The biggest Halo Championship Series (HCS) tournament since the Raleigh Kickoff Major takes place this weekend, Feb. 11-13. The HCS Anaheim North American Regionals will feature 16 of the best NA teams. Eight of the teams qualified by being among the top eight NA teams in Raleigh, and another eight made it through an open qualifier.
The tournament will take place on LAN in Anaheim without fans in attendance due to COVID precautions. In addition to a $125,000 prize pool, the top few teams (343 and the HCS have not revealed how many as of the date of publication) will qualify for the Kansas City Major in April-May. Competition this weekend will consist of pool play followed by a double elimination bracket. To get you ready for HCS Anaheim, here’s a breakdown of each of the 16 teams competing.
Cloud9 have been the undisputed best Halo team since the relaunch of the Halo Championship Series. They won the first big tournament: the HCS Kickoff Major in Raleigh and followed that up with wins in all four of the NA Pro Series tournaments. With a roster of Kevin "Eco" Smith, Zane "Penguin" Hearon, Jonathan "Renegade" Willette and Braedon "StelluR" Boettcher that has been together since October 2020, this team looks like a juggernaut.
This team emerged during the Raleigh Major, surpassing expectations to finish second over more hyped teams such as OpTic Gaming and Sentinels. EUnited haven’t quite been as good throughout the Pro Series, finishing 5th-6th during three of the four Pro Series tournaments.
Photo credit: HCS
FaZe have been a top three team from Raleigh through the Pro Series. They finished third at Raleigh and third in three of the four Pro Series tournaments. They also picked up a second-place finish in Pro Series 1. If there’s a team that’s poised to take down Cloud9, it might be FaZe. Among the four players on their roster is Eric "Snip3down" Wrona, a legendary Halo player from the early days of Halo esports who recently came back to the scene after competing in Apex Legends.
Sentinels finished fourth at the Kickoff Major while playing with a last-minute substitute in Matthew "FormaL" Piper. The former COD pro also played with Sentinels throughout the Pro Series in place of Mathew "Royal2" Fiorante, who was temporarily banned from competing in the HCS due to cheating and network abuse allegations. Royal2 will be back with the team in Anaheim.
Spacestation have consistently finished 7th-8th from the Raleigh Major through all four Pro Series tournaments. Their biggest win was taking down OpTic Gaming in the lower bracket during the fourth Pro Series tournament. Their latest move was adding Flazin in place of Daniel "Tusk" Ruiz in early January.
Speaking of Tusk, he joined G2 Esports after leaving Spacestation. G2 is a primarily European-based org, but their Rocket League and Halo teams compete in North America. G2 finished 9th-12th at the Raleigh Major but improved throughout the Pro Series. Their best result was 5th-6th at Pro Series 3 where they beat OpTic Gaming.
Photo credit: HCS
OpTic looked like the best Halo team heading into Raleigh. They beat Cloud9 in two Open Series tournaments and finished second to Sentinels in the NA qualifier for Raleigh. Yet, they finished 5th-6th in Raleigh and haven’t picked up any first-place finishes in the Pro Series, finishing second twice to Cloud9. OpTic will be hungrier than ever to reclaim the top spot in the NA Halo esports scene heading into Anaheim.
The Pioneers round out the teams that qualified for HCS Anaheim via a top-eight finish among NA teams in Raleigh. They finished 5th-6th at the Kickoff Major and their best result since was fourth place in Pro Series 3. The Pioneers mounted an impressive lower bracket run in that tournament, beating ANGRY BIRDS, XSET, Sentinels and G2 before ultimately losing to OpTic.
North American Qualifier teams
Gamers First are a new esports org started late last year by former NFL player Kenny Vaccaro. They competed in two Pro Series tournaments, finished 9th-12th in both.
Complexity competed in the Open Series throughout January and qualified for three of the four Pro Series tournaments.
Photo credit: HCS
XSET have been one of the most successful Open Series teams. They reached three of the four Pro Series tournaments and picked up a fourth-place finish in Pro Series 3.
Oxygen qualified for all four Pro Series tournaments, and their best result was a 5th-6th finish in Pro Series 1.
Fnatic jumped into the Halo esports scene by signing the roster that competed under the Team WaR banner in Raleigh. This is the first time Fnatic has fielded a Halo team since 2011, and it’s the British org’s first time fielding a team in North America.
UYU are a formerly unsigned team known as Incognito. Their most notable player is Jason "Karmea" Morales, who competed with Gamers First in Pro Series 2.
Torrent consists of a couple of players who competed in the Pro Series as a team known as Unsigned Talent. The team now also includes former XSET player Oliver "FilthyG" Gerlach.
Esports Arena Red
Esports Arena Red's roster is a collection of players who recently came together in Pro Series 4. Their most notable players are Abel "Rammyy" Garcia, who competed in the HCS from 2016 to 2018, and Jorge "BoamX" Campos, who competed for The Guard in Raleigh before the org dropped their roster.
Lead photo credit: HCS