What on earth was Activision thinking?
In one of the most shocking esports decisions of 2015, Activision revealed that there would be an age restriction in the Call of Duty World League ahead of the Black Ops III life cycle.
One of the rising stars affected by this rule was Cuyler “Huke” Garland, who made it to the Grand Finals in five Advanced Warfare major tournaments the year before Black Ops III. It was a tough moment for Huke, his fans, and the Call of Duty community, but rather than stick with the game and play in amatuer events, Huke decided to hang up the jet pack…
And don some Master Chief armor.
Huke is not a member of the Counter Logic Gaming team that won the Halo World Championship, now playing for OpTic Gaming. Huke is not named Tony “LethuL” Campbell Jr., who did the unthinkable by following up a successful 2015 campaign with one of the most impressive years in Halo history. In fact, I even think that I’m snubbing LethuL by picking Huke as 2016’s top Halo player, and if I did not put OpTic as my Team of the Year above EnVyUs, I would call LethuL my player of the year.
However, no single player, let alone a “rookie,” has made such an impact on the Halo scene in 2016 like Huke, and if we are talking about the future of Halo, then we need to talk about four letters:
H-U-K-E (Although when his name is cheered, the “U” drags on for about ten seconds).
Bouncing around several teams at the beginning of 2016, Huke found a home in Disobey. The roster would later player for Denial, with another young gun in Jesse “bubu dubu“ Moeller along with two veterans in Cody “ContrA“ Szczodrowski and Devon “PreDevoNatoR” Layton.
With the NA Regional ahead of them, this squad would go on to upset Team EnVyUs, Team Liquid, and a first seeded Team Allegiance en route to a Grand Final appearance. In his first major Halo tournament, Huke made it to the finals, along with three other pros who had never made it that far in a tournament before.
Oh, and he looked good doing it too.
But then, the Huke “curse” began, as Denial lost a 4-2 series to Counter Logic Gaming in the Grand Finals. Denial still qualified for the World Championship, but once again lost 4-2 to the dominate players on CLG, who have since become the biggest winners in Halo esports history.
Huke played for Enigma6 Group when he was a Call of Duty pro, and rejoined the organization once Enigma6 entered the Halo scene. Alongside former Denial teammate bubu dubu and two strong players in Carlos “Cratos“ Ayala and Ryan “Shooter“ Sondhi, Huke’s Enigma6 qualified for the Summer Pro League. That side played spoiler to Counter Logic Gaming’s perfect season, defeating them in Week Four with a 3-1 series win, and setting the tone for their second place finish that season.
Just from the success of these two teams alone, Huke proved that his play elevates his teammates around him. His flashy shots and meticulous plays make for an all around nightmare of a slayer. This roster had talent, without a doubt, and the players proved it with two second place finishes in the Pro League regular season and season finals.
Despite the team’s success, Huke left the Enigma6, and the impact was substantial. With Huke, Enigma6 was fighting for a title in the Summer. Without him, they were fighting for their Pro League spot in the Fall.
With Huke’s skill in mind, Team EnVyUs enlisted him in the “God Squad” for the Fall Season, a team set to slay the five headed dragon now enlisted under OpTic Gaming. Huke was placed alongside three talented Halo veterans Eric “Snip3down” Wrona, Justin “iGotUrPistola” Deese and Austin “Mikwen” McCleary. With a combined 20+ years of experience in professional Halo between those three, that core of players was the hardened backbone to Huke’s raw skill, and a worthy threat to the team that Huke wanted to finally beat on LAN.
Unfortunately, this roster change was not without its issues, as Snip3down apologized for his “overreaching attempt” to get Huke to leave Enigma6 for Team EnVyUs at the conclusion of the Summer season. While Enigma6 definitely set the example of making sure player poaching had no place for the future of the Halo scene, which should be recognized as preventing future issues, this one-time move marked the change of the competitive balance as the community knew it.
Team EnVyUs made their first statement in a worthy edition of the “eClasico” against OpTic, besting the Green Wall in a five game series in Week 3, but Huke could once again only get silver against OpTic on LAN a few weeks later in Orange County.
Losing to OG three times in a weekend, EnVyUs faced doubt from many members of its fanbase. The team was built with the sole purpose of beating OpTic, and it was failing. Even with the team taking an online victory against OpTic, as well as their Las Vegas LAN win, fans pointed toward OpTic having a disadvantage online and discredited EnVyUs’ victories.
But then, the HCS Fall Finals came around, and Huke finally broke his curse by doing what he does best.
— ESL Halo (@ESLHalo) December 12, 2016
After being sent to the losers bracket by their rivals, nV would win not one, but two instant classic best-of-seven series to dethrone OpTic Gaming in what was the defining moment of Huke’s young career. Along with being second in K/D ratio and damage-per-death in his sophomore ESL season, Huke had an entire Burbank soundstage on its feet to cheer him on as he provided several clutch kills en route to the title.
In one year, Huke went from being a castaway from the Call of Duty scene, to turning around the fortunes of several organizations and slaying the seemingly unstoppable force of CLG/OG in Halo. He was foolishly banned from competing in one of the largest console esports, and then became the young cornerstone of that esport’s biggest rival.
With an unprecedented resume in only his freshman year of Halo, the question is not if Huke is the biggest impact player of 2016…
But rather if Halo has entered the “Age of Huke.”
Who would you put as the Halo Player of the Year for 2016? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting us @GAMURScom.
James Mattone is a journalist for GAMURS and can be contacted on Twitter –@TheJamesMattone.