG events. True to the California way, he’s a really laid-back guy, which totally belies his destructive presence in the Halo 2 world. Beneath that understated personality is one hell of an ambitious player, he’s a founding member of one of Halo 2′s most successful clans, and has been flying all over the country to prove that he belongs with the best of the best. Having placed in the top four at each MLG event so far and noticing improvement all the time, Foulacy is very optimistic about his team’s future. And really, he’s got every reason to be. After his fifth place FFA finish and his team’s 3rd place at Houston, Str8 Rippin has definitely cemented a spot as a top contender. Read on to find out about Foulacy’s experiences, his views on the other teams and players, and how he got to be where he is today.

MLG: What were your feelings after Houston? You guys eliminated Legendz pretty handily just before losing to StK 3 – 1 in the losers bracket finals. Overall it was a pretty darn good tourney for you guys.

Foulacy: Well, going in I already knew that the top four teams would be us, StK, x6 and Legendz, so we just focused on the tournament knowing that we were going to have to play either x6 or VGA in the losers bracket finals (or right before that). We focused on those gametypes and I guess Legendz didn’t as much, and we just employed our strategies and pulled away.

MLG: So basically, you knew that you would make it to a certain point in the tournament, so you just practiced the important parts where things came into question.

Foulacy: Yeah, exactly.

MLG: What did you think of your series against StK?

Foulacy: Ummm… we really didn’t want to play StK there (in the losers bracket finals). We practiced that for playing x6 hopefully. Zanzibar 1 Flag CTF was the third game, and the third game is basically the most important, so we practiced that one a lot. I guess it showed because we beat StK in that game.

MLG: Yeah, that was a really close one too. They almost capped (which would have resulted in a tie game), but you stopped them on the beach right next to the base. It was really an amazing game. You said you were practicing to play against x6 in this series, but what is the difference between the teams’ styles that make you practice differently depending on which team you’re against?

Foulacy: StK basically controls the whole map in games of power, and x6 does a lot more running around and doing the objective the whole entire time. StK just destroys your team, so we were doing more of a strategy where we also got hill time instead of controlling the map, so when we played StK they basically just destroyed us, because we were just prepared to fight close range battles and not get completely destroyed from a distance and on the spawn.

MLG: So what StK does is just kill people from a distance and keep them spawning, and hop in the hill when it’s convenient but x6 would sit in the hill a lot more often?

Foulacy: Yeah, a lot more often. That’s what I think made a little difference for them versus StK. They were getting a lot of hill time while StK was controlling a certain side of the map and one of the x6 guys was alive and he’d be in the hill. StK doesn’t usually do that kind of thing.

MLG: What do you think has been your team’s progression throughout the season in terms of performance? Do you think you’ve gotten better at each tournament?

Foulacy: Yeah, I think we’ve done better at each and every tournament. At San Francisco we did really well, there weren’t that many good teams there, but we did a lot better than I thought we were going to do. Against the good teams we did really well.

“There are a few Halo 1 pros out there that are still doubters. They’re going to be at Orlando and we want to prove it to them too.”

MLG: What were you shooting for in Houston? What place did you think you were going to get going in?

Foulacy: I’m assuming that we’re going to get third at every tournament. We’re closing the gap on x6 and we can beat them. In Houston we were really cold when we played them the first time, and we lost 3 – 0. But in every other tournament it’s been 3 – 2 in every bracket round, taking it to the tiebreaker. I know that if we do that again, we can win the tiebreaker next time.

MLG: Some people are starting to say that the gap between x6 and StK is closing up, so if you feel like the gap between Str8 Rippin and x6 is closing, then do you think that means that you could overtake either team?

Foulacy: I don’t think we could beat StK. X6 might do it, but not any time soon. They’re going to have to practice harder and more than StK, because I know that after Houston StK is gonna go berserk with their practice time to make sure they’re solid for Orlando. They kinda got a little distraught I think more so than x6 was closing the gap. They were just sorta playing poorly (for them).

MLG: As Fonzi mentioned in his MLG interview, it seems like you guys sorta have to prove something to everybody because you weren’t big names in Halo 1. Do you think you’ve accomplished that by this point?

Foulacy: Not quite yet. There are a few Halo 1 pros out there that are still doubters. They’re going to be at Orlando and we want to prove it to them too.

MLG: So there are still people out there that actually refuse to respect the fact that you guys are good?

Foulacy: They just think that since they were better at Halo 1, they’re better at Halo 2 also. But it’s a completely different game.

MLG: Your lineup has been a little bit different at each tournament. Do you feel that there’s a four-man lineup that would result in your strongest possible team? Your performances seem to be pretty similar no matter which combination you bring to the tournaments.

Foulacy: Right. I’m not really sure what our strongest team would be. I think our DC team was our weakest one, but other than that, I’m not really sure. We’re changing our lineup again for Orlando, and hopefully that will become our strongest lineup.

MLG: Who’s it gonna be for Orlando?

Foulacy: It’s me, Fonzi, Tsquared and K 2the ArmA.

MLG: So Tsquared is officially in Str8 Rippin now?

Foulacy: Yeah, well after he left x6, he just became like this huge free-agent you could say. It’s like if Shaq or Kobe were a free-agent. That’s Tsquared. We viewed the situation, and we had a couple of options for our team, and we figured out that Tsquared would fit our team really well. He’s like the style of player we need on our team to control the maps and stuff.

MLG: What was the main quality in his play style that made you want to grab him?

Foulacy: He’s really smart, and in desperate situations he manages to stay alive a lot. He manages to get lots of running riots in powerful positions, and we really needed another player like that. I kind of do that, but I run around a lot to, and having him will really help.

MLG: With the way you’ve kept changing tourney lineups, what do you think are the common ties between all the different players that have taken you to the top three or four at every event?

Foulacy: Well we play together with everybody who’s been in our lineup all the time in custom games, so we know how each other play. We just pick and choose from those people and tie together different strategies from each of the players and try to make a team with a good mix of all the different skills. For example, some people are especially good at close or long-range combat.

MLG: You guys seem to have a lot of really high-level players in your clan, a lot of people near the top, both in Matchmaking rankings and in tournament skill. How did you accumulate all these players?

Foulacy: The clan was started by six players in the Bay Area. It was me, Fonzi, Seven Sins, Samurai 650, X-Rated 650 and Stizzy. We just made this clan and got high on the Matchmaking Leaderboards right away (shortly after the game’s release) just playing really hard. Eventually we attracted a lot of people like Walka and Panda from Canada, they didn’t really have teams because in Canada, you can’t really LAN with people. You’re just on XBC and whatnot. So we got in contact with them over Xbox Live and were just like “Man, these guys are really good and they don’t belong to any clan or play with any people in particular.” So they just joined up with us. Basically, all the members of our clan are people like that. Just really good players.

MLG: Yeah, I noticed that probably more than any other clan, the top guys in Str8 Rippin are all over the top of the XBL Leaderboards. Do you think that you guys put more emphasis on Matchmaking than other teams?

Foulacy: Well, a lot of people want to join big clans and stuff, but you can’t just say “This is me, I want a tryout, blah blah blah.” We need to have some physical evidence that you try really hard more so than just that you’re really good. So with Matchmaking you can look at the top 20, and the 20th person could be the best person up there, but it’s just a matter of how hard you try to get up there. And that’s what you need to be on a really good team.

MLG: Do you put a lot of stock in the value of Matchmaking ranks as a measure of skill?

Foulacy: A lot of our players, like BlAcKjAk, Walka and Panda, love to play Matchmaking and get high on the Leaderboards. It’s kinda intense. You just have that one SMG, so you’ve gotta be really good at killing people. With a lot of the top players in Matchmaking, their ranks really do match their skill.

MLG: But like you said, it can be tough to tell who’s really the best, because there’s the factor of how hard they tried to get to the top.

Foulacy: Yeah, it’s true. It’s also what team you’ve been playing with. A lot of the people on the top play with a different team every time, but out team members play with the same people all the time.

MLG: I noticed when I was watching Str8 Rippin at Houston that you guys seem to dual-wield a whole lot more than the other top teams. Do you think that has something to do with the fact that you guys play so much Matchmaking (no BR spawns)? Is it a conscious part of your team strategy?

Foulacy: I think it’s a really effective strategy. You can come out dual-wielding, and if you come near a guy, he’s gonna die. A lot of people refuse to dual-wield. They’re kinda used to just holding onto that one single weapon like in Halo 1.

MLG: With the MLG starting settings, you have to go pick up both of those weapons for the dual-wield. Do you think that bothering to go pick those up puts you out of your way a little too much?

Foulacy: I don’t necessarily pick up any dual-wields unless it’s like right on the way or I spawn between a couple of them. If I’m not killing them with my battle rifle and grenades and they have good weapons, sometimes it’s necessary to go out of your way to pick up dual-wields.

“Well, our first goal is to create a lineup that goes to each event so that our teamwork can continue to build with the same people and we can learn exactly what they’re going to do in every situation. Then we want to beat x6, and then just get to the nationals and do really well. And maybe beat StK, you never know.”

MLG: Would you say that your team strategy as far as killing goes is to pick up dual-wields and catch people in close quarters to tear them up because no one else has a dual-wield?

Foulacy: That’s one of our strategies. The other is to control the rockets, control the sword and get a sniper.

MLG: You made it to the final eight in the FFA’s at Houston and got fifth place. What do you think it was that carried you through to the final round?

Foulacy: Well the first couple rounds actually proved to be more difficult than the later ones. I was kinda not warmed-up. I had waited around to be called. My teammates actually got to go twice before I got to go for the first time. I don’t know… You basically just want to steal kills the whole way. I barely passed through the first couple rounds. I was getting third or fourth but I kept passing through. In the semifinals, Tsquared was in my bracket and he was on fire, winning by 20 kills the whole way, and right when he was getting 50, I just pulled away and got into the finals.

MLG: Do you wish that the final couple of FFA rounds went into a 1v1 like it used to or do you like the current setup?

Foulacy: Maybe a four-person FFA would be cool, on like Midship. But this game doesn’t really suit 1v1 or even a four-person FFA. In that eight-person FFA, those are all going to be really top-tier players in the final round so I think just getting first place in that is enough.

MLG: Aside from the guys in your clan, who do you practice with most of the time when you play custom games?

Foulacy: We practice a lot with StK and TsK. We play sometimes with Legendz, Defy and Vash, those guys.

MLG: So it’s pretty much just the teams that finish at the top of the tournaments. Can you feel yourself catching up with them the more you play with them and learn their strategies and habits?

Foulacy: Mmmm… I dunno. Well with StK, the first several times we played them we didn’t even know what was happening. They knew stuff that we hadn’t figured out yet, and after playing with them over and over you just kind of learn how to do it. You learn where to go and where to stand. You kinda copy them in a way.

MLG: But you said earlier that you don’t see yourself beating them real soon, yet you know their strategies and how they play. What is it that keeps them apart?

Foulacy: Well, those guys just have incredible teamwork. If you kill Ogre 2, Saiyan is gonna kill you. You’re just guaranteed that if you kill one of them all three of them are going to aim for you right away. It takes a lot to separate them, to get them out away from their team. Also, those guys are just the best shooters, in my opinion. They have everything.

MLG: When did you first get involved with the Halo tourney scene?

Foulacy: I went to one MLG last season, but I played Halo 1 pretty much since the beginning. We would just sit around at our houses and LAN 2v2. We played hours of LAN every single day. Last year someone was like “MLG” and I was like “what’s that.” I don’t know… There’s not really a big MLG presence on the West Coast. We went to MLG San Francisco (2004 season) and got fourth in the 4v4, and I think Fonzi got top 32 in the FFA. Only me and Fonzi from that team are returning this year for MLG tourneys.

MLG: So what do you see in the future for Str8 Rippin the rest of the season?

Foulacy: Well, our first goal is to create a lineup that goes to each event so that our teamwork can continue to build with the same people and we can learn exactly what they’re going to do in every situation. Then we want to beat x6, and then just get to the nationals and do really well. And maybe beat StK, you never know.