The fourth and final stage of the 2022 Call of Duty League season has crowned a fourth champion: the Los Angeles Thieves. Beating the miracle-making New York Subliners in Brooklyn, CoD’s newest champs now have the trophy to match their star-studded roster.
Two seasons ago, 100 Thieves lucked into a CDL franchise opening when OpTic Gaming Los Angeles sold their way out of the league.
A season ago, the organization struggled to meet expectations and rotated eight different players across their four starting spots – which still wasn’t enough to finish in the top three of any tournament.
This year, despite their brand-new lineup failing to reach the top three of any Major, the Thieves ignored their detractors and stuck to their guns, maintaining the same lineup all season. Now with $200,000 added to their bank accounts and a new “gruesome” trophy on their mantelpiece, that commitment to the four has been rewarded.
To reach this point, LA had to fight through Atlanta FaZe (twice), Toronto Ultra, and the New York Subliners in a 4-1 masterclass at CDL 2022 Major IV. While many had doubted this lineup’s capacity to meet its early expectations, their new AR, Sam ‘Octane’ Larew, explained that “it was only a matter of time.”
Outlasting the haters
While the Thieves finished the Stage IV Qualifiers in fourth with a 3-2 match count, the team’s buzz was minimal. Their flashy 2022 signings, Octane and Dylan ‘Envoy’ Hannon, hadn’t helped the organization to a top-three finish yet and haters had seemingly already written the group off.
When asked about the team being criticized for ‘underperforming’,’ Envoy did not shy away: “Rightfully so, I feel like in the beginning of the game we… not deserved it, but we obviously weren’t the team we are now.”
As for what changed, Octane was quick to credit the addition of coach Shane ‘ShAne’ McKerral at the end of Stage III. Likening ShAne’s addition to the multi-champion 100T’s roster change in Black Ops 4, Octane explained that “there was a shift in our practice mentality.
“I think we were going about things a little bit too broadly and once we picked up Shane, things started to hone in a little bit more, our minds got a little focused and we started putting in extra time and the shift was pretty immediate.”
Beating New York in New York
To even get to the Grand Finals, LA had to beat the best team in CoD (according to the 2022 standings) twice. According to Kenny ‘Kenny’ Williams, the team’s sharpened mentality was key to getting past Atlanta.
“I felt like we were playing perfect CoD. Our comms were all there, everything we needed to communicate, any time we needed to slow the game down and work together… that’s just the one thing we’ve been focused on is just shooting together.”
After beating FaZe in Winners Round 1, LA proceeded to beat Ultra in Winners Round 2, lose to the Subliners in Winners Finals, and beat FaZe in the Losers Finals to make their way back.
As for what happened against New York in the first matchup? Octane explained that “they were playing maps we don’t play, they were getting freebies.”
Zack ‘Drazah’ Jordan colorfully elaborated “they had good side every map. We just didn’t give a f**k.”
Following Winners Finals, Subliners SMG Paco ‘HyDra’ Rusiewiez seemed confident about the map choices, contending that Berlin was New York’s “playground”. While the map was 2-1 in NY’s favor during the Winners Finals, it went 3-0 for LA in the Grand Finals.
That assertion fell on deaf ears in the Thieves camp. Octane noted that map count, Drazah pointed to the trophy on the table, and Envoy responded in kind: “Berlin’s definitely not their playground. They need some work.”
While the in-game maps were one thing, the real-world location was another. The New York Major, at Kings Theater in Brooklyn, drew praise from the community all weekend long. Although the crowd was deafening in support of the Subliners’ CDL Champs and Major IV runs, Octane welcomed the animosity:
“I love that sh*t. Playing against the crowd is one of my favorite things, I’ve done it my entire career – most predominantly against OpTic, which is when you notice it the most – but playing against the crowd is always more fun.”
The “team to beat”
During this Major IV run, the Thieves have called their teamwork “immaculate,” their Call of Duty “perfect,” and their opponents “scrambled.” Having beaten the home team 5-3 in the Grand Finals, with every single player finishing with a positive K/D, it’s hard to disagree with those statements.
The Los Angeles Thieves, for the first time in their CDL franchise history, are CoD champions. Up next: the $2.55 million playoffs, CDL Champs, where LA will match up against the Boston Breach in Winners Round 1.
With the Major in the bag, the team has their eyes set high: “Grand Finals,” Kenny asserted. “I don’t think there’s any match or any team right now that I’m looking to play, I think we’re the team to beat so, Grand Finals [is the goal].”