After five stages of action in the 2021 Call of Duty League regular season, the postseason is finally here with the CDL heading to Los Angeles this week to crown a season champ. After most of the year went according to plan for the Atlanta FaZe, who dominated the first four stages and won three major championships, Stage Five was the most intriguing part of the season to date.
Atlanta were knocked out of the tournament with a top-eight placing after being upset by the last-place Seattle Surge, leaving the bracket wide open for the first time all season. This marked the first time in the 2021 CDL season that FaZe didn’t reach the grand finals of a Major, leading to a Minnesota RØKKR vs. Toronto Ultra matchup that gave us the best comeback in competitive CoD history.
The CDL takes its final event of the year to the Galen Center on the campus of the University of Southern California starting on Thursday, Aug. 19. The CDL’s top eight teams will compete for the first-place prize of $1.2 million, with $650,000 up for grabs for the runner-up and $300,000 going to the third-place team.
Here’s everything you need to know about the eight teams competing at the season’s biggest event.
Even with a 0-2 performance at the Stage Five Major a few weeks ago, Atlanta are the obvious choice to win CoD Champs 2021. Led by three of the five MVP candidates on the season, Atlanta have the most talented roster in the league. Simp, aBeZy, and Cellium are all within the top seven in overall K/D this season while Arcitys has the 13th best K/D, according to Breaking Point. But stats don’t tell the entire story for Arcitys, who brings years of championship-level experience and leadership to Atlanta.
His leadership will be key to FaZe bouncing back at the season’s biggest tournament after being knocked out of the Stage Five Major with a 0-2 series record. Atlanta haven’t faced any true sense of adversity so far in 2021, so this event will be a huge test of their mettle and resolve. They seemed to struggle with the crowd during their loss to Seattle and if they match up with OpTic Chicago, they’ll need to be able to drown out the noise.
Toronto have been a consistent top-three team since replacing Methodz with rookie of the year candidate Insight, who’s been incredible this season. Boasting a 1.14 K/D so far this season, Insight has been one of the most impressive rookies this year alongside Minnesota’s Standy. The elephant in the room remains, however. After amassing a 4-0 lead in the Stage Five Major grand finals, Toronto lost five straight maps to complete a historic collapse.
The Ultra have always looked the part of a veteran team who never gets rattled. But in that series, they were deer in the headlights. Rebounding in their first match of Champs will go a long way in righting the ship, but they could face Minnesota again if RØKKR take down the Dallas Empire. Bouncing back with a win over the other team in that historic collapse could propel Toronto on a run toward a championship.
Coming off of a top three placing at the Stage Five Major, Chicago put together one of their best performances in 2021. After knocking off both FaZe and Dallas in Stage Five, OpTic put to rest the notion that they can’t beat top teams. Unfortunately for Chicago, Toronto seem to be this team’s Achilles’ heel at this point in the year. After taking a 2-1 lead over Toronto in their first match of the Major, OpTic found themselves unable to close out the series in either map four or five and were right back in the losers bracket for the umpteenth time.
If OpTic can get over the hump against the Ultra like they did against Atlanta and Dallas, they might win the whole thing. Scump has been playing fabulous Call of Duty and Envoy compliments his SMG duo with smart plays and flanks all over the map. OpTic have the talent, and when they’re on the same page, look out.
The defending CDL champions come into the 2021 playoffs playing their best Call of Duty since benching Huke in April. Vivid found himself on a contender after being traded away from the Los Angeles Guerrillas and he hasn’t let this opportunity slip. Vivid is the playmaker Dallas needed to pair alongside Shotzzy and his addition has turned their season around.
ILLeY looks like a completely different player at this point in the season as well, making Dallas a threat to capture their second consecutive CDL Championship. Crimsix brings the leadership and decision making that teams need at this point in the season and he himself looks good with the Krig-6 in his hands. Dallas might not have the most talent, but they play good, sound CoD—and that’s exactly what championship teams do.
Minnesota come into CoD Champs as the hottest team in the league after their improbable reverse sweep in the grand finals of the Stage Five Major earlier this month. After an inconsistent start to the year, things started to turn around once Standy entered the starting lineup. He holds a top-five K/D among SMGs in the league and has been a huge catalyst for their ascent to winning a Major championship.
Minnesota’s run to win the Stage Five Major was no fluke either, with the team knocking off Atlanta, Dallas, and Toronto twice to claim the win. Many pundits had doubts about Standy’s ability to transition from online play to LAN as a rookie, but he showed the CoD scene that it doesn’t matter where the matches are played. Minnesota will continue to be a tough out with Standy playing at an MVP level while Attach, Priestahh, and MajorManiak provide a ton of veteran leadership and experience.
Los Angeles Thieves
The L.A. Thieves boast one of the most experienced rosters in the league, but its actual lineup hasn’t spent as much time together as other teams. Los Angeles has changed its roster more than any other team in the CDL Playoffs. For that reason, they’re the biggest wildcard at the event. With SlasheR, John, and Kenny, the team has real championship experience in players who have competed and won on the biggest stage. Drazah is a budding superstar who can outslay anyone in the league at any given time.
Their ceiling variance is the highest in the league due to the small amount of time this team has spent playing together. They could be one and done or could make a losers bracket run all the way to Championship Sunday. There’s so much unknown with this team and that makes them extremely scary to see for any squads in the bottom bracket.
Florida find themselves in a precarious spot heading into the CDL Playoffs. The Mutineers looked like a top contender early on in the season but have never been able to put it together to reach their potential. Individually, Florida have a ton of talent but are oftentimes not on the same page. Skyz, Owakening, and Neptune are all in the top 25 of overall K/D this season but finished the regular season as the eighth and final seed.
If—and that’s a very big if—Florida can get on the same page on the map, they’re a dangerous team. Unfortunately for Mutineers fans, flipping the switch to play in a cohesive manner this late in the season is a tough ask, especially for a team that’s continued to struggle because of the same mistakes time and time again.
New York Subliners
New York, alongside the L.A. Thieves, are one of the biggest wildcard teams heading into this weekend. Clayster, who stepped aside earlier in Stage Five to “recharge,” is back in New York’s lineup heading into the CDL Playoffs. The Subliners were a top team for a majority of the 2021 season but Stage Four derailed them. With Asim unable to travel to the season’s first LAN event, New York were forced to bring in Decemate for the event to fill out the roster.
They’ve looked like a different team after Asim returned for Stage Five, losing to the Thieves, OpTic, and London. After a 0-3 start, Clayster announced that he’d be stepping away, with Diamondcon filling in. New York are now back to the roster they’ve played with for a majority of the year, but the big question remains: How will the rest of his team react to the veteran rejoining the lineup ahead of the season’s biggest tournament? If the team is on board with the move, they’re a dangerous squad that have a chance to play spoiler. If they’re not, things could get ugly and a 0-2 finish isn’t out of the question.
CoD Champs 2021 begins tomorrow, Aug. 19 with a showdown between Minnesota and Dallas at 2pm CT.