By Stalking Elmo

At the conclusion of the 2011 Halo: Reach Season, Roy and Pistola of team Instinct were named the two Most Valuable Players.  We sat down to pick their collective brains about the Season, the new settings being used in the MLG playlist, and the eternal individual-versus-team skill debate.

MLG: So first off, Congratulations on taking home 1st Place at Nationals, as well as half of 2011's Halo: Reach Events. Was this a cathartic win after the two losses in Raleigh and Orlando?

Roy: Coming off of losses in the previous two Events, we were all fired up going into Nationals and were expecting nothing less than to win. We got in some good practice before the tournament, including a LAN at The LAN Network, which got our team completely on the same page.

Pistola: Thank you, sir! We didn't place as well as we would have liked at Raleigh and Orlando, but going into Nationals we knew this is what we worked for all Season long. We practiced a lot online and had a LAN thanks to TLN. We knew this was the best practice we could have before Nationals, so we tried 110% that whole weekend [at the LAN] and played great in my eyes. It set the tone for the next weekend, and I feel we came out wanting it more than anyone else. We took it home and, let me tell you, it's one of the best feelings a gamer could have!

MLG: Excellent. Pistola, your birthday was that Sunday. Apparently you must have wished for a National Championship MVP title when blowing out the candles. Did having your birthday fall on Championship Sunday give you guys an extra spark of inspiration to deliver the ownage in higher dosages than usual?

Roy: It's an advantage in my eyes. It just gives everybody that little extra to play for, which I felt gave our team a slight edge going into every series. Having the wizard on your team in the first place does't hurt at all.

Pistola: Thank you! Funny thing is my Dad's birthday was that Saturday–too many Birthdays in one weekend! It's an advantage for sure; everyone on my team already wanted to win, but they also wanted to win for my birthday. So it gave us a lot of inspiration going into Sunday, and I gave it my all for my date of Birth! [laughs]

MLG: Who was your toughest competition at Providence?

Roy:I personally felt like Dynasty were going to be our toughest competition. Coming off of winning MLG Orlando, they were playing some sick Halo. We matched up against them in the Winners Semifinals, and I felt that if we got through them, we had a great shot at winning the whole thing. It was a very entertaining series that ended up in our favor 3–1, and I was very confident we were going to win after this series.

Pistola: Dynasty were the toughest competition in my eyes–they are a scary team when they catch fire. If they stick together, they will be a scary force next Season! But, after beating Dynasty, I felt like if we played our game on Sunday, we could take it!

MLG: Were you surprised to see Warriors in the Finals?

Roy: I was surprised after hearing all the teams that they beat, but when a roster with that much talent catches fire, they are tough to stop. They proved that by making a run all the way to 2nd. A huge congratulations to that entire team.

Pistola: I was surprised. They came from deep in the Losers Bracket to beat a lot of great teams. It just goes to show that come tournament time, everything changes. Anyone can catch fire at any time at the Event. Congrats to Warriors–a lot of raw talent.

MLG: Going back to Dynasty, they beat you in Orlando 3-1 to knock you to the Losers Bracket, but you then beat them 3-1 in Providence. What did you do to prepare for your series against them? Was there anything you consciously set out to do in order to counter their play style or strategies?

Roy: I personally felt that we did not practice enough before the previous two Events, and were therefore not the best team. There were new Game Types that we had not practiced enough and we were noticeably weak on them. I felt that we were just not on the same page as to what we wanted to accomplish on each Game Type, and that was the biggest difference going into Nationals.  We extensively went over each Game Type and as many different scenarios as possible, and at Nationals, all the pieces of the puzzle came together.

Pistola: Before Orlando we didn't play the new Game Types enough and didn't understand them as a team. Right after Orlando, we went over every Game Type to make sure we were all on the same page, which helped an unbelievable amount. Going into Providence, we felt more prepared and ready for Dynasty.

Roy: Wow, nice answer.

MLG: So no specific chinks in their armor that you looked to exploit?

Roy: I mean killing Formal when he has sniper rifle is always a priority, but we play our game regardless of the opponent.

Pistola: I think there were more chinks in our own armor that we needed to fix. [laughs]

Roy: Agreed.

MLG: During your first two Events together, we would hear comments about how other teams hadn't figured out how to play Reach yet, that you were ahead of the pack in terms of understanding the game. Then, after those two losses, it looked like other teams had caught up and figured out how to beat you. Was your success at Providence a result of once again pulling ahead of the pack in terms of your understanding of the game, or was it simply a matter of better execution this time?

Roy: I think it was both. We understood the game better because we practiced and went over the Game Types, and therefore we executed better because we knew exactly what needed to get done and when.

Pistola: I think it was execution on each Game Type and communication. Our communication at Providence was back, everyone got more into it.

MLG: Changing gears, what do you think about the new settings currently being used in the playlist? What are your thoughts on sprint/no sprint?

Roy: I personally love the setting; it feels like Halo again. So much more emphasis is put on positioning and decision-making, whereas before, you were able to put yourself in a poor position and sprint away to stay alive. You are once again punished for making bad plays, and I feel this is when Halo is at its best.

Pistola: The more I play it, the more I'm starting to like no sprint. Without sprint, you get punished if you overextend, which I like. Halo has never been so much fun to play. I love these new settings.

MLG: In games without sprint, what are your thoughts on how this changes the way other armor abilities play out?

Roy: Evade is so overpowered. Evade was powerful with sprint, and now everybody gets around the map even slower. The speed has been raised to 120%, but that just means evade goes even faster. I think it could be used; it will just be as valuable as a set of rockets.

Pistola: It adds a new element. I personally think they should keep evade. Yes, it's freakishly fast, but it makes things more exciting in my eyes. It's an actual power up now, something you need to have in order to win. I'm a fan.

MLG: As two of the best DMR wielders in 2011, how has your shot fared with the removal of bloom (both individually and as a team)?

Roy: Without bloom, everybody's shot will be better and that is why there is such an emphasis on positioning now. Most everybody that plays FPS games can aim and shoot well, but few know when and where to go on the map at all times.

Pistola: I feel my shot is more deadly, but the most important thing to learn now is positioning. Removing bloom changes the game drastically. I can't wait to try it out with our whole team. I want to know how OGRE 2 feels about the changes.

Roy: Get the GOAT's opinion.

MLG: How do you see these new settings affecting gameplay, strategies, teamwork, balance of the DMR against power weapons, and so forth? Will it change the pace of the game (faster kill times, yet slower map mobility)?

Roy: It's tough to say because I haven't played the new settings with my team yet, but I feel that it will slow down map mobility because as soon as you overextend, you die. From the games I have played, teamwork will dominate because, when you make pushes with your team, you can completely wipe out the opposing team. Teams with superior teamwork will shine, and teams that have superior individual skill but lack teamwork will underperform.

Pistola: Well, Roy said what I was about to say so he wins.

MLG: Have you noticed a change in the skill gap among pros with these settings?

Roy: I think it will just help the players who struggled with bloom, who typically spammed from what I saw. By taking bloom out, those players' shots will be much better, decreasing the skill gap in the shot department. I am very interested to see which players improve and which decline with no bloom.

Pistola: I haven't played that many pro players yet, but I think with this new setting there will be a much larger skill gap with team play. The teams with superior individual skill, communication, and teamwork will win. No bloom will take out the randomness of Halo: Reach.

Roy: Well put.

MLG: What do you think about the new CE Anniversary maps? Are there any that you think have good competitive potential?

Roy: I think the Beaver Creek remake will be the most useable. I have seen some videos on it and it looks incredible. I can't wait to play some no bloom on it and see how it plays.

Pistola: I like the ones I've played. I need to play them more before I say too much about them, but I do really like Beaver Creek. I can't wait to see if that's going to be a new Game Type next Season!

MLG: As we touched on earlier, Instinct seemed to have figured out how Reach works and how to play it effectively before other teams in Columbus and Anaheim. Depending on which (if any) changes are implemented, Reach could turn into a very different game than it was in 2011. Do you think this knack for quickly figuring out new games will play to your advantage early on?

Roy: I feel like our team will adapt to any changes that are made. As long as we put in the time, our team will figure out what works the best for us, and implement that in our gameplay. With the Game Types and settings changing so much, it favors the teams with the most teamwork and natural skill, which are areas our team excels in.

Pistola: Definitely. Our squad understands how Halo works. As long as we practice, we will be well-prepared for next Season! I want to hear OGRE 2's strategies once he starts playing the new settings more. He knows a little too much about Halo.

Roy: He knows ALL!

Pistola: It's weird. [laughs]

MLG: Perfect segue to our next question! While both of you have put up incredible numbers this Season, you're always quick to deflect the praise to your teammates. Looking at Instinct's record as a team, whatever each of you are doing must be working. What are your thoughts on the "individual skill" vs. "team skill" discussion that frequently comes up? Do you think individual skill matters as much as people say? Or is there less of a distinction between individual and team skill than some think? i.e. is teamwork itself an individual skill, albeit less tangible in terms of stat sheets?

Roy: Individual skill is much less relevant than team skill, and the best example I can think of is Status Quo. They're very talented players, but their gameplay is based on working together and teamwork. Individual skill can win games when players catch fire, but team skill will win the majority of the time and is a much more consistent way to play.

Pistola: Individual skill and team skill are one; if you aren't shooting well then you aren't helping out your team. Being able to do everything is what separates good players from great players: individual skill, communication, and being on the same page. Being on the same page is the most beneficial for any team. You'd rather be doing something wrong as a team than doing something right separated.

Roy: Most people don't know how to evaluate players.

Pistola: I agree.

MLG: That's why it's always interesting to hear what the pros think. Now, following your National Championship, you get to spend the off-season as the top team. How is that different? Is it a relief, or is it more like having a target on your back?

Roy: Going into the off-season, only one team is completely content. I have gotten 2nd at Nationals and it feels the same as getting 5th: you did not win. Being able to spend the entire off-season as "the best" is what we have spent the entire year working towards.

Pistola: It's what we worked for all year. I'm content with this off-season! Now it's time to relax, until the time is right!

MLG: Well, guys, thanks for taking the time to sit down for this interview, and congratulations again on your National Championship and MVP honors. Any last words?

Roy: I've got to give a huge shout out to our sponsors, Dr Pepper and EON, the wonderful family that is the Pennacchios, my family and older brother Chris, my teammates, and the whole Halo community. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @theMLGRoy.

Pistola:Thank you, sir! Thank you, Dr Pepper, for sponsoring us this Season–you guys did too much for us. Thank you, EON, and thank you to the fans for supporting us all Season long. The same goes for my family and friends! Love you guys! The Pennacchios! The whole Halo community! Please bring Halo back! Follow us on Twitter: Roy, Lunchbox, Pistola, Ogre2 and Towey!  Take care, everyone! Enjoy the off-season!