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This weekend the top North American Halo teams will battle at the HCS Pro League Fall Finals

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Doug Cortez
Contributing Editor
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For three months the best teams in North America have clashed in the HCS Pro League Fall 2016 Season. The top four teams in the standings are headed to a double-elimination tournament on December 10-11 at the ESL studios in Burbank, California to compete for their share of a $150,000 prize pool. Team EnVyUs, OpTic Gaming, Team Liquid, and Str8 Rippin have withstood the gauntlet of the Fall 2016 Season and will fly into California each with something to prove. A LAN environment often produces different results from an online setting, so here is everything you need to know as we head into the NA HCS Fall 2016 Finals.

Team EnVyUs

After a third place finish at the Summer Finals, Team EnVyUs decided a roster change was the only way to improve their play. nV’s ultimate goal was to dethrone the juggernaut roster of what we now know as OpTic Gaming. The talented duo of Pistola and Mikwen acquired rookie phenom Cuyler “Huke” Garland and, one of the most winningest Halo players since the Halo 3 era, Eric “Snip3down” Wrona.

The Team EnVyUs roster has done what they set out to do, at least as far as the regular season goes. nV defeated OpTic in both of their regular season meetings by a series score of 3-2 and 3-0. In fact, their only loss of the Pro League season came in Week 1 against another Fall Finals participant, Team Liquid. nV brings a 13-1 overall record into Burbank where they look to finish what they started—taking out OpTic Gaming. To do so, they have to get through the hot-handed Str8 Rippin first. nV have a 2-0 record against Str8 Rippin.

OpTic Gaming

Although their record may suggest otherwise, OpTic Gaming are considered by many to still be the best team attending the tournament. The roster of Royal 2, Frosty, Snakebite, and Lethul has established itself historically as the best to play Halo 5 and will not relinquish that title easily. This OpTic roster has not finished outside of first place at a LAN since their debut at the X Games in Aspen earlier this January, including a 4-0 sweep of Team EnVyUs in the grand finals at HCS Orange County.

Royal 2 is the man to watch as he leads the way in the slaying department for this 11-3 OpTic roster. They have a 2-0 record against both Str8 Rippin and the first obstacle they will have to overcome if they want to claim another LAN win, Team Liquid. OpTic Gaming have shown time and time again that they are not a force to be reckoned with when it comes to LAN, and with the regular season standings suggesting that the gap between the top teams may be closing, The Green Wall will be looking to make a statement in Burbank.

Team Liquid

From Relegation to Fall Finals, Team Liquid will have attended both Pro League finals tournaments for two very different reasons. Last season Team Liquid swept through the relegation bracket to protect their Pro League spot and this season, they are competing for both cash and glory. One of the contributing factors is the rebuilding of the roster around one of the more talented and promise-filled players in the league, Tyler “Spartan” Ganza.

Spartan, joined by Commonly, Rayne, and Penguin, have put together an impressive season that led to a 7-7 record, including a 3-0 sweep of Team EnVyUs in Week 1, and a 3rd place finish in the standings. Moreover, Team Liquid managed to take a series against all but two teams this season. Unfortunately for them, the two teams they were unable to best are OpTic Gaming and Str8 Rippin, both attendees of the Finals. Count on their head coach Kory “Symbolic” Arruda and analyst Tyler “TiberiusAudley” Hicks to review film of their Week 1 win against Team EnVyUs as they look to stage another upset in the first round of the tournament.

Str8 Rippin

From OpTic Gaming, to LOL, and now Str8 Rippin, this team caught fire at just the right time. After an underwhelming 0-4 start to the season, the roster once known as LOL managed to claw their way to a 3-7 record before getting picked up by Str8 Rippin. Since being acquired, Str8 are 3-0 and pulled off a Cinderella-esque late season run to go from the bottom of the standings to stealing an invitation to the Fall Finals from Luminosity after Luminosity went 1-3 in their last four matches of the season.

Maybe it is due to the confidence that comes from donning the Str8 Rippin logo, or something internal the team figured out that has led to their recent successes. Whatever it is, Str8 Rippin carry a dangerously hot hand as they head into the finals. Furthermore, Str8 have a 2-0 record against Team Liquid, the team they will theoretically face in the losers bracket if the top seeds win out in the first round.

If you won’t be making it out to Burbank you can watch the show live from home. Tune into twitch.tv/halo and stay close to ESL Halo on Twitter and Facebook for all HCS Pro League news and updates!