This weekend has been full of some of the best action I have ever had the pleasure of spectating. The funny thing is that I wasn't watching football, rugby, a movie or a F1 race, I was watching the Call of Duty(COD) Championship! A tournament that saw 32 teams from 6 continents around the world competing for over $1 million is prize money. The tournament took place over 3 days with the first day revolving around the group stages, the second the knock out and the final third day being the semi-finals and finals respectively.
The first day was filled with anxiety as well as tension as the players stepped into the arena that would decide their tournament life. The fixtures had been handed out to the teams and they now were prepared to dive into their group stages. The group stage was comprised of 8 groups of 4, meaning that every team would play a minimum of three games. The matches that were about to take place were going to be the best of 3 maps, with the map rotation being Hardpoint, Search-and-Destroy and finally Capture the Flag.
One of the most amazing features of the entire tournament was the fact that every single game was streamed, along with a shout-caster to guide viewers as the battles unfolded. Looking at the groups, it was noted that there would be some epic battles throughout the days play. One of the most exciting groups was that of Group, comprising of Unite Gaming, Quantic, Inferno BYL(Break Your Limits) and our very own team Xtaz.
There is more than one reason why this was the group to watch. Firstly Unite Gaming had just come off of one of their biggest achievements by coming second in the MLG Dallas tournament. However, they had a complete roster change, due to 3 players being unavailable for the COD championship. Thus they had to pick up 3 players from an European team (Prophecy) to incorporate into the squad. They barely had time to practice with one another but had a powerhouse line up, so the potential for success was there but only time would tell how they would gel together.
Next up was Quantic, a team that has been known to be extremely erratic when it comes to lan events. They have the potential to drop the best teams in the world but also have their moments where they don't perform to their high standards. The event would tell if we would see the Quantic that brings their A-Game or fall short of their potential.
Thirdly we had the team from Italy, Inferno BYL, a team that was coming into the championship as relative unknowns. However, we did know that they could cause some upsets, as they did when they qualified for the COD championship at the ESL finals in Germany. In this fierce group they would have that opportunity to do so again.
Lastly we had our very own Team Xtaz representing South Africa at the event. With a whole community behind our team, players and spectators alike were cheering on the team in their path to the Call of Duty Champs. When they got on stage before their first game, a wave of pride was gushing from South Africans. As local spectators stood up in front of their screens fist-pumping the air and screaming ,"LETS GO XTAZ!!!!". This was without a doubt was a memory that I will never forget.
Team Xtaz in their shirts sponsored by MWEB
The group was hotly contested, with the favorites Quantic and Unite doing well in their opening games. There was however, a twist in the tale, when the match between the Unite and Inferno BYL took place. It was a game that allowed for Inferno to pull that magic out of the bag and they managed to stick it to Unite, by bringing it to the very last map. The match was a epic struggle, a perpetual Call of Duty tug-of-war that saw both teams having their fair share of map control. However, it was the underdogs that manage to take advantage and beat one of the tournament favorites UniteGaming, knocking them out of the competition.
The tournament was however not without its moments from the Xtaz team. Frostbite was on the lips of GoldenboyFTW (Shoutcaster) as he managed to pick up one of the best plays of the championship. In a search and destroy round on the map Cargo, he whipped out the Kap40 pistol and went to work on the opposition disposing 3 players in less that 5 seconds. As South African around the country got up off their seats and screamed in amazement at what just had transpired.
At the end of play Quantic and Inferno BYL managed to progress to the round of 16 that would take place on Day 2.
Day 2 was upon us, as the initial nerves of day one decreased, the teams now were at the business section of the Championship. The top 8 teams would find themselves 'in the money' and day two would provide us with those top 8 teams. With 16 teams remaining, the squads would have to duke it out in a double elimination bracket.
In the round of 16 there were some potential line ups that got all the spectators excited! One of which that transpired was the match up between Optic Gaming and Fariko Impact. These two teams were the most followed teams at the event. Fariko, due to the fact of their recent success in winning MLG Dallas and EGL finals. Optic has always had a massive following and were the so called 'defending champions' from the fist major Call of Duty event, Call of Duty XP. It was the match that saw a power struggle as Optic took the back foot and were unable to recover. Fariko took the match, but little did they know that they would meet again in the loser bracket after they lost their first tournament game against EnvyUs.
One of the biggest surprises on day two was that of the Italians, Inferno BYL, that took on SOAR in the losers bracket. SOAR were veterans of Black Ops 2 and were a team that looked like they could take it all the way to the finals. However, BYT was on their last stand and were not going to give up. Inferno ended up being the giant killers of the tournament as they managed to win that game and end up in the top 8, securing over $25 thousand in prize money.
Day three was ready, the COD arena packed with all the media, spectators and players of that took part during the event. There were only three teams up in contention for that elusive number 1 spot.
The second match up between Optic Gaming and Fariko Impact was a match that came down to the wire. After the teams got a 'feel' for one another in their first match, they knew what to expect from their opponents. The match was extremely close and it was decided on the Search and Destroy, when both teams were tied at 5-5 after Optic made an epic come back from behind.
It seemed that Optic would take the win when they managed to get the bomb down with time to spare. It was a two on one situation in the favor of Optic Gaming, with Parasite being the only remaining member from Fariko. With the bomb timer ticking down to the 30 second mark Parasite was on top of the train when he spotted an enemy in the control room. They both saw one another at the same time and both took aim, it was Parasite that came on top with his trusty Kap 40 turning it into a 1v1. Parasite versus Nadeshot, arguably the two most well known names in Call of Duty at the tournament. With 20 seconds left on the clock the advantage was in Nadeshots hands. Parasite ran towards the bomb, then suddenly changed direction, out of nowhere he saw Nadeshot get the jump on him. It seemed that time slowed down as all the spectators knew that this would decide the map. With both players firing frantically at one another, Nadeshot missed two crucial bullets and got taken down, Parasite won the map and that took the Fariko team into the finals against team EnvyUS.
This was it! We had our final two battle scarred team. All the necessary preparations were taking place behind the scenes to make sure that this would be a final that none would forget. At 11pm (SAST) the finals would commence, and South Africa was ready to watch one of the biggest moment in eSports history! The hashtag 'CODeSPORTS' was now trending world wide and viewers were tuning in from all corners of our globe to see who would take the title.
Championship Rings awarded to the winners of the Call of Duty Championship
As the countdown timer slowly neared the the 00:00 mark, the view count was stretched to the 100 000 live viewers mark! Then suddenly a burst of light lit up faces around the world as we were introduced to the Call of Duty spectacle of a generation. With the initial introductions out the way, the player were individually introduced onto the main stage. The players then were guided to their sound proof booths to commence with a match that saw 130 thousand people watching live!
EnvyUs would take an initial 3-2 advantage in a best out of 11 maps, due to them coming from the winners bracket. The first map was to be capture the flag on the map raid Raid. Going in as favorites for the capture the flag mode, EnvyUs took the first capture and secured their first foothold on the map. However, Fariko Impact were not about to stand down they managed to claw their way back in the second half to bring it down to overtime. The first flag cap in overtime was made by Fariko and unfortunately for team EnvyUs, they couldn't recover. This brought the series to a 3-3 tie!
The next few matches saw a power struggle as the two sides traded blow for blow, map for map and finally it seemed all was lost when it came to 5-4 in Fariko Impacts favour. Next up was hardpoint, a mode that Fariko Impact simply doesn't lose, especially on Raid (the map next in line). So running into the first hardpoint location, EnvyUs managed to secure an early lead and managed to hold in up until about 5 minutes into the game. Then Fariko clawed back managing to separate the score with only a few points between the two teams. Then it was time for the individuals to shine and the man who did so was Proofy of EnvyUs. In one of the last battles of the map he started firing ,seemingly aimlessly, into a barrage of smoke and connected with two Fariko players, then another! He manged to hold the point for his team and gave them the much needed edge to tie the match at 5-5!
This was it we were going to the final map and decided of who would win the Call of Duty Championship. It would be Search and Destroy on Meltdown. It seemed that the teams couldn't be separated as after 8 rounds the teams were tied at 4-4. The next round saw Fariko on the defense and they managed to take advantage by sweeping the EnvyUs team and thus taking the lead and now were only one round away from winning!
Call of Duty Championship: Final Fariko Gaming VS Envyus Gaming
The Fariko Impact team were now on the attack, usually the disadvantage in Call of Duty, but they made it work as they managed to get the bomb planted. But it wasn't over as the EnvyUs still had 4 player alive to the Fariko's two players. Cometh the hour cometh the man and Fariko Killa managed to get two kills within a second and tied it up in player count. Next up Stainville from EnvyUs got the jump on a Fariko player but was shortly taken out by Fariko killer. It was a 1v1 situation, Proofy versus Killer. Proofy managed to get the initial shots on Killer, but Killa realizing that he was in trouble took a risky move by leaving his cover and running back infront of Proofy. Team EnvyUs's Proofy couldn't connect his shots as time ran out, Fariko Impact had won the Call of Duty Championship!!
What did you think of the Call of Duty Championship, do you think that you could make it to the next one? Let us know by commenting below or hitting us up on Twitter or Facebook.
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