Call of Duty’s most popular team won their first championship in the game’s newest generation this weekend.
OpTic Gaming and the super team they formed during a tumultuous offseason took their first major title at UMG Orlando, surviving a terrible first day of play to sweep the remainder of the tournament and secure the $15,000 top prize.
The favorite may have won the second major Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare live tournament, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t filled with surprising results.
OpTic lost their first two matches, against Revenge and Stunner Gaming, in 3-0 sweeps, heralding a potentially dismal performance. But once Friday was over, they were unstoppable, never dropping more than a single map in a series on their way to the title.
But OpTic’s win was hardly the story of the tournament. While their performance was great, it was also expected in many ways. The team that pulled together perhaps the three most dynamic players in Call of Duty, Ian “Crimsix” Porter, Matt “FormaL” Piper, and Seth “Scump” Abner, is expected to win.
Here’s some of the other stories from the weekend.
Stunner Gaming stuns by placing second
It was a team that isn’t even in the Major League Gaming Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare league.
Stunner Gaming shocked fans with a run through the tournament that included many highlight reel plays, including a stunning finish to their semifinal series against Denial. Of course, the result was hardly shocking if you pay attention to online tournament results—Stunner Gaming has built a reputation as “warriors” thanks to their online play.
Now everyone will take the team of Brian “Prplxd” Ladd, Hamza “VeXeD” Pirzada, Tommy “TJHaLy” Haly, and Cuyler “Huke” Garland seriously.
Garland is emerging as the next Call of Duty superstar. The 15-year-old may not be able to compete at the Call of Duty Championship for the next two years due to his youth, but he’s emerged as one of Advanced Warfare’s best players. At MLG Columbus he posted the best K/D of the tournament at 1.21 as a member of Carnage, and he continued his superb play in Orlando with a 1.1 K/D and ridiculous numbers in respawn games.
Of course his teammate Haly also stole the show. In the semifinal match against Denial, his interception saved the game for Stunner. Haly also finished sixth in the tourney with a 1.11 K/D and 31.15 K/R.
The Warriors Perform
Heading into Orlando, many players questioned the online results in the weeks heading into the event. Online “warriors,” as they are called, players who take advantage of good internet and host, are perceived to dominate online competition. But at UMG Orlando, those very teams are the ones that topped the standings.
The 3 best online teams in AW over the past month got 1st 2nd and 3rd.
— Jonathan Tucker (@Pacman_m8) January 5, 2015
OpTic Gaming, Stunner Gaming, and Denial all placed top three at Orlando, a mirror of recent online results. JusTus, ranked third in the MLG online league, took fourth.
Veteran teams like FaZe, OpTic Nation, and EnVyUs—squads that have struggled online but theoretically have the veteran tournament experience to carry them through in the live environment—struggled against the online champions.
It’s high time players start taking online Call of Duty more seriously. Even if host and ping has major influence on results, there’s no substitute for taking the game seriously all the time—even online.
Denial trick referee and get away with it
Against Team Kaliber, Denial’s captain Tommy “ZooMaa” PPaparatto managed to convince the UMG admins that not once, but twice, a glitch prevented his team from scoring two points for dunking in the Uplink game mode. The problem is there’s no evidence such a glitch actually exists, and video from the tournament show that Paparatto actually tossed the ball to score each time, meaning Denial should have only had two points on the scoreboard total. Denial won the map 4-2.
Paparatto later admitted he threw the ball on one of the attempts, but was unapologetic about taking the free point since he believed it didn’t affect the score.
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He later took the attitude that he shouldn’t be blamed for seeking the free points. Instead, he said, the admins were to blame for letting Denial take them.
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UMG head honcho “Mr X” said the referee and Team Kaliber acquiesced to Paparatto’s claims.
(Sorry, this embed was not found.)In the grand scheme, the incident likely had little effect on the overall match results. Even if Kaliber won that Uplink game, they likely would have lost the series. But it brings up an important issue with Call of Duty as the esport continues to grow: This sort of thing can’t be allowed to happen. Administrators need to stand up to players bent on taking advantage of them, and players shouldn’t be able to take such a cavalier attitude towards doing so.
Many fans likened the situation to the infamous Fnatic pixelwalking incident at DreamHack in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Fnatic succumbed to fan pressure, forfeiting their series after administrators levied an unsatisfactory punishment. At UMG Orlando, despite some fan outrage, Denial came away unscathed.
Paparatto took advantage of a hapless admin by lying to him, later admitting it, and never received punishment for the action.
FaZe falls, other veteran teams struggle
Lost in the emergence of a number of top teams is the poor performance of some of the game’s veteran squads. EnVyUs dropped from top five to top 12. OpTic Nation placed in that same poor position. And FaZe, champions of the last major tournament, the only team to beat OpTic Gaming in a knockout series at a live tournament in Advanced Warfare, placed top 16.
That’s the worst tournament placing in Patrick “ACHES” Price in his career, tied with the dismal UMG Nashville event near the end of Evil Geniuses’ life. At Orlando, Price went from Greatest of All Time to goat, finishing the final map of FaZe’s tournament with a 1-7 K-D Search and Destroy. That’s a far cry from his clutch play in Columbus. Granted, that’s just one map and Price was his stellar self through most of the tournament. But FaZe failed to even come close to expectations, leaving questions on what might happen at the end of this season.
With many veteran players falling behind younger teams like Stunner Gaming and Denial, the first Rostermania after the dust settles on Advanced Warfare could be a crazy one.
The next major Call of Duty event will be the MLG Season 1 finals in February, an event that should continue the growing momentum for Call of Duty as an esport. The game has a massive fanbase thanks to its status as the top shooter on the console market, but it’s been an ongoing process to turn that into an esports following. A successful process, based off UMG’s viewer numbers.
154,000 concurrent viewership for #UMGOrlando25k That’s a new record
— UMG Robert (@RobertTerkla) January 5, 2015
The Pro League Playoffs will dole out $75,000 to the best teams of the top 8 squads from the MLG league.