The second Live Competition of the 2008 Pro Circuit, San Diego brought us some of the most unexpected results in the history of MLG. On the Richter Scale, San Diego came in at a 10, and we’ve yet to see the resulting aftershocks. With only three weeks until the next Live Competition, if any team changes are going to be made amongst the top teams, they’re going to be made at the expense of practice. For some teams, it may be better to wait and make those team changes after MLG Orlando, where there will be a larger window for a new team to practice and form chemistry.

Str8 Rippin came in to San Diego off a disappointing 5th place finish in the Meadowlands. With some of the biggest names on the circuit featured on their roster, anything less than 1st should be considered as falling short of their potential. In San Diego, Str8 Rippin lived up to their potential, taking home their first victory of the 2008 Season, a tournament in which they only dropped one game. After such a dominant performance, it will be interesting to see if any teams are able to close the gap before the next Live Competition.

San Diego Champions, Str8 Rippin, celebrate after their victory

The biggest story of San Diego though, was not who won the event, but rather who did not. Final Boss, the most dominant Halo team the league has ever known, finished outside of the Top 2 for the first time ever. In the past three years of MLG competition, this was the first time Final Boss had ever watched the Finals, rather than playing in them. Finishing five spots below their all-time lowest placement, this result was the biggest upset of the entire weekend without a doubt.

The first signs of trouble came on Saturday evening, after Final Boss dropped the first game in their series against 9th seeded Believe The Hype. As word began to spread across the venue, the crowd around the station began to grow. Final Boss fans watched in horror as Believe The Hype also took the second game of the series in a convincing manner. These games weren’t being won by a few points or kills, but rather in a crushing form, the games often being out of reach with several minutes remaining.

As the clock ticked down on the third and final game of the series, it was apparent that something wasn’t right with the 2007 National Champions. Believe The Hype had done the unthinkable, sweeping first seeded Final Boss in three games. Final Boss had been in the Losers Bracket before, but never this early. Still, there was optimism amongst the team and their fans that they would be able to regroup for Sunday and work their way back into the Championship Match. Because of such an early loss in the bracket, Final Boss had assumed a much tougher Losers Bracket than they had ever seen. If they wanted to place within the Top 6, they would need to knock out Triggers Down, a powerhouse in their own right.

Triggers Down were fresh off of a roster change, importing Victory X from third place Meadowlands finisher Instinct. Paired with Final Boss in a match to guarantee a spot in the Top 6, it was certain that one of these heavy hitters would finish in the 7th spot, based on the likeliness of either team winning their consolation match. Neither team would have been predicted to finish this low, but as fate would have it, after Final Boss lost to Believe The Hype, they also took their spot in the Losers Bracket. This position was slated to play Triggers Down. With both teams fighting for their tournament lives, the series went to a fifth and deciding game, one that was won easily by Triggers Down, eliminating any chance of a Meadowlands repeat. Final Boss had been eliminated. Fans were shocked. Final Boss looked stunned, showing little emotion, trying to absorb the loss into their psyche.

San Diego marked the first time in three years that Final Boss was not playing in the finals

In the past, when Final Boss had not finished 1st in an event, they came back the next event better prepared, filled with determination, and driven by the most recent loss. We’ve seen the way Final Boss reacts to a loss, and come Orlando, expect to see a refocused team that is going to let nothing stand in their way. Final Boss doesn’t do 7th place. Str8 Rippin and the other top finishers from this event better not discount them as competition, as any team doing so will be in for a rude awakening come Orlando.

For Believe The Hype, this was a tournament to remember. Finishing in the money for the first time as a team in the 2008 season, knocking the number one seed into the Losers Bracket in three games, and taking sixth place over all are just a few of the highlights for this team during San Diego. They’ve given new hope to other young, up-and-coming teams hoping to make a name for themselves on the circuit. While the players on the team have been relatively established in the league for some time now, finishing in the Top 6 brings them into a new level of spotlight and scrutiny. With the new experience this event brought them, they’ll likely be craving another solid performance in Orlando and the events following it.

Believe The Hype pulled off the upset and ended up finishing a very respectable sixth place

Not to be forgotten amidst the Final Boss story, is 2nd place finisher Instinct. After losing All-Star Victory X to Triggers Down, Instinct went after a young, rising player in Snipedown. Led by team captain Mackeo, Instinct used their individual skill and strong leadership to propel themselves into a second place finish. In the Losers Bracket Finals, the team found retribution, overtaking Triggers Down and ex Instinct member, Victory X in a four game series. The series did not start off well for Instinct, as Triggers Down took an early lead after the first game. Instinct did not lose focus though, and managed to come back and take the next three games of the series, securing themselves a spot in the Championship Match. Triggers Down had been eliminated, taking home 3rd place overall.

Although they were unable to knock off Str8 Rippin in the Championship Match, this event was ultimately a success for Instinct. Even with limited time to practice and bond with their new teammate, they managed to work as a cohesive unit and improve upon their already impressive Meadowlands performance. Unable to accomplish this feat however, was Classic. Classic shocked the circuit with a surprising 2nd place finish in the first event of this season. With the second seed coming into San Diego, Classic was able to pull out a respectable 5th place finish. Still, this is a team who desires to be the very best in the league and will not be satisfied with the placing. They will need to work hard in the next month to try and maneuver themselves past the teams who bested them in San Diego.

After Carbon’s disappointing finish in the Meadowlands, many people were worried that Carbon would be unable to make the transition into Halo 3. Some blamed their lack of focus and dedication while others just blew it off as a poor event. Carbon put any fears of their demise to rest this event with a very solid 4th place performance. They managed to ignore the criticism and played their game in San Diego, returning into the Top 4, a position they’ve become quite familiar with over the past couple of seasons.

Rounding out the Top 8 was Fatal Images, the only team in the Top 8 who finished in the same position in the first two events of the year. Their consistent play has gotten them into the Top 8 twice this season, and they hope that come Orlando, they will be able to improve upon this placing. Unfortunately for them, in their match for 7th place, they met up with Final Boss, an unlikely foe in a consolation match, as Final Boss had never partook in such a match before.

San Diego also presented a treat for fans of Halo 3 as the studio who produced the Halo series, Bungie, was on hand to check out the event. They also brought with them an exclusive map that had never before been seen outside of their headquarters. The map was dubbed “Cold Storage”, a map modeled after Halo 1 fan favorite Chill Out. Two teams were formed, pairing one Bungie staff member with pro player Karma and another with Legend. The two teams squared off in a first to 50 Team Slayer match on the new map. Fans were delighted to get a chance to see the map in action and kept their eyes glued to the screen as the players battled, staining the pristine walls for the first time.

Bungie staff members Lukems and Shiska each teamed up with a Pro Player and played an exhibition match on their newest map, Cold Storage

San Diego was a Live Competition that provided enjoyment for fans and players alike. The event itself will go down in history, presenting us with one of the biggest upsets ever in MLG play. The fierce competition raged on throughout the weekend and provided us with a new champion. Outside of the competition, the treat from Bungie was certainly a great surprise for fans. As the season rolls on, who knows what future Live Competitions may bring. New teams are clawing to get into the Top 8 while the teams holding those spots attempt to hold on. MLG Orlando is fast approaching and the anticipation is growing every day.