The biggest esports tournament this weekend is all about a classic.
The Season 2 Finals of the Halo Championship Series (HCS) will award $150,000 in prizes this weekend. The money will be split among the top eight teams competing on Halo 2: Anniversary, the recently released remake of the Xbox classic.
The finals feature squads qualified through earning points at previous HCS tournaments, namely HCS Indianapolis in June and Iron Games Atlanta in April. The team to beat is certainly Evil Geniuses, winner of both those tournaments, who will seek to defend their HCS Season 1 title this weekend in Burbank, California at the ESL Studio this weekend.
Evil Geniuses has lorded over the Halo scene this year, winning the past four HCS live events and placing in the top three at all six of them. The team features the veteran duo of twin brothers Jason “Lunchbox” Brown and Justin “Roy” Brown, who have combined to win six Major League Gaming (MLG) Halo tournaments since breaking onto the scene in 2011. This year is likely their most dominant yet, as they’ve combined with Eric “Snip3down” Wrona and Tony “Lethul” Campbell Jr. to dominate the scene.
But that doesn’t mean they’re unbeatable.
They’ve already been challenged by a couple teams during their championship runs, and there are plenty of legendary Halo talent and up-and-coming young guns to give them a scare this weekend.
At Indianapolis last month, Denial took Evil Geniuses to five games in the upper bracket finals. Then Counter Logic Gaming dented them in the grand final. In April, Denial came even closer to knocking Evil Geniuses off at Iron Games, winning a best-of-five series in the grand final before falling in the second set.
Denial features its own veterans, such as Richie Heinz and Kyle “Chig” Lawson. Heinz joined up with the team at the end of Season 1, leaving behind Counter Logic, and has helped Denial secure the second seed heading into this season’s final.
Counter Logic is headlined by Halo’s greatest players and one of the most prolific esports champions in history, Tom “OGRE2” Ryan. While the 28-year-old Ryan may not be as dominant as he was earlier in his career, he’s won over 20 major tournaments over his decade-plus in Halo and he certainly hasn’t forgot how to win, especially when surrounded by talented young players like Matthew “Royal2” Fiorante.
But they’re hardly the only contenders. While Denial and Counter Logic have come closest to toppling Evil Geniuses off their throne, plenty of other teams have a shot.
The list of teams in Burbank this weekend reads like a who’s-who list of the top esports organizations in America, including franchises born from the thriving League of Legends and Call of Duty competitive scenes. Evil Geniuses, Denial, and OpTic Gaming will face off with Counter Logic Gaming, Cloud9, Team Liquid, and Winterfox in what promises to be an exciting event.
Star players like Roy and Lunchbox will grapple with legends like Ryan, Michael “Flamesword” Chavez of OpTic Gaming, Brett “Naded” Leonard of Winterfox, and four veterans on Cloud9 like Justin “FearItSelf” Kats and Justin “iGotUrPistola” Deese. Evil Geniuses may be the heavy favorite, nearly doubling the HCS points earned by the second seed Denial over the course of the season, but they’ve got their work cut out for them.
The Halo scene may not be the console esport powerhouse it was in the latter part of the last decade, but it’s making a big comeback with events like this one.
Things will get heated quickly—Evil Geniuses opens the event against eXcellence Gaming and then Cloud9 and Counter Logic Gaming will battle in a rematch from the bracket stage of Indianapolis. Cloud9 took that series 3-1, but the CLG rallied to reach the finals in Indianapolis.