The 2022 Call of Duty League season is upon us, beginning with the Kickoff Classic this weekend, Jan. 21-23. A lot has changed since the top players in the world competed at the esport’s highest level, and not just the game — Call of Duty: Vanguard — which drops fans back into a World War II setting.
Some of the most decorated COD pros switched clubs in the offseason. There are two new teams after the league’s most popular franchise merged with another. And the world champs, well, they’re still the world champs, so who the heck is going to stop them?
We’re previewing this year’s action by examining the top five questions heading into the new CDL season, starting with a closer look at two of the all-time greats.
Are Clayster and C6 still an elite pairing?
Photo credit: Juan Valero / @Valerovzla
The biggest story of the offseason by far was the New York Subliners’ acquisition of COD legend Ian “C6” Porter aka Crimsix, who rejoins former teammate and fellow three-time world champion James “Clayster” Eubanks. The duo won the Call of Duty League Championship together as members of the Dallas Empire in 2020.
On paper, NYSL’s roster is loaded, with holdover Paco “HyDra” Rusiewiez and free-agent addition Travis “Neptune” McCloud (the latter coming off a quietly brilliant rookie year with the Mutineers) rounding out the lineup. Yet, only one year removed from their last title, it seems fair to wonder whether C6 and Clayster can still form the foundation of a dominant team.
In 2021, C6 looked merely ordinary as part of an Empire squad that never quite got back on the same page, while Clay put together an impressive individual season but was unable to carry his less accomplished teammates to glory. Whether they will fare any better together moving forward remains to be seen.
Is OpTic Texas a world champion contender?
They say everything is bigger in Texas, so when OpTic Chicago merged with the Dallas Empire to create OpTic Texas — not OpTic Dallas, as many had guessed — it seemed appropriate.
The question now is whether combining two decent rosters can produce one great team. Empire and OpTic finished third and fourth in the standings, respectively, in 2021. Both squads were clearly not on the same tier as the eventual world champion Atlanta FaZe, or even the runners-up Toronto Ultra for that matter. And while the Empire did manage to reach the grand final in two majors, C6 — arguably their most important player — departed, while OpTic never went further than the winners or losers bracket final.
The new OpTic Texas lineup boasts three world champions: Seth “Scump” Abner from the OpTic side, and Indervir “iLLeY” Dhaliwal and 2020 CDL MVP Anthony “Shotzzy” Cuevas-Castro from the Empire. Maybe together they can reach that level again. Apart, however, they were merely also-rans last season.
Will the Boston Breach be competitive in their inaugural season?
Oxygen Esports appeared to be at a supreme disadvantage from the moment the org introduced its CDL franchise in December. By that time, the other 11 teams had already filled out their lineups, leaving the Breach to form a roster entirely from players picked off the scrap heap.
On the bright side, they managed to land a pair of accomplished veterans in Anthony “Methodz” Zinni and Thomas “TJHaLy” Haly, last seen with the Ultra and the Thieves, respectively. The roster is rounded out by rookies Dylan “Nero” Koch and Kenyen “Capsidal” Sutton, both of whom are relatively unknown in the pro scene.
Expectations are undoubtedly low outside of Breach HQ, but if nothing else, it will be interesting to see what they can cobble together in such a short amount of time.
Did the Los Angeles Guerrillas git gud?
The Guerrillas currently own the lowest winning percentage for each of the first two CDL seasons — both separately and combined. Remarkably, last year’s 8-26 match record was a
slight improvement from 2020, but, altogether, the franchise has managed to emerge victorious in just 23% of their matches and 35% of all maps played.
The org appears to have designs on climbing out of the cellar in 2022, though, based on a huge offseason haul. LAG turned over the entire roster to bring in former world champion Austin “SlasheR” Liddicoat, last year with the Thieves, along with well-traveled vets Obaid “Asim” Asim and Peirce “Gunless” Hillman, who played for NYSL and the Seattle Surge, respectively.
LAG also made a splash with the addition of Cuyler “Huke” Garland, who many thought was a star in the making before his roller coaster ‘21 campaign with Empire and the Thieves. Much here hinges on Huke’s dependability, but, otherwise, all the pieces are in place for the franchise to finally right the ship.
Can anybody stop FaZe?
Photo credit: Call of Duty League
How dominant were the Atlanta FaZe in 2021? Well, around the CDL season’s midway point, I stopped thinking anybody else had a chance of winning. The club lost just seven matches all year — the next best teams lost 17 — and were victorious on nearly 70% of all maps played. So, needless to say, by the time Champs rolled around, things felt a little anticlimactic.
One storyline here is whether FaZe can cement their place as a dynasty in 2022. Three of the four members — Chris “Simp” Lehr, Tyler “aBeZy” Pharris and Alec “Arcitys” Sanderson — were also crowned world champions with eUnited in 2019, so clearly last season was no fluke.
But perhaps the better question is will another team step up as a proper challenger to the throne? OpTic and NYSL made some big moves in the offseason. The 2021 runners-up Toronto Ultra were one of the only squads that gave FaZe a run for their money last year. We saw the Minnesota ROKKR take a step forward late in the season, too. Or, could a surprise contender emerge?
Although it’s fun to watch the best COD players in the world do their thing, the CDL is going to be a lot more interesting if a true rival can match FaZe and create a sense of doubt about who will be crowned world champions in the end.
Lead photo credit: OpTic Texas