Before we get excited about the 2018 NFL Draft (maybe that’s a me thing) and Avengers: Infinity War + Infinity More Marvel Movies, we are blessed with another installment on the competitive Call of Duty circuit - the CWL Seattle Open. While the tournament itself won’t garner nearly as much attention as the upcoming CWL Anaheim Open in June, Seattle will certainly hold some intriguing storylines to follow.
How will the new teams joining Stage 2 assimilate into the CWL Pro League? Will the roster moves made by the likes of Echo Fox, Team EnVyUs and Team Kaliber help them rise to the top or continue running on the trail of mediocrity? Is compLexity Gaming actually good? How far will a handful of open bracket teams make it? Why did I list a string of questions and attempt to pass them off as storylines?
We’ll find answers to at least one of those questions come Sunday but, for now, it’s all about the predictions. Let’s take a look at who should find a spot in the championship bracket come Saturday evening.
Pool A: FaZe Clan, Rise Nation, Echo Fox, Tainted Minds
Advancing: Rise Nation, Echo Fox
It seems impossible to have the Global Pro League Stage 1 winners left out of the championship bracket in the very next LAN event, but the depth of Pool A knows no bounds. It took a near miraculous and unprecedented run from FaZe in order to take first place at the aforementioned event, whereas there’s reason to believe both Rise Nation and Echo Fox have improved after both teams made roster moves during last week’s Rostermania. If ever there was a way for FaZe Clan to display a tiny bit more consistency, I’d feel more confident in them fighting off the championship-winning hangover. As it stands, though, I feel a tinge more confident in the two new teams. It’s odd, as I suspect if FaZe had not won Stage 1, I would instead lean towards the underdog story of sorts because roster consistency should mean something, but here we are. And it’s not as if Rise or Echo Fox made widespread changes, with Rise Nation making an obvious improvement by acquiring Austin “SlasheR” Liddicoat for Anthony “Methodz” Zinni, while Echo Fox added Donovan “Temp” Laroda in replace of Adam “Assault” Garcia. While chemistry concerns linger in the background for both teams, the first few months should be like any other relationship - except in this analogy, excessive amounts of PDA equals championship level performances.
Pool B: OpTic Gaming, Team EnVyUs, UNILAD Esports, Epsilon eSports
Advancing: OpTic Gaming, Team EnVyUs
I withheld writing anything about Pool B until the conclusion of the relegation matches, as this group seemed tailor made for the likes of Evil Geniuses and GGEA Orange to make a surprising run. Alas, the edition of a new-look Epsilon squad doesn’t do enough in my mind to offset the two front runners in OpTic Gaming and Team EnVyUs. The Green Wall arguably should have won the Stage 1 Playoffs, and I suspect the near miss might act as a bit of motivation - that is until Damon “Karma” Barlow suggested the team’s scrimmages prior to the CWL Seattle Open have been less than subpar. Particularly with the wholesale changes to divisions in Call of Duty: World War II, efficient and positive practice will be essential to make a championship run, which is exactly why I think the hullabaloo was a ruse. OpTic Gaming could never enter a tournament with decreased expectations given its massive fanbase and world class players, but allowing a little blood to hit the water screams mind games as opposed to exposing any sort of legitimate weakness. In a pool devoid of any sort of legitimate challenger (sorry Team EnVyUs) it feels like a mere formality OpTic Gaming will end up in the winners side of the bracket.
Depending on what open bracket team gets slotted into Pool B, EnVyUs by default feels like the second choice, but I’m not exactly enamored with the decision to release both SlasheR and Temp. You probably won’t find a bigger fan Martin “Chino” Chino than myself, but even I have to admit the move was a downgrade in terms of skill. Not to mention that, while acquiring Jacob “Decemate” Cato should improve the team’s S&D, his potential is limited compared to that of Temp’s. The argument for a Team EnVyUs surprise run rest almost solely on an improved team chemistry - Chino is renowned in the scene as being a “good guy” and Decemate should be a tiny bit quieter than Temp. After SlasheR jumped ship for Rise Nation, there’s no question who EnVy belongs to, which should help Cuyler “Huke” Garland play with more confidence than at any point this year.
Pool C: Luminosity Gaming, eUnited, compLexity Gaming, Mindfreak
Advancing: Luminosity Gaming, eUnited
Much like how you already know what type of person someone is depending on their answer to “is a hotdog a sandwich?” (it’s absolutely not), we’ll finally get to figure out whether eUnited’s struggles were because of Justin “Silly” Fargo-Palmer or Preston “Prestinni” Sanderson, as the former has found a new home on Evil Geniuses. They might have lucked into a decent enough pool, as there’s a bevy of question marks pertaining to compLexity Gaming and Mindfreak. The trio of Rasim “Blazt” Ogresevic, “Brandon “Dashy” Otell and Richard “Ricky” Stacy is certainly intriguing, but the decision to bring Doug “Censor” Martin from Lightning Pandaz is a bit of head scratcher given the plethora of other veterans currently aligned with open bracket teams. Kudos to Censor for finessing his way onto a Pro League team, but of all the roster moves that took place during Rostermania, that one feels the oddest. Lastly, don’t even get me started on Luminosity Gaming - a team that very well might have been the biggest winners of Rostermania without even making a move.
Pool D: Team Kaliber, Red Reserve, Splyce, Evil Geniuses
Advancing: Red Reserve, Splyce
You couldn’t find a better test for the new-look Team Kaliber roster, as both Red Reserve and Splyce could be considered among the few teams capable of winning the entire tournament, not just the pool. Maurice ‘Ferocitys” Henriquez should help TK in Search and Destroy, to the point where I would be surprised if they lost a single S&D, and the decision to bring on Methodz for Chino is at worst an even trade. This isn’t like the moves Rise Nation and Echo Fox made, though, where the respective teams essentially upgraded crucial positions - the decision to release Dylan “Theory” McGhee is a wide-sweeping change that affects every aspect of the roster. Against experienced and well-practiced teams such as Red Reserve and Splyce that potential lack of cohesion could be a problem, but I would still be surprised if Team Kaliber finished with anything worse than a 9th-12th place finish.