Even though Europe has always been considered North America's little brother in terms of Call of Duty, the European Stage 2 playoffs promise to be an action-packed event. Six of the best teams in the Call of Duty World League (CWL) will descend upon Burbank, California on July 14-17 to face off for a chunk of the $200,000 prize pool and earn a handful of all-important World League Points; these points can help guarantee a spot in the upcoming Call of Duty World Championships in September.
Unlike their North American brethren, the top two teams (based on their records from Stage 2) will get a bye in the first round, with seeds #3-6 duking it out in a best-of-seven quarterfinal bout to determine who will advance into the semifinals. From there, the remaining teams will fight for their chance at a finals berth.
Here's a look at the opening round matchups as well as the future opponents for the teams that advance to the semifinals:
#3 Splyce vs. #6 Supremacy
Splyce's record: 12-6 | Maps W/L ratio: 57.4 percent
Roster: Benjamin "Bance" Bance, Joe "Joee" Pinnington, Joshua-Lee "Joshh" Sheppard, Rhys "Rated" Price
Supremacy's record: 10-8 | Maps W/L ratio: 48.5 percent
Roster: Eddy "Malls" Maillard, Maxime "mAxxie" Ebran, Brandon "Vooortex" Gomes, Arthur "Zayrox" Chabas
Winner faces #2 Team Infused
Team Infused's record: 14-4 | Maps W/L ratio: 64.3 percent
Roster: Mark "MarkyB" Bryceland, Adam "Peatie" Peate, David "Urban" Marsh, Trei "Zer0" Morris
After coming out of nowhere to take second place during Stage 1, Splyce were at one point head and shoulders above the competition in Europe. It boasted an 11-1 record in Stage 2 and won a surprise finals berth at ESWC 2016 COD Zenith; Splyce managed to upset the North American team, Rise Nation, in the semifinals before falling to the invincible OpTic Gaming 3-0.
Fast-forward two months, and the team look to be in chaos, as it's lost five out of its last six matches. So which version of Splyce will show up in Burbank? With a potential trip to the World Championships on the line, my bet is that the "good" Splyce will show up and at least handle business against Supremacy.
Should it advance, its potential matchup against Team Infused might not come so easy. While Splyce did split its season series against Infused, its most recent matchup in Week 9 ended with Infused securing a 3-2 win, as Joee in particular struggled to do much in the series and sported a miniscule 0.77 KD. Splyce must be more effective, particularly in the Search and Destroy department, if it plans on making a second straight EU CWL finals appearance.
#4 Epsilon Gaming vs. #5 Millenium
Epsilon Gaming's record: 10-8 | Maps W/L ratio: 56.5 percent
Roster: Thomas "Moose" Handley, Jordan "Reedy" Reed, Matthew "Skrapz" Marshall, Gurdip "SunnyB" Bains
Millenium's record: 10-8 | Maps W/L ratio: 56.3 percent
Roster: Callum "Swanny" Swan, Tom "Tommey" Trewren, Jordan "Jurd" Crowley, Dylan "MadCat" Daly
Winner faces #1 HyperGames
HyperGames' record: 15-3 | Maps W/L ratio: 65.8 percent
Roster: Brian "Braaain" Fairlamb, Nick "Nolson" Nolson, Shea "QwiKeR" Sweeney, Zach "Zed" Denyer
It would be easy to predict a Millenium victory in this matchup. After all, it won the Stage 1 championship, managed to finish Stage 2 on a 6-2 run, and boasts two of the top ten players in EU in terms of KD (Swanny 1.11, MadCat 1.09). But easy doesn't always mean right. Epsilon Gaming may not have the pedigree of its more-established competition, but what it lacks in achievements it makes up for in strategy and cunning use of the map.
Of the six European Stage 2 playoff teams, Epsilon sport by far the lowest DT/R mark (distance traveled per round) and trails only Supremacy when it comes to shortest average kill distance. All of this is to say, when a team is lacking the necessary slaying capabilities of an upper echelon team, it can make up for it by letting its opponent approach and by winning the engagements via strategic positioning on the map.
This kind of pace-and-play strategy can take advantage of an opposition's over-eagerness to gobble up kills, turning a weakness into strength. And, if all else fails, it helps to have a player like Skrapz on the team, a slayer who won critical engages all throughout Stage 2 en route to the second-best KD (1.20) mark in the league.
I pick Epsilon to earn the surprise victory over Millenium, but it doesn't seem like either team will advance past HyperGames. A model of consistency, HyperGames has shown it can adapt to any style put in front of it, with its entire team ranking in the top 20 overall in terms of KD ratio.