RUSH and tarik to Cloud9, a jaw dropping roster change

Cloud9 opened eyes and dropped jaws Tuesday morning after announcing the additions of Will “RUSH” Wierzba and Tarik “tarik” Celik. This move is one of the most surprising of all the shuffles, and also one of the best. This lineup cements itself as one of the most, if not the most, skilled lineups of NA CS history.

For more information about shufflemania, check out my articles on FaZe Clan and mousesports.

A much higher team-wide skill ceiling

Cloud9

Photo by: hltv.org

In the past Cloud9 has had players on the roster who were much less skilled than the rest. Not only that, Cloud9 has always had the problem of having a player or two not “show up”. While we haven’t yet seen how this roster can change the past issues, it’s almost obvious that it should be fixed. Not only that, but the constant confusion about who is playing what role is now gone. Everyone has their own place, and aside from everyone contributing to the IGL role, everyone knows what to do.

Having, in my opinion, the top three North American players on one team also contributes to the massive jump toward the skill ceiling. As well as having the best AWPer in NA, it helps a lot in the overall skill. Adding tarik into the mix adds a player who rarely has a bad event. Unfortunately in the case of tarik, he does sometimes have a moment where he does something that loses the round. If this can be fixed, there are almost no flaws in this lineup aside from no proper leadership.

Prebuilt chemistry

Cloud9

Photo by: hltv.org

Looking at the players of Cloud9, it’s obvious to see the chemistry already built up among players. The most obvious case is Jake “Stewie2k” Yip and tarik, as they PUG together and joke around a lot. Another example, though less known, is between RUSH and Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham, who both played together at CEVO Season 6 Finals on eLevate, leading to some familiarity.

The mix of players also looks to be quite a good mix on paper. Whether it be in game or out of the game, the players all seem to fit together like a puzzle. Of course it is possible for the players to not get along, but we will just have to wait and see.

Good choice in replacements

 

Cloud9

Photo by: hltv.org

While it’s sad to see the original Cloud9 roster gone, you can’t deny that the replacements are well made and make sense. Mike “Shroud” Grzesiek is now able to do what he loves full time and Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert is able to pursue something else in esports, whether it be playing or being an analyst or caster at events. Unfortunately for the case of n0thing, his benching was a team decision opposed to Shroud’s benching where he stepped down himself.

Role wise, the replacements make sense. Having a 100% dedicated entry in RUSH fixes the problem with n0thing not wanting to entry every now and then. On the other hand with tarik, he is a consistent player. And, despite the peanut-brain meme, as a player he makes smart decisions with the rare occasion of messing up a round for the team. This was an issue with n0thing as well, but opposed to tarik he did it more on a consistent basis.

Overall this move seems to be a win for the organization and players. Having a more skilled roster, players who might fit better together, and having roles make sense for once, there’s few flaws in the move. We’ll just have to wait and see how the roster all together will perform on the 22nd with the kick off of ESL Pro League Season 6.


Featured image via hltv.org

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Songs of praise for 2017’s Call of Duty World League Championship

The culmination of every Call of Duty season is the World League Championship and this year was no different. It’s no secret that Infinite Warfare has been, let’s say, disappointing but I believe this championship to be one of the most memorable of all time in spite of that. In this article, I’ll pick out a few of the things that made this Worlds a pleasure for both competitors and fans alike.

A multitude of teams

Despite OpTic Gaming going into the tournament as favorites, it wasn’t as clear cut as previous years. Due to IW’s erratic nature, any of EnVyUs, eUnited, Splyce or Luminosity could have won the event on their day.

OpTic had to beat Anaheim champions Luminosity to get to the final. [Source: MLG]

When these teams clashed they produced amazing series worth re-watching while we wait for WWII: OpTic narrowly beating Splyce to defeat the seventh place meme, EnVy’s ridiculous comeback against eUnited and EnVy sending OpTic to the lower bracket, to name a few. Any times these teams had to face off against one another you could feel the tension. After EnVy forced OpTic to play against Luminosity, I’m sure Green Wall fans were worried their team would fall short again.

You even had Rise Nation and FaZe Clan making last ditch efforts to save their dismal seasons. At one point I thought a Team Revenge style run was on the cards. It made the majority of series thrilling to watch.

A beautiful venue

Last year was the first time Call of Duty had used an arena as a venue. At the time we were all in awe at how CoD could fill such a venue, but, looking back, that stage was nowhere near as beautiful as the Amway Centre.

At Call of Duty XP, the players were in towering booths away from the crowd meaning the fans couldn’t as easily see or hear the players. This, in turn, meant that fans were less likely to get hyped about huge plays and players less likely to feed off of the crowd’s energy. This year we got the open stage we are used to seeing, filled with an array of lights to make sure all eyes stayed focused on the CoD at hand.

From the stream, it also looked like the crowd was more tightly packed in this time. The upper rank and the floor looked pretty close, making it easier for quieter fans to get involved with the chanting when it’s going on all around them.  My final point is that the lesser amount of large venues this year made the fact that it was being held in this huge stadium all the more exciting.

Multi-stream, multi-stage

MLG’s decision to run four streams in the group stage on all of MLG.tv, Twitch and YouTube is something to be proud of. While there may have been a few hiccups with the audio and flickering video, for the most part it was solid.

The schedule was easy enough to follow using the graphic on the World League Twitter and meant that the tournament could be run with the best format with all the players having the same downtime between games. This is something other esports such as Counter-Strike and League of Legends have been ridiculed for. Maybe it’s time they took a leaf out of Call of Duty’s book.

Another surprise was the decision to give the Bravo stream its own stage, directly below the main one. This is the first time I’ve seen this happen in esports and I would say it was successful. Fans could enjoy the juiciest matches’ full screen and then watch the Bravo stream in-between the Alpha games. There were times when the loser of the game on the main stage would play the winner of the team on the lower stage, making it all the more exciting for fans as they could see both games as they were unfolding.

Four teams played simultaneously at the World Championship. [Source: Reddit u/theesportstv]

To the fans

And finally, thanks to the fans for showing up and supporting what they love. All the chanting, funny signs and talking down caster’s microphones only made the stream more entertaining for us stuck at home watching from our bedrooms. It’s amazing that even with such a lackluster title this year everyone made the effort to support the biggest event of the year. Hopefully, it’s a sign of even better things to come when we ditch the jetpacks in November.


You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles. You can find me on Twitter at @JackWrightIGL. Feature image courtesy of Astro Gaming.

scump optic

Scump and OpTic finally become CoD champs

The drought is over for the Greenwall. Over two years after forming a roster of impeccable skill, the longest standing roster in Call of Duty esports, OpTic Gaming, has finally been crowned a Call of Duty champion.

The Infinite Warfare season was not the greatest this OpTic Gaming roster has experienced, but they were able to finish it in style. With tournament wins at CWL Paris and CWL Dallas, OpTic was on the verge of another dominant season before poor placings in the Global Pro League (GPL) Stage One Playoffs and CWL Anaheim. They picked it up again just in time.

OpTic came into the Call of Duty Championship in Orlando fresh off a GPL Stage Two Playoff victory. That momentum made them a favorite, but not the only one, to win CoD Champs.

Unlike in years past, it was almost impossible to tell which team would emerge victorious. Would it be eUnited, or perhaps FaZe? The teams made high-profile roster swaps in hopes of a big payoff. How about Splyce? The European organization made it to the Grand Finals of CoD Champs on Black Ops III and was considered the best EU team again this year. Or what about Luminosity or Team EnVyUs? Both teams had solid years and were always able to contend with other top teams.

In the end, the Grand Final featured two of the oldest teams in Call of Duty esports: OpTic Gaming vs. Team EnVyUs. A regular ol’ eClassico.

OpTic and nV had played earlier on Championship Sunday in the winner’s bracket final, where nV was able to take a rare Hardpoint map off of OpTic to take the series 3-1. But OpTic surged right back in the loser’s final against Luminosity and the matchup was repeated. This time, OpTic had to defeat nV twice to take the crown. And they did just that.

The win cements OpTic Gaming as one of the greatest Call of Duty teams of all time, right up there with compLexity. Some would even say that with a CoD Champs title under their belt, OpTic has surpassed the old coL roster in that regard. Afterall, they were the team to beat for three years straight. It also helps that both Damon “Karma” Barlow and Ian “Crimsix” Porter were part of the coL dynasty, so essentially they have now surpassed themselves.

OpTic Gaming CoD Champs ring count

No other Call of Duty team collectively has as many CoD Champs rings as OpTic Gaming. They now have seven:

Damon “Karma (or three-rings)” Barlow x 3

Ian “Crimsix” Porter x 2

Seth “Scumpi” Abner 1

Matt “FormaL” Piper x 1

Along with his first Call of Duty Championship win, FormaL is also going home with an MVP award. For OpTic, FormaL has always been a rock with the AR, keeping his team in contention when his teammates are having a bad game. The MVP award adds an additional $25,000 to his winnings from the tournament.

Even though he didn’t win MVP, it’s hard to say anyone deserved the CoD Champs win more than Scump. In player polls, he has consistently been considered the best player in the game. A part of OpTic Gaming since Modern Warfare 3, Scump has been to five CoD Champs with the team. In his first two, he managed to take home third place. In his next two, OpTic settled with seventh place finishes. But now, Scump has finally earned himself a ring. Perhaps more willl come.

Trailing right behind OpTic in CoD Champs in rings is Team EnVyUs, who, with the same roster as last year, returned to the Grand Final looking for a repeat win. If they had been successful, Jordan “Jkap” Kaplan would have been the first to three rings instead of Karma and the team would have nine rings combined.

Now, just two months remain until the release of the next game in the Call of Duty franchise: WWII. The game will put boots back on the ground, a return to traditional gameplay. It’s too early to tell which players will excel and which will fall off, but the next year of Call of Duty esports will be starting off on the right foot.


Josh Billy is a long time Call of Duty fan. You can email him at joshuatbilly@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter.

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Image by Lalo Torres

Initial thoughts on the World Championship draw

With the conclusion of the Stage Two playoffs, Call of Duty fans can look ahead to the World Championship in just over a week. The group stages were drawn live after yesterday’s grand final. While some teams will be happy with the outcome others may be starting to sweat. Here are some initial thoughts following the draw and who will make it through to the knockout stages.

In the clear

There are a few teams who I see making it through the groups undefeated. The first being stage two winners, OpTic Gaming. The Green Wall usually has no struggles versus the European teams and having already faced Epsilon in the pro league should only make it easier.

Clayster only recently joined eUnited from FaZe. [Source: MLG]

The second team I have going undefeated is eUnited. Clayster and Arcitys have more than enough slaying power between them to take down Mindfreak, Infused and Lethal Gaming. That’s without adding the other two into the equation. They shouldn’t be tested whilst getting out of groups.

Team number three is Luminosity for similar reasons to eUnited. Octane and Slacked are too strong for the rest of the field. Supremacy and Vitality simply don’t have slayers that can match up to them. Rise, on the other hand, have the potential with Aqua playing well as of late but the rest of the squad is far behind leading me to believe that they will also get steamrolled.

Finally, making it through undefeated I have Fnatic. It might seem like an odd choice considering the potential Str8 Rippin has, and Evil Geniuses’ veteran players, but something Fnatic has shown is that they consistently beat teams underneath them. A skill really undervalued in a game like Infinite Warfare.

The battles for second

Group A could go one of two ways. Epsilon could crush the two qualifiers or they lose out at the biggest tournament of the year. If Epsilon doesn’t return to their previous form they could struggle against Echo Fox and 3sUP who have a blend of experienced and young players. Hopefully, the European boot camp in Orlando helps them as they are a team that could make the playoff bracket interesting with their potential to take out NA giants.

Second seed Team EnVyUs might also have a rough ride in group B. The way they lost the grand final speaks to their inconsistencies. They are stacked up against Elevate, Projekt Evil and Mindfreak Black. Elevate are another team that disappointed in the global pro league so they will be looking to bounce back. Projekt Evil are a team on the rise after they qualified for group play at Anaheim through the open bracket. I am unsure on the Australians as I haven’t seen enough of them but I’m sure they have a few tricks up their sleeve that could catch the aforementioned out.

Rated is known for his aggressive plays. [Source: MLG]

I have a surprising prediction for group E in that I believe Red Reserve will take the first seed over Faze Clan. As I mentioned in a previous article, Red Reserve has all the makings of a quality team. If Seany plays the same as in the pro league I can see him consistently besting Enable. Meanwhile, Rated and Joe can outmatch Attach and Zooma in aggressive playmaking if they play their A-game.

My last thoughts are with group G and Splyce who were disappointing at playoffs. Ghost Gaming was unlucky not to qualify for stage two playoffs. They showed great promise despite having not been formed long before the league kicked off. There’s also Millennium led by MarkyB and Moose waiting in the wings to reclaim their spot at the top of European CoD. Splyce have time to sort out their play and I still expect them to top the group but it could be a tight finish.

What are the storylines to watch?

Previous World Champ from Advanced Warfare, Replays, is back out of retirement to captain the Echo Fox side. Much of the community will be rooting for him to make it deep as he’s loved for his stream and just being an all-around nice guy.

One grudge match everyone is looking forward to is between Str8 Rippin and Evil Geniuses. Str8 Rippin player Study was dropped from the latter not that long ago so he will be out for blood. Str8 is also responsible for bringing young gun Temp back to the top of the scene. He missed out on a lot of top Call of Duty after the age restriction was imposed on the World League, but now he has finally turned eighteen and is ready to dominate the competition.

Can Europe win a world championship? Splyce finished second at CoD XP last year which was a huge boost for the European scene. This year they’ve surpassed that by winning Stage One, the first time an EU team has won an international event in CoD history. Fans from the region will be wondering if there’s any chance they can take first this time around.

Team EnVyUs have the chance to win back to back Worlds, something that has never been done before. This roster has ridden the Infinite Warfare gauntlet but has stuck together in spite of that. The World Championship could be the reward worth all that wait. Not only that, but JKap could actually win three rings in a row. A feat that would probably never be reached again.

JKap first won the World Championship in 2015 with Denial. [Source: zimbio.com]

And finally, will OpTic Gaming do what they couldn’t before? Green Wall fans can be found far and wide but they all crave the same thing, the World Championship. OpTic Gaming has won MLGs to X-Games in recent years but has missed out on the illustrious ring despite fielding the God squad we know and love. With the win at stage two under their belt, is this Scump and Formal’s time to take it?

 

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Cloud9

Cloud 9 needs a change

Over the past few months, Cloud 9 has again hit their almost routine summer peak. Jake ‘Stewie2k’ Yip and the boys managed to make the finals at ESL One Cologne and were the only North American team to qualify for the major. However, if Cloud 9 wish to have sustained success, the current five-man roster they have will need some tinkering.

Leverage

Cloud9

Stewie2k at Global esports cup – via HLTV

In terms of ‘winning’ roster shuffles within your scene, your team needs to have all the leverage. The aforementioned ‘leverage’ is results. Cloud 9 have exactly that going for them right now. As I said, they were the only NA team at the major, not to mention they were one win shy of the playoffs; they also made the finals of Cologne. Cloud 9’s problems as an organization in the past have shown through, not leveraging into roster changes while they had the chance. Instead, they usually wait too long, hoping the roster they have at the time will resolve their issues. In other words, the ‘GM’ of Cloud 9 hasn’t ever really put his foot down and forced a change, but they could redeem themselves post major with some intelligent roster moves.

C9’s needs

Cloud 9 has one of the best duos in the game currently, with Stewie2k and Timothy ‘autimatic’ Ta. They are not lacking in star power, they are lacking in role players. It is possible that Jordan ‘n0thing’ Gilbert, Michael ‘shroud’ Grzesiek or Tyler ‘Skadoodle’ Latham could be moved. However, it is likely only the latter two will be removed if any change is made at all. They need a consistent, bomb site anchor, who can place themselves on the back burner for the good of the team, and play fundamental CS in after plants. The idea of a dedicated AWP player has lodged its way into their minds, but they don’t necessarily need to target one. Most famously they need an in-game leader, who can help them coordinate on both offense and defense.

Their options

Cloud9

North aizy – via theScore

The players in OpTic should be locked up tight after what happened with Peter ‘stanislaw’ Jarguz. So players from OpTic are most likely a no-go. If they could manage somehow, Will ‘RUSH’ Wierzba would be an ideal replacement for n0thing. Team Liquid’s stanislaw would be a good target, but I doubt he would be on board. CLG to me is the most obvious team to take from. C9 have made it clear they want to stay an all NA team; although, an interesting addition to their lineup would be Philip ‘aizy’ Aistrup in place of n0thing, assuming he’s on board with moving to NA. North and aizy’s future is completely undetermined, but it would be an interesting move.

Aizy brings basically everything you get from n0thing, and more. He is an inconsistent player playing an inconsistent style. Although, he has more flexibility than the 1.6 legend, as he can take a role on the back burner and still be semi-effective. It is a real long shot, unfortunately, and has less chance of happening than Gambit winning a major. Oh, I meant it has less chance of happening then the iBUYPOWER guys getting unbanned. Wow, this has been a crazy week for Counter-Strike huh.

Cloud9

Rickeh at SL i-League Season 3 – via HLTV

Terrible jokes aside, let’s take a look at CLG, and what they could give to Cloud 9. The most obvious plus right away would be Pujan ‘FNS’ Mehta. He is an in-game leader, whose style of play actually reflects that of shroud. The man can play fundamental CS, in post plants, or when soloing bomb sites. He is also willing to be the last priority of the team in terms of individual agendas. One player I think Cloud 9 should and will consider is Ricky ‘Rickeh’ Mulholland. He is really the only suitable replacement for Skadoodle within the region, despite not being from NA.

Act now or regret later

An addition of Rickeh would instantly make this team very scary to play against, even without removal of n0thing. While it is also unlikely, it would be in C9’s best interest as they seem to be committed to the idea of a dedicated AWP player. The ideal lineup for Cloud 9 in my mind would be Stewie2k, autimatic, Rickeh, RUSH and FNS.

Cloud9

Stewie2k being interviewed by NadeStack’s Ammar

If Cloud 9 try to roll with their current roster, they will almost certainly end up in the purgatory of being third, potentially even fourth best in NA, and only being able to choose players from the likes of Misfits or NRG. Think of this as a ‘letter’ to the key holders to the beaten up, old Ferrari that is Cloud 9. Stewie and autimatic, either drop that bucket of rust off at the dump or fix it up, give it a new paint job and care for it. Don’t let your vision of what this car once was blind you from what it is right now. What is it right now? It is a project, a project that needs a makeover, and soon.


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Frostbite’s DreamHack Atlanta HCS Finals predictions

After seven weeks of competition and one full month of time to prepare for this moment, DreamHack Atlanta is here. Over the course of the next three days, we’ll see the best teams from North America and Europe go at it for their share of $200,000. Let’s take a look at some predictions for the top eight!

7th/8th: Ronin Esports

Roster: Visal “eL ToWn” Mohanan, Cory “Str8 SicK” Sloss, Tyler “Spartan” Ganza, Ayden “Suspector” Hill

Ronin, since the start of the season, has been constantly struggling. Their only win throughout this season was their first match against Str8 Rippin. Halfway through the season, Ronin looked to improve by swapping out Carlos “Cratos” Ayala for eL ToWn. This swap proved unfruitful, as Ronin didn’t win another match for the rest of the Pro League and ended their season by getting reverse-swept by EG.

Ronin’s scrim scores also don’t show a lot of promise due to their inconsistency. They have managed to defeat EG and Splyce, but the next week they were 13-0’d by both Splyce and OpTic Gaming. This will be a tough fight for them, but with their firepower, they should be able to survive relegation.

7th/8th: Luminosity Gaming

Roster: Joe “TriPPPeY” Taylor, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, Tommy “Saiyan” Wilson, Bradley “APG” Laws

Luminosity, while not having to fight through relegations like Ronin, does not seem to be playing their best Halo leading up to DreamHack. They ended their season 3-4, tied with EG, but due to having a low map win percentage, they only made 6th place. During the roster swap period, LG acquired APG from Str8 in order to bolster their slaying power. DreamHack will decide if this was a good decision or not.

In scrims, LG has at least been performing slightly better than Ronin. However, they have the same issue: inconsistency. Either way, against top four teams, LG hasn’t even had any particularly close scrims. They can snag top six however, assuming EG and OS are not in top shape.

5th/6th: Evil Geniuses

Roster: Jason “Lunchbox” Brown, Justin “Roy” Brown, Josbe “Tapping Buttons” Valadez, Michael “Falcated” Garcia

DreamHack

The key to EG’s success. Image by Josbe Valadez.

Tapping Buttons seems to be just what this squad needed. EG has been struggling since the start of 2016 and this is the best form we’ve seen the squad since since X-Games 2016. They started the Pro League with Brett “Naded” Leonard, but after Daytona, Naded departed and left EG scrambling. With the help of the greatest of all time, Tom “OGRE2” Ryan, the squad got Tapping Buttons. Since then, EG’s season has gone surprisingly well, despite having a 3-4 record. With the exception of getting swept by OpTic, EG’s other losses to Team EnVyUs, Team Liquid and Splyce were all in close five game series.

Scrims, as usual with EG, paint a different picture. This roster has always struggled online, but close games to amateur teams as well as a narrow loss to Str8 Rippin can leave even the most stalwart of fans worried. However, the Brown Twins have a reputation for being LAN gods for a reason and many expect them to remind competitive Halo fans why that is this weekend at DreamHack.

 

4th: Team Liquid

Roster: Braedon “StelluR” Boettcher, Zane “SubZero” Hearon, Aaron “Ace Elam, Kevin “Eco” Smith

DreamHack

Image by Halo Esports Wiki

Liquid had a surprisingly slow start to their Summer Season. They suffered losses to both Luminosity and Splyce, neither of which were close matches. During the mid-season roster transfer period, they surprised the community again by dropping Timothy “Rayne” Tinkler for Str8 Rippin’s Ace. Many questioned the decision, as SubZero had stated previously that he planned to always remain a duo with Rayne, and that this change could imbalance the team’s chemistry. In fact, it had the opposite effect. Liquid returned in the 3rd week to defeat Team EnVyUs 3-1 and were the only team to defeat OpTic all season. They ended their season with a 5-2 record.

Recent scrims show that Liquid’s only losses so far have been to Splyce and OpTic Gaming.

3rd: Splyce

Roster: Jonathan “Renegade” Willette, Jesse “bubu dubu” Moeller, Ryan “Shooter” Sondhi, Anthony “Shotzzy” Cuevas-Castro

If you told someone to put together a squad based solely on slaying ability that wasn’t nV, this is the squad you’d probably get. Even bubu dubu, the most objective-oriented player on this roster, has shown that he has talent in slaying. This squad took most teams by storm during the season and ended 6-1 with their only loss being to OpTic. This squad only narrowly lost to Liquid at Daytona and they’ve only gotten better since then.

Scrims look good for Splyce, with dominating wins over not only Ronin and Luminosity, but also nV. If Splyce and nV meet in the bracket, it could be a toss up, but nV’s experience as a team could be what propels them over Splyce.

2nd: Team EnVyUs

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

The HCS Daytona champions ended their season a bit shy of where they probably would have liked to have been. Their season ended 4-3, with losses to Liquid, Splyce and a reverse-sweep at the hands of a vengeful OpTic Gaming. However, this squad has remained consistent and it takes more than online victories to prove that Splyce or Liquid can take down nV. DreamHack will decide if this team is still OpTic’s biggest contender, or if they’ve fallen by the wayside.

Scrims for nV look relatively normal. Close losses to OpTic, one loss and victory over Splyce and dominant performances over most other teams. However, Snip3down has been having some hand issues, so if he hasn’t properly healed, it could affect the squad’s performance.

1st: OpTic Gaming

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

DreamHack

Image by Turtle Beach.

Is anyone really surprised that OpTic Gaming are the favorites to win? Since forming, they’ve only lost three events, all of which were in long, close series. Liquid may have beaten them online, but have only come remotely close to defeating these juggernauts once. EnVyUs has defeated them on LAN, but they have been inconsistent with their performances against OpTic and have also been blown out of the water several times by this squad.

Scrims are like usual for OpTic. Clean victories nearly across the board, with only a couple close defeats here and there. Make no mistake, OpTic are coming to win DreamHack and add to their already long list of victorious events, and they’re looking to be in perfect shape to do it.

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 @DS_Frostbite!

Header image by Halo Waypoint

 

ESL One Cologne: The tournament for the Americas

ESL One Cologne throughout the years has seen a couple different American teams playing on the stages. Whether it be the stage at Gamescon in 2014 or the stage in the LANXESS Arena. Not only that, but the last two years have only seen American teams in the Grand Finals. An interesting statistic to say the least. Here, we’ll go through the teams who played on the main stages of Cologne. Explaining how they got there, and how far they went.

SK Gaming/Luminosity

2015 was the first year the Brazilian scene met the main stage of ESL One Cologne. Barely making the playoffs over FlipSid3 in 2015, Marcelo “coldzera” David found himself in his first international tournament. And oh boy, did he surprise everyone with how skilled he was.

2016 saw the Brazilians dominate under the the Luminosity banner, before moving over to SK for ESL One Cologne. Finding themselves in the group of death, SK scored wins over G2 and FaZe, moving to the quarters against FlipSid3. For a second year in a row, SK beat FlipSid3 in Cologne. Making their way to the Semis against Virtus.Pro, SK Gaming found themselves struggling to close the match, but ultimately doing so in one of the best matches of Major history. Meeting Liquid in the final, it wasn’t too surprising to see SK dominate the North American side and take their second major title.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

So far in 2017, we’ve seen SK at their worst and at their best, and we’re only seven months in. Coming into Cologne, SK had won two tournaments beforehand. They were by far the favourites for the event. Struggling slightly in the swiss stage, SK made it out 3-2 and met OpTic in the quarters. On paper, a one sided match up but OpTic showed themselves to be strong and took Mirage, but ultimately lost the series. SK moved on to beat FaZe, arguably their rival, and dominated the European team. Going into the grand finals, it may have been a surprise to find Cloud9 there. SK didn’t let the surprise get to them though. SK controlled the entire match and took the match 3-0 and won Cologne for a second year in a row.

Cloud9

Cloud9’s first experience with Cologne was 2014, where they played their first tournament with Mike “shroud” Grzesiek. A situation very similar to Luminosity’s first tournament with coldzera at Cologne. In the group stage, Cloud9 won against Titan, and had their famous comeback against Dignitas on Mirage. Making the quarterfinals, Cloud9 met Ninjas in Pyjamas, a fan favourite. Though, Cloud9 were favoured in the match, they ended up losing due to a very important kill by Adam “friberg” Friberg. Without this one kill, Cloud9 could have definitely made the finals of ESL One Cologne 2014, but talking about what if’s is a bad thing.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

Leading up to Cologne 2015, Cloud9 looked like a Top 4 team, favoured to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, Cloud9 left the tournament in the group stage due to yet another clutch play at 13-13 in a round Cloud9 should have won.

Unfortunately, Cloud9 for the first time were unable to qualify for a major, being ESL One Cologne 2016. In 2017 though, Cloud9 were directly invited as PGL took reigns for the second major of 2017 over ESL. Here, we saw Cloud9 struggle at the beginning but claw their way back to make the playoffs. In the first round of the playoffs Cloud9 met NiP, a rematch of 2014. But, this time Cloud9 took the win and advanced to face Na’Vi in the semifinals. Na’Vi, on arguably their two best maps, lost 2-0 to Cloud9 who went on to play the grand finals against SK Gaming. Unfortunately for Cloud9, SK Gaming were looking for revenge for EPL Season 4, and SK won Cologne over Cloud9.

Team Liquid

Team Liquid first met ESL One Cologne in 2016 as they were directly invited by making the playoffs of MLG Columbus. Using Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev as a stand-in for the event, it wasn’t far fetched to say that Liquid would make the playoffs. They did just that by beating mousesports 2-1 to advance to the playoffs to face Na’Vi in the quarters. After beating Na’Vi, Team Liquid made it to the semifinals to face one of the favourites for the tournament. Liquid decided they didn’t like that title for fnatic, so they took the series 2-0. This put them as the first North American team in the finals of a major. Unfortunately for them, they met SK Gaming and lost 2-0 convincingly against the Brazilians.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

2017 saw Liquid qualifying for the tournament online. Watching the swiss stage of the tournament though, you would have thought they were invited. Going 3-0 in the group stage facing Na’Vi, Immortals and OpTic Gaming, Team Liquid showed the world that the major qualifier was not who they truly were and made their way to the LANXESS Arena. Sadly, Liquid met FaZe in the quarters and were dismantled easily by the European team.

OpTic Gaming

ESL One Cologne 2016 was the first time any player on OpTic made a major. With their inexperience on the major level, OpTic lost to both NiP and FlipSid3 in the group stage, going 0-2 and dropping out of the tournament.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

2017 was a different story for OpTic, who showed up to Cologne with zero eyes on them, and as little pressure as possible. At this point, every player on OpTic has played at the top level. Even though they went 0-3 at the major qualifier just a week before, OpTic showed up to Cologne on fire, taking down North, Space Soldiers and most notably FaZe. Only losing to Liquid in the swiss stage. Going into the playoffs they were matched against SK Gaming. Being the most one sided matches of the playoffs on paper, OpTic showed up with a little bit of fight in them. OpTic took the first map in the series off of SK pretty convincingly. But alas, SK Gaming are far more experienced in these situations and left OpTic in the dust in the next two maps.

ESL One Cologne 2017

 

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: Helena K @ ESL Gaming

 

This year, Cologne showed that the Americas, not just South America, has a place on the big stage. Admittedly, Astralis weren’t present at the tournament, but it isn’t too far fetched to say that they could have taken a playoff spot over Na’Vi or NiP rather than the North American teams.

Throughout the years though, Cologne has shown to be a nice tournament for the Americas, having an American team on stage every year. Not only just one, but half the spots were taken by the Americans this year. That shows some heavy improvement from the region, and maybe some extra confidence in the city of Cologne.

Featured image via ESL Gaming

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ESL One Cologne 2017 predictions

One of the biggest upcoming tournaments other than the PGL major is ESL One Cologne 2017. While it is sad that Cologne is not a major this year, as it holds legendary status within Global Offensive, that doesn’t mean this tournament won’t be incredible. Astralis have chosen to opt out of Cologne, leaving the pool of teams slightly weakened; however, this tournament will decide a lot in terms of world rankings still. Today I’ll be giving some predictions as to roughly how the tournament will play out. To keep from getting too deep and convoluted, I’ll keep it simple by just giving predictions for Round 1 of the group stage, who I think will make the playoffs and who I think will win the tournament.

Mousesports vs Fnatic

via http://wiki.teamliquid.net

This is an interesting matchup, one that I think will produce a great game. In terms of what map we’ll most likely see, it’s a bit unclear, as both teams make some odd choices in terms of pick/ban. Mouz will permaban Overpass, as they always do. Fnatic will probably remove Cobble, as they have taken to banning it a lot recently. Mousesports will then remove Mirage, as they aren’t huge fans of it and Fnatic are great on the map. Fnatic will rebuttal with a Cache ban; although there is a scenario in which Fnatic let Cache through and ban Nuke instead. If Fnatic does end up banning Cache, Mousesports will most likely ban Nuke themselves. For the final ban, whether it be Cache or Train leftover with Inferno, I predict Fnatic will let Inferno through. This matchup will likely be close, barring any throwback performance from Fnatic where they just stomp Mouz. Mousesports 13-16 Fnatic.

FaZe vs Heroic

This one is much less interesting, as FaZe will likely stomp Heroic on whatever map they end up on. FaZe will remove Cobble, no questions asked. Heroic will likely remove Cache. From there FaZe ban Mirage, due to Heroic’s decent history on the map; Heroic ban Train. The final ban rotation is completely up to what FaZe want, as they could beat Heroic on Overpass, Nuke or Inferno. My best bet would be FaZe ban Nuke, as the Heroic squad has been respectable on the map in the past, and Heroic ban Overpass, as FaZe is on a tear on the map recently. Whatever map it ends up being, I’m certain FaZe will win this. FaZe 16-6 Heroic.

Immortals vs Virtus.Pro

via http://www.gosugamers.net/

I’m just going to leave this matchup as a ‘quite literally anything can happen’ kind of matchup. This matchup could bring anything to the table in terms of map pool. Immortals will certainly remove Nuke and Virtus.Pro will remove Cache. From there, anything could happen due to Virtus.Pro famously being poor in the early stages of tournaments, even those that they win. I’ll take Immortals winning this one. Immortals 16-10 Virtus.Pro

SK vs SpaceSoldiers

Similar to the FaZe vs Heroic matchup, it doesn’t matter what map this ends on, the Soldiers will find it hard to even find rounds in this matchup. The pick ban will have SK removing Nuke followed by SS banning Inferno. SK will remove Cache, as it is the Soldiers’ favorite map at the moment. SS will remove Train here most likely, followed by a removal of Overpass. Whatever SK chooses to ban before the removal of Overpass, will decide the map. I’ll predict the Brazilians remove Mirage leaving us with a matchup on Cobblestone. SK 16-3 SpaceSoldiers

NiP vs Cloud9 

via http://mashable.com

This one is almost as difficult to predict as the IMT vs VP matchup. Based on history, NiP will almost always remove Overpass and Mirage, and we know Cloud9 doesn’t play Nuke and don’t like to play Inferno if they don’t have to. Of the three maps remaining, it’s most likely we see Cobblestone, as I don’t think the Ninjas will want to play Train, and C9 have sort of driven away from Cache in the past. NiP will likely be held back by the freshness of their roster, and all the NiP magic seems to have been exhausted. NiP 7-16 Cloud9

G2 vs TyLoo

Another lopsided one, G2 will take this one every day of the week. G2 will ban Mirage, followed by Inferno. TyLoo will remove Nuke and Train. G2 from here have the pick of the litter, and the map this ends up on could really be anything. The only map that TyLoo even has an outside chance on is Cache, and even that is a huge stretch. No matter which of the three it ends up being, Cache, Cobble, or Overpass, G2 will have this one in hand. G2 16-3 TyLoo

Liquid vs Na’Vi

via http://wiki.teamliquid.net

By far the best matchup of Round 1, this one could really go either way. Liquid will likely ban Overpass, followed by a signature Na’Vi ban of Cache. Na’Vi will then ban Nuke, and be forced to remove Cobble, as Liquid will remove Mirage and likely Train due to the beating Na’Vi gave them on the maps at pro league. An interesting matchup on Inferno, as neither team is very good on the map at all, but I’ll take Liquid to win this one in very narrow fashion. Liquid 19-16 Na’Vi

North vs OpTiC

I predict to see the same exact pick ban we saw at Pro League, as I don’t see why either team would change their strategy. North ban Train, Cache and Inferno; whereas, OpTiC remove Overpass, Cobble and Nuke. There is definitely a chance OpTiC ban out Mirage instead of Cobble, leaving us on Cobble or Inferno; although, this seems a bit unlikely to me. North is always super solid in group stages, so they should have this one in hand. North 16-8 OpTiC

Playoff Predictions

The eight teams that I think will get through are SK, G2, FaZe, North, Liquid, Cloud9, Immortals and Fnatic. This one is definitely not said and done though, as basically every team in this tournament besides TyLoo has a scenario where they end up making the playoffs. The winner of the tournament will likely be SK, but G2 will have their chances, and if Virtus.Plow shows up, who knows what could happen.

ESL One Cologne 2017, despite not having Astralis and not being a CS ‘Major’, should make some great Counter-Strike, and will be great fun to watch.

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Featured image via HLTV.org

Beyond the Sticks: Return of the Gauntlet

Earlier last week, Millennial Esports announced the return of a time-honored Halo tradition. Beyond the Sticks will allow Team EnVyUs and Oxygen Supremacy to have a pre-tournament boot camp, almost like in the legendary days of the LAN Network. Both teams will descend upon Las Vegas to compete in four, 13 game series to prepare for Dreamhack Atlanta. Let’s take a look at how Beyond the Sticks will play out.

Overview

Beyond the Sticks will start on July 1st with two, 13 game scrimmages. The next two matches will be on July 2nd. The full schedule can be found here. The event will be commentated by Tom “TSquared” Taylor and Ryan “Towey” Towey. With one of Halo’s most dominant players and one of it’s best coaches, these two will be able to provide valuable insight on what each of the teams is focusing on in each game. Speaking of the teams…

The Match-Up

Mikwen has easily been nV’s MVP lately, Image by Halo Esports Wikis.

Team EnVyUs is one of the most talented teams in Halo at the moment. Consisting of Justin “iGotUrPistola” Deese, Austin “Mikwen” McCleary, Eric “Snip3down” Wrona, Cuyler “Huke” Garland, this squad took the title at UMG Daytona. With a mix of veterans as well as young blood, this squad has been one of the only teams that could contend with OpTic Gaming. They will absolutely be a threat going into the Summer Finals, as OpTic only narrowly defeated them when they met during the Pro League. Despite ending the league at 4-3, nV has shown that when it comes to LAN, they always show up.

Oxygen Supremacy is a team nobody saw coming. Ryan “RyaNoob” Geddes, Troy

Ryan and his legendary hair. Image by Halo Esports Wikis.

“DasTroyed” Dusman, Cody “ContrA” Szczodrowski and Kyle “Nemassist” Kubina have stunned even some of the pro teams. At Daytona, this squad ended up in the top six after dominating teams like Luminosity Gaming and Str8 Rippin. They also came within one game of send EnVyUs home in the loser’s bracket finals, despite forming just before the event. Ryanoob once again has put together a squad that can contend with the “pros” and yet is not in the Pro League. OS has taken first in three out of four online qualifiers so far and it hasn’t been particularly close.

Scrims between these two teams tell a different story. The first scrim ended 5-8 in favor of nV, with 3-4 games being close toss-ups. The second scrim, however, was a blowout. Victory again went to nV, with a crushing 13-0 defeat of OS and all but one game were not even close. Events change circumstances, however. This will be a live event, so it’s reasonable to assume 343 will provide a closed server, which feels very close to LAN. In this environment, OS has shown that they’re more than capable of defeating the Daytona champs.

What’s the Big Deal?

These boot camps are pulled straight out of Halo’s history. These gauntlets allowed teams to put in the grueling hours of practice needed to perform well at events. They also allowed newer players to show their capabilities prior to events. Beyond the Sticks is hopefully the start of this kind of thing returning. It can be the start to grassroots, community-run LANs being a mainstay for competitive Halo once again.

Be sure to check out all 52 games of carnage at twitch.tv/millennialesports

 

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 @DS_Frostbite!

Header image by Millennial Esports.

Week 4 Day 1 HCS Pro League Predictions

As the Summer Season of the HCS Pro League enters its final stretch, Week 4 begins Wednesday night. This week has several make-or-break matches, the most important of which will likely decide the top dog going into DreamHack Atlanta: OpTic Gaming vs Splyce.

Str8 Rippin vs Luminosity Gaming

Saiyan has been the spine of LG thus far. Image by Tommy Wilson.

LG (Assumed): Bradley “APG” Laws, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, Joe “TriPPPeY” Taylor, Tommy “Saiyan” Wilson

Str8 (Assumed): Tim “Rayne” Tinkler, Hamza “Commonly” Abbaali, Richie “Heinz” Heinz, Dan “Danoxide” Terlizzi

LG has done well to improve their standings recently with victories over Ronin and Liquid. Unfortunately, the team was disqualified due to a roster miscommunication last week against OpTic, but that was likely to be a 3-0 anyways. Going into Week 4, LG has a good chance to further improve their standings and tie their win/loss ratio at 3-3. Str8 Rippin has been struggling and the past roster changes may have only weakened them further.

Meanwhile, this is a must-win for Str8. They’re already nearly guaranteed to be at the bottom of the bracket going into Atlanta and they will need to put the pieces together fast to avoid relegation. Str8 currently sits at 0-5. They will need to beat both LG and EnVy in order to even have a chance at improving their standing. It doesn’t look good for them.

Prediction: Luminosity Gaming 3-1 Str8 Rippin

Fantasy Picks (Fantasy HCS): Saiyan, TriPPPey, APG

 

Team EnVyUs vs Ronin Esports

Mikwen has been leading his team through the season and is looking to close out strong. Image by Halo Esports Wiki.

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

RE: Visal “eL ToWn” Mohanan, Cory “Str8 SicK” Sloss, Tyler “Spartan” Ganza and Ayden “Suspector” Hill

For nV, the Pro League thus far has contained a few unexpected defeats. That said, they’re looking to rebound against Ronin in Week 4 and have a decent chance of doing so. Despite sitting at 2-3, tied with EG and LG, nV still sits in a good spot due to their win at Daytona. On top of that, their scrim results have been improving, with impressive victories not only over Team Liquid but OpTic Gaming as well.

Ronin, on the other hand, is in a bad spot. Despite picking up eL ToWn, they haven’t been looking particularly great. Being that they’re sitting at 1-4 in the league, that’s not a great sign. While scrims have shown a little promise, this squad has continued to get dominated. Along with Str8, they’re looking like an easy team to relegate.

Prediction: Team EnVyUs 3-0 Ronin Esports

Fantasy Picks (Fantasy HCS): Mikwen, Snip3down, Huke

 

Team Liquid vs Evil Geniuses

TL: Zane “SubZero” Hearon, Braedon “StelluR” Boettcher, Aaron “Ace” Elam,  Kevin “Eco” Smith

Justin “Roy” Brown. Image by Halo Esports Wiki.

EG: Justin “Roy” Brown, Jason “Lunchbox” Brown, Michael “Falcated” Garcia, Josbe “Tapping Buttons” Valadez

Since trading Rayne for Ace, Liquid has seen some improvement. The team went 2-0 last week and improved their overall standing to 3-2. They currently are sitting in third, behind Splyce and OpTic. Scrims have shown a tie between Liquid and Oxygen Supremacy but the squad was dominated 2-9 by EnVy.

EG, on the other hand, is running into their usual problem: lack of practice. With nail-biting, game five losses to both Splyce and Team EnVyUs, the potential of this squad is apparent. This is the best EG has looked since X-Games 2016. Over the past week, they have shown a bit more consistency in scrims, despite both of their match-ups being losses. If the EG that nearly took down Splyce shows up, we could have a great series on our hands.

Prediction: Evil Geniuses 3-2 Team Liquid

Fantasy Picks (Fantasy HCS): StelluR, Eco, Tapping Buttons

 

Splyce vs OpTic Gaming

Shotzzy and Renegade have been the tip of the spear for Splyce. Image by Halo Waypoint.

SPY: Jesse “bubu dubu” Moeller, Ryan “Shooter” Sondhi, Jonathan “Renegade” Willette and Anthony “Shotzzy” Cuevas-Castro

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

This match is big. Both of these teams are tied for 1st place in the league with a 5-0 record. This match will likely decide which team takes the first seed into Atlanta.

Splyce has had a few close calls. They only narrowly beat out EnVy and EG but have shown that their firepower is not to be trifled with. However, Splyce hasn’t even scrimmaged over the past week. That lack of practice may not allow this series to be as close as many want.

OpTic continues to avenge their Daytona loss through the league. They have appeared unstoppable, with only nV coming close to beating them. In fact, their only scrim loss was to nV and that can be chalked up to just a bad day.

However, if Splyce shows up and plays well, this series gets a lot closer, possibly even becoming a coin-toss.

Prediction: OpTic Gaming 3-1 Splyce

Fantasy Picks (Fantasy HCS): Anyone from OpTic. Maybe Renegade or Shotzzy.

Week 4 is huge for everyone, as seeds will begin to be set in stone. Do you disagree with any of the predictions? What matches do you think will be close and be the best to watch? Be sure to participate in the discussion!

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 @DS_Frostbite!

Header image by ESL Halo.

 

 

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