In just the first day of action at the 1st Annual Call of Duty Championship, we saw 32 of the best teams in the world whittled down to 16. This first day was set up in a Round Robin/Group format similar to the FIFA World Cup. Each match-up was decided when a team won the best of three games. The first two games played were Hardpoint followed by Search and Destroy. Should the teams split these two games, Capture the Flag would decide who would win the match.
Even though I was on the floor watching all the matches (or as many as I could at one time), instead of giving you a play-by-play of everything that happened, here are some of the storylines/highlights that we saw emerge from Day 1 as well as who to keep an eye on during Day 2 as we move into the bracket stage of the tournament!
The Odds-On Favorite Dominates
After coming off a pair of Call of Duty tournament wins at EGL9 and MLG – Dallas, Fariko Impact came in as the heavy favorites to cap off the hat trick with a 1st Annual Call of Duty Championship Trophy. Placed into the first group on the center stage of the tournament, Impact rolled to a clean sweep over their group mates in Team Pain from Spain, Immunity from Austrailia, and the up and coming Team Phoenix who qualified through Call of Duty: Black Ops II’s League Play.
Fariko Gaming as a whole couldn’t pull off the sweep like their golden team Impact did, though, as Fariko Dragons fell away in the evening matches. Fariko All-Stars were able to join their fellow Fariko mates at least, but as the second team from their respective group.
Don’t Sleep on These Under the Radar Teams
OpTic Gaming was the group who took the big prize at Call of Duty XP back in 2011 and they’re hoping the smog-filled skies of LA are friendly to them once again. But because of Impact’s incredible roll of late, they were placed inconspicuously in Group 5. And it wasn’t until they wiped the floor with Fariko All-Stars to decide the Group 5 winner that people realized the OpTic team had brought their “A” game to this tournament. Familiar to the bright lights, the big stage, and the fat purse, OpTic is letting Impact hog the limelight…but for how long?
vVv Gaming also came out of their respective group clearly head and shoulders above their competition and could be another team that takes advantage of all eyes being on Impact. It’s not easy having a target on your back and how Impact handles the ever-increasing pressure will be put to the test once again should they run up against OpTic or vVv later in the tournament, especially since both of them look to advance quickly with favorable Round of 16 match-ups.
North America Asserts Itself, But Doesn’t Pitch a Global Shutout
As seen in most Call of Duty tournaments, the North American teams came in as heavy favorites and for good reason. Many teams from other countries including xTaz from South Africa, a pair of teams from South Korea, Millennium from France, Immunity from Australia, and SSOF from Brazil all fell to the wayside as they ran up against seemingly sharper North American competition.
But a trio of teams from overseas caught my eye. Enigma from Sweden, Killerfish from Germany, and Inferno eSports from Italy were all able to sneak into the Round of 16 as the second teams in their respective groups. Killerfish in particular gave heavily favored, and eventual Group 4 winner, Envyus a fight that went to the Capture the Flag round. Inferno and Enigma have huge uphill battles against vVv Gaming and Donut Shop respectively in the next round, but I would not be surprised if Killerfish came out with a strategy that would shock Complexity out of the winner’s bracket. I got a feeling Cinderella likes Oktoberfest.
There was a fair share of surprises that came out of the first day of competition. Several of these came from the European circuit as described above, but another big surprise was Quantic. Although given a fair chance to advance as probably the second team from their group, they instead started hot against Unite and never looked back as they dominated.
And speaking of Unite, they were the one surprise on the negative side. Expected to have a strong showing after giving Impact a run for their money at MLG – Dallas, Unite dominated South African team xTaz right out of the gate. Jaws hit the floor, however, when Unite got burned by Inferno and were ultimately bounced from the tournament.
Not that excuses mean much in eSports, but in Unite’s defense, they had an odd situation on their hands as three of the four team members were not allowed to participate due to the rules of the tournament dictating participants must be 18 years old or older. This led Unite’s captain to calling up some buddies from Europe in the hopes of putting together a hodgepodge team that might shock some people. But the lack of experience playing together ultimately looks to have contributed to Unite’s downfall after their fast start.
Posers vs. Players
Although the tournament was set up for best of three games in each match-up, it was rare that the deciding Capture the Flag games came into effect. More often than not, the teams that were going to win established themselves early and dominated throughout. This means that, for the most part, the truly best of the best have advanced to the Round of 16. With matches now going to best of five for Day 2, though, I’d be surprised if we saw too many more clean sweeps, especially as we don’t know the game types yet.
Can a Controversial Second Chance Be Taken Advantage of?
The first day of the tournament came off without a hitch. Mostly. The big moment that had players, managers, and press alike scratching their heads was when Group 1 had a three-way tie for second place. Fariko Impact had easily won all three of their matches, but the other three teams had all beaten each other in turn and were left with matching 1-2 records. And because everyone’s head-to-head was the same, and they all won the same amount of games, the tie-breaking rules had been exhausted. No one knew what to do.
What was most unsettling was that several attendees, including yours truly, informed several high-ranking officials at the tournament of what was setting up to transpire at least 15 minutes before it actually happened. Group 1 was on center-stage after all and if you had even been remotely paying attention to those matches, you could see what was unfolding after Phoenix got off to a slow start they couldn’t recover from in the group’s final match against Immunity. It took another 20 minutes after the match had ended before a solution, and not a very good one, had been realized.
Now, logic would dictate that if games were even, the next basis you would look at, much like professional sports where similar situations could arise, would be to look at points forced. People had been tracking scores all day and it couldn’t have been hard to look at the footage or look at players’ previous match results had they not been handy.
First, you’d look at Hardpoint. Then Search and Destroy if still necessary. Then CTF. And then, if somehow, someway, there were still ties, you’d look at Kill/death ratio. It’s very easy when you have all these stats to institute tiebreakers to prevent what actually ended up happening that even the tournament’s own Codcasters called a “debacle”.
Instead of looking at points forced, where Team Phoenix would’ve been the winners, a mini-Round Robin tournament was set up amongst the three teams with a coin flip deciding who played who first. The first team to two wins would advance. Unless of course everyone beat each other once again and then the organizers’ heads would likely explode.
Fortunately, that didn’t happen and Pain Gaming edged out Phoenix in the final match after both Phoenix and Pain trumped Immunity. And, as haphazard a process it may have been to get there, they were some of the best matches I saw all day.
But this was definitely one moment where things did not go as smoothly as planned as match schedules then needed to be shifted and managers for the later teams seemed frustrated because their teams were moved from the center stage to secondary stages. I’m sure part of this frustration stemmed from the thought of the sponsors of said teams loving the idea of Phoenix, Immunity, and Pain all getting extra center stage matches over their teams.
When all is said and done, unfortunately, I think it will all be for naught because Pain Gaming now has the dubious task of trying to upset OpTic Gaming. So, even though they were pulled back from the brink of elimination, I can’t see them progressing past the Round of 16.
So we have eight epic match-ups in the Round of 16. Here are my quick picks for the start of Day 2:
- Killerfish’s Cinderella run isn’t over and they upset Complexity.
- Soar brings Quantic back down to earth with an upset of their own.
- Fariko Impact continues to roll as they crush Epsilon.
- OpTic Gaming sends Pain packing even after their second chance.
- Donut Shop shows there are no questions there as they crush Enigma.
- Envyus sits down The Stand.
- The Fariko All-Stars are brave enough to edge out Fear.
- vVv Gaming extinguishes Inferno eSports.
So that’s it for Day 1’s analysis and Day 2’s predictions. Day 2 will feature best of five matches now between teams, with double elimination rules coming into effect. This means that teams that lose their first matches will slip into a loser’s bracket and we will advance from there. With the cream looking to rise to the top, we should expect even more contested contests here on Day 2.
If you want to check out the current bracket, check out http://elite.callofduty.com/esports and to watch the action live, be sure to head over to http://www.twitch.tv/ starting at 9 AM PT (12 PM ET) for the start of today’s matches.