In the final moments of intense competition, it’s easy to forget everything that led to that point – conflict, upsets, and, of course, the rising and falling of champions. During the first stage of the Call of Duty World League Presented by PlayStation 4, each and every one of those characteristics surfaced in unbelievable moments, making for the most exciting chapter of professional Call of Duty to date.

As we look ahead to the kickoff of Stage 2 of the Call of Duty World League Pro Division competition, let’s walk through some of those exciting moments and how they affected Call of Duty’s most intense series yet.

We saw the formation of the league, separating the pros from the amateurs with a line that could be broken all too easily. One bad stage and you’re out — as Team Kaliber and Counter Logic Gaming learned, losing their relegation matches to be replaced by King Papey and Cloud 9 in the Pro Division. With weekly competitions providing the chance for a major shift in stage standings to occur any day, teams stepped up, taking it more seriously than ever before and proving that they have what it takes to compete at the highest level. The greats rose to the top and the losers faced relegation.

When it came to the Stage 1 Tournament, there were a lot of “almost there’s.” TeamSoloMid almost eliminated OpTic Gaming, the tournament favorite and one of Call of Duty’s most recognizable organizations, on the first day in what would have been the tournament’s biggest upset. In the finals, Rise Nation almost beat OpTic Gaming also, bringing them all the way to the final round of SnD in a round 11, game 7 situation. With no need for either team to reset the bracket, it all came down to this one series. Rise Nation put on a show, proving that OpTic Gaming’s 20-2 regular season record was of no concern to them. 

On the other side of Rise Nation’s impressive performance, OpTic Gaming, the tournament favorite and Stage 1 regular season leader by a large margin, almost lost. Under intense pressure, they managed to pull out the win with exceptional team coordination and split pressure to prove that their regular season record was no fluke, despite how close it came.

Where does that leave us going into Stage 2?

OpTic Gaming are Stage 1 champions, but with it all coming down to the final round of Game 7 with Rise Nation, OpTic can’t feel completely safe. However, they’re still confident in their ability as a team and aren’t making any drastic changes in preparation. “I don’t think our practice will be any different,” said Seth “Scumpii” Abner, OpTic Gaming’s team captain, “[We’re] just going to keep going through the same routine and prepare for the new teams accordingly.” It worked quite well for them in Stage 1, ending with a decisive 20-2 regular season record, but only time will tell how it fares on the new selection of Stage 2 teams.

Even with their leading record, the rest of the pack was right behind OpTic Gaming, with Rise Nation, FaZe, and Elevate all within a couple wins. Even still, when it came to the Stage 1 Finals, it was a matter of Rise Nation and OpTic Gaming dispatching teams without much contention until they were the only two remaining. FaZe and Elevate powered through day 1 of the Finals to eliminate CompLexity and EnVyUs, but didn’t put up much of a fight on day 2 when matched up against OpTic Gaming and Rise Nation.

Despite solid regular season performances, this outlines one serious hurdle for many teams: actually competing with the likes of Rise Nation and OpTic Gaming. They can do it — and often do throughout the stage, taking multiple wins from top contenders along the way — but when it comes to Tournament time, it’s a matter of who shows up and who doesn’t. 

On the opposite hand, the beginning of Stage 2 is a new day. It’s a level playing field and there are two new teams ready to shake things up with the addition of Cloud 9 and King Papey, replacing Counter Logic Gaming and Team Kaliber, to Pro Division. Stage 1 is all in the past and everyone has equal opportunity for first place. It’s just a matter of who can reach out and grab it.

Will Rise Nation enact revenge on OpTic Gaming? Will FaZe cause an upset? Can OpTic Gaming continue their reign of dominance? All these questions will be answered in Stage 2, starting tomorrow at 3PM PT on CallofDuty.com/CWL