By Dave Throop (@David_Throop)
After a career spanning over a decade, one of the most prolific Halo players of all time, Tom 'TSquared' Taylor
, has decided to hang up his controller and retire from competitive play. An eight time Major League Gaming
champion winning titles in five different years, including one national championship victory in 2008, TSquared has consistently been one of the best players to compete in the Halo series. Best known for being the captain of professional team Str8 Rippin
and appearing on the side of Dr Pepper bottles sold throughout North America, TSquared has long been one of the most recognisable names in the game and instrumental to the growth of competitive Halo.
His story is one that will go down in gaming history. Dropping out of high school to pursue his dream of becoming a Halo champion, TSquared completely dedicated himself to his craft and was rewarded with an incredibly decorated career. It all started in Dallas, Texas, in 2004. TSquared was competing in his first tournament on Halo: CE. On his maiden outing, Tom managed to take home 3rd place and only a few events later, he helped himself to his first title: MLG San Francisco 2004
. TSquared had announced himself to the Halo world.
Despite being a young talent on the scene, Tom never finished outside the top four in the six events he attended that year. In the coming years, Tom would fight to prove that he was one of Halo's greatest ever stars.
At the start of 2005, Halo 2 became the flagship title of the Major League Gaming circuit. In this era, TSquared was one of the small handful of players not to play for Final Boss
and win an event, and only placed outside the top four five times in the 25 events he attended. 2005 was also the final year that TSquared would represent multiple different franchises before cementing himself as a permanent fixture of the Str8 Rippin roster.
Tom began the year with an impressive second place finish and made top four with seven different line ups over the next twelve months. Such was TSquared's good form, he managed to place in the top four at every tournament except the New York Championships
in that period.
TSquared on MLG Main Stage - Courtesy of MLG
He also won two events back to back that year, Philadelphia
and Las Vegas
, finding consistency while competing with Alfonso 'Fonzi' Chartier
, Peter 'Foulacy' Dietrich
and Matthew 'Zyos' Leto
. Tom's standout performances began to catch the eye of fans and saw him promoted to the face of the Str8 Rippin franchise.
2006 marked the beginning of the Str8 Rippin dynasty with TSquared at the helm and started the year with a roster comprised of Fonzi, Foulacy and Brandon 'Defy' Jankins
. Together they attended the first four events on the MLG circuit, finishing second twice and third once. Their form was to dip, however, and at their fourth event Str8 Rippin finished in seventh place.
Their poor placement triggered a team change, with Defy being handed his marching orders. In his place came Carlos 'Cpt Anarchy' Morales
for the final 3 events, giving TSquared three more third place finishes to round out the year. In each instance Str8 Rippin were defeated by Carbon
, creating one of the most intense rivalries in Halo history.
Unlike previous years, 2007 wouldn't get off to a good start for TSquared. He finished outside of the top four in each of the first three events that season. This prompted him to make a change, rebuilding Str8 Rippin from the ground up and bringing in Mason 'Neighbor' Cobb
, Kyle 'ElamiteWarrior' Elam
and Brian 'Legit' Rizzo
. This forming the core of the roster many Halo fans associate with the Str8 Rippin name. The wholesale team changes saw a significant upswing in form, with Str8 Rippin making the finals of MLG Chicago 2007
, the first event the team attended together. Their second time out was even more successful and saw TSquared net his second title in Orlando
. Str8 Rippin remained in the top four for the rest of the year.
With the success of the new roster, Tom and Str8 Rippin were perfectly poised to transition into the next chapter of the Halo franchise.
2008 marked the launch of Halo 3 and was the year that cemented TSquared as one of the best players to ever play the game. The new Str8 Rippin roster competed at the first three events of the year, making two appearances in the finals, including a victorious effort in San Diego
Despite their success, Neighbor left the team forcing TSquared to search for a suitable fourth. Rather than drafting an established talent, TSquared instead opted to pick up emerging star, Eric 'Snip3down' Wrona
. The new Str8 Rippin team would stick together for a full year and a half and never finished lower than second in 2008. They also won two of the three final events, including their début outing in Toronto
and the National Championships in Las Vegas
. For the first time in history Str8 Rippin and TSquared were considered the best on the circuit. The National Championship winning team were also the subjects of the Str8 Rippin montage
. The video has amassed more than 2 million views on YouTube.
TSquared rallies his team - Courtesy of GameSpot
After the successful end to 2008, the following year saw a downturn in form. Although Str8 Rippin finished in the top four at four of the five events they attended, reaching the finals in Anaheim
and winning Columbus
, at the National Championships TSquared got his lowest placement in over two years, finishing sixth. The placement marked the end of an era as Str8 Rippin called time on their most successful ever line up.
Coming into the 2010 season, ElamiteWarrior would be replaced by Richie 'Heinz' Heinz
but their placings didn't improve. 2010 was a particularly dark year for TSqaured, with Tom only finishing in the top eight once and missing the National Championships for the first time in his career. This forced Tom to explore a new role in the competitive Halo scene, as he attended the National Championship as the coach of Status Quo
, helping them get second place.
Halo Reach and Halo 2 Anniversary
Reach would be the only title in which TSquared wouldn't win an MLG event. Although he did reach the finals of MLG Columbus 2011
with a new-look Str8 Rippin comprised of Legit, Brett 'Naded' Leonard
and Ryan 'Ryanoob' Geddes
, they were eventually beaten by Instinct
in a convincing fashion. Surprisingly, Columbus 2011 was to be the last time that TSquared would ever place inside the top 8 of an MLG tournament.
Despite his struggles on the circuit, TSquared attended EGL5 in Blackpool, England to compete with Tyler 'Ninja' Blevins
, Michael 'Strongside' Cavanaugh
and Austin 'Mikwen' McCleary
. The group went on to win the tournament, proving that TSquared was still able to compete at an elite level. EGL5 was the first time TSquared had won a title in over three years.
The face of an era - Courtesy of GameSpot
After taking a hiatus during Halo 4, TSquared returned to compete in the Halo Championship Series
with the release of the Master Chief Collection and Halo 2 Anniversary. He attended the ESL Launch Invitational
, reforming Str8 Rippin with Ryanoob, Justin 'Roy' Brown
and Cory 'Str8 Sick' Sloss
. The team performed well making the finals of the event, but would end up being defeated by Believe The Hype
, resulting in a second place finish. The disappointment led to a roster change that would ultimately spell the end of TSquard's success. Str8 Rippin spent the rest of the season around the bottom of the top eight and his team all parted ways at the end of HCS Season one.
His Lasting Legacy
The success TSquared found through Halo allowed him to achieve success outside of gaming. Tom was featured on the television show, MTV True Life
, articles in mainstream publications such as Forbes
and would even get his team sponsored by Dr. Pepper, landing himself on millions of bottles of the soft drinks across the country. He was the public face of Halo for a period of time and helped bring attention to the competitive scene in a manner most players could only dream of.
As a competitor, Tom is particularly well known for his dedication, leadership, intensity at events and his ability to control the power weapons. The 2008 Str8 Rippin roster was one of the most dominant teams to ever compete on Halo and will ensure he forever has a place in the history books. Although he found significantly less success in the latter stages of his career, Tom still managed to compete in the final of a major tournament on every title in the Halo series. There is only a small handful of players that can claim a similar statistic, and it is an elite group indeed.
On April 3 2015, TSquared announced he was retiring from competitive Halo.
Tom will forever be remembered as a fierce competitor, whose passion for the game was contagious and has left a legacy that will never be forgotten. He is a true pioneer of competitive Halo and professional gaming in North America. The chapter on his career as a player in Halo has come to an end, but story certainly isn't over. Tom announced that he will maintain a presence in the competitive Halo scene.
Image Credit to Haloforum.eu
- 8 time MLG Champion
- 2008 MLG National Champion
- 20 MLG grand final appearances
- 10 MLG Pro Choice awards, including 5 straight years of best power weapon control
- 3 MLG All-Star MVPs
- 29 Consecutive Events on Str8 Rippin