Call of Duty League 2021 midseason awards

by Andrew Kulp

Who has been the best player in the Call of Duty League this season? The best rookie? Which two teams put on the best match?

We're past the midway point in the 2021 CDL season, which is barreling into its All-Star Weekend this Saturday and Sunday. It's a time to celebrate the best players in the world -- and, naturally, to generate a little controversy as well by handing out midseason awards.

There have been plenty of surprises over the first three stages, but with only two more to play, it feels like the true contenders are beginning to separate themselves from the pack. In turn, it's also easy to see which players are helping propel their teams to that S-tier level.

While a lot can still change between now and the league championship, here are my picks for the biggest names and moments in the CDL so far this season.

Read more: Toronto Ultra's Bance goes from near retirement to regaining confidence

First-half MVP

James "Clayster" Eubanks, New York Subliners

If you base this award on statistics or a determination about who is the best player in the league right now, Clayster wouldn't necessarily be the first choice. But the award isn't "Best Player" -- it's "Most Valuable" -- and no one individual has been more vital to their team's success so far in 2021.

Clayster was the glue holding NYSL together earlier this season. The three-time world champion has been as much a coach and a mentor as he has been a role model for young up-and-comers like Makenzie "Mack" Kelley and Conor "Diamondcon" Johst, and no doubt aided in the improvement of teammate Obaid "Asim" Asim as well. If you recall, neither Diamondcon nor Asim were even on the team only a few months prior to the start of the season.

It's not as if Clayster has been a slouch in-game, either, ranking among the league leaders in damage per 10 minutes in Hardpoint (second) and Control (fourth).

The addition of Paco "HyDra" Rusiewiez to the lineup in Stage 3 to replace Diamondcon suddenly gives NYSL one of the most formidable rosters in the CDL, so the pressure on Clayster to do everything has eased a bit. That being said, they're not currently sitting in second place in the standings if not for the job he did in the early portions of the year.

Read more: Subliners’ Diamondcon puts CDL on notice: ‘I’m coming for rookie of the year’

Arcitys, left, went from one good team last year in the Chicago Huntsmen to joining a juggernaut this year in the Atlanta FaZe. Photo credit: Call of Duty League

Best offseason addition

Alec "Arcitys" Sanderson, Atlanta FaZe

Playing alongside three MVP-caliber players in Tyler "aBeZy" Pharris, McArthur "Cellium" Jovel and Chris "Simp" Lehr, Arcitys tends to get overshadowed on Atlanta's deep, dominant roster. Yet, the reality is there likely was no more perfect available complement to that trio back when rostermania was unfolding in the offseason.

It's not as if Arcitys is posting gaudy numbers since leaving the Chicago Huntsmen. He isn't among the league leaders in many major statistical categories, and he ranks last on his own team in kill-death ratio -- granted, his 1.06 is still tied for ninth in the CDL.

What Arcitys does especially well though is consistently put himself in the right positions that allow his teammates fry. Plenty of fans have remarked that the league made a huge mistake in allowing him to land with FaZe, which, based on their 22-4 record and pair of Major championships this season, seems indisputable.

Best rookie or midseason addition

Jamie "Insight" Craven, Toronto Ultra

Rostermania didn't end in the offseason. It carried right into the games, with only two teams -- FaZe and OpTic Chicago -- still fielding their same lineup from opening weekend. The results of all that movement have been mixed, to say the least, but no lineup change has altered a team's fortunes quite like Insight coming off the bench for Toronto.

Signed by Ultra from Team Singularity in October, Insight replaced Anthony "Methodz" Zinni in the lineup heading into Stage 2. The impact of the switch was almost immediate. Since going 0-2 in their first two games, Toronto has posted a 14-4 record, including a nine-game winning streak and a Major championship. Three of their four losses during that span were to FaZe.

Not only has Ultra suddenly transformed into one of the top teams in the league, but Insight looks like a star. He currently ranks fifth with a 1.11 overall K/D, second with a 1.14 Hardpoint K/D and is tops in CDL with a 1.29 K/D in Search & Destroy.

Read more: Priestahh discusses ROKKR’s early-season turnaround

The Dallas Empire beat the Minnesota ROKKR during Major II in the most memorable match of the year so far. Photo credit: Call of Duty League

Best match

Dallas Empire vs. Minnesota ROKKR, Major II

This might be a bit more subjective of an award, as there have been memorable matches every week, and what makes one your favorite might be open to interpretation. For my money, the Empire's 3-2 victory over the ROKKR at Major II had everything that makes CDL, esports and competition in general so much fun.

There were high stakes, as the victor moved on to the winners' final against FaZe, and the loser to the elimination bracket. There was history, as Minnesota had twice upset Dallas earlier in the season. There were surprises, with the ROKKR unexpectedly sweeping Hardpoint maps. There was drama, with the Empire coming from behind to take Control and both S&Ds -- somehow pulling it out in Game 11 each time.

Dallas and Minnesota have fallen off since, which is a shame because, at the time, they looked like two of the top teams in the league. That only added to the feel this was a huge clash, and unlike so often when a match fails to live up to the hype, both sides delivered in this one.

Best moment

Ben "Bance" Bance, Toronto Ultra, Major II

With FaZe having won two of three Majors up to this point, watching anybody pull off the upset and knock them off their pedestal would probably qualify as the season's best moment to date. Seeing Ultra do it, partially on the strength of an incredible performance by Bance no less, was especially thrilling.

For starters, Toronto were considered an extreme longshot entering Major II, having entered the tournament going 2-3 in group play and a 5-8 record overall. Bance in particular was the recipient of overwhelming criticism from fans for his subpar play earlier in the stage as well -- the weight of which the Englishman later revealed had him seriously pondering retirement.

All of those creeping doubts culminated in Ultra getting white hot after being bounced in the winner's bracket, going 14-4 on maps the rest of the way, including a 5-3 revenge win over Atlanta in the grand finals. As for Bance, he went off, racking up a 1.11 overall K/D in the finals and pulled off a clean 10 kills and zero deaths in Game 7 S&D.

That performance, that story, that entire Major as a whole is one that should leave fans with a lasting memory this season.

Lead image credit: Call of Duty League

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