For as long as there’s been Halo, North America has dominated.
There’s many understandable reasons why. LAN cafes and PC Bangs never took off in America in the aughts – the platform of choice was consoles. They were cheaper than PCs, and Halo locals turned into nationwide competitions quickly with the wide player base. Halo revolutionized shooter gameplay on console, and back in the day, it was the game of choice for any competitive minded-player in America.
If you weren’t from the USA, your path is much more difficult in Halo. There have been solid European teams over the years. Arguably, none of them have had a better shot at cracking the North American hegemony than Acend does at Kansas City.
For what it’s worth, Acend are undefeated in Europe – by far and away the best team in their region. It’s not just that they’ve been winning, it’s with who – their roster is still young in the grand scheme of Halo esports’ lifecycle.
Nathan "KronosZer" Theodore, Acend’s newly-minted head coach, is confident heading into the event. When asked about the teams’ strengths heading into the event, he said, “Our aggressive play style and our capacity to collapse on something together,” in addition to the Strongholds game type.
For most of the Acend roster, the HCS Kickoff Raleigh Major was the first time they ever played on LAN against American teams – something Kronos cites as a learning experience, even though he only joined in mid-March.
Technically, Europe’s most successful team is Team Infused, which would later form the Natus Vincere core. They played top-six at the 2017 HCS Pro League Finals – the best placing ever for a European team. NAVI placed top-eight at Raleigh – Acend top-12 – but the purple-clad team has been the better team online, multiple times over now. While the tournament has yet to begin, Acend’s results in scrimmages against NA teams can convince the wary of their potential.
By no means are Acend a favorite, but they’re no slouch either. They beat poolmates XSET at the last Major, peeling a map off Cloud9 in the process, and decisively beat G2 in the playoffs once getting their bearings.
If you’re looking for a dark horse, a team that can punch well above their weight, it’s time to consider Acend. They have the regional results, the scrimmages are looking solid, and they’re in a familiar pool from the last Major.
NAVI have the historical power, sure, but if Acend or another team can equal their placings, Kronos thinks that Halo can expand in Europe. “We need at least 2 teams that can have the caliber of top 6 NA teams,” he said, “then we will be able to have better practice the whole year and make the region grow at the same time.”
Acend, and NAVI by extension, are in for the long haul. A high placing here isn’t just a win for the team, it’s a win for the region, who is on the outside looking in when it comes to Halo.
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