Cameron “VictoryX” Thorlakson has spent the last 10 years playing competitive Halo on the best teams in the world. Earlier this week he sat down to give his thoughts on his career and the upcoming Halo Pro League. Cameron was also able to shed some light on the recent Renegades roster changes and the timeline for the departure of Braedon “StelluR” Boettcher and Tyler “Spartan” Ganza.
Blake Bottrill: Talk to me a little bit about the birth of the Renegades/Leftovers roster. It had been about six months since anyone had played professionally. How did you guys find each other, especially StelluR and Commonly? They basically played their first professional matches with you right?
Cameron “Victory X” Thorlakson: At the end of Halo 2: Anniversary, I was left off with the Cloud 9 squad. It was myself, Hysteria, Pistola and Fearitself and pretty much immediately after Halo Championship Series Season 2 Finals, Pistola opted to part ways with us and join up with Heinz to form a different team. So immediately I knew it was going to be myself, Hysteria and Fearitself looking for one, but there is not much you can do when the game is not out. We knew that we were gonna wait until Halo 5 came out and start playing with people because we had heard inklings about Halo World Championship. I don’t know if all the details were out at that point, but we knew we were all definitely interested.
So we waited around until Halo 5 came out. We actually ended up playing the three of us and Frosty from the famed Counter Logic Gaming squad. So we played us three and Frosty for a few weeks and it was pretty clear he was the best on our team, probably because he had put in the most hours at that point. Fearitself was struggling, Hysteria was OK and I wasn’t playing that great either, so we were playing with him for a few weeks and then he ended up approaching Ogre 2 on CLG asking them if they would want to trying something out, and the rest is history over there.
So that left us again looking for one and we couldn’t find another player that fit with us well, and individually we weren’t all doing that great. So Hysteria ended up leaving and running games with another team, which left myself and Fearitself. We tried running with a few free agents at the time. None of them were great players. We played with Huke for a little bit; we actually ended up playing the first qualifier with Huke, Aries, Fearitself and myself and we got top 32. We ended up losing to Contra, Devon, Penguin and Rayne, which is kinda unfortunate because they all ended up being top-four players. That pretty much ended our hopes with that team, and then I actually ended up running games with Spartan, Cloud and Commonly.
So we ran with that squad in the second qualifier. We beat Evil Geniuses, who had placed first in the previous qualifier. We took them out and ended up playing Allegiance in the finals and ended up getting second there, and that pretty much etched us into the top four in points and essentially got us an invite to X Games as well. And a couple weeks after that is when Lxthul pulled the controversial move where he joined CLG, and Commonly ended up getting asked by EG to join up. We were in a frantic rush to pick up another player. We had a few days but we couldn’t do much. We ended up picking up StelluR, who was our No. 1 option at the time, so it worked out.
BB: You’re coming off a tough Quarterfinal exit at the Halo World Championships. It kinda seemed like Naded was destined to make another final based on how that series played out. How do you feel the tournament went, and what was your expectation coming into it?
CT: Going into the HWC finals in Los Angeles, I felt we had a pretty good chance. We definitely put in a ton of practice in between regionals and finals. I thought our team had the most to gain and I definitely thought we made significant strides and that going in we were a top two or three team.
We practiced the game types against EG a ton because obviously we knew them beforehand. We started off every single online series with those five game types, talked about those game types the most, and then we watched EG play those game types as well. We tried to memorize what they were doing off the start. They switched it up a little bit because they knew we were watching, but they actually ended up doing the same thing we thought they were going to do. We beat EG in Game 5, which was great, and we ended up coming out on fire against Allegiance in the first two games and then we fell flat after the third game. All our momentum was just drained. We are clearly an emotional team.
We had the highest of highs and lowest of lows, and that is what ended up breaking us apart in the end was the inconsistency. Spartan and StelluR didn’t think that could be fixed, so they went their separate ways.
BB: I’ve heard about some potential roster changes in the mix. Can you talk a little bit about who you found to replace Spartan and StelluR?
CT: So after HWC, pretty much immediately after we lost, StelluR started to do his own thing. Even later that night we were all hanging out and he went off and hung out with his old OpTic Gaming buddies, so we pretty much had a feeling that he wasn’t down to team anymore and that he wanted to leave the team and explore other options. So we all talked about it the following Tuesday, and Spartan and StelluR decided go their separate ways and join a different team, which left Ninja and I on Renegades.
We played with a lot of people trying to find the best fit for probably about two weeks and eventually we ended up running games with Penguin and Commonly one night against our former teammates StelluR, Spartan, eL Town and unLegit had a team that they had formed. We ended up beating them 5-0 and then they quit out of the scrim so we didn’t even get to finish. We were thinking that is actually a pretty solid squad of players. If we did that well against them, maybe we should see how well we do against others.
A couple days later we ended up scrimming against the new Evil Geniuses roster and we ended up beating them 8-5 or 9-5, and we’ve been running with that squad ever since.
BB: Counter Logic Gaming looked really dominant in its wins, especially winning the final against Allegiance like that. They will obviously enter Pro League as the No. 1 seed. Who else should people watch out for when it starts?
CT: Obviously CLG, like you said, No. 1 for sure. They are in another league right now. Everyone is still playing catch up. Besides us and and CLG, I think the new EG lineup with Suspector, they are definitely looking to make some noise and get back up to the top after falling off at the end of last season. I think Team EnVyUs, I think they are dark horses here. We actually played against them last night and did well against them, but they have an insane amount of individual skill on that team, and they have been playing more than any other team so far. I think once they get their teamwork down, I think that is going to be a scary roster. I think the four of us — CLG, EnVy, EG and us — are all ahead of the competition right now.
BB: With Pro League announced, do you feel like it is a positive for Halo esports moving forward? Do you miss the old MLG circuit style LANs?
CT: Oh yeah! I think the Pro League is definitely a step forward for the future of Halo and esports in general. I mean how could it fail they are pretty much copying the format of other leagues that have seen a lot of success with their league structure. Look at League of Legends, Call of Duty also doing that style. League of Legends is seeing huge success. It’s tough to fail when you’re copying such a successful structure and bringing it to our game. I think this a good start. I know they’re implementing LANs. Not as many like you said like the old days, but we still have them, so that is good to have.
There was a lot of traveling back in the day. Someone like me who works full time and plays, I like the online a lot but I definitely like getting out there to a LAN. Two or three a year, that is definitely crucial to have.
BB: 343 have announced that they will be running a separate LAN circuit underneath Pro League. How do you feel about the idea of the minor league so to speak?
CT: I think that’s awesome! There will definitely be some top teams in there who just missed the cut for Pro League. I think the relegation is awesome. It’ll give those teams that are hungry that just missed out on a previous cut a chance to make it in upon relegation at the end of the first season. I support it for sure.
BB: You’ve been playing Halo professionally for a decade now and you’ve played professionally in every single game. Do you have a favorite Halo game or do they feel pretty similar from a pro player standpoint?
CT: In terms of having fun while playing, I have to give it to Halo 2. I could play that game for hours and hours and hours and never get bored. I don’t know if it was because I was younger and I had more fun back then. The button glitches added a whole other level of skill to the game. Everybody goes crazy for a crazy double shot or BXR. Yeah, Halo 2 definitely takes the cake in terms of fun, but Halo 3 is also right up there.
I don’t know if it is because of the amount of success I had in Halo 3 compared to all the rest but it was definitely a whole lot of fun winning those tournaments.
BB: Outside of the original Final Boss rosters in Halo 2 who do you think was the GOAT roster?
CT: I think the Final Boss roster we had in Halo 3 was up there. Not a lot of people mention us for some reason. I think that was the competitive apex of Halo. There was the LAN network. Five or six teams would LAN before every single event. You definitely don’t see that these days and during Halo: Reach a little bit, which is why I think you definitely have to throw Instinct in there. I think that even put them above our Halo 3 team, just because they kinda dominated the tournaments in a more convincing fashion I would say. They did lose one, but other than that they had a couple of flawless performances.
So I would say my 2010 Final Boss squad, 2011 Instinct and then you have to include Evil Geniuses H2A. What did they win, like five or six in a row? I mean the tournaments were smaller, but everyone was still there. They won the most in a row since that Final Boss Halo 2 roster. I think I would put them second overall behind that Final Boss Halo 2 roster. And then CLG now, but it’s only been a few months so you can’t put them up there just yet.
BB: You spent a good portion of your career playing with that historic Final Boss franchise. That roster went through a lot of changes outside of you and Tom “Ogre2” Ryan. 2010 was your year. Five straight podium finishes that ended in a pretty much untouchable run in Dallas. Do you feel like that was the best Halo you’ve played in your life?
CT: I think that was probably my prime in terms of being a complete player. I think I always had the skill earlier on. I was one of the top players in 2007 in Halo 2 and going forward from there, but I think 2010 was when I finally brought it all together in terms of being a better teammate and communicating, telling other people what to do and what not. Probably with the help of Ogre 2, who had been around for a while helping me learn the ways a little bit.
I think I’m still performing up to that level these days. Definitely not putting in as much time. I think near the end of H2A, I thought I was consistently performing the best on my team. Obviously our results didn’t show it in H2A, which was disappointing. Right now, I think I’m playing at a high level but it’s definitely not the best I can play, I just hope to get better every day. I just hope to be playing better than I did in the first World Championship in HWC 2017. That is for sure.
BB: What was your favorite tournament you ever played in, outside of your National Championship in Dallas?
CT: It would definitely be my very first tournament, which was MLG Chicago 2005. It was just awesome to check out, I went there with a bunch of my local buddies, actually. One of them was on my team. We all drove down there to Chicago from Detroit. I was even shocked by the big names back then. We were in the pro bracket because one of our teammates had an automatic bid, luckily. We ended up playing the Ogres on main stage and I thought that was just the coolest thing! We got the swift 3-0 but was still just an awesome experience being able to play them on the main stage. It was a great start to my career at least. It was definitely life-changing, I would say.
BB: Despite still remaining with the Final Boss organization, Halo: Reach was obviously a rough time for you and a lot of other previous Halo pros. Do you feel like Bungie’s first attempt to draw the Call of Duty crowd in with loadouts and power-ups really hurt the endemic Halo community? Or was there another reason for the drop off?
CT: I think Halo: Reach definitely disrupted in a couple ways. The pro community definitely fell off a little bit. We saw a lot of the former pro players exit during that time. A lot of them didn’t like the game or couldn’t adapt to the difference that was Halo: Reach. You saw a lot of new pros rise to the top and old pros place a little worse, such as myself. I think I placed fifth through eighth the whole 2011 season. I didn’t play it as much. I didn’t think it was as fun. It was definitely the least Halo I had played up until that point.
And then also the community in general, I think they shared the same sentiment. They didn’t think that is the direction Halo should go; they didn’t understand the jetpack, the evades, people just flying all over the place and the bloom (Editor’s note: Bloom refers to the reticle on the screen getting larger as you shoot more rapidly). I think bloom was a big factor and a bad decision for competitive Halo, but I’m glad they realized their mistake afterwards and cleaned that up.
That and the expansion of Call of Duty outside of Halo. It was a two-headed giant I guess. Losing fans to Call of Duty and just losing fans because the Halo game wasn’t all that great itself.
BB: After a decade of ups and downs, was there ever a point when you considered hanging up your controller? Or do you want to play Halo for the rest of your life if you could?
CT: That’s a great question I don’t think anybody has ever asked. After Halo: Reach, I thought I was pretty much going to be done. I played Halo 4 a little bit after it released, but I was never interested in that Halo 4 MLG launch tournament or anything like that. I didn’t even know about the Halo 4 Global Championship when it happened cause I was that disassociated from Halo at that point.
When H2A came back, I just realized that I liked competing. I don’t have to do it, I have a full-time job, I can support myself doing that. I don’t have to play as a job like some players are. I’m just passionate about it, so as long as I feel I can compete at the top I’m going to give it a go. Right now I feel like I can. I’m here to stay for now!
Cover photo credit: Carlton Beener/ESL, eslgaming.com. Remix by Blake Bottrill.