Goodbye to the GOAT: The legacy of Tom “OGRE2” Ryan

In the 13 years competitive Halo has been a popular esport many prolific players have come and gone, but recently one of the original greats, Tom “OGRE2” Ryan, has announced that he will finally be walking away from competition. He is the player in competitive halo and console esports with the most tournament wins, taking home first place an astounding 40 times in major 4-v-4 competitions on top of seven 2-v-2 victories and four first place finishes in free for all events. Esports moving away from tournaments and towards leagues means that record might never be broken, forever solidifying OGRE2 as not only the greatest Halo player of all time but also as a competitive gaming legend.

“OGRE2 is the greatest Halo player of all time and it was a pleasure teaming with him,” said David “Walshy” Walsh, another one of the most well-known Halo players of all time.

His professional debut was in Atlanta, Georgia in April 2003. He attended Halo50k, winning the 2-v-2 with his brother Daniel “OGRE1” Ryan and placing third with his team Shoot to Kill; he would not miss another major 4-v-4 final until June 2008.

OGRE2’s impressive debut would be succeeded by an even more impressive set of performances, winning the next four 4-v-4 competitions in a row; the OGREs had arrived. The dominating performances led to the formation of Team FFA, designed specifically to beat them in 4-v-4 competition. Team FFA was successful in their mission in both Chicago and Atlanta, besting the OGREs in the finals of both events.

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Shoot to Kill in 2003. (Left to Right: Dom1nator, OGRE2, OGRE1, StrangePurple). Photo credit: halo.esportspedia.com

 

Those losses sparked the formation of the core of the most famous roster in Halo’s history. The OGRE twins joined forces with Walshy of Team FFA and together they would dominate the competitive halo landscape for the next four years. They called themselves Domination for the remainder of Halo CE and were joined by Nick “Killer N” Urso, also of Team of FFA, winning the final four events in the game’s competitive history to crown OGRE2 and his squad national champions. There was no doubt OGRE2 was one of the premier Halo CE players in the world.

With the start of 2005 came the beginning of competitive Halo 2 and the peak of OGRE2’s career. Killer N had been replaced by Ryan “Saiyan” Danford to create the most successful Halo team in history and the group with which OGRE2 would compete for all of 2005 and 2006. They initially called themselves Shoot to Kill, paying homage to the OGRE’s old Xbox-Connect clan, but rebranded themselves as Team 3D partway through the year. It proved to be the most successful year of OGRE2’s career and the most dominant in Halo’s history with Team 3D winning 14 of the 15 major tournaments including the 2005 National Championships.

The team underwent yet another name change the following year, adorning the Final Boss name so many fans came to recognize and respect. The team would be the first in Halo to garner mainstream attention and attract sponsors like NBA star Gilbert Arenas and Redbull, helping the entire competitive Halo scene grow.

Final Boss initially continued to find success as well in the game, as it would win the first four events of 2006. In the final three events of the season, however, Final Boss would be defeated in the finals by its rivals Carbon each time. OGRE2 had lost his crown.

The one theme that clearly emerges from OGRE2’s career is that winning was of paramount importance and anything less than being the best was unacceptable. This is illuminated by the decision he and the rest of Final Boss make at the start of 2007 to replace Saiyan with Michael “Strongside” Cavanaugh for the final year of competitive Halo 2. The move immediately paid dividends for OGRE2 and his teammates, as they won the first two events and five of the seven that year including the final two events in Halo 2 history. This feat was made even more impressive by winning the national championships in Las Vegas that year without dropping a single game and being crowned the 2007 season MVP. OGRE2 was on top of the Halo world.

OGRE2’s effect on the entire Halo world was so undeniable, even some of his own teammates were initially inspired by his dominance.

“Teaming with him felt so easy,” Strongside said. “You never had to worry about him in game or question his judgement. He was such a competitive guy both inside and outside the game that you knew he’d bring 100 percent. Even before teaming with him, I’d watch his VODs knowing that if I did what he did in game I’d at least be doing something right, because he was the best. He inspired so many players including myself, and likely many of the players still playing today, to play halo and compete and gave them that dream to be a pro gamer, to be the best.”

OGRE2 had already solidified his place in Halo history, but the chapters that follow are what make him stand out as the single greatest player of all time.

Halo 3 would be introduced to the competitive world in 2008 and it would mark the first prolonged period of adversity OGRE2. At Meadowlands in 2008, they were defeated by Instinct early on, forcing them to win through the loser’s bracket; the new game brought all sorts of questions.

The next two tournaments would not go well for OGRE2; for the first time since his initial introduction to the scene, he would fail to make the finals of a tournament. He would actually finish in the two lowest spots of his entire career up to this point, earning seventh and then fifth, respectively. Knowing the history of OGRE2’s tolerance for losing, it was easy to see change was coming on the horizon, though what happened next took the entire Halo world by surprise.

After four years of dominating the competitive halo scene together, the OGRE twins would dismiss Walshy from Final Boss and replace him with Mason “Neighbor” Cobb. But unlike the previous changes the OGREs had made with their teammates, this one would not immediately propel them back to the top; it would be a while before OGRE2 got the taste of victory again.The new rendition of Final Boss would play out 2008 together finishing third twice before getting fourth at the national championships.

OGRE1 shocked the Halo world in early 2009 by saying he would be retiring from serious competitive play. As a result, OGRE2 would be forced to play without his twin brother for the first time in his competitive career. It would be a dark year, and the various rosters he would create for Final Boss would never place higher than third, and he even finished outside of the top eight once, again setting the worst finish of OGRE2’s career at that time.

He found more success in 2010 playing alongside Cameron “Victory X” Thorlakson, who was on Final Boss for all of 2009, and picking up Justin “Fearitself” Kats, who was also on Final Boss for a portion of the previous year. The trio did well in the first event of 2010, finishing in third place and using Anthony “Totz” Pennacchio as a fourth. But once they swapped Justin “iGotUrPistola” Deese into the lineup, everything began to click. They made it to the finals in their first event together and were narrowly defeated 6-4 by Instinct. They would go on to win the final three tournaments of the year, including the final national championships of Halo 3. OGRE2 was now allowed to call himself not only a national champion in all three of the original Halo titles, but also the final national champion in each one of those games.

“OGRE2 was easily one of my favorite teammates of all time,” VictoryX said. “He was always at the very top in terms of game knowledge and decision making, which helped our 2010 Final Boss team achieve the success we saw, and for which I respect him immensely. Him retiring…it truly is the end of an era. There will never be another OGRE2, and I wish him the best of luck with his future endeavors, whether they be in the world of gaming or not.”

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Final Boss after winning the 2010 National Championships. (Left to right Coach Mazsik, Pistola, Fearitself, OGRE2, Victory X). Photo credit: MLG

 

Halo Reach would be the first title since Halo CE where OGRE2 would not win the inaugral event. Final Boss actually did quite poorly getting 10th place, which was his worst placing to date. This immediately sparked a team change. He and his teammate Pistola would join forces with Justin “Roy” Brown and Jason “Lunchbox” Brown, another set of highly successful twins, to form the newest rendition of Instinct. Doing so he finally left the Final Boss team name behind.

The new rendition of Instinct was nicknamed “The God Squad,” and their performances lived up to the expectations such a name would create. They made the finals in six out of their seven events together and took home first place four times, including at the 2011 national championships where they dominated Warriors in the finals with a clean 3-0 series, leaving no question as to their dominance. This continued OGRE2’s streak of national titles giving him at least one in each of the first four Halo games for a total of five.

Halo 4 was a dark period for competitive Halo. Many fans and players also consider it the dark ages of the game. Large numbers of the top players in the game had retired, took the game less seriously or had seemed to move on, and OGRE2 was in that group. His instinct squad attended the 2012 Halo 4 MLG Fall National Championship but finished in 9-12th, which prompted OGRE2 to retire from competitive Halo. This retirement seemed to be born out of the fact the entire competitive halo scene was moving on rather than some personal reasoning however, so when Halo 2 Anniversary was announced and OGRE2 made his comeback, nobody was really all that surprised.

Now in late 2014 for the H2A Launch Invitational, OGRE2 dawned the StK banner once again with new teammates Richie “Heinz” Heinz, Paul “Snakebite” Duarte and Matthew “Royal 2” Fiorante. They did well, finishing third, and decided to remain together throughout the entire first season of the game. Gaming organizations now prominent in esports were quick to notice the talented roster, and Counter Logic Gaming quickly picked up the team. CLG would win its first event under that banner at Iron Gaming Columbus 2014, and while it was impossible to know at the time, it would prove to be the last major event OGRE2 would ever win. CLG would fall in the finals to Evil Geniuses for the remaining three events of the season, prompting OGRE2 and the rest of CLG to look for a change that would propel them into first. They decided to drop Heinz for Scottie “Cloud” Holste for the entire second season, but the new roster would fare no better against EG and lose both matches they had in the finals. This would snap OGRE2’s streak of exiting every Halo game a national champion, as there was really no such tournament in Halo 4 in a 4-v-4 setting.

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CLG at Iron Gaming Columbus 2014. (Left to Right Coach Royal1, Heinz, Royal2, Snakebite, OGRE2). Photo credit: Teambeyond.net

The inability to claim the throne from Evil Geniuses for two consecutive seasons clearly frustrated CLG, and the launch of Halo 5 didn’t appear to solve the problem. As a result, CLG made a roster move that shocked the competitive Halo world: OGRE2 was dropped.

This was the beginning of the end for OGRE2. Being dropped from CLG resulted in him missing the Halo 5 Season 1 World Championship completely, as he would join Team EnVyUs but ultimately be upset by Denial Esports at the regional finals. He would then end up joining Denial Esports when the organization rebuilt its roster trying to qualify for the HCS Pro League, but he would suffer the same fate and fail to advance from the Summer Qualifier. These two failures in combination with circumstances changing in his personal life led to him announcing his retirement.

He leaves the game a decade-long veteran and is a shining example of dedication to a victorious mindset. More than 11 years separated his first and final major tournament victories, demonstrating an ability to change as a player both with age and the title presented to him, an ability that is incredibly rare in the world of esports. His ability to fit into various roles and do whatever needed to be done helped him survive for over a decade in a world where many players are lucky to have careers that span several years.

What that speaks to the most is OGRE2’s desire for victory above all else. Rather than letting ego dictate that he should always be the star on the team, due to his early success he was content in later years to play with other players who would garner much of the spotlight if it meant he was winning tournaments.

Where this is most clearly exemplified is ironically in the time when he was least successful; it is rare in esports to see a player reach the pinnacle of success, fall down into the lower ranks only to climb back up and dominate again. The amount of work that is required into becoming the best is usually only done once, and when players begin to slide they retire or remain in the lower ranks. This is where OGRE2 was different. Fighting to rebuild a team that was performing well below his standards in 2009, only to go on to make it to 10 of the next 12 finals and win 7 of them in the years that followed.

OGRE2 mastered four consecutive Halo titles and was crowned as one of the best players in the world in each one. For over a decade his obsession was to become the greatest player in Halo and as he walks away from competing now the results are clear, it worked.

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