Perspective is a funny thing. It’s been 1,239 days between Phillip ‘ImperialHal’ Dosen and TSM conquering Apex Legends’ first LAN event in Krakow, Poland, and their recent victory at the ALGS Split 1 Playoffs in London – a wait that is “too long,” according to the man himself.
However, if you look at it from a different angle, ImperialHal and TSM have won half of the four official, international Apex Legends LANs that have been hosted since the battle royale game launched. While a lot of time has passed, there’s still something oddly familiar about ImperialHal hoisting a trophy – a sentiment he shares.
“It honestly doesn’t feel that much different to any other LAN win,” he admits to me in an interview with The Loadout fresh off the victory in London. “Maybe it’ll feel different, you know, after we’re out of the moment. But it definitely just feels pretty similar.”
One thing that is definitely different this time though is some of the people lifting the trophy alongside him. While Jordan ‘Reps’ Wolfe was part of the TSM side that won over three years ago in Krakow, teammate Evan ‘Verhulst’ Verhulst and coach ‘Raven’ were not.
“I’m just glad that we won. I like winning too, but seeing my coach being happy and my teammates and other people around me, I think that’s a better [experience] for me… That gives me more satisfaction, personally.” This is quite a selfless approach for the man dubbed Apex Legends’ “CEO” by fans.
The winning moment in game eight of the Match Point Finals was largely cemented by a risky but rewarding call from ImperialHal. Giving up some decent high ground above a cluster of fighting teams, TSM’s players exposed themselves by Valkyrie ulting across the safe zone to take (by force) some prime real estate. The 23-year-old says he needed one moment of clarity to figure out what needed to be done to win that match, and as a result, the entire tournament.
“We were all communicating at the same time, things were getting louder and I couldn’t think – so I told [my teammates] to shut up,” he recalls. “All of a sudden, I realised there were teams fighting on the opposite side, the zone pulled that way, and if we third-party then we have that whole side ourselves and we win. So I called the Valk ult, we did it instantly, and then here we are.” Among the flashy plays and high kill-count we saw from ImperialHal throughout the tournament, it’s calls like this one that earned him the tournament MVP award too.
To add to the drama, the final battle saw TSM face another team that was on Match Point to win the entire tournament: Acend. However, one fairly convincing gunfight later, and ImperialHal and co. were champions, sending the Copper Box Arena into a frenzy.
Looking back at the tournament, ImperialHal admits he did not predict Acend being right up there in contention, but in his view there was an even bigger dark horse in London. He says that NRG was his biggest surprise package of the tournament, despite the much-hyped ‘battle of the IGLs’ storyline between him and Christopher ‘sweet’ Sexton.
“I was surprised that NRG was just popping off as hard as they were… They were really playing stellar, [and] usually that’s not the case on LAN – they always play really good online. But, you know, they brought it here today.”
Last season, DarkZero proved that consecutive LAN titles are possible in a game as relentless and often random as Apex Legends. But with so many teams showing their worth during the Split 1 Playoffs, how is TSM going to try and show the same level of domination, and ensure that all three of the team’s potential visits to London this year result in more trophies?
“Work ethic,” ImperialHal says, assertively. “Work, work, work. You can’t stop – if you start lagging behind, NRG or somebody else will get ahead of you. So, it’s more of the same stuff that we’ve been doing – just keep at it.
“Nothing will change. We’re not becoming complacent. So everything will stay the same, and we’ll [continue] to win. And that’s all that matters.”
With a mentality like that, multiple LAN victories under his belt, and that moniker of the ‘Apex CEO’, I couldn’t help but think that ImperialHal was on a similar trajectory to a certain iconic player that recently retired from a different FPS esport. Before I can finish my sentence, he acknowledges the name with a nod: “Scump.”
Seth ‘Scump’ Abner is, in most people’s books, the face of Call of Duty esports after his long and memorable career. Alongside his competitive prowess, ImperialHal’s huge popularity and audience means that, in the eyes of some, he’s becoming the Apex Legends equivalent. He assures me though that reaching that kind of status is something he’s doing on his own terms.
“I pay attention to what he does, right. But it’s not like I want to mimic him and he’s not my ‘role model’ or anything. Like, I just respect what he does. And I watch and I enjoy what he does. I will never go out of my way to mimic or follow in his footsteps, or anybody’s. I kind of just do my own thing. But I have learned from watching him.”
When I ask if, at the end of his career, his Apex Legends legacy will be as great as the legacy Scump has left on Call of Duty, the answer is a simple one: “I hope so.”
Again, perspective is a funny thing. For ImperialHal, TSM’s victory in London was more about the happiness it can bring to those around him than himself. But for many of those looking in, it’s yet another string to the bow of someone who could be on course to become one of the all-time FPS esports greats.