1. Despite Initial Reactions, Group A is Stronger Than Group B
After the Stage 2 group announcement, Breaking Point took a poll to see which group fans thought was the group of death. In the poll, by a margin of almost 2:1, fans overwhelming picked Group B as the more difficult pool.
At the start of Stage 2, 66.3% of fans voted for Pool B as the group of death
Let’s take a closer look at how these pools breakdown, because after week 1, there’s a strong case to be made for Group A being the more competitive group going forward.
FaZe are the clear favorite, but the competition for top 3 is fierce.
The bottom two teams in Ultra and Ravens made roster changes and have improved. The Ultra took LA Thieves to a map 5, round 11 situation with Insight and the Ravens found their first win with PaulEhx.
Even the match between some of the top teams in the pool—NYSL and LA Thieves—went the distance. Rounding out the group is LAG, who given their upset of LA Thieves at the major, cannot be slept on. With the recent addition of Venom at LA Thieves, and the prospect of HyDra‘s debut only improving NYSL, getting top 3 in this group has become even more difficult. In short, Group A has improved dramatically: 4 out of 6 teams have made roster upgrades, or have the potential to upgrade their rosters at the drop of a hat.
Group B has two front runners in OpTic and Empire. Granted, Empire was tested by Surge, and Surge’s improvement does add some strength to the group.
The rest of the group has shown many weaknesses. The RØKKR are the worst hardpoint team in the game and opened the group with a 0-6 map count. Earlier this week, the team made a roster change, adding rookie Standy. But, as discussed on the Breaking Point podcast this week, they still have to play the two top teams in the group, and placing top 3 will be difficult given the 0 – 2 start.
The Mutineers have been inconsistent this season the Legion can’t seem to find a way to close out maps. With several teams struggling, placing top 3 in Group B is possible for middling teams, and only 1 out of 6 teams in the group have made a roster change to improve.
2. Fantastic Debuts in 2021: The Year of the Rookie
Better Call Paul
Stage 2 saw multiple Challenger stars make their official CDL debut, and they made quite the impression.
A lot of eyes were on Paul “PaulEhx” Avila who was signed by the London Royal Ravens to replace Parasite. Going into his first series against LAG, many wanted to see if his dominance in the Challenger scene would translate to the pro league. Safe to say that Paul delivered.
PaulEhx led the Ravens in a dominant 3 – 0 sweep over LAG, putting up nearly 11,000 damage, the highest on his team. PaulEhx soaked up 2 minutes on the hill on Map 1, dropped a map-leading 8 kills for the Raven’s second win all year in SnD, and dished out 5K damage in the control.
Notably, PaulEhx’s impact on the series was not just limited to his slaying ability. During the listen-ins, he showed strong communication, ensuring the team was aware of the opposing team’s spawns throughout the series.
In the post-game interview, Seany noted that the addition of PaulEhx has breathed life into their team and is the youngster they’ve needed to carry the weight when others are not performing up to par.
No Zinni No Winni?
PaulEhx wasn’t the only rookie making his CDL debut in Stage 2 Week 1, as Jamie “Insight” Craven joined the starting lineup for the Toronto Ultra. Insight replaced Methodz as the Main AR for the team. Despite the community backlash and scrutiny, Insight performed at a high level.
Ultra were not able to pull out a win against the Thieves, but Insight had a memorable debut. He amassed 15,864 damage, 103 kills and a 1.33 K/D in the 5 game slugfest. He was active in their communication and was a stable force in the backline. Insight did all he could to try and close the series going on a crazy 11 kill streak to help secure map 4 and dropping 18 kills in map 5—a new CDL record for most kills in a single SnD map.
In the next match against the dominant FaZe, Insight and the team got blown off the map in a quick 3-0 series. Insight dropped a 0.66 K/D in the series, but dealt the most damage on his team.
This led to fans questioning the move since Ultra was unable to secure a win, albeit against the group front runners. With the two bottom teams in the group still left to play, the Ultra can look to turn Insight’s star potential into wins.
3. New Maps Improve the Competitive Map Pool
Stage 2 brought the introduction of two new maps into the map pool, Apocalypse (Hardpoint) and Express (SnD), replacing Crossroads (Hardpoint) and Garrison (SnD).
Apocalypse Hardpoint replaced the polarizing Crossroads Hardpoint map and mode combination. A week into release, Apocalypse appears to be popular in the community with analysts such as FaZe’s EasyMac praising the new map.
Apocalypse was played 4 times out of the 10 series this week, and has already produced some exciting finishes, including a 250-225 map between the Legion and OpTic.
The other map that was added to the competitive pool was Express SnD. First introduced back in Black Ops 2, this map and mode combination evokes feelings of nostalgia for the fans and players. In addition, this map has been widely lauded by pro players and teams, because attack strategies are viable on both bomb sites. A major issue on Garrison SnD was the viability of a single bomb site, which created linear gameplay.
Express was played 4 times out the 10 series this week, and each map came down the wire. 3 times the map has gone to a round 11, the most notable being the map 5 between Seattle and Dallas that came down to fraction of a second. It will be entertaining to see what new strategies teams will implement on Express as the season progresses.
Miami Strike, a modified version of the Miami SnD map, was announced today by Treyarch.
In past CoD titles, we have witnessed maps added to the rotation have a significant impact on the competition. During the WW2 season, the map Valkyrie was added to the map pool in February of that year, prior to CWL Atlanta 2018. Longtime fans will remember Red Reserve’s run to the grand finals at CWL Atlanta, where they played Valkyrie in 4 different series leading up to grand finals, winning every single time.
With more maps entering the rotation, and one newly announced, we look forward to seeing the evolution of the CDL map rotation through the 2021 season.