CWL New Orleans is upon us, as a record number of Call of Duty teams line up to battle for the $200,000 prize pool.
The Open Bracket is set to kick off at 12PM CST, with the Pool Play following a couple of hours afterwards, with much of the tournament being broadcast for viewers around the world.
The Pool Play will feature the top 16 teams from three regions, with four additional teams joining through the Open Bracket to compete for places in the Championship Bracket on Saturday and Sunday.
For most, the pools are simply a means of seeing how teams are set to line up ahead of the main competition. It's not unusual for teams to have a poor group and then perform well in the tournament proper.
For some though, the pool is important to maximising their placement, whatever their ambitions may be.
Here are five stories for you to keep an eye on in the pools.
Are Team Kaliber One Hit Wonders?
TK came into CWL Dallas, not as favorites, but certainly on everyone’s radar. It had seemed like an age since Team Kaliber were anywhere near the top of the scene, but for the first time in a long team, their line up showed real promise.
Solid online results suggested that the Team Kaliber line up was actually one to watch out for and on the day they proved exactly that. A clean sweep of a reasonably tough Pool C was followed by the gutting of the winner bracket, including victories over OpTic Gaming and eUnited. Splyce later fell in a 3-2 finale with Team Kaliber having a series in hand.
A worrying trend in previous years has been a team’s inability to sustain early dominance. Last year Rise Nation opened the season with a victory in Vegas, but posed little in the way of title ambition by the close of the year.
If anything, Team Kaliber have further improved online, winning two 2K tournaments since Dallas. The only slight question mark remaining in their preparation is whether missing Northern Arena Showdown could be costly. The event proved to be an improving ground for a number of teams, and now some of TK’s biggest rivals will come to NOLA with twice as much LAN experience.
Their Pool is challenging without being dangerous. It’s very hard to see Team Kaliber slipping outside the top 2, without something going drastically wrong, and should serve perfectly to ease them into the swing of Nola.
FaZe Clan look most likely to usurp Team Kaliber for the top spot, but avoiding Luminosity (most likely) will be high on TK’s agenda. A strong start to the competition here is essential and will likely speak volumes about the team’s credentials in going back to back.
Is This Splyce’s Year?
Splyce seemed to hit a sweet spot at a certain point of Infinite Warfare and really became a threat, even winning a North American major. Although Zer0’s wild slaying was largely credited with their success, and later their failure when he couldn’t recreate the same ridiculous form, it appears that they’re once again going to be major players this year.
With Tommey instead of Zer0, the team got off to an outstanding start with a Grand Final appearance in Dallas. It wasn’t the first-place finish they no doubt sought but that given basically the same team managed top 6 in last year’s opener, initial signs are promising at the very least.
It goes without saying then that this is Splyce’s best ever start to a competitive season. With only one change to their roster also, it would appear that the British foursome have never been more equipped to take the year by storm.
There’s also a feeling now that it can be done. For years Britons were chasing a major title, or even to do well at a major tournament. It felt almost like a fantasy; like it was attainable but always just out of reach. By winning Stage 1, Splyce proved to themselves and everyone outside of North America that foreign teams can reach the level necessary to be champions.
When you also consider that British teams tend to get better as the season goes on, owing in large part to their increased play time against higher quality opposition, it begs the question, can Splyce improve enough to be Call of Duty Championship winners?
Of course, that’s a long way off but the campaign continues this weekend and Pool D ought to be a good test of their quality to ease them into Nola. All three of their opponents offer enough threat to challenge Splyce, but on paper, not enough to make first place in their pool seem too difficult. Champions dominant pools of this standard and Splyce will look to prove their calibre from the minute the first bullet is fired.
Luminosity are Dark Horses
Luminosity will likely look at CWL Dallas as something of a failure. For many teams, 7th-8th place is a solid return, but for a team of this caliber, more will be expected.
Luminosity essentially combines half of EnVy with 50% of last year’s LG, forming a team that will harbour nothing but title aspirations. Both teams finished well last year after a modest beginning, but a slow start this year will not be on the agenda.
Northern Arena Showdown, then, was the perfect platform for Luminosity to settle the ship after their mediocre debut and with a victory under their belts and more event time as a team to boot, they’ll be coming into CWL Nola all guns blazing.
On paper Luminosity have had by far the best pool drawing of any of the top 4 seeded teams. With the exception of Red Reserve, who arguably didn’t play to their potential in Dallas, the group should be straightforward for Luminosity and anything beyond a clean sweep will be a poor start to life in Nola.
If anything, you would say Luminosity were inconsistent in Dallas. Their 11-3 record in their pool is only half the story; LG swept three of their four opponents, only losing or even dropping maps against Vitality — the team that would finish rock bottom in Pool B and be eliminated two games later.
In the bracket stage, Luminosity would lose to eUnited and FOX, but spanked Enigma6 on the way out with relative ease. LG had a strange habit of either sweeping their opponents or losing the fixture.
With the ship steadied and a bit more experience as a foursome, LG will be seeking more in New Orleans and that all starts in the pools.
Mindfreak Must Improve
Mindfreak made a hash of Pool Play in Dallas. There’s absolutely no way around that fact. Placing rock bottom gave them the longest possible run through the Championship Bracket and despite a heroic effort, still left them marooned in top 12.
For years debate has raged about whether or not the Australian scene is over supported or under supported, based on size and results, and Mindfreak bear the heaviest burden of proving the scene’s supporters right, as they fly the flag for their entire continent often singlehandedly.
This time out Mindfreak have to explode out the traps, otherwise a top 12 finish is likely to be their peak placing again in Nola. While you might argue that being in the best 12 Call of Duty teams in the world is still a fairly impressive accolade, for a team that can more or less have any player in their whole country or continent, it’s high time we started seeing better results on a more consistent basis. The UK has finally pushed beyond being a footnote at tournaments. It’s time for Australia to prove their worth also.
Pool A offers an opportunity for that, but is a fairly tough pool on paper. With the Dallas first and fourth place being both drawn into the same group, it’ll take an impressive performance to break the top 2. UNILAD are a decent roster on paper and perhaps should be doing better themselves. At the very least, Mindfreak should be aiming for top 3 in their pool. Another last place finish should not be tolerated.
Does eClasico still have the magic?
eClasico is consistently hyped as one of the most exciting games in Call of Duty history, and for great reason: Two titan organizations facing off in a major competition? What’s really not to like?
However, the glamor and excitement of eClasico has somewhat dimmed in recent times, owing to the frequency in which these two teams seem to compete against one-another. During Infinite Warfare, OpTic and EnVyUs played a whopping 12 series together. In fact, that was the most series any two teams competed in over the entirety of IW — in many ways, we’ve been spoiled with too much OpTic Gaming and Team EnVyUs.
Add to that the considerable changes that EnVyUs have undertaken before the start of the new season. In many ways, this doesn’t feel like the same rivalry, but a new one. The EnVy team that went to back to back Call of Duty Championship Finals is long gone and fans are now readjusting to a new way of life.
This doesn’t feel like an old, exciting rivalry. The shirts are the same, but there’s something missing. Sure, it’ll be great to see two of the game’s best teams go at it and who isn’t excited to see how Huke will evolve as a player? For now, though, this has the feel of a fixture like any other; fun but not a thriller.