On September 23rd, Bungie launched Destiny’s fourth and perhaps final raid, Wrath of the Machine. Many six-Guardian fireteams entered the Perfection Complex, but only Clan Redeem emerged victorious with the World-First finish. The group of accomplished speedrunners—made up of Tfue, FleshCrunch, PvT Nuclear, Ehroar, MagneticRubber, and Modern Tryhard—had previously set global speedrunning records for a number of PvE activities in Destiny. But last month’s Rise of Iron expansion marked their first chance to make history forever by achieving World First, and they seized it in only an hour and fifty-six minutes.
“Not many people really know that PvE can be pretty competitive,” says Modern Tryhard, “but speedrunning-wise it can be.” A seventeen-year-old high school senior from upstate New York (what he calls the “dead center” of the state), Tryhard’s first name is Shawn. By his own admission, Shawn isn’t much of a talker, but he is one of the very best players in all of Destiny. I spoke with the Titan himself over Discord; we discussed Destiny’s competitive scene, the ins and outs of clan relationships, and how to prepare for a six-player blind speedrun.
Congrats on the big finish. Were you guys expecting that at all? Did you think it was in the realm of possibility?
We were pretty confident, as a whole, that we were gonna get World’s First, because in the past—back in King’s Fall—we got World’s Second for hard mode, and the only thing that was holding us back was a few members. And now that we have our dream team all set up, we felt pretty confident.
Have you been speedrunning Destiny since the beginning? At what point did that become your preferred way to play the game?
Probably back at 1.2—that was the House of Wolves era—that’s when I started doing speedrunning. I started doing, like, solo runs on the Nightfalls. And then my competitor, Ehroar, who’s a really good speedrunner as well—he was in a different team called Hidden Machine—we competed a lot. They were always faster than us on Strikes, but when it came to the raids, Redeem was always the fastest. And then later on, when Taken King came out, we merged together, and that’s when we created the ultimate team.
Did you ever speedrun any other games? Or was it just this friendly competition with Ehroar that really started that for you?
It was part of the friendly competition. I’ve never gotten into speedrunning at any other games.
What kinds of games did you play before Destiny came out? Were you a Halo guy?
Well, I got into Halo 3 back in the day, and then after that came out I went straight to Call of Duty and just played that nonstop until Destiny dropped.
Call of Duty’s been sort of hit-and-miss lately.
Yeah, after Call of Duty: Ghosts—I really didn’t like the series after that. Everything before that was great. I really liked the Extinction mode in Ghosts, but that was about it.
Would you say you were you drawn into the scene through Twitch and YouTube?
Back in the day, when I was a little youngling [laughs], I used to do YouTube for fun. I had, like, a hundred subscribers, you know, doing nothing. And then when I got into speedrunning a little bit, I posted it on Reddit, and a lot of people thought it was crazy. I grew a lot from that. I was like, “Man, this is actually fun, and this is helping me grow, so maybe if I keep doing it . . .” Because it’s something that I enjoy, and it’s something other people enjoy, so I figured I’d keep at it.
What’s kept you interested in Destiny after two years of new shooters?
Honestly, I don’t know. There’s just something about Destiny that keeps me in the game. I played a lot of Overwatch, but Destiny’s still my favorite.
Do the fireteam mechanics built into the game—and the raids, especially—lend themselves well to speedruns?
That’s a tough one. Like, I can understand the Strikes being three people. If you had more than three in a Strike, it’d be total annihilation, and it wouldn’t be hard enough. But Strikes in general aren’t that hard, so it really depends on the activity. Most things, if you do ’em solo, that’s probably the hardest way to speedrun. Crota’s End, for example—when Ehroar dropped an eight-minute run—that was probably the hardest thing to solo, speedrunning-wise, in Destiny.
Are multiplayer runs a little more difficult in the sense of having to keep the communication going?
You have to be more coordinated as a team. You have to know you can rely on the other person to do their job.
What’s the key secret or trick to, say, soloing the Nightfall?
It’s more about staying alive. You’re trying to use as many tactics as you can to clear the adds that get you to the next checkpoint, or clear the whole area as fast as possible—but staying alive at the same time. So you use whatever you can.
Do you think the rotating modifiers, where it’s Arc Burn one week and Juggler the next—does that keep the game . . . ?
It changes your tactics a lot.
What’s your favorite thing about being part of Clan Redeem?
Uh, knowing that you have people that are good [laughs]. That you can always do stuff with.
How should someone go about finding a clan that’s right for them?
You find the people that you can bond well with. People who are, you know, the same skill level as you. People who understand you.
There’s an old Bungie making-of featurette where they’re working on Halo 2 multiplayer, and I remember they joked about how people in the Bungie offices—So-and-so would only team with X, Y, and Z, because otherwise the game just ceases to be fun when your teammates are really bad and you’re really good. Is that part of what clans are about?
I would say so, yeah.
“Tryhard” is often used as a pejorative online, but you’ve taken it up as a badge of honor. Why do casuals and competitive folks have such a hard time getting along? Seems like they’re trying to accomplish the same things.
It’s the player’s experience in the game, and more than likely the type of weapons they have. Because if you have the knowledge but not-good-enough weapons, you’re not gonna compete at the same level as the people who have the knowledge and the best weapons.
So part of it is dedication, right? Because so much of the game is the RNG. Someone who only plays the game a few hours a week—
They’re not gonna keep up.
By definition, they’re just a casual player.
Is that a big part of Destiny’s appeal? The luck element?
I would say so, yeah. I guess.
Does “Modern Tryhard” have a special meaning to you, then?
No. It’s just a name I gave myself. It’s mostly because, back in the Modern Warfare days, I tried very hard.
What makes for an effective fireteam? What’s the key to good communication?
Basically, just bonding with them. If you know what they’re gonna do already, then you can just do you, and they’ll do themselves. Well, that sounds weird [laughs]. But you get the idea.
It’s a trust thing.
Yeah. You know that they’ll do their part.
How would you say Destiny raids have changed from Vault of Glass to Wrath of the Machine?
Well, I really like Vault of Glass—I like everything about it. And I really like Wrath of the Machine. I like all of the raids. But I do have to say, for Wrath of the Machine, they did make it more team-oriented. With Vault of Glass, it was more like one person could really carry the team throughout the whole thing.
The only thing I didn’t like about the Oryx raid was how long it was. And I’m not a fan of standing still and shooting a target, and that’s what a majority of that raid was.
Are you looking forward to Destiny 2? Is that on your radar at this point?
Oh, yeah. I cannot wait. When Destiny 2 comes out, I’ll be out of school, so I can be playing Destiny 2 a lot more than I do now.
This is going to sound odd, but did you find the raid difficult at all? Or were you hoping for more of a challenge?
It was definitely different from what we expected. We caught on to all the mechanics pretty fast. My favorite part throughout raid was probably the “Zamboni” [i.e., the Siege Engine]. I wouldn’t say it was difficult—it was more, like, figuring out your places and figuring what to do.
In the past, it’s felt as though the raids were sort of passive.
Yeah, this one’s very active.
How do Twitch and YouTube factor into your gaming life? Do they encourage you to approach things in a certain way?
I basically just do me. Right now, I don’t really do anything for money, so I don’t just throw things out [on YouTube]. Not to bash other people, but they put stuff out just to do it. When I upload something, I want people to say, “Oh, this is gonna be amazing.” You know? Like, whenever I stream, I want people to say, “Oh, this guy’s streaming. It’s gonna be something incredible.” I don’t wanna be known as someone who just spits out content.
How did you go about leveling up and preparing for Wrath of the Machine before Rise of Iron dropped? Did you know how the game’s economy was gonna shake out?
I figured it was gonna be the same as it was for the April update, and that’s exactly how it was. So I prepped myself for that. The only thing I didn’t do was save Exotic Engrams and Legendaries. Material-wise, I saved a lot, and dumped those into my Faction and got a lot of packages out of that. So I was maybe 379 when I went into the raid and 380 when I left.
Does the leveling system favors the more dedicated segment of the population?
I think it’s unfair for the people who don’t play as much. Because the people who play a lot have a lot of materials to throw in and get Light.
Going into Wrath, did you feel you guys knew what to expect based on the new content—Story, Strikes, et cetera?
I knew the adds we were gonna fight. I didn’t really expect all the ball-throwing. But after we got to the first area, where we had to throw balls at the shield—and after the actual fight for Vosik, where had to throw more balls at the shield—we figured, “Now, there’s just balls at every single place, so throw the balls at the shields and stuff.” Once you’ve figured out a few things, you just puzzle it together, and it’s like, “Oh, it’s basically the same thing throughout the whole fight.”
Do you remember how you devised your final-boss strategy for beating Aksis?
We basically did pairs of two and went from there. We just winged it.
So you guessed correctly? I mean, that’s what everybody does now, right? Or did you only discover one possible way of doing it?
There is no different way. It’s basically a straightforward mechanic—there’s no other way of doing it.
What’s going to be the next big triumph for Redeem? Are you looking mainly at the hard-mode raid?
Well, I believe next week we’re gonna be speedrunning it. Hopefully we’ll be dropping a pretty quick time. We’ve got a couple strats on how we could do it. But the hard mode we’re definitely gonna try to go for. We’d love to go back-to-back on Wrath of the Machine for World’s First.
Do you think it’s gonna be pretty close?
If there’s other teams that practice, they’ve got a good chance!