The Dallas Empire capped off the inaugural Call of Duty League season in convincing fashion, dismantling the Atlanta FaZe by a score of 5-1. Emily Rand and Arda Ocal run down the Empire's win, what's next for the FaZe, and more.
Who did you have going into today?
Emily Rand: I did pick the Dallas Empire both for their potential -- which I don't think has been reached whatsoever, and that's saying something considering their performance at champs -- and the narrative. This team was absolutely considered out of contention by the community and written off surprisingly quickly after their rough performance in Minneapolis during Launch Weekend. Even with the last-minute patch changes that visibly affected their performance and their rebound to make it to the finals in their very next LAN appearance in London, the narrative around Dallas for the first third of the season was whether rookies Anthony "Shotzzy" Cuevas-Castro and Indervir "iLLeY" Dhaliwal could step up enough to make this a championship roster.
Talking to Dallas Empire players in Los Angeles (where they had their first event win and, more importantly, their first LAN win), their annoyance with this narrative was palpable. Cuyler "Huke" Garland said it best when he reiterated that this was the roster they wanted and there were reasons why everyone was chosen.
Fast forward a few months and Dallas, led by veterans James "Clayster" Eubanks and Ian "Crimsix" Porter, are CDL champions and Shotzzy was the league's MVP.
Arda Ocal: I also had Dallas, but definitely not in that fashion, which I will explain in more detail with our next question, which is ...
What was your biggest surprise of grand finals?
Rand: We've talked so much about how evenly matched these two teams are. Clayster knows Chris "Simp" Lehr and Abezy. Simp and Abezy know Clayster. These two teams have met more than any other two teams in the CDL this year. I expected a really close 5-4 or 5-3 win for Dallas, but they came out and absolutely obliterated FaZe. From their repeated comebacks on S&D after Atlanta would get a man advantage from Abezy but Dallas would then win gunfights off of stronger setups, to their approach to Cave Hardpoint, to their communication on S&D and Dom, this was a statement victory for Dallas and proof that they were the better and more cohesive team.
For Atlanta, the most surprising part was how they floundered even with favorable 5v4s or 5v3s. They didn't seem to know how to convert early advantages into round wins on S&D, and this was a large part of their undoing.
Ocal: How dominant Dallas were against Atlanta. They haven't had luck against them throughout the season -- except when it mattered the most. When there were championship stakes, Dallas were able to get the job done against FaZe, and the world championship was no different. Sure, they started with a winners bracket map advantage, but Dallas completely erased all doubt that they deserved to win today against Atlanta. There was no way any CDL team could have beaten Dallas on this day with how they were playing. Everyone stepped up in their own way, at key moments -- look no further than Ian "C6" Porter with the two-for-one in the final round of SND that secured the chip. The final play saw a 2v4 in favor of Dallas, who set up angles beautifully, waiting for Simp and Michael "MajorManiak" Szymaniak to make their move and into near certain death. That felt like much of the series -- Dallas one or two steps ahead, winning gunfights, reading spawns ... a complete team hellbent on winning. And win they did.
A fond farewell to the Atlanta FaZe:
Rand: Both Dallas and Atlanta were fantastic teams to watch all year. Yesterday I said that losing the Chicago Huntsmen hurt, and that goes for Atlanta FaZe as well. One team has to win, but when there are so many talented teams and players at the top, it's always going to be a bit bittersweet, especially with a team like Atlanta that was so consistently dominant throughout the regular season. This FaZe team is ridiculously stacked with talent, and while this isn't particularly common for COD teams to stay together for multiple years, I really hope FaZe stick with this lineup. Much like Dallas, I don't think we saw the best of what FaZe could be in Modern Warfare, and I'd love to see them stay together in Cold War.
Much of the focus for FaZe is on their younger players and the general youth of their lineup, but I want to take this time to give a nod to Michael "MajorManiak" Szymaniak. He's frequently the unsung hero of the FaZe and had a strong series individually.
Ocal: Someone has to lose, and in this case it's the Atlanta FaZe. Heartbreak for the team, and for Preston "Priestahh" Greiner, with a second consecutive world championship finals loss. Nobody expected Dallas to dominate the way they did, especially on maps where Atlanta cruised all season. If that world championship final was played 10 times, the results would have been wildly different each time, but on this day, Dallas just wouldn't be beaten.
With that said, if this team stays together, they remain a top contender for next season. They are a group of immensely talented players that are continuously a threat on any weekend. So, while it doesn't feel like it, especially for the Tiny Terrors, Chris "Simp" Lehr and Tyler "aBeZy" Pharris, who became world champs last year with eUnited. I'm certain they are sending a congratulatory text to James "Clayster" Eubanks, who just went back to back.
Who's your player of the day?
Rand: For me, it has to be Shotzzy. All year, even as recently as championship weekend, people were wondering how well Shotzzy would perform under pressure. Would Shotzzy be able to show up when it really mattered, despite the fact that he had arguably already proven that he would. He certainly showed up today, firmly closing the door on any idea that he underperforms due to nerves in any situation.
Ocal: It has to be a tie between Shottzy and Crimsix, for different reasons. One became the undisputed greatest Call of Duty player of all time, the other joined the conversation of greatest esports competitors of all time by winning world championships in multiple esports.
Crim is already the winningest player in Competitive COD history, but that third world title eluded him. That record was held solely by Damon "Karma" Barlow, until today. Crim (and James "Clayster" Eubanks) finally joined Karma atop that mountain, and with all of his other accolades behind him, Crimsix sits alone in the "greatest COD player of all time" conversation.
Meanwhile, the maiden voyage for Anthony "Shotzzy" Cuevas-Castro was about as successful as you can get -- regular season MVP honors, capped off by a playoff win for the former Halo world champ. Now he's got rings in two esports. How good it must feel for Shottzy, who certainly had his doubters coming into the league this season.
I really can't pick between the two, so you get a tie. Congratulations to Dallas!