Last weekend, Str8 Rippin branded the hometown of great fictional hero Rocky Balboa with their own legendary underdog story. Overcoming what is arguably the strongest foursome in Halo history is no minor accomplishment, and Zyos, Fonzi, Tsquared and Foulacy have much to be proud of. Determined to not let anything put a damper on their state of nirvana, the members of Str8 Rippin are looking well beyond the community backlashes, excuses and even conspiracy theories to a bright future as one of the greatest powerhouses to hit the MLG scene this season.
MLG: Well guys, I just want to say again, congratulations on your amazing win over Team 3D in Philly. I spoke with you guys on VoD after the tournament, and it seemed like you guys were still trying to process what it was that had just happened. Now that you’ve had a little time to let it set in, how do you guys feel?
Fonzi: I still feel good. As good as I felt at the tournament.
Zyos: Yeah, I think we all feel really good about it.
MLG: Foulacy, you sort of seemed to be in disbelief at the time. Has the shock worn off for you?
Foulacy: Uh, sort of, but I dunno. The Winners’ Bracket was just so exciting that the Finals were just sort of, I dunno…
Tsquared: Yeah, the Winners’ Bracket was just so, so fun. It was the most fun I’ve ever had playing, in Halo 1 or 2.
MLG: When you guys were practicing for the event, could you guys tell that this would be the tournament where you made your big move for first place?
Fonzi: I don’t know, we pretty much had two real days to practice. The first day it seemed like we were pretty off and disorganized, but it all seemed to fall into place the second day. I felt pretty excited and confident about what we could do.
MLG: So you guys only got two days to practice before the tournament?
T2: Yeah, with our full team.
MLG: What had you guys been doing before that? Practicing in pairs, threes?
Zyos: We usually had three members on at a time. Usually there would be one person missing.
MLG: Did you guys get any chances to practice with 3D?
Zyos: No, we didn’t get a chance to.
T2: No, we couldn’t get a good host, so we never got a chance to. Yeah, we didn’t play one good team… The best team we played was probably SV (Storm Ventures), and then the second best team was Bizarre’s team.
Foulacy: … And Captain Anarchy’s team.
MLG: Since Fonzi and Foulacy are on the West Coast, do you guys have a lot of problems getting good pings with people in the Midwest and East Coast?
Fonzi: Well, a lot of people complain about my host and I’m usually the one who hosts if it’s not Captain Anarchy. So it obviously works out for me… I don’t know…
Foulacy: Before the tournament we played a lot on Pistol’s East Coast host, and it did not make a difference at all in the scores of the games.
MLG: It seemed like when you were playing a lot of your matches, you had rehearsed stations and setups for when you had control of certain weapons or areas. Did you guys spend a lot of time preparing that and mapping out what you would do in certain situations?
T2: No, we didn’t do that at all. The only reason we did that was because we had the basic control–just how everyone else has map control–like having BR tower control at Lockout and having a guy in the window, and having another guy watching under glass and sniper. For some reason in all the games we played, the other teams camped really bad either because I had snipe or Zyos had good green gun control, so it all sort of just fell into place at the tournament.
MLG: You guys seemed especially patient. When you had map control and the lead, nobody was running out. Did you feel like it was a big test of will, because you knew that they had to come to you?
Zyos: Yeah, well we’re not gonna sacrifice our advantage. If they wanna camp when we have the lead, we’ll run the 15 minutes out, and we’ll win by the four or five points or whatever we’re in the lead with. If the other team wants to camp, we can camp too.
MLG: Did you feel like that made the matches more stressful for you? Because sometimes there would be a several-minute stretch where nobody would die on either team…
Zyos: No, I think that was actually better for us, because my team is more of an objective-based strategy-oriented team. So when you’re playing that slow it’s all about strategy and pushing up and waiting for the right moment.
Foulacy: I think it gave us time to figure out exactly what to do. Like, we would be in a situation, and the matches were all going pretty slowly, so we would take 10 seconds out and just talk to each other and decide what we were gonna do.
Fonzi: Yeah, it seemed like every few minutes we would either stick to the strat we were doing or carefully think out the next move. That ended up working out very well.
MLG: How did you guys feel in general about the fact that this was an all-Team Slayer tournament? Did you like the idea? Were you excited about it beforehand?
“I think it’s funny that the people who were talking trash tried to congratulate us afterward. I just pushed them all away.” – T2, on the negative vibes he got from the audience
T2: Yeah, we weren’t very confident going into it.
MLG: Why’s that?
T2: Well, we’re mainly an objective team and now that the tournament’s over everyone’s like “Oh, its Team Slayer. Str8 Rippin’s a Team Slayer team.” Not once if you read the forums before did you see Str8 Rippin as a Team Slayer team.
MLG: Do you guys personally feel that Team Slayer is just as valid a gametype to determine which team is better?
Fonzi: Well, it’s interesting because going in we talked a lot about how we felt that TS is a really random gametype with everyone running around. But as we started playing Team 3D and we sort of had the map divided into two halves, it seemed like it turned into more of a tactical-shooter kind of gametype where there are these insane stand-offs. For instance, in the Midship game–I had never even imagined playing Midship as a camping kind of game, but it ended up turning out like that, so it definitely changed a lot at this tournament.
MLG: Yeah that’s something that I thought was interesting. Normally, during our regular tournaments, the objective games run almost the full time of the game clock and the TS games are over in six minutes. Do you think that the fact that it was all-Team Slayer caused you guys to play your games differently?
Foulacy: Sort of.
T2: I didn’t notice I was playing any differently; I noticed the other teams playing differently. The other teams were playing a lot slower.
Foulacy: We just noticed that with a lot of the gametypes that were created, it was a camping situation as a given. It was automatic. Like Sanctuary, Zanzibar Snipes, Gemini–they’re all camping maps. You have to.
MLG: Zyos said that when you beat 3D in that tiebreaking game in Pool Play to take the top seed, that was the point when you really started to feel confident about your team’s chances of winning the tournament. What were the rest of you guys feeling at that point?
Fonzi: I personally wished that it was just regular Team Slayer on the regular maps, like Beaver Creek and Lockout.
Foulacy: Well, we had just lost two games. They beat us pretty bad. But winning that game–we just had complete control the entire game and that made us really confident.
Fonzi: I felt that winning the Winners’ Bracket Finals was really the turning point of the tournament for us, just having such a huge lead on them in the Championship Match.
T2: After Gemini Team Slayer–that’s when I was confident. And Lockout too, because we all talked about Lockout after we played that first Lockout in Pool Play and we noticed that we had never really played that well against 3D before. We had never really held them at Lower Blue and held them at Snipe Tower while we had control. And it had really not been done by any other team, so after that I was pretty confident.
MLG: After you guys won in the Winners’ Bracket Finals, it seemed that your communication had ramped up quite a bit. Do you think that constant communication–and even some of the trash talk, is a big part of keeping you mentally on top of your game?
T2: Zyos doesn’t let me talk trash in games. (everyone laughs) We all call stuff out a lot, between having me and Zyos on the team–we’re always screaming stuff out. And when Peter (Foulacy) sees anyone he freaks out. Fonzi usually only calls out important stuff, and when he does he’s not too loud–so that’s why he sits in the middle. But we always talk loud, and when it comes down to getting a big kill against 3D you always wanna scream about it… I think it kinda intimidates the other team.
Zyos: When we’re trash talking, it affects our ability to communicate with each other, so that’s the main reason for not doing it.
MLG: So you try to keep that to a minimum.
Zyos: An absolute minimum.
MLG: When you guys were moving into the Championship Finals, at what point did you start to feel like you had the match in the bag?
Fonzi: Honestly, for me it was probably mid-way through the Colossus Snipes game where we had them pinned in at Blue Base and they were too afraid to come out. We had such complete map control, I knew we were gonna take it.
MLG: You had them completely trapped there…
T2: Yeah, you know we’re playing good when Fonzi’s sniping people in the face. (laughs)
MLG: What was your favorite game in the series?
Foulacy: Midship, 50 – 49 was mine.
T2: I liked Gemini, because that was my best game.
Fonzi: I liked Gemini for the way we played it.
T2: Yeah, that was probably the best strategy for Gemini that I’ve ever played on a team.
MLG: What were some of your favorite moments outside of gameplay from the tournament?
T2: Zyos wearing the cheese-head. (everyone laughs)
Zyos: You have a picture of that, don’t you…
MLG: Oh yeah. It’s going in the article.
T2: Zyos had some of the funniest quotes ever. When I told Peter to jump off the map when he had snipe and he did it, Zyos told him to “Be proud.” (everyone laughs) I also liked running down the hall to the Rocky theme song before the finals.
MLG: Did you really do that?
T2: Yeah, someone’s cell phone went off and they had the Rocky ring-tone, and I just ran down the hallway with my arms up, punching the air. (laughs)
MLG: What did you guys do to celebrate your victory afterward?
Fonzi: Tsquared’s dad was kind enough to invite us all to the Hard Rock Café for a really nice dinner.
MLG: Did you guys go out anywhere afterward to party?
Foulacy: We decided to go to the forums.
T2: Yeah, the forums! (laughs) We made our little topic on there about the Philadelphia Awards on Zyos’ computer.
MLG: The crowd at the tournament was definitely a record, and the amount of people watching the finals was probably a record also. Did you guys feel a lot of support from the audience?
Zyos: Absolutely not.
MLG: Do you think that helped or hurt your game?
Zyos: I don’t think it affected us either way.
T2: Yeah, I don’t think it affected us.
Fonzi: It pissed me off maybe, but…
Foulacy: If it did affect us, it was away from the game. It annoys me, but it didn’t affect my play.
T2: Yeah, like Peter… I thought it would bother him, but he didn’t seem affected at all. For me it just helped me step it up. Zyos doesn’t care. Fonzi doesn’t care.
MLG: Why do you think the crowd was like that though? Because when you go on the boards, every once in a while you’ll hear someone saying “Hey, when is anyone gonna be Team 3D?” Then here you guys are doing it and you’re not getting any support for it.
Fonzi: I think people just really wanted a show. For the first time Team 3D was sort of the underdog going into the Finals, so they obviously wanted to see something close and exciting.
T2: Yeah, that’s what I heard. I think it’s funny that the people who were talking trash tried to congratulate us afterward. I just pushed them all away.
Foulacy: Yeah, he was just like “Uh huh. Thanks man.” (laughs)
MLG: Do you guys feel like you won over any new fans from winning the match?
MLG: Fonzi and Foulacy, a lot of people consider you in particular to be more objective-minded, because you’re the heart of Str8 Rippin and that’s the reputation that team has always had. Did you feel like you had something extra to prove going into this TS tourney?
Fonzi: Definitely. 3D has always been the team credited with just being masterminds of playing, and there were a lot of haters on the forums saying that we wouldn’t be able to do anything in a Team Slayer tournament. So we definitely went there to prove something, and we pulled it off.
Foulacy: Literally every single person right now says, “Fonzi and Foulacy are bad slayers. They will never win a Team Slayer game against anyone.” And we won a Team Slayer tournament. This tournament disproves everyone’s theory–and by everyone I mean everyone.
MLG: Well not only did you win a tournament, but you won the biggest Halo LAN tournament of all-time. That’s obviously a massive accomplishment. Tsquared, you’re the only one from your team who was there for the Halo 1 festivities on Thursday and Friday. Did you have trouble adjusting from one to the other?
T2: No. I had trouble adjusting in the FFA, but that’s it. Otherwise, Halo 1 helped me with my aim and stuff like that. It was lame going from split screen Halo 1 to split screen Halo 2–that’s the only thing that messed me up.
MLG: Because the perspective is different in each one?
MLG: Zyos, do you wish you could have made it to play in the Halo 1 tournaments?
Zyos: Not at all. I have no regrets about skipping that tournament. Focusing on H2 paid off.
“It was probably mid-way through the Colossus Snipes game where we had them pinned in at Blue Base and they were too afraid to come out. We had such complete map control, I knew we were gonna take it.” – Fonzi, on when he knew his team would win MLG Philly
MLG: What was it like for all of you guys having MTV filming your every move at the tournament?
Foulacy: It was really awesome. I think they were just such nice guys that I was almost glad to let them film us.
MLG: So you felt comfortable around them?
Foulacy: Yeah, really comfortable.
Zyos: Yeah, they were fine.
T2: I’m used to it now, because they already filmed at my house for about a week. It was weird when they were filming at my house, like when I was going to the bathroom and stuff.
MLG: What kind of things were they trying to capture when they were at your house?
T2: They just filmed my everyday stuff. Like my normal schedule is, I wake up at noon or whatever and Christina comes right over and we just chill. We go to the beach, or the movies or something like that until her curfew at 11 at night. Then I’ll get on at 11, which is 8 for Fonzi and Foulacy and we’ll just practice until 6 in the morning.
MLG: It seems like there couldn’t have been a better time than this tournament for MTV to be shooting for their True Life special. Do you think that having the chance to make your overthrow on national TV helped to spur you guys on?
T2: Yeah. When Zyos said to me, “Are you ready to be famous? This is what launched Fata1ity’s career,” that’s when I decided that I had to step it up and that we needed to beat 3D.
MLG: T2, for the record, why did you have a pair of panties around your hat at this tournament?
MLG: Well I hope that’s not the reason…
T2: I had the panties for a long time. Don’t you guys remember DC? I had Christina’s picture and her panties, and Fonzi would always sniff the panties before the games…
MLG: I remembered the picture next to the TV, but not the panties.
T2: The panties go around the hat, and I’m probably going to bring a pair for every one of my teammates for next time. (laughs)
MLG: Do any of you other guys have any superstitions, rituals or lucky charms that you use during tournaments?
Fonzi: Well I came to realize at this tournament that Red Bull saves me. (laughs)
T2: I did a double-Red Bull chug right before the finals. I went through about 20 to 25.
MLG: You’re still planning to bring this lineup to Las Vegas, right?
Fonzi: As long as Zyos doesn’t have to go to the WCG regional event, we’ll be keeping the same team.
Zyos: Yeah, it’ll be OK.
MLG: Have you guys nailed down a sponsor yet?
Foulacy: No, we’re still working on that.
T2: We’re definitely talking to some people, but we’re trying to decide what the best option is for our team. Even though we do need a sponsor for Vegas, we’re not going to jump into a deal that is going to be bad for us in the long run. We have a couple of companies in mind, but if there are any companies looking to sponsor the number one Halo team, they can contact me, Zyos, Foulacy or Fonzi.
(Ed Note: I could almost swear I heard the winking of T2′s eye through my XBL headset)
MLG: What do you think will be your biggest competition in Vegas, assuming that 3D can’t make it and you can keep your lineup intact?
Foulacy: IGS will be the biggest competition, definitely.
MLG: What do you think it will be like playing them? They play a much different game than Team 3D.
Fonzi: We’re going to have to adjust. I think they are a charging team, and as long as we can hold our team unity in certain situations and not fall apart, we’ll be fine.
T2: We need to get a lot more sleep at tournaments. We each got about two hours a night. I think we’re going to have to be on our toes for IGS, because there are going to be a lot of faster-paced games.
Foulacy: Yeah, they’re just going to keep coming. They never stop coming no matter what.
MLG: Any final thoughts guys?
Fonzi: Well, I’ve been hearing some theories online that I would like to put to rest: No, we did not win the tournament because 3D wanted to lose on MTV just to give us the win so that Tsquared would have a good showing.
MLG: People were saying that?
Foulacy: They were saying that MTV paid off 3D, and it’s like, “No!” That was actually the hardest Halo I’ve ever played in my life, literally.
T2: Yeah, definitely. I’d like to just thank all the MLG staff. They ran the tournament as well as they could have, especially for having so many teams. Having 98 teams when they were only supposed to have 75, and only 60 were registered before that. So I give props to Anakin and Puckett for busting their asses.
I was sitting around chatting with T2 after the interview, and I realized that I had forgotten to ask him how he ended up teaming with Zyos again, considering the rough patches they’ve had in the past. Here’s T2′s take on how this tournament-winning incarnation of Str8 Rippin came to be…
T2: After Orlando, I was laughing that he was always so serious. But after St. Louis I was playing poker with him and trying to get him to lighten-up a little bit. I think Athena and Athena Twin actually lightened him up a lot, and he’s really changed a lot over the last couple of months just from hanging out a lot more. So I really started to get along with him in St. Louis, and then after CPL me and Fonzi were thinking that we should consider teaming with the old team since Karma wasn’t really taking it seriously anymore. Then it came around that Karma couldn’t even really attend the tournament, so we decided to do that team and then me and Zyos put all our differences behind us.