Team Kaliber victorious at Call of Duty World League Dallas

In the first official LAN event of the 2018 season, Team Kaliber would walk away with $80,000 in prize winnings. Screengrab via MLG

In the first official LAN event of the new competitive Call of Duty season, Team Kaliber would emerge victorious from the largest tournament in Call of Duty World League history, defeating Splyce in the grand finals to walk away from the Kay Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas with $80,000.

Team Kaliber return to form

Perhaps one of the most popular organizations in all of Call of Duty thanks to their streaming and social media presence, Team Kaliber's competitive roster was an afterthought for the better part of the last two years after multiple disappointing finishes. Following Sunday's CWL Dallas Open win, though, it's clear TK is playing at a different caliber.

The difference quite clearly fell on the team's two offseason additions, Martin "Chino" Chino and Kenny "KuavoKenny" Williams. An expert assault rifle player in Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Chino struggled to gain much traction in the fast-paced Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, eventually succumbing to mediocracy and losing interest in the game entirely. That set the stage for Dylan "Theory" McGee and Lamar "Accuracy" Abedi to come calling, capitalizing on the depreciated price of the former standout to recruit him to Team Kaliber. KuavoKenny was even less of a household name prior to CWL Dallas, having been forced away from the competitive scene for over two years due to MLG age restrictions rules. Returning with a myriad of other young superstars who became age eligible, KuavoKenny simply got lost in the offseason shuffle, with Team Kaliber officially bringing on the youngster towards the end of October, just weeks before the launch of the new game.

The end result of all the changes? A roster complete with emerging talent and skilled veterans alike, with the patience and "never say die" attitude of a run-of-the-mill open bracket team that exploded into a fully-realized threat. While Accuracy would go on to win the tournament MVP award, it could have easily went to either newcomer, as Chino rarely had an off map, providing a dominant long range slaying presence for his team all weekend long. And KuavoKenny, to his credit, only seemed to get stronger during the few times he had a down game, putting together momentum building three-pieces practically every time you looked away from the screen. Team Kaliber's final two wins in Dallas, against OpTic Gaming and Splyce, should tell you all you need to know when it comes to this team.

Team Kaliber isn't just back, they really are better than ever.

Open bracket reach new heights

Miraculous. Perseverant. Getting into a rhythm. It's tough to find a perfect adjective or phrase to describe the open bracket runs by Echo Fox and FaZe Clan over the course of CWL Dallas. Through hell and high water, FaZe Clan and Echo Fox both managed to push not just through the open bracket, but deep into the tournament, despite security issues Friday forcing both teams to play close to 12 hours of competitive Call of Duty the following day.

But perhaps more surprising than their respective open bracket runs was that either team was in the open bracket in the first place. After jettisoning long-time team captain James "Clayster" Eubanks during the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare season, FaZe Clan opted to make additional moves in the offseason, signing their coach, James "Replays" Crowder, and unproven but wildly talented slayer Preston "Priestah" Greiner. Both moves were widely panned by fans and analysts alike, and throughout the early portions of the new campaign, it appeared as if the criticisms were valid as FaZe Clan failed to earn enough Pro Points to slot into pool play at CWL Dallas.

The narrative certainly has changed following Sunday's run. Playing 14 series over the course of two days, FaZe would knock off European stalwarts Red Reserve and UNILAD, as well as well-known organizations such as Team EnVyUs and eUnited before eventually falling to Splyce in the lower bracket semifinals. It was good enough for a fourth place finish at CWL Dallas and the longest run by an open bracket team ever in the history of the Call of Duty World League.

Unlike FaZe Clan, Echo Fox made arguably one of the splashiest signings of the offseason, acquiring a roster chalk full of talent led by former Luminosity Gaming in-game leader, Renato "Saints" Forza. The team simply failed to put together consistent results online prior to CWL Dallas, and thanks to that, joined FaZe and 190 other teams in the open bracket, creating the largest single Call of Duty tournament since the inception of the CWL.

Echo Fox would not only earn a spot in pool play by virtue of coming through the open bracket, but also earn a spot in the upper bracket, sneaking out a second place finish in Group A despite entering one of the tougher pools coming into the tournament. Their weekend would end after lower bracket quarterfinal loss to tournament runners-up Splyce, but a 5-6th place finish is nothing to sneeze at given the circumstances.

In the end, the performances by Echo Fox and FaZe Clan should be a reminder that each new iteration of Call of Duty brings with it a new set of reactionary expectations, each built upon the wobbly foundations of past results.