Who has the most to prove at HCS Raleigh?

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Kansas City Pioneers

DRUK84, SoulSnipe, Manny, and Taulek. Have you heard of these players before?

Well after HCS Raleigh these guys could very well become household names.

They’ve been fringe Top 8 players since 2018 but they put the scene on notice after beating top teams such as Sentinels, eUnited, SSG, and Cloud9.

These players are no longer underdogs. When they face the best teams in Halo, they expect to win and they need to carry that mindset into HCS Raleigh. This is going to be one of the biggest tournaments in Halo esports history, do they have the composure to maintain their online performance in front of record-breaking viewership?

A good placement this weekend would firmly cement them as bonafide professionals, but failing to show up and perform would do just the opposite. This team has a lot on the line this weekend and they’ll need to play up to their potential if they want to win some hearts and minds.

OpTic Gaming

Early on in the HCS season, OpTic Gaming looked like the best Halo team in the world, but since then that status has come into question.

Despite winning the first two qualifiers, OpTic stumbled in the final and most important Raleigh Qualifier against Sentinels, losing back-to-back series in the tournament’s grand finals.

A week later they followed that up with another back-to-back series loss in the Esports Arena 25K grand finals, where they once again faced Sentinels. That very same day Royal 2 was suspended and OpTic Gaming once again became a favorite to win Raleigh.

Sentinels might be without one of their most important players but the pressure is really on OpTic. A loss to a Sentinels roster without Royal 2 would be an especially bad look and given Sentinels' loss of seed, it’s possible the two teams could face early on in the Championship Bracket.

Not to mention they still also have to contend with very capable Cloud9 and Kansas City Pioneer squads. Are they still the best team in North America? Do they need a roster change? Anything less than a trophy at Raleigh will be a disappointment for this team’s fanbase and will only lead to further questions about their ceiling.

Spacestation gaming

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SSG has seen a lot of instability so far this season. The team fielded three different rosters over three weeks and has had mixed results. When FormaL was around they were a Top 6 team, without him their best finish was 9th-12th place.

With a week to go until the event, they had Formal on the team and were expected to do well. All that changed on Monday when Royal 2 was suspended and left Sentinels needing a replacement. Sentinels quickly claimed Formal and now a victim of circumstance, Spacestation Gaming needed a replacement of their own.

As a result, they decided to pick up the player they originally had in mind as their fourth, Tusk. A competent player online with a handful of LAN events under his belt he was a solid choice. On LAN he’s performed well with two Top 6 placings at high-profile DreamHack events in 2019. While Ace has the 2nd most Halo LAN appearances ever with 70 events, the rest of his teammates lack similar experience. Tylenul and Deciting have never attended a major LAN.

Expectations were previously high for this roster given their star power but now HCS fans are wondering if this HCS partnered organization will even place in the Top 8.

Penguin

Everyone talks about Naded and how he never was able to seal the deal during his career, but very few people mention Penguin in the same breath.

He’s on an incredible Cloud9 roster, with 3 Halo World Champions, and he’s in the mix to reach another grand finals.

However, he’s been unable to capitalize on his 5 trips to the grand finals and if that trend continues at Raleigh he will be tied with Naded at 0-6 all time.

He’s a top-tier talent, and no one questions his work ethic or skill, but his lack of tournament wins is worth mentioning. Lifting the trophy on Champion Sunday would close the door on that discussion entirely

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HCS era Grand Finals appearances since September 2014

G2 Esports

Signing with a tier 1 esports organization comes with a lot of expectations and unfortunately, the narrative for G2 has been, “Can they hang with the premier teams in Halo esports?”

So far during the Raleigh qualifiers, they’ve only beat KCP, and traded series vs G1. They haven’t won a game against Sentinels, Cloud9, OpTic Gaming, eUnited, or Inconceivable.

Gilkey and Str8 Sick are fan favorites, but they are in danger of being passed up by more non partnered teams if G2 doesn’t quickly turn it around.

Cartel

Lqgend, Shaady, Sica, and Snipedrone are a dominant force in European Halo but most fans don’t consider them a Top 10 team worldwide.

A highly decorated squad, with multiple Halo World Championship appearances, they have all the competitive experience needed to make some noise this weekend at Raleigh. Snipedrone for instance has attended 10 LANs in North America and has a Top 8 average placing, better than many of his NA peers on HCS partnered teams.

With all that said they won't get respect from some North American fans until they prove their worth against North America's best.

Frosty

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With Lucid’s emergence from a good pro to someone who people consider the number one player overall, Frosty has become somewhat of an afterthought, despite being the actual reigning Halo 5 MVP. The two might not admit it but a rivalry has developed, and Frosty fully intends in coming out on top.

We all know Frosty’s priority is winning the entire event, a tough task given Royal 2's absence. Nevertheless, if he’s also able to re-establish himself as the best player in the game with some flashy snipes and creative teabagging, he would consider that a successful business trip.