FnaticRaidCall and the 2011 MLG National Championship (Part 2 of 3)
Posted 2012-02-01 Spikemouth
The 2011 MLG National Championship
Alright everyone, it’s finally time for the 2011 MLG National Championship. In my previous blog, you read about our practice in Laguna Beach, California. Now it’s time to see if we were able to implement that practice into our tournament play and come out on top as National Champions. The entire year has been one crazy ride, and now it comes down to this.
After our practice in Laguna Beach, I flew back home to spend the next two days at home before taking off to Providence, Rhode Island. I spent those two days resting up and working on any little things I felt I should work on before heading out to the tournament. I knew it was going to be a very long weekend before I was certain that we could come out on top. The two days quickly went by, I grabbed my stuff and headed out to Boston to catch a train to Providence.
Now, Providence, for me, brings back a lot of memories and I had to make sure we placed well for this one. The reason why this brings back so many memories is because back in 2008, I moved to Warwick, Rhode Island which is the town next to Providence. I had moved there to attend college at the New England Institute of Technology for Game Development and Simulation Programming. I lived in that area up until December of last year. I knew a lot of people I knew that lived around the area were going to be attending. Not to mention, most of my family from back home would be attending the tournament as well. This would also be the first tournament that anyone from my family have attended one of the tournaments.
After taking a 45 minute train ride to Providence, I went straight to the hotel to drop my bags off so I could begin exploring. Now with living there in the past, I knew the area quite well but I knew I needed to visit my old college. So after dropping off my bags, I hopped on a bus and headed to my old college. Now the difference with my old college is that they opened a brand new campus so this would be the first time I got to see the new college since originally attending the old campus.
Now the reason I was heading to my school was to take care of some loan stuff. Like every college student over here, the one thing that almost every student has to deal with over here are the huge student loans. Once I finally arrived at the new campus I got lost walking around the massive new campus. After aimlessly walking around I was able to find out where I was going and have the meeting about my loans. I know all of you could care less about my loan situation but what makes this visit special is what happened on my way out.
Once I finished what I needed to get done, I decided to take a quick walk around the campus before heading back to the hotel. Well while exploring, I ran into one of my old professors and we began talking. Near the end of the talk he told me where the Game Development wing was and I proceeded to go check it out. Now, I graduated from this college for Game Development and Simulation Programming and I was excited to see what the new wing looked like.
After we finished talking, I proceeded to go check out the new wing. While walking around I ended up running into a lot of my old professors. It wasn’t until I saw my old programming professor, where things got interesting. I just so happen to be wearing the Fnatic Player Jacket and all of his students knew exactly why I was in town. They ended up stopping class so they could ask me questions and talk to them about professional gaming and eSports. They all thought it was amazing that someone that used to attend that school is an actual professional gamer from FnaticMSI. A lot of them even told me how they’re big fans of Rain, Shushei, and Carn, so if you guys are reading this then know that a lot of the students that attend my old college are big fans of yours hahaha.
After spending over an hour there, it was time for me to head back to the hotel. They all wished me luck and that they would see me throughout the weekend. They were all going to be attending the event as spectators. It was nice being able to talk to the students and the professors about eSports and Fnatic. It’s great to see how far eSports has come over the past year. After finishing up, I hoped on the bus and headed back to the hotel.
(Mainstage prior to the tournament beginning)
Once getting back to the room, I only managed to stay a few minutes until I got bored out of my mind. So I ended up walking over to the massive mall that was right next door to the hotel. I ended up doing a little bit of shopping which if you saw the photos from MLG Providence you will have seen that I purchased my girlfriend a purple unicorn pillow pet. Well I also ended up purchasing a new hat which you may have noticed throughout the tournament. Now most people are used to seeing me in a white hat, and many wondered why I changed it to a black Pittsburgh Steelers hat. Well the reason I changed the hat was because my girlfriend was supposed to come to the tournament and support me but had a last second personal issue come up and was forced to miss the tournament. So because she could not make it, I decided to wear a hat to her favorite NFL team to let her know I was thinking of her. I know, how sweet right? Hahaha.
Once I was done shopping, I went back to the hotel to finally meet up with some of the content guys here in Fnatic, Cameron and Pat. The rest of the team wasn’t showing up until later that night and they had planned to go watch the new Twilight movie which was premiering in the mall at midnight. I decided I was just going to spend the rest of the night in the hotel room and catch up on some sleep considering I wasn’t going to get that much throughout the weekend.
I woke up the next morning, refreshed and ready to go. I knew it was going to be a great weekend. However, there wasn’t going to be much for us to do throughout the first day considering we weren’t playing until the Championship Winners Round 2 which wasn’t being played until Saturday morning. I got up, got ready, and headed down to the venue to check out what it looked like and see if I could run into any friends along the way.
(the National Championship trophies)
When I got to the convention center, I quickly found out there wasn’t going to be the normal pro player meeting for this event. Therefore, I was going to be spending the next few hours doing nothing until it was finally time to check in. I ended up meeting up with Cameron and we just hung out and talked to a lot of the other players that were attending as well. After talking for a bit, I ended up heading over to the mall and grabbing some food before meeting up with the team.
After eating and meeting up with the team, we proceeded over to check in. Following check in we made our way into the venue to check it out. Not much changed for the National Championship aside from the addition of a League of Legends. I ended up going over to the store and picking up a couple of shirts and the new SteelSeries MLG mouse pad. After all was said and done, we just walked around to try and kill some time. Friday only consisted of the All Star Classic, and all of the amateur teams playing.
Hours went by and we hadn’t done much together yet as a team. After sometime warming up in the pro player lounge and meeting up with the guys from Gunnar Optiks, I received a phone call from my father. He told me that they had arrived in Providence and they were eating at Dave and Busters inside of the mall. I decided to make my way over and bring them to the venue so they could get their passes for the tournament.
A little special fact about my family is that MLG Providence marked the first tournament my family ever got to attend and it would be the first time they would ever get to watch my team live. My cousin, who also came down used to be my teammate when I first started competing many years ago, and this would be his first time at an event since 2006. Overall, this was going to be a special event and I had to make sure we placed well. This was also the last weekend that I was going to be able to see my father because a few days later, he would be leaving for a one year tour in Afghanistan apart of the United States Army.
After making my way over to the mall and inside of the restaurant, I met up with my family who were enjoying a meal with other friends that they met up with in the restaurant. After spending a great deal of time in the restaurant with them, we finished up and headed down to the venue and proceeded to get them all passes. Once the passes were all set, we walked in to the venue. I don’t think they were expecting it to look like the way it did because their faces were priceless. It showed them that gaming isn’t something people do for fun now-a-days and that this is the next big sport to take over the world. After about 30 minutes of walking around the venue, they decided to head back to their hotel room and I went to spend the rest of the night with friends until finally heading back to the room for the night.
This was it, Saturday morning had arrived and it was time to get serious. I woke up bright and early and quickly got ready. Once I was all set, I went to the meet up with the rest of the team and get a nice breakfast before heading to the venue. From the second we left the hotel, until we got to the venue, we discussed strategies about our upcoming serious. Now we didn’t know who we would play first but we knew it would either be Severance or LowLanLions. We knew LowLanLions have always been a great team and we know the Buk twins very well from when they were on Power. We figured that we would most likely be playing LowLanLions going into our first match.
Once we got into the venue, we sat down in the pro lounge and began warming up. We played some Free-For-Alls to get our shot warmed up and then went on to play a couple of team games before working our way over to catch the very end up the LLL vs. Severance match. Now the Championship bracket is different than what you may have been used to all year from MLG. This bracket got rid of the pool play format and made it a double elimination style bracket which was based off of your seed going into the event. Basically every team we played, we knew there was no room for error.
The LLL match went exactly how we thought with LLL coming out on top over Severance. However, after watching the end of it we knew we had to come up with a quick strategy. We learned that LLL’s momentum came from their coach. The way they would do it is if they made a good play then their coach would talk a lot of crap to the other team getting into the heads of the other players. We knew we had to play a similar mind game like LLL. The goal was to mimic their style. We knew we were better and that we could take them but we couldn’t let them make big plays. I know a lot of you have asked why I decided to talk crap to LLL during the game and this was the exact reason.
We got called to our station and everyone quickly crowded together to watch FnaticMSI take on LowLanLions. Going into the first game we weren’t fully warmed up and we struggled early on and there was a lot of crap talk early on by the LLL coach. However, we managed to shut it out early on and come out on top for game 1. Game 2 however showed a bit of a different outcome. LLL managed to just barely edge us out in the Team Slayer thus tying the series 1-1. At this point the crap talk was going both ways and both teams were playing well. Game 3 marked the downfall of LLL. This is when we knew we were fully warmed up. Our teamwork became spot on and our shots weren’t missing as we came out on top.
Game 4 which ended up being the final game of the series, was a complete destruction of LLL. Capture the Flag on Countdown is arguable one of our best game types. You’ve seen us time and time again just make unbelievable comebacks against the world’s best. This time however, it wasn’t so pretty. The game started and within seconds we had them all dead and had map control. It only took the first couple of seconds of the game for it to be over for LLL. Once we took the initial map control we proceeded to lock the spawns and continue spawn killing as we proceeded to run 5 back to back flags. Now, we’re not a team to talk crap but since this was all about the mental game, Iwas just going off on the crap talk. So not only did we outplay them in game, but we also beat them in the mental game as well. The overall time for Game 4 lasted only about 2 minutes overall. The picture shown below represents just how one sided Game 4 ended up being:
( Shinato never managed to get a kill :( )
After the series was over, we knew we were ready for any team. The hard work we put in at the Laguna Beach lan was showing. Our next match got called right after beating LLL, but this time we would match up against a pretty solid Apex Revolution team. We worked our way over to the feature station and set everything up. After setting up, we discussed strategies and talked about what we need to do in order to beat them. We knew we were all on the same page and we felt better than ever. The series started up and our team work was spot on. Everything was going in our favor and we were out slaying them the entire series. The overall series came and gone, with us making quick work of Apex Revolution with a series score of 3-0. The way the series played out was that we were at our full potential while Apex struggled to work together which made the series quite unbalanced in favor of us. After the series had ended we were quickly approached by cameras and media asking to do interviews. A company called Stacked Media which is a company similar to ESPN ended up doing a video interview of each of us discussing our approach to that series as well as give advice to up and coming players.
(Stacked Media interviewing Russo)
Once the interviews were all set and done, we all got together and discussed things about our Apex series and about what we need to do for our upcoming series. At this point we’ve beaten LLL 3-1, and we just beat Apex Revolution 3-0. Next up was the team we’ve had countless battles with all year and was probably our greatest rival. That’s right you guessed it, Status Quo. This match against Status Quo would decide our fate of guaranteeing a top 6 finish or not. We knew this was going to the biggest match we’ve had all year. This meant more to us than any other match all year. In an interview I had prior to the tournament, I mentioned that the biggest match we were looking forward to was against Status Quo. This is because we had lost to them all year and had many close matches with them all year. This was our time to shine and finally take down our rival.
We spent some time together trying to relax and discuss our game plan before being called up to the main stage to take on Status Quo. Once our name was called we walked up to the main stage. It was weird because it felt like time was slowing down. It felt like destiny to be in this situation and to be able to play them when it mattered the most. This match was for a minimum of $14,000. We set up all of our stuff and discussed our game plan. Game 1 would be King of the Hill on Nexus, which is probably one of our better game types. However, I feel as though the jitters kicked in early on and we weren’t fully warmed up for our first game. You can tell from watching that our teamwork and communication wasn’t spot on like it was during our first two series. Status Quo ended up beating us on Nexus with a final score of 250-178. We lost our first game by over 60 seconds and didn’t control much of anything during the entire game.
Before going into Game 2 which would be Team Slayer on Oasis, we knew we had to play differently. We needed to put more pressure onto Enable and we could not let them get weapon control. We needed to play the buddy system a lot better going into it as well. The first game consisted of us running around alone most of the time and just rushing in without any help. The jitters were out and we were ready to turn this around. The initial push for weapons after the game started didn’t go our way. Status Quo quickly got us three down at the start and they had both weapons. We knew Enable would have the sniper in the back of their base, so we decided to use the geometry of the map to our advantage and spot him and quickly take him down with a flank from red rock side.
The game went back and forth until about 25+ kills into it. This is when things started to go in our favor. We would send three players together while keeping one with snipe by himself to try and be a nuisance from a distance. From doing this we were able to get a seven kill lead at one point. However, the fast paced gameplay quickly slowed down. We had a six kill lead with Status Quo managing to get both weapons. We decided to stay back in blue base and wait for a Status Quo mistake to take advantage of. When you have a lead close to the end of the game and the opposing team has control, your best decision would be to stay back and let them push you. You do not want to give them free kills. At the same time, when time winds down, the other team will eventually be forced to rush you and try to get kills to make a comeback.
Minutes went by and nothing happened. We stayed in the blue base, while Status Quo was staying in red waiting for Enable to pick someone off with the sniper. Status Quo tried to bait the new weapons by waiting for us to push them, which didn’t work. Soon after, they decided to push us in blue and we made them pay by going kill for kill with them in the base. Our teamwork held together and we ended up finishing the game winning 50-45. This was the momentum we needed. We could not afford to lose that game and go down 2-0. Our teamwork finally started to come back together and we were ready to go into Game 3.
Game 3 was Capture the Flag on Zealot. The game started off slow, mainly due to trying to get weapon control at the beginning but unfortunately Status Quo was able to take control and capture the first flag pretty quickly. We were able to bring it back together and make a solid push taking down Status Quo and capturing a flag and tying the game 1-1. We did well to focus on Enable when he had the sniper and he wasn’t able to do too much damage with it overall. Unfortunately, Status Quo was just able to out slay us for the first five minutes and were able to capture two more flags.
After capturing their third flag, they decided to run another. This is where the game started to shift in our favor. Our teamwork came together, and we made key pushed when it mattered the most and we were able to stop them from capturing the fourth flag just inches away from the score. From this we were able to capture three more flags to take the lead 4-3. The game went back and forth from this point on, and we managed to make clutch plays and stop Status Quo three more times from capturing the flag just inches away from the score. Even with Enable heating up with the sniper late in the match, we were able to work around him and pick up key kills until finally being able to take him down and take map control. On the last clutch stop we were able to take down the Status Quo team and Chig was able to run it back to our base for the final flag capture, ending the game with a score of 5-4.
We were able to bring back the series and take a 2-1 lead going into Game 4 which would be on Capture the Flag on Countdown. Countdown CTF is probably the map our teams our most known for when playing against each other. If you think back to MLG Raleigh, we had the comeback of a lifetime being able to capture five straight flags after being down 4-0. However, would the outcome be the same or would we lose. Well to start the game, we lost the initial weapon push again. We were able to take them down on spawn and take control of the weapons. From that we were able to make a push and capture the first two flags of the game. After the second capture, Status Quo took control and proceeded to run two straight flags on us, thus tying the game at two. At this point it just went back and forth for the next few minutes as both teams would try to take control long enough to run another flag.
Finally, we managed to get control long enough to get both power weapons and run two more flags making the score 4-2 in favor of us. At this very moment, everything just got shut out from my mind. It was like no one was around me. All that was left was one more flag to win the series and giving us a minimum of $14,000. After the fourth capture, Status Quo killed all of us and ran a flag back making the score 4-3. After this it became one giant stalemate with both teams trying to return their flag to capture flag. After minutes of battling and some clutch teamwork we were able to outsmart Status Quo and make a solid two person push to take down Status Quo and return the flag which allowed us to capture the fifth and final flag thus winning the series for us 3-1 and guaranteeing us top 6 overall for the tournament. I had never been happier to win a series before then that series against Status Quo. Losing to them at each event and finally coming in at the National Championship and taking them down when it mattered the most was by far the best feeling I’ve ever had in eSports.
You can watch the series in it's entirety from the following link: http://bcove.me/fbmy4skz
Right after our win against Status Quo, Cameron quickly pulled me aside for an interview regarding my thoughts on the big win over Status Quo. The video interview can be seen in its entirety down below. After the interview, we were able to breathe for a moment and begin to prepare for our next matchup in the winners semifinals against Believe the Hype.
We knew it was only going to get harder after Status Quo and we had to make sure our teamwork and communication was spot on if we wanted to come out on top against Believe the Hype. Game 1 was Sanctuary Capture the Flag, and Believe the Hype struck first capturing the first flag of the game. However, come the second half of the game after remaining calm all game, we were able to finally get control and run three straight flags winning game 1 3-1. Game 2 and 3 is where we noticed something wasn’t right. We started getting desperate with kills and not working as well together as we should have. We gave up big leads on both Team Slayer and King of the Hill which resulted in us losing Game 2 Team Slayer by two kills. Even though we gave up a 90 second lead in King of the Hill we were still able to win but it was by the skin of our teeth. Game 4 was pretty even although Believe the Hype ended up edging us out and winning CTF on Zealot 5-3 forcing a Game 5. Now our Game 5’s have been about 50/50 throughout the year, but unfortunately things would not go our way as we ended up blowing it in Game 5 and losing the series 3-2 to Believe the Hype.
You can watch the series in it's entirety from the following link: http://bcove.me/drl7vdcw
It was a very depressing defeat but we knew we could shake it off and come back strong for Sunday. This ended the day for us as a team, however, both Str8 Sick, and Prototype were in the BiC FFA Finals. The winner of this would become the 2011 BiC FFA National Champion and walk out with $4,000. I can’t even begin to describe how freaking intense this game was. The match practically had a six way tie for the majority of the game and near the end it came down to three people, one of those being Str8 Sick. Kampy and Str8 Sick battled, literally, until time ran out with Str8 Sick making the most ridiculous play to force a tie at the end of the game. The crowd and announcers were going absolutely nuts over this. It was by far the best game of Halo I’ve ever seen before. Luckily, according to MLG FFA rules, a tie would go to the person with the least amount of deaths. With that being said, Str8 Sick had fewer deaths than Kampy did, making Str8 Sick the 2011 BiC FFA National Champion. The video can be seen in its entirety down below. After all was said and done, we all went back to our rooms to get sleep so we could wake up bright and early for our match.
(Str8 Sick's point of view during the match)
(Rebroadcast of the BiC Flex4 FFA)
We woke up bright and early the next day and proceeded to go out and get breakfast before heading to the venue again. Once we were ready, we went to the pro lounge and proceeded to warm up with Dynasty as we awaited our upcoming matches in the loser’s bracket. Now here is where we faced some confusion. The way the bracket was structured, it was to have us play the winner of Warriors and Status Quo while Dynasty was supposed to play the winner of Final Boss and Active Rush. Luckily, thanks to Cameron running over and getting us and telling us about the change we were able to just barely make it over to the feature stage where we were told we had to play Final Boss. We told the officials that the bracket we were supposed to play Warriors or Status Quo so after about 20 minutes of trying to clear things up, MLG told us they structured the bracket wrong, and that we have to play Final Boss. The whole point of the argument was about the fact that MLG wanted to disqualify us on their mistakes and we were pissed.
Anyways, we set everything up and proceeded to play against Final Boss. This time we were ready for them. If you remember back to Orlando, we lost to them in a way depressing 3-0. This time was not the same result. The series went back and forth early on until Game 4, which at this point we were up in the series 2-1. Game 4 was Capture the Flag on The Pit and you can put this game up there with one of the greatest comebacks of all time. We were down 4-2 with 60 second left. We knew it was an all or nothing attempt and capturing these flags if we wanted a chance to tie. Well, thanks to the Final Boss defense falling apart and our great teamwork we were able to run the third flag back making the score 4-3. Now at this point we have about 15 seconds left and we managed to run in and get control of the last rocket launcher of the game. Russo grabs them and runs to their training and quickly starts slaying. We grab the flag and manage to trap them on spawn which allows us to run the flag back and tie the game forcing it into overtime; all of this happening within the final 60 seconds. After the tying flag capture, we pulled another and had Final Boss trapped in the courtyard with Russo sitting on mid bridge with rockets waiting. As we begin running the flag, we sent the rest to take down Final Boss in their courtyard which allowed us to get the final flag capture, winning us the series with a score of 3-1. If there is one thing you can count on with our team, it’s that we will never give up and we will always fight until the very end.
Beating Final Boss guaranteed us a top 4 finish overall. Our next series which would be on the main stage was against Warriors after they managed to defeat Dynasty 3-1. This series was no different than our series against Believe the Hype the night before and it led to a depressing defeat. It seemed as though the crowd and announcers favored Warriors early on with them getting out to a quick 2-0 lead in Game 1 on Countdown CTF. However, we were able to remain calm and come together in order to come back and score five straight flags on them, beating them in Game 1. Game 2 was ended up being quite unfortunate on our part. Unfortunately, with a lead late in the game, we got stuck on our side with Warriors having complete control of weapons, thus allowing Warriors to make a great push and take the lead. This caused a back and forth game until it hit 47-46 in favor of Warriors. This did not work in our favor as we waited till the very end to make a push and were only able to kill a one while Warriors backed down and hid for the final seconds allowing Warriors to win 49-47.
Game 3 was Oasis King of the Hill, and this is one game that we truly dominate at. From the very beginning of the game we were able to maintain a 50+ second lead over Warriors which made the flow of the game in favor of us. We didn’t have to rush the hill as much and could focus on just slaying while picking up time when we had the opportunity. Our team does a great job at picking up a lot of time in the hill when we need to. This allowed us to easily win Game 3 with a score of 182-136.
Game 4 marked the downfall of our team. Santuary Capture the Flag has never been our strongest map. If you remember back to Raleigh when we took on Instinct, we lost this same game type in about 3 minutes. We lost the opening push for Rockets and the Warriors were able to capitalize off of it within the first 2 minutes allowing them to capture the first flag of the game. Two more minutes went by and still nothing had changed. We were just getting out played by Warriors on this map and we were trying our best to get control. Unfortunately, they were able to capture a second flag within this time bringing the score to 2-0. At this point, Warriors had all the momentum. They were making great plays and feeling great. We were not able to come back from that and lost Game 4 with a score of 3-0. Warriors worked off of that momentum going into Game 5 and ran away with it from the very beginning. We just weren’t able to hold a position or outslay them on Zealot thus allowing Warriors to easily win Game 5 and the series with a score of 3-2.
You can watch the series in its entirety from the following link: http://bcove.me/uqf08oma
This ended our Championship run, with us finishing 4th place overall and walking away with $28,000. Overall, I’m happy with how we performed. Although, I would have liked to take home the Championship, I’m pleased with a top 4 finish at the biggest stage of them all. Thinking back to when this roster just formed, no one gave us a chance going in. Everyone thought we were just going to crash and burn. However, we put in so much time, and hard work to make sure we were successful. We proved to everyone that a team of underdogs can come out and be one of the world’s best. This was, honestly, one hell of a ride in 2011. We had our ups and our downs, but being a part of Fnatic with these four guys has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. It was the help of all of you that made this possible. I want to say thank you to all of our friends, family and fans for sticking by us from day 1 and being a part of this crazy ride we had in 2011. Without all of you, none of this would have been possible.
After all was set and done, the team went back to the hotel, got changed and proceeded to head out to the Cheesecake Factory for a team dinner. We went with a fairly large party which included our friends on Active Rush and others. We were able to sit back and celebrate our successes throughout the year and also celebrate Frosty’s (Captain of Active Rush) birthday. After dinner some went separate ways while most of us headed over to Dave and Busters to continue the party. It mainly consisted of drinking and playing arcade games and just having an all-around good time. After all was said and done, we headed back to our rooms, packed up, said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.
Once again I want to thank everyone for such an amazing year. I would especially like to thank Fnatic, RaidCall, MSI, SteelSeries, Gunnar, Eizo, and Slappa for allowing us to be able to wear the black and orange at events. I would also like to thank all of the fans out there that followed us from day 1. You guys pushed us to want to be the best and for that we thank you. I would also like to thank my friends and family for all of their support, it definitely means a lot. I would like to thank Kyle, Cory, Mike, and Matt for allowing me to be a part of such an incredible team. Finally, I would like to thank Christina. You’ve supported me more than anyone, and I want to truly thank you for everything. Thank you everyone for taking the time in reading these past two blogs, and stay tuned for another blog this week talking about 2012 and what I have done thus far during the off season.
Thank you very much,
Justin “Spikemouth” Saboo