Ten days before Legendary Cup #4, Chris “Blaze” Chapon started to feel a big ball growing in his neck. As days passed, his throat swelled up immensely, not allowing him to talk clearly. Right before SyA’s final match with Most Wanted, his mother noticed.
“She looks at it, and she goes ‘Holy [explitive], I got to get you a doctor’s appointment right now,'” said Blaze. “I was like, ‘No, I’m playing this team in ten seconds.'”
“Yeah, I was hearing them argue about it, and he was like ‘No I can’t,'” his teammate Dominic “BotchyHawk” Demillo recalled.
Despite Blaze literally being “Sicker than Yo Average” Open Circuit player, he and his team took third at Open Cup #4, and placed fourth in the next Legendary Cup.
And did I mention this team was just playing for the first time together in those tournaments? What’s even crazier is that they quite possibly were not even going to form a team at all.
“We formed a day before the tournament started, ” said Oguz “Burton” Ustuntas. “And not only that, Blaze and I were doing poorly and both thought about quitting.”
After a making rounds with a few current pros, such as Tony “LethuL” Campbell Jr. and Bradley “APG” Laws on a variety of teams, Blaze found Burton for Halo 5 and the pair stuck together. They placed second in the Iron Games Open in Daytona in November 2015, and won EGLX 2016 in May.
This duo has seen a fair share of success, but being without a team after those events, the pair, specifically Burton, decided to recruit Botchyhawk and Douglas “Musa” Musa to their ranks. The team officially formed a mere 24 hours before their first open cup match.
Both players brought quick and accurate shots to the table, something that these two players wanted in order to round out their roster of like-minded players.
“Since the beginning of the game, Blaze and I have had trouble finding the proper formation of a team,” said Burton “I think we were finally able to find something that was good for us: two fast-paced players who have similar minds as us.”
Botchyhawk may have had too much of a similar mindset to Blaze and Burton, as he was also considering throwing in the towel if he couldn’t fit into a contending team this season. He took a break, and hoped that he’d get a call from a team in need of a fourth.
“I even tweeted out before my break that I was only coming back if I could find a team that I’m actually confident with, and then Burton came after me and I said ‘Yeah, we can try it,'” Botchyhawk said.
Meanwhile, Musa, a two-sport athlete and high school senior currently applying to colleges, was planning on sitting out this season due to his busy schedule, but then jumped on the team once he saw it could go somewhere.
“I wasn’t really thinking about it,” said Musa. “I didn’t really feel like getting back. But when we played for our first time on Saturday, I just tried to play it just because. We played a very noble team called Severance, and we 3-0’d them easily. And then I knew in my head that this team was going to be something else.”
For the Open Cup games, the team emphasized that in the wild west of the open bracket, the teams they faced were nothing to sneeze at. “They were all steamrolls,” in Musa’s opinion, and Blaze added that “it was not a cakewalk” to make it to the final four.
With that said, they were eager to see what the talent on this team could do.
“All of us were just waiting to see what kind of opportunities we could find and it all sort of just meshed together really well,” said Botchyhawk. “Completely dominating these extremely well-known teams is a huge thing.”
Most notably for this weekend, the team beat Don’t Chase Me Bro and Shock the World back-to-back 3-0 on Sunday, two top-10 teams who made noise before HCS Orange County.
While coming short of the podium dissappointed the freshly formed team, they gave themselves a lot of credit, going up 2-0 and forcing a game seven on Most Wanted, a team that placed fourth at HCS Orange County. They highlighted that they came in with no set strategy for each map, and made their plans as the countdown clock ticked down.
“We were going over strats in the tournament during the game,” Blaze said. “The biggest losses of the weekend were on the maps that us four as a team never played one time together.”
“Yeah you mean Regret Slayer? Our first time,” Botchyhawk admitted. The team laughed in the call and Burton explained.
“Not even in the tournament before that against any teams have we played Regret Slayer, and we went up against Most Wanted in the best-of-seven series,” Burton said. “We play Regret Slayer, and I think they beat us like 50 to 10 kills.”
Although they had little time to discuss strategy, Blaze eloquently described the process of how they prepared for the next game in each and every series.
“When you are looking at your Xbox and you just got done taking a sip of water, and you see the screen change maps, well we started talking about who is going where off the start,” Blaze said. “Then you see the countdown start from 5, 4, 3, 2… Basically, we all just had the same mindset of ‘We are going to go here off the start, this is what you are going to do off the start, and then we are going to meet in the middle, and then we are going to do it again.’ We are going to play really fast, and we are going to make the other team feel really hectic and not really make them feel comfortable.”
This style of smashmouth play is rare in Halo competitive, only seen on top sides like OpTic Gaming and Team EnVyUs, due to the current meta ruleset. Currently with radar on, it promotes teams to sneak around corners, crouch often, and not run out where an enemy can see you.
“It’s insane how this game has changed with radar,” said Burton. “Everyone has this mindset of being so slow, playing so conservative and making sure everything is properly done. It hasn’t been like this since Halo 2.”
But for Burton, he says that there is nowhere to run, so he grabs his gun.
“A lot of people are uncomfortable when they play against people like us who are constantly pushing,” said Burton. “I’m going to be honest, we are not so careful about our deaths, but it works in such a beautiful way because we all do it together. People aren’t used to it.”
“The funny thing is,” Burton continued, “some pro teams are slow and some of them are fast, so it’ll be interesting to see how we match up against pro teams too, and I think we’ll do really well.”
With HCS Las Vegas looming, which leaves open the possibility of this side facing pro teams, the team joked that they better start walking if they want to compete. They currently have no sponsors, and Blaze took a few minutes to calculate how much time he needs to walk to Vegas from Ohio (answer: about 10 days).
But as they proceed to give the open circuit what they need – another formidable contender to challenge the pro sides – they are focused on putting up enough skill to back up any financial help or sponsors they can get. And Musa specifically knows that this team is ready to break out into the pro leagues, given his past on a French Toast Mafia team that made some buzz in the amateur circuit.
“I didn’t think I’d get any teammates who would stack up to that old French Toast Mafia lineup, because we were so dominant,” Musa said. “We played to each other and not just selfish, and that’s what I see with this team.”
“This team is individually better than that (French Toast Mafia) team,” Musa continued. “This team is going to have way better teamwork and team chemistry. This team, that I am on right now, I know for sure that if we go over everything, I’m telling you, we are going to be taking first place (at the relegation tournament) and taking out a pro team.”
“I will put money on it,” Musa finished. “I would put anything on it. I have that much confidence in my team.”
And if you don’t know, now you know they are ready to fight through a tough open circuit and make it into the pro league.
Also, this is a quick public service announcement, sponsored by Burton: He did not goose on LAN at Iron Games Atlanta 2015, that was James “Suddoth 2” Suddoth. The name plates were wrong.
For all your Halo and general esports updates, make sure you are following us on Twitter, @GAMURScom.
Preview Image Source: Halo/343 Industries