The Atlanta FaZe's Call of Duty League homestand had a tough act to follow in the London Royal Ravens' event. Although Atlanta might not compare to how London looked in terms of the crowd, it certainly matched up with the drama of the games, even if a must-see matchup between Chicago and FaZe didn't pan out.
Here's a look back on the weekend and what ESPN's Arda Ocal and Emily Rand expect from Los Angeles in a couple of weeks.
How good were the crowd and atmosphere?
Ocal: The people in the building were definitely hype for the Atlanta matches, with plenty of "E-Z-A-F" chants during the final and some standing ovations. I think overall there might be a sentiment that it looked a little empty, which wasn't helped by the venue size: The bowl seating made it look worse than it was. If I had to put a number to it, I would guess an attendance average of 600 to 800 people for the weekend. It should be noted that the event organization was great. The influencers were accessible and excited to meet their fans. I do not grade this event a failure by any stretch, but perhaps the attendance numbers might be a concern. London remains the loudest and most creative crowd this season.
Side note: Challengers was bumpin'. It was happening in the concourse of the building, and at times it was difficult to move around because so many people were watching. Congrats to FaZe Academy for completing the Atlanta sweep of the weekend.
Rand: The event itself was great.
Atlanta FaZe did their best to tie their home city to an established juggernaut of a brand like FaZe Clan. They did this on two fronts: The first was using FaZe's founding members and influencers as much as possible, allowing fans to meet them on the upper level throughout the event. The second was bringing in Georgia native and FaZe Clan investor Kiari Kendrell Cephus (Offset) of Migos to the event and having a partnered on-site clothing line.
On the whole, I'd say they were pretty successful, though it's going to take a bit more time to build a ticket-buying live audience in Atlanta proper. Once this happens, those fans will likely be loyal for a while. At the venue, there were more "A-T-L!" cheers for FaZe than anything else, reflecting not the established FaZe brand but the city. If FaZe can harness that energy moving forward, they should be able to get a larger crowd than the one they had this past weekend.
What was the best play of the weekend?
Ocal: Dylan "Envoy" Hannon's final kill: a long grenade toss against the Mutineers. FROM DOOOOWWNNNTTOOOWWNNN. That grenade fling was pretty. I'm picking this play independent of overall results, just the prettiness of it and how well it's stuck with me.
Rand: Although Florida Mutineers as a team picked it up, especially toward the end of Day 2, some of their matches relied on individual heroics from Preston "Prestinni" Sanderson. I'm going to highlight his incredible 13-kill run against London before Dylan "Dylan" Henderson shut him down.
Who was your player of the weekend?
Ocal: It should be McArthur "Cellium" Jovel because he earned his MVP performance. He is second in the league in hardpoint KD (1.34), fourth in Domination KD, with 1.35, and seventh in Search and Destroy, at a 1.14. The MVP chants were ringing in his ears well before the final from the Atlanta faithful.
But for me, it's Prestinni. I mean, sure, we talk stats, like how the SMG support had 16 kills on S&D in the match against his brother, Alec "Arcitys" Sanderson, and the Huntsmen.
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But for me, it's not the stats. It's the story. It's the statement. Florida came out and beat the reigning tournament champions. Prestinni, a guy who, before the league started, people were saying might not have a spot on a roster, showed that he can not only hang but also contribute in defeating giants.
What a statement weekend. Yes, the final will sting, and there is work to do for the Mutineers, but Prestinni leveled up this weekend, and it should be noted and applauded. Once the dust settled on Huntsmen and Mutineers, the latter being the winners, the crowd stood up and shared in the moment for the most emotional match of the day.
Twin brothers Arcitys, Prestinni on facing off for the first time
Preston "Prestinni" Sanderson and Alec "Arcitys" Sanderson dive into their first match against each other after always playing on the same team.
Rand: There's a lot to like about the Minnesota RØKKR. From watching them play at their home venue during opening weekend to finally seeing them in a tournament setting, anyone on Minnesota can pop off at any time. Couple that potential with the RØKKR's strong read on the game right now, and you can safely make the RØKKR a darkhorse pick for the Los Angeles event.
Here, I want to highlight Adam "GodRx" Brown (with Alex "Alexx" Carpenter as a close second) as one of the main reasons why the RØKKR looked so strong. One of the most impressive parts of the RØKKR's weekend is that they were not only well-studied and responded to what their opponents were doing, but they also were flat-out winning gunfights. A lot of that came from GodRx absolutely destroying his opponents, particularly against the known mechanical prowess of Atlanta.
Who's the team to watch going into Los Angeles?
Ocal: Definitely Atlanta. What impressed me most about them wasn't the Florida 3-0 in the final. It was the reverse sweep against Minnesota. Firstly, because the RØKKR are a team many people have on their radar. I asked Cellium about what the team was saying to each other after they went down 2-0, and he said they tried to remain calm and take it one game a time. Atlanta believes they are a resilient team, but they hadn't had the chance to show it until that matchup.
That's exactly what they did.
FaZe look even scarier going into L.A. because the narrative that they haven't been tested yet isn't there anymore. They have; they've been to the brink, and they overcame. That makes them look even scarier as they cement themselves as the best team in CoD for the time being.
The best part of Los Angeles is the fact that we pick up right where we left off: The first match in group play will be Atlanta vs. Florida. I'm also looking at how well Florida will do in this next tournament. Prestinni turned a lot of heads in that semifinal against Chicago and silenced any doubters who said he wouldn't thrive outside of eUnited and his brother's shadow.
Is Florida for real? Are they a threat? Much will be told with this next performance.
Rand: Honestly, the team that I'm most looking forward to seeing again in Los Angeles is the Dallas Empire. With the RØKKR and Mutineers both having unexpectedly strong performances this weekend, I'm looking at Dallas and wondering where they fit into the Call of Duty League hierarchy.
That said, Dallas didn't actually play this past weekend, so of the teams from Atlanta, I'm picking the RØKKR.
As I said before when highlighting GodRx, there are two impressive factors that went into the RØKKR's performance this weekend. The first was good preparation and the ability to adjust to their opponents. They had better hHrdpoint rotations than Atlanta on both Hackney Yard (a Map 1 win) and Gun Runner (a Map 4 loss), but Atlanta out-gunned them on the latter map. Despite this, Minnesota was also the only team that looked able to go toe-to-toe with the mechanical monsters on Atlanta and even out-slay them. If they can keep this up going into Los Angeles, they're going to be one of the more difficult teams to beat.