CDL Championships 2023: An Explosive Finale to an Unforgettable Season
The Call of Duty League’s 2023 season has been dramatic, unpredictable, and as tightly contested as any since the League’s inception.
The Call of Duty League’s 2023 season has been dramatic, unpredictable, and as tightly contested as any since the League’s inception. After a cataclysmic off season and across 5 Majors and the 6-month long regular season, no favorite nor dynasty has emerged. Now, fitting to an explosive year, it all comes to an unpredictable finale: Championship Weekend
Off season aftershocks
The COD scene was rattled by some of the largest off season moves in the game's history, with fans experiencing roster-swap aftershock even today as the season's finale approaches.
The Atlanta FaZe broke up a 2x World Championship squad and found a new leader in Austin "Slasher" Liddicoat. The Toronto Ultra went all in on a pair of rookies — a gambit that has paid out in regular season success. Elsewhere, New York Subliners stuck with their core of Paco "Hydra" Rudiewiez and Matthew "KiSMET" Tinsley, while adding veterans Preston “Priestahh” Greiner and Cesar "Skyz’" Bueno to the line.
Another legendary CoD org made major changes as well. The OpTic Texas camp needed to change things up after a very poor showing at the first Major. Seth “Scump” Abner’s surprise retirement could have been devastating, but a pair of unlikely heroes in Cuyler "Huke" Garland and Daniel "Ghosty" Roth quickly salvaged their season.
All of these new-look squads have shown up throughout the year, OpTic being the only one of the four that failed to win a Major. And even then, the Green Wall has gotten close, earning two silver medals at two majors and sitting at second in the regular season. Heading into Championship Weekend, it’s these “new look” squads that have the most to prove — and to lose.
The Four Titans of the CDL
For FaZe, the Championship Weekend is all about returning to form. FaZe is a massive name in CoD — and in 2021 this team looked dynastic. After falling to the LA Thieves in the Grand Finals of last year's finale, the picture changed. In a controversial move, FaZe parted ways with their longtime captain Arcitys. Despite the criticism, the most dominant trio of the modern era stayed in contention throughout the season. Their new captain, Slasher, brought a knife-like precision to arguably the most talented team in the world.
They’ve got weak points in their map pool, but with new leadership, a win at the Stage 2 Major, and a combined six World Championship rings on their roster, the Atlanta FaZe come into Playoffs as the favorite.
Atlanta squares off with Seattle Surge in Round One at Champs, and while their opposition has been on a down slide, this matchup has been electric since the dawn of the CDL. It’s a rematch of 2022’s Lower Bracket Final, and it could bring the house down in Las Vegas.
Up North, the Toronto Ultra turned heads with a Stage 3 Major win. At the start of the season, the Canadian squad looked to Thomas “Scrappy” Ernst, a highly-touted prospect with a fiery personality, to re-energize them for the 2023 campaign. After swapping out Standy for Scrappy’s Ultra Academy NA duo Charlie ‘Hicksy’ Hicks, they are more lethal than ever.
Fitting to their upstart identity, Ultra faces off against the reigning World Champions, the Los Angeles Thieves. That team, led by decorated superstar Kenneth "Kenny" Williams, won the final two events of the previous season, etching their names into Call of Duty history.
But that was almost a year ago now. Since then, the Thieves have mostly looked underwhelming, failing to break the top four at most of this season’s majors. The Thieves looked back in championship form at the Stage 4 Major this year, but they struggled at the most recent Stage 5 Major — and that’s blood in the water for the boys from up north. The winner will square off with FaZe or Surge in the next round, creating a bracket-busting situation no matter how it falls.
And then there’s OpTic — perhaps the most storied name in CoD. Despite being the two-seed overall, OpTic Texas is an unknown quantity. The legacy team nearly collapsed at the season’s starting line, but the return of Brandon "Dashy" Otell, the arrival of Huke and rookie IGL Ghosty turned them from a disaster to a surprising title contender, inches away from a big win.
Second in two majors and in the standings, OpTic looked due for a win up until an untimely stumble at Major 5, getting upset by a plucky Florida Mutineers team.
That winless Fifth Major seems more of a fluke than an indictment for OpTic, and an opening-round matchup against a floundering Boston Breach represents an opportunity for Texas to right the ship after an embarrassing Stage 5 Major. If they avoid the upset, they can dodge the other titans — possibly cruising to another Winners Finals. That is, if the CDL’s biggest dark horse, the NY Subliners, don’t have anything to say about.
New York’s dark horse and the major underdogs
NY suffered an early loss to Ultra at Major 5, but that didn’t stop them from hitting form in the lower bracket and running it all the way back, beating Ultra and FaZe to win the whole thing. In a league defined by four titans, the Subliners are the dark horse with an indomitable spirit. They won Major 1 in the same fashion, with a massive lower bracket run that toppled the Surge. After that, though, they didn’t find success until their Major 5 win.
NY’s KiSMET and HyDra took home MVP honors in the team’s two big wins, and it will likely be up to the two lightning-fast SMGs to answer the call all tournament long. A potential second-round clash with Texas feels like another bracket-altering matchup no matter what happens. After all, the Subliners might be more fearsome from below than above.
The last three teams in the tournament – Boston Breach, Minnesota RØKKR, and Seattle Surge — are the true outside chances.
RØKKR's star-studded lineup never found the life that many expected of them. The Surge started out hot, but that deflating loss to the Subliners in the finals of Major 1 sank their momentum, and they haven’t recovered since. The Breach has been in turmoil ever since the retirement of Anthony "Methodz" Zinni at the team’s home Major in February.
No matter who wins — a titan, a dark horse, an unlikely bottom seed —, history will be written at CDL Championship Weekend 2023. The competition has been so close, so explosive, that this finale will reshape legacies.