For the last three months, the top eight North American teams have clashed in the NA Halo Championship Series: Pro League with one goal: Burbank, California on Dec. 10-11.
The top four teams at the end of the regular season are invited out to the ESL Studios to compete in a bracket for their cut of a $150,000 prize pool while the bottom two teams from the standings will also be present in Burbank for far different reasons. The bottom two teams from the standings will be put into a bracket against the top two teams from the open circuit in a Relegation bracket with two spots in the Pro League up for grabs.
The NA HCS Fall Finals Championship Bracket
The boys in blue make their second consecutive appearance at the HCS Finals. Last season, they were rewarded with a third place finish for their efforts. Unsatisfied with that, nV decided that a roster change would be the most effective way to improve. During the offseason they acquired CoD native and rookie sensation Cuyler "Huke" Garland from Enigma 6 along with Halo veteran and household name, Eric "Snipedown" Wrona from Evil Geniuses. Envy's goal was a simple, yet monumental task: dethrone the greatest team to ever play Halo 5: Guardians, OpTic Gaming.
Justin "Pistola" Deese and Austin "Mikwen" McCleary are the other two pieces of the puzzle with slaying prowess capable of rivaling and besting that of any other duo in the world. Envy finished the regular season with a league-leading 13-1 record including a 2-0 (6-2) record against OpTic. Team EnVyUs descend upon Burbank with the top seed and one last challenge before them in order to accomplish what they set out to do when the season began: defeat OpTic Gaming at a LAN setting.
Maybe it's that as time has elapsed, other teams have gotten better. Or maybe OpTic Gaming has grown complacent, possibly even cocky. Whatever the case may be, OpTic Gaming, at least during the regular season, is not as dominant as it was last season. The devil is in the details and for OpTic, you don't have to look long to see the differences. Last season, they finished with an overall record of 13-1. Their sole loss did not come until Week 4. Fifty-seven percent of the matches they played last season were sweeps and they finished the season with a 40-9 game record. This season OpTic finished 11-3, suffered their first loss in Week 1 and have a 36-19 game record.
With all that being said, OpTic is still considered the favorite to win the tournament. OpTic is notorious for being a different monster in a LAN setting, and they proved that at the Summer Finals last season and at HCS Orange County, where they only dropped a staggering four games across both tournaments. Tony "LethuL" Campbell Jr., Paul "SnakeBite" Duarte, Mathew "Royal2" Fiorante, and Bradley "Frosty" Bergstrom look to silence all the doubters and affirm that they indeed are the best team to play the game and have no intentions of relinquishing that title any time soon.
Team Liquid makes their second consecutive appearance at a finals weekend, but this time it is under vastly different circumstances. They appeared at the Summer Finals with their lives on the line as they clawed their way through the relegation bracket. This time, however, Team Liquid walks into Burbank with more confidence. Narrowly edging out Str8 Rippin for the third place slot at the end of the regular season, Team Liquid is "rewarded" with a date against juggernaut OpTic Gaming in the first round of the tournament.
Both Team EnVyUs and OpTic Gaming seem to be head and shoulders above the pack, but Team Liquid has at least taken a series off of nV, although it was back in the first week of the season. Even so, Team Liquid competes well against the top two teams. Along with beating nV in Week 1, they took them to Game 5 in their second meeting. The Team Liquid lineup is as fun as a roster can get on paper. Zane "Penguin" Hearon and Timothy "Rayne" Tinkler have established themselves as a potent duo dating back to the Halo World Championships that only separated for a stint while Rayne played for nV last season. Tyler "Spartan" Ganza seems to perpetually be a second away from a ridiculous highlight or clutch career-defining moment, and Hamza "Commonly" Abbaali has set himself apart as the problematic objective fiend that keeps opposing teams on edge. Moreover, the braintrust behind Team Liquid, Kory "Symbolic" Arruda and Tyler "TiberiusAudley" Hicks, makes this a dangerous squad.
That is what is at arms reach for the newly minted Str8 Rippin roster. Likely second to the prize pot comes the desire for redemption after a tumultuous season. For months, this team took blow after blow, yet remained resilient. An underwhelming 0-4 start to the season that snowballed to a humbling 3-7 record by Week 5. They didn't even have a fully set roster until four weeks in. They were destined for relegation. This weekend erases all of that.
After five weeks of being the only team to compete in the Pro League without an organization backing them, the legendary Str8 Rippin logo from the Halo 2 and Halo 3 era reemerged. Str8 Rippin managed to end the season on a four-series winning streak, which, coupled with a little help in the form of losses from teams above them, was enough to defy odds and qualify for the finals tournament. But they have the daunting task of playing nV in the first round. Halo 4 Global Champion Aaron "Ace" Elam, alongside Bradley "APG" Laws, Kevin "Eco" Smith, and the often criminally underrated Halo old-timer Richie "Heinz" Heinz Jr have all the momentum in the world, and they're not ready for their Cinderella story to end quite yet.
The HCS Fall Season Relegation Bracket
Enigma 6 Group
Much like Team Liquid, Enigma 6 makes their second consecutive appearance at the season finals and they too are under a different form of stress. Last season, E6 came in with the number two seed and were the only team to hand what we now know as OpTic Gaming a loss. E6 clashed with them again at the HCS Summer Grand Finals and were swept 4-0, but took home second place. This time around, E6 is on the brink of losing their place in the HCS Pro League.
E6 chose 3sUP.
Their underwhelming 3-11 record may not tell the whole story. Long-time duo Cody "ContrA" Szczodrowski and Devon "PreDevonator" Layton are well known for their ability to perform at an incredibly impressive level on a LAN setting and they did so at HCS Vegas. Quite simply, Team Allegiance is just a better team when it comes to LAN, and this weekend should be no different. They're also set to face of the lower ranked of the two amateur teams, The MoneyMatches Team, in the first round of relegations.
If history is any indicator, 3sUP is a real threat to take a Pro League spot from one of the relegated teams. 3sUP recently attended HCS Las Vegas where they not only placed top six overall, but also placed the highest among amateur teams, and managed to both beat and outplace Pro League teams from North America and Europe in the process. Not only did they outplace the best team in EU that won their Fall Season Finals, FAB Games eSports, but they also beat none other than Pro League team Enigma 6, their opponents in the first round of the bracket.
The MoneyMatches Team
Joe "Tripppey" Taylor, Tom "Saiyan" Wilson, Tyler "TireIron" Mara and Jorge "BoamX" Campos make up this emerging squad that has faced some Pro League competition in the past. After making it out of the amateur bracket, they met Enigma 6 and lost rather convincingly 3-1. This time they make a crack at a Pro League team they have not faced on a LAN setting. TMMT takes on Team Allegiance in the first round of relegations.