Welcome to the first edition of Behind the Match-Up ! In this series, we'll provide in-depth analytical previews of all four of the first round Halo 3 matches that will take place at the Las Vegas National Championships on November 21-23. Unlike every other tournament throughout the 2008 Pro Circuit, the Las Vegas National Championships provide us with the unique opportunity of knowing exactly which teams will be facing off in the very first round, along with their potential routes through the bracket based on their performance. Each installment of the series will be released periodically, and will lead us into our usual round of pre-event coverage that you've come to expect.
For the debut edition of the Behind the Match-Up, we'll take at the match-up between 4th seeded Instinct and 5th seeded Classic. These two teams have gone toe-to-toe in three of this year's five events – Meadowlands, San Diego, and Dallas. In those matches, Classic has emerged the victor the majority of the time, with two wins out of the three. When combining all individual games, Classic once again comes out on top with an 8-5 advantage overall. However, is there more to the story than that? There sure is, and that's exactly what we're about to take a closer look at.
Side by side comparisons of both teams' historical data has been made difficult by the multitude of roster changes that have occurred since the 2008 Pro Circuit kicked off. The only remaining members from the original Instinct are Roy and Lunchbox. On the other hand, the only original members of Classic are Solider 187 and Ant. The twist in this match-up comes in with Mackeo, who was the very first team captain of Instinct, and Victory X, another original member, now playing on the opposite side of the stage with their newest team, Classic. This fact could provide for a rivalry-esque match-up that will set the tone of the National Championships perfectly.
Classic set the bar extremely high for themselves as they took home second place at the 2008 season opener at MLG Meadowlands. After dominating the online-realm throughout Halo 3's infancy, on top of their Top 2 performance at MLG Meadowlands, it's safe to say the MLG community had high hopes for Classic from the very beginning. However, relatively dismal performances at every event thereafter, as well as a slew of roster changes along with it have arguably damaged the community's expectations of Classic towards the end of the season.
As for Instinct, three words come to mind when describing the team: consistency, consistency, and you guessed it ... consistency. With the exception of their most recent performance at MLG Dallas, Instinct had yet to place outside of the Top 3 in every single regular season event of 2008. Much like Classic, as well as a host of other teams, Instinct has seen their fare share of roster changes throughout the 2008 season. Unlike most other teams though, Instinct did not let the changing of faces result in a lack of chemistry.
Below you will find the results from the three times the teams have met previously this season. Games highlighted in gold represent gametypes that the teams will play in the first round at Vegas.
Above you'll find the game-by-game statistics from Classic and Instinct's three prior match-ups. Notice that in two of the three matches, the series was decided by a fifth and final game. Also notice that of the three matches, they've only played against one another in two of the five gametypes that will be featured in the first round of the National Championships – Narrows Team Slayer and The Pit Team King; these games have been highlighted for easy viewing. What this means is that although both teams are highly experienced in playing one another, this will be their first time facing off in the majority of round one's gametypes.
Game 1: Onslaught CTF
Now let's take a look at each game on an individual basis. The series will make its debut on Onslaught Multi-Flag, and it is perhaps the most unpredictable gametype of the entire series. Both teams have their share of advantages and weaknesses here, but Instinct's seemingly deep understanding of objective gametypes just may put them over the top. Intincts combo of Roy, who is widely credited with having one of the steadiest shots in the league, along with Soviet, whose raw talent rivals that of any player in the league, a perpetual spawn-trap could spell disaster for Classic early on in the series.
Game 2: The Pit Team Slayer
The next game will be a good old fashioned game of Team Slayer, and will take place on none other than The Pit. This particular gametype compliments Classic's aggressively-charged play-style in a number of ways. Running and gunning has always been the basis of the majority of Classic's play, and expect them to do what they do best here on The Pit, where a permanent spawn-trap is always just a multi-kill away. If Classic can manage to keep Instinct in their spawn throughout the duration of Game 2, things could get potentially ugly for the 4th seeded Instinct.
Game 3: The Pit King of the Hill
Game 3, The Pit Team King, happens to be one of the two gametypes that Instinct and Classic have met in before. They first squared off on The Pit Team King back at MLG San Diego, where Instinct went on to win in dominating fashion – 250-161. Lunchbox put on an ultra-impressive performance, racking up the most hill-time for his team (120 seconds), as well as managing to tie his twin brother, Roy, for the most kills (28). All but one member of Classic went negative, and the amount of objective time accumulated was dismal at best. If Instinct can replicate this performance in Las Vegas, expect them to walk away with a near-effortless win.
Game 4: Guardian Oddball
If the match does not end in a 3-0, it will head into Game 4 with Guardian Oddball. By taking a look at both teams' performance in Dallas, it becomes clear that Instinct has the statistical advantage. Both teams played the gametype twice, where Instinct went 1-1 and Classic went 0-2. Instinct's one loss came to Triggers Down, where they lost the game by a mere 8 seconds (179-171). Meanwhile Classic was ousted by Str8 Rippin and Ambush by fairly large amounts. Given Instinct's history of dominating objective performances, as well as the statistics from Dallas, it would be hard to argue in Classic's favor for Game 4.
Game 5: Narrows Team Slayer
If history truly does repeat itself, this match-up will either end in a 3-0 or a 3-2. If the latter is to occur, that means we'll be heading into Narrows Team Slayer, which serves as the other gametype Classic and Instinct have met up in. Narrows TS was played in both Meadowlands, where Classic emerged victorious in a 50-44 showdown, and in San Diego, where it was Instinct who walked away the victor by a 50-41 tally. In the Meadowlands, every member of Classic went positive, meanwhile every member of Instinct went negative. However San Diego was the complete reciprocate, as every member of Instinct went positive and every member of Classic went negative. Unfortunately, this leaves us with a rather inconclusive ending. However, it should provide for one of the most intense best of five series we see in the first round.
As both teams travel down the short road to the 2008 National Championships, Classic is expected to conduct a pre-event LAN with Str8 Rippin. Meanwhile Instinct has a double header in their sights, as they plan to take on both Final Boss and Triggers Down between now and the week of the event. Both LAN's should provide for excellent practice leading into the event, and will undoubtedly prepare them for their first-round match.
As previously mentioned, Behind the Match-Up will be a periodically released series that will roll out between now and the week before the 2008 Pro Circuit finale. Expect to see the next iteration of Behind the Match-Up later this week, as we tackle the 3rd and 6th seeded match-up of Final Boss vs. Ambush. Be sure to tune in!