North America has a new Call of Duty World League champion! After an upset-peppered first two days of the Stage 2 playoffs, Sunday's grand final matchup between EnVyUs and Dream Team was rife with excitement and anticipation. While EnVyUs' impressive 4-1 finals win may not have been on the same entertainment level as the epic conclusion to Stage 1, there were still plenty of storylines to lend drama to the moment. Let's look at how both teams made it to the big stage.
A Tale of Two Semis
On one half of the bracket, Dream Team and Luminosity Gaming entered the semifinals after leaning on monster individual performances to secure upset wins over FaZe Clan and OpTic Gaming, respectively.
Initially, Dream Team raced ahead to a 3-1 series advantage, thanks in large part to the heroics of Troy "Sender" Michaels and Steven "Diabolic" Rivero. Then Luminosity Gaming battled back to tie the series 3-3 after securing a dominating win in Round 5 Hardpoint as well as a tight 7-5 win in Round 6 Uplink.
A masterful performance by none other than Adam "Killa" Sloss (7/4 KD) in the decisive Round 7 Search and Destroy map secured the semifinal victory for Dream Team, ensuring its spot in the championship finals.
On the other half of the bracket, No. 1 seed Team EnVyUs found itself matched up against perennial powerhouse and No. 4 seed Rise Nation after both teams secured dominating wins over their quarterfinal opponents. Despite the fact that EnVyUs was the higher ranked team, it seemed as if the overwhelming majority of predictions favored Rise, thanks in large part to the star power of Sam "Octane" Larew and Daniel "Loony" Loza.
While EnVyUs did win the series 4-1, it was anything but a blowout. Just two plays made the difference in their respective rounds: a brilliant two-piece by both Jordan "Jkap" Kaplan and Austin "SlasheR" Liddicoat in the opening seconds of overtime of Round 2 Uplink for EnVyUs, and a momentum-crippling "dead slide" by Rise Nation's Josiah "Slacked" Berry in Round 4 Capture of the Flag.
As was the case throughout the weekend, though, EnVyUs was truly at its best on one map: Hardpoint. In both Round 1 and Round 5 Hardpoint, EnVyUs managed to flummox the slaying power of Rise Nation, holding its entire opposition under the positive KD mark, thanks mainly to the duo of Johnathan "John" Perez and SlasheR. Every critical engage seemed to favor EnVyUs, with John securing a 77/53 KD and SlasheR slotting in at a neat 71/47 KD for both rounds.
From there the stage was set: a matchup between the No. 6 seed upstarts Dream Team and the No. 1 seed Team EnVyUs.
Once again, EnVyUs proved to be the dominant team in Hardpoint, securing an impressive 250-116 round win in the opening match of the series, despite a few unique ban/protect choices from Dream Team. Bryan "Apathy" Zhelyazkov, in particular, was amazing; he finished Round 1 with a 40/26 KD and over a minute and a half in the hardpoint, where he secured critical kills for his team as the rest of EnVyUs fanned out for better positioning.
Round 2 saw Dream Team come alive, rallying to a 7-6 Uplink win behind the slaying power of Martin "Chino" Chino and Sender, who posted a combined 59/30 KD. Despite the round win, though, it felt as if EnVyUs still had much of the momentum, as it was within two points of Dream Team's score for the majority of the round.
So perhaps it wasn't surprising to see EnVyUs claim the next three round wins en route to the Stage 2 title. However, what was surprising was the sheer level of dominance it displayed in each win.
Starting with Round 3 Search and Destroy, EnVyUs put together the first 6-0 round sweep of the Stage 2 playoffs, allowing Dream Team just eight total kills. Next was one of the most brutally efficient Capture the Flags I have ever watched, with EnVyUs taking an 8-1 Round 4 win. With both Apathy (who also had a mind-rattling four captures) and SlasheR posting nearly double-positive KD numbers for much of the round, EnVyUs steamrolled Dream Team; at one point its scorestreaks included a Cerberus, Hellstorm, Lightning Strike and Dart.
And then, just as it had done throughout the entirety of the Stage 2 playoffs, EnVyUs put together another consummate performance on Hardpoint in Round 5, securing a 250-150 victory to claim the Stage 2 title. Apathy was masterful once again in the deciding contest, posting a 34/20 KD as well as a minute in the hardpoint; he dictated the pace of the game while opening up space for his teammates, including John and Slasher, who each posted above a minute and 40 seconds in the objective.
New Stars are Born
In a season dominated in large part by OpTic Gaming, it was refreshing to see a new team climb to the top of the pack and in such convincing fashion. While Dream Team failed to find its competitive groove in the finals, its run to the championship series was anything but a fluke; after all, it knocked off two of the better teams in the CWL in FaZe Clan and Luminosity Gaming.
"I know it kind of sucks to say, 'I lost in the finals,' but, at the same time, I'm proud of this team and how we all performed against FaZe and LG," said Chino. "I think we can keep getting better."
From one perspective, this tournament will go down as the rise of two slayers: John from EnVyUs and Chino from Dream Team. Both players had demonstrated signs of brilliance throughout Stage 2, but each player took it to another level during the Stage 2 playoffs.
Even during Dream Team's collapse in the finals, Chino still managed to post a positive KD (130/101) in the series, and time and again came away with critical kills that kept the game from getting even more out of hand. His performance leading up to the finals was nothing short of spectacular, with his glittering KD marks a routine sighting throughout the tournament.
And, while EnVyUs' John may not have had as big of an impact during the finals, his performances against H2K and Rise Nation prior to that were easily the best of the week.
"John had quite a few maps where he just took over," admitted teammate Jkap.
Ever the humble player, John refused to acknowledge his individual success, instead deferring to his team. "I think we all played really well. Like, if you go watch, we all did amazing together; it wasn't like there was one player that was slacking. It was a team effort."
Surrounded by a terrific cast of players on EnVyUs, John may have a chance to shine on the biggest stage come September as one of the rising stars of the CWL.