Are the European Halo Teams Up to Par?

The Halo World Championships are just that – the World championships, with teams from across the globe competing. That said, North America dominates competitive Halo. This has now started to change with Epsilon eSports’ performance last year, showing that European Halo is no joke.

Epsilon at the time consisted of James “Jimbossity” Bradbrook (also known as Jimbo), Alex “BUK20” Buck, Will “BUK57” Buck, and Mike “Snipedrone” Juchau. They performed above and beyond what was expected of any non-NA team during last year’s Halo World Championships. This squad was first able to take down fan-favorite Renegades at the 2016 Winter X-Games in only four games. During the HWC 2016 Finals, Epsilon was the only non-NA team to progress outside of the group stage. While the team went home with a 5th-8th finish, they managed to take a game from the near invincible Counter Logic Gaming. They were the only team to do so aside from the Denial roster. But that was last year. What is European Halo looking like now?

 

Head and Shoulders Above the Rest

Currently, European Halo is far and away being led by FAB eSports, with a roster of Jimbo, Brandon “Respectful” Stones,

FAB winning the Summer Finals. Courtesy of Millenium.org

Perry “TuFoxy” Kenyon, and Luciano “Mose” Calvanico. This team has led both EU Pro Leagues, as well as winning the Finals, and is looking to continue their dominance. They have only lost four total scrims in 2017, and recent scrims have shown FAB returning to dominance. These include a 13-0 victory, as well as several others that were won by five or more games. FAB are performing similarly to how OpTic Gaming (Then-CLG) were performing during the Fall Season, as they did not drop a single game at the Fall Finals.

However, other teams have begun nipping at FAB’s heels. Supremacy, London Conspiracy, as well as Team Infused have been able to defeat FAB in scrims on occasion. All three will have a chance to dethrone FAB this weekend at the HWC 2017 EU Qualifiers while also trying to snag one of three EU spots for the 2017 Finals.

Despite FAB’s impressive record so far, it is very well known that the competition level of North American Halo is well above that of European competition, and this trend does not look to be slowing down anytime soon.

 

HCS Las Vegas

During the Fall Season, FAB did cross the pond to attend HCS Las Vegas. During this event, FAB dominated most of the

Jimbo, one of the most popular EU players. Courtesy of James Bradbrook.

amateur NA teams. They were able to sweep Pnda Gaming, as well as 6S, a team that later went on to challenge Enigma6 and Team Allegiance at Relegations. Unfortunately, Team Liquid sent FAB to the losers bracket and later went on to not only knock Team EnvyUs into the losers bracket, but also took them through 14 games in the grand finals before losing.

In the losers bracket, Str8 Rippin sent FAB packing with a 3-1 victory.

While FAB is far better than the old Epsilon roster ever was, the competition in North America has skyrocketed throughout the Fall Season. Any of the top five teams in NA can contend with OpTic Gaming, making the desired placings for FAB that much harder.

 

Looking Forward

FAB may be the only team that has a chance at contending with the top North American teams going into the 2017 Halo World Championship. They are the only European team to play against North Americans since HWC 2016, and will have the best tools of any European Halo team to counteract the hyper-aggressive North American play-style. This squad has the talent and firepower to defeat the bottom three NA teams, but only time will tell if they can contend with the likes of OpTic. However, they have to fight through Infused, Supremacy, and several other very hungry Europeans to get there.

Be sure to tune in to the GFINITY HWC 2017 London Qualifiers, live February 17th-19th here!

Do you think the Europeans have a chance at taking home the title of “Halo World Champions?” Sound off on Twitter or the official Halo stream this weekend!

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Team EnvyUs: A Rough Patch or Falling Apart?

Team EnvyUs formed going into the Fall season with what many thought was the only roster that had a chance to contend with OpTic Gaming on LAN. Seasoned veterans Eric “Snip3down” Wrona, Austin “Mikwen” McCleary, and Justin “Pistola” Deese joined rookie Cuyler “Huke” Garland. Throughout the Fall season, nV and OpTic went back and forth online. However, at Fall Finals, nV did what some thought was impossible: They took down OpTic Gaming on LAN. Since then, they have not been able to replicate this success, not even making the grand finals at UGC St. Louis in January. Were they a one hit wonder?

 

UGC St Louis

At UGC, most everyone predicted that the Grand Finals would be between OpTic and nV. However, nV never made it past the losers bracket finals. EnvyUs took OpTic to a Game 5 but were later sent home by Team Liquid. Liquid was playing very well, even taking OpTic to a Game 7 in the Grand Finals. It was obvious that the nV seen at UGC was a different team then at Fall Finals. Bad play calls were made, along with questionable pushes and engaging in one-on-one battles instead of assisting each other. During listen-ins, there was clear frustration in nV’s communication, and the team fell to almost complete silence between games. Despite not playing at their potential, nV took OpTic, Str8, and Liquid to full series.

nV at UGC. Courtesy of Monster.

 

 

Online Performance

Since losing at UGC, nV has picked up their scrim performance. The team had 13-0 and 12-1 victories over Evil Geniuses as well as another 13-0 over Team Allegiance. However, they have traded scrims with OpTic and Liquid, solidifying these teams as the top three.

The online qualifiers have showed similar issues. EnvyUs won the first qualifier with a 4-1 victory over Liquid. Unfortunately, nV couldn’t repeat, as they lost to Inconceivable in a Game 5, ending with a 5th-8th finish.

While online results should not carry a lot of weight, they effect seeds going into HWC Las Vegas. Due to their lower placing in the second qualifier, it will be a long climb for them to overtake Liquid in pro points and take the second seed going into Vegas.

 

Looking Forward

When listening to nV’s communications in scrims and the online cups, bickering was common, often between Snip3down and Mikwen. This increases the frustration of the team and interrupts the flow of teamwork and communication. This leads to inconsistent solo-plays, which can provide opposing teams with easy kills. This lack of coordination is holding nV back and must be resolved. Mikwen has been very mature with the situation, understanding and acknowledging his part in nV’s lack of recent success.

Mikwen’s frustration (outside of any events that may be occuring in his personal life) is understandable considering much of the community calls him the worst player on the team. This is entirely incorrect, as many just assume stats imply skill and do not see what Mikwen actually contributes to his team. This can be attributed to nV’s unusual setup, being comprised of four Slayers, but all players have stepped up to be excellent in whatever role they are needed.

Austin “Mikwen” McCleary. Courtesy of Beyond Entertainment.

 

While Mikwen’s frustration and bickering may have stopped the team from competing as well as they should have at UGC, they have continually began to improve, showing that only Liquid and OpTic can consistently contend with them in scrims. This team will be back in full force at UGC and will be hungrier than ever to regain victory and succeed at the 2017 Halo World Championship Finals.

So will nV fall apart? The short answer is no; nV seems to have fixed their issues and they are once again looking like a championship team.

 

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Can EG Bounce Back?

Through the majority of 2015, Evil Geniuses dominated the HCS, with a roster of Justin “Roy” Brown, Jason “Lunchbox” Brown, Eric “Snip3down” Wrona, Tony “Lethul” Campbell, and coach Ryan “Towey” Towey. However,  since X-Games last January and the departure of both Lethul and Snip3down, EG has struggled to find a similar level of success. The Brown twins and Towey now have their best shot yet to turn that around.

 

UGC St. louis Performance

After a sixth place finish in the Fall Season, EG picked up Cody “ContrA” Szczodrowski and Devon “PreDevoNatoR” Layton.

PreDevoNator at the XFINITY Training House. Courtesy of Devon Layton.

This team had very little time to practice prior to the first HWC 2017 event, but still managed to take home a 5th-6th place finish. EG met Inconceivable in the first round of the Champ Bracket and fell 3-1 despite some close games. Inconceivable was able to later challenge Team Liquid and Str8 Rippin, both of which were in the top four. Should EG be able to achieve this same placing at HWC Las Vegas, they will qualify for the HWC Finals.

In the loser’s bracket, EG was able to send Luminosity Gaming home with a 3-0 victory, but later lost 3-1 to Team Liquid, despite more close games. Liquid proceeded to also knock Team EnvyUs out of the tournament and finished second, falling only to OpTic Gaming.

The reason that the placements of these other teams are important is that they reflect EG’s level of play. Liquid was the first team to form coming out of the Fall Season, while EG had less than a week. Many of the teams that EG played had formed sooner than them and therefore had built up more chemistry. Nevertheless, the fact that EG kept all games close is impressive.

 

Online Performance

Looking at EG’s performance online, it would be hard to place this squad higher than top eight. In the second HWC Online Qualifier, EG lost 3-1 to a similar Luminosity squad that they had beaten earlier at UGC. It should be noted that Luminosity has had a team change, and their gameplay as well as communication have appeared to be much better than that of the LG we saw at UGC. Also relevant is the fact that these Online Tournaments are single-elimination, denying EG the chance to further their placings.

Scrim results also show that EG is struggling. A recent scrim with Team Liquid resulted in an 11-2 loss for EG, with few close games. The next night saw EG lose to OpTic Gaming 11-2 again, but with more close games. Similar results show in a 10-3 loss against Str8 Rippin. Most concerning, EG has lost two scrims 6-7 against Pnda Gaming, a notably weaker team. While the majority of these games were close, the fact that EG is trading blows with a team that is considered by many to be outside of the top six and only narrowly top eight is worrying. However, not all results have been necessarily bad. EG did have another scrim with OpTic Gaming in which they lost 8-5, with at least six of their losses being very close.

 

Looking Forward

While EG’s online results to some reflect their inconsistency or even weakness, they also are a reflection of the inconsistencies of online Halo. Roy and Lunchbox have consistently performed far better at live events than online. The new additions, ContrA and PreDevoNator, are similar and both frequently detest the many faults of Halo 5: Guardians online. This duo, as stated in Towey’s “Up To Speed” series, had to play on WiFi hotspots off of their phones prior to joining EG. This squad, even more than squads like OpTic, will perform leaps and bounds better at events then they will online.

One issue that some have noted is that the personalities of this team may clash. Roy and Lunchbox, despite being on multiple championship teams, have become notorious for their bickering after games won or lost. Meanwhile, it has been noted that players such as ContrA and PreDevoNator can perform far worse in negative environments. This is where Towey must step in. Towey has proved to be one of the best coaches in Halo history and is typically more active in-game than other top coaches. He will have to be sure that Roy and Lunchbox stay above their arguments and keep the entire team positive. If not, the team risks falling apart, which when qualifying for the Halo World Championships, is unacceptable. Towey is more than capable of doing so, as he also coached during EG’s period of dominance.

Towey, coach of the Evil Geniuses. Courtesy of Ryan Towey.

All of these players are easily talented enough to challenge the likes of OpTic Gaming and Team EnVyUs. However, EG cannot misstep. If they can’t make top six at Las Vegas, they won’t qualify for Worlds there. This would force them to play in the Last Chance Online Qualifier to snag the seventh NA spot, where their chances are significantly lower.

 

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The Importance of Play-Styles in Halo: Objective Players

Earlier this week, we covered the role of Main and Power Slayers in Halo. However, while Slayers can rack up plenty of kills, they can’t carry a series. The majority of games, whether it’s a best-of-five, or best-of-seven, are objective based. It won’t matter how many kills you have if you can’t capture a flag or protect a stronghold. So let’s take a look at the players who may not show up in the highlight reels, but are absolutely vital to any championship team.

 

Objective Players

Good objective players are absolutely the key to beating teams out at the highest level. The difference maker in many games is the amount of seconds that a player can shave off of a flag run. These players meld the knowledge of how to handle objectives, as well as being mindful of when to handle them.

Commonly

Hamza “Commonly” Abbaali, one of the leagues best objective players. Courtesy of ESL.

Here’s an example:

Say the game mode is Capture the Flag. The vast majority of flag runs are only successful when multiple members of the enemy team are staring at the re-spawn screen. A good objective player knows this and will wait for a teammate to call out the deaths of other players (Usually the minimum to run a flag is two dead). From there, the objective player pulls the flag out of the base. This player must be aware of which part of the maps are under his team’s control and where the dead enemies will be spawning. With this knowledge, the runner moves the flag close to his team, ensuring that even if he is killed, one of his teammates is already in position to continue the run. Combined with the speed of objective runners, this often leads to a flag cap.

Now let’s consider Strongholds. A Slayer’s job is to keep the Stronghold clear of enemies and reset its capture progress if he’s in a position to do so. However, this tends to change when taking offensive actions:

Say it’s Plaza Strongholds and your team is only holding the “Yard” Stronghold. You’re not scoring and the enemy team is quickly gaining a wide lead. Your Objective player should be (under general circumstances) moving through the “Cafe” area to get to the “Nest” Stronghold. Doing so will also secure the spawns around that area, allowing the rest of your team to re-spawn at the map’s power position. This forces the other team to spawn in the “Yard” area, giving your team the upper hand.

Obviously, these roles don’t necessarily apply in every case. For example, when the current Team EnvyUs formed, we saw Eric “Snip3down” Wrona having to run flags, as every member of that team is recognized as a Slayer. This led to many lost flag runs, with nV winning the games only due to their overwhelming slaying power.

Objective players also play a very large role in Team Slayer, despite the “objective” of the mode being to get kills. One of the most important aspects of Slayer is map control, as this leads to power positions, power weapons, and power ups. All of this snowballs into gaining more kills. This is clear on a map like Rig Slayer: The interior of the map, often called “Bunker” is the superior side of the map; it offers plenty of cover, easy access to the camouflage, and gives control of the “Tower” which can look over the entirety of the map’s interior. Objective players will anchor their team’s spawns in these areas while the other post up looking for kills. This ensures positioning remains in their advantage for the long term.

 

Examples of Objective Players

Visal “eL ToWn” Mohanan (Luminosity Gaming):

eL ToWn, during his time with Team EnvyUs. Courtesy of ESL.

eL ToWn, since his time on Team Allegiance, has developed into one of the most underappreciated players in the HCS. Despite accepted shortcomings in movement and slaying power, he is one of the most apt objective players around. Mohanan pushes objectives at their first availability, enabling his team to often take initial leads.

Hamza “Commonly” Abbaali (Team Allegiance):

Commonly is arguable the best objective player in the league, with his CTF games being a stand-out example. He is always seen in the opposing base, waiting for the perfect opportunities to pull the flag. Once the flag’s out of the base, few can move a flag as fast as this man does.

Jason “Lunchbox” Brown (Evil Geniuses):

Lunchbox has undoubtedly become one of the most legendary players in Halo history over the course of his decade-long career. Once a map is cleared of opposition, Lunchbox is one of the first to push a flag or Stronghold.

 

Objective players are crucial for winning a series. The absence of a solid objective player can be remedied, but only rarely so. Even Team EnvyUs, the most successful example of substituting for a true objective player, has seen only limited success. These players, despite not receiving much praise, are instrumental to winning a series.

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The Importance of Play-Styles in Halo: Slayers

Many factors are required to make a team click. Main slayers, power slayers, objective players, and the often misunderstood “glue” players. Some players fit into multiple categories, but all of these must work together in perfect harmony to pull out a win against an equally-skilled team. No one play style is necessarily more important than another. While the design and pace of Halo 5 had slightly eroded the lines that clearly defined different play styles, they’re still important.

The most recognized play style are the slayers. What do these players do and how do they affect the team? Let’s find out!

 

Main Slayers

Main Slayers are the bread-and-butter of any team. If you can’t get any kills, it doesn’t matter how good of an objective player you are. If you’re getting spawn-killed in your base, it won’t make much difference how fast you can run a flag. These players will typically be the kind to get a perfect kill on you in every gunfight. Their magnum shots usually stand out and can tend to be very frustrating for other teams as it seems like they never miss. Main slayers will pick up every one-shot player that is called out, making sure players who try to dipsy-doodle (Thanks for that, Strongside) away don’t get very far. Very few of these players stand-out as solely Main Slayers, as they cross over heavily with Power Slayers.

Roy of Evil Geniuses. Courtesy of ESL.

 

Examples of Main Slayers:

Aaron “Ace” Elam (Str8 Rippin)

Justin “Roy” Brown (Evil Geniuses)

Dan “Danoxide” Terlizzi (Free Agent)

Ryan “Shooter” Sondhi (Inconceivable)

Paul “Snakebite” Duarte (OpTic Gaming)

Braedon “StelluR” Boettcher (Team Liquid)

 

 

Power Slayers

The other (and often more recognized) subclass are the Power Slayers.

Is the Sniper Rifle gone? Or the Rocket Launcher? How about the Shotgun? Chances are, a Power Slayer has them. These are the guys who you usually see highlight reels from. These players have two jobs: get the power weapons on the map and use them to kill the enemy team as much as possible. A Power Slayer with a Sniper and good positioning can accumulate all of the simultaneous kills needed to capture a flag or get total control in Strongholds. Since their job is often to get control of power weapons and being able to kill other players who want them, they typically are also Main Slayers.

Snip3down. Courtesy of Eric Wrona.

 

Examples of Power Slayers:

Kevin “Eco” Smith (Team Liquid)

Zane “Penguin” Hearon (Team Liquid)

Mathew “Royal2” Fiorante (OpTic Gaming)

Eric Snip3down Wrona (Team EnvyUs)

Tyler “Spartan” Ganza (Team Allegiance)

Cuyler “Huke” Garland (Team EnvyUs)

 

Slayers, while being simple in concept, are the backbone of any Halo team. They are also the players who most frequently leave the jaws of the audience hanging open, and that’s something any fan can appreciate. However, they’re not the only thing enabling championship teams to win. When a flag or stronghold needs capturing, Objective players are the ones to do it, and we’ll be taking a look at them next time.

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Over/Under (Part 1): LCS Players Above Expectations

With two weeks of gameplay under our belts, it is becoming more and more clear which players are carrying their teams, and which players have become burdensome. Most pre-season predictions regarding individual players have come to be true. However, there are several examples of players who have gone a tier above expectations, and others who have gone a tier below.

This week I want to recognize an LCS player from each position that has exceeded expectations. These are individuals who have contributed to their team in a note-worthy way. Some players we thought might have a tough time against strong lane opponents. Others we thought might not be ready for the LCS. Still others we expected to simply be unknown factors coming into the Split. Regardless, these five players have been crucial to the success of their respective teams.  

Samson “Lourlo” Jackson

Team Liquid, Top Laner

KDA:    7.7   (1st Overall)

D%:    6.9% (1st Overall)

While Team Liquid has not looked great as a team, Lourlo has been performing above expectations. He averages almost even with his lane opponents. He averages one death per game (only 10 total deaths so far). This allows Lourlo to constantly engage, playing champions such as Nautilus and Poppy. Lourlo is reliable to survive ganks and remain even with tough lane opponents.

Team Liquid Top laner, Lourlo

courtesy of Riot eSports

FlyQuest Jungler, Moon

courtesy of Riot eSports

 

 

Galen “Moon” Holgate

FlyQuest, Jungle

KDA:  5.0   (7th Overall)

FB:   60%   (3rd Overall)

Moon’s statistics paint him to be an aggressive early-game Jungler far above expectations. He offers a high KDA, high damage throughout the game, and high rates of securing First Blood. Moon is generally behind in CS at 10 minutes; but by then he has most likely allowed his team to create pressure around the map. Moon has even pulled out surprise picks like Evelynn and Kindred.

Hai “Hai” Du Lam

FlyQuest, Mid Laner

DPM:  670    (1st Overall)

EGPM: 284.5 (3rd Overall)

Hai has a middling KDA and averages even in CS at 10 minutes. What he is known for is play-making and decisive shot-calling. Hai has the highest damage to champions of all players, far above expectations. He also has the third highest earned gold per minute. Hai is always making the most of every second of the game. This translates to FlyQuest’s 70% first Dragon rate and 75% first Baron rate.

FlyQuest's Mid laner, Hai

courtesy of Riot eSports

Unicorns of Love AD Carry, Samux

courtesy of Riot eSports

Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort

Unicorns of Love, AD Carry

KDA:      6.4 (4th Overall)

CSD10: +6.7 (6th Overall)

There have been several games where Samux holds lane 1v2 while his Support roams to create pressure around the map. The fact that Samux can come out ahead in CS is even more impressive. With an average of 21.9% of his team’s gold (lowest ADC), he serves as a low-economy player that enables his Top, Mid, and Jungler to get fed. Samux’s instant meshing with Unicorns of Love has been above expectations.

Lee “IgNar” Dong-geun

Misfits, Support

KDA: 7.9    (2nd Overall)

KP:   78%   (4th Overall)

Playing champions such as Thresh and Taric, IgNar is not afraid to play the map. While he already demonstrated his reliability in the Challenger Series, his transition to the EU LCS has been above expectations. IgNar sets up kills for all of his teammates while maintaining very low death rates. He also averages 1.52 wards per minute (2nd highest among all players), which is quintessential for successful roaming and intelligent ganking.

Misfits' Support, IgNar, and Jungler, KaKAO

courtesy of Riot eSports

Each of these players will need to continue exhibiting excellent play to maintain, or improve, their teams’ standings. We are only two weeks in, and as teams begin adapting to one another’s play-style, we could see changes. Whether it is a change in competition, a change within the meta, or a change in League of Legends itself, these players will need to continue to adapt if they want to succeed.

Keep an eye out next week for my list of under-performers. Just as some players have exceeded expectations, others have fallen short. I will acknowledge five more players on that list that will need to improve in order for their team to move up in the standings.

Correction(s): This article previously provided an image of Misfits’ Jungler, Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon, instead of IgNar. Also, Moon was incorrectly labeled as the Jungler for Team Liquid instead of FlyQuest.

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Immortals Wins The NGE Overwatch Winter Premiere

Photo via twitter.com/immortals

From start-to-finish, the Immortals Overwatch squad looked like the best team in the Winter Premiere. After two months of dominating play, Immortals was able to take home the NGE Winter Premiere title at Pax South over Ghost Gaming 3-1.

It wasn’t an easy road to the finals, as Immortals had to fight through four qualifying events just to make it to Pax South. After breezing through the open play, Immortals hit their stride in the group phase, finishing first with a 4-1 record (9-5 game count). The only team that gave them trouble was the team they just defeated in the finals.

Ghost Gaming (formerly Kungarna) transformed from an unsponsored team to one of the most dangerous teams in the entire Winter Premiere. Every game, they seemed to improve and develop more chemistry in terms of positioning and team fights. Unfortunately, Immortals was the one team with enough skill and team synergy to hold off the talented Ghost Gaming squad.

Even without Nomy (David Ramirez), who couldn’t make it due to visa issues according to an Immortals spokesperson, the overall talent was enough to win the event. Immortals had to rely on their former support, Chance (Zac Palmer), to play Reinhardt. Nomy was arguably the best Reinhardt in the entire Winter Premiere. Immortals winning without him shows just how strong the team is.

The play of GrimReality (Christopher Schafer) and Agilities (Brady Girardi) were great throughout the Winter Premiere. In the four tank Overwatch meta, the Roadhog out of Agilities and the Zarya from Grim carried this team. Now, even with the meta moving away from tank heavy compositions, Grim’s McCree and Agilities’ Genji separated them from other teams.

In the finals, GrimReality was unreal. Immortals would place him on high-ground and let him do work. It almost looks like aim bot, but it’s just Grim showing off his ability to turn team fights. Even down a player, he gets instant head shots. He had multiple rounds with four or five kill team fights. It forced Ghost to target him down, leaving everyone susceptible to the strong ultimate play from Immortals.

Immortals ended up 6-1 on LAN, taking out Luminosity Gaming 3-0 in the semifinals. Immortals did a terrific job switching up team compositions, which is especially important considering the 1.7 patch just dropped two days before the event. At times, they’d switch off the classic Ana/Reinhardt and go Zenyatta/Winston. This didn’t work, but showed they were willing to try new things. In the end, getting away from the three tank compositions gave the opposition some issues.

Aythen (Athen Zhu) worked both as a healer and DPS with Ana, allowing Grimreality to get behind the enemy front with Tracer or McCree’s Dead Eye. It was a total team effort. Hyped (George Maganzini) had the most optimal use of his ultimates. He would usually clear out space with his D.Va self-destructs or strong Zarya graviton surges. All six members were crucial for Immortals to get to this spot.

It’s still early in Overwatch’s competitive life-cycle, but Immortals shows that they can compete with anyone. Next step will be seeing if they can handle the top European and Korean teams; but winning the NGE Winter Premiere is a good first step towards world domination.

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Liquid, Str8, Inconceivable: New Contenders

UGC St. Louis has been the best event yet in terms of gameplay. However, one key thing was noticed by many fans: Team EnvyUs nor OpTic Gaming were able to easily defeat every team they came across. They consistently struggled against Team Liquid, Str8 Rippin, and Inconceivable. These teams showed that their skill ceiling was just as high as that of OpTic and EnvyUs, but will they be able to keep pace going forward?

 

Narrowing the Gap

During the Fall Season, nV saw far more success than any other team against OpTic Gaming. However, though they were able to take series from them both online and on LAN, most viewers noticed one important factor: nV may have OpTic figured out, but they were more vulnerable when facing lower teams in comparison to OpTic. These opinions began to recede after nV won the Fall Finals, without dropping a game to any team other than OpTic.

Str8 celebrates their narrow win over Inconceivable. Courtesy of Halotracker.

Be that as it may, it seems that other teams are no longer settling for third.

Liquid and Str8 both managed to take nV to five games. Liquid also took OpTic to game five, and later game seven in the grand finals. Meanwhile, Str8 only narrowly defeated Inconceivable in a legendary game five Slayer that went to Overtime. Str8 later fell to Liquid 3-1, but the series score does not give credit to how close the games were.

Tim “Rayne” Tinkler and Zane “Penguin” Hearon were featured together on the HCS Listen-In prior to the Fall Season. Both said that OpTic (at that time Counter Logic Gaming) were a whole season, if not a year, ahead of the competition and that no team would be able to touch them for the duration of the season. Despite this, nV toppled the giants at the Fall Finals. Ignoring their own opinions, Rayne and Penguin showed that nV weren’t the only contenders for 2017 World Champions.

 

Long Term Analysis

The key for these teams to compete with OpTic and nV seems to lie with the young talent. Why not? It worked for OpTic and nV; they picked up Bradley “Frosty” Bergstrom and Cuyler “Huke” Garland, respectively. Liquid is a team comprised of all players who have been relevant for just over a year or so. Inconceivable is a team that is all young talent, headlined by Anthony “Shotzzy” Cuevas-Castro. Str8 Rippin formerly acquired a player they had played with before, in Jonathan “Renegade” Willette (#RENEGOD):

These teams have shown that they can not only go back-and-forth with each other, but also with the absolute best of the best. As these players build up more chemistry with their respective teams (and in Shotzzy’s case, more LAN experience), they will only continue to improve. Now, I would also say that OpTic nor nV were playing at their full potential (especially Justin “Pistola” Deese and Austin “Mikwen” McCleary) and that I doubt that this will continue for long. Both teams are set to be significantly better going into HWC Las Vegas, but so will their competition. I fully expect that Liquid, Str8, and Inconceivable will truly challenge OpTic and nV and push them to their absolute limits, all the way to the HWC 2017 Finals.

 

Do you agree that any of these five teams are now currently capable of becoming World Champions? Or do you think it’s still only between Team EnvyUs and OpTic Gaming? Be sure to let me know!

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and eSports articles from other great TGH writers along with Devin! Get in touch with Devin personally to talk more HCS and see more articles by following him on Twitter @Frostbite_XV2!

HWC UGC St. Louis 2017 Championship Sunday Recap

The first qualifier for HWC 2017 has passed, and UGC St. Louis has seeded the top teams going into HWC Las Vegas. Championship Sunday was filled with all the to-the-brink series, amazing clutch plays, and absolutely jaw-dropping moments we have come to expect from top-level Halo. Let’s take a look at how it all shook out and who walked away being the St. Louis Champions.

 

Top 16

The Championship Bracket began with the top 8 teams from the open bracket meeting the top 7 pro teams, with the first Winner’s Bracket round having several important match-ups.

Team Allegiance met with Str8 Rippin, in what many thought would be a close series. However, Str8 Rippin proved my predictions wrong and came out hot against Allegiance with a 3-1 victory. Pnda Gaming, a team notable for including Carlos “Cratos” Ayala, fell to an amateur team, SetToDestroyX 3-1, much to the pleasure of the Halo community. Evil Geniuses was matched with a tough first round, having to face Inconceivable, a team brimming with talent. Unfortunately, the veteran leadership of Jason “Lunchbox” and Justin “Roy” Brown was not enough to stop the heated young-guns.

Jesse “Bubu Dubu” Moeller, one of the veterans on Inconceivable.

The second round saw Luminosity Gaming getting swept into the loser’s bracket by Str8 Rippin. However, this squad wasn’t done yet, as they were able to knock Pnda Gaming out of the tournament (again, much to the pleasure of the community) and making top 8. Allegiance also moved into the top 8 after also sweeping SetToDestroyX.

 

Top 8

The top 8 teams continued to race forward. In the second Winner’s Bracket round, Inconceivable matched up with the reformed Team Liquid, and fell in a close 3-2 series. Liquid moved on to play OpTic Gaming, and this is where things started to get crazy. In another incredibly close series, the Greenwall dropped Liquid to the lower bracket. Meanwhile, Str8 Rippin met with Team EnvyUs, and yet again, the series went all the way to game five, with Envy clutching to beat out Str8.

The Evil Geniuses also continued to push through the lower bracket, even sweeping Luminosity Gaming out of the tournament. After that, they had to contend with an angry Team Liquid, and unfortunately fell to them 3-1, in a series that arguably should have been a sweep if not for a game reset. With this, Liquid secured their spot into the final bracket.

What remained in the Loser’s Bracket were Str8 Rippin and Inconceivable. This series was as close as it could possibly get. It went to a game five Plaza Slayer, and then continued into overtime, nearly unheard of in Slayer matches. If Str8 won, they would have reverse-swept Inconceivable and moved into the top 4. What followed… words don’t do it justice. This may have been my favorite game of Halo 5 that I’ve ever seen played.

One more time, for the Str8 chant, courtesy of @DeontaeVidad:

Top 4

This is starting to look a lot like Fall Finals; we have OpTic Gaming, Team EnvyUs, Team Liquid and Str8 Rippin. To start off the Finals Bracket, the rematch we all waited for, OpTic vs. EnvyUs, and it started with a bang (mind the score). At the end of it all, Envy fell to the defending World Champions, and OpTic moved on.

Tim “Rayne” Tinkler has come into his own as a leader for Team Liquid. Also the new T2. Courtesy of Tim Tinkler.

In the Loser’s Bracket, Team Liquid stopped Str8 Rippin short of another miracle run, and sent them home with a 3-1 victory.

Here comes the upsets.

Team Liquid went on to meet Team EnvyUs, both hungry to get another shot at taking down OpTic Gaming and becoming the St. Louis Champions. The series once again went all the way, but Team Liquid managed to shut down the Fall Champions, and moved on to face OpTic gaming after a 3-2 victory.

 

Grand Finals

OpTic was ready for them. Liquid did not come that far just to beat one juggernaut and be stomped by another though. However, it would not be easy, as they would have to reset the bracket and then win a second series against OpTic to bring home a Liquid tournament victory. However, OpTic was not looking to have a repeat of Fall Finals, and although Liquid fought valiantly to take the series to a game seven, OpTic took home another win with a 50-46 victory on Colosseum Slayer. Now, OpTic looks to regain the dominance they had last year going into the World Championship, but the competition is only continuing to snip at their heels. Either way, this tournament has made one thing certain: This is no longer a fight for second or third place. Any of the top five teams are all capable of taking the title of 2017 World Champions.

 

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and eSports articles from other great TGH writers along with Devin! Get in touch with Devin personally to talk more HCS and see more articles by following him on Twitter @Frostbite_XV2!

P.S. Thanks for the Team Beyond Forums making everything that much better 😛

FrankieFourShot, here’s your chance for fame!

HWC 2017: UGC St. Louis Preview and Predictions

The first event of the 2017 Halo World Championship season is this weekend, January 20th-22nd! UGC St. Louis, while not awarding spots for the HWC Finals, will still be important to teams, as it serves as seeding and LAN practice for HCS Las Vegas, which will award HWC spots. Let’s take a look at my predictions for what the top eight teams will be come Sunday!

#8. Luminosity gaming

Roster: Visal “eL TowN” Mohanan, Cameron “Victory X” Thorlakson, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, Joe “TriPPPeY” Taylor

Victory X. Courtesy of ESL.

Luminosity’s first dive into Halo ended with a 5th place finish in the Fall Season. Their new squad, while not necessarily worse, has much more fearsome competition to contend with. With eL TowN and Victory X bringing excellent support and objective work to the roster, their main concern will be slaying power. TriPPPey has proven himself to be very competent in this area, but his performance against higher-seeded pro teams remains unproven. This team should be able to dispatch teams outside of the top eight with relative ease. If Ninja can step up and be the jaw-dropping slayer we all know he can be, this squad can easily do even better. But with a 0-8 scrim record against other teams on this list, I’m not sure this LG squad can pull it off.

This tournament will serve as practice more than anything for Luminosity. They need to learn how to work together well and build a camaraderie outside the game. I fully expect their scrim scores to improve following this event, but I’m not sure I see them breaking into the top six before HWC Las Vegas.

 

#7. Str8 Rippin

Roster: Aaron “Ace” Elam, Bradley “APG” Laws, Richie “Heinz” Heinz, Jonathan “Renegade” Willette

I have a hard time saying that Renegade is an upgrade from Kevin “Eco” Smith. Both are great power slayers, but I feel Eco just slightly ekes out Renegade in most if not all categories. The advantage that Str8 has however, is that this team already has some previously built-up chemistry. Renegade played with Str8 before they were able to pick up Eco over the transfer period. Even with this, the team is not necessarily worse, but the competition has far improved from last season.

When it comes to scrims, Str8 has beaten Luminosity by only one game. However, the reason I put Str8 above LG on this list is because they have consistently done better against other rosters than LG. For example, both teams have scrimmaged the new Team Allegiance: Str8 lost the scrim 8-5, while Luminosity lost it 11-2. This sort of scenario has repeated itself multiple times with several different teams, and in most, Str8 comes out better than LG. UGC to this team will be about continuing to build their chemistry and seeing where they truly stack up against other top contenders.

 

#6. Team Allegiance

Roster: Tyler “Spartan” Ganza, Dan “Danoxide” Terlizzi, Hamza “Commonly” Abbaali, Ayden “Suspector” Hill

This is where things start to get especially close. The new Allegiance roster will have to fight through the open bracket, but once in the champ bracket, they’re sure to start making it farther down the rankings. This squad has three top-tier slayers and an excellent objective player.

Commonly

Commonly, also lovingly nicknamed “The Problem.” Courtesy of ESL.

This squad can very quickly switch places with any team in the 3rd-6th spots. In scrims, this team has lost to OpTic Gaming by only one game, and has also split scrims with both Team EnvyUs and Team Liquid. While LAN results may differ, this team could be without a doubt a top four contender, assuming Spartan kicks up his game to a near-insane levels like he did at the Fall Finals. UGC will provide solid practice to see if this new roster can play well together and to see if their online results translate over to LAN.

 

#5. Evil Geniuses

Roster: Justin “Roy” Brown, Jason “Lunchbox” Brown, Cody “ContrA” Szczodrowski, Devon “PreDevoNatoR” Layton

ContrA. Courtesy of ESL.

Now, to be clear, if this was an online qualifier, EG would most likely be in 7th or 8th place. But this is LAN. It has been proven time and again over the past decade that the the Brown twins are not to be tested at a live event. Throw in ContrA and PreDevoNatoR, another two players who have proven to be far superior on LAN to online. With a similar mix of play-styles to the EG team that dominated Halo 2: Anniversary, the potential of this squad is through the roof.

Despite this, numbers don’t lie. EG has lost all but one scrim out of the nine they’ve played. Despite this, they’ve taken a fair amount of games from both OpTic, EnvyUs, and Liquid. However, LAN EG is a completely different beast. During HCS Las Vegas last season, EG was able to take EnvyUs to a game five, pushing what virtually all view as a top two team to their absolute limits; and I’d say this squad is stronger. All of these players on LAN can far outdo themselves online, and as a fan of EG since they returned to Halo in 2014, I can’t wait to see what this team can do. UGC will serve as excellent practice for this squad, as they have not played on LAN since that Vegas event. However, teams that are absolutely brimming with talent are what is holding this team from joining the top four.

 

#4. Inconceivable

Roster: Jesse “Bubu Dubu” Moeller, Ryan “Shooter” Sondhi, Michael “Falcated” Garcia, “Shotzzy” (Full name unknown)

Be sure to give Bubu your Dubu this weekend, because he and Shooter are not going to be playing nice at this event. After being (for lack of a better word) screwed out of a Pro Bracket spot by their former teammate, these players are going to be hungry. Most of the attention is going to young-gun “Shotzzy,” a player who is so new and unknown that I can’t, for the life of me, find his actual name. He formed a duo with another young player to win several Team Beyond 2v2 tournaments, which included knocking out some pros. His movement and slaying power is already up there with the best, and he doesn’t even have a driver’s license yet. This team also won the NA placement cup prior to UGC and is in prime position to get into the top four. This squad has insane slaying power, led by Bubu’s clutch plays and top-tier objective work.

Scrims have gone very well for this new squad, including a 12-1 victory over Luminosity. They have also split games with both Liquid and Envy. However, the one thing holding them back from top three, is ironically Shotzzy. As far as I know, he has not played at any LAN events. This lack of experience can be detrimental to the squad, as his performance under pressure has not yet been tested. If Shotzzy holds up, this team is right up there with OpTic and Envy. Shotzzy’s performance will no doubt be a focal point for all teams this weekend at UGC. With this is the ongoing situation with this squad and the Pnda Gaming squad. If these two meet, I can only hope for the following scenario to be true:

t5evHFs.jpg

Bubu Dubu knocking out Carlos “Cratos” Ayala. Courtesy of “Craneteam,” from the Team Beyond Forums.

 

#3. Team Liquid

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

If you asked me to throw together the most talented pro players who were not on Envy or OpTic, this is probably the squad I would come up with. A squad of all relative newcomers. Rayne and Penguin have been an amazing duo since first seen on LAN at NA Regionals last year. Rayne provides excellent support play, StelluR is one of the best main-slayers in the league, and both Penguin and Eco have proven themselves as excellent power-slayers.

This team has split games with Envy in scrims and even won a scrim against OpTic by one game. This team has also traded scrims with Inconceivable, but as I said, I believe Shotzzy’s lack of LAN experience will separate these two. I am sure this team will be top four, but UGC will decide if they can join Envy and OpTic in being a step above other teams in the league.

 

#2. Team EnvyUs

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

Pistola, the resident Wizard of Halo. Courtesy of ESL.

The Fall Champions. The King-slayers. The only team to ever beat OpTic on LAN. With a star-studded arrangement of amazing slayers, this squad has done what many thought would have been impossible. With Ola and Mikwen not even making Worlds last year, this battle will be especially personal for them. In scrims, they have won all except for one tie with Inconceivable. They defeated the Pnda squad 12-1. To say the least, this team is dominating.

And yet, I have them at #2.

OpTic may have fallen, but I don’t think they are defeated yet. In fact, as I have said earlier, I think Envy have awakened a sleeping dragon. However, their previous win at Fall Finals may also further motivate Envy to continue their win-streak all the way to being the 2017 World Champions. But to do this, one squad stands in their way.

 

#1. OpTic Gaming

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

This squad needs no introduction. There’s a reason that I have OpTic winning UGC this weekend despite performing worse in scrims than Envy. LAN OpTic, in a similar fashion to EG, is a whole different beast. Losing at X-Games one year ago motivated the squad to become the first ever Halo World Champions. I’m betting that losing at Fall Finals will do the same. However, I don’t think OpTic will dominate as they have previously. At Fall Finals, OpTic was able to 4-1 Envy in the Winner’s Finals. Envy will surely take games. But I don’t think the #Greenwall is ready to go quietly quite yet. These two teams will be battling back and forth for the foreseeable future, but I think OpTic is going to be the defending world champs for yet another year.

OpTic wins HCS Orange County. Courtesy of ESL.

 

Do you agree with my placings? Be sure to let me know! Be sure to tune in to UGC St. Louis this weekend at: https://www.twitch.tv/halo

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and eSports articles from other great TGH writers along with Devin! Get in touch with Devin personally to talk more HCS and see more articles by following him on Twitter @Frostbite_XV2!

 

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