Let’s get something straight right now – power rankings are boring. It doesn’t matter if it’s for traditional sports or for esports, unless it’s a power rankings of the best fast food cheeseburger in North America, you can bet I’m going to tune out pretty quick (and if Culver’s isn’t No. 1, I simply won’t believe you). That’s in large part because rankings tend to be entirely subjective, even when they pretend to be otherwise.
But alas, power rankings seem to be solid click-bait if nothing else, so I’m left trying to find a way to make a pre-CWL Dallas power rankings both interesting to me, and intriguing enough for people to complain to me on Twitter. So let’s just lean into it.
Enter the “Who Needs it More” power rankings, an unabashedly subjective rankings system that will not touch the “who is better” argument, but rather, will highlight who could desperately use an extended run at a given tournament.
First, some ground rules. This ranking system is not meant to list who is the best team, rather which team could use an extended tournament run. The reasoning behind needing an extended run will be based on my own personal analysis. For example, it’s an entirely new game, but coming off a championship win in 2017, does OpTic Gaming really need a win at CWL Dallas to cement their status as one of the best teams in the world? The answer is obviously no.
Second, everyone needs the subsequent prize money that comes from winning a tournament, essentially making it a moot point across the board. However, not everyone is in dire straits for Pro Points. Early on in the competitive year, Pro Points will be valuable to all teams thanks in part to CWL Stage 1 and 2 positioning, so I’ll factor that in, at least initially. But consistent placing in 2K’s will effect a given team’s WNiM ranking, likely in the negative, as they’ll be less desperate to tally the Points.
Outside factors ABSOLUTELY are important when determining a higher rank. Did your favorite team make some questionable roster decisions over the offseason? Does your favorite team need a win before they self-implode due to underlying chemistry issues? If you answered yes to either of those questions, you can bet your team would be higher on the power rankings.
With all that being said, let’s examine which of the 16 teams who earned a pool play spot at CWL Dallas need an extended tournament run the most. Starting in descending order:
(Note: This ranking will not include any open bracket teams, despite clamoring from FaZe Clan fans.)
14. OpTic Gaming
I thought about putting OpTic Gaming in the last spot as the Green Wall have seemingly picked up right where they left off in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and have maintained their spot atop the North American elite. They are the unquestioned best team in the world at the moment. However, each win is considered another resume builder for a roster that has aspirations of being the greatest of all time, and something tells me that the fallout from a top-16 finish (however faint the possibility may seem) would at the very least be an annoying storyline for Seth “Scump” Abner and company until the next CWL sanctioned event in early January. So I’ll lean towards the other two regional leaders, Splyce (Europe) and Mindfreak (APAC) who’ve already jumped out to substantial Pro Points leads to begin the new competitive year. While Splyce appears to have a legitimate regional rival in Red Reserve, the decision to have just one APAC regional team guarantee a spot in pool play at Dallas likely means they’ll have a massive lead in the all-important Pro Points come Stage 1 of the CWL.
13. Luminosity Gaming
12. Red Reserve
Both Luminosity Gaming and Red Reserve have emerged as the “second best” teams in their respective regions – a dubious honor since the season is still in its infancy. I’ll rank the European stalwarts higher if only because Red Reserve seems driven to surpass Splyce, and the team made major offseason moves in order to do so, whereas Luminosity feels like it’s still hitting its stride.
10. Ghost Gaming
9. Rise Nation
7. Ground Zero
Here’s where the rankings begin to get a whole lot tougher. Rise Nation only narrowly qualified for a pool play spot at CWL Dallas, and a 9th-16th finish in the last North American 2K before pool play locks certainly was a disappointing result. But whether it be organizational prestige or simply the maturation process of the roster, I’m not worried about a high finish making-or-breaking the team this go around. Rise Nation always seems to have one good run at an open event, and while I’m not expecting it to happen at Dallas, I would be shocked if it didn’t happen at some point this season. Ground Zero could have been higher on this list, but I’m expecting changes to occur to this team at a later date, regardless of a high finish, so it’s not as if Chris “Parasite” Duarte and company really need this particular win. In terms of talent, UNILAD could very well be the best team in Europe, but they are behind the eight-ball in Pro Points. Perhaps worse yet, they’re situated in a difficult Group A at CWL Dallas, and probably won’t make up much ground with fellow regional counterparts earning cushier situations by virtue of higher placements. It would be a surprise to see UNILAD not earn one of the final five spots from Europe to qualify for Stage 1 of the CWL, but there’s certainly a scenario in which a dismal run in Texas could snowball into a fully-fledged problem in the weeks to come.
5. Evil Geniuses
Vitality had me revising my entire article after a first-place finish in the most recent European 2K, putting them neck-and-neck with Red Reserve and within spitting distance of Splyce for a top-2 spot in the region. If it weren’t for that, they would be even higher on this list. Simply put, many of their current players have either underperformed on LAN, or have failed to perform at all, making CWL Dallas a potential coming out party for the French squad. Evil Geniuses sit in a precarious place in the North American total Pro Points standings, resting at 11th behind many of their pool play counterparts. While an extended run would ease plenty of concerns around the star-studded roster, given the talent and veteran tenacity that comes with a team chalk full of leaders, it’s not crazy to expect Evil Geniuses to perform better on LAN then online. What’s more, should the team break apart, it would be an utter surprise if any of them were without new teammates for long.
4. Team EnVyUs
3. Epsilon Esports
2. Team Kaliber
Completely rebuilt during the offseason, Austin “SlasheR” Liddicoat and the rest of Team EnVyUs could easily be higher on this list depending on your perception of the team and what they could be down the road. With former EnVy stalwarts John “John” Perez and Jordan “Jkap” Kaplan finding success on Luminosity Gaming, the new-look Boys in Blue have struggled to put together consistent results. However young slayers Donovan “Temp” Laroda and Cuyler “Huke” Garland are only just rounding into form, meaning a high finish at CWL Dallas is both a possibility and yet still, an unlikelihood. I doubt there’s any possibility for a roster change in the near future, but a high finish in Dallas would certainly as the makeup on an otherwise ugly start to the new year.
Perhaps one of the more well-known organizations in first-person shooters thanks to their presence on social media and streaming platforms, Team Kaliber has underperformed (to put it nicely) in recent competitive seasons, to the point where they’ve become a bit of an afterthought. However offseason additions Martin “Chino” Chino and Kenny “KuavoKenny” Kuavo have reignited the organization, and as of this writing, Team Kaliber is sitting in third place in terms of Pro Points for North America. The surprising start has set the stage for an “online warriors” mantra, similar to the one that haunted the Gosu Crew/eUnited squad during the beginning stages of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. While a high finish at CWL Dallas isn’t imperative thanks to their relative standing in the Pro Points ladder, it would be an immense boost to Team Kaliber’s public perception, and as a result, the team’s confidence as a whole.
But the award for the No. 1 seed in my rankings has to go to an Enigma6 squad that also torpedoed its roster during the offseason in the name of greater potential, with Jordan “General” General opting to bring in a fresh crop of new faces despite a handful of relatively high finishes in 2016-17. The results this season have been – fine – much in the same way your parents shrug their shoulders after you show them your senior year report card. Ok, maybe that was just happened to me. But the fact remains that Enigma6, who through large parts of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was at least in the conversation as one of the top-tier talents in North America, is simply just a ho-hum unit hoping to round into form. A lot of their potential rests on Search and Destroy stars, Embry “Bevils” Bevil and Jacob “Decemate” Cato, who will be making essentially their first LAN debuts of their careers come Dallas. Given Enigma6 is barely holding off Matthew “Royalty” Faithful’s team for 9th place in terms of North American Pro Points, there’s a lot riding on Enigma6 to finish highly at Dallas. Perhaps too much, given the relative youth of the roster.