Trust the process: Envoy breaks down a dream 2022 Call of Duty League season for the Los Angeles Thieves

Envoy and the Los Angeles Thieves won back-to-back championships to end the year.

This March, the Call of Duty League held its first major event of the season at the Esports Stadium Arlington, just outside of Dallas, Texas. The tournament was well underway when the Los Angeles Thieves put the finishing touches on a 6-5 Search and Destroy victory over the Atlanta FaZe in elimination round three. A victory for L.A. would earn them a matchup with the Toronto Ultra for a top-four spot at the event. The round win gave Los Angeles a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series. 

L.A. appeared to be on their way to a convincing win over FaZe, avenging a 3-1 loss in their first match of the regular season and advancing one step closer to playing on Championship Sunday. A victory over Atlanta would guarantee the Thieves a top-four finish at the event and a chance to bring home a championship. 

FaZe came into the seasons first major event with an unblemished 5-0 record in the qualifying stage, including a 3-1 victory over the Thieves. But the team had fallen to OpTic Texas earlier in the day after taking a 2-0 lead, uncharacteristically dropping three straight maps to their rival to fall to the elimination bracket. 

Heading into the Vanguard season, Atlanta had been without a doubt the most successful team in the CDL era. With three major titles and the CDL championship to their name in 2021 alongside a grand finals appearance at the 2020 CDL Championship, FaZe had been the dominant force through the first two years of the CDLs existence. The teams coreSimp, aBeZy, and Arcityswere members of the 2019 eUnited squad that claimed the season championship with a victory over a 100 Thieves team that included current L.A. players Kenny and Octane on Black Ops 4. And the teams fourth, Cellium, might just be the best controller player in the world, regardless of title. 

Simply put: FaZe were overwhelming favorites heading into the 2022 season. 

A Thieves victory would have given the organization the momentum it so desperately needed after a tumultuous 2021 campaign that saw the team make multiple roster swaps amid up-and-down performances. Now, L.A. had a chance to eliminate Atlanta from the premier CoD tournament altogether, needing just one more map. But FaZe had other plans. 

Just as OpTic had done to them hours earlier, FaZe rattled off three consecutive maps over the Thieves to end Los Angeles championship hopes in back-to-back-to-back dominant performances. While the loss, and the way it happened, stung the members of the Thieves, there was a confidence that if they could get on the same page, they could hang with the best teams in the league. While multiple teams made runs to championships throughout the season, there was never a truly dominant team during the 2022 season. But there was an internal belief that the Thieves could be that dominant force within the CDL and bring a world championship home to Los Angeles.

Forgetting 2021

Some of the same struggles the L.A. organization faced during the 2021 season reared their ugly head at the beginning of the 2022 CDL season. After their defeat at the hands of FaZe, the team lost their next five matches to go 0-5 in the seasons second set of qualifying matches, earning them a bottom-four seed at the seasons second event in Minnesota. While the team continued to struggle throughout parts of the season, there were flashes of the potential the team could and would be. A run to the finals of the Pro-Am Classic was followed by a top-four finish at the Toronto Major, before the team rattled off back-to-back championships, including claiming the CDL Championship in August. 

In their first CDL season under the L.A. Thieves banner, the team were under 0.500 with a 16-19 record, earning 200 CDL points, which was good enough for seventh place in the standings. Their seventh-place finish netted them a starting place in the elimination bracket for the 2021 CDL Championship and a 3-2 loss at the hands of the Minnesota RØKKR sent them home for the year. 

The 2022 season was a reset of sorts for Los Angeles. 

The org kept Kenny and Drazah in the starting lineup, the two most consistent players from the 2021 season, but looked elsewhere to find its final two starters. Octane, who was most recently with the Seattle Surge, returned to the organization he won two championships with during the Black Ops 4 season, hoping to recapture some of that magic after Seattles struggles. Pairing Kenny and Octane made too much sense given the massive amounts of success the duo had in 2019. To round out the roster, Los Angeles looked to founder and team owner Nadeshots roots. 

Envoy had just spent the previous season under the OpTic Gaming banner, where Nadeshot rose to prominence. Playing alongside superstars Scump, FormaL, and Dashy, the team showed flashes of brilliance all season long. But they never seemed to find the formula to put together the complete performance needed to bring home a Call of Duty championship. 

After a season that saw the team only make it to Sunday at a major once, including a disappointing top-six finish at the CDL Championship during Cold War, the org made a move that shocked the entire esports community. 

After being under esports org NRGs ownership during the 2020 and 2021 seasons, OpTic made a deal to merge with longtime rival Envy Gaming, bringing together a superteam under the OpTic banner. After FormaL retired from competing in CoD, the org made the decision to pair Scump and Dashy with Shotzzy and iLLeY from Envys Dallas Empire squad, leaving Envoy on the outside looking in. 

The end of the Cold War season, I knew we had underperformed the whole season and something had to change. Granted this was a bigger change than what I thought would happen, Envoy told Dot Esports. Its actually funny because Crimsix told me and thats how I found out. Then a couple hours later I found out from Scump and HECZ. Looking at the whole situation and being good friends with Seth and Hector, I knew this was like an ultimatum type thing where they had to do this.

With the decision to move on without Envoy, OpTic had fully released him from his contract, making him an unrestricted free agent. This was important since he was free to sign with any team in the league with no buyout, increasing the number of suitors. He was in no rush to make a decision, though, and wanted to hear what every interested team had in mind. The New York Subliners and Los Angeles Guerrillas made runs at the 22-year-old, but in the back of his mind, he had an idea of who he wanted to sign with. 

The thing about Thieves that was really easy [to consider] was they already had a core two in Octane and Kenny, Envoy said. They wanted to bring back Drazah too, who is just a key part of our team because he’s such a young kid. He has that passion, he brings all that out in us each day.

Envoy, who spent a majority of the 2019 season playing for the Gen.G squad alongside MajorManiak, Nagafen, Havok, and Maux, knew first-hand what it was like to go up against Kenny and Octane under the 100 Thieves banner. 

Ive played against these guys all of Black Ops 4. 100 Thieves beat me at Anaheim in pool play, winners, and losers. And I got second at the tournament, he said with a frustrated laugh. And they won it. So I knew that these guys have the right formula.

Unfortunately for Envoy and the rest of his Thieves teammates, that formula seemed to be lost on the squad early in the 2022 season. After the loss to FaZe eliminated Los Angeles from the first event with a top-six finish, the team nearly fell apart in the seasons second stage. The team lost all five of the online qualifiers, earning a 12th-place finish in the standings and a start in the elimination bracket at the major. 

The 0-5 was the lowest point ever. I had a very up-and-down CW, along with the Thieves team at the time, so going into Vanguard, we all wanted to bounce back, and then going 0-5 was definitely not the answer to that, Envoy said. We persevered and the whole time we knew in the back of our heads, we have the firing power to be a top squad. And in practice, we showed glimpses of greatness, and thats why nothing changed throughout the whole year because we knew we could do it.

It is a credit to the Thieves coaching staff to remain with its core four of Kenny, Octane, Drazah, and Envoy. It would have been extremely easy to make a change for the sake of making a change after the disappointing first half of the season. But a year after making multiple roster changes only for nothing to stick, the teams head coach JKap and general manager Muddawg stayed the course. In the words of former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie: Trust the process. 

And thats exactly what the L.A. Thieves did. 

A new mindset

After the top-eight finish at Major Two, the CDL took a hiatus from early April until mid-May. Only a Pro-Am LAN event in Columbus was played over the break. The Pro-Am did not count toward the regular season CDL standings, but it was an opportunity for teams to get live reps against the other 11 teams, along with four of the best amateur teams in the world. L.A. made it all the way to the finals before losing to New York, playing some of their best Call of Duty since the seasons first stage. 

During the qualifiers for the seasons third Major, it appeared to be more of the same from Los Angeles. They came out hot with a 3-0 sweep over the London Royal Ravens before dropping six straight maps in back-to-back sweeps, courtesy of the Minnesota RØKKR and Seattle Surge. After the loss to Seattle, Los Angeles made the decision to bring in former professional player and coach, Shane, to be an assistant coach. 

Ive always said the more eyes and ears the better, Envoy said. Shane brought a lot of experience, a lot of statistics, and a new mindset to the team.

Once Shane joined the organization, things really started to click. They finished top-four at the seasons third major, avenging losses to OpTic and RØKKR along the way, and appeared to have momentum for the first time in months. The Thieves came into the seasons fourth and final Major with a 3-2 record in qualifiers, which included losses to the Florida Mutineers and that pesky Atlanta team. 

Their performance in the qualifiers earned them a date with FaZe in the first round of the winners bracketthey would need to defeat Atlanta for the first time in their teams history if they wanted to avoid the elimination bracket. Los Angeles, just like at Major One, rushed out to a 2-0 lead and needed just one more map to get the Atlanta-sized monkey off their back. When FaZe took the series third map, no one would have blamed the Thieves if they thought here we go again. But the team never flinched. They closed out the series with a 250-174 win to vanquish their biggest hurdle and move on in the tournament. 

After a victory over the Toronto Ultra put them in the winners final against the Subliners, L.A. were bounced to the bottom bracket with a 3-1 defeat at the hands of New York, setting up yet another matchup with Atlanta. FaZe were the ones to come hot out of the gate, taking a 1-0 lead with a 250-207 victory on Tuscan Hardpoint. 

But again, the Thieves did not blink. They were not going to let past performances dictate the rest of their Vanguard season. 

The whole tournament of Major Four and Champs, we lost a lot of map one Hardpoints. We used to not lose any Hardpoints, Envoy said. So being able to bounce back in the map two to go 1-1 and then come to a Control, which statistically I think we were the best Control team in the latter half of the season, was everything for both these tournaments.

Los Angeles bounced back in a big way with three straight maps, propelling them to the finals and eventually winning the entire tournament with a 5-3 victory over New York. While the championship was incredibly satisfying for everyone in the 100 Thieves organization, the team still had work to do with CoD Champs a little under a month away. 

Starting off with a matchup with the Boston Breach, which Los Angeles needed a game five, round 11 to win, every fan of competitive CoD was looking forward to a possible OpTic vs. Thieves matchup in the second round of the tournament. The storylines were all present: Nadeshot vs. HECZ, Envoy vs. his former team, and the added spice of several members of L.A. claiming Texas were the most overrated team in the CDL.

After the Thieves victory over Boston, and OpTics victory over Toronto, the matchup was set. Two titans in the world of Call of Duty were set to compete for a spot in the winners finals, inching one step closer to a world championship. 

While many expected a match reminiscent of a heavyweight championship bout, Los Angeles landed a lethal right hook, dropping Texas in three games that were not at all competitive. 

It felt really good to 3-0 them, Envoy said with a smile. Especially when my teammates were talking kind of crazy, we had to make sure we backed it up with something. Ill bring it back to teamwork. Our teamwork was better than every other team towards the end of the year. 

Thats kind of why we were talking crazy because we know that at any point in a game or a series, that were never out.

Their dismantling of OpTic earned the Thieves yet another date with FaZe, this time with a spot in the CDL Championship grand finals on the line. And yet again, Los Angeles were ready for every punch Atlanta attempted to deliver. Just as Envoy had talked about, his team fell down early with a map one loss. But as they had done all Major Four and Champs long, they never faltered or backed down. They got to work in Search and Destroys, let their Control gameplay do the talking, and closed it out on the series second Hardpoint, moving one series away from clinching a world championship. 

The final boss

As luck would have it, FaZe ran through the elimination bracket to set up a fourth and final matchup with Los Angeles since the start of the Major Four tournament. This time, it was for all the marbles, and Envoy wouldnt have had it any other way. 

Theyre some of the best players around. Probably some of the best players of all time, he said. You might say theyre the final boss. Theyre basically in every final.

Atlanta were in the grand finals in three of the four Major championships during the 2022 season, along with their appearance in the grand finals for the CDL Championship. Their team is terrorizing, but just like the last three matchups, the Thieves were ready for it.

Los Angeles went from never beating FaZe to rolling them in the grand finals. L.A. raced out to a 4-0 lead and were just one map away from clinching their second straight event and claiming the world championship. But Atlanta were the defending champions and were going down scratching and clawing. They dominated the Thieves by a count of 6-1 in the Bocage Search and Destroy before stealing the Berlin Control 3-2. In the span of just a few minutes, the 4-0 lead was down to 4-2, and the Thieves had seen this story play out just a few months ago. 

FaZe is a really good team. You cant take anything away from them, Envoy said of the CDL grand finals. Theyre never out of the series, you can even see in the grand finals that we played. Were up 4-0 and they fight back. They win two maps and bring it to a close game seven.

The game seven was back and forth, with each team playing for their lives. Atlanta held a 5-3 round lead and were just one round victory from being down just one map with all of the momentum on their side. But Los Angeles proved their championship mettle, taking it one round at a time and eventually pushing it to a round 11. 

After Envoy planted the bomb, FaZe faced a four-vs-four retake situation. Octane found aBeZy to give his team a four-vs-three advantage while Drazah found Arcitys to double their lives advantage. Envoy slid past Cellium before bringing him down, putting it all onto Simp. The one-vs-four was too tall of a task for the superstar and Los Angeles celebrated its first CDL Championship victory with the 5-3 win. 

The victory brought all four players their first world championship but also brought Nadeshot his. After playing on some incredible teams in the early 2010s with OpTic, the teams founder and CEO was never able to claim the seasons championship as a Call of Duty player. But watching on as owner, he finally had one delivered by way of Envoy, Kenny, Octane, and Drazah under the organization he created in 2017. 

Nadeshot has put us all, everyone on the team, and the whole organization, in the right spot to win, Envoy said. I mean the things theyve done for us throughout the year, outside the game, has just really set us up for this whole end of the year. We really owe it all to them and the fans.

After a year of struggling to win with OpTic, Envoy has found his home with 100 Thieves and the Los Angeles Thieves organization. 

With all the unknowns the team faced at the beginning of the season after struggling in the first half of 2022, the team is completely locked in for 2023. They’re looking to repeat as CDL champions and are prepared for a rivalry with FaZe. 

We have figured out somewhat of our formula, Envoy said. We look to contend with them and whoever else into the next season. 

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