After a three-month off-season and a further month of online competition, the first major event of the 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. Within 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 lower bracket.
For the most part, Group A should be about the fight for second place – there isn’t a heavier favorite in the tournament for a top pool play finish than OpTic Gaming. That doesn’t detract from the interest in this group, however – the group will offer a first offline look at several new line-ups, and how each performs here will begin to set the stage
The level of competition in international Call of Duty right now also means that Group A could get even tougher – one more team will join from the open bracket, and that section of the tournament will include a number of veteran squads that could potentially fight for a winner bracket spot.
OpTic Gaming (Scump, Crimsix, FormaL, Karma)
If the OpTic Gaming roster was an intimidating prospect in the advanced movement era, a return to boots-on-the-ground might only make them more formidable.
In Ian ‘Crimsix’ Porter and Damon ‘Karma’ Barlow, two players who have taken more of a back seat in recent years in terms of playing the star, OpTic have two of the most talented and successful BOTG-era players. Seth ‘Scump’ Abner has been universally hailed as one of the game’s greatest talents since Black Ops 1, and even Matthew ‘FormaL’ Piper earned his spot on this very roster by becoming one of the premier talents of Call of Duty: Ghosts, his first season in the franchise.
Supremacy out of the gate isn’t a foregone conclusion, however. Famous for their slow starts, it’s not just the “OpTic Friday” that this squad need to be wary of. Over the three full seasons since the formation of the core three, OpTic have won a majority of the tournaments they’ve attended, collecting more major trophies than the rest of the world combined. None of them, however, have been at the first event of the season.
In Advanced Warfare, when the union of Scump, FormaL and Crimsix was brand new, they were upset by FaZe in the grand finals of MLG Columbus. The following year, they were denied at both the Totino’s Invitational and UMG Carolina – whichever you choose to consider as the first legitimate event of the season – by Rise Nation. This past year of Infinite Warfare, they finished in the top-6 of CWL Vegas, eliminated once again by FaZe.
Aside from that history, however, every other indicator suggests OpTic should, as is often the case, be favorites to take the tournament. They ended Infinite Warfare on the ultimate high, winning Stage Two of the Global Pro League following shortly by the Call of Duty Championships at last. To kick off WWII, they’ve won three of the four 2K Series online tournaments in convincing fashion. Until tested on LAN, it must be assumed that OpTic are as dangerous as ever.
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Enigma6 (General, Dashy, Bevils, Decemate)
Call of Duty WWII sees Enigma6 starting over with a whole new look, and not perhaps of the sort that might have been expected.
In Infinite Warfare, captain and owner Jordan ‘General’ General re-established himself as a truly elite talent, after taking a hiatus for the previous season due to age restrictions. As a legitimate star player to contend with almost anyone, General should never have had more options for interested team-mates among the established elite than coming into this year.
Instead of joining Call of Duty’s traditional ruling class of players, however, General has chosen to take Enigma6 in a different direction entirely. The new line-up he’s put together for WWII eschews the generally prevalent preference for experience in favor of acquiring young talents hungry to prove themselves on the big stage at last.
For Embry ‘Bevils’ Bevil and Jacob ‘Decemate’ Cato, Enigma6 is a first shot at playing on the big stages. Having only come of age for this season, the pair had previously made their names as online SnD players – a notable reputation, but one that pales in comparison to prestige on offer in the CWL circuit.
Brandon ‘Dashy’ Otell came up in similar circumstances, but began to make a name for himself on LAN towards the end of Infinite Warfare, impressing with some solid showings for Str8 Rippin.
This is the squad that General, who might otherwise easily justify a spot on a top-five team in the world, has built for himself. It’s a squad that leaves him with a heavy burden of pressure to carry, as the captain, owner, in-game leader, most experienced and most demonstrably skilled player on the roster. Having chosen this route, responsibility to failure will lie primarily with him – but so too will the glory in success.
The team have certainly risen to the challenge for the start of the season. Largely thanks to two top-eight finishes out of the three relevant 2K tournaments, Enigma6 have given themselves a pool play spot from which to launch their WWII campaign.
UNILAD (Skrapz, wuskin, Seany, Moose)
The lone European representative in the group, excluding potential additions from the open bracket, UNILAD are another entirely new squad.
Twins Matthew ‘Skrapz’ Marshall and Bradley ‘wuskin’ Marshall spent Infinite Warfare playing for Fnatic, a squad that managed some surprising successes over the course of the year. Given that only Thomas ‘Tommey’ Trewen had much international pedigree on the Fnatic roster, to peak with a top-six Global Pro League Stage Two finish in a year of intense competition speaks to the immense growth of the squad across the season.
With a year of international competition alongside one of Europe’s most successful veterans under their belts, the twins have now put together a squad of their own design. Sean ‘Seany’ O’Connor is of a similar generation, having himself begun to earn international recognition within the Infinite Warfare season, while rounding out the roster is Tom ‘Moose’ Handley.
Moose alone has boots-on-the-ground experience, but it’s not insignificant – he established himself truly amongst Europe’s elite in Ghosts, and he was part of one of the early great international results for Europe in TCM’s third-place finish at MLG Anaheim 2014.
More recently, in Infinite Warfare Moose was at one point hailed as the best player in Europe, an impressive title given the competition he faced to claim it. If he can once again reach that level, UNILAD will absolutely be capable of giving some of the teams in Group A, especially the likes of the relatively inexperienced E6, a run for their money.
A couple of top-four finishes in the European 2K tournaments were enough to see them into pool play, but with only five Global Pro League spots available to Europe and plenty of competition for them, UNILAD will have to show up in Dallas if they want to maintain their grip on the position they currently hold.
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EnVyUs (SlasheR, Huke, Temp, Classic)
WWII sees the first overhaul of the EnVyUs squad since the middle of the Black Ops 3 season. The roster that was put together then was the most successful the organization has ever fielded, winning the Call of Duty Championships in 2016 and returning to the grand finals of the event in 2017. Certainly, the new roster has big boots to fill.
This won’t be the first time out for this line-up, however. At the very end of the Advanced Warfare season, this exact roster came together for a single event, the MLG World Finals, under Denial Esports. The result was an impressive run to the grand finals, where they were defeated by OpTic Gaming.
Despite an incredible debut for this team of four, however, their progress was immediately cut short by the introduction of age restrictions that came with the advent of the CWL era, preventing Temp and Huke from continuing to compete.
Since going their separate ways, Slasher has collected a Call of Duty Championships title with EnVyUs in 2016, while Classic was a key piece in the successes of Rise Nation and Luminosity in Black Ops 3 and Infinite Warfare respectively.
Now, the MLG World Finals runners-up are re-united. In the interim, Huke’s legend in particular has only grown. Having established himself firmly among the elite within what was effectively his rookie season, Huke was already one of the game’s most exciting young prospects at the end of 2015.
Prevented from competing in Call of Duty, however, Huke didn’t simply languish in the wings until coming of age, but instead switched to Halo. There, he ultimately found even more success than he had in his early Call of Duty career, eventually competing for one of the most successful squads of the last two years.
Now making his long-anticipated return to a team that has reportedly been lined up for a reunion almost since their original separation, Huke only adds to the spotlight and expectations placed upon the new EnVyUs roster.