The Call of Duty League wrapped up the first week of championship playoff matches with five grueling days of COD. Here's a brief look at the ups and downs of the weekend as well as a look ahead to Championship Weekend.
Atlanta FaZe and Dallas Empire both automatically advanced to next weekend after one match. Who looked better?
Emily Rand: I'm going to give Atlanta the slight edge here, partially because I think the Chicago Huntsmen played better against the FaZe than the Toronto Ultra did against the Dallas Empire. I'm not stepping away from my pick of Dallas to take it all, but I also don't think we've seen Dallas at their best yet in their one series.
Arda Ocal: Agreed, it's based off how their opponents played more than the teams themselves. Atlanta have the slight edge but by no means does that help me predict the FaZe vs. Empire matchup at champs. If anything, Dallas have the edge right now, simply because they earned the most recent "dub", with Anthony "Shotzzy" Cuevas-Castro gaining MVP honors.
Sunday's loser's bracket results culled six teams to two. Who are you the most sad to see go?
Rand: The New York Subliners. Where Arda has been behind the Florida Mutineers for most of the year, I've stubbornly stood by New York and even picked them as an unlikely team outside of the expected top three (Chicago, Atlanta, and Dallas) to take the entire championship. This New York team had so much talent on it and it was fantastic to watch Makenzie "Mack" Kelley come onto this roster and seemingly be the final piece that they had been previously missing. It's fitting that the Royal Ravens' Trei "Zer0" Morris eliminated his former team, but it was definitely a surprise to me based on what we'd seen from both of these teams this year.
Ocal: First, pour some maple syrup out for my hometown Toronto Ultra. They had a terrific late season and looked strong in the playoffs, but couldn't close it out in the runback against a game London Royal Ravens -- much to the delight of our bosses, who are die hard Royal Ravens fans, and I definitely heard it in our group Slack. I shall keep the Canadian maple syrup I planned to chug if the Ultra won champs in my streaming setup. Beyond that, as much as Florida was the team I was ride or die for analytically for much of the online part of the season, it was the team that eliminated them I'm sad for, and that's OpTic gaming. Can you imagine starting from the worst possible position and going 4-0 in the elimination bracket: winning the battle of LA (with connectivity issues no less), taking out the ROKKR with all the hype they had early in the season, sweeping the team that won the most home series this season, and then facing the Huntsmen? Pushing to a Map 5, SnD bounces back and forth, all the way to a round 11, getting first blood only to have Alec "Arcitys" Sanderson pull a clutch two piece, eventually dwindling to a 1v1 and Dylan "Envoy" Hannon clutching it out when it mattered the most to win the series. Heartbreak for LA. They didn't win a home series, they were written off much of the season ... and after a Cinderella-like run in the lower bracket, this is how it ends. Pain. But thank you for the memories, because it was some of the most exciting COD all year, and definitely in the conversation for best esports series of the year.
Who were you most surprised to see advance?
Rand: The London Royal Ravens. Outside of possibly the Los Angeles OpTic, there hasn't been an unluckier team this year than the Royal Ravens (and even including OpTic it's probably still a tie). Whether it's their own inability to close out or win on Domination or something completely beyond their control like lagging out or a referee call, the London Royal Ravens had hovered just below the New York Subliners as a team that had the talent but hadn't been able to turn that into wins, even after the addition of Zer0.
If there was a time to start winning those matches that they did lose during the season, it's now at champs and that's exactly what London did on Day 5, knocking out both the New York Subliners and the Toronto Ultra.
Ocal: The answer has to be London. They are the only team out of the four finalists without a home series win. They lost to Toronto in Game One, headed to the elimination bracket and took out Paris in the Battle of Europe, The Subliners (who were definitely more of a team to watch for many over London in the postseason), and Toronto in the rematch to set up a final four battle against Chicago.
What was the best match of the weekend?
Rand: The Los Angeles OpTic-Chicago Huntsmen series is some of the best Call of Duty we've seen all year. If there's one series to watch from this weekend, it's that one.
Ocal: +1. If you're pressed for time, watch Game 5. WOW WOW WOW.
We had two days of relatively issue-free gameplay after initial hiccups with players being forcibly disconnected and the CDL website or players accidentally spoiling results. How much have these problems loomed over the past two days?
Rand: For a moment it looked like two teams that had been initially affected (the Los Angeles OpTic and London Royal Ravens) would both make it into Championship Weekend. One of them did, the other narrowly missed in a close and competitive series. If I'm on OpTic, I'm definitely still looking back a bit and thinking "What if?" but at least Zer0 and London were able to purge that bitterness from their champs run (hopefully for good).
If anything, the intensity of the London Royal Ravens-Toronto Ultra and OpTic Gaming Los Angeles-Huntsmen series point to just how great COD can be (yes, even in a game like Modern Warfare) so to think back on those first few days where disconnects were actively affecting the outcome of the matches still leaves a sour note for me.
Ocal: I give credit to the league for doing whatever was needed to get done. I pray that no issues happen during champs weekend. This past weekend was a shining example of the fact that, even online, competitive COD can produce some of the most exciting, gripping, edge of your seat thrills across all esports.
Who's your player or play of the day?
Rand: I have two. The London Royal Ravens advanced today with some fantastic plays from all members, particularly Zer0 and Sean "Seany" O'Connor. I want to highlight the bomb plant from Seany in Round 2 on Rammaza against the Subliners in a 1v1. That really set the tone for the Ravens to dominate the rest of the map.
The second is the entirety of Round 11 on Arklov Peak between the Chicago Huntsmen and Los Angeles OpTic. Not only is this another Huntsmen-OpTic grudge match, but this came down to the very final round where Dylan "Envoy" Hannon comes up clutch after Alec "Arcitys" Sanderson opens things up. This entire round is also a textbook example of how dying (as Preston "Prestinni" Sanderson does) can be highly valuable in giving your team information for the rest of the round.
Ocal: To add to that, Prestinni died first a fair bit in the series, but often Chicago were able to put themselves in good positions as a result. Envoy even said it in the post match interview, he was happy that Preston was able to up his game and come through. Prestinni led the team in kills in the OpTic series with 94 -- only Thomas "TJHaLy" Haly had more in the lobby with 102.
But if you're talking player of the day, it has to be Seany, who stepped up to a whole new level. He said on Twitter that he had been practicing and boy did it show. In the Toronto runback series, he led the way in the series in KD on Hardpoint. The flanks, being there when his team needs him ... Seany was "that guy" this weekend, no doubt. And speaking of Rammaza, Seany went eight in a row before dying against Paris on Hardpoint, what a freak of nature.