Feb 16 2017 - 11:21 pm

A Pnda Watch has been placed on Competitive CoD

A team that forced OpTic Gaming into the eleveth round of Game Five twice, PNDA Gaming is ready for their shot at being one of the premier professional Call of Duty teams
Journalist for GAMURS

Pnda Gaming is not the cute, cuddly animal that the Call of Duty community thought it was.

Established in 2014, the team took to the 2015 Call of Duty World Championship and placed top-24. Ethan "FA5TBALLA" Wedgeworth and Preston "Priest" Greiner were the duo that stuck with the organization heading into Infinite Warfare, and picked up the strong In2ition duo of Christopher "ProFeeZy" Astudillo and Sean "Pemby" Pembroke.

After a top-20 exit in CWL Las Vegas to little fanfare, Pnda left their Priest in search of a new religion. They first turned to Adam "GodRx" Brown, but then decided to search for FA5TBALLA's old Prophet...Jay "Prophet" Nicoletti that is, who was ready to let his talent shine on this new Pnda roster.

"I've had a rough patch the past year and a half with placings and teams, with things not going my way," Prophet said. "I was pushing through it. When I got the offer (to join Pnda), it was a reassuring feeling that all the time I'm putting in isn't for nothing."

With chemistry being "a big factor" of this lineup, as Prophet describes "thanks to two strong duos," Pemby said that Prophet became the new shot-caller, rather than a new fourth that had to fit into Pnda's rotation.

"He put us in his strategy," Pemby said. "He got us to start doing our plans, set-ups and strategies. So he basically made us a better team."

To the casual fan, Pnda Gaming was not expected to place top-eight at CWL Atlanta, as their online grind was discounted much like that of eUnited.

Nevertheless, the team gained their confidence through persistence and online practice, and benefited from being full-time Call of Duty players.

"We were putting in the same hours we were putting in before Vegas," ProFeeZy said. "We don't go to school, we don't work, we literally put all of our work and time into this."

That grind seemed to come in handy for the open bracket, where Pnda Gaming ran through the marathon Friday and Saturday and bested sides like Gut Tough Gaming and old rival SetToDestroyX who, like Pnda Gaming, were full of potential.

"All open bracket requires is stamina and being able to grind, as opposed to being into pool play where you get some breaks," Prophet said. "Coming into open bracket, we had the confidence, the preparation and experience where we knew that we were going to blow through the bracket."

Right out of the bracket though, the team seemed to slow down after two tough losses to OpTic Gaming and Splyce.

"We should have won those series," ProFeeZy said." We choked some very close games. And then we went down against Evil Geniuses 2-0, and we had to make that reverse sweep. Uplink is our best game mode, so that's our swing map."

Pnda finished 2-2 in group stage, and found themselves back in the championship losers bracket, like they were in during CWL Las Vegas. After taking down EU upstart side Fnatic, the team was set to face CWL Las Vegas champs Rise Nation. And although they were the underdogs heading into the match, Prophet "knew that we were going to beat them."

"A lot of teams were weary and scared of us after what they saw throughout the weekend so far," Prophet said. "We felt that we already had an edge, and as long as we came out and played out best, we thought we were going to win."

"It doesn't matter who we play, we just look at it the same way," Pemby said. "We just go as hard as possible. But it felt good because Faccento was talking trash and it felt good to beat him."

With Pnda Gaming riding high after that win, Pnda started to gather a few more fans on top of the strong showing of people (and Pnda) that came along to support the team. But even with the new fans, ProFeeZy was locked-in to his game.

"I love the support, the exposure feels nice, but I don't really focus on that," ProFeeZy said. "I just stare at my monitor and it's tee-up time. Every map, every life, every bullet counts, especially at major events."

In what was reminiscent of their first two pool play matches though, "small mistakes" came back to haunt them against OpTic later in the event, and forced them out of the event in a top-eight placement. Nevertheless, the team feels that it can take down a giant like OG if they can make a few tweaks to its game.

"It's all minor mistakes that we are all making," Prophet said. "It's a team thing and nobody's individual fault...and we are definitely going to become better and beat them next time."

On the Tuesday after the event, Pnda Gaming made like some of the other NA and EU teams and flew off to Paris for the ESWC event. It would be ProFeeZy's "first time out of the U.S.," and he is looking forward to representing his organization.

"I look at being fully funded by an organization to play Call of Duty outside the United States as a great opportunity. So I definitely have to put on for Pnda," ProFeeZy said. "We know our true potential, and when we are playing our game, we are unstoppable. We are a top team, and I really want to win that event."

As for his teammates, they are ready to make another open bracket run, and with Pemby quoting the great Ricky Bobby with, "If you ain't first, you're last," Pnda is looking to win it all. In the eyes of Prophet, stamina won't be an issue to the side, and said "the only thing that can stop us is ourselves."

"We need to win Paris so that way, we can become more than a top-eight team," Prophet said.

And does PNDA Gaming want that OpTic Gaming rematch in Paris?

"Yes I do. Hell yeah. Bring it on," ProFeeZy said.

"I want a rematch against OpTic, 100 percent," Pemby said. "We choked twice, and it is not going to happen again."

Pnda will get a guaranteed shot against OpTic if they run the open bracket and are the lowest seeded team in order to be placed in Group A. Otherwise, their next chance at the #GreenWall would have to come in the CWL Paris championship bracket.


For all of your esports updates, make sure you are following us on Twitter, @GAMURScom.

James Mattone is a journalist for GAMURS and can be contacted on Twitter -@TheJamesMattone.


Feb 18 2017 - 10:36 pm

What's wrong with Cloud9?

What has caused Cloud9's drop in performance over the past two weekends?
Image via CWL
Managing Editor

In the wake of their second place finish at CWL Las Vegas in December, many people, including myself, set high expectations for Cloud9 entering the rest of the Call of Duty®: Infinite Warfare season. After consecutive top-20 finishes over the past two weekends, however, several people are left asking: what’s wrong with Cloud9?

Following Evil Geniuses’ reverse sweep of Enigma6 earlier today, the lineup consisting of Patrick "ACHES" Price, Andres "Lacefield" Lacefield, Adam "Assault" Garcia and Richard "Ricky" Stacy will retain their top-nine ranking in the pro point standings, despite their poor performances as of late. Still, back-to-back top-20 finishes at CWL Atlanta and CWL Paris have left the Call of Duty community completely perplexed in terms of where the Cloud9 from Vegas has gone.

One of the most obvious potential reasons why Cloud9 has struggled at the past two events could be the shift in the current Call of Duty meta. Cloud9 was successful in Vegas when the OSA and Synaptic (aka Skinny Bot) combat rig were playable, but they have struggled since those two items were removed from competitive play. In my eyes, however, I don’t think this can be solely to blame.

Call of Duty professionals are some of the most skilled esports players in the world, in terms of having to adjust and adapt to changes. No other esport has a one-year lifespan before switching to a different title; even though it’s still Call of Duty, the same game is only played for a maximum of 12 months. Thus, professional Call of Duty players are constantly playing different versions of a game, each with unique aspects, such as weapons, maps, movement systems and more.

With that in mind, it doesn’t make sense to strictly blame C9’s struggles on a change in the meta; if these players can adapt to different Call of Duty titles on a yearly basis and still compete at the top level, then they should certainly be able to adjust to in-game tweaks throughout that game’s lifespan. While some players might be better with some weapons, in this case the OSA, that gun’s removal from competitive play can’t solely be the reason for a team to go from the grand finals at one event to consecutive top-20 performances.

Aside from these in-game changes, I personally believe that Cloud9 is just not playing well as a team. Some people might say that this is an extremely vague point, but when a team goes 1-8 in best-of-five series over two weekends, that’s generally an indication of poor play. It’s difficult for me to condone blaming a gun or a specialist character for a team’s inability to win more than one series in two events.

When we dissect the numbers even further, we can see that one of the main reasons for Cloud9’s recent struggles is their inability to win Search and Destroy maps. In Vegas, Search and Destroy was C9’s “bread and butter”; C9 was able to progress so far in that tournament because they were able to clutch up in game fives, aside from their series against Team Kaliber and Rise Nation (in the grand finals). The old adage of “Search and Destroy wins championships” was proven to be right once again, but in this case, Rise Nation was just the better Search and Destroy team in Vegas.

In Atlanta, Cloud9 had an overall map count of 5-12. Of those five map victories, only one was in Search and Destroy. Cloud9 was swept by Elevate and Team 3G, lost 3-1 to Luminosity Gaming - only winning game one Retaliation Hardpoint - then they swept Imperial, but lost 3-1 to The Gosu Crew Blue, against whom they also only won the first map.

Thus, Cloud9 won three Hardpoints, one Search and Destroy and one Uplink en route to a top-20 placing in Atlanta. Looking at the numbers even more closely, C9 ended their time at the Georgia World Congress Center with a 1-4 record in Search and Destroy.

Unfortunately for Cloud9, this trend continued this weekend at the CWL Paris Open. Cloud9 did not win a single series at this event, going 0-4 with a map count of 4-12. Continuing on the aforementioned topic, Cloud9 did not win a single Search and Destroy map at this event either. C9’s four map victories included two Hardpoint wins and two Uplink victories.

Cloud9 shockingly lost 3-1 against Fnatic to begin their tournament run, only winning the Uplink. This was followed by a 3-2 series loss against Elevate, in which Cloud9 won games three and four, but lost both SnDs. Then, C9 ended pool play with a 0-3 record after Enigma6 defeated them 3-1, with Cloud9 winning the initial Hardpoint in that series. Finally, the loss that in my opinion shows how out-of-form Cloud9 is currently, was when SetToDestroyX swept C9 to eliminate them from Paris.

With that loss to StDx, Cloud9’s time in Paris came to a close with a 0-5 record in Search and Destroy, bringing their combined SnD record in Atlanta and Paris to an abysmal total of 1-9; scarily similar to their overall series record for the last two events. For a team who played so well in Search and Destroy at Vegas, this has to be considered the main reason why they have seen a drop in performance over the past two weeks.

Cloud9 did not play up to their potential over the past two events; there’s no other way to say that. But, in my opinion, this team has the right combination of veteran leadership and talent to bounce back from these subpar performances. If anything, ACHES and company should use these past two events as a wake-up call to motivate them even more heading into CWL Dallas next month.

Most Cloud9 fans will probably be worried about this team moving forward, however, I don’t think there is any reason why they still won’t qualify for the CWL come April. Barring a crazy losers bracket run by Evil Geniuses to win the event tomorrow, Cloud9 should still be in seventh place on the pro point standings. So, as long as they keep grinding scrims and GameBattles matches, fix their Search and Destroy issues and earn some good placings in the online 2K tournaments, ACHES and company should definitely be able to bounce back to their Vegas form over the next few weeks.


What do you think Cloud9 needs to work on in preparation for CWL Dallas? Let us know by tweeting us @GAMURScom.

Justin Binkowski is the Managing Editor for GAMURS and he can be contacted by email at justin.b@gamurs.com or on Twitter @JBinkk.

Feb 20 2017 - 10:10 pm

Feb. 20 CWL Pro Points Update: OpTic, FaZe, eUnited Guaranteed for LAN League

After back-to-back event weekends in Atlanta and Paris, OpTic Gaming, FaZe and eUnited are all shoe-ins for the CWL Global Pro League.
Image Credit: James Mattone
Journalist for GAMURS

This past month saw three major tournaments held, with EU teams getting an extra dose of pro points in London before going along with NA teams to Atlanta and Paris in back-to-back weekends.

After a total gauntlet for these teams, we enter the final stage before the first CWL Global Pro League on April 20, where only nine NA teams and six EU sides will head to Columbus and compete in the LAN league.

But it turns out that with the current pro point standings, the fates of some of these teams may be all but decided.

For these standings, we've decided to implement a 30,000 pro point cut-off for teams on the list. Any team below that threshold in North America or Europe have been left off the list, but can re-join in the next week if they hit that mark.

Here is what the picture for both NA and EU look like:


North America

Barring a drastic change to the pro point system or an unexpected misfortune, or if those teams do not show up to CWL Dallas and get their rosters in, those three sides are now in Stage One of the CWL Global Pro League.

After running countless scenarios by using mathematics (the most feared subject to a journalist), I have 99.9% confidence that these three sides could, theoretically, do absolutely nothing until Dallas, show up, lose every map and STILL qualify.

With that said, I propose these teams play with snipers only, on max sensitivity, and/or blindfolded in CWL Dallas, just for the "lolz."

Anyways, Rise Nation, Team EnVyUs, Luminosity and Cloud9 all still have to work for their chance to be in the Global Pro League at CWL Dallas. Due to their recent finishes, they all have scenarios where they can be knocked out of the top nine with a bad placing at CWL Dallas.

It's safe to say that if any of these teams wind up in the Championship Winner's Bracket though, they'll be . Fortunately, they'll have an easier time getting there, as they can all literally not play a single GameBattles match or 2k tournament and keep their pool play spot. Even C9, who had Adam "Assault" Garcia's points taken away from CWL Atlanta and two rough finishes, can hypothetically take a vacation to a Caribbean island (paid for by Patrick "ACHES" Price, because he is such a good captain) and still be in pool play automatically for CWL Dallas.

Enigma6 technically is also a shoe-in for a pool play spot, however it will have to at least hit its GB pro point cap (50 points per player) for a week if it want to get that spot. Knowing how hard these top teams grind, especially Enigma6, this team should not have a problem in being that eight team in pool play.

For the final pool play spot in Dallas though, it will be four teams gunning for easy street. PNDA Gaming technically has that spot currently, but TGC Blue, Team Allegiance and Evil Geniuses are have a chance to catch up.

In order to do that, those three teams' would have to pray that PNDA places poorly in their 2k tournaments while they finish first both times, unless it is TGC Blue, who can afford a single second place finish.

Already, that is a very tough scenario, so the alternative would be a roster change before CWL Dallas. All roads lead to Anthony "DraMa" Padilla, whose near 15,000 pro points makes him an asset for a final pool play spot. In a hypothetical trade with Allegiance for Steve "Mochila" Canle, Allegiance's pro point situation would allow them to reasonably pass PNDA for the ninth spot.

Nevertheless, this LAN event in Dallas is judgement day for these four sides, as a favorable finish could give them one of the six spots left for NA teams in the Global Pro League.

Finally, two words to describe the chances of qualifying for LAN League for Team Kaliber, Echo Fox, SetToDestroyX, Livin' The Dream, G2 Esports and Lethal Gaming are "practically zero."

I'm sorry fans of those teams, but mathematically, it's near impossible.

In the history of Call of Duty competitive with a pool play and open bracket event set-up, no team has won an event through the open bracket. Even if you scale it back to a top-six, these teams would have to get multiple teams above them to finish a lot worse than where they expected.

So while they may have no chance to qualify for the first CWL Global Pro League, they will most likely be contenders for the second stage and be teams to watch.


Europe

Realistically speaking, Splyce is going to qualify for the CWL Global Pro League as well, however there are scenarios that, if Epsilon, Xtrovert, Supremacy or The Imperial win CWL Dallas and Splyce finishes in the worst possible position, Splyce would be out.

The four guarenteed teams for CWL Dallas pool play will be Splyce, Infused, Red and Elevate, unless there is a drastic change to the pro point system or an unexpected misfortune for any of these teams.

Fnatic and Team 3G fight for that final pool play spot, with 3G having to outplay Fnatic in Gamebattles 2k's in order to steal that spot. The days leading up to the Mar. 6 roster lock could decide the fate of the final Global Pro League position, as a guaranteed 11,000 pro points for being in pool play would be a giant safety net for either team.

Technically, anything is possible in the EU, especially with how well Epsilon placed in Paris. A 5/6th finish could give them enough momentum to jump the org-less Team 3G, however the race for the final Dallas pool play spot does not have Epsilon in the picture.

As for the other four EU teams above the 30,000 pro point threshold, they will definitely be teams to watch in the open bracket, but need to rely on a solid event to get a Global Pro League spot.

EDIT: Edited to reflect five EU pool play spots for CWL Dallas, not six.


For all of your esports updates, make sure you are following us on Twitter, @GAMURScom.

James Mattone is a journalist for GAMURS and can be contacted on Twitter -@TheJamesMattone.