Saturday, July 20, 2013

Is that Rally All It Takes?

Today, I'm going to be writing about a relatively unhighlighted facet of top level Halo play.  In fact, it's so unmentioned in competitive Halo, I don't even know if players are aware they're doing it or have a term for it.  So in this Audley Enough article, I'm going to dub it "Rallying."  In this particular article, I will use the term to explain why Pistola is God, and why ToTz and RyaNoob are both much, much better than fans and fellow players give them credit for.

If you've played League of Legends, you're familiar with the laning phase being focused on two major things: killing minions and harassing the opposing laner in order to try to deter them from killing minions.  Rallying is much akin to harassing in League of Legends.  There are three possible outcomes when you attempt to harass -- you can LOSE the exchange and become behind, and therefore be left to the whims of the opposing laner.  You can come out EVEN in the trade, and depending on other factors put yourself in a better or worse position in the lane, or you can come out AHEAD and potentially zone the enemy laner off their minion wave.

So why am I talking about League of Legends in relation to Halo?  Because that concept really is what is being applied when I refer to Rallying in Halo.  So, now to explain exactly what I mean.  You are slightly in cover.  An opponent you see is also slightly in cover.  You both see each other, and neither of you are in position to really get help from a teammate.

Much like the aforementioned harassing in LoL, there are three outcomes if the two of you attempt to fire upon each other.  You miss one shot while your opponent doesn't.  Your fate is now less in your control, as you must either back down, or hope your opponent misses a shot.  The opposite of this can occur.  Or, you can both be even in shots -- leading either to the decision for one player to back down and await allied assistance, or for both players to keep pressing the situation until one or both die.

Generally, players will not attempt to trade deaths.  If they're in a situation where they are not ahead in the battle and still have decent positioning themselves, a smart player will back down and try to stay alive with as much health as possible.  The other player will either be baited to overextend to chase the kill or also back down / stay in the same position, giving your teammates an opportunity to close and finish the kill.

I refer to these individual gun battle exchanges in which neither player is actually attempting to kill the other as "Rallying" -- they're much different than battles in which a player is mid-push and has no cover to take when a battle starts.  In those cases, the player MUST go for the kill.  This is specifically for encounters in which both players have cover available to them and may choose to back down at any point.  (I chose the term "rallying" because of the word's definition in regards to Tennis.  A Rally is an exchange back and forth between two players until a point is scored.)

Pistola is one of the best players at Rallying you will see in Halo.  He will fire until either he takes damage in return, or until the opponent catches up in damage, then immediately back down and stay alive.  He is what I refer to as a bully (a player that will focus on only favorable rally exchanges).  And he's a damn good bully.  Granted, there are many more aspects to Pistola's gameplay that make him a fantastic player, but his Bullying is top-notch.  And it's a large part of why he's so hard to kill.  If he's not confident he'll come out ahead, he won't take the fight.

One of the biggest mistake other players will make when in a Rallying that they will attempt to force the Rally even if they're still even (trading) or behind (losing / being bullied).  This is a great way to get yourself killed either by the player you're shooting, or by his teammate who has now had time to flank you while you focus on your rally.

Players who trade in Rallies constantly are a liability to their teammates.  Why?  Because if you are even or behind in an exchange, you are relying on your teammates to bail you out in order to come out ahead overall.  There are times, however, where being bullied or trading can be a net positive for your team, however...and it's something ToTz was actually superb at, and Ryanoob still does even in Halo 4.

If you are behind your opponents, (i.e., your opponents are between you and your teammates)...then it is okay to trade, lose a trade, or be bullied.  Of course, the longer you stay alive, the more net positive you can get out of such a flank.  Why is this the case?  Because your teammates aren't pulled out of position to save you.  They can move naturally.  And suddenly your opponents are pinched.  Even if they kill you, they have to turn completely around and find your teammates to take advantage of your death.  If your flank's timing was proper, this can actually turn into a 2 for 1 or 3 for 1 or other net-positive for your team.  In certain maps/gametypes, this can actually force a cycle where you then spawn at your base as your opponents spawn outside their base (as your teammates have pushed into the enemy base), and you can set up another rally where you may be forced to sacrifice yourself in exchange for your team gaining several kills.

Now, I do want to make one thing clear: Although you are LIKELY to die by doing one of these intentionally-bad-position flanks, it is not NECESSARY for you to die.  The goal is to be like Singed from League of Legends -- you want to draw as much attention to yourself while being as difficult to kill as you possibly can be.  The longer the opponents are spending to deal with you, the more freedom your teammates have to make their plays.

Think of it as a split pushing Tryndamere in LoL drawing 3 people to come kill him as he attacks your inhibitor tower in the bottom lane at 40 minutes into the game... well, now your team has an easy 4v2 at Baron...or a free Rocket Launcher that just spawned.

These bully-baiters and self-sacrificing players relieve pressure from other areas of the map by making themselves deceptively easy targets.  Much like the adorable Slow Loris...they may look harmless, but stopping to deal with them is actually poisoning your team's chance to win.  And ignoring them is just digging yourself a bigger hole.

The concept of Rallying is one that I've personally never heard players really articulate in Halo, though it's obvious from watching gameplay of players like Pistola that it's not outright foreign to top players.  You want to come out ahead in an exchange whenever possible.  And if you know it's not possible, you want to stay alive long enough to force players out of position to enable your teammates to get their own favorable positions.

Being able to understand when and how to flank to set up a sacrifice that ultimately benefits your team is why RyaNoob is such a valuable, albeit undervalued, player and how teams he's on manage to win even if audience and statistical perception suggests that he is performing poorly.  It's a play style that requires tons of situational awareness to pull off successfully...and Audley Enough, top players still don't seem to understand how much freedom they're given from actions of a seemingly "bad play" setting them up for many kills themselves.

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