The Halo 2 FFA Finals — Deja Vu in the Deep South

After pitting 24 of the country’s best FFA players against each other, we were left with only two: Ogre 2 and Karma. A true testament to their dominant individual skills, this 1v1 Title Bout was a rematch of our Western Conference Finals in LA. For the second consecutive tournament, these two phenomenal players climbed to the top of the heap to meet up head to head for a $1,200 grand prize. Karma came into this event as the returning champ, having edged out Ogre 2 ever-so-slightly in a hard-fought three-game series at MLG LA. After such a fantastic match in LA, spectators couldn’t have been treated to anything better than this rematch. However, the conditions were not the same this time around — in fact the positions the players were coming from were reversed. In LA, Karma was the top-seeded contender going into the 1v1, which meant that he won the privilege of getting to host each of his matches against Ogre 2. Karma had beaten Ogre 2 in the Winners’ Finals, so when they met back up in the Championship Finals, he was already up by one game. At this event, however, the situation played out in exactly the opposite way.

As the Winners’ Finals began in Atlanta, each player came into it a bit more experienced, having seen each other’s 1v1 strategies and styles when they butted heads a mere month before. Ogre 2 came out swinging from the start with a cross-map carbine kill, but was soon matched by Karma. When the score was tied at two kills apiece, Ogre 2 was blessed with a lucky spawn on top of the map behind Karma — ironically almost the exact same spawn Karma got in LA that enabled him to assassinate a camouflaged Ogre 2 and swing the momentum of the match. However, those suffering from Deja Vu were quickly snapped back to reality as Karma was actually watching for that possible spawn and quickly dispatched Ogre 2 to take the lead, soon after finding the score 5 – 3 in his favor.

Ogre 2 was able to tie the match up with a surprise shotgun blast, which led to a bit of a standoff. With the clock ticking away the seconds, both players knew they could not afford to give away the lead, because it could allow their opponent to gain control of the map and several kills could be sacrificed in rapid succession. There was such an air of caution, that even when one would kill the other they would still not make any gutsy moves, both preferring to let the other reveal their position before taking any action. This caused the players’ scores to rise together until they were tied once again with 11 kills. With less than a minute left in the game, Ogre 2 saw that he was at a situational disadvantage in terms of map position, and chose to wait out the clock while Karma patrolled the center platform, hoping to get one last kill and knock his opponent to the Losers’ Bracket. When time expired the two were still tied, so a five-minute tiebreaker match had to be played to determine the winner.

Ogre 2 put his experiences against Karma from LA to good use in Atlanta, defeating his 1v1 rival in another classic match.

As soon as the tiebreaker game began, Ogre 2 rushed to the top to get the first camo, and then began hunting for his opponent. Karma darted out from behind cover upon being found and went for a beatdown kill, but Ogre 2′s unwavering accuracy got him a clutch head shot for the kill. After two minutes of play the score was only 2 – 1 in Ogre 2′s favor, at which point he hid behind a flag base and simply sat still. Spectators began to wonder if he was actually going to try to wait out the rest of the match for the win, but time revealed that he was simply observing Karma’s movement and waiting for the new camo to spawn. Knowing that Karma would go for the power-up, Ogre 2 jumped out when the time was right and lofted a grenade into Karma’s jumping path, finishing him off with a head shot. As the time limit drew nearer, it became apparent that Karma would not have enough time to catch up. Ogre 2 played conservatively in the final minutes, which was the smartest thing to do only up two kills over a marksman as proficient as Karma. Winning the match 5 – 3, Ogre 2 sent Karma to the Losers’ Bracket and ensured his spot in the Championship Finals.

Finding himself in the Losers’ Finals, Karma had to take out Fonzi if he hoped to have another shot at defeating Ogre 2 and repeating his first place performance from LA. Fonzi is well-known for his FFA prowess, and would prove to be a dangerous and cunning adversary for the returning champ. Their first game was extremely strategically played, with each player quick to abort any firefight that was not going their way. Because of this, the score was all tied up at 6 with only 3:00 left in the game. With a newfound urgency, something clicked for Fonzi at that point, causing him to stop Karma in his tracks and dominate the map. Shot after shot, Fonzi chipped away at Karma, using brilliant grenades and player placement to corner his opponent for each kill. After controlling the top of the map and the camo, Fonzi found himself with a late-match Killing Spree, which resulted in an 11 – 6 victory. This win tied their series 1 – 1, because Karma had defeated Fonzi in the Winners’ Bracket only a short time before.

The final match of the series would not go as well for Fonzi, as Karma took advantage of his fresh start immediately, taking an early lead and never letting go. His 3 – 0 lead quickly became 9 – 2, and what could have been an upset of the reigning FFA champ quickly turned into a one-sided fight. Although Fonzi was able to notch a couple more good kills along the way, there was simply no stopping Karma once he got rolling, and the game ended 15 – 5, which meant that he would once again be facing Ogre 2 for the FFA title.

Making his second 1v1 Finals appearance in a row, Karma has become known as one of the best individual players out there, bar-none.

This time, Karma got a taste of what it’s like to come into the Finals as the underdog, already down a game against Ogre 2 (the situation was the exact opposite when the two met up in LA). Ogre 2 would host any and all games in the series, as he won the top seed during the qualifying rounds, steepening the hill Karma would need to climb. Undaunted, Karma got on the board first with two quick kills, only to be countered by Ogre 2′s precision carbine shooting. After the first couple of minutes, the match once again took on a careful, deliberate tone, with each player equally aware of how deadly the other could be. Karma gradually began to pull ahead, finding himself with a 10 – 5 advantage with 5:00 left. He had been amazing the audience with his incredible accuracy, winning many of his fights from a position of disadvantage on marksmanship alone.

Ogre 2 made a last-minute bid to catch up, scouring the map for Karma as quickly as possible, but it would not prove successful as Karma would win the game 12 – 8. The series would be forced to go to a third game to reveal who would reign as the Eastern Conference FFA Champ. This final match would prove to as closely-matched as it was exciting, sporting a rather guerrilla-warfare atmosphere. This time, Ogre 2 would grab the lead early on, finding himself up 7 – 3 after nailing an impossible 7-shot cross-map carbine kill on a frantically weaving Karma. Stretching his lead to 10 – 5, Ogre 2′s hot streak was finally ended by Karma as he swooped down camouflaged for an unexpected melee kill. “He hunted me down like The Predator!” exclaimed Ogre 2 with a smile as he waited to respawn.

Suddenly put at a disadvantage, Ogre 2 knew not to take too many more chances in the match, because his 13 – 8 lead needed to last the remaining 2:30 of the match. Karma began to rampage around the map, using grenades to flush out possible hiding spots and jumping around constantly trying to force battles in an attempt to catch up. He did an excellent job of it too, but simply was not able to make up the deficit before time ran out. He caught up considerably in the final minutes, but Ogre 2 was able to hold on to his lead in convincing fashion, and won the match 14 – 12, earning the honor of being the Eastern Conference FFA Champion. He had overcome the very opponent who defeated him in LA, proving that there are perhaps no two players as equally matched in FFA as these two — and after their second consecutive CC Finals match-up, there is not likely anyone else out there who can compete with them at this point in time either.

Smashing It All Up Yet Again

Just as it has been all season, our Eastern Conference Championship Smash tournaments featured a wide-array of the world’s best talent, heavily represented by many top players from both sides of the infamous American East/West Coast rivalry, which always generates electrifying competition. The majority of the game’s elite were in attendance, fighting over a $6,000 prize purse and invites to MLG’s National Championships in NYC, where the winners will be taking home ridiculous spoils and recognition as the top pros in the world.

Proving once again that he is simply one of the best Smashers in the world, Ken took home first place honors in the Smash 1v1 competition, but it was not without some serious battling. Ken was met with extreme resistance in the Winners’ Bracket Semi-Finals, as he was matched up with Azen, one of the East Coast’s very finest. In an interview with MLG a few months back, Azen commented that one of his main goals in Smash was to finally defeat Ken in a series — something that he had never accomplished in tournament play before. He finally realized this goal at MLG Atlanta, taking Ken to task in a hard-fought but authoritative 3 – 1 victory.

Azen defeated ChuDat to land himself a spot in the Championship Finals, while Ken had to work his way back through the Losers’ Bracket in hopes of getting another shot at the opponent who pushed him to the brink of elimination. Starting out in Round 3 of the Losers’ Bracket, Ken had an excrutiatingly tough road ahead of him. After first defeating Oro, Ken had to face Isai, his long-time 2v2 partner and the very player who won first place in the MLG LA 1v1. Although Ken defeated Isai in a 3 – 1 series, he was rewarded only with another match against one of the world’s best players: ChuDat. Ken was able to oust ChuDat in a solid 3 – 0 series to meet back up with Azen in the Championship Match.

Isai and Ken – Can anybody stop these guys?

While Ken was the top-ranked player at the tournament, he was still coming into this match-up at a serious disadvantage, as he would have to win two series in order to claim victory. With a wall of momentum built up over his several tough matches in the Losers’ Bracket, Ken muscled through his first series against Azen 3 – 0, forcing a final series to determine the Eastern Conference Champ. As all who were in attendance know, this final series could not have been any closer. This is definitely one to catch on the Atlanta VoD, as well as part of Bach’s popular Smash video series. To borrow from Ray’s official MLG event report, this match-up went down to the final game of the final set, and even to each player’s final stock. At 52% damage, Ken’s Fox defeated Azen’s Peach on DK 64 to secure him the first place prize of $2,000. It was a fantastically played match by both players, and has likely built up a lot of tension for the anticipated and inevitable rematch between the two at a future MLG tournament (hopefully in Chicago this month). Congratulations to Ken, Azen, ChuDat and Isai, who all took home a chunk of the prize money for their excellent showings at MLG Atlanta.

Top 8 1v1 Smash
1) Ken
2) Azen
3) ChuDat
4) Isai
5) Husband
5) Oro
7) Mike G
7) Wife

The Smash 2v2 tournament was dominated by Ken and Isai, who are easily the most notorious 2v2 team in the world. As all Smash fanatics know (but perhaps not many of the newcomers — and we’re getting more and more by the day), Ken and Isai are as good as 2v2 teams come, and are in fact quite literally undefeated in team play at tournaments. Backing up their legendary status, the duo defeated Husband and Wife (who had an excellent tournament themselves) in the Championship Match to put yet another accolade on their tournament resumes. That any one team can have such a string of consecutive victories is simply astounding, and it leaves many to wonder just what can be done about such overpowering teamwork and skill. Congratulations to Ken and Isai, as well as Husband and Wife, Azen and Oro, and GA-Wes and Mow, who were all awarded prize money for their performances in the Smash 2v2 competition.

Top 8 2v2 Smash
1) Isai & Ken
2) Husband & Wife
3) Azen & Oro
4) GA-Wes & Mow
5) ChuDat & Mike G
5) Halo2Guy & Nova
7) Synika & Tom Delong
7) Co + Me & Happy

[Note: Special thanks goes out to Ray (Captain Sparrow), who is MLG's head statistician during events. He worked diligently throughout the tournament to record and report stats on all of the Smash matches, in addition to many of the Halo matches. His Smash coverage has led to a greater level of detail than has ever been recorded for tournament matches, giving the readers a much better idea of how each match really went, and allowing those who were not in attendance to understand the tournament as if they were there.]