ACL Sydney In-Depth: Call of Duty
The four highest-ranking teams by MLG pro points were placed into the Pro Pool. Pool play was business as usual until round three, when Avant-Garde swept reigning team Plantronics.Mindfreak 3-nil in their series. Avant had recently undergone a roster change and were as yet untried on LAN with their current line-up. With this win, Avant-Garde secured themselves the first seed for the day two championship bracket. Mindfreak took second seed; New Zealand team Uproar.iGnitionZ third; and Team Awafi fourth.
Over in Pool A, team Incept were busy cementing their status as a force to be reckoned with. Incept made a name for themselves at ACL Brisbane when they eliminated Avant from the competition in a 3-1 series, placing Incept #4th overall. Since Brisbane, Incept has acquired Hopey, a long-time player with multiple top 3 placements across various FPS titles. Incept came prepared for ACL Sydney, powering through their pool without losing a single map.
Plantronics.Nv were close behind. The team are still finding their groove after picking up celebrated players Vilesyder and Macka. Despite not having a great deal of practice coming into Sydney, Nv were able to hold their own in pool play and finish just behind Incept in map count.
Pool B's standout team was Trident.T1Dotters, with an undefeated winning streak seeing them triumph 3-nil in every series. Like team Incept in Pool A, Trident.T1 finished their pool play bracket with a record of 15 maps straight. Team Trident.T1 has recently picked up young up-and-coming player Jazhn for this event, after the mutual withdrawal of Fate as the team's fourth. The pure slaying power of this roster makes Trident.T1 a formidable squad indeed, and this is fully evident in their placements for the 2015 season (#1st at Gold Coast, #2nd at Brisbane, and having qualified for a place at the Call of Duty World Championships back in February).
In the second-day playoffs, things began to heat up early. After taking a forfeit win for their first round, Avant-Garde knocked Plantronics.Nv out of the winners' bracket in a 3-1 series. Team Nv, now in the loser's bracket, smashed team Zero Gravity 3-nil before being eliminated by Team Awafi. Awafi themselves, despite being a temporary pick-up team, had a strong roster coming into the event and were in no danger of being underestimated.
Winners' bracket round 2 saw Incept emerge triumphant over New Zealand team Uproar.iGnitionZ in a 3-2 series. At ACL Brisbane in May of this year, these two teams met in the losers' bracket quarterfinal, where Uproar.iG swept the Incept squad in a 6-nil continuation series. The addition of Hopey to the Incept roster seems to have made all the difference here, as the two teams traded maps to a 2-all series score. The final game, Search and Destroy on Terrace, was won in a decisive victory by Incept, 6-1. Incept were then due to play a series against Plantronics.Mindfreak, the winner of which would advance to the semi-finals.
Game one of the Incept vs. Mindfreak series - Hardpoint on Solar - was won by Mindfreak by a hair - the game ended with less than 10 points' difference between the two teams. Incept took the next two maps in a row to put themselves ahead in the series. With the series score standing at 2-1 in a best-of-5, Incept need only win the next game to knock Mindfreak into the losers' bracket and guarantee their own place in the semi-final. This was not to be, though. Mindfreak came back to dominate Incept in the next Hardpoint, bringing the series score to 2-all. The final and deciding game, Search & Destroy on Riot, was won decisively: 6-2 Mindfreak's way. Incept went on to face Team Awafi in the losers' bracket, where they were ultimately eliminated from the competition in a close 2-3 series loss. Incept came in #5th, just behind Team Awafi.
Over in the winner's bracket, a grudge match was playing out between Avant-Garde and Trident.T1Dotters. In a heated best-of-5 series, Trident.T1 ultimately took the win over Avant with a score of 3-2, placing Avant in the losers' bracket and advancing Trident.T1 into the winners' semi-final against Plantronics.Mindfreak. Trident.T1, in the winners' semi-final, were able to take a single map off Mindfreak (Bio Lab Search & Destroy; 6-1 Trident.T1's way) before ultimately going down with a 1-3 to Mindfreak. It should be noted here that the margin by which Trident.T1 lost the series' Hardpoint games was extremely narrow: on Detroit, there was only a five point difference between the two teams (218-223 Mindfreak's way); later on Solar, the game score was 186-203 to Mindfreak, a 17 point difference.
While this series played out on the main stage, over in the losers' bracket, Avant-Garde were fighting to stay in the competition. In their series against Team Awafi, Avant took the win in a 3-nil sweep, securing their place in the semi-final and guaranteeing a rematch against the Trident.T1 team. This put Team Awafi in #4th place overall.
Few series have been as anticipated as the Trident.T1Dotters vs. Avant-Garde rematch series in the semi-final, which took place on the main stage. As mentioned earlier, there had been tension between the two teams since player Iskatu's defection from Trident to Avant, and controversy regarding the ownership of the T1Dotters name. Going into the continuation series, the score stood at 3-2 in Trident.T1's favour. To win the semi-final round, Avant would need to win four maps in a row in the best-of-11 match.
An intense playoff followed as these two evenly matched teams went head-to-head. Trident.T1Dotters took the first map - Detroit Uplink - by a single point, 8-7. Spurred on by the narrow loss, Avant-Garde bit back with a decisive victory in Bio Lab Hardpoint, 233 - 178, and let this momentum carry them to victory in the third map, Terrace Search & Destroy with a 6-2 win. This put the continuation series score at 4-all in a best-of-11. Comeback Uplink was next, and in this game we saw some standout strategies from both teams, but most notably from Trident.T1's Jazhn who made some impressive plays with the uplink satellite drone. Trident.T1 took the map 12-10 over Avant - meaning that Trident.T1 would only need to win one more map to take the series and advance to the grand final game.
Detroit Hardpoint was the next map, and Trident.T1Dotters came out swinging. In the first rotation they put Avant-Garde far on the back foot, taking a lead of around 50 points - which at this level of competition becomes near insurmountable, especially against such a strong line-up as the Trident.T1 team. Avant, though, have historically been highly accomplished in their Hardpoint games, and this map was no different. The Avant squad fought tooth and nail to come back from an almost 50-point deficit in this highly contested game, managing to take the lead in points. Trident.T1 themselves rebounded and broke Avant's setup for those precious seconds in the hardpoint - putting Trident.T1 briefly back in the lead before they were ousted once more. The game followed this pattern into the last rotation as the two teams struggled for dominance, neither of them getting ahead by more than a handful of points. As the game clock ticked down, Trident.T1 rallied and were able to strongarm Avant out of the hill, giving the T1 team just enough points that it became mathematically impossible for Avant to win. Trident.T1 took the game 238-212 over Avant, winning the series 6-4 and assuring them a place in the grand final against Mindfreak.
The final showdown between Plantronics.Mindfreak and Trident.T1Dotters took place on main stage with an eager crowd looking on. At ACL Brisbane in May, Trident had not been able to take a map off the Mindfreak squad, despite having dominated all other teams in the championship bracket. Here at Sydney, Trident.T1 took a similar route to the grand final game: just like Brisbane, the only double elimination series they lost was to Mindfreak in the winners' bracket final. At both events, Trident.T1 then smashed their opposition in the losers' bracket semi-final, putting them back in the grand final and battling it out with Mindfreak for first place and the prize money.
Sydney proved a little different, though: in the winners' bracket final, Trident.T1Dotters had cleanly taken a map win from Mindfreak, and the games they did lose were lost narrowly. Following their win over rival team Avant-Garde, Trident.T1 were coming into the grand final pumped up and with a lot of momentum behind them. The grand final was to be a continuation series, with the current score standing at 3-1: Trident.T1 would need to win 5 games to take the series, Mindfreak only 3 games.
Map one, Terrace Search & Destroy, was taken by Mindfreak with a 6-5 victory, putting the series score up to 4-1. Trident.T1Dotters rallied for the next map, Bio Lab Uplink. Despite Mindfreak player Denz going huge for his team with 30 kills and 5 uplink goals, Trident.T1 were able to win the map by a hair with a score of 8-7 over Mindfreak. Retreat Hardpoint was up next, and in this game we saw Mindfreak play with no holds barred: Shockz and Denz picked up over 40 kills each while still playing for the objective. As the clock ran out, the score stood at 208-176, Mindfreak's way.
Riot Search & Destroy was the deciding map and game type. Trident.T1Dotters would need to win this game and the next three in a row to take out the grand final. Unfortunately, though, it was not to be. The game went all the way to round 11, with a 5-all score. In the end, it was Plantronics.Mindfreak who took the final round and the map win, making the series score 6-2 and putting Mindfreak in #1st place. Special mention goes to Trident.T1 captain Damage, who pulled off a truly beautiful three-piece and round-winning ace in this game.
Plantronics.Mindfreak placed #1st overall in Call of Duty at ACL Sydney. Trident.T1Dotters came in #2nd, and Avant-Garde #3rd. Each of these three teams took their share of the $5,000 prize pool (not to mention bragging rights). The Call of Duty brackets can be found by clicking here, and courtesy of Doesplay, the event statistics can be found here. Congratulations to all teams for a well-played event.