This weekend one of the most exciting Call of Duty tournaments since the $1 million Call of Duty Championship hit the Major League Gaming (MLG) Arena—and it didn’t even feature top teams like OpTic Gaming or FaZe.
MLG’s Season 3 Relegation tournament didn’t feature a big cash prize or allow teams to score huge bragging rights. But it decided who would enter the next season of the MLG Pro League, earning status as official MLG pro gamers—and who found their pro gaming careers come crashing to a close.
For the first time, the bracket stage took place live at the MLG Arena, allowing players and fans to see the emotion in the faces of players fighting for their livelihoods.
The event featured three teams relegated from the last Pro League season, Automatic Reload, OpTic Nation, and Prophecy, as well as a couple pro squads from past seasons, such as Strictly Business. But only one of those teams managed to earn one of the four Pro League spots up for grabs in the tournament.
Out of those former Pro League teams, only OpTic Nation survived, and barely, taking fourth place against a lineup of up-and-coming teams.
Instead of recycled teams we’ll see iSolation Empire, Epsilon.NA, and Team Orbit in the pro league next season.
Of course, those teams feature some recycled talent—the tournament victors, iSolation Empire, featuring Kenneth Dedo, a staple in the Call of Duty pro scene. But the lineup around him is relatively new and unproven. Devin “Llamagod” Tran and “Havok” have made a name for themselves in online tournaments since the release of Advanced Warfare, but this was their first exposure to play on a big stage, and they excelled, showing that iSolation could be a contender for the upper half of the league if they continue that level of play. Combined with Justin “SiLLy” Fargo-Palmer, the team looked unstoppable on Hardpoint games, losing only once during the whole tournament thanks to their superb submachine skills.
The second place team, Epsilon, features British import Callum “Swanny” Swan, one of the most stable riflers the game has ever known. He entered the event flanked by two members of Team Revenge, the team that reached the Call of Duty Championship finals, and Matthew “Royalty” Faithfull, who turned heads at the event with his slaying and unorthodox setup, playing with extremely high sensitivity while forgoing a Scuf controller.
The third squad to qualify was Team Orbit, which put two members from the Aware team that started off the year hot, Nick “Happy” Suda and Lamar “Accuracy” Abedi, together with the solid objective play of Matthew “Burnsoff” Potthoff and another Team Revenge alumni, Brice Faccento.
Many of the players qualifying for the league were recently part of it, though some took advantage of up-and-coming talents like Royalty and the players flanking Dedo on iSolation Empire.
Perhaps that’s a wakeup call for many of the other veterans who are now on the outside looking in.
Relegation likely hurts the most for Prophecy, a team that as recently as May reached the finals of a major tournament, making them look like one of the few potential contenders to topple OpTic Gaming’s reign. Prophecy featured veterans Patrick “ACHES” Price, one of the winningest captains in Call of Duty’s history, and Bryan “Apathy” Zhelyazkov. The pair were part of one of the only two teams to win an Advanced Warfare major outside of OpTic Gaming. Flanking them was Ulysses “AquA” Silva, one of the leaders of the Team Revenge squad that reached the Call of Duty Championship final this year, and up-and-coming slayer Sam “Octane” Larew.
By all accounts they should have been favorites, but they fell out of the tournament by losing against SYNRGY Gaming 3-2 before falling to iSolation Empire 3-2 in the lower bracket. In some ways that’s an unlucky result; they fell to the promotion tourney winners in a series that would have seen them secure a spot in the Pro League. But for a team that had title hopes, they should not only be advancing but dominating an event like this.
Other eliminated teams include Automatic Reload, who suffered through a poor regular season and saw two of their original members, Burnsofff and Happy, requalify for the league as members of Orbit. Enigma 6, who purchased the league spot of JuStus, giving them a guaranteed spot in the relegation event, put up a laughable result, losing both their matches in short order.
OpTic Nation were the only returning lineup to make it in, but barely. That’s become a hallmark of the OpTic organization’s second team in the Advanced Warfare era. Despite featuring legendary players like Tyler “Teepee” Polchow and Damon “Karma” Barlow during Season 1, the team was one map away from falling out of the league in the relegation tournament against Team Revenge last season. Then, this one, with a lineup featuring three of the four players who placed fourth at the Call of Duty Championship, was one loss away from falling out yet again.
Results like that made this one of the most exciting Call of Duty events of the year. It was a chance for new talent to shine, for players who were sometimes overshadowed by OpTic Gaming’s dominance to test their mettle. Players played their hearts out seeking to win the pro gaming career they’ve always wanted, or fighting tooth and nail to keep the status they’ve earned through hard work and skill.
The Relegation Tournament may not have been the event that ended OpTic Gaming’s run, but with all the new talent entering the league, it’s bound to happen sometime.
Screengrab via MLG.tv