ImperialHal on ALGS, Storm Point, and nearly ending his competitive career

The return of the king.

Photo via Electronic Arts

Armageddon. Lava spits up from the cracked-open surface of World’s Edge, as a Wraith sets a portal to help her teammates span an open gap, up a small cliff. Gunfire and explosive ordinance fill the sky as the Wraith pulls out a Wingman, tearing through a helpless squad still trying to heal when their Gibraltar’s Dome Shield disappears. Shouts of “LAST TEAM, LAST TEAM” cut through the chaos as the Wraith leaves her team once again, back through her portal and pushing forward, always forward, holding off the only remaining enemies. Her team sticks to the high ground, holding the best spot in the final ring, but the Wraith isn’t joining them just yet. She sees what no one else seems to see: the winning path. The way forward.

However you know him—whether as the CEO, the greatest in-game leader in Apex Legends, or simply as Hal—you know Philip “ImperialHal” Dosen. The TSM leader pulls double duty as both the most successful pro player in the history of Apex and the game’s most popular streamer. If there is a person that is an embodiment of Apex, it is ImperialHal: skillful, tactical, loud, and confident. Always confident.

Despite the history and the hype, TSM weren’t the favorites entering the Apex Legends Global Series playoffs. It had been a while since the team had won a big tournament at all—almost a year, in fact, since the team’s victory at GLL Masters Spring. On Jan. 23, however, TSM were on a mission to remind everyone in the world just how good they are.

The Split One Playoffs win, marking the midway point of ALGS Pro League, sent a statement of intent to the rest of the world as all regions look ahead to the second half of the regular season. And according to Hal, he could feel the win coming right from the start.

“Right after the first game, I was really confident,” ImperialHal told Dot Esports. “I don’t remember how many kills we had that first game. We tied for first overall after the first game, even though we didn’t start with the same amount of points as everyone else, because of Pro League. After that, I thought ‘we have a really good chance of winning today.’“

That first game of playoffs was vital to TSM’s run to the Split One crown, with the team dropping an astounding 15 kills to go with a third-place finish that catapulted them over the teams that finished ahead of them in Pro League. TSM were in first place after the first game of playoffs, they were the first team to reach 50 points in the match-point format, and they shut the door on the rest of the lobby in game seven. The performance was vintage TSM. The past year of close calls and disappointments was gone in an instant, replaced with the same team so famous for winning on LAN in Kraków, Poland, and then winning the next four tournaments. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, self-doubt was never an issue for ImperialHal in the weeks leading to TSM’s return to glory. There was no absence of confidence to worry about. Instead, it was the absence of motivation that prevailed in the weeks leading to TSM’s return to glory. 

“Before playoffs, I just kind of started losing that itch to play competitive anymore,” Hal said. “In scrims, people were trolling us and messing with us, like Sentinels. I don’t know. Nothing was really going our way. And if playoffs didn’t go our way either, I was kind of done with it.” 

Hal’s frustration with scrims and TSM’s lack of big wins over the last year was as evident as his passion for the game. But a pro scene without ImperialHal is unthinkable. Love him or hate him, the fanbase he has cultivated is vital to the popularity of the Apex Legends Global Series and the professional Apex scene as a whole.

Broadcasting his own point of view in tournaments big and small, it isn’t uncommon to see Hal’s stream with a higher viewership than the official broadcast. His stream from TSM’s Split One Playoffs victory averaged more than 50,000 viewers, with a peak of more than 110,000 concurrent viewers. And what’s more, Hal is the game’s strongman; he is the enduring figure. Where the Dizzys and Aceus of the world drifted away from the game, Hal kept fighting his way forward, refusing to be anything less than the best in Apex.

Hal was quick to provide an addendum to his admission of considering leaving the competitive scene, saying he “can say one thing and then probably do another.” Still, it’s almost shocking to think how close competitive Apex came to losing its most popular pro.

Now, he finds himself at the top once again. From that vantage point, he surveys an entirely new type of challenge in Split Two on Storm Point, which, upon its Feb. 26 debut, will be the first map added to ALGS play since the removal of Kings Canyon a year ago.

“Honestly, there’s been a lot of negative feedback on the map… but I like it,” Hal said of Storm Point. The map will, however, require changes out of TSM in order to succeed. Namely, Hal’s trademark Wraith. “I, personally, will probably be playing Ash,” Hal said. “Wraith portal is pretty short. Trying to get from Point A to Point B, it’s just way harder. There’s not much cover [on Storm Point]. Ash’s portal is, I feel, a lot better than Wraith on Storm Point.”

Ash’s portal is also much better than Wraith’s ultimate at traversing vertical ground, something Storm Point has in abundance. “There’s a lot of height disparity,” Hal said. “Early positioning is really, really strong. In certain zones, certain spots of the map, there’s either really weak spots [to play from], or really strong spots. There’s no in-between. So… being able to get those strong spots early is key.”

ImperialHal and the rest of TSM are no strangers to adapting. The ability to adapt is all over their playoffs triumph and stretches out even before that. The departure of Eric “Snip3down” Wrona, replaced by the comparatively unproven presence of Evan Verhulst, didn’t come without its bumps in the road.

Hal, however, credits Verhulst’s intelligence as part of the reason for the team’s victory alongside the steady Jordan “Reps” Wolfe. Furthermore, Hal wouldn’t be where he is today without the ability to change alongside a changing game. New legends and abilities have changed the playstyles of the most successful teams in Apex even more than new maps. And those new playstyles give rise to new challenges—and challengers.

“Before Poland, I was pretty sure NA was going to win for sure,” Hal says, thinking back to the 2019 Preseason Invitational in Kraków when the topic of the possible return to LAN comes up. COVID restrictions scuttled plans for international LAN playoffs in the first split, but the Split Two Playoffs and year two championship are still an open question.

“Now, it’s kind of anyone’s game at this point,” Hal said while name-dropping several teams, including traditional heavyweights like Gambit and Alliance, as well as lesser-known names. “Riddle from APAC North… they’re insane. From APAC South, I think DF or Genburten’s team, Reignite, I expect them to show up. [Reignite] also land on top of us, so we would have to fight them and see how that goes.”

Through it all, though, Hal is Hal. The competitive drive is still there, just below the surface as he mentioned teams he thinks will perform well on LAN. It’s not just him politely answering a question; it’s him taking stock of the competition. One way or another, LANs will return, and Apex will see a team sit on the throne as the best players in the world. That throne, technically speaking, still belongs to TSM. They were the last winners of an international LAN event, after all. And now, they’re the kings of North America once again.

Looking ahead to Storm Point, the second split, playoffs, and another major championship beyond that, Hal knows what it takes to succeed in all of them.

“To maintain success, for us, is to stick to what we’re good at, the characters we’re good at, not what we think is ‘meta.’ We want to play aggressive, but be smart at the same time,” he said. A simple enough formula, to be sure. But if it’s those ideas that have taken them this far, why go changing them now?

ImperialHal and TSM will get the chance to put all of those lessons to the test and defend their Split One crown when the ALGS Pro League begins again on Feb. 26.

“PUSH THAT! PUSH THAT!” ImperialHal’s voice cracks as he realizes his team only needs to pull off one more play to win. There are no more rotations. There are no more ultimates to use. There’s just an enemy team behind a rock with cracked shields and a Wingman in his hand. His teammates finish the work he started as he finally phases back to his team the game audio and communications bleeding together into a roar of static and screams. The screen, however, translates all of that noise into one coherent message:

TSM is the champion.