It’s that time of year again. The sixth Call of Duty World Championship beckons, offering redemption and a share of the $1,500,000 prize pool. Reigning champions OpTic Gaming have been struggling as of late, making roster moves to defend their crown, but there are 31 other hungry teams in the mix. All-conquering Rise Nation will be favourites as the eyes of the esports world descend on Columbus, Ohio this weekend, August 15th – 19th.
The most beautiful trophy in esports is on the line, with 128 players dreaming of hoisting it come Sunday night. The World Championship is a test of endurance as much as skill; out of the 32 best teams in the world, only one can strike gold. While a “normal” $200,000 MLG tournament harbours four pools of five teams, CoD Champs boasts eight pools of four. This creates a significantly longer bracket format that truly separates the best from the rest.
The 16 teams in Stage 2 of the Global Pro League are seeded into the eight pools by placing, to be joined by the 16 strongest squads from the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). The LCQ was held last month, comprised of the 32 next-best teams, containing players from 15 countries around the world. Based on performance here, the “challenger” teams were slotted into Pools A – H, rounding out the line-up.
Each pool will battle it out in single round-robin, facing off against each of their three competitors once. Only the top two teams advance, often separated by gut-wrenching tie-breakers. The group stage concludes on Thursday evening, leaving only 16 teams in the hunt. The weekend holds a double-elimination bracket in store, a single loss leaving teams with no more room for error. Lose two series and you’re out, the only team to be defeated once or less will end up victorious.
| Rise Nation | Stage 2: 2nd // Anaheim: 1st
Austin “SlasheR” Liddicoat’s men have reached the grand finals of the last three tournaments, winning two of them. All year long, they’ve shown the skill, composure and consistency required to take home the big one. Pierce “Gunless” Hillman is widely considered the best player in the world, and his teammates are far from slouches. SlasheR has historically performed superbly at CoD Champs, winning in 2016 and finishing 2nd last year with Team Envy (NV). Very few people would be surprised if he was to help guide Rise to three in a row.
| Team Kaliber | Stage 2: 1st // Anaheim: T12
TK are contenders once again, having dispensed of Rise Nation at Stage 2 Playoffs to win the trophy. Team Kaliber’s Kenneth “Kenny” Williams and Lamar “Accuracy” Abedi won the first two events of the year under the organisation, but it’s taken many months and roster changes to reinvigorate the team. Now joined by young-gun Maurice “Fero” Henriquez and veteran Ian “Enable” Wyatt, they appear to be the only team with Rise Nation’s number. Phenomenal respawn play has carried them thus far, but can they show the consistency required to become World Champions?
| Red Reserve | Stage 2: 3rd // Anaheim: 2nd
Europe finally has a true contender approaching Champs, with Red Reserve carrying the torch. They’ve only lost to top dogs Rise Nation at the last two events, and know what it takes to make deep tournament runs. The UK quartet have come ever-so-close to glory this year, but all will be forgotten if they go one better. Rhys “Rated” Price and Joe “Joee” Pinnington were runners-up in 2016 under Splyce, losing out to SlasheR’s NV. If there was ever a time to overcome your biggest foe it’s this weekend. Revenge is a dish best served cold.
| UNILAD | Stage 2: T6 // Anaheim: T4
UK fans have another very strong team to root for this year, coming straight out of left field in recent months. Since Matthew “Skrapz” Marshall’s departure for Red Reserve, this young team has turned a corner. Impressive finishes as of late, including convincing victories over teams with greater reputation, such as OpTic Gaming, should give supporters hope. Stellar teamwork and Search and Destroy mastery give UNILAD dark horse status for a deep run.
| Echo Fox | Stage 2: T8 // Anaheim: T12
Poor placings at Anaheim and Stage 2 leave Echo Fox as a widely-overlooked squad. The line-up boasts great talent that just hasn’t managed to pull it together so far this season. However, Uly “Aqua” Silva and Brice “Faccento” Faccento have placed 4th or better at every World Championship in which they have competed. History suggests this North American line-up will be playing their best Call of Duty this weekend, and history is doomed to repeat.
OpTic Gaming are the reigning title holders, but no organisation has ever retained the trophy. They have had minimal success all year by their standards, failing to win a single chip. They face Patrick “ACHES” Price’s Evil Geniuses in groups, the man who knocked them out of the 2015 and 2016 championships. Will “PattyP” prove the OpTic killer once again?
Luminosity have had an up-and-down season, winning CWL Birmingham before losing Sam “Octane” Larew to OpTic Gaming. His replacement, Matthew “FormaL” Piper, was last years’ CoD Champs MVP. Team leader Jordan “JKap” Kaplan has made four of the five Champs grand finals, winning two of them. With Damon “Karma” Barlow not competing this time, can JKap match Karma and win his third ring?
Aside from JKap, the remaining players from the 2015 world championship-winning Denial squad lie on FaZe Clan and eUnited. James “Replays” Crowder and Dillon “Attach” Price won Stage 1 Playoffs with FaZe despite a generally lackluster year. EUnited’s James “Clayster” Eubanks has now seen 1000 days pass since his last championship. With all three men victorious on Sledgehammer Games’ last title Advanced Warfare, will the curse be lifted?
Finally, Douglas “Censor” Martin has arrived in Columbus. Following July’s break-up with girlfriend Yanet Garcia to focus on CoD Champs, will the extra practice pay off? This Censor tweet from April showed his confidence in winning the coveted “Champs Ring”. He’ll need superb performances from his CompLexity teammates if their dream is to become a reality.
I’m going to win champs
— Doug Censor Martin (@Censor) April 2, 2018
CWL Champs starts Wednesday, August 15th at 12 pm Eastern Time.
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See here for full schedule and rosters.
Featured image courtesy of: https://www.scufgaming.com