Frostbite’s HWC 2017 Finals Predictions

We’re finally here. Three months of competition and grinding have brought us to this. Twelve teams will compete in Burbank, California this weekend and only one will walk away with the title of “Halo World Champion.” Here’s how I think it’s all going to play out.

 

9th – 12th: SoaR Gaming

Roster: Irving “Drift” Ramírez, Atzin “Atzo” Pulido, Carlos “Bullet” Marlasca, Gilbert “MuNoZ” Muñoz

MuNoZ, of SoaR Gaming. Courtesy of HaloEsportsWikis.

Qualifying through the Latin America Qualifiers, this squad is looking to improve their region’s standing in the Halo community. Mexico City proved that they are a very competent team that has the endurance to compete with other top tier teams in the region.

However, losing their star player Josbe “Tapping Buttons” Valadez and using MuNoZ as a late substitute could damage this team’s performance. Moreover, these players, with the exception of MuNoZ, don’t have experience competing against North American teams and that will likely work against them. MuNoZ must lead this team perfectly for them to make the top eight.

 

9th – 12th: London Conspiracy

Roster: Rob “SeptiQ” Singleton, Andrew “Ramirez” Corrigan, Casey “Lunny” Lunn, Kristopher “Qristola” O’Keefe

Despite having several notable players on the roster, I just don’t think London Conspiracy have the firepower to deal with the other teams attending the Halo World Championship. With Team Liquid and Luminosity Gaming in their group, it’s hard to see them winning it, meaning they’ll likely be seeded into the loser’s bracket. With other teams such as Team Immunity and Supremacy likely joining them there, this squad has a tough route to make it deep into the bracket.

 

9th – 12th: Supremacy

Roster:  Norwen “SLG” Le Galloudec, Romain “PuniShR” Leroy, Sonny “Fragxr” Marchaland, Simon “SolaR” Racher

This squad has a similar story to London Conspiracy. In the same group as OpTic Gaming and Crowd Pleasers, saying “only a miracle could win this squad their group” would be an understatement. And then dropping to the loser’s bracket, this theme continues. Supremacy isn’t bad, they’re just not going to be able to contend with the other teams here, specifically the North American teams and FabE.

 

9th – 12th: Team Immunity

Roster: Aaron “Benno” Bennett, Teddy “Junior” Joe Jr., Daniel “Seduce” Franken, Matthew “Voltage” Barker

Benno, during his time playing Call of Duty. Courtesy of EGaming Network.

Right off the bat, I’ll say that this squad has already impressed me. The team has come out to Burbank early to get more practice against North American teams and they’ve been doing well for themselves. Scrim results show that they’ve taken three games off of Team EnVyUs, with several other winnable games. They even managed to win a scrim 7-6 against Splyce. However, they’ve also been picked apart by Str8 Rippin, with a 13-0 loss and only two close games.

Immunity does have an advantage in that this is the same squad that represented ANZ at last year’s Halo World Championship. They and OpTic are the only teams to have the same rosters. This built up chemistry could very well swing fortune into Immunity’s favor, but with both Splyce and NV in their group, they’ll need to catch fire quickly.

That said, I place them here reluctantly. Depending on how the bracket plays out as well as which teams come out hot or cold, this squad could very well slip into the top eight, possibly even top six.

 

7th – 8th: Luminosity Gaming

Roster: Visal “eL TowN” Mohanan, Cameron “Victory X” Thorlakson, Tommy “Saiyan” Wilson, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins

Starting off in the top eight is Luminosity Gaming. With the slaying capabilities of Saiyan and Ninja combined with the support

Saiyan, the newest player on LG. Courtesy of Tommy Wilson.

work of eL TowN and Victory X, this squad is a potent combination. This was shown at HWC Las Vegas, where the squad nearly defeated Str8 Rippin and even managed to send Splyce home. Luminosity has proved that when they’re at their top level, they can contend with the best of the best. But therein lies the problem.

According to HaloDataHive.com, a website that tracks the scrim scores and stats of professional Halo, LG hasn’t had a scrim in over a week. Assuming this is a lack of practice, this could severely hinder the squad’s ability to repeat and improve upon their earlier performance. Scrim results prior to their absence don’t look bad, however, with a 6-6 scrim with Splyce and a 9-4 over Team Liquid. However, there’s also a 0-7 loss to OpTic as well as a 1-12 loss to NV. This squad has the talent to squeak into the top eight, but past that, this lack of practice will keep them from progressing.

 

7th – 8th: FabE Games eSports

Roster: Brandon “Respectful” Stones, James “Jimbo” Bradbrook, Perry “TuFoxy” Kenyon, Luciano “Mose” Calvanico

The top European team and arguably top foreign team have proved that they are legitimate contenders for the Halo World Championship title. Despite splitting scrims with other EU teams, when it comes to events, this squad has not faltered to any non-North American team. During the Fall Pro League season, this squad did play NA teams and was defeated by Str8 Rippin 4-1. Despite this, this squad has improved since then and the recent LAN experience against NA teams will play to their advantage. Joining them in Group D is Str8 Rippin and SoaR. With this in mind, they are very capable of winning this group if Str8 comes out flat, putting both them and most likely Str8 in the winner’s bracket. However, despite being a great squad, the next caliber of teams are just a step above.

 

5th – 6th: Crowd Pleasers

Roster: Carlos “Cratos” Ayala, Brett “Naded” Leonard, Cory “Str8 SicK” Sloss, Daniel “Danoxide” Terlizzi

Carlos Ayala at MLG Regionals last year. Courtesy of Halo Esportspedia.

This squad came out strong at Las Vegas, securing fourth. With crazy momentum-based slaying on their side, CP can just about cruise into the top eight before having real struggles. With OpTic and Supremacy in their group, they will likely take second and move into the winner’s bracket as well. The issue I have with this squad is that they are momentum based. All four players have been known to be extremely emotional and while this can play to their advantage, in the long run it is more likely to hurt them. If this squad runs up against a particularly tough match-up early in the bracket, they can tilt themselves all the way out of the tournament. However, if they can move on from losses with relative ease, this squad does have a chance to make top four.

That said, scrim results don’t paint a good picture for CP. Hard losses to NV, Splyce and OpTic shows that this team may not yet be able to stand with that category.

 

5th – 6th: Splyce

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

Bubu during his time on E6. Courtesy of Halo Esportspedia.

Castro

We’re starting to reach that point where any of these teams can take the title if things go a little in their favor. Splyce,

despite a disappointing performance at Vegas, punched their ticket to HWC through the LCQ. Another squad of young guns, these players all have the potential to go off and absolutely take control of a game on their own. Shotzzy, being the youngest player at the tournament at the age of 15, has shown that age is not a marker of ability. Bubu and Shooter also have something to prove, as they unfairly lost their Pro League spots due to Cratos’ actions. Scrims have been conflicting for Splyce, with 5-8 losses to Str8 but 9-4 wins over CP. However, much like OpTic, Str8 and Liquid, this roster is much stronger at live events, Vegas being the exception. Expect a hot start and continuous momentum deep into the bracket.

 

4th: Str8 Rippin

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

Richie Heinz. Courtesy of ESL.

This squad has been on a roller coaster of a ride since the end of HWC 2016. After Ace, APG, and Heinz were dropped from OpTic Gaming, they were acquired by Str8 Rippin, a legendary name in the history of competitive Halo. From there, this squad made a miracle run, going from the bottom of the standing to top four, just barely making it to the Fall Finals. Since then, they’ve picked up Renegade and have only gotten stronger. Despite scrim results being less than ideal across the board, this squad has shown that they are not to be trifled with. They are likely to win their group and proceed into the winner’s bracket, where they’ll likely stay there for another two rounds or so. Vegas showed that this team can contend with OpTic and they are more than capable of winning if Renegade is able to consistently put up huge numbers along with the rest of the team.

 

3rd: Team EnVyUs

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

“Hyoooook.” Courtesy of Cuyler Garland.

Despite Str8 being very strong, I do still think that NV are the better team. This squad is the only current squad to ever best OpTic Gaming on LAN. Since Fall Finals, NV has stumbled once the tournament slimmed to the top four. Despite consistently beating Str8 and other squads below them, Team Liquid has had them dialed in this season.

Despite this, scrim scores show a resurgence for this squad. This team has won nine scrims consecutively, with most of them being blowouts. This does also include a 7-6 victory over OpTic, although their last loss was to OpTic and was 9-4. It is completely viable for this team to come out hot and start knocking other teams into the loser’s bracket with sweeps. If this squad can manage to get past Liquid, they can take down OpTic and become World Champions.

 

2nd: Team Liquid

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

StelluR at Vegas. Courtesy of Braedon Boettcher.

That said, any rumors of Liquid’s victories over EnVyUs being flukes have been silenced. Liquid has beaten NV three times at events. Two of those were dominant 4-1 and 4-2 victories. This squad is the strongest new team to come out of the Fall season and has contested OpTic the best so far. At UGC, both of the series that Liquid played against OG went to the final games and were close. At Vegas, Liquid lost 4-1 while Rayne played with a broken controller. If there’s a squad who can take out OpTic, this is the most likely.

 

1st: OpTic Gaming

Roster: Paul “SnakeBite” Duarte, Matt “Royal2” Fiorante, Bradley “Frosty” Bergstrom, T.J. “LethuL” Campbell

Beware this man in Blue Cave. Courtesy of Mathew Fiorante.

Back to back, two for two. Consecutive World Champions. This squad is going in already being at the top of the mountain and they have seen absolutely no failure this season. OpTic is the next dynasty of Halo and being the World Champs again will only solidify that. LethuL puts up consistently good numbers every game and does whatever is necessary to win his team the game. Snakebite is a similar story, consistent and overwhelming slaying with an insane clutch factor. Royal2 and Frosty have put up huge numbers repeatedly. Undoubtedly, these four are among the top 10 players in the game and it is likely that OpTic has four out of the five best players. As long as this team is playing their game, they will win and become the 2017 Halo World Champions.

 

 

 

We’re going to see the best Halo 5 competition yet this weekend. While it’s hard for me to picture anyone but OpTic winning, any of the last five teams listed here are more than capable of wrestling the title away from them. Be sure to check out the stream here!

Do you agree with my predictions? Let me know on Twitter or in the stream this weekend.

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These were too good not to include. Courtesy of “overuled” and “Chong” of the Team Beyond forums. Only the dankest of memes.

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Team Liquid: Poised to be Champions?

The Team Liquid that has competed throughout this HWC season has shocked many. After dropping Tyler “Spartan” Ganza and Hamza “Commonly” Abbaalli, many questioned this team’s ability to remain in the top four. However, Zane “Penguin” Hearon and Timothy “Rayne” Tinkler have ended those rumors.

 

Liquid From the Ashes

Eco during his previous time with Liquid. Courtesy of Kevin Smith.

After only barely taking third at the HCS Fall Finals, Liquid decided to pick up Braedon “StelluR” Boettcher and Kevin “Eco” Smith. This change was questioned. Commonly and Spartan were both regarded as top players. Eco was picked up after Liquid reverse-swept them at Fall Finals. StelluR wasn’t even at the Finals. Early scrim performances led to many continuing to question the roster change.

The only thing that seemed to be going for Liquid was that they were one of the first teams to form after the Fall Season and had already had previous chemistry as a team. However, most people thought that they would still not be able to contest with OpTic and Envy.

Then UGC happened.

 

UGC St. Louis

Liquid’s first notable matchup at St. Louis was against Splyce, at the time Inconceivable. Liquid narrowly won with a 3-2 victory, with no particularly easy games. Next, they encountered OpTic, and this was when people first saw what this team was capable of. Liquid took OpTic to a Game 5, very nearly becoming the second team to ever defeat the dominant roster on LAN. Unfortunately, Game 5 didn’t go in their favor and they dropped to the loser’s bracket.

Liquid fought through the loser’s bracket, sending Str8 Rippin home with a 3-1 score. Their next opponent, however, was Team EnVyUs. The only squad to ever best OpTic at an event. Again, many thought that surely, Liquid would be sent home and we would have another OpTic vs. NV rematch.

Against all odds, Liquid managed to eliminate NV from the tournament with another slim 3-2 victory. They then met OpTic in the Grand Finals and took the series all the way to Game 7. In Game 7, Coliseum Slayer, they were only defeated by small clutch plays. The game ended with less than a 10 kill difference, but Liquid had fallen. Nevertheless, the fact that they played OpTic so close and managed to eliminate NV was astounding to many. Despite this, some called it a fluke, claiming that NV just had a bad event, much like OpTic had at Fall Finals. This too, did not last.

 

HWC Vegas 2017

At Vegas, Liquid managed to defeat Pnda 4-0, a team that later went on to get top four and punch their ticket to HWC Finals. Next, they once again were met with NV. Much to the disappointment of many, Liquid forced NV down to the loser’s bracket with a 4-1 victory. NV were outright dominated in two games of the series, and their only win was relatively close. Liquid had shown that they were now OpTic’s greatest contender.

Let it be noted that according to Penguin, Rayne’s controller had malfunctioned, rendering him unable to crouch. With Halo 5’s controversial radar inclusion, not being able to crouch and stay off the radar was crippling.

Team Liquid’s Rayne. Courtesy of Tim Tinkler.

Nevertheless, Liquid continued on to meet OpTic, but were defeated 4-2. Liquid then dropped to the LB to play NV yet again. NV was playing much better at this point, but it was not enough for them to overcome Liquid. NV was eliminated from the tournament after a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Team Liquid.

In the Grand Finals, Liquid once again faced OpTic. With several close games, Liquid was defeated 4-1, with a larger margin between the two teams than at UGC. All still, with Rayne’s broken controller.

 

Looking to the HWC Finals

This weekend will decide if this squad has what it takes. They have shown that they are no longer third fiddle. They are better than NV, with little room for doubt after three consecutive LAN wins over them. Their chances at taking down OpTic are likely greater than those of any other team. However, they will need to come out very hot, or they too will not be able to break through the Greenwall. Liquid have shown that they are more than capable; but when you’re against a team like OpTic, no mistakes can be made. We won’t see if Liquid can accomplish this until this weekend, but they are surely going to be OpTic’s main contender.

 

Do you think Team Liquid has what it takes to be our 2017 World Champions? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

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!

 

 

 

The Playbook: Rig Slayer

The Rig is one of the most important maps to learn in Halo 5, as it plays host to both Slayer and Strongholds. Having to play the same map twice in a single series can be a double-edged sword. If a team wins the first rendition of the map in a series, they’ll be more comfortable for the second. The opposing team who lost the first time around has the opposite effect. That said, here’s how you can help net yourself a win on Rig Slayer.

 

Rig Slayer Map Layout

Rig is the first asymmetrical map we’ll be covering in the series. The Red team spawns in the Bunker, with the Blues at the Carbine area. In the Nest, you’ll find a sniper rifle, with little cover. If the Red team is not careful about pushing this

Camo spawn.

area, the Blue team can easily toss in grenades. In the opposite corner of the map is the Scattershot, right by Barrels. Either team can choose to bait the Scattershot, by waiting for an enemy to push into the area and then shooting the explosive barrels.

The Camo spawns in the inside area of the map, adjacent to the White Hall. Hitting the white circle underneath the Camo platform will cause it to fall to the Sewers area. This is how nearly every game is started, as it allows both teams to further contest for Camo.

The Tower sits between the Bunker and Barrels and gives a nice overview of the entire inside area of the map. Behind the Tower is the Pipes area, which can be used for plenty of sneaky getaways.

Movement Around Tower and Pipes

Red Team Starting Strategy

Due to the Rig being asymmetrical, the Blue and Red teams have different strategies to use off the break. The Red team spawns inside of the map and has the better positioning. They are also in prime position to get control of the Camo.

Nest, featuring the Sniper.

Have two players rush Engine 2 (E2). One player should push into White Hall in order to watch the Nest and the Sniper. The other should have their eyes on the Camo and Basement Door. A third player should push up to the Tower and watch the Long Hall and Top Mid area as well as keeping an eye on Barrels. They may also be able to cover a part of the Outside Catwalk. Your fourth player should be charging the Camo. If the fourth dies, the player who was in E2 watching the Basement should be the next to attempt to grab it. Once the Camo is secured, the player in Tower should grab the Scattershot if it’s still available.

If a Red player grabs Camo, they should drop to Sewers and push into Basement for an easy flank.

 

Blue Team Starting Strategy

The Blue team has the weaker initial spawn. Have one player push to Barrels to grab the Scattershot, but be mindful of a

Barrels and the Scattershot spawn.

player in Tower. If this player is fast enough, they should be able to grab it without any trouble and double back to help the next player. Have the next player sit in the Basement Door to contest or at least burn the Camo. If a Blue player gets the first Camo, they should still drop to Sewers, but then should push into E2 to get a flank of their own. The remaining two players should push to Nest to secure the Sniper as well as contest White Hall. After getting a couple of kills, the Blue team should immediately swarm to the inside area of the map to get the Bunker spawns.

 

Rig Setup

Due again to being asymmetrical, the Rig has less of a focus on collapsing on spawns and more of a focus on holding

The Bunker area.

areas. After the initial fight, a team ideally should have control of the Bunker spawn, with one player anchoring the team there. The rest of the players should be split between controlling the White Hall and Tower. From there, let enemies push in, and kills rack up. Holding this setup basically guarantees you the Camo while also providing relatively good access to both the Sniper and Scattershot spawns.

When attempting to break a setup, the best way is to wait for a power weapon or Camo to spawn. Once your team has control of it, they can get easy kills and flood back into the superior side of the map. If the other team pushed your outside spawn, use it to your advantage. Have a player sneak back into the Bunker while they are pushing elsewhere and force them into the weaker spawn.

 

These strategies are very general and will not apply to every case. Make sure that you are conscious of what’s happening around the map and that you’re prepared.

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!

 

Halo World Championship Finals Regional Preview: Europe

Three teams will represent Europe in the Halo World Championship Finals next weekend in Burbank, California. FAB Games eSports, Supremacy, and London Conspiracy will venture across the pond to clash with Halo teams from North America, Australia, and Latin America. After a disappointing outing for Europe at the Halo World Championship 2016, these three teams seek to make a statement, and prove that the European scene is not to be taken lightly. This article will focus on each of the European Halo teams, and highlight their respective journeys to the Halo World Championship Finals.

FAB Games eSports

Roster: Brandon “Respectful” Stones, James “Jimbo” Bradbrook, Perry “TuFoxy” Kenyon, Luciano “Mose” Calvanico.

EU Halo veteran Jimbo. Courtesy of Halo Esportspedia

Of the three European teams competing at the HWC Finals, FAB Games eSports’ Halo 5 tenure has certainly been the most impressive. In addition to a dominant first-place finish in the HCS Pro League Fall Season, FAB Games boasts event wins at the HCS Summer Finals, HCS Fall Finals, and Gfinity London 2017. The presence of Halo veterans Jimbo and TuFoxy has helped the team hit their stride. Their chances going into HWC Finals have never looked better.

FAB Games qualified for the HWC Finals after a dominant run at Gfinity London 2017. There, they would crush team Supremacy 4-1 in the Grand Finals, not losing a single series prior. Several consecutive tournament wins, and bearers of the first EU qualifying spot signal that FAB Games is a promising contender for the HWC title. Expect them to enter the HWC Finals with a chip on their shoulder, as the best European team looks to continue their momentum and bring a win back home.

 

Supremacy

Roster: Norwen “SLG” Le Galloudec, Romain “PuniShR” Leroy, Sonny “Fragxr” Marchaland, Simon “SolaR” Racher.

Hailing from France, and sporting a re-tooled roster going into Gfinity London 2017, Supremacy appeared an unlikely candidate to qualify for the HWC Finals. Only the top two teams from the event would qualify. Supremacy would need to take down successful EU teams like exceL eSports, London Conspiracy, and Team Infused to have a shot.

Supremacy suffered a loss early to the BUK twins’ squad, Pace Making Pandas. Consequently, they would need to construct a herculean tournament run in order to qualify at Gfinity. The team responded with incredible composure, blasting their way through the Losers Bracket. Supremacy met fierce resistance against Team Infused in the Losers Finals. With HWC Finals qualification on the line, Supremacy vanquished Team Infused after a grueling seven-game struggle.

Supremacy would fall to FAB Games eSports 4-1 in the Grand Finals. However, the tenacity of the team left many surprised. Supremacy will need to dig deep to face the competition at the HWC Finals. They have the potential to shock the world if they can make a successful run.

 

London Conspiracy

London Conspiracy. Courtesy of Gfinity.

Roster: Rob “SeptiQ” Singleton, Andrew “Ramirez” Corrigan, Casey “Lunny” Lunn, Kristopher “Qristola” O’Keefe

Following Gfinity London, two of the three European HWC Finals spots had been claimed. Halo veterans SeptiQ and Ramirez knew they must win the Last Chance Qualifier if they wanted a shot at one million dollars. London Conspiracy finished a disappointing 5th-6th at Gfinity London. This prompted the departure of Ryan “Batchford” Batchelor, and the acquisition of newcomer Qristola. This change appeared beneficial, as London Conspiracy seemed refreshed heading into the LCQ. Incidentally, London Conspiracy would then defeat Batchford’s new team, Best Routers EU, in the Grand Finals 4-1.

As a result of the LCQ win, London Conspiracy holds the final EU spot for the HWC Finals. A relatively new team, London Conspiracy must play lights-out to have a chance at winning their pool, and moving into bracket play at the HWC Finals.

 

Conclusion

These teams are the best of the best in Europe. But are they skilled enough to beat the dominant North American competition? Only three teams will be representing Europe in the 2017 Halo World Championship, compared to seven from North America. If the European teams want a chance at victory, they seem to have their work cut out for them.

Furthermore, as the time until the HWC Finals grows shorter, anticipation is steadily building. Look for the EU teams to come out swinging while they attempt to topple the competition from around the world. As always, all the action will be streamed live at twitch.tv/halo.

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The Runback: Street Fighter V Patch Notes, Evo Japan Update, and FPS2 Preview

It’s another busy week in the fighting game community. We’ll cover the new Street Fighter V update, Evo Japan dates, and a preview of Frame Perfect Series 2 in Orlando, Florida. The Killer Instinct World Cup also wrapped up last Saturday, we’ll take a look back at the KI community’s biggest event.

Street Fighter V Season 2 Patch

The rumors of a possible patch before the start of Season 2 were (somewhat) true. A week after Final Round 20, Capcom released a patch with minimal nerfs. As expected, Capcom essentially went through and adjusted the smaller aspects.

Accordingly, the game has seemingly shifted towards grappler-type characters. There’s no overarching mechanical changes outside the fact that the risk-reward system is now amplified with no jump back option select. The direction of how Capcom wants players to play this game is clear: BURST DAMAGE ABOVE ALL (sorry for yelling)!

It’s likely that this will be Capcom’s last patch in Season 2. Players will now have the rest of the season to refine their characters. Ibuki won the first major CapCup event, but Mike and Guile had a strong showing. Balrog seems unexplored and ready to become a real tournament contender.

Evo Japan: January 26-28, 2018


The date is set and it’s actually happening. Evo is going across the pacific to Akihabara, near Tokyo. The wait will only be a full-year, but Evo will once again expand into a two-event circuit. Japan is also an obvious choice for the next Evo as a large population of the country plays fighting games.

It’s an ode to the strong Japanese community that has spent years flying west to the United States. It will be the first Evo outside America and should display the quality depth of Japan’s street Fighter V, anime, and 3D fighters. Many top players are already considering making the trip to Evo Japan.

Frame Perfect Series 2

FPS2, a Smash event in Florida, will host four of the Melee gods and a litany of other top players from the region. The majority of the Smash 4 top 15 will also be in attendance to face the strong Florida Smash 4 scene. The tournament will feature runner-up at Frostbite 2017 Tsu and his Lucario.

Additionally, the Japan crew will be making an appearance in Smash 4. The event will be focused on top player vs. the field. Is it possible anyone outside of Armada (Adam Lindgren) and ZeRo (Gonzales Barrios) win in either game? The last five months say don’t take the bait, pick the favorites. Players have gotten close, but just haven’t finished the job.

The event will feature eight top-20 Melee players. Unfortunately, aMSa (Misaya Chikamoto), the popular Japanese Yoshi, can’t attend because he has the stomach flu. The field isn’t as deep as Smash 4, but the names at the top make this a major event. Winning this Melee tournament will require running the gauntlet of Mango (Joseph Marquez), Mew2King (Jason Zimmerman), and Hungrybox (Juan DeBiedma).

KI World Cup Levels Up

Twitter.com/Cptn_EO

Despite missing out on making it into Evo, the KI community is going strong. After another average attendance year, the future of KI was in the balance. The community responded with a well-funded and represented tournament.

Regardless, Sleep (Darnell Waller) was able to continue his run of strong play with his win at KO cup. He couples this win with his Evo title, which makes him the undisputed number one. The Ultra Tour will continue into Season 3 with Combo Breaker on the horizon.

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Halo World Championship Finals Regional Preview: North America

Next weekend, the top Halo teams from around the world will gather in Burbank, California to battle for the Halo World Championship crown and their share of one million dollars. With the inclusion of last weekend’s Last Chance Qualifier Champs, Splyce, the seventh North American spot has been filled. As the final week of preparation approaches, expect each team to be actively scrimmaging and finalizing strategy for one of the biggest Halo tournaments of all time. This preview will highlight some of the most promising teams from North America.

North American Titans

It’s no secret that North America is objectively the best scene for competitive Halo. North American teams have been at the cutting edge of the Halo franchise’s ever-changing meta since the inception of MLG. Most predictions for the HWC Finals will confidently select an all-American top four, and potentially round out the top six with teams hailing from the region. These two teams have been exchanging blows for the entirety of the season, and are top contenders to hoist the championship trophy when all is said and done.

 

The Defending Champs: OpTic Gaming

Roster: Paul “SnakeBite” Duarte, Matt “Royal2” Fiorante, Bradley “Frosty” Bergstrom, T.J. “LethuL” Campbell.

OpTic Gaming (formerly Counter Logic Gaming) hoist the HWC 2016 trophy. Courtesy of ESPN.

Fresh off two consecutive major tournament victories, and eager for a chance to defend their title of “Halo World Champions,” OpTic Gaming looks unbeatable. Slaying powerhouses SnakeBite and Royal2 lead the charge, and can single-handedly steal a game from the clutches of defeat. These two players are anchored by the always-consistent Frosty, and strategic mind of Lethul.

OpTic Gaming has only suffered one loss on LAN since X Games Aspen 2016 (then Counter Logic Gaming), and has somehow only improved with time. Expect OpTic Gaming to be the favorites at the HWC Finals, and successfully defend their title.

Victory means a satisfying, and well-deserved result for one of the most dominant Halo teams of all-time.

 

The Young Guns: Team Liquid

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

Following a disappointing finish at the HCS Fall 2016 finals, Team Liquid parted ways with Tyler “Spartan” Ganza and Hamy “Commonly” Abbaali. Searching for two, Rayne and Penguin acquired StelluR and Eco to round out this roster of young-guns.

Since the pickup, Team Liquid hasn’t skipped a beat, finishing second at both UGC St. Louis and ME Las Vegas. Despite a promising effort, the team came just short of victory, falling to a red-hot OpTic Gaming at both events. As the HWC Finals approach, Team Liquid is gearing up for one last shot to overcome the Green Wall and solidify their place in Halo legacy.

If there is a team to take down OpTic, Team Liquid appears to be the most likely contender. At UGC St. Louis, Liquid nearly bested OpTic in a thrilling seven-game series, but the composure of OG ultimately prevailed. Expect each member of Team Liquid to come out guns-blazing next weekend, where they will attempt to take what they believe is rightfully theirs.

 

The Wild Card: Team EnVyUs

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

Snip3down of Team EnVyUs. Courtesy of Halo EsportsWikis

EnVyUs is the first and only team to make OpTic Gaming bleed. A win over OG at the HCS Fall Finals showed that NV is a force to be reckoned with. Since then, they’ve been unable to replicate their success, finishing an underwhelming third place at both UGC St. Louis and ME Las Vegas.

Led by former MLG Champions Snip3down and iGotUrPistola, EnVyUs seek to prove that their win at the HCS Fall Finals was no fluke. Victory for NV depends on two things: the Huke x-factor, and team mentality. If Huke catches fire, there is no team who can stop him. Additionally, if the team gets in their own heads, a game can quickly spiral out of control. NV are surely aware of their shortcomings, and will seek to make a statement after tasting victory last year. Expect Team EnVyUs to be the dark horse in the HWC Finals.

 

Conclusion

These three teams are the pinnacle of North American Halo competition, making them the teams to beat from the region. OpTic Gaming is a force of nature, and intends to demolish any competition presented at the HWC Finals. Meanwhile, Team Liquid will attempt to reach the mountaintop following consecutive runner-up placings, and Team EnVyUs hopes to recreate the magic that granted them a win at the HCS Fall Finals.

Halo World Championship 2016 Trophy. Courtesy of Xbox Wire

Despite the strong North American competition appearing next weekend, there are some notable exceptions: Evil Geniuses, and Allegiance. Both failed to qualify for worlds in the Last Chance Qualifier, while Splyce cruised to victory, and thus occupy the final North American spot. Look for both EG and Allegiance to rebuild in the offseason, and come back stronger.

Regardless, with both glory and a substantial amount of cash on the line, the Halo World Championship Finals will conclude a dramatic season. The competition is tight, the rosters are locked, and the North American teams are ready to defend their home turf. All of the action will be streamed live at twitch.tv/halo, starting March 24.

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How Does OpTic Keep Winning?

OpTic Gaming have already proved to be one of the greatest rosters in the history of competitive Halo. Comprised of Tony “Lethul” Campbell, Paul “SnakeBite” Duarte, Mathew “Royal2” Fiorante, Bradley “Frosty” Bergstrom, no squad has shown dominance in Halo 5 like they have. Being the first ever Halo World Champions, to winning the Summer Pro League, to qualifying for 2017 World Championships with ease, this roster has only lost twice on LAN. Aside from those two occasions, one being only days after forming, nobody has consistently come close.

So just what is it that allows these guys to win consistently?

 

Play-Styles and Team Chemistry

OpTic likely has four out of the top five players as it sounds. The best part of it is that all of these players can do everything.

Frosty, OpTic’s in-game leader. Courtesy of Bradley Bergstrom.

When OpTic needs to slay, every player can be a strong slayer. If a player needs to overextend to prevent a flag capture, any player is able to do it. This ability of having extreme flexibility allows OpTic to play extremely fast, and any team that is used to playing a slower, more rigid play-style will struggle. They are completely adaptable and no team is really able to match that.

Royal 2’s slaying power is second to none when he is able to set up with a sniper rifle. OpTic can play around him and be able to run two back-to-back flags because of his prowess with it. That said, Frosty is the cream of the crop when it comes to aggressive sniping. This man has consistently hit shots that are about as close to impossible as you can get. Combine that with Lethul and Snakebite’s consistent slaying power, and with that alone, this team is a top contender.

OpTic is also likely the most calm team competing right now. While listening to their communication during scrims, they never panic and rarely even raise their voices, even after making jaw-dropping plays. This allows very concise call-outs, allowing Chris “Royal 1” Fiorante, OpTic’s coach, to give the best instruction to allow the team to gain map and power control. Alongside the in-game leadership of Frosty and Snakebite, OpTic again dominates this category, being far and away better communicators than any other team.

 

Intangibles: “Glue” and the “Clutch Factor”

Some things that set teams apart can’t be seen on the stat sheet. They are involved with the personality of the players

Snakebite of OpTic Gaming. Courtesy of Halo EsportsWikis.

and the decisions made by players in certain situations. One of these is that players can act as a “glue” for a team. Their personality holds them together and drives them forward. For OpTic, this is Lethul. Since joining, he has often been able to keep the team relaxed and focused. Other examples of “glue” players would be Richie “Heinz” Heinz and Carlos “Cratos” Ayala.

The other intangible is the “clutch factor.” The ability to make a play at a crucial moment that turns the tide of a game or even a series. Snakebite has consistently been called the most clutch player in the game, and it is for good reason. He never makes a bad play, but always does whatever is absolutely necessary to bring home a win. This is what allows OpTic to consistently win, time and time again. They are able to just barely eek out the opposing team in the last moments to win. No team has matched OpTic’s ability to do this, and it may be awhile before any roster can truly match them.

 

 

As it stands now, while the gap between every other team is closing, the gap between OpTic and everyone else is growing. They are in prime position to become back-to-back Halo World Champions.

What are your thoughts on OpTic Gaming? Do you thing any team can match them in these categories? Sound off!

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!

FaZe Clan and Their Newest Pickup: NiKo

 

FaZe Clan at a recent tournament, Courtesy of Gamurs.com

FaZe Before NiKo

FaZe Clan is historically known as one of the oldest esports organizations out there. They were originally one of the first clans to emerge from the Call of Duty competitive scene back in 2010. FaZe Clan expanded into CS:GO when they picked up the remainder of the G2 squad back in early 2016. Ever since, FaZe have been trying to break into European competition in a meaningful way.

Most of 2016, FaZe found themselves at the mercy of teams like Virtus Pro and Astralis. The only noteworthy achievement was their 3rd-4th place finish at IEM Oakland. Even then they found themselves falling to NIP (Ninjas in Pajamas).

FaZe began looking for a change, with their hopes continually being crushed tournament after tournament with poor finishes. Last month, FaZe Clan decided to depart ways with Philip “aizy” Aistrup, and shortly after announced their pickup of Nikola “NiKo” Kovač from Mousesports. NiKo said he would be switching from Mousesports after Dreamhack Las Vegas. Sadly, NiKo’s time at Mousesports was filled with woes of bad teammates.

It was not so much that Mousesports was a bad team, but more so that NiKo had incredible ability and he was being held back by a weaker team. NiKo especially impressed during ESEA season 18, showing off his impressive skills at the young age of 17. He seemingly single-handedly carried Mousesports to a top four position.

NiKo back on Mousesports, courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

FaZe After NiKo

NiKo has been praised by many as being one of the most skilled CS players in all of Europe. The young Bosnian was named #11 on HLTV’s top CS:GO players in the world in 2016. With any luck, FaZe could successfully integrate this powerhouse into their squad and put themselves into more serious contention.

Whenever roster changes happen, it’s always interesting to see the changes in squad play. Introducing a new player into the team dynamics will always take time for teams to adjust to. NiKo is no exception. He is an incredibly strong rifler, and the players on FaZe were very aware of it after having played against him for years.

With NiKo finally on the squad, FaZe find themselves in the early stages of their transition. NiKo seems to be taking it great. His demeanor has noticeably improved, and he actually looks happy compared to when he was on Mousesports. The pressure on him before was huge, with Mousesports relying very heavily on the crucial frags Niko brought. He showed off at IEM Katowice, helping to bring FaZe to the Grand Finals in his first appearance with them. Unfortunately, they lost to Astralis 3-1 in the best of five series.

NiKo on FaZe clan at IEM katowice, courtesy of HLTV.org

NiKo’s performance was strong in the Grand Final, showing he is still capable of playing with the best. Hopefully this is a sign of the future potential FaZe have with him. They haven’t won a tournament yet, but there are still plenty of opportunities for NiKo to prove himself in this new lineup.

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The Playbook: Empire Strongholds

Empire Strongholds is one of the most disliked game-modes in Halo 5. Many cite it as a map that invites the use of unbalanced automatic weapons and grenade spam. While this is true, Empire SH is very winnable, and here’s an outline of how to do it.

 

Strongholds Basics

Let’s talk about Strongholds in general first. In a sense, the cue for making a play is similar to that of CTF. Wait until you have a few members of the enemy team down. Then push for a Stronghold capture. If possible, never attempt to capture a zone alone. It takes too long and Strongholds are typically very easy to collapse on and clear out.

Remember that while a triple-cap (holding all three zones simultaneously) is fastest, it’s not worth losing map control. Holding two will ensure that you are still earning points. Never push to capture a third Stronghold when you have little to no map presence or have teammates waiting to spawn. That said, if you are about to lose control of the map and of Strongholds, then it is preferable to hop into another zone as it will lead to you trading Strongholds with the other team. This buys your team time to make a counter-attack, while also allowing you to keep scoring for a little bit longer.

 

Empire Map Layout

Empire has less power-weapons and power-ups than other maps, but they are still very important. The Overshield (OS)

The OS spawn.

spawns at the outside area of the map. The Active Camouflage (Camo) spawns inside of the Tower. Both are on two minute static timers, meaning they will spawn two minutes after they are picked up. The Plasma Pistol spawns in front of the Tower. Use it to melt the OS off of players if the enemy team is able to grab it.

The Turbine sits between the Pit Stronghold and the outside area. Along with the Tower, both areas are key to maintaining control of the Pit.

 

Strategy: Airstrikes and Gunfire

Empire is more slay-heavy and rotation-focused than any other Strongholds map. Due to this, it suits teams that are able to play very fast. Controlling both power-ups or at least being mindful of their times is very important, more so than most other maps.

The Camo spawn.

At the start of the match, two players should immediately run to get control of the OS. It is more valuable than the Camo in most situations. A third player should rush to the Tower for the Camo, but be ready to burn it if necessary because they may not have help immediately available. The fourth player should be floating between their base and the Pit. This player needs to be sure to grab the Plasma Pistol in case the opposing team is able to grab the OS. This same player should always fall back to capture the home base, and the players who pushed outside should capture the Pit if they win the initial fights. Be mindful of the times of both power-ups.

After gaining control of the Pit, keep players in Tower and Turbine in order to lock down the Pit as well as gain influence over other areas of the map. Players in Tower should be watching the opposing team’s Platform (Plat) in order to catch spawners who are pushing out of their base. Turbine players can help control the opposing team’s outside Bend area.

Turbine.

Here’s where having high aggression is helpful for Empire; As soon as you get a player or two dead, push their base to get a triple-cap. Once captured, immediately rotate back around to your home base to clear out the players who are now spawning there, and maintain the triple-cap for as long as you can.

This is a hard map to break out of when you’re on the back-foot. In most cases, keep yourself out of a triple-cap. Wait until OS spawns, then push for slays, then push Strongholds. The key to this map is to always know how and when to rotate. If you see your teammate clear out the opposing base and start capturing the Stronghold, double-back to your base to maintain control.

These strategies are very general and will not apply to every case. Be sure that you are conscious of what’s happening around the map and that you’re prepared.

 

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Astralis’ Semi-Final Curse Broken?

Astralis winning the 2017 E-League Major, courtesy of Astralis.gg

Everyone remembers the many failed clutches and catastrophes of Astralis’ 2016 CS:GO major runs. It’s no secret that they are notorious for competing strongly in majors and still falling short of the Grand Final. 

Throughout the duration of 2016, they reached the semi-finals of both majors. They took dramatic exits to NA’VI and Virtus Pro, respectively. However, it seems as though Astralis’ woes are becoming a thing of the past. With their recent first place victory at the 2017 E-League Major, Astralis hope to put the semi-final curse behind them. On top of winning their first major, they just won IEM Katowice. They beat out Faze clan for the trophy.

Karrigan goes off to the Faze clan so Gla1ve could step in, Courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

They have looked like a new team ever since Finn “Karrigan” Anderson left, and Lukas “Gla1ve” Rossander joined. He became the shot caller of the squad in October. Gla1ve’s transition into the squad seemed almost seamless. Their form noticeably improved with the better shot calling. Karrigan was one of the original five 2014 Dignitas players to form Astralis, and he will be missed. Unfortunately, the transition seemed necessary after their 10th place finish in the ESL Pro league.

The team has been loving the new environment under Gla1ve. It seems to be revitalizing them. After having so many years under the same shot caller in Karrigan, it must be refreshing for the players to have new ideas and strategies to go around.

Andreas “Xyp9x” Hojsleth said in a recent interview: “I think what we had achieved with both cajunb and karrigan was what we could achieve. We couldn’t progress and it was really hard to progress as a team at that time. But now that we have gla1ve, it feels like we can always improve.”

Xyp9x has been part of the Danish core of Astralis since its beginning. These players have been trying to win a major since 2014 on team Dignitas. While the change may have been heart wrenching to long time fans, it is good to know it was for the best.

The original Dignitas squad back in 2014, courtesy of the dot esports

Astralis’ recent success may have a lot to do with their recent addition of an E-sports psychologist, Mia Steelberg. Xyp9x in that same interview said Mia was saying, “Within two to three months, you can probably make the best team in the world.” The players said they laughed at the time they heard it. As they worked with her though, their minds began to change.

In less than a few months, their play has noticeably improved. Not necessarily in skill, but in mental fortitude. They would go down a few rounds, and their economy would be weak, but they wouldn’t lose their grip on the game.

What is allowing them to be so dominant currently is sticking with the competition and playing with more adaptability. No doubt, with a lot of help from their E-sports psychologist.

There were many moments in the Grand Finals of the 2017 E-League Major, where you could really notice the difference in their play. When they went down they didn’t panic. They played cool and calculated. In Game 3 of the Finals, they found themselves dangerously down 12-14 after losing to a partial eco round from Virtus Pro; but they didn’t let it phase them. They kept up the pressure enough to take it back 16-14. Whether it was their E-sports psych grab, or the Gla1ve pickup, Astralis are looking like the team to beat in 2017. 

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