CWL Birmingham Preview
Welcome to the fourth Open event of the Call of Duty: World War II season! While CWL Seattle Open looms as a pivotal moment of the 2017-18 season, CWL Birmingham isn’t without intrigue of its own given Pro Points and Relegation positioning are still on the line. There’s plenty of talking points to consider entering the $200,000 tournament which I’ll try to address within each pool.
Pool A:Rise Nation, eUnited, Echo Fox, Epsilon eSports
Advancing:Rise Nation, eUnited
Any story in this group revolves around eUnited. A 5-1 record to conclude CWL Pro League Stage 1 Division B has somehow revived eUnited from the ashes of its 2-6 start to the four-week season. Considering the roster appeared to be self-combusting before our eyes only a month ago, it’s been a bit of a miraculous turnaround for James “Clayster” Eubanks and company. Whether or not this roster sticks together for another LAN event remains to be seen, but you can bet the decision will be all the more difficult if they succeed in placing at least top-6 in back-to-back-to-back tournaments.
eUnited’s success could cause a bit of a domino effect, both in competitive Call of Duty and in Pool A, as a quartet of serviceable players potentially leaving the free agent market might force a roster like Echo Fox to reexamine its option. Having already switched up its lineup earlier this year, getting rid of Peirce “Gunless” Hillman for Ulysses “Aqua” Silva, Echo Fox could wind up being a pilfering ground once more for other teams looking to make a chemistry change upon the conclusion of Stage 1. A fourth straight Open LAN with at least a 12th place finish isn’t out of the question - in fact, it’s expected - but this current lineup doesn’t feel like it can go any higher than its 5th-6th place finish at CWL New Orleans Open. It’s easy to run things back when you are on the cusp of achieving the pinnacle of success, or if you coming off the tail end of an extended run in the limelight, but it’s the incredibly vast in-between that has toppled teams with much larger names than currently on Echo Fox’s roster.
Pool B:FaZe Clan, Team Kaliber, UNILAD, Team Vitality
Advancing:FaZe Clan, Team Kaliber
I had half a mind to put UNILAD in over Team Kaliber given what I anticipate is going to be a very healthy “home country” boosts, but TK’s success in Open LAN events is too legendary at this point to ignore. However, it wouldn’t surprise me to see both Team Vitality and UNILAD make extended runs in the lower championship bracket portion. Between the flight to Birmingham, the time change, and the potential to play 10+ hours of CoD all in one day, there’s plenty of reasons as to why North American teams could struggle at this event.
That puts additional pressure on Team Kaliber to hold serve during pool play. For what it’s worth TK has a combined 12-4 map count record against the two teams, with the overwhelming majority of those wins coming against its Division A counterparts - Vitality.
Pool C:OpTic Gaming, Team EnVyUs, ex-eRa Eternity, Evil Geniuses
Advancing:OpTic Gaming, Team EnVyUs
Whatever open bracket team gets slotted into this pool might as well pack it up for the rest of the evening, because I would be stunned to see them win a map, much less a game. Ok, maybe that’s a bit too aggressive of a proclamation, but this is far and away the most difficult pool of CWL Birmingham. OpTic seem impervious to the effects of a long layover, but it remains to be seen how the relatively young lineup of Team EnVyUs will be able to handle themselves. While it’s not necessarily a marquee event in the grand scheme of things, make no mistakes, this is absolutely an opportunity to solidify EnVy’s presence in the competitive scene.
And speaking of OpTic Gaming, it’ll be interesting to see how the role changes with the Green Wall swing things around. While I’m never going to bury a team as potent as OG, the lack of any significant tournament wins this season is becoming far more than just an eye sore. Perhaps a change of continents could be the spark this team needs to get back-to-back European tournament victories.
Pool D:Luminosity Gaming, Red Reserve, Splyce, Mindfreak
Advancing:Red Reserve, Splyce
For the majority of the Call of Duty: World War II season, it’s been Luminosity Gaming or Team Kaliber at the top in terms of the best team in competitive CoD, but I’m going to lean towards the EU advantage in this pool. In reality, I wouldn’t be surprised if this winds up being a three-team tie, given Mindfreak have essentially been the punching bag of an open or global tournament, but I think the home-team advantage is going to play a pivotal part in at least one of these groups.
Arguably the best EU team entering the new season, Splyce have drastically fallen off their Infinite Warfare pace, which has ceded control of regional dominance to Red Reserve. Even if you ignore the results of their recent open finishes - which have been glorious, no doubt - it’s clear Red Reserve are playing at a different level simply because they’ve played toe-to-toe against some of the best North American teams in the world. CWL Birmingham feels like an event where at least one EU team solidifies themselves as a truly elite contender.