The Road to the World Championship Starts Here: UGC St. Louis Preview
The road to the Halo World Championship begins in St. Louis...Or at least, the adjacent city of Collinsville, Illinois.
$50,000 in total prize money are up for grabs as well as seeding points for the Millennial Esports Las Vegas event, which will give the top six teams a spot in the Halo World Championship. It will be a three day event from Friday, Jan. 20 to Sunday, Jan. 22, and will have both a 64-team open bracket and a championship bracket.
With seven teams with pro league spots, and a wide array of talent entering through the open bracket, this weekend will give Halo fans an early look of what to expect for the next year in the esport.
Here's a look at the teams attending UGC St. Louis, as well as some technical information about the event:
Pro Teams (Receive a Bye into Championship Bracket):
The 2016 Halo World Champions and the 2016 HCS Fall Season Champions are the two teams to beat in this event, without question.
OpTic Gaming's buyout of the most successful Halo 5 roster under Counter Logic Gaming was the storyline of the past HCS season, however the spotlight was stolen on a December weekend in Burbank when Huke got his first HCS title under nV. The "God Sqaud" of nV lived up to its name, but winning one battle is nothing compared to the upcoming war over the Halo World Championship title belt.
The EClassico has yet another battleground to fight on, and we will all be witnesses to it this weekend...
The Dark Horses:
Unless one of these teams spoil the party.
With all these teams making swaps after the Fall Season ended, they all are taking a different approach to take down the top two teams in Halo today.
Both Team Liquid and Evil Geniuses have relied on the duo system, picking up a pair of players a piece from around the league. Meanwhile, Str8 Rippin and Luminosity Gaming have taken two of the most promising players out of last season's Relegation tournament, with LG also bringing in a seasoned journeyman in Ninja.
As the tournament progresses, it will be interesting to see which sides will fold and which will challenge nV and OpTic, or at the very least see what players work together best after a bust offseason. Nevertheless, these teams all want to get a jump on the two favorites ahead of the Las Vegas event, and getting some nice prize money along with their seeding points does not hury.
I seperate the PNDA Gaming side from the rest because they are in a completely unique situation heading into this event.
As reported by GAMURS, PNDA Gaming received the Pro League spot from MoneyMatches after partnering with them. This report caused a mixed reaction around the Halo community, especially on the Team Beyond Forums, regarded as one of the homes of the Halo competitive community.
With that said, they join the other four pro league teams as an underdog among the pack. However, they have a bit more of a storyline heading into this event. They will get no love from the forums, and teams from the open bracket will give them no mercy. However, if they take home the UGC St. Louis title, their $20,000 payday, in addition to some crucial seeding points, will make winning that much sweeter for the four members of this team.
Open Bracket Sides:
Because of ESL rules, these two sides have a wealth of pro talent, with Inconceivable having an up-and-coming player in Shotzzy, however did not obtain a pro seed nor will be a HCS Pro Team for the next season (unless, of course, they qualify).
This should not make you think any lesser of these sides, however, as both ALG and Inconceivable look to run the Open Bracket in Collinsville. They should also provide some "upsets" of the pro seeded teams, however you should not call them that.
The seven "former pros" and Shotzzy are all capable of taking down the five teams not named OG or nV, with those two teams set aside for being complete god squads. But, who knows? Maybe the kryptonite of the EClassico teams is one of these sides, and because of that, these two sides are the teams to watch on all three days of the tournament.
Also, just because I have to...
The Notable Semi-Pros/Amateur Teams:
With a host of teams entering the open bracket, these three are definitely ones to keep an eye on.
First and foremost, the biggest oversight of the current Halo scene is the fact that Team Randa does not represent an organization. Filled with experience and talent from top to bottom, this side has everything from big plays to pro experience. Expect them to be playing on Championship Sunday, and to be fighting against the pros for some crucial seeding points and cash.
Earthroot Gaming currently sits in second of the Esports MInor League, and is still a force to be reckoned with in relation to the rest of the scene. ROB THE TURTLE is hungry to break out of the semi-pro/amateur scene, and with Botchy teaming with him in the past, the duo could play well off the talents of Musa and Chaser seen throughout the Open Circuit season.
Finally, although SetToDestroyX currently sits towards the bottom of the ESML, that should not be a reflection of the talent on display. Comprised of an all-star line-up of the open circuit and semi-pro/amateur scene, this tournament should be a chance for this side to take down some other upstart open bracket teams and take some shots at the pros.
Other Semi-Pro/Amateur Teams:
True to the "any given Sunday" attitude, there are a good amount of spots in the Championship Bracket that could be populated by the following teams. Some of them, like Velvet Gaming and Fatal Ambition, have a few familiar semi-pro/amateur players because of their time either in the Open Circuit, the Esports Minor League, or both.
Others just show a lot of promise in their line-up, and could play spoiler to teams that you may know and love.
With that said, here are some teams that could come up in your stream this weekend, and if you are doing some sort of fantasy Halo tournament, these would be some sleeper picks to take some Championship Sunday spots:
Cutting Edge eSports Starboys
- Thomas "Domey" Loffredo
- Soul Snipe
Real Fear Gaming:
- D3M0N D
- Eli Elite
- Mist Ninjustu
- H2 MaG1K
- Sneaky Bran
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James Mattone is a journalist for GAMURS and can be contacted on Twitter -@TheJamesMattone.