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Published: December 01, 2006

xXx has been a part of MLG since the days of Halo: CE. He earned a reputation as a tactical and talented player in both Halo: CE and Halo 2. During the 2006 season, however, this veteran gave up his playing days to become the coach for Carbon. Over the course of the season he helped them improve from third place to become the 2006 National Champions, recently defeating defending champs Final Boss in Las Vegas. xXx took time out of his busy schedule as a professional gaming coach and his day job as a chef to talk to MLG about his journey with Carbon to the top of the league.

MLG: There are a lot of new MLG fans out there that only know you as the coach of Carbon. But you weren’t always a coach right? Care to tell us a little about your competitive gaming history?

xXx: Well, I started playing Halo: CE competitively back at 50K1 in Atlanta and then went to the second 50K tournament and to Halo Nationals (MLG Philly ’04) where we lost to KillerN’s team by just a few kills. They went on to take second so we felt we did pretty well.

When Halo 2 came around I took it way more seriously. I had a set team of me, Riddick, Zion and Caddy during the ’05 season. We took 5/6th at the season opener in DC and then fourth at the next event we attended in Orlando. We beat second-seeded x6, which was Sergio, Tupac, KillerN and Zyos. But after that my team broke up to do other things. But since we got fourth at an event I was invited to all the conference championships. I took Ghostayame, Pistol and Levi to LA and got top 8 and then teamed with Mack, Detach, and Pistol in Atlanta and got top 8 again.

MLG: What about this year?

xXx: Well, Ghost and Pistol went on to find better teammates and form eX, so I got back together with my original ’05 team and we went to the season opener and got destroyed. We got like 22nd place or something like that. The team just fell apart. Everyone pointed fingers and it just turned into a mess.



xXx has been instrumental both in Carbon’s success this season and in the acceptance of coaching in Halo 2. He has rightfully found his place among the most respected figures of the community.

MLG: So you didn’t do so well at the first event this year as a player. How did you hook up with the Carbon guys and decide to switch to coaching?

xXx: Well, I watched Carbon play at the ’05 Finals and then again at the ’06 season opener and I noticed a lot of things they just weren’t doing as a team like talking and timing weapons and power ups. They also set up really weird but they were such an amazing group of players that they just pushed through it. Watching them play at the season opener I was thinking, “Wow… they don’t talk much. They don’t time weapon spawns but they’re so good they just overpower everyone.”

When I decided not to play anymore, I talked to Shockwave about coaching them since I knew him and Gandhi from Halo 1. They agreed to pick me up for Dallas as a test run to see how the coaching thing would work out. I wasn’t even sure how it was going to go, since it was new to MLG. Fortunately when I was playing I was the team leader, so I was always screen watching and getting everything set up for the next play. It made coaching come easy for me.

MLG: What sort of qualities do you feel the coach of a professional team needs to be successful?

xXx: Their players need to trust them. Trust is huge. Everyone on the team trusts what I say during the match. So if I tell someone to do something there isn’t even a question about it. They just hope I’m right and follow through with it. For instance, if I call out a guy on the map but Karma doesn’t see him right away, he still listens and works to get that kill.

Another thing is the ability to understand your team. Each team is different. The original team I played with took the game very seriously, but the guys on Carbon played much better when they were having fun. Of course they take Halo seriously and they work hard to win, but if they get too serious inside of a match it gets their heads all messed up. They just play better if they are having fun.

MLG: Do you think a coach for a professional team needs to have your kind of competitive resume to be successful?

xXx: Not really. I think you just need to understand the game and know how good players think. VoD can help a lot with that. Like, I’ve played against a lot of top Halo 2 players but by watching VoD I’m sure you can pick up on a lot of things each player does. Look at Photon. I think he does a good job but I don’t think he’s ever played the game at a pro level. I think as long as the coach is trusted by his players and understands the timing and mechanics of the game he can be successful.

MLG: You said before that you need to understand your players to motivate them to play their best and that every team is different. How would you coach Final Boss? Could you coach the Ogres?

xXx: I don’t know. I got to coach them for the All-Star game and it just felt weird. I was looking forward to it but it was a lot different than I expected.

MLG: How so?

xXx: They do not stop talking during games, so it’s really hard to get a word in. At first they were taking it real serious but then just played for fun. I think the first team was Ogre 1 and 2, Gandhi and Shockwave and they got outslayed and still won. Honestly I just don’t know that I would be as effective coaching Final Boss as I am coaching Carbon.

MLG: As a coach, how do you prepare for events? What has been your job to help Carbon prepare?

xXx: Right now I study VoD. Before the first event I coached them, I played with the guys as their fourth for three weeks before the event whenever someone couldn’t be online. So I got to see how they talked and I noticed three big things. First, their communication was just plain bad. Each player had a different name for locations on the map and they were long names too. When they would call Red Glass on Middy they’d say like, “Top Red in the illegal flag corner!” So I got everyone to talk the same. We went over every map and got short names for every spot. It took some time to switch over but the new vocab helped a ton.

MLG: What was the second thing?

xXx: Second was Gandhi talking trash! During events and even online he always had something to say so I talked to the guys about switching the tournament seating so he was closer to the other team. That way he didn’t have to yell across the rest of Carbon all the time. They all agreed it was a good move and we did it for Dallas.

MLG: Third?

xXx: StrongSide… I know online isn’t the same as tournament play, but it always seemed like he was off doing something different than the rest of the team. So they worked with him a ton over the next few months, going over strats, explaining what he needed to do in different situations. Karma spent two months over the summer with him playing side-by-side to try to bring him up to the level all the other guys were at for 4v4.

MLG: So when the team made the decision to replace StrongSide with Ghostayame, were you part of the decision making process? Did you favor picking up your former teammate?

xXx: Yeah, I had actually talked to him about the possibility of getting on Carbon before the event in Anaheim just to see if he was interested. He was all for it. So when the time came to replace StrongSide I mentioned Ghost to the guys and after talking about it they thought it would be a good move. The night they told StrongSide he wasn’t going to be on Carbon anymore I spoke with all five guys and StrongSide said he might be better off with Legendz because he didn’t like the pressure of being on Carbon.

MLG: Before Orlando you had fallen back down to third behind Storm Ventures and had just made a team change. Did you expect to come in and defeat Final Boss or were you thinking it would take some time to adjust to the new teammate?

xXx: I didn’t get a chance to play with the team at all during that time, so I had no idea how it was going. But they all told me day in and day out how amazing they felt about the team change and how everyone just clicked. They made a few strat changes here and there, but nothing crazy. Ghost was just more vocal and able to focus better than StrongSide. But no, I didn’t expect to beat Final Boss.

MLG: At what point did you start to think Carbon could do it?

xXx: Well, we went in confident, but up until Orlando Final Boss were almost unstoppable. Sure they went to ten games against Storm Ventures, which was a little weird, but they were still undefeated. The goal up to Orlando was just to beat Str8, but we were confident in the new team. Then during the Winners Bracket Finals we were like, “Wow! We could actually do this!”

MLG: After you defeated Final Boss did your confidence soar? Did you expect to win three in a row and take home the Championship?

xXx: We didn’t know what to expect. Final Boss had stayed in the Winners Bracket all season, so we were in new territory, with a new team and with amazing confidence. A lot of people see it as being cocky, but Carbon are far from cocky. They just play confidently. But we didn’t expect to beat Final Boss three times in a row. We take each series one game at a time. That’s why when we were down 4-1 in NY we still thought we were in it.



Carbon’s late season run to beat Final Boss and take the 2006 National Championship was result of their incredible skill, dedication, and yes, their coach too. Congratulations to Carbon and their coach xXx for their historic overthrow of the defending champions.

MLG: Now Carbon has earned a reputation for coming back in series or games that they look to have already lost. How do you handle those situations as their coach?

xXx: I try to keep their heads in the game no matter what. I keep them in a good mood and keep the attitudes positive.

MLG: Let’s jump forward to Vegas. Were you nervous about the tournament? Did it ever hit you just how much money your team was playing for?

xXx: Yeah, man. I heard Final Boss was all at the same house for two and a half weeks getting ready for the event and the Carbon guys hardly had enough time to get together. Ghost just joined a frat at college. Karma’s Internet was down for a few days. Plus it just seemed like they were overconfident. Then at the event we see FB warming up all Sunday morning and I was like, “Wow! They are really worried about this event.” But the Carbon guys stayed confident in what they had to do and just played amazing, like winning games they shouldn’t have.

MLG: True. Everyone had written CTF Midship and CTF Beaver Creek off as easy wins for Final Boss. Winning those was huge for you guys.

xXx: I figured on paper we had more games than Final Boss did. I gave them Warlock TS, CTF Beaver Creek and CTF Sanctuary. I gave Carbon Middy Ball and the rest of the Team Slayer games. But that didn’t happen at all. Haha.

MLG: Tell us about the last game. It’s TS Beaver Creek and your team hasn’t won a slayer game yet against Final Boss. What’s going through your head?

xXx: Well, that’s our favorite slayer map. I keep track of OS, sniper and rockets. Gandhi loves that map. So I was like, “Ok, we got this.” I don’t think we’ve lost a TS Beaver Creek game with the new lineup.

MLG: Karma stood up during the last game, thinking victory was assured, and Final Boss suddenly made a quick push to make the score close. Did you ever have a moment of fear that they would come back on you like Carbon did against Storm Ventures in Chicago?

xXx: Oh God, yeah. I was like, “OMG Ben!” ‘cause he turned around in-game and just started shooting Ryan (Saiyan) and choked. He tossed a grenade after shooting two times and died. I was like, “Wow, Ben, what was that?” But it all worked out in the end.

MLG: How did you celebrate after you won?

xXx: We wanted to go to the Vegas strip but some of the guys were too young to even be on the strip past 9 PM so we didn’t do that. We just ended up hanging out at the hotel all together for the rest of the night. It was the last night we’d see each other and our MLG friends until the start of the ’07 season.

MLG: I heard you got engaged in Vegas, how did you do it?

xXx: Yeah. I asked my girlfriend of ten years to marry me in front of the Bellagio water fountain. It was kind of cute.

MLG: Congrats!

xXx: Thanks!

MLG: So I’ve got just one last question for you. At the beginning of the season there was a lot of criticism of both you and of coaching in general. Do you feel like your success in helping Carbon improve from a disorganized third-place team to National Champions has silenced your critics, or do you still have something to prove?

xXx: A lot of people were totally against coaching and a lot of MLG forum members thought it was a joke. But I have a feeling now a lot more people have accepted it and a lot more teams will pick up a coach. I’m glad I started coaching Carbon when I did. I wonder if they would still be where they are right now if I hadn’t been part of the team, if they picked someone else to coach or if they dropped me after the trial run in Dallas.

MLG: Well congratulations again on your engagement and the national championships. It was a big weekend for you. Thanks for talking to us.

xXx: Thanks!

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