Much has changed since I last did the “Who Needs it More” (WHIM) power rankings. Two teams set the record for longest open bracket runs in Call of Duty World League history (FaZe Clan and Echo Fox). Team Kaliber reaffirmed its early season dominance by winning CWL Dallas. Dozens of roster moves were made, and that’s not even counting the moves made by teams not named eRa Eternity.
Heading into the second LAN event of the season, CWL New Orleans will more or less decide who qualifies for Stage 1 of the CWL Playoffs, which begins January 23 and continues until April 8. As a result, it’s a bit of a do-or-die tournament for a handful of teams, both in the open bracket as well as in pool play. With 10 teams from North America, five from Europe and one from the APAC region all invited to Stage 1, the teams teetering on the edge of the Pro Points cut off will be the main storyline to follow in Louisiana.
One last reminder of the rules before we get started: these rankings are not about which team is better or worse, but rather who needs a major run at a given tournament more. The reasons for needing a major run can vary, but the default answer will always lean towards what a team needs in order to qualify for the next portion of the competitive scene.
15. OpTic Gaming
13. Team Kaliber
I’m not sure how many wins Team Kaliber will need to pick up in order to convince people of their legitimacy. You could make an argument that TK benefitted from some unusual circumstances at CWL Dallas, but at some point, the amount of North American 2K wins they’ve been able to pile up should mean something. In reality, their early season dominance has already guaranteed them a spot in Stage 1, so their #13 ranking is simply to silence any doubters. Despite only sporting an 8,000 Pro Points lead over Luminosity Gaming, who sits in third place, OpTic Gaming will always be OpTic Gaming. There’s no waffling, no “are they actually good” conversations, no self-doubt. Just a matter of when four of the best players in the history of competitive Call of Duty will demolish their competition. It’s odd to put them higher on the WHIM rankings than Team Kaliber, who are perched on skyscrapers above the Green Wall in terms of Pro Points. But the success of TK, and a litany of roster moves during an abbreviated chilly “Rostermania”, might have put OpTic Gaming in an unfamiliar spot – out of the spotlight.
12. Luminosity Gaming
10. Red Reserve
9. Team EnVyUs
EnVyUs probably benefits the most of any North American team following the pool play draw, as they slot in with two European teams (Team Vitality and Epsilon eSports) who haven’t gained much traction to start the year. Sure they’re locked in with OpTic Gaming, but even a second place finish in Pool B should put EnVy in a position to qualify for Stage 1 without an extended run in bracket play. Currently slotted in the second seed in terms of Pro Points from Europe, Red Reserve face a challenging draw full of hungry teams (Enigma6 Group and Rise Nation) and absolute stalwarts (Luminosity Gaming). But the talent of this roster should persevere, or at the very least stay even with the aforementioned Vitality/Epsilon Esports, setting them up for a spot in Stage 1.
8. FaZe Clan
7. Echo Fox
What a difference a tournament makes. Prior to CWL Dallas, both Echo Fox and FaZe Clan were floundering on the edges of the competitive scene, forced to make an extended run through the open bracket if either team had aspirations of making Stage 1. And then, well, they did. Look, I already talked about it in the opening paragraphs, and if that didn’t satiate your FaZe/Fox love, my colleague Wyatt Donigan wrote an excellent piece highlighting the specifics of the marathon. What’s more – we knew both teams were capable of high finishes, they just needed to display it. The interesting aspect now becomes whether FaZe can put together a repeat performance, and if Echo Fox, complete with a new roster, can find similar success. A new roster and a positively brutal Pool D placement has Echo Fox higher in these rankings, but somehow, some way, I think both of these teams find their way into Stage 1.
6. Unilad Esports
5. Team Vitality
4. Epsilon Esports
It’s a triad of European teams all garnering for a spot in Stage 1. I feel confident saying one of these three teams, each of whom are within 5,000 Pro Points of one another, will not be in Stage 1 come the end of January. That’s more so thanks to the talent below each of these teams, as another three European teams sit within 5,000 Pro Points of the finally spot. Epsilon Esports is perhaps the most divisive of the teams, given two of their slayers, Billy “Hawqeh” Harris and David “Dqvee” Davies, can go blow to blow with anyone. However, inconsistency has been their biggest downfall, with their final three games at CWL Dallas a perfect microcosm of the up-and-down nature of the roster. Epsilon looked dominant, knocking off Team Vitality and Allegiance in back-to-back 3-0 sweeps to conclude pool play, but were slotted in the lower bracket due to a third place finish in Pool B and lost to Mindfreak in a stunningly lop-sided 3-1 upset. Which Epsilon we get in New Orleans could greatly impact the competitive European scene as we know it.
3. Rise Nation
2. Ground Zero
1. Enigma6 Group
Perhaps not coincidentally, the three teams at the “top” of the WHIM rankings are also teams who made major roster changes heading into CWL New Orleans. Pick a storyline – any storyline. Rise Nation continuing an offseason overhaul by releasing Tyler “Felony” Johnson and trading Ulysses “Aqua” Silva. Ground Zero predictably getting rid of its younger duo of Rasim “Blaztful” Ogresevic and Maurice “Fero” Henriquez for the aforementioned Felony, and another Rise Nation castoff – Jared “Nagafen” Harrell. Enigma6 thirstier than a pants-less man at a New Year’s Eve party, acquiring whatever living, breathing player who might give them enough Pro Points to slot into Pool Play. Make no mistake, none of these three teams are among the best 10 in the world at the moment. And the constant (not to mention expected) roster movement can’t be good for morale or for continuity. But as the immensely intelligent James Mattone (Editor’s Note: the bromance is so real between these two) mentioned heading into Pool Play draw, at least one of these teams will be in a prime spot to qualify for Stage 1 following the conclusion of the CWL New Orleans. With Rise Nation and Enigma6 Group together in Pool C, and Echo Fox and Ground Zero together in Pool D, the respective matches between the foursome will give the winners a massive leg up for a final spot in Stage 1.