As we approach the end of 2020 and the end of the very first post-Call of Duty League season Rostermania, it’s high time that we sit down with some cocoa and decide who the winners and losers of the CDL offseason were.
It’s two weeks before the new year, and unfortunately we still don’t know what the Paris Legion’s lineup is going to look like. The last time anything was heard about what this roster will look like was back in November, when Dot Esports reported on some of the players they were eyeing, including skrapz, AquA, and others. But even with one roster still missing, there’s been a huge amount of change throughout the league during this offseason. Teams that finished near the top tweaked and re-tooled their rosters while keeping their cores intact, while teams that struggled in season one went with complete overhauls. Let’s pick some winners and losers, and as a bonus, talk about the biggest winner at the very end.
OpTic is back and on the attack with a smart gamble on a familiar face
It was about as great an offseason as H3CZ and company could have had this year, apart from well, you know, the global pandemic and all. The original founder purchased the rights to OpTic back in November, sold the Los Angeles-based Call of Duty League spot to Nadeshot and 100 Thieves, and opted to keep the OpTic branding for himself. With that, they ditched the Huntsmen name, making this author’s Huntsmen founder’s edition hoodie now a “retro” item, and moving forward as OpTic Chicago.
This massive win wasn’t their only one though, as they retained their three-headed fragging monster in Scump, FormaL, and Envoy, and rounded out their final spot with another OpTic veteran and former OpTic LA player Dashy. While some have concerns about Dashy’s dedication and professionalism following his tumultuous time in LA, it’s worth pointing out that he wanted to be in Chicago from the get-go. His highest point as a player came during his original stint with OpTic in the CWL, and if Chicago can get that version of OpTic Dashy instead of the LA version, they go from being just one of the top teams to being the top team.
Guerillas have a new domestic rival, but the Battle for LA will end the same way
The LA Guerillas were constantly fighting an uphill battle all of season one. Even with all the jokes about LA OpTic not being “the real OpTic,” the Guerillas still had to fight for relevance in their own city, and it wasn’t a thrilling fight with both teams at the bottom of the standings after the first half of the season. OpTic LA decisively won the battle in playoffs, dispatching Guerillas in the first loser’s bracket series before going on an impressive LB run that ended in a respectable 3-2 loss to Chicago.
Unfortunately for the Guerillas, it’s only gotten worse as with OpTic’s departure from the city, they now have to contend with another iconic brand in the returning 100 Thieves. Only Vivid remains from last year’s starters, and no one else on the roster showed anything last year that indicates that a finish in the top half of the table is happening.
The New York Subliners take the biggest leap forward
The Subliners are coming off a mediocre inaugural season, having finished in the middle of the pack in both the regular season and at Champs. But the second half of Call of Duty League season one was a huge boost for the team’s performance, including a dominant performance at their own home series, where they swept both Toronto and Chicago en route to a first place finish on the backs of their only two All-stars in ZooMaa and Mack.
Wisely, they kept both of those players heading into this year, and pulled off the biggest free agent acquisition of the entire offseason with the signing of reigning champion Clayster from the Dallas Empire, who had to be cut only as a result of the switch to a 4v4 format from 5v5. Rounding out the roster is an exceptional young talent from France in HyDra, who was considered one of the best Challengers players during Modern Warfare. Two All-Stars, a reigning champion, and a one of the best young talents in the world; Subliners won’t be settling for mediocre this year.
London Royal Ravens’ late season run looks like a one-and-done
Last year’s beloved London Royal Ravens were spear-headed by the twins in wuskin and Skrapz, who rose up past the team’s middle-of-the-pack finish in the regular season and ended up finishing fourth in Champs after an impressive uphill battle. Unfortunately, the Ravens didn’t end up retaining the services of either player heading into this season, but have kept on Seany, Dylan, and Zer0. Rounding out the lineup is another UK talent in Alexx, who spent last year with the Minnesota ROKKR.
While this roster they’ve retained is by no means of the word bad, losing the twins does on paper does look like a big loss, and despite the Ravens’ insistence that they have high expectations for this roster, it’s hard to see them exceeding or even meeting those expectations in such a stacked league.
Atlanta FaZe reunites the dominant eUnited core with clear title aspirations
One of the better teams from last year in FaZe went about their offseason re-tooling process by pulling the trigger on a reunion between one of the nicest duos in the last year of the CWL in Simp (please don’t ban us, Twitch) and Arcitys. Together on eUnited, these two eviscerated the competition throughout 2019, as Simp brought home numerous MVP trophies en route to a championship.
Arcitys didn’t show the same stuff on Huntsmen as he did with EU, and after Chicago’s experiment of bringing in his brother Prestinni failed to meet the high expectations they’d set for themselves, it was clear that both Sanderson brothers would likely be moving on. But even after a down year, Arcitys is still one of the best AR players in the game, and reuniting with both Simp and aBeZy means that a majority of the eUnited core is back together for the first time since winning a title. It really feels like it’s title or bust for FaZe this year.
Nowhere to go but up for Seattle Surge, but it’s a tall task to ask
Speaking of Prestinni, he joins the player he originally replaced on Chicago’s lineup in Gunless in Seattle. He also joins with former Toronto Ultra player Loony, and Seattle’s only retained player in Octane from a dismal opening season for the Surge; one that was filled with reported in-fighting and A LOT of losing. Keeping Octane was definitely the smartest move they made as he was one of the only players to play well consistently across the year.
But the rest of the moves come with a lot of questions, namely in whether Prestinni and Gunless can find the consistency they failed to acquire in Chicago, whether Loony can shake off a tumultuous year in Toronto, which way Gunless will affect team chemistry, and where the much-need SMG play is going to come from. It’s hard to imagine the Surge getting worse in season two, and there’s a scenario where Surge can actually be a really good team, but it requires a lot of circumstances to go their way.
The Call of Duty League is the biggest Rostermania winner
The first season of Call of Duty League was marred by some bad luck and bad decisions. At Launch Weekend, their format took away any assemblage of drama or intrigue, and their All-Star event that was to feature NBA superstars was cancelled as a result of the sudden passing of Kobe Bryant. Then, like the rest of esports, the league was delayed by the global COVID-19 pandemic before it moved to an online format, where issues with connections raised questions about competitive integrity.
But it’s a brighter day with season two on the horizon. Two iconic organizations are properly back in 100 Thieves and the original OpTic, which should provide a huge viewership stimulus to the league. And their new format that turns league matches into seeding matches for majors featuring all 12 teams is a breath of fresh air compared to last year’s format.