Six North American teams will have their tickets punched to the HWC Finals this weekend at HWC Las Vegas. While one more can still qualify through the online LCQ, every team would prefer to do it on LAN. At this time, an official bracket has not yet been released. The following are my predictions based on solely my estimation of a team’s ability to win.

 

5-6th Place: Evil Geniuses

Roster: Jason “Lunchbox” Brown, Justin “Roy” Brown, Cody “ContrA” Szczodrowski, Tom “OGRE 2” Ryan

OGRE 2 at his last event before retirement. Courtesy of ESL.

I’ll be honest, my heart is making this decision instead of my brain. I desperately want EG to qualify, but their online results haven’t quite reflected what they should. However, circumstances have rapidly begun to improve for this team after dropping Devon “PreDevoNatoR” Layton for the greatest of all time, Ogre 2.

Ogre 2 in scrims and the final Online Qualifier showed that he was still capable of hanging with the best in the league as a support player and in-game leader. Ogre 2 can rein in the Brown Twins, allowing Roy and ContrA to slay while Lunchbox makes his calculated plays. This team even has the ability to place better than 6th in my opinion if they meet Team Allegiance. It would be a close series, but I would place EG on top. In my mind, dropping PreDevoNatoR for Ogre 2 was a great decision, as shown by EG’s superior performances since their roster change.

 

5-6th: Team Allegiance

Roster:  Tyler “Spartan” Ganza, Hamza “Commonly” Abbaali, Joe “TriPPPeY” Taylorand, Ayden “Suspector” Hill

This squad has also seen improvement recently. Scrim results show that Allegiance have convincingly beaten Luminosity Gaming, Str8 Rippin, and Evil Geniuses. Moreover, this squad topped Team Liquid 6-1, and later went on to even defeat OpTic 7-6. With the addition of TriPPPeY, this squad may have lost some overall slaying power, but has gained something arguably more important: slaying consistency. TriPPPeY has proved that he is a pro-level player and this squad can challenge to win the tournament if they come out of the gates hot. The only issue is that this squad does not hold a seed in the champ bracket. They will have to fight through the open bracket today to contend with the pro teams, and this could drain them.

 

4th: Splyce

Roster: Jesse “bubu dubu” Moeller, Ryan “Shooter” Sondhi, Michael “Falcated” Garcia and Anthony “Shotzzy” Cuevas-

Inconceivable was acquired by Splyce shortly after St. Louis. Courtesy of Splyce.

Castro

Anyone who believes that this squad is not a threat should take a second look at what this team has been able to do. Forming with little time before St. Louis, this squad still managed to finish 5th-6th. This squad has also done well in scrims, including close 6-7 losses to both OpTic and EnvyUs. What has stopped them consistently though, is Team Liquid, as shown by a 10-3 loss most recently.

However, bubu dubu is not to be doubted on LAN. During HWC 2016, his team had the 11th seed going into NA Regionals, but left that event with a 2nd place finish, losing only to what at the time was a dominant CLG. Bubu, as well as the rest of the team, is capable of catching fire during the event and just demolishing any team that stands between them and the Grand Finals. This team, like any of the top 4, is completely capable of winning this event with the right clutch plays.

 

3rd: Team Liquid

Roster: Zane “Penguin” Hearon, Timothy “Rayne” Tinkler, Braedon “StelluR” Boettcher, Kevin “Eco” Smith

Despite a bit of a slump two weeks ago, Liquid seem to have bounced back. They have been doing quite well over the last week, especially with a close 7-6 win over OpTic Gaming in scrims. This team has also utterly destroyed teams, such as Allegiance, Str8 Rippin, and Luminosity. This squad is a powerhouse and is looking to improve upon their 2nd place finish at UGC St. Louis earlier this year. Unfortunately for them, two giants are standing in their way, and one of them is most definitely not going to fall to Liquid this time around without a much tougher fight.

 

2nd: Team EnvyUs

Roster: Justin “iGotUrPistola” Deese, Austin “Mikwen” McCleary, Eric “Snip3down” Wrona, Cuyler “Huke” Garland

Envy disappointed at UGC by falling to Liquid. The squad, the only to ever defeat OpTic Gaming at a LAN event, ended 3rd, missing their rematch with OpTic. Since then, whatever issues they had seem to have been resolved. They defeated EG 12-1, Splyce 9-2, Str8 9-3, and Liquid 8-5 in scrims. Against Liquid, they had another 9-4 win a few weeks earlier. At the end of January, EnvyUs was able to defeat Liquid 12-1 in a demoralizing fashion. This squad is angry about their finish at UGC, and their online results have reflected this. With their consistent scrim victories over Liquid online, I doubt that NV is going to allow themselves to fall to them a second time.

Envy’s sights are set on OpTic Gaming, and they want the world to know that they are the best team going into the World Finals.

 

1st: Optic Gaming

Roster: Tony “LethuL” Campbell, Jr, Paul “SnakeBite” Duarte, Mathew “Royal2” Fiorante, Bradley “Frosty” Bergstrom

OpTic claims victory at UGC St. Louis. Courtesy of HCS.

The defending Halo World Champions. The Summer League Champions. The UGC St. Louis Champions. The Greenwall is hungry for another event win, and Vegas looks to be it. This squad, despite losing the Fall Season Finals, won St. Louis, and have only gotten better since then. OpTic has had two scrims where they have dominated Liquid, 10-2 and 12-1. Despite a few close losses, I don’t see Liquid being able to contest OpTic this weekend, especially when considering that OpTic plays far better on LAN.

Team EnvyUs can be as hungry for a win as they want. If they can’t beat OpTic, it doesn’t matter. With five total scrims between these two teams since St. Louis, OpTic have won three of them. It gets much closer than that. OpTic has won 24 games across these five scrims, compared to NV’s 23. This is as close as it gets, comparable to the rivalry of Final Boss and Carbon in the old days. I’m placing OpTic first because they narrowly won online and the gap between OpTic’s online vs. LAN performance is greater than that of NV’s.

 

Conclusion

Any of the top 4 teams listed are capable of winning this event in my opinion. These games will be close. This event will be great. As for a few other teams, namely Str8, Luminosity, and Pnda:

Str8 has not played well over the past two weeks. Both in scrims and the Online Qualifiers, this team has played sub-par. While their recent scrims have shown an improvement, I’m not sure it’s enough to get this team into the top 6 and a Worlds ticket. However, if they can turn up at this LAN, they will beat both EG and Allegiance without much difficulty.

Luminosity, while being far and away better than they were at St. Louis, I don’t believe they will be able to contend with these top teams. It’s not a matter of LG being bad, it’s a matter of everyone else being really good. However, should the bracket favor them, they have a shot.

As for Pnda, despite my personal distaste for the players on this team, they have also improved after picking up Dan “Danoxide” Terlizzi. However, the fact is that this team plays at the same level online as they do on LAN, at least from what I have seen. The issue here is that nearly every other team is far better on LAN. Again, if the bracket favors Pnda, they can make a run at top 6.

 

HWC Las Vegas is set to show the absolute best of Halo 5 that we have seen so far. The competition is tighter than it’s ever been and we are in for a treat. Be sure to tune in to the stream all weekend at twitch.tv/halo for the best Halo competition you can find.

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