Updated: Jan 4, 2022
North America HCS Kickoff Qualifier Series
Day 2: December 2nd - Ended waayyyy past midnight
Continuing the story where we left off - better late than never.
We left off at the end of day 1 of the online HCS Kickoff Qualifier with the following eight teams. This is their last chance to earn more HCS points or finish in a coveted top 4 spot, guaranteeing them a seed position in Pool Play of the HCS Kickoff Major - Raleigh 2021.
Optic Gaming (Trippy, iGotUrPistola, Lucid, APG)
Faze Clan fka Inconceivable (Falcated, Bound, Snip3down, Bubu Dubu)
Cloud9 (Eco, Pznguin, Renegade, StelluR)
eUnited (Spartan, Nick, Rayne, Ryanoob)
XSET (Cratos, Svspector, Porky J, Filthy G)
Sentinels (Snakebite, Frosty, Lethul, Royal2)
Kansas City Pioneers (Druk, SoulSnipe, Taulek, Manny)
G2 Esports (Articc, Gilkey, Sabinater, Str8 SicK)
And for your reference, here's what the detailed schedule has looked like thus far. Sources are below. I'll have the remainder of what we know published in the next blog post.
Given Optic's domination up until now (all 1st place finishes in Open#1 and 2, and only 1 dropped game to XSET so far this evening) we'd expect nothing less than a clean victory. EU's been grinding though, and these final matches of the qualifier are best of 5s, not best of 3s, and that endurance training is showing it's power.
Optic takes games 1 and 2 pretty easily, 250-150 at Strongholds and 50-39 at Slayer with better control, but EU snaps back games 3 and 4. Bazaar CTF is a slug fest with EU getting the final punch for a 3-2 win and Oddball goes to a round 3 and a 100-99 finish - EU clutch up to force a game 5!
Game 3 Highlights
Game 4 Highlights
Game 5 though, that's the Trippy and Lucid show on Live Fire... a map they have yet to lose. Optic win 3 - 2.
FaZe Clan vs Cloud9 also went down to a game 5. Similar to what we just experienced in the other Semi-Final, FaZe go up 2-0, to then lose the next two to C9, but FaZe close it out in game 5.
Cloud9 was my favorite to win here, but FaZe Clan was locked in with their coms and 'on-the-fly' play calling, so I'm not surprised they took it while watching these games.
But let me also mention that Cloud9 is playing a little different. We're seeing Pznguin in particular show up in the slays department for some part-time shifts when he's needed. This could be the early signs of a new kind of Cloud9.
So, it's FaZe Clan vs Optic Gaming in the Finals and game 1, Aquarius CTF, takes us on a roller-coaster ride at the scrappiest of carnivals. FaZe look to be taking it, but Optic tie it up 2-2 with 1:20 left on the clock and send it into overtime when Pistola flips a magic switch, and they win in about a minute into OT.
Game 2 is wildly in favor of Optic Gaming, but the HCS casters give FaZe some respect as they show up to take game 3 oddball in 2 rounds 200 - 101.
Of course, Live Fire is the game 4 though.. and we all know what happens there. Here's some more footage of Lucid not letting anyone tell him what to do in his park. Optic move on to the Grand Finals, yet again, 4 - 1 over FaZe Clan.
Down in the lower bracket XSET and KCP are knocked out by Sentinels and G2 Esports respectively. XSET put up a good fight against Sentinels taking their slayer 50-49 and while KCP didn't take a game, they're that dark horse that's always lurking in the shadows, showing up at your front gate when you least expect it. We'll be seeing these squads make some noise in Raleigh for sure!
EU then does G2 dirty in a 3-0 fashion and Sentinels finish off Cloud9 3-1 in their series. Sentinels are an unstoppable force at any stage of the game when the communication is clean and they're giving each other the support they need.
Sentinels (Snakebite, Frosty, Lethul, Royal2) vs eUnited (Spartan, Nick, Rayne, Ryanoob). Those who know.. know there's some... let's call it 'flavorful personality clashes' between some of these players and they're not afraid to engage publicly for us all to soak in the drama. Drama..Drama..
All words aside, the arena is where these squads prove themselves.. and this time, Sentinels carry their momentum to a 3-0 victory against eUnited. I'll let these highlights tell the story, but in a nutshell, it's all Sentinels.
Game 2 Highlights
Game 3 Highlights
Lastly, we had the Elimination Finals where we see FaZe Clan vs Sentinels this time.
AGAIN, it's a full best of 5. the first Slayer is close (50-46 SEN win), FaZe take the strongholds on Streets (250-143), but the Sentinels reign remains, and they move up to the Grand Finals.
Okay, so I admittedly did not stay up to watch this in its entirety. It was so late, and in my defense, Optic won games one and two, so I thought they had it in the bag. Wrong, apparently Sentinels turned on, AGAIN, and proceeded to win the next 6 of 7 games bringing it almost the longest it could be through a Grand Finals reset match.
*HOWEVER, in the days to follow Royal2 of Sentinels was found guilty of manipulating the servers such that they were always connecting to the same dedicated server no matter the opponent. That's a big NO according to the rules and the punishment was issued that Sentinels must forfeit their #1 seed spot and Royal2 be suspended from competing until January 28th, 2022. Therefore, Sentinels must play through Open Bracket at the Kickoff Major Raleigh 2021 due to the roster lock rules. Official ruling here. and Royal2 released his official statement.
Taylor's Rankings & Statistics
Right after all of this, I began compiling my rankings of all the teams that have competed so far in the two HCS Opens and Qualifier. I don't have access to any API for any deeper analytical dives and more pointed storytelling (yet *fingers crossed), but a bird's eye view is a good place to start.
I released this list to the statistics team at HCS/EE for use during their broadcast, and now I'd like to officially release it to you! You'll notice that I kept Sentinels placement in there as '1st' for the qualifier, meaning my equations did factor it into their placement. I think there's fair arguments on both sides of that aisle, so I've elected to keep it in for now, but expect my equations for how I judge these placements to change as time progresses.
By the way, this does not include all of the teams that signed up for Raleigh (that will come in my next article with updated Rankings, so stay tuned!). Also, if you notice any teams that need to be combined because they have two or more of the same players, or there's any mistakes, feel free to reach out to me on twitter: @MrSnovv. I've been covering the bigger names here in this blog series, but in light of everyone covering the big names, I'll likely start to move my way down the list and tell some of those ones not as known as this competitive scene develops!
Lastly, this list is effectively a big data dump, which isn't usually my style. The way we collect, analyze, break down, combine, and build upon information is what brings meaning, interest and value to it; it helps us fill out and guide the unfolding stories that all players, teams, organizations, personalities and causes have to tell.
This is just the beginning.
The Next Chapter - A Kickoff Major LAN
Raleigh, NC was the spot for the First Kickoff Major 2021 of Halo Infinite LAN. It was a long three days of in person Halo competition and fun that was broadcasted across Youtube and Twitch from December 17th - 19th, 2021.
You can check out all of the full broadcasts on the HCS Esports YouTube, or stayed tuned here for the next brief installment catching you up to speed before the next NA open starts in less than 3 days!
-- Taylor 'Snow' Feraco. LVT Productions
@ArcFlyGuy for assistance with content gathering and note-taking