For Chris “Simp” Lehr and Tyler “aBeZy” Pharris, winning the 2021 Call of Duty Championship means earning redemption. The 2020 all-online ring was stolen from them by the Dallas Empire last year. That redemption was finally earned when Atlanta FaZe took down the Europeans on the Toronto Ultra 5-3 on Sunday at Call of Duty League Champs to claim the championship title.
This was the second ring for Simp, aBeZy, and Alec “Arcitys” Sanderson. It was the first for McArthur “Cellium” Jovel. After being on FaZe Clan for the last four years, Cellium has cemented his place as one of the best Call of Duty players in the world.
“It feels great for me to get my first ring,” Cellium said with a huge smile on his face. “I’m very happy with how the team played throughout the whole season and I honestly couldn’t be more grateful to be around these guys. I’m very happy. ”
Fireworks and confetti covered the entire floor of the Galen Center with FaZe chants echoing throughout the halls. It was the icing on the near $2 million cake that Atlanta has earned in prize money throughout the 2021 season.
Tiny Terrors back on top to make the Atlanta FaZe champions
“It feels amazing just to be in the position that I am,” Simp said after the win. “Not everyone is as lucky to have the team that I have right out of the gate. I think with the team and the players we have and how close we are with each other as friends, we’re going to be a team for a while.”
Each member of the Tiny Terror duo walked away with MVP awards during the Cold War season. Simp earned the overall MVP award for 2021, while aBeZy was crowned the MVP of their grand final matchup against Toronto. As the most aggressive submachine gun duo that Call of Duty has ever seen, the two SMGs appear to be almost untouchable.
It was difficult to watch last year’s Champs online after the league had to make the shift away from LAN due to the pandemic. The last in-person championship was during Black Ops 4 where 100 Thieves made a remarkable run through the lower bracket to make the grand finals against eUnited. Players fed off of their energy at those events and they were finally able to feed again here in Los Angeles.
Online Champs featured no fans, no cheers and no visible excitement from the players. The Galen Center brought all that back.
LET’S GO FAZE 👏👏, 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/D2fGB63CWZ
— Atlanta FaZe (@ATLFaZe) August 22, 2021
Ten thousand people purchased tickets for this event, although the majority of the crowd didn’t show up until Sunday. Fans in jerseys and team merchandise packed the seats in the stadium while the sound of the game blasted through the speakers at the front of the stage.
“It has been 531 days since the last home series,” Call of Duty League caster Miles Ross said. “It’s the first time I have seen all my colleagues in a while. It’s been surreal. When we walked out and saw the arena, I got nervous. First time in a long time. We usually get a little nervous but this time it was like, ‘oh my god! That’s it, we’re back, we’re really doing this,'”
It didn’t take long for Miles to get back in the swing of LAN, even though the nerves hit a bit different after so much time online.
Champs was too short for some
The current Champs format only has eight of the 12 league teams competing at Champs, which has some fans and players upset. The whole tournament only had 12 matches, meaning Atlanta only had to win two series to make the grand finals. In previous titles, teams would all start on the same playing field and often have to win eight series to be crowned the best of the best.
“When we think about going from 12 teams to eight teams, we wanted to create more stakes in the regular season,” said Call of Duty League General Manager Daniel Tsay. “It makes it a little more exclusive, a little more of an achievement.”
Tsay also mentioned that they were considering changes for the Call of Duty League for 2022 but would not commit to anything specific. Either way, the Call of Duty League is constantly evolving as they progress through more seasons. However, for the players, there are some mixed opinions regarding the Champs format.
“The format could be a little bit better,” Cellium said. “Honestly, I don’t mind how it went because the whole season mattered in terms of Champs. It definitely could have been a lot better but I’m not upset [with the format].”
Support for the teams goes beyond the fans
While Minnesota Røkkr controlled the seats with their purple and blue garb, the stands were packed with as many FaZe Clan logos as I had ever seen before on Sunday. Players from eliminated teams joined their friends and families in the stands to watch the Toronto Ultra and Atlanta FaZe battle it out for the ultimate prize.
New York Subliners’ Paco “HyDra” Rusiewiez and Florida Mutineers’ Cesar “Skyz” Bueno would be spotted in the crowd cheering on their competitors. Skyz – who was eliminated by OpTic Chicago on Thursday – was wearing an OpTic Chicago jersey on Friday. Even players who didn’t play at Champs, like Seattle Surge‘s Preston “Prestinni” Sanderson and LA Thieves’ substitute Cuyler “Huke” Garland, enjoyed watching the top teams duke it out.
Overall, the 2021 Call of Duty League Championship was one for the books for all the teams and fans in attendance.