HCS Raleigh - Who are the European Pool Play teams?

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European Halo despite being an official part of the Halo Champion Series since 2015 remains a mystery to most North American Halo fans. With Raleigh coming up these four teams are set to compete in both Pool Play and the Championship Bracket. Let's take a brief look into their past accomplishments and expectations at the event.

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Cartel

(36,000 Pro Points)

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They are international Halo’s best team and a name most fans are probably familiar with already. Cartel has won every European qualifier and they haven’t lost a single series so far during this HCS season but yet they remain without an organization.

The French core of Kaci "Lqgend" Sabri, Shady "Shaady" Zer, and Renan "Sica" Grall have dominated the European region for over a year leading up to Halo Infinite’s release. During that period Cartel won 17 out of 18 Halo 5 Pro Series tournaments and the team featured both Norwen "SLG" Le Galloudec and James "Jimbo" Bradbrook.

Before the 2021-2022 HCS season Michael "Snipedrone" Juchau was chosen as the team's current fourth player and they haven’t lost a step heading into Raleigh. He was a smart choice when you consider his resume on North American soil, where he boasts an average placing of 8.33 across 9 events attended. His performance against his European peers has been impressive as well, to say the least, where he’s regarded as one of the best ever. From 2013-2016 he won 8 LANs in 12 attempts, with a handful of Top 3 placements mixed in. North American fans often refer to him as a “knock-off Snip3down” but given his success and slaying ability, he’s paved his own legacy in Halo esports history.

At only 18 years old Lqgend is on the best Halo team in Europe. When facing exclusively European competition in 4v4 he’s been undefeated, boasting 20 straight wins across Halo 5 and now Halo Infinite. He’s never played on LAN at a major tournament but I don’t think that will be an issue for Lqgend, he has an incredible cast of teammates he can lean on. Already a top-tier slayer, it’s going to be interesting to see how his game develops and matures over time. A Top 8 placement on North American soil would be an incredible start to his already impressive career.

Since 2016 Shaady has quietly been one of Europe's best online Halo players, while being a consistent Top 4 player on Xbox live he has yet managed to crack the Top 4 on LAN in four separate attempts. Given how dominant Cartel has been over the past year I think we should see that trend broken at the upcoming European major, HCS Valencia 2022. A founding member of Cartel, He’s never been on a better team going into a LAN, and he’s going to leverage what little North American LAN experience he does have to get the job done.

A player who didn't see much success early on in his Halo 5 career, Sica is now in the driver's seat with an entire year of HCS competition ahead of him. He didn’t make the Pro League until 2017, where his team finished last and failed to qualify for the fall portion of the season. Sica struggled to find his footing until he reunited with Shaady in the middle of 2018. The two bounced around the top 4 of EU halo with a revolving cast of teammates until they formed Cartel in August 2020 with Lqgend. Since that point, all they’ve done is win and there’s no real reason anyone expects that to change in the near future.

OEX

(21,600 Pro Points)

OEX is Europe's second-best Halo team but they’re almost an afterthought at this point. With tons of international experience and slaying ability, this roster shouldn’t be chalked up as a free win for any North American Halo team.

Together Norwen "SLG" Le Galloudec and Sonny "Fragxr" Marchaland have been a force in European Halo since 2016. They’ve attended two Halo World Championships as teammates and they’re back with their eyes set on a third HWC appearance at the end of this HCS season.

During Halo 5 it seemed like every time SLG had a sniper in his hands and was on stream, he made an incredible montage quality play, and for that reason, he was a fan favorite amongst North American Halo fans. Not just a flashy one-trick pony, SLG has proven himself as a top player in Europe's Halo division with frequent Championship Sunday appearances.

This all-French roster has undeniable chemistry, they’ve reached the Grand Finals of every European qualifier, and earned themselves a free trip to America and a guaranteed spot in the Championship Bracket. With that said it hasn’t been a smooth ride to get there. When matched with Cartel they have managed to take games and make it a competitive series each time, but have yet to win a series against them. Navi has been a constant threat despite being unable to best OEX, the two teams have dueled to a pair of three-game series and even a game five in the losers bracket of the EU Kickoff Qualifier.

Much of their success is owed to the elevated play of Sébastien "TchiK" Darriet and Paul "Nurix" Villemont. Their history includes reaching the 2017 Summer Pro League through the Last Chance Qualifier. Nurix also has experience in North America, he competed at HCS Denver 2017 with his current teammates SLG and Fragxr. They placed top 12 after losing a close five-game series to Str8 Rippin, the eventual 4th place finishers overall.

Despite a strong showing so far their futures are still uncertain, can they eventually beat Cartel? And can they maintain their position when Navi inevitably returns to form? A strong performance at Raleigh will do a lot to boost their confidence and the extra experience against North American talent will be invaluable if they hope to make a run at HWC 2022.

Navi

(14,880 Pro Points)

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Europe's only HCS partnered organization, Navi has underperformed when you take into account the huge names on this roster. They seem to have no answer for OEX, a team they’ve lost five series to during the qualifier tournaments, and they also lost a series to HMDA.

Their performance so far has left the community stunned and wondering if Natus Vincere made the wrong choice selecting this roster, but given this team's past success they were the closest thing to a sure bet in EU Halo. When you talk about the all-time best in European Halo history, you have to include every single one of these players.

Despite their struggles, they have no shortage of accomplishments, James "Jimbo" Bradbrook and Perry "tuf0xy" Kenyon have qualified for all three Halo World Championships, while Brandon "Respectful" Stones and Robert "Kimbo" Earl El-Zein Faulk have two worlds appearances under their belts. The trio of Jimbo, Kimbo, and Respectful dominated the region from 2016-2018, and their 6th place finish at HCS Denver 2017 is the record for highest European placing at a North American event. Enough said right? If there was an international roster that was expected to make some noise at HCS Raleigh it was this team.

Anything short of winning isn’t acceptable for Navi and they have their eyes set on regaining their spot as the number one team in Europe. All that starts with a good showing on LAN and given this team's experience and pedigree any North American team would be foolish to take them lightly.

HMDA

(13,920 Pro Points)

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Most North American fans probably don’t have this roster on their radar but European followers of the esport already know what they’re capable of.

Max "Riotz" Cottle has been one of EU’s best players for over a decade, from 2010-2016 he had a dominant stretch of 9 wins and 7 second-place finishes in 21 attempts. He’s attended both Halo 3 and Halo Reach tournaments during the MLG era and he’s reached two Halo World Championships. If European Halo had its own top 25 list he would easily be within the top 5 or 10 best of all time.

When you talk about veteran European halo players you have to mention Andrew "Ramirez" Corrigan. His resume of ten-plus years speaks for itself, he’s won the region, he’s reached every Halo World Championship, and he even placed a respectable top 16 at MLG Providence in 2011 with his current teammate Riotz. The duo of Riotz and Ramirez have been teammates multiple times in their careers and it’s easy to see why when you look at the results.

One of Europe's best Halo 5 players, Hamzah "Phlux" Nackvi is ready to carry that momentum over to Halo Infinite. He’s finished as high as second best in the EU region at the 2016 Pro League Finals, he's competed at the Halo World Championships, and he has multiple Top 12 placings on NA soil. A former teammate of both Riotz and Ramirez, this team has years of experience you can’t pack into a one-month pre-event window.

I admittedly don’t know much about Clonely and he hasn’t shown much during the opportunities he’s had on broadcast but given his spot on a premier European roster he’s probably eager to prove himself.

During the HCS Raleigh Qualifiers, they won one series in four attempts against Navi and they failed to take a single game against Cartel or OEX. This team has a lot of potential going forward in the current HCS season but so far has failed to realize that in tournament play. This team will need to step up their gameplay if they want to impress potential organizations looking to enter the scene.