Halo Infinite esports officially kicked off with two open cups last month as thousands of the best Halo players worldwide all competed for the prize money and HCS Points.
Focusing first on North America, here are the biggest stories of the competitions:
Back-to-Back for OpTic
While it’s still opening days, there is no doubt that OpTic Gaming made a statement with victories in both of the open cups.
While the team did suffer an early 0-2 loss against Cloud9 during the first open cup, OpTic went on to win seven straight lower-bracket games which included games against SSG, G2, eU, Pioneers, and Sentinels without dropping a single map to make it into the grand final.
From here they participated in a thrilling rematch against Cloud9 as an OpTic-favored 3-2 scoreline took the game into a bracket reset. The first match culminated in a clutch 50-49 OpTic Slayer win and the second series featured a 50-45 Slayer win and two 2-1 Oddball victories. It was the perfect match to end Infinite’s first North American tournament.
The following week it took until the upper-bracket final for OpTic to run into Cloud9 which they took in a 2-0 scoreline. Compared to their first meeting, the 3-1 grand final scoreline was anticlimactic, but it cemented OpTic as an early favorite for the Raleigh Major.
Sentinels Just Needed Some Scrims
Coming off their Halo 5 dynasty, Sentinels were undoubtedly the team to beat in the leadup to Raleigh but then somewhat fell flat once the game actually released.
A third and joint-ninth place finish, the latter of which came against eUnited, was not the performance anyone expected. The team largely chalked up to their lack of scrims as their fellow rivals had been avoiding meeting them in custom game practices:
Since the end of November this changed with Sentinels now able to get some scrims allowing them to improve their game:
Just two days later after getting good practice against OpTic, Sentinels jumped from joint-ninth place exit to perform a lower bracket run which ended with a 3-2, 3-1 bracket reset grand final victory. This is the Sentinels everyone was expecting and all it took was a few days worth of pro-tier practice.
Cloud9 beginning Infinite strong
While two defeats in the open cup grand finals were certainly a letdown from Cloud9, they still reached two grand finals and were a single kill from winning the opening cup. Their joint-fifth place exit which followed this during the NA Major qualifier was a major shock but by this point they had already qualified for the Major via HCS Points. It’s unclear how much stock we can put into that loss, given they didn’t have all too much to play for.
For Cloud9 going into Raleigh, beating OpTic will likely be a primary goal after they took them down in thrilling fashion during the two cups. Across these two cups, OpTic was also one of only two teams that were able to take any maps from C9 (Pioneers being the other) with OG winning 11 out of 18 played.
Pioneers, the surprise
While the trio of OpTic, Sentinels, and Cloud9 have dominated the limelight over the last few weeks and partnered teams such as eU and G2 have been able to pull off some upsets, it is the Kansas City Pioneers that are probably the biggest dark horse coming into Raleigh.
With a fourth, third, and seventh-place finish, Pioneers have already beaten the likes of SSG, Sentinels, eUnited, and took a map away from Cloud9. They are also one of only six rosters to finish top eight in all three tournaments, an accolade that Sentinels don’t even hold.
Pioneers are not one of the odds-on favorites for Raleigh, however, their potential to cause an upset against one of the bigger teams is growing, and they’ll probably go home from North Carolina with a very big bag of cash and the scalp of a few teams that underestimate their potential.
Elsewhere Around the World
As well as in North America, similar but smaller tournaments also took place in Europe, Mexico, and Australia & New Zealand.
Starting in Europe, the focus came on the British NAVI roster as the only non-American roster playing for an HCS partnered organization. With this expectation to perform behind them, the team fell short finishing the two cups down in third and fourth place before finishing third in the Raleigh qualifier. This was just enough to qualify for the Pool Play portion of the bracket alongside their fellow T1 orgs.
Across all three of these tournaments, it was the French lineup “Cartel”' that went on to win it making them the non-NA roster to watch at the Major. This roster reportedly turned down talks with the organization Fnatic over the last week showing that they are being noticed by big names globally.
Moving over to Mexico it was a somewhat similar story there with the Pittsburgh Knights roster winning all three tournaments in the region. Unlike Cartel, however, they did so without losing a single map across all three. They are simply untouchable in Mexico.
Finally, Oceania had NutriBullet win all three tournaments also making them the lone competitors from the Oceanic region. After a rough few years for Australian esports, this means there’s a fair amount riding on the Aussie’s shoulders. Nutribullet was picked up by Chiefs ESC before Raleigh.
That’s what’s happened so far and be sure to keep an eye out here at ForerunnerGG for rundowns on all the competitive Halo to come!