The release of Halo Infinite coincides with the start of one of the most eagerly anticipated years of the Halo Championship Series yet—and that campaign kicks off with the HCS Kickoff Major in Raleigh, North Carolina.
A staggering 32 teams will compete across three stacked days of pool play and open brackets before hopping into the final championship bracket from Dec. 17 to 19. With so many teams competing and so much time passed since Halo was considered a top-tier esport, here are a handful of teams you should have your eyes on at the HCS Kickoff Major in Raleigh.
They may not have their pool play spot anymore, but all eyes will still be on Sentinels for several reasons. The roster of SnakeBite, LethuL, Royal2, and Frosty is considered one of the best Halo teams of all time, with a handful of major trophies to their name, including back-to-back world championships in 2016 and 2017 with CLG and OpTic. All four players are listed in the top 10 of the HCS’ top 25 players of all time, with SnakeBite, LethuL, and Royal2 all in the top five.
With a third-place finish in the first Open Series and a first-place finish in the Kickoff Major qualifier, they were going to be considered a top team in pool play in Raleigh. Royal2 was found to be using a geofilter during the past two HCS NA open events, however, resulting in the HCS suspending him until the end of January and removing Sentinels from pool play. Now, they have to play through the open bracket but are doing so with one of the top console FPS players of all time in FormaL, a Call of Duty legend who’s returning to Halo after a seven-year hiatus.
OpTic lent FormaL out to both Spacestation Gaming and Sentinels over the past month and it just goes to show how good its Halo roster is if it’s willing and able to lend out one of the best console FPS players to other teams. This roster is stacked with veterans like aPG, Lucid, and TriPPPeY, but the top gun on the team is Pistola, listed at No. 4 in the HCS’ top 25 players.
Pistola may be a bit older now, but he’s shown no signs of slowing down. OpTic as a whole look like the hottest team coming into Raleigh, winning both NA Open Series in November and coming in second to Sentinels at the Raleigh qualifier (which you could technically count as first since Sentinels had to forfeit their result due to the Royal2 decision). OpTic are headed to Raleigh with the most HCS points earned of any team so far and they should earn plenty more at the first major.
Cloud9 may have come up short against OpTic in the grand finals of both NA Open Series, but reaching the grand finals of two straight massive open brackets is still an incredibly impressive feat. It shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the names on the C9 roster, though. C9 picked up the core of the Splyce roster that won the 2018 World Championship in StelluR, Eco, and Renegade. To round out their group, they added a former teammate of theirs and another accomplished vet in Penguin.
This collection of proven winners should, like the other top teams in Raliegh, flourish on-stage in an offline environment.
Inconceivable was certainly the top unsigned team during the first open events of the 2021-2022 season, with top-eight finishes in the first Open Series and a third-place performance in the Raleigh qualifier to secure their pool play spot. Like the other rosters on this list, it consists of proven winning veterans but is led by one of the all-time greats in Snip3down. After over a year playing Apex Legends under the TSM banner, Snip3down has returned to Halo with this roster and their impressive early showing meant they were sure to be signed.
Enter FaZe Clan. The massive esports organization, who also owns the reigning Call of Duty League champions in the Atlanta FaZe, signed the full Inconceivable roster on Dec. 13, less than a week before they compete in pool play at the Raleigh major. A deep run in the playoff bracket for this roster certainly isn’t inconceivable.
The HCS Kickoff Major in Raleigh officially begins on Dec. 17 with open-bracket play.