CWL Over-reactions

The Optic Dynasty will Fall.

With boots on the ground back, the reign of OpTic was more than assumed to continue into WWII. The early 2000 Series showed this would be the case but everything changed at LAN. OpTic ended there CWL Dallas event getting 3-0’d by TK and Splyce, marking the first time for this roster to go out in that fashion. It hasn’t gotten better either. After recent rostermania, teams filling the top 8 have improved and look to knock OpTic further down the standings. OpTic, a roster formed around 4 of the 10 best players of all time will always have results but their recent drop in form is due surprisingly to player performance. Matthew “FormaL” Piper and the resurgent Ian “Crimsix” Porter gives hope but the recent “LAN struggles” of Damon “Karma” Barlow, and downturn in form from Seth “Scump” Abner should kick start some worry for the Greenwall. In the end, OpTic’s greatest strength is their roster, and a stronger roster may never be formed. Although Father Time is undefeated and OpTic will eventually fall. We may be looking at the year it does.

Swanny is Actually a God.

With Rhys “Rated” Price unable to compete in the most recent 2k, Red looked to the European legend in Callum “Swanny” Swan to replace him for the time being. The first tournament the team would compete in was the online 2000 Series, in which they would win by 3-0’ing Splyce. Swanny himself has not competed since the end of Black Ops 3, playing on the European god squad of Milenium. The roster of Swanny, Tom “Tommey” Trewen , Dylan “MadCat” Daly, and Jordan “Jurd” Crowley dominated the European scene all year, and now minus Swanny make up ¾ of the current Splyce roster. No one is surprised that Swanny still has it, but to take down a top 3 team in the world with less than one week is nothing short of a miracle, bar aside online play. The only reasonable response is that Swanny is truly a god. The question really becomes if he will find himself on a roster full time this year.

 

Classic is a Jetpacker?

The brand new Austin “SlasheR” Liddicoat handpicked EnVyUs roster had the most anticipation of any roster headed into the WWII season. The squad of “Slasher”,Nicholas “Classic” DiCostanzo, Donovan “Temp” Laroda, and Cuyler “Huke” Garlandhave the talent to rival any roster in the world but early days have shown the roster fall flat. Slasher has shown himself to be one of, if not the best player in WWII, so where does the blame fall? Temp and Huke both have showed potential but their comeback is still early, since turning 18 and being able to compete again. The player left on alone on island is Classic, a veteran, and arguably the backbone of the Rise and LG rosters from the last two years. Before the jet pack era Classsic was a known player but nowhere near rated as high as he is now. Unfortunately, we are back to boots though, and it may be too simple just to call Classic a jetpacker, but movement mechanics do play a role in player performance and it very well may be the cause of a notable decline with Classic.

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Thanksgiving Free Agents: League of Legends Edition

League of Legends is having their first major free agency period since the start of franchising in North America. As with traditional sports, free agency is going to be a major time for teams to build their rosters for LCS’ new start. Instead of just giving you who some of the free agents are and where they might go, a holiday theme has been added for your enjoyment. (Note: As of the time this was written none of these players have signed officially)

Corn “Froggen”

Froggen has been consistent since the day he entered the LCS. Never overly flashy but a major part and sometimes the best part of his team. Corn like Froggen is never flashy but it is reliable and can be the best part of a bad meal.

Last year on Echo Fox, Froggen was the unchallenged leader of the team. Echo Fox finished in eighth, just outside of the playoffs the last two splits. This was due to many things, but rarely ever Froggen. There are plenty of new openings for Froggen. As an in-game and out of game leader, Froggen will be someone who is going to be brought on to do just that. His play is consistent but his leadership skills are what gets him his next position.

For this reason, Froggen will be going to a completely new squad in NA as some of the newer teams will be looking for a leader to help guide them through their first season. He did this with Echo Fox and maybe with a better and more consistent roster around him, Froggen will finally make NA playoffs this year.  With sources saying Akaadian has been bought out by OpTic Gaming it would make sense that they add arguably the two best players from Echo Fox.

Prediction: OpTic

Cranberry Sauce “PowerOfEvil”

Like cranberry sauce you either love PowerOfEvil or you strongly dislike him. He can be an absolute legend on the rift or look like he is lost. That being said PowerOfEvil is testing the waters of free agency hoping to be picked up by a NA squad.

Misfits made a surprising run in world this last year making it out of group stages. While the team played well as a whole, in most games until the end, PowerOfEvil had looked solid. He can make the flashy plays and keep up with many of the games top mid-laners when he is on his game. If he can find consistency there is no doubt that he can challenge just about anyone while in lane. For that reason I think PowerOfEvil will be a hot commodity for NA this free agency.

A great squad for PowerOfEvil would be Flyquest. With Flame reportedly signing there and a solid bot-lane of WildTurtle and Stunt, bringing on PowerOfEvil would make a nice splash for FlyQuest. For PowerOfEvil he would be able to play with teammates who can help guide him in his first year in NA and allow for him to learn from his mistakes he will probably make early on. If they get the PowerOfEvil we saw during group stages and during Mistfits’ run in EU championships, then FlyQuest could have a very strong squad next season.

Prediction: FlyQuest

Sweet Potatoes “LemonNation”

Sweet Potatoes are classic when talking about Thanksgiving dinner. They are sweet and almost like desert before actual desert. Lemonnation is a classic NA support who can surprise people by quietly being solid throughout the game. (Also both are orange/red) Lemonnation has been a consistent and overall solid support since he came into the professional league scene. He does his work and helps lead teams to being better than many people would have thought.

Last year on FlyQuest, many people felt that they would be a joke because it was made up of players who had not played in the pro-scene in awhile. They came out and surprised everyone by making playoffs their first split and barely missing playoffs their second split. Lemonnation came back with a vengeance and showed that older players in the scene can still play and has maybe changed everyone’s opinions about what a “old” player really is.

While Ignar and Aphromoo are higher on teams’ lists, there are still openings for supports especially on new teams. You could reasonably argue that once the other two have signed, whoever else has an opening would sign Lemonnation. With that in mind 100 Thieves looks like a good place for Lemonnation to end up. Ssumday and Meteos (both of whom are on this list) are rumored to be signed with 100 Thieves and Ryu has been confirmed. With Pr0lly as their coach this group could add Lemonnation and have a very reliable team.

Prediction: 100 Thieves

Green Bean Casserole “Meteos”

Some years it’s there, some it’s not. Sometimes you dislike it, sometimes you love it. Like “Dark” Meteos green bean casserole comes back after missing some time at family events and you’re afraid of what is coming next. It is put on your plate against your will and you are told to try it. This time you like it and oddly want more.

Meteos was a mainstay with Cloud9 for many splits. He has a solid following and thus every time he’s filled in for a team people have been very excited. After spending different parts of the year with Phoenix1, who went from playoffs to last between Spring and Summer split, Meteos is ready to be a starter again. With the many opportunities it is likely that he will get a chance to show he is a top level jungler at the professional level.

It is being reported that Meteos will be signing with 100 Thieves. If this stands, with Ryu and Ssumday, it looks as though 100 Thieves could have a very interesting roster to start of League of Legends franchising.

Prediction: 100 Thieves

Biscuit/Corn Bread/Rolls “Febiven”

Any type of bread is needed with any Thanksgiving meal. They help to fill you up and are a go to if you’re not ready to try something new. Febiven in NA would be that. He is a solid mid-laner who brings consistency to any team. He may not be the mvp on his team but he is needed and a safe pickup for any team.

Febiven brings that feeling of a stalwart in the middle of the rift for any team. For H2k this past year Febiven brought composure to an already winning team. He got his start with Cloud9 Eclipse and many speculate he is testing free agency in order to go back to NA. Febiven can bring a lot to one of these new franchising teams and it is likely that he would have a nice payday doing so.

According to sources Golden Guardians only have their coach so far, Locodoco. It is also rumored that Shiphtur might be signing with them. While Shiphtur is a good mid-laner, the Golden Guardians would be making a big time acquisition by signing Febiven. He would not only attract fans but also players. If they know they have someone like him holding down the middle of the Rift then players will feel more comfortable around him. Also wouldn’t it be fun to see Bjerg, Jensen, Pobelter, Huhi, Ryu and Febiven battling it out in mid next season?

Prediction: Golden Guardians

Stuffing “Ignar”

On the outside, if you have never had stuffing before you might think, “I dont know what to think about this”. Then you try it and realize it’s solid and brings the meal together. In many ways this is Ignar. The All-Pro support had some questions coming over to Misfits and showed this year that he is the stuffing to any Thanksgiving meal.

After a quick stay with KT Rolster Ignar found a home with Misfits. He was exactly what you would want in a support. He is able to speak Korean and getting better at English, and he is able to help get bot-lane ahead. His aggresion mixed well with his lanemate, Hans Sama, as he played champions like Rakan, Blitzcrank and Thresh. He is a playmaker and with that will come many offers from teams for a support who can do more than just keep their ADC alive.

There are rumors that Ignar is looking to head back to the LCK, possibly even with SKT. If this doesn’t happen and he heads to NA, there is no doubt that he will land a starting roll. OpTic would be a good match with Ignar. Sources say that Arrow has already signed and thus Ignar would have another Korean ADC. This would eliminate a language barrier and give OpTic another nice pickup.

Prediction: OpTic Gaming

Gravy “Aphromoo”

If you don’t like gravy, what are you doing with your life? If you don’t like Aphromoo the same question should be asked. The man is one of the best supports in NA and, like gravy, he is liked by mostly everyone. Gravy is also what you put on everything in order to help it taste better. No matter what team Aphromoo joins, he will make them that much better.

The Moo has been one of the best, if not the best, supports in NA since he arrived on the scene. His ability to get his ADC ahead by whatever means necessary has made him a lanemate that any ADC would want. While he still can go back to CLG if he wants to, it is interesting that he is testing free agency. It may help drive up the money for his contract wherever he signs, including CLG.

While it would be interesting to see another team pick up Aphromoo, it is likely he stays with CLG. They will give into giving him a large contract and that should bring him back. He is already familiar with the team as most of his teammates, Darshan, Huhi and Stixxay have all already signed with CLG.

Prediction: CLG

Mashed Potatoes “Ssumday”

Mashed potatoes are one of the best parts of the entire Thanksgiving meal. Is it really Thanksgiving without them? Nearly everyone loves them and sometimes if the other parts of the meal aren’t good you can always turn to mashed potatoes to be the best part. Ssumday will be this for which ever team he signs with. Everyone is going to want to bring him on and when others may not be as good around him, you can turn to him and know he will show why he is one of the best top-laners in the world.

Ssumday did not live up to the hype during his first full year in NA, but was still very good. Coming over from KT Rolster everyone believed Ssumday was easily a top 3 top-laner in the world. Dignitas fans were ecstatic when he signed on. Dig went to the playoffs both splits in their first full season back, but unfortunately were not chosen to go forward with franchising. Now Ssumday is again looking for his next home to show he is a top tier top-laner again.

Originally it was thought that Ssumday would be looking to go back to the LCK this season. Then sources came out claiming that 100 Thieves is looking to sign him. While the team has not confirmed it yet, if he were to sign there 100 Thieves, it would have a very nice start for their team.

Prediction: 100 Thieves

Pumpkin Pie “MikeYeung”

Pumpkin pie is what everyone wants even though they are already full, it is that good. It can be the only part some people care about. MikeYeung is the new, young jungler that everyone is going to be going after. He is the pumpkin pie at this Thanksgiving dinner, every team will be giving him a look.

MikeYueng made a splash in NA during his first split with Pheonix1 by winning Rookie of the Split. He showed that he can be an impact player at every phase of the game, especially when he got ahead. The problem was when he didn’t get ahead or his team struggled, he lacked the experience to bring them back. Now that he has played a full split he will be looking to show anyone who signs him that he is the real deal.

Sources are saying that TSM is likely going to sign MikeYeung. After a disappointing year with Svenskeren, it is not a huge surprise that TSM would be looking at someone with the potential of MikeYeung. With Bjerg and Hauntzer most likely staying, they will be able to help bring Mike along and help him to reach his full potential. Also, with sources saying that Zven and Mithy have come over to TSM, this squad could have an incredible 2018.

Prediction: TSM

Turkey “Peanut”

The main course, the bird that represents all of Thanksgiving is the turkey. Turkey is what people spend days prepping to make sure it looks and tastes amazing. Shows and movies constantly show people fighting over the last available turkey. Thanksgiving dinner is not Thanksgiving dinner without a turkey. Peanut is someone people can build a team around. He is the turkey of this Thanksgiving meal.

Many people were surprised when Peanut announced that he was a free agent. He instantly shot up to the top of teams wishlists, as he is considered by many to be the best jungler in the world. Every team that has a jungle opening should be looking to sign someone of his talent level. He made his name on ROX Tigers and then signed with SKT this last season. While they didn’t win Worlds he was still a major part, along with Faker, of getting this team to Finals.

Peanut is the prize in this free agency and if he heads to NA, every team will want him. If it wasn’t likely that TSM was signing MikeYeung, it is probable that they would be in the mix. Counting them out, there are three teams who will likely be vying for his service: FlyQuest, Golden Guardians and CLG. CLG has a very good squad especially if they bring back Aphromoo. OmarGod had a solid first split after Dardoch left but, if CLG want to be a contender for Worlds, they need to sign Peanut. With him on their team CLG could easily be vying for a top spot in NA and could make a huge run at Worlds.

Prediction: CLG

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

iBUYPOWER Masters 2017: The favourites

iBUYPOWER Masters 2017 starts today, with Cloud9, Liquid, Renegades, OpTic, Misfits, Luminosity, CLG and NRG in attendance. Only half of these teams have a chance at taking the title though. Let’s take a look at those teams.

Cloud9

iBUYPOWER Masters

Photo by: hltv.org

Cloud9 just came off a steaming hot victory at Dreamhack Denver, and even though the only team on their level attending was mousesports, they looked great. Aside from maybe Renegades, they look to be in the best form out of every team. Taking the wins (on LAN) that they should and not getting upset too much.

Placed in a group with Renegades, NRG and Luminosity, they are clear favourites to take the first seed in the group. And, unless an upset in Group B occurs allowing Liquid to face Cloud9, Cloud9 should have an easy path to the finals. The final will be a challenge regardless of whether it’s Renegades or Liquid; but Cloud9 should be the team to take the tournament.

Renegades

Out of the three victories that Liquid, Renegades and Cloud9 managed to get, Renegades achieved the best one. They got a victory at the Starladder i-League Invitational #2 over Virtus.Pro. Not only was it a victory, it was a domination. With a 2-0 over Virtus.Pro in the final, plus a Bo3 victory over HellRaisers, Renegades had a very impressive victory finally getting over their issue of choking away leads.

Renegades should end in the second seed for Group A underneath Cloud9, but there is always the chance for an upset sending them into the playoffs as the first seed. Although they’re not the easy favourites to win the tournament, they could definitely take the trophy at the end of everything.

Team Liquid

iBUYPOWER Masters

Photo by: hltv.org

Liquid have been looking weird since coming off of their double-final run after New York. Being unable to win a series at either ELEAGUE or EPICENTER, they went into the Americas minor with a couple question marks. They lost a Bo3 to Misfits but were able to come back and ended up taking the tournament.

In a group with OpTic, Misfits and CLG, it’s a possibility that Liquid could be upset or even eliminated in the group stage. With all that considered, Liquid should still make it out as the first seed, but it’s not guaranteed. Though, assuming the entire group stage is Bo1s, making it to the playoffs should ensure them at least making the final or taking the trophy.

OpTic Gaming

Being the only one out of the teams I’ve mentioned to not take a tournament in the recent future, they’re still one of the favourites just due to pure firepower. They have looked quite good online as well, although it doesn’t mean too much. They’re currently second in EPL although they’re only seventh in ECS. They did however qualify for IEM Oakland over Renegades.

Losing Bo3s against EnVyUs and Space Soldiers at the European minor means they’re probably unlikely to win against any of the three teams above in a Bo3 on LAN. But of course, since it is CS:GO, it is very possible for them to do anything. And, considering their firepower, they can definitely win matches with just pure aim.


Featured image via iBUYPOWER.

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OpTic

Can the new OpTic make a splash in North America?

OpTic gaming, after being stripped of arguably their best player, Will ‘RUSH’ Wierzba, and in-game leader Tarik ‘tarik’ Celik, has decided to follow in the footsteps of their rival ‘clan’ FaZe, and pick up a European roster. Their new look roster includes the likes of legendary Swede, Adam ‘friberg’ Friberg, Finnish star AWPer Aleksi ‘allu’ Jalli and a kid from Denmark you’ve probably heard of, Emil ‘Magisk’ Reif. This roster, on paper, looks pretty convincing, especially playing in the North American region. So, let’s take a look at the potential strengths/weaknesses of this roster, and see if they are going to turn some heads.

Absolutely loaded

No, this team isn’t as loaded as teams like SK, FaZe or even Astralis, but in comparison to the teams in North America, they have an abundance in firepower. Magisk will easily be the best player in the region. When he was ‘the guy’ in North (formerly Dignitas), Magisk had some of the best tournament performances we have ever seen. One such performance being a monstrous 1.26 HLTV rating at EPICENTER Moscow across 15 maps; Moscow is the only $250k+ tournament he has won. When his former teammate Kristian ‘k0nfig’ Wienecke began to take the spotlight from him, he began to fall off. On this new OpTic team, I expect him to be the focal point, so, in theory, he could return to peak form.

Oh, did I mention the Spanish star Óscar ‘mixwell’ Cañellas? On top of this massive big three, they also have the up-and-comer from Estonia, Kevin ‘HS’ Tarn. HS is coming off of a decent performance at the PGL major, which saw him at a 1.02 HLTV rating, and an incredible major qualifier performance, where he was tied for seventh highest rated player at the tournament. This team will have no trouble putting frags on the board. All that said, this team won’t be the best in North America. Quite frankly, I think Cloud9 have more proven firepower. Though I do see them in the second to third best spot, depending on if Liquid ever decides they want to do anything. If you’re including the Brazilian teams, OpTic move down two spots but could prove to be better than Immortals. Of course, that is if Immortals even stay together.

Is there a catch?

For almost every wonderful thing in life, there comes a catch. With tasty food, comes a not so great receipt. With dank memes, comes crippling depression. You get the idea, so what’s the catch with all this firepower OpTic obtained? Well actually, multiple things.

First, let’s address the elephant in the room, friberg is not an in-game leader. For all I know, he could become a great leader, he has the experience; however, he could also fail in his endeavor, and end up being back in free agency. One thing friberg has going for him, is one of the best coaches in the world, Chet ‘ImAPet’ Singh. ImAPet will help friberg massively, just as he did CLG; for example, one notable win I happen to remember was when CLG ended Gambit’s 10 map win streak on Cobblestone when the CIS squad looked untouchable on the map. Even when taking that into account, I’d say the odds are about 60-40 against him, so it is a gamble, but will be massively beneficial if it works out.

You also have to look at the way they’ll gel on the CT side, which could also be a problem. I don’t see a clear bomb site anchor here, who can consistently delay enemy pushes on the smaller bomb sites on maps. I suppose you’d have to give the nod to friberg; although HS could fit into this role, once he gets some experience under his belt. To make matters even worse, there will be growing pains in communication. In high-pressure situations, speaking your first language can be difficult, much less your second language.

Will they succeed?

In the short term, they will probably dominate smaller, North American LANs, but in long term, I don’t foresee this team breaking the top 10 in the world, but could potentially make top 15. While I’d love to believe in this team, there are just too many question marks right now to tell; if one of you OpTic members are out there reading this, I challenge you to prove me wrong and do something incredible.


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RUSH and tarik to Cloud9, a jaw dropping roster change

Cloud9 opened eyes and dropped jaws Tuesday morning after announcing the additions of Will “RUSH” Wierzba and Tarik “tarik” Celik. This move is one of the most surprising of all the shuffles, and also one of the best. This lineup cements itself as one of the most, if not the most, skilled lineups of NA CS history.

For more information about shufflemania, check out my articles on FaZe Clan and mousesports.

A much higher team-wide skill ceiling

Cloud9

Photo by: hltv.org

In the past Cloud9 has had players on the roster who were much less skilled than the rest. Not only that, Cloud9 has always had the problem of having a player or two not “show up”. While we haven’t yet seen how this roster can change the past issues, it’s almost obvious that it should be fixed. Not only that, but the constant confusion about who is playing what role is now gone. Everyone has their own place, and aside from everyone contributing to the IGL role, everyone knows what to do.

Having, in my opinion, the top three North American players on one team also contributes to the massive jump toward the skill ceiling. As well as having the best AWPer in NA, it helps a lot in the overall skill. Adding tarik into the mix adds a player who rarely has a bad event. Unfortunately in the case of tarik, he does sometimes have a moment where he does something that loses the round. If this can be fixed, there are almost no flaws in this lineup aside from no proper leadership.

Prebuilt chemistry

Cloud9

Photo by: hltv.org

Looking at the players of Cloud9, it’s obvious to see the chemistry already built up among players. The most obvious case is Jake “Stewie2k” Yip and tarik, as they PUG together and joke around a lot. Another example, though less known, is between RUSH and Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham, who both played together at CEVO Season 6 Finals on eLevate, leading to some familiarity.

The mix of players also looks to be quite a good mix on paper. Whether it be in game or out of the game, the players all seem to fit together like a puzzle. Of course it is possible for the players to not get along, but we will just have to wait and see.

Good choice in replacements

 

Cloud9

Photo by: hltv.org

While it’s sad to see the original Cloud9 roster gone, you can’t deny that the replacements are well made and make sense. Mike “Shroud” Grzesiek is now able to do what he loves full time and Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert is able to pursue something else in esports, whether it be playing or being an analyst or caster at events. Unfortunately for the case of n0thing, his benching was a team decision opposed to Shroud’s benching where he stepped down himself.

Role wise, the replacements make sense. Having a 100% dedicated entry in RUSH fixes the problem with n0thing not wanting to entry every now and then. On the other hand with tarik, he is a consistent player. And, despite the peanut-brain meme, as a player he makes smart decisions with the rare occasion of messing up a round for the team. This was an issue with n0thing as well, but opposed to tarik he did it more on a consistent basis.

Overall this move seems to be a win for the organization and players. Having a more skilled roster, players who might fit better together, and having roles make sense for once, there’s few flaws in the move. We’ll just have to wait and see how the roster all together will perform on the 22nd with the kick off of ESL Pro League Season 6.


Featured image via hltv.org

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scump optic

Scump and OpTic finally become CoD champs

The drought is over for the Greenwall. Over two years after forming a roster of impeccable skill, the longest standing roster in Call of Duty esports, OpTic Gaming, has finally been crowned a Call of Duty champion.

The Infinite Warfare season was not the greatest this OpTic Gaming roster has experienced, but they were able to finish it in style. With tournament wins at CWL Paris and CWL Dallas, OpTic was on the verge of another dominant season before poor placings in the Global Pro League (GPL) Stage One Playoffs and CWL Anaheim. They picked it up again just in time.

OpTic came into the Call of Duty Championship in Orlando fresh off a GPL Stage Two Playoff victory. That momentum made them a favorite, but not the only one, to win CoD Champs.

Unlike in years past, it was almost impossible to tell which team would emerge victorious. Would it be eUnited, or perhaps FaZe? The teams made high-profile roster swaps in hopes of a big payoff. How about Splyce? The European organization made it to the Grand Finals of CoD Champs on Black Ops III and was considered the best EU team again this year. Or what about Luminosity or Team EnVyUs? Both teams had solid years and were always able to contend with other top teams.

In the end, the Grand Final featured two of the oldest teams in Call of Duty esports: OpTic Gaming vs. Team EnVyUs. A regular ol’ eClassico.

OpTic and nV had played earlier on Championship Sunday in the winner’s bracket final, where nV was able to take a rare Hardpoint map off of OpTic to take the series 3-1. But OpTic surged right back in the loser’s final against Luminosity and the matchup was repeated. This time, OpTic had to defeat nV twice to take the crown. And they did just that.

The win cements OpTic Gaming as one of the greatest Call of Duty teams of all time, right up there with compLexity. Some would even say that with a CoD Champs title under their belt, OpTic has surpassed the old coL roster in that regard. Afterall, they were the team to beat for three years straight. It also helps that both Damon “Karma” Barlow and Ian “Crimsix” Porter were part of the coL dynasty, so essentially they have now surpassed themselves.

OpTic Gaming CoD Champs ring count

No other Call of Duty team collectively has as many CoD Champs rings as OpTic Gaming. They now have seven:

Damon “Karma (or three-rings)” Barlow x 3

Ian “Crimsix” Porter x 2

Seth “Scumpi” Abner 1

Matt “FormaL” Piper x 1

Along with his first Call of Duty Championship win, FormaL is also going home with an MVP award. For OpTic, FormaL has always been a rock with the AR, keeping his team in contention when his teammates are having a bad game. The MVP award adds an additional $25,000 to his winnings from the tournament.

Even though he didn’t win MVP, it’s hard to say anyone deserved the CoD Champs win more than Scump. In player polls, he has consistently been considered the best player in the game. A part of OpTic Gaming since Modern Warfare 3, Scump has been to five CoD Champs with the team. In his first two, he managed to take home third place. In his next two, OpTic settled with seventh place finishes. But now, Scump has finally earned himself a ring. Perhaps more willl come.

Trailing right behind OpTic in CoD Champs in rings is Team EnVyUs, who, with the same roster as last year, returned to the Grand Final looking for a repeat win. If they had been successful, Jordan “Jkap” Kaplan would have been the first to three rings instead of Karma and the team would have nine rings combined.

Now, just two months remain until the release of the next game in the Call of Duty franchise: WWII. The game will put boots back on the ground, a return to traditional gameplay. It’s too early to tell which players will excel and which will fall off, but the next year of Call of Duty esports will be starting off on the right foot.


Josh Billy is a long time Call of Duty fan. You can email him at joshuatbilly@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter.

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Image by Lalo Torres

The great global shuffle: Where’s NA?

If you haven’t been living under a rock, you know about the insane roster moves lately including teams such as FaZe, fnatic, mousesports, Na’Vi, Gambit, and many more. It’s a surprise to not see any North American teams on that list. Today, I’ll go through some teams that should make some changes and explore some possibilities for players they could pick up.

Cloud9

shuffle

Photo by: hltv.org

The big dog of the North American scene, rarely not holding the title of the best, is currently uninvolved with the shuffles. While they may be looking for a new organization, they aren’t looking to change their roster. As far as we know of course. Cloud9 may have had recent international success, making the semis of ECS Season 3 finals and a 2nd place at ESL One Cologne. But, don’t let that distract you from the fact that the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead Cloud9 has done this before. Making the finals of, or even winning, a tournament and being content with their roster for six months.

Mike “shroud” Grzesiek has underperformed to a huge extent for the last year, aside from ESL One Cologne. One tournament has been enough to stop C9 from making a change, but it’s about time that they make one. Even replacing Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert would be a welcome, although saddening, change. Both players are inconsistent, and there are a few players that would definitely be good replacements in place of these two.

Skyler “Relyks” Weaver: A consistent player who seems to be able to play in almost every situation thrown at him. He can AWP, he can clutch, and he can entry. He’s versatile and it seems like that’s a role that needs to be filled if Shroud or n0thing need their shoes filled.

Adam “Friberg” Adam: An entry combo of Friberg and Jake “Stewie2k” Yip sounds awesome. Two people who are absolutely dedicated to running out and doing their job, what more would you want? This would also solve the issues of n0thing not wanting to take an entry frag role.

Derek “Desi” Branchen: Another consistent player, but unfortunately doesn’t seem to be much of a choice for the top teams due to toxicity issues. Cloud9 could use a player like Desi, especially if n0thing were to go as he’s an improved copy and paste of the player.

OpTic Gaming

You can say that OpTic was technically involved with the roster shuffles, having Oscar “mixwell” Cañellas almost being snatched up by mousesports, along with James “hazed” Cobb being removed from the roster. Though, the move with hazed was well known to happen beforehand. Unfortunately for OpTic, they’ve been stuck in this situation since January. Trying a player and dropping him, rinse and repeat. Not to mention the issue with mixwell not even wanting to AWP and being very open about that. This roster has many problems and they’ve made it seem impossible to fix them. Fortunately, there are a couple of free agents out there that OpTic could very well take advantage of.

shuffle

Photo by: hltv.org

Aleksi “allu” Jalli: A great AWPer, not the best, but definitely not the worst. He also happens to be a good rifler along with his AWP. That could fix the issue with mixwell, allowing him to be the most comfortable.

Adam “Friberg” Friberg: He seems like the biggest possibility as they’ve already seemed to contact him. Much like Cloud9, a Friberg and Will “RUSH” Wierzba entry combo sounds awesome.

Michael “Uber” Stapells: A decent player. He hasn’t completely proved himself as a player but on a team like OpTic could prove to be a great platform for the player to build himself on. He has potential, and while that’s not the best justification, I feel it’s worth a try for OpTic.

Renegades

shuffle

Photo by: hltv.org

The honorary NA team. Renegades have recently showed that they’re willing to play with international talent. First trying out Simon “atter” Atterstam, and then picking up Noah “Nifty” Francis and Nemenja “nexa” Isaković. With recent underwhelming performances and a rumored removal of nexa, trying out some of the new free agents around doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Especially with what Renegades needs the most: consistency. Obviously, this team doesn’t really need to change much. If their core roster begins to become more consistent, this team could be great. Unfortunately, they’ve been waiting too long for that to happen and it seems change is the only way to go right now.

Adam “Friberg” Friberg: Again? Well, if you look at Renegades in terms of roles, they don’t have a proper second in. Or even first at some times. Friberg would instantly fix that, making it his mission to get out there and do damage at the least.

Michael “Uber” Stapells: Formerly Uber stood in for Renegades in a time where they didn’t have a proper fifth. Performing at a decent level in his time with Renegades. Added with some built up chemistry, Uber seems like one of the best, if not the best, options for Renegades.

Jacob “pyth” Mourujärvi: Once upon a time pyth actually played in North America, so this isn’t as far fetched as the other international players. Not only that, pyth can play the positions that Renegades seems to be needing.

The Rest

For the other teams, it doesn’t seem like it’s much of an option to change their rosters. Other than NRG removing Peter “ptr” Gurney and him replacing Desi on compLexity, nothing much has even happened in the first place. Liquid seems even more content with their roster than Cloud9 ever has with theirs. CLG just doesn’t have many options for any roster moves. Misfits are in a weird place with their roster and it’s hard to say that they should make a change. It’s hard to say whether or not any NA team will take advantage of any of the free agents out there, but hopefully in the end they do.


Featured image via ESL Gaming.

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ESL One Cologne: The tournament for the Americas

ESL One Cologne throughout the years has seen a couple different American teams playing on the stages. Whether it be the stage at Gamescon in 2014 or the stage in the LANXESS Arena. Not only that, but the last two years have only seen American teams in the Grand Finals. An interesting statistic to say the least. Here, we’ll go through the teams who played on the main stages of Cologne. Explaining how they got there, and how far they went.

SK Gaming/Luminosity

2015 was the first year the Brazilian scene met the main stage of ESL One Cologne. Barely making the playoffs over FlipSid3 in 2015, Marcelo “coldzera” David found himself in his first international tournament. And oh boy, did he surprise everyone with how skilled he was.

2016 saw the Brazilians dominate under the the Luminosity banner, before moving over to SK for ESL One Cologne. Finding themselves in the group of death, SK scored wins over G2 and FaZe, moving to the quarters against FlipSid3. For a second year in a row, SK beat FlipSid3 in Cologne. Making their way to the Semis against Virtus.Pro, SK Gaming found themselves struggling to close the match, but ultimately doing so in one of the best matches of Major history. Meeting Liquid in the final, it wasn’t too surprising to see SK dominate the North American side and take their second major title.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

So far in 2017, we’ve seen SK at their worst and at their best, and we’re only seven months in. Coming into Cologne, SK had won two tournaments beforehand. They were by far the favourites for the event. Struggling slightly in the swiss stage, SK made it out 3-2 and met OpTic in the quarters. On paper, a one sided match up but OpTic showed themselves to be strong and took Mirage, but ultimately lost the series. SK moved on to beat FaZe, arguably their rival, and dominated the European team. Going into the grand finals, it may have been a surprise to find Cloud9 there. SK didn’t let the surprise get to them though. SK controlled the entire match and took the match 3-0 and won Cologne for a second year in a row.

Cloud9

Cloud9’s first experience with Cologne was 2014, where they played their first tournament with Mike “shroud” Grzesiek. A situation very similar to Luminosity’s first tournament with coldzera at Cologne. In the group stage, Cloud9 won against Titan, and had their famous comeback against Dignitas on Mirage. Making the quarterfinals, Cloud9 met Ninjas in Pyjamas, a fan favourite. Though, Cloud9 were favoured in the match, they ended up losing due to a very important kill by Adam “friberg” Friberg. Without this one kill, Cloud9 could have definitely made the finals of ESL One Cologne 2014, but talking about what if’s is a bad thing.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

Leading up to Cologne 2015, Cloud9 looked like a Top 4 team, favoured to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, Cloud9 left the tournament in the group stage due to yet another clutch play at 13-13 in a round Cloud9 should have won.

Unfortunately, Cloud9 for the first time were unable to qualify for a major, being ESL One Cologne 2016. In 2017 though, Cloud9 were directly invited as PGL took reigns for the second major of 2017 over ESL. Here, we saw Cloud9 struggle at the beginning but claw their way back to make the playoffs. In the first round of the playoffs Cloud9 met NiP, a rematch of 2014. But, this time Cloud9 took the win and advanced to face Na’Vi in the semifinals. Na’Vi, on arguably their two best maps, lost 2-0 to Cloud9 who went on to play the grand finals against SK Gaming. Unfortunately for Cloud9, SK Gaming were looking for revenge for EPL Season 4, and SK won Cologne over Cloud9.

Team Liquid

Team Liquid first met ESL One Cologne in 2016 as they were directly invited by making the playoffs of MLG Columbus. Using Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev as a stand-in for the event, it wasn’t far fetched to say that Liquid would make the playoffs. They did just that by beating mousesports 2-1 to advance to the playoffs to face Na’Vi in the quarters. After beating Na’Vi, Team Liquid made it to the semifinals to face one of the favourites for the tournament. Liquid decided they didn’t like that title for fnatic, so they took the series 2-0. This put them as the first North American team in the finals of a major. Unfortunately for them, they met SK Gaming and lost 2-0 convincingly against the Brazilians.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

2017 saw Liquid qualifying for the tournament online. Watching the swiss stage of the tournament though, you would have thought they were invited. Going 3-0 in the group stage facing Na’Vi, Immortals and OpTic Gaming, Team Liquid showed the world that the major qualifier was not who they truly were and made their way to the LANXESS Arena. Sadly, Liquid met FaZe in the quarters and were dismantled easily by the European team.

OpTic Gaming

ESL One Cologne 2016 was the first time any player on OpTic made a major. With their inexperience on the major level, OpTic lost to both NiP and FlipSid3 in the group stage, going 0-2 and dropping out of the tournament.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

2017 was a different story for OpTic, who showed up to Cologne with zero eyes on them, and as little pressure as possible. At this point, every player on OpTic has played at the top level. Even though they went 0-3 at the major qualifier just a week before, OpTic showed up to Cologne on fire, taking down North, Space Soldiers and most notably FaZe. Only losing to Liquid in the swiss stage. Going into the playoffs they were matched against SK Gaming. Being the most one sided matches of the playoffs on paper, OpTic showed up with a little bit of fight in them. OpTic took the first map in the series off of SK pretty convincingly. But alas, SK Gaming are far more experienced in these situations and left OpTic in the dust in the next two maps.

ESL One Cologne 2017

 

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: Helena K @ ESL Gaming

 

This year, Cologne showed that the Americas, not just South America, has a place on the big stage. Admittedly, Astralis weren’t present at the tournament, but it isn’t too far fetched to say that they could have taken a playoff spot over Na’Vi or NiP rather than the North American teams.

Throughout the years though, Cologne has shown to be a nice tournament for the Americas, having an American team on stage every year. Not only just one, but half the spots were taken by the Americans this year. That shows some heavy improvement from the region, and maybe some extra confidence in the city of Cologne.

Featured image via ESL Gaming

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ECS the Proving Ground

The playoffs of FACEIT’s Esports Championship Series kicks off today. The tournament returns to Wembley Arena for its third season. There are eight teams in attendance, with the entire top four on show, three of them being in group A. This one has all the makings to be a tournament never to be forgotten as a number of storylines look to develop over the coming weekend. Here is a look at just a few of them.

SK needs to cement their number one spot

SK Gaming’s most recent win was at Dreamhack Summer against Fnatic. [Source: Dreamhack]

Although SK is currently ranked as the number one team and has won three out of their last four big tournaments, there are still many reservations to be had. The Brazilians took the spot from major champions Astralis despite not playing them in a best of three series on LAN this year. It’s a series that has been eagerly awaited and hopefully, ECS can oblige.

SK has had an easier ride than most after beating Gambit to win cs_summit and Fnatic, who was outside the top ten before the tournament, to win DreamHack Summer. Their only notable win was against FaZe at IEM Sydney, but have since lost to G2, so it is unknown how they will fare against that caliber of team this time. Their map pool has taken a hit with some of their best maps like Mirage and Overpass becoming some of their worst statistically.

However, map pool can mean very little if Marcelo “coldzera” David and/or Fernando “fer” Alvarenga shows up in form. The two have been running rampant when SK pick up victories, with Coldzera looking like the best player in the world again.

ECS will be the proving ground for Coldzera and company to prove that their victories weren’t a result of playing poorer opposition.

G2 could reach their monumental peak

G2 Esports have been on an upward trend for some time. They took a momentum boost after winning DreamHack Tours on home soil and used that to better their performance at the ESL Pro League Finals.

Kenny “kennyS” Schrub picked up another MVP award in Dallas boasting an ADR of eighty and overall rating of 1.20. It was an absolute pleasure to see the Frenchman in Titan form. However, the work could not be done without the immense fragging G2’s support players have been doing. Both Alexandre “bodyy” Pianaro and Nathan “NBK-” Schmitt have surprised fans by topping the board in a number of games.

If the trend is to continue how it should, G2 looks poised to take one of the most talent-packed tournaments of the year and net the lion’s share of the $660,000 on offer.

Astralis and FaZe’s chance to regain dominance

The former one-two punch can regain that title if they play against each other in another final. Astralis should have an easier time getting there since they have by far an easier group. Meanwhile, FaZe will have to take down either G2 or SK to reach the playoffs.

Astralis held the number one spot for a number of months. [Source: astralis.gg]

Their last LAN appearances, barring Clash for Cash, was IEM Sydney in which FaZe defeated Astralis in a closely fought semi-final. This might be one of the issues with the two heading into ECS, in that SK and G2 are in LAN form. Although skipping tournaments might be seen as a positive in order to prepare strategically, it could be argued that it might be hard for FaZe or Astralis to match the two in raw firepower. Particularly the former, whose game relies almost entirely on that aspect.

The only way to find out is to wait and see whether 2017 is heading in a new direction or if the old kings will return to reclaim their throne.

Finally, there’s Fnatic, oh and NA

At ECS, Fnatic will be out to prove that their DreamHack Summer finish wasn’t a one-off performance. The team looked revitalized with Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer Gustafsson playing close to his older self, while Jesper “JW” Wecksell was also a sharpshooter.

One of the problems with the Fnatic roster is that they are still unsettled on letting JW full-time AWP with both olofmeister and even Robin “flusha” Rönnquist picking it up at times during DreamHack.

There are also three NA teams in attendance with Cloud9, Liquid and OpTic making the trip to London. However, it is unlikely any of these teams will make the playoffs due not only to their issues but the sheer weight of their opposition.

OpTic have had to turn to coach Hazed for a second time. [Source: ESL]

OpTic is the least likely as they look to coach James “hazed” Cobb to stand in for the second time whilst also being stuck in a deathly group with SK, G2 and FaZe.

There is potential for Cloud9 or Liquid to make the playoffs by beating out Fnatic in group B. The latter seems more likely with Josh “jdm64” Marzano reaching a good level in Dallas, paired with the growth of Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken. On the flip-side, Cloud9 continue to make the same mistakes from tournament to tournament, so some serious work must’ve been put in to fix their problems. ECS, however, will be the place to air those changes if they have been made.

 

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Divisions in Competitive Call of Duty

A recent interview posted on the PlayStation website revealed a few details about the upcoming Call of Duty title WWII. In a question asked by a Twitter user, Michael Condrey revealed that there are to be some exciting changes to the current Create a Class system. He stated:

We’re days away from E3 2017 and the team at Sledgehammer Games can hardly wait to share more on our multiplayer plans. We’re particularly looking forward to revealing more on Divisions. Divisions fundamentally redefines how players invest in their Multiplayer soldier career. Replacing the create-a-class system, players choose from five iconic World War II divisions each with specific basic combat training, division training and weapon skills. We think it’ll intrigue Call of Duty series veterans, and we can’t wait for our fans to see it for themselves.

In this article, I will discuss some of my thoughts on how this might impact the competitive scene in the upcoming year.

WEAPONRY

The system sounds strikingly similar to that of CoD’s biggest competitor, Battlefield. In EA’s latest release, Battlefield 1, the player can specialize in a number of classes ranging from the close quarters’ Assault class to a horseback riding soldier with the Cavalry class.

As in Battlefield, the E3 reveal shows us that it’s likely each division will be restricted to a certain type of weapon. For example, the infantry divisions used at E3 had either the M1 Garand or the BAR while the mountain division made either the M1903 or the Kar98k available.

Click to get an enlarged look at the Infantry division. [In-Game footage belongs to Sledgehammer]

Click to get an enlarged look at the airborne division. [In-Game footage belongs to Sledgehammer]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Separating the different types of weaponry adds more hours of grinding into the game as players will no doubt work to unlock various cosmetics only earned through using a particular class. A thought I had about how it could change the competitive landscape is if there was a limit on how many divisions can be used on one team. If it were limited to just one or two then expert players in one division may be more valuable players than others.

An obvious example would be the mountain division which homes the sniper rifles. If teams have to have a sniper player their value in the esports space would rocket.

Although it’s unlikely to happen, it would deepen the tactical play of CoD and definitely help bring back more defined roles.

DIVISION SKILL

Another element to creating the perfect class is the game’s perks. However, in WWII perks have been replaced by various division skills and training. Division skills, as the title would suggest, are exclusive to whichever division the player chooses to use. The ones I saw at E3 seemed fairly basic, for example a bayonet charge melee in the infantry class or being able to equip a suppressor in the airborne class.

The two more exciting ones were sharpshooter in the mountain division and incendiary shells in the expeditionary division. The former allows the player to gain aim assist and see enemy name tags whilst holding their breath. This should be extremely helpful for players using that division since it revolves around the bolt action rifles. However, it should not affect competitive too much since it does not reveal players through walls or anything game breaking like that.

The incendiary shells are shotgun rounds which spark flames that burn enemies to death. I simply picked this one out since it seems like something that could be overpowered. If previous games are anything to go by, shotguns will likely end up being banned anyway, thus making the skill useless.

DIVISION TRAINING

Division training seems to be division specific perks aimed at directing the player to use that class in a particular way. For example, the division training available for the airborne class at E3 was Pathfinder III which grants the player increased sprint speed, duration and the ability to mantle faster. This suits the airborne playstyle as it focuses on sub machine gun play.

There’s currently not a lot to say on division training since at E3 only one was available for each division.

BASIC TRAINING

The final perk related addition to create a class is basic training. Confirmed in a tweet by Michael Condrey, any basic training unlocked can be used across any division.

The most impactful basic training on competitive is probably phantom. This perk gives quieter movement, no fall damage and makes the player invisible to UAV. To long-time players, the perk is better known as dead silence and has been in every Call of Duty. However, it is particularly problematic in this case since players are already limited in what perks they can choose.

Even if the developers have tried to integrate quieter movement into the game, professionals will more than likely choose to use dead silence so their ability to make plays is never hindered. This can make the game stale for viewers as they end up seeing the same setup every map.

Another interesting basic training is smoked. This gives the player a smoke as their secondary grenade. As we’re back to boots on the ground the use of smokes could further tactical depth. I can envision players smoking off certain trench routes to deny the enemy information in the round. The gameplay below is of the map Point du Hoc which looks like it could utilise smoke grenades.

The final perk I will discuss is called scope. This makes the player move faster while aiming down sights as well as adding an additional attachment onto their primary weapon. The reason why this could be impactful in competitive play is if there is no stock attachment.

Stock also allows for faster movement while aimed in and is a favorite among pros as it gives assault riflers a more even playing field against the sub machine guns. It will be interesting to see if riflers opt to take the perk over something standard like phantom.

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