In December of 2021, a month into the Halo Championship Series, one of Sentinels’ key players, Mathew “Royal2” Fiorante, was suspended from HCS for network manipulation. The team went into the HCS Kickoff Major Raleigh 2021 with emergency substitute Matthew “FormaL” Piper. Royal2 had to watch his team from the sidelines as they went for a Halo Infinite championship.
“When I was suspended, I spent time mostly just itching to get back into play,” Royal2 said. “But I learned some personal things. Sitting on the sidelines, seeing your team play from a third-person perspective without you, I realized what role I play for the team.”
Royal2’s role on the team was crucial in their qualification win for the HCS Kickoff Major Raleigh. The team fell to the lower bracket but fought against teams like Cloud9 and eUnited to make it to the finals. Then, after forcing a bracket reset, they won against OpTic Gaming to finish first in qualification for Raleigh.
However, Royal2’s suspension forced the team to adjust their expectations for the start of their HCS 2022 season. The team took the first major LAN tournament in Halo Infinite as a pre-season tournament, with HCS Anaheim 2022 as their true start to the season.
“We were excited, itching to play together in Infinite,” Chris “Royal1” Fiorante, coach for Sentinels and Royal2’s brother, said. “The way our team felt was that our season was delayed by a tournament, almost in purgatory until Royal2’s suspension ended.”
Royal2’s suspension affects Sentinels
According to Royal1 and his Sentinels teammates, Royal2’s play revolves around his consistency and top-level skill.
“I think stability is what Royal2 brings to us,” said Royal2’s Sentinels teammate Paul “SnakeBite” Duarte. “He’s been statistically one of the best players in Halo, and he provides those stats consistently throughout all the Halo games. Other players can be streaky, hot or cold, but Royal2 is super reliable and continues to do that in Infinite.”
Even without Royal2, Sentinels performed well with FormaL and finished fourth at HCS Raleigh, losing to FaZe Clan in the lower bracket. They didn’t reach the podium but, with tempered expectations, they surprised other teams in the competition. And the reasons behind their final loss to Faze were evident.
“We had our moments, but we had only two days of practice with FormaL,” Royal1 said. “Slang-wise comms were good, but objective-wise it was hit and miss throughout the tournament. It showed in our win against OpTic Gaming, but also in our loss against FaZe. If we would’ve had another three or four days with FormaL, we could have done better.”
When Royal2’s suspension ended on Jan. 28, 2022, he officially rejoined the roster and started practicing with his team for HCS Anaheim. The event was only weeks away and the team finally could play with their original roster in a LAN tournament.
“I was just super excited because I haven’t been in a live tournament in over three years due to COVID,” Royal2 said. “I kept that mindset of ‘anything but first is a failure,’ and now I just want to play my best.”
Royal2’s return to Sentinels and the HCS
Sentinels performed well with Royal2 back, with wins against FaZe Clan and XSET that looked similar to their scrappy but successful playstyle in the Raleigh qualifier. In the end, they got as far as they did at Raleigh and finished fourth at HCS Anaheim. This meant that, in both of their tournaments, they missed the podium by one spot. Even with a similar finish, the team played with higher coordination with Royal2 back. And that was clear when they faced FaZe Clan, the team that eliminated them in Raleigh.
Sentinels faced FaZe Clan in the upper bracket and edged out a 3-2 win, sending them to the lower bracket. Then, they didn’t have to face them again in the tournament. FaZe got sent home by eUnited before Sentinels had a chance to face them again.
But, Sentinels had a familiar foe in their way to the final. They faced off against OpTic Gaming in the upper bracket, but couldn’t eliminate them this time around. The team’s first Infinite tournament with Royal2 had upset potential, despite their loss to OpTic at Anaheim.
“With FaZe, I think it shows how much more prepared we are with Royal2,” Snakebite said. “So to lose against them in Raleigh but win in Anaheim shows that preparation. However, we also beat OpTic in Raleigh but lost to them in Anaheim, so there are still things to improve on. Either way, I know we feel a lot more confident as a team with Royal2.”
Top competition awaits
But, top competition like eUnited, FaZe Clan, OpTic Gaming and back-to-back champions Cloud9 stand in the way of Sentinels. They faced Cloud9 in pool play at Anaheim, were swept 3-0 and didn’t face them in the elimination rounds. That loss left Sentinels itching to face them again in the future.
“I think we matched them now, it would be a lot closer than that 3-0 from Anaheim,” Royal2 said. “Playing a team in pool play, in comparison to winners or losers bracket, is a completely different situation. I don’t think it would be a 3-0 for us either, but we can probably take C9 to a Map 5.”
Although these top teams have a long history together, Sentinels do as well, Snakebite said. He hopes that, by the time they get to the HCS Major Kansas City 2022, they’re back on their final form. According to him, “it’s always been a hard battle against those guys, but we will do a lot better than we did in Anaheim.”
Sentinels were shorthanded with Royal2 suspended from the HCS over the past few months. But now, after a slow start and getting their first LAN together in Infinite out of the way, Sentinels are back to full strength. They have the opportunity to show why they started off Halo Infinite as one of the best teams in North America.