The Call of Duty League is approaching its penultimate stage and, with roster changes galore, there are some key players to watch during CDL 2021’s Stage 4: OpTic Chicago Home Series.
With only eight teams making CDL Champs this season, the pressure is on. And, with only two stages left, there are still critical placement points to secure (and a clean $1 million in prizing). Stage 4 is inherently a big deal and it all kicks off with the OpTic Home Series.
Ahead of this stage, six different teams made roster changes in an effort to regain and surge (sorry, pun intended) into the CDL’s upper echelon. Four of those new or returning starters make our must-watch list: Reece ‘Vivid’ Drost, Alex ‘Alexx’ Carpenter, Thomas ‘TJHaLy’ Haly, and Nicholas ‘Classic’ Dicostanzo.
While those four look to help their teams (and themselves) bounce back, the fifth player to watch is in a familiar situation hoping to maintain momentum. You can’t ignore the home team, so Matthew ‘FormaL’ Piper rounds out this week’s list as OpTic look to build on their Stage 3 Major.
Reece ‘Vivid’ Drost (Dallas Empire)
A perfect opportunity
Widely considered the Los Angeles Guerrillas’ top player, Vivid was surprisingly moved to the bench in late-April. Now, following an appearance from Justin ‘SiLLY’ Fargo-Palmer on The Flank, it seems that the upsurging SMG may have actually benched himself.
A month later, Vivid finds himself replacing Tyler ‘FeLo’ Johnson on the reigning champion Empire — and, especially if the former Guerrilla did bench himself, this opportunity needs to be seized.
Vivid has a 0.93 K/D this season and is easily one of the league’s most aggressive players (he ranks top five in kills and deaths per 10 minutes on both Hardpoint and Control). Dallas benched Cuyler ‘Huke’ Garland, then benched FeLo after an 0-2 Major, so it’s time to turn things around. A new, talented SMG can help the Empire justify their (and his) decisions during Stage 4’s opening week.
Alex ‘Alexx’ Carpenter (London Royal Ravens)
The rejuvenated Raven
Alexx had only played 20 maps this season before leaving the Royal Ravens club due to personal reasons. In those 20 maps, he produced a serviceable, albeit uninspiring 0.92 K/D.
Now, London cut rookie Alex ‘Zaptius’ Bonilla and brought Alexx back into the lineup.
With Zaptius notching a 0.95 K/D in his brief London career, the Royal Ravens impressed in a 2-1 showing at the Stage 3 Major. Still sitting at 10th in the CDL standings, Alexx will need to prove he’s rejuvenated and deadly for an improving London to convince fans this was a good choice.
Thomas ‘TJHaLy’ Haly (Los Angeles Thieves)
All eyes on Teej
The Thieves spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars” (per Tommy ‘ZooMaa’ Paparatto’s sources) to replace TJ with Huke. Then, within a month, they benched Huke for TJ after going 1-2 in the Stage 3 Major and dropping to 6th in the standings.
It’s one of the wildest storylines in CoD esports history and TJ finds himself at the center of it all. Understandably then, no performance will be monitored as closely this week than TJ’s as LAT should comfortably drub a revamped Seattle Surge.
Matthew ‘FormaL’ Piper (OpTic Chicago)
Setting higher standards
FormaL isn’t in the same boat as these other cats, but with great power comes great responsibility and there are simply higher expectations for the Green Wall. At fifth in the standings following a 3-1 weekend in the Stage 3 Major, FormaL’s level of play can dictate OpTic’s progress as a true contender.
After having Chicago’s highest K/D during an otherwise-rough Stage 3 groups stage, FormaL had the team’s lowest in the Major. And he was OpTic’s only player to have a negative K/D in each of their three map losses to the Ultra.
It’s hard to imagine OpTic losing if his teammates play like they did in the Major and FormaL plays like he did in each map win. That’s a tough bar to reach, but it’ll be needed during their Home Series — as OpTic host the No. 7 Minnesota ROKKR and No. 1 Atlanta FaZe.
Nicholas ‘Classic’ DiCostanzo (Seattle Surge)
Third time’s the charm?
First, Seattle benched veteran Daniel ‘Loony’ Loza. Then, his replacement, Jacob ‘Decemate’ Cato, is believed to have benched himself. Now, dead-last in the league with just four wins, Seattle tries a third option: Classic.
Before being benched by the Paris Legion, Classic had an unexciting 0.88 K/D on the year. But numbers often lie in Call of Duty and new environments can mean renewed productivity — especially as the SMG rejoins his former teammate, Sam ‘Octane’ Larew.
If Seattle wants to make a run into the Top 8, then Classic and the Surge need to mesh immediately. That starts this week against another changing roster: the Thieves.