CLG’s current Halo run and the effect of dominance on a professional scene

The Season 1 Halo Championship Series Pro League Finals have come and gone, and though it was supposed to be a climactic finish to a first season of play, the tournament ended up being a contest for second place. Counter Logic Gaming lost its first two games but dominated the rest of the weekend, not dropping another match en route to claiming the Season 1 crown. It was a predictable finish, with CLG holding the top spot all season long. But the way CLG won the finals has entered that team into the discussion as one of the greatest Halo rosters of all time.

With a league format this season instead of a traditional tournament circuit, there were fewer LAN events in which CLG could prove itself and gain the tournament wins fans deem necessary in crowning esports dynasties. But CLG lost just one series in the regular season and during the finals looked undefeatable — and drew comparisons to the the most prolific squad of all time, the 2007 Final Boss roster. Although CLG did lose two games at the event, victory was never in doubt, and it has created a unique environment for the professional Halo scene.

There have been other teams that looked unbeatable, such as Final Boss in 2007 or Evil Geniuses throughout Halo 2 Anniversary. In each of those instances, however, the team had peaked right at the moment the title changed and the scene moved onto the next version of Halo. That allowed for an injection of competitive drive, as nobody had it all figured out anymore and there was no clear king. This version of CLG is different because its domination of Halo 5 has been total, finishing second at its first event together and dominating the next four tournaments. And there is no incoming shock to the ecosystem that looks to make dethroning them any easier.

The position CLG finds itself in is unique, and it has left other teams scratching their heads looking for ways to beat them. And it has all led to something the professional Halo world has never seen before. Although nothing is yet confirmed, every single team looks to be making roster changes in hopes of creating a lineup with a better chance at dethroning the champs. With all of the league’s remaining best players looking to join forces and create potential “super-teams” to contest CLG, expect the tiers of teams competing in Pro League this season to be clearly defined.

Longtime fans of the series as a competitive title are no strangers to dominant teams that consistently appear in the finals, but the difference in play between CLG and any other professional team was staggering this season. With Theatre Mode allowing players to watch and breakdown the gameplay of other teams, CLG saw many of its opening strategies stolen over the course of the season. Still, it proved irrelevant as CLG continued to win games with ease and points to something about the roster that is truly unique.

It is rare in any competitive game to have the best team contain many of best individual players, but with CLG that is exactly the case. When those rosters do pop up, they can have issues managing egos and play styles. CLG has faced none of these problems. The team plays seamlessly as one unit, allowing its star-studded roster to blow away the competition. While the other teams may put together rosters that have comparable talent on paper, they will face the additional challenge of getting all of the players to work together and do the jobs that are needed to win, not the ones that give them the biggest spotlight. Even if super teams were to form, CLG would already have the built-in advantage of mastering that dynamic.

New rosters would also have to work tremendously hard to catch up to the level of synergy CLG has established, a task made even more difficult by CLG’s notoriously good work ethic. Being known as the squad that put in the most time this past season, other teams in the HCS Pro League will have to considerably step up their practice regimen — even if they improve their roster — if they hope to have a shot at winning the second season.

A team being dominant for so long can have tremendous impact on the game itself. Initially, prospective usurpers will try to emulate the strategies and play style of that team as much as possible. Then, as we might be seeing now, the other rosters will constantly be in flux as they search for the right recipe of players to contend for the No. 1 spot. It becomes difficult for spectators to truly become fans of other teams as they will be constantly changing lineups that are seemingly contending for second place. It is likely CLG’s presence has motivated many teams to work harder in order to try and compete this season, but as previously outlined, that doesn’t guarantee them any more success.

The players on CLG have a tremendous opportunity. Everything they’ve accomplished already gives them their own chapter in Halo’s history, but unlike the previous dynasties, there is nothing to stop their reign from continuing. CLG now seems to hold the competitive legacy of Halo 5 in its grasp. The roster changes this offseason will either produce the modern day version of Team Carbon — which battled against Final Boss to prevent an uncontested reign — or we may yet witness the rise of the most dominant team in Halo history.

Cover photo by Carlton Beener/ESL,