North America HCS Pro Series
Week # 1 of 4 : Sun.Jan 1st & Thurs.Jan 6th The competition is showing up and stepping up in droves. The top is never safe.
Happy 2022! I'm personally glad that 2021 is officially behind us, but in regard to competitive Halo, we can't forget who came out on top in Raleigh, NC at the finale of the first Major Kickoff. Here's their performances in the first leg of HCS Split 1.
In addition to being cemented in the history books as the victors of the first Halo Infinite LAN, these results are relevant to the next chapter of HCS. For the next 4 weeks a format of 'Sunday Opens' (512 team caps confirmed now, thanks to.. lots of.. constructive feedback), and 'Thursday Pros' (16 invited teams - 8 from previous pro, 8 from last opens) will test who's making the biggest improvements, the key roster changes, and able to consistently grind in NA leading up to a Regional on FEB. 11 - FEB. 13.
First up in the driver's seats are the top 8 from NA (In red above). They await as Sunday's open churns out the best from a 512... wait no... 256 team double elimination bracket. At LVT, we covered a portion of the action, littered with returning Halo, COD and GOW champs round our Infinite sandbox.
Here's a brief recap of what we covered on Sunday January 2nd, 2022.
Open Winners Bracket
We picked up the bracket in Winners Round 3 as Legendary (Nerdy Himself, Juicyfruit, Ikshana, WinntuR) vs Chicago NightPack (Kilimajaro, Azirafell, MajinBones, No Shieldz) go head to head. Legendary take the 2-0; game 1 Strongholds is quick (250-148), but the Slayer (50-47) is a little spicier.
Next, as Legendary move on to face Status Quo (Flamesword, Enable, Burton, Fragout), the tables have turned. They get handled, 4-1 on Aquarius CTF and make Slayer close at 50-40, but still must be sent down to Elimination. Unfortunately, we will not be seeing them again as they lose to ZellusZebra777 (Huntsman, Ret the Sweat, breakingshot and wrails) a couple of rounds later down there.
Complexity (Triton, Vetra, Rob The Turtle, Hysteria) vs Status Quo (Flamesword, Enable, Burton, Fragout) both have seen some recent roster changes with the addition of Vetra and Enable and they show up tonight!
Round 1 goes to Status Quo; Fragout dies only once in the quick victory (100-9). Round 2 looks to start the same, but Rob, Triton and Vetra step it up and own 'A' side of the map to tie it 1-1 for Complexity. Round 3 the pressure is kept up; Vetra barks with the bulldog, Triton makes a statement with the rockets and Complexity win game 1.
Game 2, Recharge Slayer, Burton and Status Quo decide to take back their toys in to tie the series in a 50-39 win.
Game 3, Bazaar CTF starts off strong for Rob the Turtle that leads to a quick cap for Complexity and that's the only one of the game...failed push after failed send Status Quo downstairs.
After that clutch from Complexity, we stay with them for the final winners round 6 in a best of 5 vs Built By Gamers (Nemassist, KingJay, Minds, Nebuula)
This Built By Gamers Squad is no joke; I have them ranked at 16th overall (right behind Status Quo which will have to change now) after a great performance at Raleigh, coming out of the open 4-0 and losing only to KCP and G2 in the championship bracket, but not before beating Oxygen Esports and Exile Gaming.
They have complete control in Aquarius CTF and beat it 3-0 with relative ease. Slayer Streets though, as we've seen time and time again, the underdogs have nasty bites and when Complexity can set the pace, everyone can do their part. - around 4k damage for each of them as they win it 50-42 and tie the series 1-1. However, then in Game 3, Strongholds Recharge KingJay and Minds re-set the pace sending it to match point.
Oddball Live Fire Round 1 Hysteria starts off with perfect shots, but Complexity still have control as Rob the Turtle gets a double and steals the camo. But BBG don't give us and push hard. Vetra is able to stay alive for a long time but ican't grab any ball time. Nemassist then starts running the gauntlet. BBG go up big 82-27 and then take Round 1, which then translate right into Round 2 - they have a 42-0 lead, and again, Nemassist locks things down using all of those tasty tools.
A little control from Complexity in the mid-game gives some hope that there might be some life, but Built By Gamers shut it down and take oddball 2-0 and the series 3-1.
Our four teams from Winners Bracket moving onto Thursday
Team War - placed 9th at Raleigh
(SuperCC, Envore, Juziro, Sceptify)
Oxygen Esports - placed 20th at Raleigh
(Common, Haines, Swish 5, Its Name)
Build by Gamers - placed 16th at Raleigh
(Nemassist, KingJay, Minds, Nebuula)
Falling Esports - placed 27th at Raleigh
(Gold StarBr, Neuronical, Emteekay, SoReLL)
Down in the elimination bracket we continued to see matchup after matchup get stolen away by the challenging teams. XSET, now Articc, Cratos, Svspector, Tonisum. (Porky J and Filthy G have left) fight and lose against NastywithRifles (Ultimega, Annt, WoGG and Nztive). Annt and WoGG really stepping up with 16/7/10 and 13/7/7 K/A/D stat lines respectively.
However, following that up we find them up against our recently defeated Status Quo who manage to go on a little spree fighting off NastywithRifles in a close 2-0 and 2-1 against Glory, a mix of COD and GOW champions - chancemaux(COD), Solurs(GOW), Xplosive(GOW), mental(GOW)
Against NastyWithRifles, Status Quo are able to hold those trip caps in strongholds with higher-than-normal accuracy being above 60% for everyone in the lobby. The Slayer was definitely worrisome as the Quo were up 17-5 in the early game and only squeak by with the win 50-48. In Halo Infinite anything is possible, and you can't rest during any stage of these games.
It wasn't easy against NastyWithRifles, and it was even harder to secure the 2-1
victory vs Glory. Game 1, Aquarius CTF starts off HOT in both directions with flag caps being run by both teams after some heatwaves, camos and triple kills, but both flags go uncapped until overtime when Glory are able to find the slays and make the first and final one happen.
Game 2 Street slayer FragOut absolutely goes off against his GOW brethren and Status Quo take game 2, 50-43.
Game 3 Live Fire Strongholds, there's a quick lead for Status Quo, but Mental gets a hold of C, though not for long before Flamesword takes a good angle in dummies to re-take. They end up being overrun so they just go get A and re-initiate a defensive position. B is then overturned by Glory and a momentary trip cap by Glory, but not before a 157-50 lead by Status Quo. It gets tied up 158-158, and maux is up in C tower but can't finish any members of SQ on the flank and Status Quo take advantage, push the triple cap and win it 250-192.
Status Quo vs Gamers First (Squallaye, Ali, PreDevoNatyor, Sargoth) - the last match to determine who qualifies. We're seeing him for the first time here, the X Games Gold Metalast Himself, Commonly, comebacks rebranded and reborn as Ali now on Gamers 1st.
Aquarius CTF goes the way of G1, 4-2, despite some early map control from Status Quo. They can't hold onto it the camo, or their lives when Sargoth holds top mid at the end of the game to close it out.
Game 2, G1 take the momentum with them and pull away 14-9, but Status Quo stick with it and tie it up 28-28 as the game slows. Burton and Flamesword make some breaks and the game explodes forward, both teams going kill for kill before some progress is made by SQ and they close it out.
Game 3 is a slaughter; however, and G1 win that one to go up 2-1 in the series, Ali being the game changer. 250-46 on Live Fire Strongholds.
Game 4 goes as you'd expect, Ali now in full form. Rounds 1 and 2 Oddball go to G1 in very convincing manners and G1 are the last to qualify for Thursday's Pro Bracket. Status Quo will have to continue to the grind and come back for the next Open.
The last four to qualify for Thursday.
Complexity - placed 30th in Open Bracket at Raleigh
(Triton, Vetra, Rob The Turtle, Hysteria)
Unsigned Talent - placed 13th in Champ Bracket at Raleigh
(Abature, Avenue, Flazin*, Suppressed)
*Flazin gets signed to SpaceStation Gaming shortly after and must be replaced by HotShotGhost)
EXO Esports - placed 28th in Open Bracket at Raleigh
(Employee, Fantvsy, Momen7, Neighbor)
Gamers First - placed 17th in Champ Bracket at Raleigh
(Squallaye, Ali, PreDevoNatyor, Sargoth)
Thursday's Pro Series # 1
WINNERS ROUND 1
It's four days later but Built by Gamer's is still feeling powerful. They beat SpaceStation Gaming(Ace, Deciting, Flazin, Tylenul) 2-1, who at this point need to find a roster they can count on. The first 40 seconds or so of their recently released documentary sum up the situation quite well, despite how odd and specific the situation is.
Game 1 King Jay and BBG DOMINATE!
Game 2 goes to SSG, Ace and team know Live Fire very well, and they herd BBG into death. 50-42.
Game 3, Streets Stronghold go back and forth, rotations round the clock constantly in this close quarters arena. Tied at 124-124 Ace makes some plays and SSG are looking up.
But it continues to go back and forth all the way to the end and Built By Gamers finish it strong with the Trip Cap!
Built By Gamers will take it 2-1 and advance, but get defeated by eUnited 0-2 in Winners Round 2 and make their way downstairs.
WINNERS ROUND 2
OpTic Gaming and Sentinels meet in Winners Round 2.
Now, both of these teams have been struggling. OpTic Gaming, absolutely crushing in the Opens prior to the Raleigh Qualifiers (1st place finish in both), lose** to Sentinels in that Qualifier after a Grand Finals game 5 and a Reset Game 4. **BUT.. Sentinels technically cheated (see the Router2 incident) so OpTic technically get the first place finish there as well.
What really matters though? Optic beat Sentinels 3-0 in Winners round 2, then re-match and lose to them 2 - 3. (end of game 5 here if you're interested) OpTic finish 5th, Sentinels finish 4th at Raleigh.
So they meet again and game 1 is a blood bath that goes into double overtime before Sentinels finally win and game 2 is another nailbiter that goes down to the wire. These teams could really not be any more evenly matched at the moment. The real test in my opinion will be when Royal2 comes back though.
WINNERS SEMIS & FINALS
As we'd expect, the reigning champions Cloud9, 2-0 Sentinels, but eUnited(Spartan, Nick, Rayne, Ryanoob) - the chat speculated, official account con-'troll'-firmed European Team, 2nd place Raleigh finishers - go down 2-0 to FaZe Clan(Falcated, Bound, Snip3down, Bubu Dubu). We have a great time in twitch chat, please bring back the copypasta freedom so we can let the funniest creatives shine!
Game 1 is Recharge Strongholds and it's a tie game to start with consistent rotations...but FaZe are not looking at the same places and eU get a momentary trip cap. Communication between the team can sometimes be a struggle. But, the split spawns come in and eUnited isn't ready for it! It's close around the 100 mark, but FaZe just turn on and keep up the pressure to end it 250-107. Bound & Snip3down leading with 17/10 and 15/12 respectively.
Game 2 actually goes the distance to the end, and concludes with an unfortunate set of circumstances, that eUnited is not happy with for multiple reasons. Nontheless, they'll still have their chance.
It's Cloud9 vs FaZe Clan in the finals. According to the scrim tracker FaZe have played them and did take a couple of games back in December.. but none of them on the gametypes they played tonight. It's a 3-0.
The elimination side starts off with some upsets!
In the top half of the 'do-or-dies', OpTic vs SSG fires off to a best of three.
Game 1 goes to OpTic, despite it being pretty close (250-207). Their coms are clean and Lucid's shot is on (I mean, let's be honest, when isn't it) AND they're record on this map is damn near 100%. I believe they've only dropped it a couple of times.
Game 2 though, SSG came out firing and controlled Recharge. Optic does mount a comeback, but the early game lead was too much to overcome.
Spacestation Gaming then take Bazaar CTF in game 3! Built By Gamers beat Spacestation up in winners, then Spacestation get knocked down to beat OpTic? The competitive scene is getting josseled and no one is safe, that's for sure.
And guess who's next to make a statement?
Oxygen Esports (Common, Haines, Swish 5, Its Name)
They beat G2 Esports(remember who placed 10th at Raleigh compared to Oxygen not even making past losers round 2), 2 - 1 locking themselves into a top 8 spot!
I'll let Common's POV tell those tales.
End of Game 2
End of Game 3
Then, if you can imagine, they bring that momentum to take game 3 against SSG and secure themselves into top 6 alongside Built By Gamers who also beat SSG and then the Kansas City Pioneers. Now, I'm not going to get too excited here, because we're just wrapping up week 1 of 4 in this Open/Pro Series schedule leading up to the big leagues, and the different between 5/6, 7/8 placement is not crazy... But.. if SSG and KCP don't figure their sh**t out, they might next on the chopping block.
Our top 8 have been confirmed now, and the rest of the elimination bracket, as you can imagine, went more or less as expected now with the top 4 in their place and FaZe clearly showing they know more right now than eUnited.
And up in the Grand Finals, and I don't even to shine a light on them.. because they're up on Cloud9.. literally unbeatable (12-0 on the day).
Renegade is a beast. Stellur is a force. Pznguin is a jack of all, and Eco is a mastermind. Even when they're down.. they manage to find a way.
WEEK 2 STARTS NOW!
Our Top 8 are as follows and that means they'll qualify for the next pro series on Thursday, January 13th and DO NOT have to compete in today's Open. (In fact I'm pretty sure they can't.)
But the next week starts NOW. Tune into LouisVTitan's The Watch Party this afternoon, all day to see the stories of the next 8 to join them. See you there.
-- Taylor 'Snow' Feraco. LVT Productions
@SpyroESP for assistance with content gathering and note-taking