Heading into the Call of Duty World League Dallas Open last weekend, Mindfreak was in control of their own destiny. As long as Tainted Minds didn’t significantly outplace Australia’s best, Mindfreak was guaranteed to be the sole representative of the APAC region in the inaugural season of the CWL Global LAN League.
Two weeks before CWL Dallas, Mindfreak took home the crown as the CWL Sydney champions. The team—Mitchell “BuZZO” Mader, Cody “Excite” Rugolo, Conrad “Shockz” Rymarek, and Lincoln “Fighta” Ferguson—earned $14,000 and 40,000 CWL pro points. That put them well ahead of Tainted Minds, who Mindfreak defeated in two best-of-five series in the grand finals.
Although this was an APAC-only LAN event, Mindfreak’s win in Sydney gave the team a ton of momentum leading up to CWL Dallas.
“We made it clear that we’re the best APAC team coming over [to America],” Excite told Dot Esports.
Yet the Aussies didn’t find the same success in Dallas that they did back home, finishing 1-3 in pool play. All of Mindfreak’s matches were close, however, including 3-2 losses to Cloud9 and Millenium, as well as a 3-1 defeat at the hands of eUnited before beating Team Kaliber 3-1.
A fourth-place finish in Pool B seeded Mindfreak into the second round of the championship losers bracket, where they awaited the winner of Tainted Minds and G2 Esports, who went on a remarkable open-bracket run. Tainted Minds made quick work of G2, sweeping them 3-0, to set up an all-Australian elimination match.
Everything was riding on this one match for Tainted Minds; they needed to win in order to have any chance of qualifying for the first season of the CWL Global LAN League. Starting April 20, the top 16 teams in the world will culminate in Columbus, Ohio to compete for $700,000 in the first-ever LAN league for Call of Duty– but there’s only room for one team from the APAC region. In an extremely close series that went the distance, Mindfreak eliminated Tainted Minds from Dallas and sealed their spot in the pro league.
Even though Mindfreak further cemented their title as the best APAC team, Excite admitted that the win was partially bittersweet. “It’s always going to be pretty gratifying,” Excite said. “We beat them 3-2, but we lost our two best Hardpoint maps, which gave us a bit of nerves going into the last map. Obviously it was a gratifying win, but realistically, we knocked the only other APAC team out of the tournament, which was a bit hard on us, but you gotta do what you gotta do.”
In the following round, Mindfreak had another chance to directly influence which teams would compete in the pro league. A Mindfreak win in round three against Pnda Gaming would eliminate Pnda from the ninth and final North American spot in the CWL Global LAN League. And this is exactly what happened; Mindfreak defeated Pnda 3-1 to eliminate them from the tournament, and the pro league.
“Well, I hate crushing people’s dreams, but as I said before, you gotta do what you gotta do,” Excite said. “They played pretty well, but we turned up, played our game, and did what we had to.”
That win against Pnda ended the action on Saturday night, but on Sunday morning Mindfreak squared off against Luminosity Gaming. As one of the best teams in North America, Luminosity made quick work of the Aussies, sweeping them 3-0 to eliminate Mindfreak from Dallas with a top-12 finish. Although this wasn’t the placing Mindfreak wanted, the team still accomplished their main goal of qualifying for the pro league.
On the other hand, Excite explicitly mentioned a few changes that he thinks his team will need to make in preparation for the LAN league.
“From Dallas, we definitely have to take away the fact that our Hardpoint game just isn’t there,” Excite said. “It’s obviously somewhat there, but in Australia, we don’t usually lose Hardpoints whether it’s our worst or best maps. Coming over here, I think we won two or three [Hardpoints] out of the whole event, which was pretty shocking.”
Excite didn’t get too specific about what Mindfreak can fix in their Hardpoint gameplay, but he does believe that his team has to change a lot in order to improve their results in that game mode. But, Excite did say that Uplink was one of Mindfreak’s better game modes in Dallas.
Since Uplink is always the third map in a best-of-five series, it’s a very important game mode that can completely change the momentum of a match. If a team is up 2-0 in a series, it can close out the game with a strong performance in the Uplink map. On the other hand, if a team is down 2-0 in a series, it can shift the balance in the match by winning the Uplink map and putting the thought of a reverse sweep in the opposition’s mind.
Even though Mindfreak played well in Uplink this past weekend, Excite thinks his team can further improve their gameplay in this game mode.
“We could probably work on a little bit of stuff in Uplink, maybe adjust to NA or EU style, which can come from watching other people play instead of just playing against Aussies and getting away with small mistakes,” Excite said. “Hopefully we’ll fix our mistakes before the LAN league and turn some heads since I guess we’ll be coming in as an underdog.”
Although the CWL hasn’t released a lot of information about the Global LAN League yet, Excite believes Mindfreak will surprise some teams when the league kicks off next month at Major League Gaming’s Arena in Columbus.
“If there are four teams in a pool, and we play to the best of our ability, I’m confident we can beat almost anyone,” Excite said. “Obviously, I believe anyone would say that, but you have to have some sort of delusional confidence.”
This delusional confidence, as Excite called it, is one of the reasons why he believes Mindfreak is the best team in the APAC region. Excite said his team doesn’t show any in-game respect to the players on the other team. They just try to run right through them.
This aggressive style of play has worked for many teams in the past, and it’s one of the ways the Aussies try to catch their opponents off-guard. But it also doesn’t always work as intended, which was the case for Mindfreak when they played against some of the best teams from North America and Europe this past weekend.
“We tried to do this at Dallas, and it worked sometimes, but other times, it didn’t, because they’re definitely better than Australian players, so you can’t show them no respect,” Excite said.
While members of the team completed their 17-hour flight back to Sydney yesterday, Excite and crew don’t have that much time for relaxation in the land down under. Nothing is official at this point, but Excite said that his team definitely plans to come back over to America before the start of the pro league next month to “boot camp.” Although Mindfreak doesn’t know exactly which of the four groups they will be in, the Aussies still want to return to the United States as soon as possible.
“We had about a 95 percent chance of qualifying for the pro league before this event, so we didn’t have any plans in place before this,” Excite said. “Now that we have 100 percent qualified, we want to try and come over like two or three weeks beforehand to get the best practice, since you don’t get the right practice against Aussie teams.”
Despite finishing top-12 at CWL Dallas and securing the only APAC spot in the Global LAN League, there are still a few questions surrounding this Mindfreak team. Will the Aussies be able to improve their Hardpoint gameplay? How will Mindfreak adapt to the North American and European styles of play? The answers to both of these questions will be determined in roughly one month– when the CWL Global LAN League begins.