The Halo 2 4v4 Championships: Coming Full-Circle

At the Eastern Conference Championships, a lot of spectators and competitive Halo fans got to see the match-up that they had been anxiously awaiting for the past several months. This was finally the event at which there would be a true lineup-to-lineup rematch between what are arguably the two most fabled teams in the entire Halo 2 world: Team 3D and Trademark Gamers. The hype between these teams’ meeting in Atlanta had grown to near-mythological proportions, as message boards lit up and community banter reached a fever-pitch over which team was truly the best.

Back at MLG Philadelphia in June, Team 3D suffered their only tournament loss (second place) of the MLG season at the hands of TmG’s (formerly Str8 Rippin) lineup of Zyos, Tsquared, Fonzi and Foulacy. In the blink of an eye, their phenomenal victory streak was broken, and for the first time all season, other pro players showed us that Walshy, Saiyan and the Ogre twins could be beaten. Team 3D remained absent from the MLG scene for the next several events, while other top players (including the aforementioned TmG members) dominated the intermittent tournaments. With so much time elapsed since the two teams last met, some people began to wonder if 3D would still prove to be the same dominant team that they had once been when the rivals finally met back up.

As many would have guessed by the previous tournament records of 3D and TmG, the two fabled teams first met up at MLG Atlanta in the Winners’ Bracket Finals. The road was quick and painless for Team 3D, dropping only a single game to Team EG along the way. However, TmG hit a pretty big speed bump in the form of LeGendZ, who brought one of their best-ever lineups to Atlanta. Vash, Defy, Toxin and TmG’s LA teammate Cpt Anarchy had a fantastic showing, and drew their series out to five games before falling just barely to TmG. This close-call was likely due equally to the outstanding play of LeGendZ and the shakiness of TmG at the event. Regardless, LeGendZ left a great impression on many spectators and will hopefully retain their roster and refine their game for MLG Chicago.

Saiyan proved deadlier than ever in Atlanta, reportedly due to his intense training before the event.

Immediately following their frightfully close match with LeGendZ, TmG found themselves in the Winners’ Finals with 3D. Both teams knew that there was a lot to prove in this series, and a lot more than prize money and ranking points on the line. TmG was faced with proving that they could repeat their success in Philly by once again ousting the top-ranked Halo team, and 3D was out to show the world that their one tourney loss was simply a stumble, and not a fall from greatness. Although 3D prevailed against TmG last month in a spectacular Championship match at MLG LA, the victory did not silence all doubt and question about which team had developed into the greater strength. This is primarily because with Cpt Anarchy standing in for Zyos in LA, many were left wondering what would have happened had Zyos attended, as he is seen as the team leader and strategic mastermind. This is not to take anything away from Anarchy, who is an outstanding player and did extremely well with TmG in LA — but it seemed like people simply wanted to see if the exact team that beat 3D once before could do it again.

The first game of King of the Hill Midship began just as any excited fan would have hoped, as both teams rocketed off the starting line and collided with highway-wreck impact. After a period of initial struggle, TmG found themselves with a growing lead and a lock-down on the majority of the map. They were out-slaying 3D and choking off all avenues to the hill with some concentrated firepower. As the gap widened from 20 to 40 to 60 seconds, it became unclear just how 3D would be able to come back. Through a couple of crucial kills, 3D was able to break TmG’s perimeter around the hill and then wasted no time getting to work on their own defenses.

It seemed as if they were finally finding their footing a bit in the game, and with each shot fired they chipped away at the deficit, eventually finding themselves down by only a few seconds at 2:32 – 2:17. Taking the lead at 2:33, the two teams battled with a tight score for a time, but 3D was eventually able to all but put a stop to TmG’s time in the hill. Knowing that they had just overcome a great obstacle, 3D was invigorated in both their play and communication, and their heightened resolve carried them through the next several hills, pulling ahead more and more with each one. When the match time expired, 3D had succeeded in a solid reversal and ended up winning the game 4:15 – 3:13. Slaying told the story of this game; with Tsquared being the only player on his team to have a positive ratio, TmG was deprived a lot of in-game and in-hill time due to having their defenses scattered and their players on the re-spawn much more often.

Game 1- KOTH Midship
Team 3D :: 4:15 – 3:13
3D Walshy 38 21 39 1:36
3D Saiyan 40 21 35 1:00
3D Ogre 2 45 21 36 :52
3D Ogre 1 44 26 27 :47
TmG Fonzi 27 19 46 1:47
TmG Zyos 35 21 40 :54
TmG T2 42 17 39 :29
TmG Foulacy 33 20 43 :03

Turning in a disgusting 53 kills and only 20 deaths, Ogre 2 had the audience’s full attention as he indiscriminately slaughtered nearly every opponent he encountered.

The two colossal talents clashed well in the first game, and although 3D won, they did not reach the score limit, the gap was somewhat marginal, and they had to make a comeback to do it. However, the wave they were riding on at the end of that game carried over into TS Sanctuary and produced some alarming results. While every member of 3D is a feared sniper, it still would have been hard to see the results of this Slayer match coming. 3D wasted no time taking control of the map and keeping tight surveillance on every open viewpoint that could potentially serve as a bullet path. An uncharacteristically one-sided Slayer game to occur this late in a tournament, 3D laid a beating on TmG, ending the game 50 – 25.

More than anything, this game served as an example of the great change that Saiyan has made to his game since LA — and really, since early in the season. There is no doubt that Saiyan has an absurdly high level of Halo skill — after all, he is a member of the most successful team ever to play the game — but many people (including his own teammates) have implied throughout the season that he has often relied solely upon that skill rather than putting in the amount of time that most other pros do working on improving their game. The fact that he has been able to get away with that and remain so successful is a great testament to his abilities, but his teammates have reported that Saiyan spent a great deal of time practicing for MLG Atlanta, and the changes in his game that resulted are simply amazing. If the great performances Saiyan has made throughout the season were largely the result of his relying on raw talent, then his newfound dedication to perfecting his game has doubled his worth — and he made sure to show off his handiwork throughout the entire tournament, turning in stellar performance after stellar performance. In fact, Saiyan’s enhanced playing may have been a big part of why 3D was so untouchable during MLG Atlanta, and why TmG seemed unable to find a vulnerable point in 3D’s armor to strike at.

Game 2 – TS Sanctuary
Team 3D :: 50 – 25
3D Saiyan 15 1 6
3D Walshy 15 5 5
3D Ogre 1 11 0 10
3D Ogre 2 9 3 4
TmG Foulacy 9 2 13
TmG Fonzi 6 2 13
TmG Zyos 5 3 16
TmG T2 5 2 8

Down by as many games as they’d played against 3D, TmG was against the ropes coming into CTF Warlock — in danger of being sent to the Losers’ Bracket. The members of 3D could certainly sense that TmG were beginning to doubt themselves, and took full advantage of the situation, talking a bit of trash to their opponents to further swing the momentum in their direction. While this kind of chatter is definitely a key part of the mental side of the game (and is common in all sports), it’s actually somewhat rare to hear 3D trying to demoralize their competition verbally. The difference here, in my opinion, was that this match-up in particular was personal, and for the first time in a good while, Team 3D was out to prove something through their play. Just before this game, however, Walshy warned his teammates that overconfidence could potentially be their Achilles’ Heel, and that they should be careful not to take anything for granted, because that is when they are in the most danger of losing control of a match.

Team 3D has an awful lot to smile about right now.

Unfortunately for TmG, 3D did not fall into that trap during the final game of the Winners’ Bracket. If there’s one map that 3D really knows how to make their own, it’s Warlock. Its open design lends itself well to 3D’s aggressive and coordinated team assaults, which were put to good use during this game. Ogre 2 nearly captured early on, but his attempt was squashed only feet from his base. Ogre 1 gave him another opportunity shortly after, tossing the flag up to him and putting 3D on the board first. TmG made a counter-attack, only to be doomed by bad luck as Ogre 1 spawned directly behind the flag carrier, assassinating him to return the flag while yelling, “You love it!”

Before 10 minutes had passed, 3D was leading 4 – 0, and the members of TmG became notably more frustrated as they saw the match slipping away. For a short time after that, the game reached a stalemate, with neither team able to put together any kind of effective assault. Zyos broke the standoff by scoring his team’s lone-capture for the game, running the flag back the entire length of the map, aided by heavy cover fire. Propelled by some efficient slaying and a few unreal double kills by Walshy’s “claw,” 3D was able to bring the game and series to a close with a final capture thrown by Ogre 1 up to Saiyan.

Game 3 – CTF Warlock
Team 3D :: 5 – 1
3D Saiyan 20 13 22 2
3D Ogre 2 27 16 25 2
3D Ogre 1 27 10 19 1
3D Walshy 27 16 20 0
TmG Zyos 23 14 24 1
TmG T2 20 11 22 0
TmG Fonzi 23 17 30 0
TmG Foulacy 20 7 25 0

With an authoritative 3 – 0 sweep, 3D sent TmG packing to the Losers’ Bracket, where they were made to face off against LeGendZ once more for the right to appear in the Eastern Conference Championship Finals. This time around, TmG made a much stronger showing in the match, defeating LeGendZ 3 – 0. With LeGendZ finishing third in the tournament, there was only one more match to be played that would decide who the Eastern Conference Champion Halo 2 team would be. Meeting back up with 3D in the Finals match, TmG had a steep climb ahead of them, already being down three games coming in.

If their confidence was shaken by the daunting task ahead of them, TmG didn’t let it show as they came out in full-force to continue the series with Oddball Lockout. For the majority of the game, the ball score was excitingly close, with neither team up by any significant time throughout. This definitely left the possibility of an underdog TmG comeback in the minds of onlookers, as everyone waited intently, trying to anticipate the next turn of events. What was amazing about this game is how incredibly lopsided the slaying was, yet how close the actual game score remained. While being constantly barraged by 3D’s dominating onslaught, TmG still managed to make great use of their time while they were alive, using clever tactics to scrape together the vital miscellaneous amounts of ball time that can mean all the difference in a timed objective game.

Meanwhile, Ogre 2 kept the audience floored with what was surely one of the most vicious games played by anyone at MLG Atlanta all weekend. Turning in a disgusting 53 kills and only 20 deaths, Ogre 2 had the audience’s full attention as he indiscriminately slaughtered nearly every opponent he encountered. His play during this game was so enthralling that he even somehow managed to get people excited about his sword kills (granted, they were sick sword kills), which any Halo 2 player will tell you is no small feat indeed. Upon reaching the 5:00 score limit, 3D had widened their series lead to 4 – 0 over TmG, and although the game had been relatively close, the match had never been further out of TmG’s grasp.

Game 4 – Oddball Lockout
Team 3D :: 5:00 – 4:15
3D Walshy 30 9 28 3:24
3D Ogre 2 53 6 20 1:01
3D Ogre 1 36 14 12 :27
3D Saiyan 26 11 25 :09
TmG Foulacy 21 14 37 1:43
TmG Fonzi 21 18 41 1:21
TmG T2 19 16 36 :43
TmG Zyos 22 15 32 :28

The fifth game in the series was TS Ivory Tower, a gametype that 3D is known to be somewhat weak with. Ogre 1 mentioned to me at the tournament that he didn’t think they had ever actually won this gametype at an MLG event before (I didn’t have the means to check and see if that statement was literally true, but it’s still an indication of their relative weakness with this gametype). Taking this into consideration, TmG stood a good chance to walk away with a win on this gametype despite the difficulty they were having handling 3D all throughout the series. TmG was leading early on by four or five kills, but each time they gained control of a weapon such as the rockets, Ogre 1 would disarm them with a well-placed snipe or shotgun blast, adding kills toward his excellent 13 – 4 game. The teams found themselves tied up at 26 kills apiece and struggled back and forth with the score for several minutes, at which point 3D began to pull away.

The layout of the map makes it very difficult to actually control the terrain, so 3D settled for simply controlling the weapons and stealthily moving about the map, taking advantage of every situation they could with the tools they had, always backed by each other’s supporting fire. When 3D ended the game at 50 – 38, they had TmG stretched to their absolute limit. The series was all but in the bag for 3D, and they only needed one more win to shut the book on MLG Atlanta. All season, nobody had ever overcome a five-game deficit in a Championship series, and TmG would not be the first team to do it.

Game 5 – TS Ivory Tower
Team 3D :: 50 – 38
3D Walshy 15 4 12
3D Ogre 2 15 5 11
3D Ogre 1 13 4 4
3D Saiyan 7 3 11
TmG Fonzi 14 5 13
TmG Zyos 9 5 11
TmG T2 8 2 10
TmG Foulacy 7 2 16

TmG had a great tournament by any standard, but they’re probably left feeling unsatisfied with the result…

The crowd knew that 3D was potentially one game away from not only defeating the team that had ousted them in Philly, but completely shutting them out 6 – 0 as well. TmG seemed resigned to defeat already, and simply didn’t have the morale or will to put up a good fight in CTF Midship. Team 3D saw that this game could be their big moment, so they laid the pressure on immediately when the game began, literally scoring two flags in two minutes. The crowd was electrified as 3D continued their campaign, and just about blew a gasket when they saw some of the stuff that was going on. Walshy found himself in a situation where he ran out of BR ammo in the middle of an assault, but rather than retreating to find more, he picked up a needler on his way and used it to kill an unsuspecting Tsquared. It appeared to be as much an act of showmanship as it was necessity, but the fact that he was able to pull it off not once, but twice during the game was just the nail in the coffin for TmG. Ironically, it was the same kind of move that Tsquared himself pulled against 3D in Philly on TS Gemini when he had run out of ammo, racking up several needler kills. In both cases, it was embarrassing for those who fell victim to it, as the needler is perhaps Halo’s ultimate weapon of disrespect. The combination of 3D’s demoralizing showmanship and their complete control of the game lead to a short 5 – 0 final game to cap off the Halo 2 4v4 event. Team 3D swept the series, and in fact the entire tournament in stunning fashion, and left the audience speechless, as almost nobody expected the fated rematch to be so one-sided.

Game 6 – CTF Midship
Team 3D :: 5 – 0
3D Walshy 18 11 9 3
3D Ogre 2 19 9 12 1
3D Saiyan 21 9 10 1
3D Ogre 1 22 16 8 0
TmG Fonzi 14 8 21 0
TmG Zyos 10 7 19 0
TmG Foulacy 8 4 21 0
TmG T2 7 11 19 0

People are bound to speculate about just what happened between 3D and TmG at MLG Atlanta, and much of it will quickly devolve into baseless and unprovable theories or just plain absurdity. There will of course be those who will claim that TmG should have stuck with Anarchy, because they “did better against 3D with him than with Zyos.” Others will say that TmG’s teamwork had fallen apart, and not practicing with their lineup of Zyos, T2, Foulacy and Fonzi for too long left them rusty and unprepared. Well, let me tell you that from the perspective of someone who observed the entire tournament for three days, that I don’t think it was either of those things necessarily. In fact, I don’t think it was really due to anything that TmG did or did not do at all. The simple fact is that Team 3D showed up with a chip on their shoulder and was hellbent on winning this tournament to erase any doubt in the minds of those who thought that their rein as champions would be over upon their next meeting with this TmG squad. And when a team of that caliber has a fire lit beneath them, there’s not much of anything you can do. The same thing that pushed TmG over the top in Philly stopped them cold in Atlanta.

The Team 3D that showed up to MLG Atlanta reminded me very much of their team at the beginning of the season as StK. Starting with MLG DC, Ogre 1, Ogre 2, Saiyan and Walshy were out to prove that even though Halo 2 was a different game from Halo 1, they could still master it and establish dominance over the 2005 MLG Season. It was a combination of talent and that drive to make a statement to the pro gaming world that made StK so unstoppable early on in the season, and as they continually proved their skill as a team over several events, it could be argued that they simply ran out of things they still needed to prove, which caused that flair and drive to wane somewhat. Meeting back up with the only team to have upset them all season once again gave Team 3D something to prove: that they still deserve to be considered the best Halo 2 team in the world. And they most certainly accomplished that in Atlanta…

Congratulations to the Prize Winners of MLG Atlanta!
Halo 2 4v4
1st Team 3D (Walshy, Saiyan, Ogre 1, Ogre 2) $6500
2nd Trademark Gamers (Zyos, Foulacy, Fonzi, Tsquared) $4000
3rd LeGendZ (Defy, Vash, Anarchy, Toxin) $2400
4th Team Cellular Oasis (Samurai650, Killer N, Bonfire, It Was Luck) $1800
5th Team EG (G-Spot, Sad Panda Eh, Blackjak, Strongside) $1200
5th Reload After Four (St0n3r, St0n3r 2, FoSsiK, Nitrouss) $1200
7th (xXx, Mack, Pistol, Detach) $800
7th H2K (Dark Vegetto, Lightking, IGameI, MeLLoZ) $800

Halo 2 FFA
1st 3D Ogre 2 $1200
2nd Karma $600
3rd TmG Fonzi $300
4th Strongside $200

SSBM Singles
1st Ken $2000
2nd Azen $1000
3rd ChuDat $600
4th Isai $400

SSBM 2v2
1st Ken/Isai $1000
2nd Husband/Wife $500
3rd Azen/Oro $300
4th GA-Wes/Mow $200

Check back soon for Part 2 of this MLG Eastern Conference Championship retrospective, in which the other matches and winners of this fantastic event will be highlighted.