From mid-series substitutions to recognized gentlemen’s agreements, the Call of Duty League’s inaugural season has been a wild ride.
As expected, the league has had trouble completely satisfying its players and fans in its first year. What no one could expect was a global pandemic forcing the league to go completely online as health officials warned against large gatherings.
The switch to online pushed the season back a few weeks. The Dallas Empire’s Home Series, which was scheduled to take place in Irving, Texas on March 28, was moved to an online format and postponed until April 10. That delay, as well as the event byes each team has had to deal with this year, has led to extended breaks for some teams.
Before the Minnesota Home Series, which began on June 12 after a one-week delay, the Dallas Empire hadn’t played an official CDL match since April 26, giving the team a nearly seven-week break between events.
In an interview with Dot Esports before the Paris Home Series, Clayster said the long breaks between tournaments has played a factor in some of the team’s results this season.
“I’m not the biggest fan of having un-unified breaks. If everybody was breaking for the same amount of time, that would be one thing,” Clayster told Dot Esports. “We’ve kind of struggled finding momentum to carry throughout the season because of the nature of how the season has played out. We won a tournament on LAN and then COVID hit and we had a huge break before moving online. And then we finally win a tournament online and we have a seven-week break before the next one.”
Unlike Launch Weekend, which didn’t follow the Home Series tournament structure, only eight of the league’s 12 teams compete in each event. The four teams with a bye typically just have that one tournament off. But three teams in the league—the Empire, London Royal Ravens, and Seattle Surge— had or will have to deal with two events off in a row.
Another key part of the matches, according to Clayster and other players and coaches in the league, is actually something that happens before the teams even start to play: the coin flip.
Before a series begins, the league assigns the teams opposite sides of a coin. Whoever wins the coin flip decides which team begins the map veto process, an advantage Clayster says could be the difference between winning and losing a game. When Dallas played the Atlanta FaZe on June 13, losing the coin flip was costly, according to Clayster.
“They won the coin flip versus us, which is really important for how the series plays out and determines a lot about how the sides work,” Clayster said. “If we had won that coin flip, we probably would have had the good side on map four and that makes a world of difference. That’s the difference between starting off down 60 or starting the game up 60 points, which can basically be the game.”
Clayster admitted there’s not a suitable solution for the coin flip and that about 56 to 58 percent of series winners also won the flip. The Empire’s coin flip win percentage is still low, however, with Clayster telling The Dallas Morning News the team had won less than 30 percent of coin flips.
When it comes to the actual game, the Empire are still doing relatively well. Despite back-to-back semifinal losses, the team is tied for third place and just 40 CDL Points behind the first-place Atlanta FaZe. With an altered CDL Championship format that will now include all 12 teams and reward high-ranking squads with byes, a top-two regular-season finish for Dallas would give them a massive advantage at the $4.6 million end-of-season event.
Issues within the game keep popping up, though, according to numerous pro players. The biggest problem appears to be the new spawning system Infinity Ward employed for Modern Warfare. Unlike past games, MW uses “Squad Spawning,” which spawns players close to teammates.
On its own, the spawn system may not be that bad. But when 10 pro players are on the map, Clayster said the game “freaks out” and starts randomly spawning people around the map.
“I’ve said this before: I actually like Modern Warfare. Warzone’s awesome. Gunfight’s awesome. Ground War’s awesome. But playing this game at a consistent level competitively is really, really tough,” Clayster said. “There’s been hundreds and hundreds of examples of three people spawning and all being in three different locations. And that’s bad for competitive just because you can’t accurately predict where people are going to be at the timings they should be there. So a lot of the game just comes down to RNG in a way, where you’re hoping people spawned in the place they should spawn.”
Due to the Fourth of July, the CDL will run its next event, the New York Home Series, from July 10 to 12. The Empire won’t participate in the tournament, though, and will be back in action on July 17 when the London Home Series begins.