By: JP Krez
Before every Call of Duty World League match, each team faces off in a crucial mental game that influences how the series plays out before a single shot is fired.
A veto process, in which the competing teams take turns banning and picking maps included in the map pool for each game mode, determines which maps will be played during the subsequent series. This process becomes a mind game to gain as much of a competitive advantage as possible over an opponent.
How has an opponent recently performed on this map?
Do teams play towards their strengths or an opponent’s weaknesses?
Are teams confident with leaving specific maps open for an opponent to select?
These are a couple of questions going through the minds of professional Call of Duty teams before even joining the game’s lobby.
In the case of Evil Geniuses, the veto process was the catalyst that allowed the organization to capture its first world title at the 2018 Call of Duty World League Championship.
EG vs. Hardpoint
Evil Genuises’ first two matches against Supremacy and Elevate dictated how they played their Hardpoint vetoes for the rest of the tournament. Despite having a 9-2 record on Ardennes Forest across CWL Anaheim and Stage 2, EG lost two very close Ardennes Forest Hardpoints (250-226 to Supremacy and 215-211 to Elevate) against arguably the weaker teams in the group that qualified via the Last Chance Qualifier.
Losing twice on their second-best Hardpoint map was not the way EG wanted to start their tournament. The decision to play it safe and ban Ardennes Forest Hardpoint the rest of the weekend came after their match versus OpTic Gaming, choosing to not waste the veto against OpTic since the Green Wall is widely known for avoiding Ardennes Forest Hardpoint.
EG’s opponents knew that EG would be a threat on Sainte Marie du Mont, their best Hardpoint map with a tremendous track record of 8-1 since CWL Seattle. Sainte Marie du Mont was vetoed by all of EG’s opponents in Group Play, as well as Team Envy in the Winners Semifinals.
Team Vitality, Lightning Pandas, and Team Kaliber decided that they would instead veto their own weaker maps and leave Sainte Marie open for EG. During Winners Round 1, EG agreed to play Team Vitality on Sainte Marie for Map 1 and subsequently trounced them to show the French-based organization that they made a dire mistake. Despite that dominant performance, Lightning Pandas also kept Sainte Marie open. Though Lightning Pandas also selected Sainte Marie for Map 4 in the series, EG would go on to sweep 3-0.
In its matches versus Team Kaliber, EG was able to anticipate selections. Evil Geniuses knew that TK would choose to permanently veto Valkyrie every series – a move that benefited EG, as Valk is known as its weakest map. EG also knew Sainte Marie was a big map for TK, leading them to select Gibraltar in its series.
With a 3-0 record on Gibraltar at the CWL Championships before playing TK, Evil Geniuses were confident this map would be its best chance at defeating TK – a team that had, to that point, held a perfect 11-0 record in Hardpoint during the tournament.
The choice was sound, with EG defeating Team Kaliber on Gibraltar in both the Winners Finals and first Grand Finals series. Ultimately, Team Kaliber would veto Gibraltar during the second Grand Finals series. EG finished the tournament with a combined record of 10-1 on Sainte Marie, Gibraltar, and London Docks, and a 10-4 record across all Hardpoint maps.
EG vs. Search & Destroy
Before the 2018 Call of Duty World League Championship, Evil Geniuses held an abysmal record in Search & Destroy in recent competition – losing 12 straight S&D maps during CWL Anaheim and CWL Stage 2. In response, EG spent its time before Champs emphasizing its S&D play during a week-long boot camp.
Despite Search and Destroy being EG’s weakest game mode at the CWL Championship (7-4 overall record), the team’s improvement in the mode was the catalyst for turning EG from a contender to champions.
Ardennes Forest – its weakest map in previous competition – was played in five of its nine matches. Only Team EnVy would veto the map against the would-be champs. EG finished their run with a 4-1 record on Forest, with an impressive 2-1 head-to-head record versus Team Kaliber.
Since Evil Geniuses knew TK would permanently veto London Docks Seach & Destroy and would gladly pick Ardennes Forest, EG hard-countered on TK’s best Search map. A combination of new strategies and a focus on limiting the ability of Fero to snipe using well-placed smoke grenades, allowed EG to take crucial wins in the mode during the most critical matches in the tournament.
Evil Geniuses’ selection process in Search & Destroy was easier to manage. In each match during the CWL Championship, USS Texas was banned – once versus Supremacy and eight times by EG themselves. As USS Texas is heavily reliant on a team’s ability to win sniper battles, Evil Geniuses tactically decided to avoid the map, a seeming lack of confidence in the squad’s ability to out-snipe their opponents.
EG vs. Capture the Flag
Heading into the CWL Championship, Evil Geniuses knew that London Docks was its best Capture the Flag map – holding a 5-2 record since CWL Anaheim. This knowledge meant that teams would, theoretically, veto London Docks anytime they faced EG. This revelation gave Evil Geniuses the power to force Ardennes Forest or Flak Tower for the series. EG’s most popular CTF veto during the tournament was Flak Tower – vetoed by the Champs in five of their matches. Due to their decision to continually force Ardennes Forest CTF into their series, it could be surmised that EG focused heavily on improving their Ardennes Forest CTF during its week-long boot camp.
EG did elect to play Flak Tower in four matches, three of which were against Team Kaliber at the end of the tournament.
EG potentially vetoed Ardennes Forest rather than Flak Tower versus Team Kaliber for a number of reasons: they were aware that TK would permanently veto London Docks CTF, having not played it once at a LAN event during the WWII season; Ardennes Forest was TK’s strongest CTF map in previous events; and of all teams in the CWL, Team Kaliber selected Flak Tower more in the WWII season than any other team, offering a treasure trove of film for Evil Geniuses to study.
As expected, London Docks was vetoed by EG’s opponents in seven of its matches. The two games in which London Docks passed through the veto process (Team Vitality and Team Envy), EG comfortably won by two flag captures. EG finished the tournament with a 7-2 CTF record, going undefeated on Ardennes Forest, despite it previously being its weakest map, with a 3-0 record and even on Flak Tower with a 2-2 record, with a 2-1 head-to-head record versus TK en route to winning the 2018 Call of Duty World League Championship.
Evil Geniuses’ ability to influence their matches in such a beneficial way via a flawless veto process throughout their Championship run was nothing short of impressive.
Its strategy in selection may have been its strongest asset competing and, in combination with its impressive play from each one of its players, allowed the organization to capture its first World Title in Call of Duty Esports.