Photo by Lalo Torres
From roster changes, retired teammates, organization changes, and some humbling losses along the way, Richie “Heinz” Heinz Jr has faced his fair share of adversity this season. With all of this in mind, Heinz and the rest of Str8 Rippin have pulled off the unlikely and have earned a trip to compete in Burbank at the Halo Championship Series: Pro League Fall 2016 Finals as one of the top four teams in North America this season. From proverbial rags to riches, Heinz’s Fall 2016 Season run has taken a complete 180 degree turn. Here is what he had to say about the past few months and the upcoming finals.
ESL: Last time we talked you were on a hot streak with Team Allegiance. A lot has changed since then. How would you describe the wild ride that you’ve been on?
Richie “Heinz” Heinz Jr: It has definitely been a roller coaster, I'd say. From being in the open circuit for a few weeks in the summer 2016 season, joining ALG who were in danger of being in relegation, to helping that team compete for a spot at finals, then having an entirely different adventure this fall... yeah I'd definitely say it's been a roller coaster.
ESL: You’ve been on the receiving end of adversity on more than one occasion since the end of last season. Getting dropped by Allegiance is really what started all of this for you. What was that like?
Heinz: After summer season ended, ALG just kind of split up. I know Contra and Devon weren't interested in teaming with Ryan at all, so he was definitely dropped out of the equation, but I kept in touch with Devon throughout most of it. They ran games with some people and didn't get the fit they wanted. About a week before pro league, one night around 4 in the morning, both Devon and APG asked me to be on their respective teams. It was weird getting two offers at the exact same time, but I decided to go with my gut and join the team known as "OpTic" at the time.
ESL: Things seemed to be taking a turn for the better when you were picked up by what was then known as OpTic Gaming. The team had been struggling up until that point but there was promise with the new roster. What was your mentality as you began the season?
Heinz: The mentality was that I wanted to team with APG and Ace again. I know I work well with them in Halo 5 and I can trust that together we would try to get better throughout the season, instead of making a roster change at the first sign of trouble.
ESL: Not long after that you were met with the news that OpTic was dropping the roster, and that Maniac was done. You’ve been through a lot in your career. What was that like and how did that compare?
Heinz: Honestly, that was probably #2 to the box freeze in terms of "WTF" moments of my career. I was certainly caught off guard. On one hand, I understand the business side of it - OpTic gave Maniac and his teams many chances to succeed and it just didn't happen. So, OpTic decided to purchase the number 1 roster. On the other hand, for me personally, I was looking forward to representing OpTic and hoping I could help bring some success to the name in Halo. It certainly left APG, Ace and I in an impossible situation without an org or a fourth player on the day Pro League began, but it all worked out for the better in the end. I have no hard feelings towards anyone involved, though. It was just business in my eyes.
ESL: Then came a less than ideal beginning to your season. A 3-7 record, uncertainty regarding the team roster, and the looming thought of relegation. Have you ever been in so low a place in your professional career?
Heinz: The low point of my career was when I couldn't get a team after Worlds. I didn't understand why, but I knew then that I was still most certainly good enough to compete amongst the best, so I didn't stop playing even though I had considered it. Shoutout to Randa for keeping me sane during those open circuit cups. The beginning of the fall 2016 season was rough for sure. 0-4 start, no official fourth until Week 4 and we didn't sign with Str8 Rippin until Week 6. In the middle of the season, we kind of realized there was no pressure on us. So many people were just trashing us, saying we weren't taking the league seriously and that we were a lock for relegation, but we were taking it one match at a time and in the middle of the season, stuff kind of clicked for us again. Renegade deserves a shoutout for helping jumpstart our season in Week 4. He is a great player and I expect a lot from him in the future.
ESL: What can you tell us about how the deal with Str8 Rippin came to be?
Heinz: The deal with Str8 Rippin is better than any of us imagined. We were very thorough in our discussions with orgs and we didn't want to rush into signing with an org just to get to an event, or have an extra month of salary, etc. It came to be when Ace went to HCS Orange County. He had stayed a few extra days and Elamite & T2 brought the idea up. It gradually became more serious as time went along, and in the end we all thought it was best for the team. No regrets since then!
ESL: The last time you played under the Str8 logo was 6 years ago during the Halo 3 era. What was is like to rock that logo again?
Heinz: It's pretty sweet to represent this logo again with some really good friends. Honestly, my first stint on Str8 wasn't great at all, but it gave me my favorite jersey ever - the Str8 Rippin blue jersey. I wish I could find it! Maybe we can just make some more...
ESL: We will let you know where to send ours. Halfway through Week 6 the news about Str8 Rippin became public, but your work had just begun. You needed to go 4-0 in your last two weeks and still needed some help from teams above you to make it to Burbank. What was your mentality heading into the final few matches?
Heinz: We knew there was a chance we could still make it, but we had a lot of work to do. I was more concerned about the first two matches (against ALG and EG) because I knew if we could just get ourselves the opportunity in Week 7, then the hard part was already over in my eyes. We won both series in 5 games in Week 6. At that point, all the pressure was on LG. Going into Week 7 I made sure that we stuck to our routine before matches because it was working for us. No need to change what you're doing just because of how much is on the line. We went into overtime in game 5 against Liquid the first match, and our communication/rotation at the end of that game was what won it for us, keeping us alive. Going 4-0 the last two weeks made me really proud of the team even if we didn't make it to finals, because at least we put the pressure on LG by doing our part.
ESL: Was there ever a doubt that you would make it to the finals?
Heinz: Was there ever a doubt we would make it to finals? Yeah, only for about 99% of the pro league haha. The only time I let myself believe we were making it to finals was when OpTic had a three cap at the end of Rig SH in game 4 vs. LG, Week 7. I'm not the kind of guy that likes to get my hopes up, so sometimes I assume the worst. I am always confident in my team, but the hand we were dealt this season made it the biggest uphill climb I've ever had to deal with in my career, so I was skeptical about finals early on. Things eventually fell into place for us and we were able to just play good Halo. I usually like to try and let my team's game do the talking, because I feel like if you say something cocky, or just assume you are going to accomplish something, you put more pressure on yourself or might not put in the necessary effort to achieve that goal.
ESL: What has preparation looked like for you personally as you head into Burbank?
Heinz: We are trying to scrim every day and just stay fresh. I also think going to Vegas was really good practice for us. Something we learned about ourselves is that we need to step up the intensity from the moment a series starts. It really hurt us against Allegiance.
ESL: Are there any teams you are particularly looking forward to playing?
Heinz: No one in particular, although it's always fun playing against former teammates. It's been so long now that I have former teammates on so many teams haha.
ESL: Predictions for how the finals will turn out?
Heinz: I think a finals of Str8 Rippin vs. their former org, OpTic would be pretty cool! Lots of work to be done for that to happen. We'll see!
A question from @Uoluptas: How did it feel during Orlando 2009 for Hysteria's Xbox to freeze? What was going through your mind?
Heinz: Imagine putting a lot of hard work into something, earning it, then having it taken away because of something out of your control. You're gonna have a bad time. Also, it changed the roster landscape for years to come, in my opinion.
A question from @TheRed7101: How does it feel to represent an OG name? Top 3 underrated pros? What settings would be ideal for you?
Heinz: It feels pretty cool to represent an OG name. It was nice seeing Dynasty at HCS Vegas also. I was hoping we could matchup with them so that we would've heard "Str8 Rippin vs. Dynasty" over the PA. Top 3 underrated pros? Tough one, but I'll throw out the first 3 that came to my mind - Rayne, Eco and Devon.
ESL: Anything else you would like to add?
Heinz: Shoutout to the Ketchup Krew, Str8 Rippin and my dad who was the person to encourage me to go to events in 2007 and has been the most supportive person I could ask for, since.
Heinz and the rest of Str8 Rippin look to continue their cinderella run by shocking the world at the HCS Fall Finals this weekend. You can follow Heinz and the rest of the show at twitch.tv/halo starting at 10AM PST on December 10. Follow along on both Facebook and Twitter for all HCS news and updates!