Last season, Dallas Empire was one of the best SnD teams in the Call of Duty League. They won 61.2% of their SnD maps, ranking #2 in SnD win rate with 30 wins and 19 losses (2nd to FaZe), #1 in defensive round win rate, at 58.2%, and #2 in offensive round win rate, at 51.8% (2nd to FaZe). This season, Dallas Empire have won only 43.5% of their SnD maps, and SnD is the team’s weakest game mode.
Losing SnD’s consistently to Atlanta FaZe at the Stage 1 Major is understandable: FaZe is currently the #1 SnD team in CDL, winning 77.8% of their SnD maps (14 wins, 4 losses) so far. However, with the group stage of Stage 2 concluded, Empire’s ongoing SnD issues have become readily apparent. Empire went 0-2 in Searches against both Minnesota RØKKR and OpTic Chicago during Stage 2, showing that, against stronger opponents, SnD weakness is leading to match losses. Below, we review a few of Empire’s SnD plays this season, and put forward a few ideas towards reclaiming the Lost Empire that dominated SnD last season.
Poor Teamwork and Lack of Ice 🧊
Unlike last season, Empire is frequently in unfavorable or man-down situations. An example of the poor teamwork is seen in the clip below, when Empire played Paris Legion. Despite winning 3-1 in map count, Dallas dropped the Express SnD 3-6. In the clip, Huke is in lobby and iLLeY is set up in the window, yet Classic is still able to slide in and pick up the first blood onto Shotzzy and get away with his life. Huke then has to run out to eventually trade, but that opens him up to Aqua for the return trade. iLLeY tries to make a hero play, but ultimately falls short in the 1v3. This may seem like a nitpick, but to observers and fans of the team, these flubs belie more pressing issues for Empire’s SnD.
The next clip shows Accuracy getting an ace against Empire. In this case, Accuracy gets a free first blood against Shotzzy without anyone from Empire being able to trade him out. Then Huke and Crim try to push out Accuracy, but they fail to find a trade. While Accuracy deserves credit for the finesse, this is another example of Empire failing to trade out favorably.
At the end of the day, Dallas are also losing many pivotal moments in SnD’s, when last season, they would be clutching up in those same situations. The most infamous example is the 1v1 between Scump and Shotzzy from last weekend. Shotzzy sees Scump and weakens him, but misses every shot on the re-challenge from Scump. Like the Accuracy play, the other player (Scump) deserves credit for the play, but the Empire just haven’t been clutching up in the key moments.
Failure To Trade and Convert on First Bloods
Taking a deep dive back at the series versus Minnesota, the RØKKR had 5 first bloods in 9 rounds in map 2. Empire was unable to secure a single trade in any of those rounds. Similarly, the RØKKR had 6 first bloods in 10 rounds in map 5, and again—none of these first bloods were traded. In both SnD maps against RØKKR, Empire were only able to win a single round after giving up first blood.
Against OpTic, a similar sequence happened in the SnD’s. In map 2, the Empire got first blooded 4 times and they weren’t able to trade a single one. On the other side, OpTic got blooded four times, but were able to trade three of them. Throughout these maps, Dallas was consistently playing rounds down 3-4, while OpTic was able to quickly mitigate the life disadvantage and equalize 3-4’s into 3-3’s. Watching the Searches, OpTic was decisive in challenging together or getting aggressive on the map at the same time.
In map 5 on Checkmate, the Empire was able to draw first blood in 4 out of 7 rounds, but only converted 1 of those rounds. Losing 6-1, after drawing first blood in four rounds, is not the sign of a top tier SnD squad. You wouldn’t have to have to look past the first round of the map to see underlying issues they have with converting a life advantage. In map 5 round 1, Empire was on the offense and secured first blood very early in the round, but then seized up and waited too long to make a move. When they did finally act, it was disjointed and they were unable to effectively use the life advantage they gained. Huke got picked A street by himself, Crim tried to flank alone (it came too late) and, finally, Shotzzy and iLLeY were left alone in plane to push straight into a deadly crossfire.
Languor in Dallas: Empire gain the early life advantage but are slowly whittled away by their own indecision and then later by the OpTic Chicago players.
Check, Checkmate: Map Pool Issues
Despite losing against OpTic, Checkmate also happens to be Empire’s best SnD map. Looking back at the match against Florida, Empire won 6-4 on Checkmate SnD and were able to draw and trade first bloods more effectively. Checkmate forces teams to play together because it’s supremely difficult to push plane or A street alone at the pro level. When the Empire rely on teamwork and trade out, they can execute well on Checkmate. But they need to translate that effectiveness to other maps and do it more consistently.
Empire are 5-2 on Checkmate (71.4% win rate), but only 5-11 on all other SnD maps (31.3% win rate). Removing both Checkmate and Miami, Empire are a pitiful 2-10 (16.7% win rate) on Express, Garrison, Moscow, and Raid SnD.
According to Crim, the issues may stem from Shotzzy and iLLeY never seeing a classic film:
The real fix might even be simpler. Empire needs to play more as a team and work around first bloods, capitalizing on picks, and trading out effectively. Far too often, one player is getting caught out without anyone there to trade. This is why their offensive rounds have struggled. Last year, with snipers and smokes, it was easier to make a hero play or look for a first blood with the sniper, but this year, SnD is all about teamwork and trading out. With iLLeY’s SnD prowess, and the level of individual talent on the team, Empire’s SnD struggle is one of the more unexpected storylines of the 2021 season. If they fall back on fundamentals and teamwork, they can certainly fix their issues and be on the road towards rediscovering the Lost Empire.