Over the weekend, fans were treated to some of the greatest competitive Halo ever at the Halo World Championship 2016 in Hollywood, CA. With a $2.5 million prize pool and the title of Halo World Champions on the line, it was a tournament filled with incredible plays, epic comebacks and heartbreaking losses. In the end, it was Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) who proved to be the best Halo team in the world and was crowned Champion, taking home $1 million – the biggest individual prize pool in console esports history! Let’s take a look at how they got there.
Group Play – Day One
In day one of the Halo World Championship 2016, teams took to the stage and began a group play series where the top two squads move on to compete in the championship bracket, while the bottom two are relegated to 9th-16th place.
The story of the day would be in group B, where North American squads Evil Geniuses and Renegades faced off against one another. Widely regarded as one of the top teams in competitive Halo, Evil Geniuses was shocked to discover a disciplined Renegades squad, who had a reputation of letting their emotions get the better them. Defying all expectations, Renegades played with razor-sharp focus and took Evil Geniuses to a game five, eventually delivering the upset and taking the victory. One player stood above the rest – Cameron “Victory X” Thorlakson, a veteran player since “Halo 2,” debuted some of his finest Halo ever with a confident, aggressive playstyle.
The UK’s Epsilon eSports was another standout squad on day one. Featuring twins Alex “BUK 20” Buck and Will “BUK 57” Buck, James “Jimbo” Bradbrook and Mike “Snipedrone” Juchau, Epsilon eSports was considered to be one of the few squads capable of upsetting the traditionally stronger North American teams. They did just that, taking out a recently acquired Cloud9 squad in a convincing 3-1 fashion and even took a game off heavy favorites CLG.
Finally, a revitalized Team Liquid came out and upset the top seeded Team Allegiance. Led by Halo 4 Global Champion Aaron “ACE” Elam, expectations were low after the team performed poorly at X Games Aspen and the North American Regionals. Allegiance kept the series close but the squad, led by 10-year veteran Brett “Naded” Leonard, would fall short against a more polished Team Liquid.
Group and Bracket Play – Day Two
Day two of the Halo World Championship 2016 would see the top eight teams at the tournament move on from group play to bracket play and compete for a spot in the Finals. With an already guaranteed $75,000 for each team in the quarterfinals, several highly anticipated matchups ended up playing out early, including a face-off of whom many expected to see in the finals: CLG vs. Evil Geniuses. Other stand-out bracket matches included a re-match of X Games Aspen Bronze in Renegades vs. Team Allegiance and veterans Team Liquid vs. young-guns Denial eSports. Of note, Epsilon eSports would represent the first team outside of North America to ever break into a top 8 position in Halo esports history.
For Team Allegiance, their path would prove to be the most difficult one as Naded and company were met with an incredibly fired-up Renegades. Led by Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, Renegades would destroy Allegiance in their first match, somehow delivering a 100-0 Strongholds victory on Empire. Game two followed in similar suit, with Renegades easily outslaying Allegiance 50-35. With their dreams of winning the Halo World Championship on the line, Allegiance somehow managed to comeback and capture two flags in a row for game three on Coliseum, and then proceeded to actually reverse-sweep Renegades by winning every single game afterward. Allegiance would face a similarly spirited Elevate, who pushed the squad to another game five before falling, and Allegiance made it to the finals.
Meanwhile, the quarterfinals match between Team Liquid and Denial eSports was an incredibly close one, as both squads showed resilience and skill in their five game series. Team Liquid took game one in a convincing 100-78 victory, but Denial eSports hit back hard and dominated game two in a 50-27 victory. Both teams teams ended up tying for game three, with Denial winning the rematch, but Team Liquid stayed in the race by following up with a game four victory. It went to a final fifth game, and the younger Denial eSports ended up taking out the veteran Team Liquid squad.
While other bracket matches were close, Evil Geniuses and CLG wasn’t. Evil Geniuses failed to take even a single game against a CLG squad that showed no weaknesses, and was swept out of the bracket along with their hopes of winning the tournament. CLG later met an aggressive Denial eSports, losing two Team Slayer matches by a small margin, but absolutely dominated objective play. With two victories under its belt, CLG also made it to the finals to meet Allegiance.
The Grand Finals – Counter Logic Gaming vs. Team Allegiance
With Allegiance facing off against an incredibly strong CLG, many wondered whether the Cinderella-story of Naded getting his first victory at a major tournament, let alone the biggest Halo tournament of all time, would come to fruition.
Game one would play out in CTF on Coliseum, where both squads played neck and neck in a tightly contested match. CLG and Allegiance were able to capture one flag from one another, but neither team was able to create a lead and ended up tying the match to force a redo. Unfortunately, this rematch marked the end for Allegiance, who were unable to generate momentum against CLG across four games – a complete sweep for CLG.
With four wins and zero losses in the finals, CLG was crowned Halo World Champions and received $1 million in prize money. As a fantastic gesture by the Halo community, Naded won the Most Valuable Player award, only eligible for pros competing during the Finals.
The Future of Halo esports
When asked whether Counter Logic Gaming was ever nervous during the Halo World Championship, Paul “Snakebite” Duarte stated a simple “no.” It’s clear that Counter Logic Gaming is the best squad in competitive Halo right now, validating Lethul’s decision from earlier this year. However, as announced during the Halo World Championship Finals, the road to Halo esports continues onward as 343 Industries officially announced the Halo Championship Series: Pro League, where pro players can test their mettle until the next Halo World Championship. Also revealed was the first sneak peek at Warzone Firefight, a brand new cooperative experience coming to Halo 5: Guardians in summer 2016.
With one Halo World Championship behind us and the HCS Pro League ahead of us, it’s never been a better time to be a fan of Halo esports. Stay tuned to Halo.gg, follow the official Halo and HCS Twitter handles and stay tuned to Xbox Wire for more news in the future.