A new era of CoD esports has arrived.
Call of Duty is finally back. With the CDL kicking off its second season and Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War making its competitive debut at the highest level, nothing could’ve been more exciting than sitting down and tuning into the league’s opening weekend. What an opener it was, with devastating losses and incredibly close matches, the first few matches of the 2021 season have been nothing short of electrifying.
With the 2020 post-season being as wild as it was, and with the incredible amount of roster changes and restructures, it was going to be incredibly tough to gauge where the teams were until the matches began and the first hardpoints were captured. Too much had changed in the past few months, a new game, new meta, new rosters, and too many new variables to account for to really predict how every match could go. Now, that the weekend as wrapped up and the results finalised, it's time to crown the Elites of the Week after months of anticipation. Here are the four teams and four standouts that truly made the 2021 CDL Opening Weekend, one for the books.
KENNY AND THE LOS ANGELES THIEVES
[Accurate reenactment of Clayster on Miami during their match against LA]
When it comes to the LA Thieves, they were a bit of a hard team to place coming into the 2021 season. The team retained three of their original players from the OpTic LA lineup after a very below-average performance in the 2020 regular season, but with an admittedly inspired performance in the playoffs. Questions loomed over Kenny "Kenny" Williams, Austin "SlasheR" Liddicoat, and Thomas "TJHaLy" Haly as a core squad and when the team brought in Donovan "Temp" Laroda after a roller-coaster season with the New York Subliners as a fourth, the Thieves at that point could’ve landed really anywhere on the tier list. It was hard to say what to expect! The team had the talent for sure, they could certainly rival the best and meet those high expectations, or they could be weighed down by the baggage from the worst of OpTic LA and the Subliners. They could either steal the spotlight or get caught stumbling and fumbling the bag.
Safe to say that after their first two matches to kick off 2021, the Thieves at the very least were clicking incredibly well, a complete reversal from what the scene saw from this core in 2020. Only dropping one map to the RØKKR, LAT was absolutely on fire throughout the weekend, handing a complete shellacking to both Minnesota and New York. Numerically some of those maps did come down the wire, but it never felt like the Thieves were out of it or never incapable of regaining control of the tempo. In fact, their closeout performances on the respawn maps in both matches, really showcased how stifling this team could get.
While every player had standout performances, shoutout to Temp for helping to embarrass the team that just dropped him a couple of weeks ago, but for GGRecon’s Cold War Points, Kenny’s domination in the match against the Subliners has to be the highlight. For a player who was seen as a standout star in his first debut as a rookie, to his back-to-back second-place finishes at Champs, everyone wants Kenny to succeed, to live up to the hype. When you’re running a 2.33 K/D on an eleven map S&D, you’re absolutely fragging, and it seemed like Kenny was always there to help let the series slip completely through New York’s fingers. Kenny was the massive nuisance in New York’s side on the flank, from long, or with the clutch challenge, in this series to completely make the match done and dusted.
HUKE AND THE DALLAS EMPIRE HYPETRAIN
A lot of the times, 3-0s are boring. You think you’re going to get a good match, and it just ends up being a stomp, the other team didn’t really put up the fight you might’ve expected them to. It happens a lot in esports, unfortunately, sometimes a matchup is not destined to live up to the hype or provide fun entertainment for the viewers at home. Sometimes, however, you get a matchup that is so astronomically lopsided, there’s nothing else to do but to sit back and watch the show.
Here’s the setup. In one corner is the reigning champions, a team that is still home to the 2020 Regular Season MVP, the 2020 Playoffs MVP, a 3x world champion, and who are still widely considered to be the ultimate top dog team to beat. In the other, the bottom 12th place team from last year, that’s fielding almost a Frankenstein’s monster of a roster, a very mixed bag of different players with different histories and a big question mark as to how it all adds up. Talented players for sure, but compared to the Empire? Who’s got the spare Cold War Points to make that bet?
Of course, with that type of storyline, you don’t go into the match expecting it to be pretty, and it sure wasn’t. Seattle looked completely lost in the sauce on every map type, and Dallas ran so rampantly nobody would blame you if you thought some of these Surge players were just debuting into the league. In reality, it was kind of sad, but if Dallas is anything, they’re an absolute blast to watch completely body slam a team from the top ropes. Whether it’s Anthony "Shotzzy" Cuevas-Castro perfectly assassinating the Surge time and time again with his sporadic and unpredictable timing, or Ian "C6" Porter who was always there to be a roadblock against any playmaking attempt on all three maps, the Empire were given an inch and took several miles to run with.
[Accurate reenactment of Crimsix in their match against the Surge]
The highlighted player, however, has to be Cuyler "Huke" Garland and his carefree 1.94 K/D on Hardpoint to open the series, and what really set the mood for the rest of the match. Shotzzy gets a lot of deserved credit for his performances, but Huke is always there to match or even upstage his MVP counterpart, and it was his play on the opening map that really showed how Empire can just run a team into the ground when given the space.
Empire’s dominant win was exactly the showcasing the league needed to see out of them, and Huke was a large part of that. No mercy, just pure fun and utter annihilation. It was a satisfyingly dominant but ultimately expected debut. You expect Dallas to dumpster, the Empire were supposed run over Seattle. The victory was fun and sweet, but that was only good up until Dallas had to face off against an actual good team.
RØKKR AND THE A.A.M.P LINEUP
Did you watch the Empire vs. Surge game and think, “Yeah that was fun and all, but what happens when Dallas actually comes to face-to-face with a challenge”? Well luckily for you, the wait for an answer didn’t take too long! Yes, in an almost inexplicable upset win, the Minnesota RØKKR put their money where their mouth is, and played spoiler to Empire’s dream opening weekend, and defeated them 3-2 in a thrill ride of a series.
Going into the match, a lot of people predicted Dallas to lose any Search and Destroys but could then take the respawn maps pretty handily. This was exactly how the series started, with Empire raising the pressure to clutch out a 250-201 victory on Hardpoint, to then having Minnesota clap back with a 6-3 victory on S&D. But Control is where Minnesota really dropped the Rock Lee training weights and really showed how much effort they put into their strategy for this map type.
Every player on the RØKKR went positive, and Dillon "Attach" Price really put on the hurt in on the Empire, in a way that hasn’t really been seen since the Subliners at their peak in 2020. Control really showcased that Minnesota was ready, prepared, and capable to completely flip the script on its head. Even if they lost the next Hardpoint, which they did 201-250 again, Minnesota knew that the S&D was entirely their playground to do whatever they wanted with, and that’s exactly what happened.
Here, Lamar "Accuracy" Abedi put on the clinic and lived up to the persona of being an S&D grim reaper. Finishing with a 2.25 K/D, which was juxtaposed with Shotzzy’s unimaginable .14 K/D, Accuracy lead the RØKKR to a W on S&D, and a W against the Empire, in what was the absolute best match of the league so far. This love-child of the New York Subliners and Atlanta FaZe may have tripped up against the Thieves at the start, but they found their footing when they needed to the most, to pull up an incredible victory against the opponent that counted the most.
Those were the Call of Duty League’s Elites of the Week for the opening weekend. Did you love them, hate them? Share your own Elites of the Week on Twitter and be sure to tag @GGReconEsports and @CoDNewsRecon.
All images courtesy of 100 Thieves | Activision