Dallas Empire CDL 2021 preview: Can anyone stop the champs?

Brad Norton
Crimsix for Dallas Empire in CDLActivision

For the 2020 Call of Duty League champions, this upcoming season is about more than just individual wins and losses. 2021 serves as a chance for the Dallas Empire to cement their place among the most accomplished dynasties in Call of Duty history.

No team has ever stuck together and won back to back championships in Call of Duty. Individual players have won multiple rings in a row on different squads, but no core roster has ever been able to reach that top spot more than once.

In 2021, Dallas Empire has perhaps the best chance to be the first at accomplishing just that. Despite the swap to 4v4 and having to drop James ‘Clayster’ Eubanks mere days after claiming the 2020 trophy, the rest of the winning lineup has remained intact.

With a mix of youngblood and veteran experience, will Empire’s championship form continue through another year? It’s early days yet but the powerhouse roster is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Dallas Empire CDL 2021 roster

Player Previous Team
Ian ‘Crimsix‘ Porter
Anthony ‘Shotzzy‘ Cuevas-Castro
Indervir ‘iLLeY‘ Dhaliwal
Cuyler ‘Huke‘ Garland
Tyler ‘FeLo‘ Johnson (Substitute) Triumph (NA Challengers)

No fixing what isn’t broken for the Dallas Empire

Dallas Empire remains one of just two teams in the league to have maintained four players from its inception, alongside Toronto Ultra. While some lineups saw minor changes this offseason, and others complete overhauls, Empire has steadily been building on championship synergy.

Having just seized the CDL throne during its inaugural season – literally – tweaking the roster would have been a bold move, to say the least. Each player brings their own strengths; rotating in anyone new could have had major ramifications and unnecessarily stunted one of the strongest teams.

With young guns Huke, iLLeY, and Shotzzy mixing it up with veteran competitor Crimsix, Empire has proven that a blend of hot prospects and seasoned players works a treat. 

Dallas Empire original rosterDallas Empire
Heading into 2021, Dallas Empire is only missing Clayster from the original lineup.

Other teams have definitely employed a similar approach when building their rosters but the Dallas squad did so better than the rest. Not only did they take the risk on former Halo champion Shotzzy, as he transitioned to full-time CoD, but they also brought up iLLeY, a player that had barely attended a handful of LAN events.

Taking a shot on this fresh talent already paid dividends in the first year and on paper, should only continue to do so moving forward. As these young guns get more experience under their belts, their confidence will continue to grow, their strategies will continue to improve, and their teamwork will only evolve.

Meanwhile, Crimsix, with years of experience that outweighs all of his teammates combined, is able to keep everyone in line. His veteran guidance leads to the right plays at the right times, while his steady shot always comes in handy during the intense gunfights. 

Will Empire double up on CDL championships?

Crimsix on stageCall of Duty League
Crimsix has the potential to become the first four-time World Champion in 2021.

Coming into the 2021 season as the number one seed means all eyes are on Empire as the squad to beat, and rightfully so. All of their rivals will feel that little extra fire to knock down last year’s champs. 

Competition will be as hot as ever, but Empire looks to be in the best position to extinguish these flames. Since the release of Black Ops Cold War in November 2020, the team has been able to grind and get ahead of the curve.

Certain teams have only just been able to find their footing due to an abundance of late roster shuffles. But from day one, the Dallas lineup has been free from that stress and solely able to focus on their practice for the year ahead.

Shotzzy playing on stageCall of Duty League
Shotzzy will be looking to uphold his MVP form in a brand new title this year.

Despite being the overall winners of 2020, the team still took it upon themselves to try and patch some holes in their game. Search and Destroy is a staple of the CoD franchise and one that’s been a constant in the competitive scene. After a relatively inconsistent approach to the objective-based mode last year, it became a key focus for 2021.

Tyler ‘FeLo’ Johnson is the only new addition to the team this time around as a result of this focus. The former NA Challengers Champion was primarily brought on to assist in their S&D performance, thereby only bolstering Empire’s starting four alongside head coach Raymond ‘Rambo’’ Lussier.

With Hardpoint seemingly on lock and S&D theoretically stronger than ever, the only real outlier this year is Control. It’s a simple enough mode but it’s one we haven’t seen much of from Shotzzy and iLLeY.

Given their age, we’ve never seen them in this mode at the professional level. After all, BOCW marks just the second appearance for Control in the franchise. For any other team, this might be a cause for concern. Though with Empire’s slaying power, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they came out looking just as sharp as usual.

In fact, we’ve already seen an early glimpse of how the team performs in a new title and in this new mode. While there’s not much to glean from this early exhibition match, they still cruised through NYSL with a 3-0 scoreline in the Kickoff Classic.

This was the anticipated outcome given NYSL’s roster only just formed days prior. As a result, we won’t truly see Empire tested until the season kicks off.

It’s worth noting that Empire only had to beat two teams in the 2020 Playoffs on their way to victory. Due to their high seeding, the squad faced Toronto Ultra in the third round. Moving forward, they had back to back matches against Atlanta FaZe in the Winner’s Finals and the Grand Finals.

Not to take anything away from their exceptional performance year-round to earn that pathway, but with the new CDL structure implementing Majors every month, Empire will have to beat more top teams more frequently than they did before.

If anyone is up to the task, however, there’s no safer bet than Empire.

With nothing but confidence stemming from their 2020 run, the reigning champions are in the perfect position to carry the momentum forward and remain atop the standings throughout 2021.