After a three-month off-season and a further month of online competition, the first major event of the Call of Duty WWII season is almost upon us.
CWL Dallas will take place December 8th-10th, offering a $200,000 prize pool and – perhaps even more importantly – the first truly massive influx of Pro Points, helping to determine which teams will eventually join the first stage of the $700,000 Global Pro League.
While the tournament will host well over a hundred teams, the real competition begins in the group stages. Sixteen of the world’s best – in theory at least, as determined by Pro Points from online competition in the early days of the season – already occupy a place in one of the four pools, where a further four teams from the Open Bracket will join them. From each group, the top two teams will progress to the Winner Bracket, while the other three will be sent to their respective round of the Loser Bracket.
Much like Group A, Group B has a fairly clear favorite for the top spot in Luminosity, while second place will be fought for between three teams that each have questions to answer. The best of the Open Bracket may well look to this group as an optimal draw should they make it this far, with no clear favorite for the second Winner Bracket seed.
Luminosity (Octane, Slacked, JKap, John)
Behind reigning World Champions OpTic Gaming, Luminosity are a fairly clear second favorite for CWL Dallas. Unlike many of the new squads for WWII, Luminosity’s new roster takes few obvious risks, marrying two pairs of talented and reliable players from two of the most successful teams of the past two years.
The Luminosity duo of Infinite Warfare, and Rise Nation before that in Black Ops 3, Samuel ‘Octane’ Larew and Josiah ‘Slacked’ Berry spent the second half of the last season as one of the best teams in the world, for a time claiming the number one spot by near-unanimous concurrence from fans and analysts. Octane in particular has long been among the world’s premier Assault Rifle players, and was a driving force behind the team’s success.
The pair are joined by two members of the EnVyUs squad that won the 2016 Call of Duty Championships and came second in 2017. Jordan ‘JKap’ Kaplan is one of the most experienced players still on the circuit, and the most successful by career prize winnings outside of OpTic Gaming. Another veteran, Johnathon ‘John’ Perez has at times been among the top-performing players in the world, winning the MVP award at the 2016 Call of Duty Championships.
With all players having spent plenty of time at the top, plenty of boots-on-the-ground experience to go around and a balance of versatility and role specialization that sets up Luminosity to be one of the most well-rounded teams in the world, it’s hard to see an obvious weakness in this squad. Short of the likes of OpTic Gaming, who might be able to boast the same qualities to an even greater degree, it’s hard to identify which teams might be able to find an advantage over this squad.
So far, that theory has been borne out in practice in the 2K Series tournaments, in which Luminosity have reached the finals on three occasions, and lost to OpTic Gaming each time. While that might trouble their championship aspirations, it only goes to further suggest that Luminosity should have no troubles topping this group.
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Ground Zero (Parastie, Blazt, Fero, StuDyy)
As the only team in the group not built upon a pre-existing foundation, Ground Zero would already be one of the more troublesome teams to set expectations for. To make things even murkier, however, two players on the roster will also be making their LAN debut.
Blazt and Fero are among the crop of fresh blood joining the CWL circuit this year from the realm of online Search and Destroy competition, having come of age in 2017. Both have accumulated about as much renown as is possible while underage, and while they remain something of an unknown quantity in respawn game modes and a LAN environment, the pair have certainly demonstrated raw talent, and a mind for Search and Destroy that will undoubtedly be of benefit to this team.
The more veteran duo definitely had their best days in the previous boots-on-the-ground era. Chris ‘Parasite’ Duarte was one of the driving forces behind Impact’s Black Ops 2 success, innovative and intimidating as a primary AR, he was among the best players in the world when he became one of the first World Champions.
With that pedigree and an impressive mind for the game, Parasite has the potential to enormously elevate a squad built on young talent – assuming the team can find a way of working together productively. Parasite has long had a reputation for being a difficult team-mate, and this roster looked to be in trouble early on. The fact that they seem to have resolved any immediate interpersonal issues in order to take this roster into CWL Dallas would imply, however, they’re a formidable prospect for their opponents.
The final member of the squad, and most recent addition, is Jeremy ‘StuDyy’ Astacio, another player with boots-on-the-ground experience. StuDyy broke out to immense success towards the end of the first BOTG era, helping take EnVyUs to the grand final of the 2014 Call of Duty Championships, then as a young star.
Now with more experience under his belt and a veteran in his own right, StuDyy will – much like Parasite – be looking to return to the glory days that he never quite replicated in the three years of advanced movement.
Team Vitality (Wailers, Riskin, Zayrox, Malls)
It’s encouraging to see a bit of life from the French scene in the early days of WWII, with Vitality currently carrying the torch not just for their country, but arguably for all of continental Europe.
These days, “EU” Call of Duty, when talking about the elite at least, in actuality means “UK” (plus Irishman Jordan ‘Jurd’ Crowley). It has been UK teams that have both dominated regional competition and battled to advance the region’s relevance internationally.
Every “EU” team in the Global Pro League of Infinite Warfare – all six, to begin with – featured UK rosters. Every great international feat by an “EU” team – victory at the Global Pro League Stage One Playoffs, second and third at CWL Anaheim, second and fourth at the 2016 Call of Duty Championships, and every noteworthy result stretching back to TCM’s victory at EGL 8 over OpTic Gaming – are all accredited to UK players.
There was a time, however, when the rest of Europe – and France in particular – might have followed a similar path, with their elite teams to be respected domestically and perhaps progress internationally in recent years. Instead, however, as the UK closes the gap with North America, the rest of the continent hasn’t kept pace, resulting in a widening regional disparity.
A handful of decent showings in online competition is by no means a harbinger or France’s triumphant return, but it does serve to set up Vitality for a strong start to the season. If a French team is to join the group of teams competing on Call of Duty’s biggest stages for WWII, this is the perfect starting point from which to do so, and Vitality’s roster certainly has the experience to give it a decent shot. Without needing to run the gauntlet of the open bracket, the French squad have no excuse for a bad result.
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Epsilon Esports (Dqvee, Hawqeh, Vortex, Insanatised)
Though it’s only their second season under Epsilon, the core three players of this roster – David ‘Dqvee’ Davies, Stephen ‘Vortex’ Allen and Billy ‘Hawqeh’ Harris – are now entering their third Call of Duty title together, making them among the more tenured of trios on the circuit. Coming into WWII, however, the squad will be playing with a new fourth man in Nathan ‘Insanatised’ Orton.
Having come together under Exertus in Black Ops 3, the squad first showed promise of legitimate international potential at the 2016 Call of Duty Championships, reaching what would have been a regional record-breaking fourth-place had it not been for Splyce’s second-place finish at the same event.
In Infinite Warfare, the addition of Joshua ‘Joshh’ Lee-Shepherd saw the team further cement themselves among Europe’s elite, taking two domestic titles and peaking internationally with a third-place finish at CWL Anaheim. Meanwhile, star player David ‘Dqvee’ Davies was hailed as one of if not the top-performing player from the region by the end of the year.
The test for this roster post-change is two-fold. The departure of Joshh sees Epsilon lose the very player whose addition appeared to be the catalyst for the team’s greatest success in Infinite Warfare. How much credit should be ascribed to him individually is hard to identify, but undeniably the team looked more formidable during his time there, peaking at a third-place finish at CWL Anaheim.
As well as losing a hardened veteran and one of Europe’s most successful players in Joshh, Epsilon are adding almost entirely fresh blood, bringing in Nathan ‘Insanatised’ Orton to round out the line-up.
Insanatised isn’t an entirely fresh face, having picked up a handful of solid domestic placements. Like several North American players this season, though, Insanatised is joining the CWL circuit after coming of age, and couldn’t have much bigger shoes to fill. Completely void of international experience, Insanatised is slotting into a team that should be expecting to rival the very best not just in Europe, but internationally.
For Epsilon, this group should be about as comfortable a first test as could possibly have been hoped for given the anticipated calibre of competition this year. While Luminosity are among the early favorites in the season – for what that’s worth based on limited data so far – Ground Zero lack experience on both an individual level in some cases and as a team, while Epsilon aren’t likely to fear much from Vitality until proven otherwise.
Excepting a particularly tough open bracket squad – something that’s by no means off the cards given how stacked that section of the tournament seems to be – Epsilon’s general experience together and the peak that they were capable of last season should put them as the slightly favored squad to make it to the winner bracket alongside Luminosity. It’s early days, however, and nothing is guaranteed.