On Aug. 4, Halo took a leap in its return to esports prominence by announcing the Halo World Championship Series. Over the span of four months teams from all around the world vied for a chance to qualify for the Halo World Championship and a cut of a staggering $1 million prize pool. Through crowdfunding, the prize pool has climbed to $2.5 million, and after grueling months of shocking upsets, roster shuffles and some of the best Halo the world has ever seen, only 16 teams remain. This weekend at the Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, California, those teams will fight for esports glory.
We've got everything you need to know for this weekend below!
Chosen Squad (LATAM)
Due to travel issues, Chosen Squad had to make a roster change shortly before traveling to Hollywood. Armando "Rinnegan" Nocedal, the emotional leader of the team, was replaced by Daniel "DanyKnight" Rivas. This team does not have much time to mesh, but DanyKnight has enough skill individually that may cover that up. Prior to the roster change, Chosen Squad found themselves struggling in Strongholds game types, where teams fight to capture three points on the map to score points. Three of four losses at HWC: Mexico City were on Strongholds, and the team must adjust accordingly or they are in for a long weekend.
exceL Esports (EMEA)
exceL Esports worked its way into the Halo World Championship by finishing second at HWC: Cologne, losing in the grand finals to Team Infused. xL is a strong slaying team, but does not always translate that to objective wins. The team's weakest game type in Cologne was Capture the Flag, and the group tends to struggle in general when not playing at a fast pace. Furthermore, Arkel "Snakey" Brown is their strongest slayer and their largest liability. Although leading the team in both kills and assists, he also leads the team in deaths.
Team Allegiance (NA)
Team Allegiance dominated the North American region for a large portion of the season. Led by Halo veteran Brett "Naded" Leonard, Allegiance won two of the five online qualifiers, and, with the exception of the first qualifier, made the grand finals every time. Because of its performance, Allegiance qualified to play at the X Games Invitational 2016 in Aspen, Colorado. Allegiance entered Aspen as the top seed and a strong contender to take home a gold medal, but faltered in the semifinals against powerhouse counterpart Evil Geniuses. Allegiance still managed to take the third-place match and bronze medal, but had an underwhelming performance considering the talent of the roster. Allegiance then played at Halo World Championship Tour: Columbus as the top seed, and was met with a similar fate. They lost to Cinderella squad Denial Esports in the semifinals, further prolonging the ongoing "Can Naded win an event?" narrative. A first-place finish has eluded Naded for a decade, and Allegiance will look to chance that this weekend.
Team Liquid (NA)
Marred by multiple roster changes in the first half of the season, Team Liquid seems to be hitting its stride at just the right time. Having also been invited to the X Games Invitational, TL had a rough showing that resulted in failing to make it out of group stages. Two weeks prior to the X Games, TL dropped Tyler "Ninja" Blevins who would go on to form Renegades. In a subtle hint of irony, Team Liquid was swept by Renegades to cap off the weekend. Team Liquid looked like a different team at HWC: Columbus; they swept every team in the group, including Renegades, before losing to Denial Esports in the first round of bracket play. Team Liquid has a veteran roster with an abundance of talent, and should do well this weekend. The team will play Allegiance and look to get revenge since the last time they played (Allegiance won 3-1).
Team Infused (EMEA)
Entering the fray as the best team to come out of the EMEA region, Team Infused looks to continue its winning ways. Infused dropped only four maps at HWC: Cologne and is one of the few foreign teams considered strong enough to upset an American team. Jake "Chalkie" White posted the most amount of kills of any European player to qualify for the Halo World Championship and will be the key to this team's success. Although foreign, this team should not be overlooked by anyone.
As runner ups at HWC: Sydney, Exile5 rolls into Hollywood looking to show the world they are better than their performance at Regionals showed. The strength of this squad is found in their objective gameplay, and they can steal a series from any top North American team if they continue to play well as a unit. Exile5 has traveled a long way and will be looking to play spoiler for the rest of the group, and they have the skill to do so.
Evil Geniuses (NA)
Evil Geniuses is the most prolific Halo team of the recent era, and that is punctuated by a record of six straight live tournament wins, including a Gold Medal at the X Games, that was broken at the North American Regionals in Columbus. Nonetheless, this team is one of the best in the world and is a strong candidate to win it all. Eric "Snip3down" Wrona will attempt to lead his team through group stages and all the world longs expectantly for a rematch with bitter rival CLG. Since losing Tony "Lethul" Campbell to CLG, the EG/CLG series is 3-1 in favor of CLG. EG is primed for claiming revenge but must make it past the group first.
Brimming with potential as it enters Hollywood, Renegades must find a way to play with consistency. While at HWC: Columbus, Renegades played four series, winning two and losing two. As a near perfect representation of how up and down they have been all season, all four of those series were sweeps. Ninja and the rest of Renegades are scary good when clicking on all cylinders, but have a tendency to tilt in the face of adversity. If Renegades can maintain its composure and not make disorganized pushes while down, this team can beat anyone.
Team Immunity (ANZ)
Team Immunity fielded a phone call days before the Halo World Championship stating that, due to a hand injury, team captain Matthew "Heff" Hefren would not be able to compete. In to replace Heff is Teddy "Junior" Joe, formerly of Team Prime. Although the late change is far from ideal, iM has reason for confidence. They are undefeated in Strongholds game types and will benefit from coming stateside early to LAN. The injury has hurt the team, but they are far from out of the fight.
Denial Esports (NA)
Denial's Cinderella story at Columbus started off by eliminating Team EnVyUs, and did not stop until the grand finals at the hands of juggernaut CLG. The combination of mastermind coach Marcus "Elumnite" Lovejoy and the raw skill of breakout players such as Cuyler "Huke" Garland make this a stalwart roster looking to repeat upon its recent success and solidify the team as one of the best. Plus, with highlights such as this, what's not to love?
- Denial eSports (@DenialEsports) March 16, 2016
FAB Games Esports (EMEA)
FAB E is a strong slaying team that relies on the prowess of Robert "Kimbo" Faulk, but is historically average at best when it comes to objective game types. They dealt the finishing blow to Team Dignitas in a shocking elimination from the HWC: Cologne, which should boost confidence. But there is no doubt about it, this group will be difficult for the German squad.
Team eLevate (NA)
Due to differences between the players and the organization, what was once known as Noble Esports is now known as Team eLevate. This mix of newcomers and veterans alike will play under the tutelage and experience of a staple in the Halo community, coach Kyle "Chig" Lawson. The series against Team Immunity will likely determine whether they make it out of group stages. eLevate should be wary of overlooking its ANZ opponents.
Counter Logic Gaming (NA)
The team everyone loves to hate, Counter Logic Gaming, are considered by many as the favorite to win the tournament. They fell to Evil Geniuses at the X Games Gold medal match after the roster swap heard around the world, when Halo legend Tom "Ogre 2" Ryan was dropped in place of Lethul, formerly of rival EG, but CLG has managed to get better with every game they have played. In the showing at HWC: Columbus, CLG dropped one map in pool play then went on a rampage and did not lose again until the Grand Finals. CLG is so good, they very well may not lose until the grand finals.
Team Skyfire (Asia)
There is only one person in the world who can say they have qualified for both a Call of Duty and Halo World Championship event, and that's Joshua Lim Cheng Zhong, or "Blaqkrow" for short. He and the rest of Skyfire were recently acquired and bring with them the knowledge of Australian coach Jake "Bizz" Brooks. Skyfire has no tournament exposure against other regions, which makes them a prime hopeful for upsetting a strong team. It is more likely, however, that the lack of exposure leaves them ill-prepared for the competition they will face.
Epsilon Esports (EMEA)
Long lauded as the best Halo team in Europe, Epsilon found themselves on the cusp of not qualifying for the Halo World Championship. Due to various attenuating factors, Epsilon had a less than stellar performance in the semifinals to Team Infused and now face the tall task of making it out of group D, which many consider the group of death. The success of this team will be determined by the performance of twins Alex "BUK20" Buck and Will "BUK57" Buck. If the Buck twins can improve upon their play from Cologne, Epsilon is likely to make it out of group stages.
With a newly minted contract, the team previously known as Triggers Pound lands in Hollywood donning the C9 logo for the first time this season. Jacob "Hysteria" Reiser's impressive performance on LAN is well documented and was a contributing factor in C9's success in group play at Columbus. They had an unfortunate draw and were eliminated by Evil Geniuses in the first round of bracket play, but this team is better than its placing represents. Look for the veteran knowledge of Scott "Cloud" Holste to play a factor in what should be a good series against Epsilon Esports.