by Jason Waddell

With the third Pro Circuit stop of the 2011 Season only a week away, MLG will be breaking down each of the four Halo: Reach pools. Today, we start with Pool A, consisting of (1) Status Quo, (8) Quantic Fallen, (9) Victorious Secret and (16) RGC Impact.

(1) Status Quo (Flamesword, Ace, Enable, Assault)
Status Quo enter Anaheim's tournament with two decidedly diverse performances in the rear-view mirror. Following a heartbreaking 2nd Place finish at the 2010 National Championships, Status Quo topped the field at MLG's inaugural Halo: Reach competition in Dallas. The tournament victory was a well deserved reward for an off-season's worth of practice and team building, and proved that there's no better motivation than the sting of finishing 2nd at the biggest Event of their career thus far.

While Status Quo seemed well-suited to the role of underdog, entering a tournament as the top seed worked less in Status Quo's favor. As pre-tournament favorites to take Pool A in Columbus, Status Quo appeared unprepared as they opened the competition to a 3-0 match loss against 16th-seeded Capital Punishment. The top-seeded squad would go on to pick up an additional Pool Play loss against 8th-seeded Dynasty, putting Status Quo at a 2-2 pool play record. After defeating all comers in Dallas, Status Quo managed to only take 3rd in their pool, and ultimately placed 7th at the Event.

Although some might view Status Quo's early losses as a sign of overconfidence from the defending Champions, their Pool Play opponents both proved to be legitimate contenders. Dynasty and Capital Punishment eventually placed 3rd and 4th, respectively. Whatever your interpretation, it's clear that the bar has been raised since Dallas, as MLG squads master the ins and outs of Halo: Reach play.

So where does that leave Status Quo? For one, they remain one of the only squads to register the same roster for each of 2011's competitions, and will surely benefit from the chemistry they've developed. Despite the overall top seed, Status Quo can hardly be considered favorites to win Anaheim following the clinic that Instinct put on in Columbus. And maybe that's for the best, as Status Quo seem to relish the role of underdogs. After seeing their response to finishing 2nd, one can only imagine how motivated the team will be after finishing seventh.

(8) Quantic Fallen (formerly Swagger Like Us) (Arkanum, Royal2, Goofy, Brake)
Quantic Fallen’s 2011 season has thus far been an effort to find the right mix of players to challenge the upper ranks of the Pro Circuit. The team placed 7th in Dallas with a roster consisting of Arkanum, Royal2, Thrust and Dersky. Soldier187 replaced Dersky for Columbus, where the team placed 9th, narrowly missing a Top 8 finish thanks to a loss to Capital Punishment. The lineup for Anaheim is a merger between two Top 8 caliber teams, as Arkanum and Royal2 from Quantic Fallen join up with Goofy and Brake from Soul, who placed 6th in Columbus.

The biggest challenge facing Quantic Fallen is to get a head start on the bracket competition by performing well in Pool Play. In both Dallas and Columbus, they finished third in their Pool with a 2-2 record. With any luck, the addition of Goofy and Brake from Soul could provide a needed boost in performance. Soul managed a 4-0 pool play record in Columbus, which earned the team a Top 6 finish despite losing each of their bracket matches. Back in Dallas, they nearly topped Status Quo in a close 5-game Pool Play match. If they pull off the victory this time around, they'll be well on their way to a Season-high finish.

(9) UoR Victorious Secret (Swiftkill, Calm, Reliable, Clutch)
If anyone knows the importance of bringing peak performances to each and every Pool Play game, it's Victorious Secret. In Columbus, the team finished a couple of headshots away from winning Pool D. In game 5 with the match on the line, Victorious Secret lost 50-48 in a frantic Warlock Slayer match against the aforementioned team, Soul. While you won't see “Soul” on the registration sheet, former members Goofy and Break will certainly have targets on their backs when Victorious Secret looks for revenge against Quantic Fallen.

Victorious Secret's Columbus performance really fell off the rails in Loser's Bracket Round 7, where the team was blown out in a short three-game series against Capital Punishment. Game scores? 5-0, 50-29, 3-0. Ouch.

The loss to Capital Punishment sent Victorious Secret to the 7th Place Consolation Bracket match, where they lost to Status Quo. Having lost to Soul and Status Quo in Columbus, Victorious Secret will need to step up their game if to have any hope of performing well in Anaheim's Pool A. An updated roster could do just that, as Victorious Secret swap Watch for Clutch from Believe the Hype. Clutch looks to be an incredibly valuable addition to the squad, providing veteran leadership, individual talent and a proven ability to win against even the best opponents.

(16) RGC Impact (thuggishkilla, Elumnite, Adrenaline, IceVayne)
Normally, there wouldn't be all that much to say about the 16th-seeded squad. In a Pool including the 1st, 8th and 9th seeded teams, few would expect the 16th seed to beat anyone but the team from the Open Bracket. Recent history, however, has shown that 16th seeds are nothing to brush off.

In Columbus, 16th seeded Capital Punishment stormed their way to a 4th Place finish. What's more, each of the other teams in this pool lost against the 16th seed in Columbus. So while Status Quo, Quantic Fallen and Victorious Secret are reminiscing about their losses to Capital Punishment, RGC Impact will simply be hoping that history repeats itself.

As for the roster itself, Impact are a fairly scattered mix of Pro Circuit players. Thuggishkilla and Elumnite placed 41-48th in Dallas, and improved to 15th in Columbus. IceVayne managed 13th and 10th place finishes at the Season's first Events. Lastly, Adrenaline, flag bearer of the Impact name, went from 2nd in Dallas to 11th in Columbus. It's an odd combination of players who have been floating around the Championship Bracket for a while. As for Anaheim, Impact's placing will depend on how quickly this mix of players is able to gel into a cohesive team.

Into Anaheim
It's hard to imagine a more open Pool than Pool A. Our three returning teams placed 7th (Status Quo), 8th (Victorious Secret) and 9th (Quantic Fallen) in Columbus. Toss in a 6th Place finish if you count Goofy and Brake from Soul. They couldn't have finished any closer in Columbus, so Pool A looks like it'll be an evenly matched fight where any team is capable of coming out on top.

Interestingly, during their downtime between Pool matches, these teams have a vested interest in scouting the Open Bracket competition because the top seeded undefeated team from the Open Bracket will join Pool A. As for the top-seeded Open Bracket roster? Mikwen, Ninja, Best Man, and Walshy! Stay tuned!

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