After seven weeks of intense online matches, the Fall 2017 season of the HCS Pro League is wrapping up. This weekend, the Fall Finals will kick off at DreamHack Denver, with eight North American teams, four European teams and a swarm of open squads battling for glory. The competition is closer than it has ever been, so let’s take a look at one way this weekend’s top eight could shake out.
7th / 8th: Team Infused
Roster: James “Jimbo” Bradbrook, Robby “Kimbo” Faulk, Luciano “Mose” Calvanico, Brandon “Respectful” Stones
Infused has been making noise on the EU side of things. The squad earned their spot at DreamHack Denver by defeating all competition quite decisively earlier this season at HCS London. A makeup that looks very similar to the dominant FabE roster of last year could allow this group to put EU Halo back in the top eight. This squad had the firepower to raze every other EU squad that showed up to play them.
Infused, as well as a few other EU squads, showed up to Denver a little early in order to get some online practice in against the top tier North American teams. In scrims, they’ve for the most part massacred the other European rosters, only encountering difficulties when against the NA pro teams. Their only win against an NA team was an 8-5 victory over Ronin Esports. Other than that, they lost out to EG with a 5-8 score and were also beaten by NV 4-9. This squad has some promise and can definitely upset some teams if they get a hot start. That said, EU as a whole is still lagging behind NA when it comes to Halo. I can see this squad just squeezing into the top eight and even that will be a slog.
7th / 8th: Luminosity Gaming
Roster: Joe “TriPPPeY” Taylor, Tim “Rayne” Tinkler, Tommy “Saiyan” Wilson, Bradley “APG” Laws
LG has sat firmly within the middle of the pack for the majority of their time in Halo 5 despite going through multiple rosters.
They’re not a team that can consistently challenge the top four but they’re also not a team who will ever come close to being relegated by the vast majority of amateur teams. Despite going through multiple rosters, it’s hard to picture this changing for DreamHack Denver. Saiyan is consistently putting up big numbers for the team but TriPPPeY on the other hand, has his fair share of great and terrible games. Rayne is an excellent objective player and play-maker but can’t seem to find enough room to do his thing on this team, despite having three great on-paper slayers around him. APG seems to be in a similar place to LG’s former star, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins. He puts down great damage and has games where he absolutely takes over. The flip-side of this means that he usually has the most deaths in games, leading to many losses, especially in Team Slayer games.
LG ended their regular season with a 3-4 record, with all of their losses being to top four teams (OpTic, NV, Liquid, Splyce), with all of these losses being sweeps. They very narrowly beat EG and Cryptik but swept Ronin with a 3-0 victory. This team doesn’t stand much of a chance at beating the top four and EG has a reputation for showing up big at live events. They may be able to slide into that sixth spot, but there’s an open team that I think can do better.
5th / 6th: Str8 Rippin
Roster: Aaron “Ace“ Elam, Dan “Danoxide” Terlizzi, Hunter “BxbyJ” Schline, Hamza “Commonly” Abbaali
After being relegated last season, Ace has returned to Str8 Rippin and revamped the roster, with the only returning player being Danoxide. New to the squad are main-slayer BxbyJ and objective play-maker Commonly. Ace sits in between BxbyJ and Commonly in terms of play-style but he is very consistent. This balances out Danoxide’s monstrous-but-sometimes-inconsistent slaying power. Ace, Danoxide and Commonly will all be hungry to get back into the top eight while BxbyJ is sure to want it the most after being so close but falling short time and time again.
Despite technically not being a pro team, this squad has proven that they can compete. The HCS Open Circuit held four open cups this season, with three of them being won by Str8 Rippin and the other having them finish second. Scrims paint a similar picture for Str8. They haven’t had much progress against the top four but they have mopped up the weaker top eight teams such as Ronin. That said, they’ve also had some close scrims against Splyce, showing that Str8 does indeed have some potential. While other open teams such as Check6 and eRa have shown some potential, Str8 seems head and shoulders above them. They are playing at a pro level and despite having to play through the open bracket, they’ll get further than any other open team at DreamHack.
5th / 6th: Evil Geniuses
Roster: Jason “Lunchbox” Brown, Justin “Roy” Brown, Josbe “Tapping Buttons” Valadez, Michael “Falcated” Garcia
EG, as usual has had a confusing season. They are the only team outside of the top four to not make a roster change. Lunchbox handles the objective work, Roy makes sure everyone he sees has their shields popped, Tapping Buttons and Falcated win 1v1s and clean up kills.
On paper, this squad works and they’ve proven it has at the Summer finals. However, things just didn’t seem to come together over the regular season. Every sort of coin toss situation seemed to go against them. Sometimes, they just made bad plays.
Scrims continue to show EG’s inconsistency. One day, they’ll lose to LG, the next, they’ll split games with Liquid. EG finished their season with a 2-5 record, with their only victories being a game 5 win over Ronin and a sweep of Cryptik. There’s no nice way around it, EG choked against LG in game 5. When they were playing well, they lost by the skin of their teeth to Liquid. The potential of this squad is nearly palpable. At their best, they can challenge the top four. At their worst, they are barely avoiding relegation. Usually, they sit somewhere in between. This, combined with the Brown Twins’ reputation for saving their best for LAN events, lands them solidly in the top six for DreamHack.
4th: Team Liquid
Roster: Braedon “StelluR” Boettcher, Zane “SubZero” Hearon, Tyler “Spartan” Ganza, Kevin “Eco” Smith
Liquid has fallen back significantly from where they stood just prior to HWC 2017. While they were able to challenge OpTic and overcome NV then, they now are the weakest of the top four teams. After DreamHack Atlanta, they dropped Ace prematurely in my opinion. During the off-season, they seemingly picked up Spartan after having only one good scrim against him despite having numerous other, likely better, items on the table. This led to them having a surprisingly slow start to the Fall season, with not even being able to contest NV. All that said, they have picked things up since then and teams should bear in mind that while they are the weakest top four team, they are still top four for a reason.
Liquid ended their season with a 5-2 record, with their only losses being lopsided affairs against NV and OpTic. The biggest surprise of the season was that they were able to defeat Splyce, the Summer Champions, with a decisive 3-1 victory. This helped propel Liquid up the power rankings and also sparked their comeback over the course of the season. The key to how far this squad gets, is their start. They will play EG first in the champ bracket. Online, Liquid only beat EG because of a lucky break where Spartan stumbled upon Roy’s hiding spot. This in addition to the Brown twins truly coming alive at events means that this won’t be easy for Liquid. Dropping to the loser’s bracket could lead to an early flight home for the team. If they pull out a victory, they should be able to make top four, but getting past that will require everyone on the team to step up.
Roster: Jonathan “Renegade” Willette, Jesse “bubu dubu” Moeller, Ryan “Shooter” Sondhi, Anthony “Shotzzy” Cuevas-Castro
Splyce managed to nab their first event win earlier this year at DreamHack Atlanta. They defeated OpTic twice in order to do
it. Without a doubt, the squad earned that win. Fans should keep this in mind, despite Splyce’s current Pro League record. Online and event environments are completely different and it’s not especially uncommon for terrible online teams to be dominant LAN teams. A prime example being the Denial roster during HWC 2016. At the end of the day, Splyce has two dominant young players and two top tier flex players. They won’t be falling out of the top four at DreamHack if they play how they should.
Splyce ended the league with a 4-3 record, with losses to OpTic, NV and Liquid. While Liquid did manage a surprise win over Splyce, Splyce was the only team besides OpTic to come close to snapping NV’s win streak. Liquid on the other hand, was swept. These players will show up this weekend and they are a better team than Liquid, but two giants stand in the way of another win for these young guns.
2nd: Team EnVyUs
Roster: Justin “iGotUrPistola” Deese, Austin “Mikwen” McCleary, Eric “Snip3down” Wrona, Cuyler “Huke” Garland
Despite a disappointing finish at DreamHack Atlanta, NV has shown up this season. If you picked a team to win every event on paper, the correct answer would be EnVyUs. Three of the best players and slayers in Halo history, plus Huke’s explosive power. During any other time in Halo, this would have been a championship team, even possibly a dynasty. This squad has consistently been in the top three, without ever really any risk of falling out of it. This weekend, they won’t have any excuses.
NV has blitzed the Pro League, ending the season undefeated, 7-0. Splyce and OpTic took them to full series, but every other team was defeated 3-0. In recent scrims, this roster has trounced every squad with the only exception being OpTic. This squad will only encounter difficulty with Splyce and OpTic. That said, there is a big and particularly green wall that stands between them and a victory.
1st: OpTic Gaming
Roster: Tony “LethuL” Campbell, Jr, Paul “SnakeBite” Duarte, Mathew “Royal2” Fiorante, Bradley “Frosty” Bergstrom
Let’s just recap. OpTic are back-to-back World Champions. They haven’t made a roster change in nearly two years.
Since then, they’ve been consistently at the top of the Halo Championship Series. Everything that happens in competitive Halo is in response to this team and their performance. That won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. This squad’s last win was HWC 2017. They lost to NV at Daytona and Splyce at Atlanta. They will be hungry to have the last say in 2017 before going into another World Championship season.
OpTic finished 6-1 in the Pro League, with their only loss being a close one to NV. When it comes to scrims, OpTic just quite simply haven’t lost. They have clashed with NV multiple times, usually closing the series 9-4 or 8-5. Based off their history and online performance recently, I see another championship coming to the #Greenwall.
Be sure to check out the HCS 2017 Fall Finals at DreamHack Denver this weekend at https://www.twitch.tv/halo.
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Header image by Halo Waypoint.