Team EnVyUs might've finished second at the Halo World Championships 2017 in Burbank, California, but their road was anything but smooth.
The perennial Top 3 team lost its first match of the tournament against Splyce and was sent to the losers bracket on Day 2 against Team Liquid. The one consistent positive for the team? First-time world championship qualifier, Austin "Mikwen" McCleary.
He was the team's best shooter and finisher -- he was the team's brightest star. If EnVyUs needed a trade or a clutch, it was Mikwen that rose to the occasion. In the end, EnVyUs went from the bottom of the losers bracket to the grand finals and a large portion of the credit went to Mikwen's unshakable resolve.
"I didn't feel the nerves this weekend because I was so focused on what needed to be done," Mikwen said. "You would think the team would be shaken or scared, but we were all calm, cool and collected."
EnVyUs compiled an incredible 16-5 record en route to a matchup against OpTic Gaming in the grand finals and was easily one of the most compelling stories during the event. For a team that expected to be in the Top 3, the long and painful journey was unexpected.
"We were frustrated after the Splyce series because we made the road harder. But we couldn't be upset about that. We had to just play the hand we dealt ourselves," he added. "After our loss against Team Liquid after Day 2, I told the team that we had three matches tomorrow and if we 4-0 everyone, it's less than our usual scrimmages. There's no reason we shouldn't make a run. It was the motivation that we needed and it was a new perspective that made the run a little less difficult. We didn't win, but I'm still proud of what we pulled off."
The team's biggest moment was arguably its 4-2 victory against Team Liquid. TL won the last four meetings between the two teams and lived up to every bit of the "god killer" moniker. It was a tough task to overcome a matchup that was already played during the tournament, but EnVyUs adjusted and pulled it off. Mikwen stated that the team used the buddy system to counter the all-in attack and speed of Team Liquid and corrected the mistakes that originally caught the team off guard in previous meetings.
It was OpTic Gaming that continued to befuddle both Mikwen and EnVyUs.
"Game 1 was in our hands, but I had a tragic stick on Eric 'Snip3down' Wrona when he pulled the flag and we had just killed three. We would have won the game at that point, but they had a great retake afterward. Game 2 was also in our hands, but we got out-rotated at the end and they clutched it out. Game 3, they got us in a three camp/split spawn rotation and it threw us off guard and we couldn't recover. Truth flag is our weakest game type for the last three months. We were even in slays, but it's back to the drawing board to either mimic the play or counter it," Mikwen said. "You can't go toe-to-toe with OpTic Gaming because you'll lose. We lost the power weapons, power-ups and the map advantage. We tried to do too much too quickly."