While it’s still early, we now have two months of matches since a flurry of pre-season matches kicked off the 2021 CDL season.
Which players have been remarkable? Below, we discuss 4 early MVP candidates, as well as 3 honorable mentions who could enter the conversation as the season progresses.
>> Tyler “aBeZy” Pharris, SMG, Atlanta FaZe (11 – 0 team record)
aBeZy Statistical Highlights: #1 in SnD 1st Blood percentage, #4 in SnD kills per round, #4 in Control kills per minute. 1.11 overall K/D (#6 overall K/D) across game modes.
The Tiny Terrors have wreaked havoc so far and Atlanta FaZe has emerged as the uncontested best team in the game. aBeZy emerges as a front runner for the MVP due to his unmatched aggression. When aBeZy is at his best, he makes the game easier for his teammates and is a key component of FaZe’s unfettered early season dominance.
In Search and Destroy, where FaZe has a 13-2 record so far, aBeZy leads the CDL in first blood percentage. Even though two of his teammates (Simp and Cellium) have higher K/D’s in SnD, aBeZy’s ability to get first blood and create early mismatches for his team makes his SnD impact and kills incredibly valuable.
In Control, aBeZy is top five in kills per 10 minutes, at 21.7, while managing to average a 1.10 K/D. Having an aggressive sub player in control is important, especially one who wins a majority of his engagements and pushes out to favorable positions to gain map control.
In Hardpoint, FaZe is also the top team, with a 13 – 4 HP map count, so it’s difficult to credit an individual player for FaZe’s success. That being said, aBeZy still has a very noticeable impact. He leads the team in average Hardpoint time, at 75.4 seconds per 10 minutes.
One of the best ways to see aBeZy’s impact is to look back to a map on Garrison against the Toronto Ultra, where he finished 20-18 in a convincing win. Three of his teammates had more impressive K/Ds, but aBeZy made several game winning plays by picking up crucial kills on rotation and playing his life to secure spawns for his team. His play allowed for the ARs to set up in comfortable positions and control the map.
Tyler is known for his ability to play an aggressive style and entry for Simp, but on that map, he proved he can make the smart, fundamental plays to put his team in advantageous positions. One of the criticisms leveled at last season’s FaZe team was its reliance on breaking. With aBeZy’s strong start, and a marked focus on fundamentals, FaZe hasn’t shown any cracks this season.
>> Chris “Simp” Lehr, SMG, Atlanta FaZe (11 – 0 team record)
Simp Statistical Highlights: #1 in HP K/D, #2 in Control K/D, #4 in SnD K/D, #5 in SnD kills per round. 1.26 overall K/D (#1 overall K/D) across game modes.
Simp has been dominant ever since entering competitive Call of Duty. Last year, he was an MVP candidate. In 2019, he won both the MVP and the rookie of the year awards. This year has been no different as he has continued to impress.
Statistically, Simp is the standout best player in the game. He leads the league in overall K/D and Hardpoint K/D, and trails only a slew of rookies (PaulEhx, Insight, and Standy, each with fewer than 5 matches played) in K/D for SnD and Control. Based on those numbers, it’s hard not to see Simp as the de facto MVP front runner.
One of the few critiques of Simp is that he has never played without aBeZy. While it is unfair to Simp, and does not detract from his standout individual performances, aBeZy’s presence is invaluable and cannot be left out of the conversation.
In Black Ops 4, it was Simp’s sniping in SnD and consistently remarkable performances that gave him the edge as the MVP. In this title, aBeZy’s first blood percentage tips the scales for us.
The Tiny Terrors have been the most dominant duo this season and strong MVP arguments can be made for both players. If Simp can keep up this performance throughout the season, then he may claim the MVP crown once again.
>> James “Clayster” Eubanks, main AR, New York Subliners (9 – 5 team record)
Clayster Statistical Highlights: #3 in HP damage per 10 minutes, #2 in Control kills per 10 minutes, #2 in Control damage per 10 minutes. 1.05 overall K/D (#11 overall K/D) across game modes.
This year, Clay faced incredible adversity yet again—he was dropped from a championship team due to the 4v4 switch, lost a teammate due to injury (ZooMaa), and had another teammate stuck in Europe (HyDra) for the early part of the season. Despite the uncertainties and the limited practice, Clayster has been able to find incredible success with his new squad.
Clay has a history of bringing out the best in rising stars and shaping new talent into championship caliber players. Back in Advanced Warfare, he won Champs with Attach. In Black Ops 4, he won Champs with Simp and abeZy. Then, last year, he won Champs with iLLeY and Shotzzy. In each of those years, the rising stars performed exceptionally well under Clay, and this year, he has provided both the leadership and the production. The New York Subliners, with Clay as the best player, is a top 3 CDL team.
Clay has the top SnD K/D on the team, and leads NYSL in first blood percentage as well as Control K/D. In Control, Clay is the #2 overall CDL player in kills per 10 minutes. In Hardpoints, he may not have the top K/D, but he leads the team in damage and sets the tone in terms of pacing. As one of the older CDL pros, age has not hindered his skill or affected his playstyle—Clay is experiencing a second renaissance this season.
If NYSL is able to reach a higher level, win a major this season, and defeat FaZe with Clay at the helm, he will move up as an MVP candidate.
>> Cuyler “Huke” Garland, SMG, Dallas Empire (8 – 4 team record)
Huke Statistical Highlights: #3 in HP kills per 10 minutes, #3 in Hardpoint K/D. 1.08 overall K/D (#9 overall K/D) across game modes.
Huke is the last player in our early roundup of MVP candidates. In Stage 1, against every team outside of FaZe, he looked phenomenal. He has been the vocal shot caller for the team as well as the top performing Hardpoint player for the Empire. Huke lands in the top 5 in both Hardpoint K/D and Hardpoint kills per 10 minutes.
Last season, Huke’s teammate Shotzzy captured the MVP award and dazzled the esports world with his flashy movement and dynamic playstyle. This year, the Empire players have been less consistent. However, throughout Stage 1, Huke was a consistent pillar to lean on (again, except when playing against FaZe).
So far in Stage 2, Huke has regressed from his impressive Stage 1 showings, and the team overall has started with mixed results. It is hard to pin this responsibility on Huke, and Empire has been very inconsistent in SnD, with a 2 – 3 SnD record to start Stage 2. For Huke, to take the next step towards MVP, he must continue to be more of an asset to his team in SnD and Control.
If he can help turn this stage around for Empire and make a deep run at the upcoming Major, then he can solidify himself as a strong MVP candidate.
Other Candidates to Watch During Stage 2 (Outside Looking In)
Wrapping up, we want to cover 3 honorable mentions who could move into the MVP conversation as the season progresses: Cellium, Dashy, and Owakening. Each of these 3 players has some ground to make up before being seriously considered as an MVP candidate.
>> McArthur “Cellium” Jovel, flex AR, Atlanta FaZe (11 – 0 team record)
It’s hard to stand out on an undefeated team like FaZe, especially when two of your teammates, aBeZy and Simp, are MVP frontrunners. But make no mistake, MC is having an MVP level year so far.
>> Brandon “Dashy” Otell, flex AR, OpTic Chicago (7 – 5 team record)
Dashy has been an absolute force on every Treyarch game. While he has been a standout individual performer, OpTic as a team have not been in fighting form, going 0-6 in map count over the past week. Questions have always lingered about his ability to play consistently winning CoD, dating back to his stints on compLexity and Enigma 6. In order for Dashy to be taken seriously as an MVP candidate, he must continue to produce while helping to guide his team to top placements.
>> Joseph “Owakening” Conley, flex AR, Florida Mutineers (5 – 6 team record)
Since his debut last season, Owakening has been one of the best players in CDL. This season is no exception. Coming in with a 1.05 overall K/D (#12 overall K/D), he lands in the top 5 in damage and production categories across game 3 modes (HP damage per 10 minutes, Control damage per 10 minutes, and SnD 1st Blood percentage).
To enter the MVP conversation, Joe must prove he can take Florida to contender status. But we think this is more akin to LeBron James’ rookie stint in Cleveland—get the man some help!