You’d be hard pressed to find a Call of Duty League fan that doesn’t think Atlanta FaZe are the best team in the game right now. Across the 2021 season so far, the roster of Alec ‘Arcitys’ Sanderson, Tyler ‘aBeZy’ Pharris, Chris ‘Simp’ Lehr, and McArthur ‘Cellium’ Jovel has lost just four series. The team has also made the final of all three majors, winning two of them – including the most recent in Stage 3.
While there have been small blips, this year has been close to faultless for FaZe – so much so that there is already talk of this quartet being one of the best rosters Call of Duty esports has ever seen, despite having an average age of just under 21.
Some even believe that with time on their side, this group of players could go on to become a “dynasty” team that could match or even eclipse the legendary OpTic Gaming roster of the Infinite Warfare era. That’s a big claim, but one that has evidence to back it up thanks to this season’s dominance.
The Loadout got the chance to chat to Arcitys and aBeZy off the back of FaZe’s Stage 3 Major victory about the team’s remarkable first half of the season, heading back to LAN with some interesting gameplay changes in the pipeline, and potentially becoming a legendary roster.
The Loadout: Firstly, congratulations to you both on yet another Major win. While it was very much a team performance, you Arcitys were awarded Player of the Stage. Was it nice to get that recognition?
Arcitys: To be honest I don’t think I needed the recognition, but I did want to prove to my teammates that they made a really good choice picking me up – I didn’t want to let the guys down anymore.
I had a bit of confidence that I carried throughout the major but then in the first match versus New York Subliners I got absolutely worldstarred. After that, I said: ‘Screw this, I’m doing what I know I can do.’ I got a lot of help from Preston ‘Prestinni’ Sanderson because I was in my own head about a lot of stuff, and he’s like the person I talked to about it so he helped a lot with that.
— Call of Duty League (@CODLeague) May 17, 2021
I actually don’t think I should have gotten Player of the Stage. I think Tyler should have, personally, just because what he does on the map compared to what I do on the map is completely different. He put up amazing stats as well, but I think you could literally flip a coin and just give any of us on the team Player of the Stage, to be honest.
So do you think you’ve been underperforming up until now?
Arcitys: I don’t think I was up to where my team’s standards are. I was doing enough to get us by, like [it wasn’t noticeable] when we were on zero losses during Stage 1, but as soon as we got those first losses I was getting exposed bad. People were putting their focus on how we’re losing and obviously [they look at] the guy that’s supposed to have incredible stats, but doesn’t.
I knew that I should have been doing a lot better than I was – like I was trying to rotate, I was trying to do everything, but I couldn’t get those kills. I was getting shit on. I was doing everything right on the map but I was just not winning my gunfights, so I decided that I’ve got to play better, and then they can’t blame me.
aBeZy: I definitely think Alec deserves that award, because I mean he was literally doing absurd things throughout that whole major. He was clutching up in situations and just doing insane things. I mean, you could even make an argument for Cellium to be MVP, that guy was playing insane. There were crazy moments like when he solo capped A in Control. He was doing absurd things as well. Like Alec said though, you could make an argument for all of us at points throughout the major.
— Atlanta FaZe (@ATLFaZe) May 17, 2021
With all of you playing so well like you’ve just said, is it hard to actually find areas to improve right now? And have you found any weaknesses to work on?
Arcitys: We don’t have any super big weaknesses, but I think there were a lot of times this weekend where we started off Search and Destroys like 0-3 and had to come crawling back. Like the New York game five, we started off 0-3, against Toronto Ultra we started off 1-3 and came back and won on Raid. [There are some maps] like Miami, that are auto vetoes for us and while we said we didn’t want any map to be an auto veto we’re just not comfortable on them yet. We don’t want to be vetoing what [opponents] want to veto, so we could be more confident on that.
aBeZy: Yeah, my big thing is that there’s a few maps that we are a little uncomfortable on right now. We can change that as a team and we’ve been working on these maps, but we just haven’t gotten fully comfortable playing them sometimes.
Also, there are times when our communication is a little lacklustre, and is not the best it can be. So all of us can work on that and get better at small talking and things like that.
A simple question for both of you here: Do you think you’re in a position where you can win everything that’s left to win this season?
aBeZy: For sure. Obviously, we want to, but it’s easier said than done. You look at Toronto, New York – these teams are very solid teams. CoD can be very day-to-day, sometimes you never know when people are gonna come out playing amazing CoD. So we’re going to work on what we can to try to be in top form throughout the rest of the year. You know, Champs is the biggest thing and means the most to all of us. So we just really want to make sure that we have a massive map pool by the time we get to Champs.
People want to call us a dynasty, but we're just taking it step by step
Arcitys: I also think going back to LAN gives us a better chance to have that winning streak, or whatever you want to call it. But I just think at the end of the day, it’s all about Champs. People want to call us a “dynasty”, but we’re just taking it step by step and if at the end of the day we’re a dynasty, then we’re a dynasty. That’s the way we are all looking at it at the moment.
Do you all hope to stay together for the long-term then to try and reach that dynasty level the likes of OpTic have achieved?
aBeZy: Yeah, of course. That’s the plan for our team, that’s the reason why we wanted Alec so bad. We knew that he was like that missing piece for us, leadership wise. Once we got that set in place, we knew that we could do this. We’re all going to put the work in every day to try to get to that point to where people call us one of the greatest teams of all time.
With that long-term goal then, do you guys feel pretty secure with your positions on FaZe? The league is pretty turbulent right now, with only yourselves and OpTic Chicago not making a roster change all year, so are you confident that whatever happens this is the roster ending the season?
Arcitys: We all like to think that our jobs are secure because we don’t play [in a way that would jeopardise that]. We all give everything in scrims, because we know that it can just happen any day and someone can turn around and say ‘I don’t like you’ because you’re not trying in scrims. And that’s something that a lot of teams and players don’t do. We all play like our jobs are on the line. And that’s how people should play.
If you can’t put in 100% effort, then why are you even here?
Do you think this online era has bred some complacency then among some of the pros in the league?
Arcitys: I think last year [while playing for then Chicago Huntsmen, now OpTic Chicago] there were times where I was going to matches thinking: ‘Why does this matter?’ ‘Why should I be going super hard?’ And it’s something I worked on towards the end of last year, like, I can’t let these [players I know are worse than me] beat me. These guys are getting happy beating me. It’s just something that pissed me off. So I was like: ‘This year, I’m changing the whole approach.’
aBeZy: Yeah, it’s for sure caused a lot of complacency, because I feel like people always have that excuse in their back pocket: ‘It’s just online.’
Arcitys: [Some of them say] ‘I beat you on LAN two years ago?’ But who cares?
aBeZy: Yeah, it’s a terrible mindset to have. There’s so much money involved, like, this is your job at the end of the day. So if you can’t put in 100% effort, then why are you even here? You know what I mean? I don’t understand that whole complacency mindset, just because we switched online. There’s nothing anyone can really do about it either, so we just kind of have to work through it, and now we finally get to go back to LAN.
On the subject of LAN, how good does it feel knowing you will (hopefully) never have to play a major online again?
aBeZy: Oh, it definitely feels great. I mean, it is enjoyable knowing that we’re finally getting back to the way things were.
Arcitys: Right now it feels like working a job and having a shot at the manager position. We’re taking steps forward. It’s just the best feeling in the world stepping forward to going back to offline events, and then we’re going to take a step forward to getting some fans back, and then another step forward where we’re having everything back the way it was.
Making moves: An up to date list of CDL 2021 rosters
aBeZy: [It will be great when] everyone’s getting to hang out with each other eventually. It is exciting to think about.
Now you guys have been known for some acts of, let’s say, showmanship throughout the season so far – shooting bodies, ganging up on Ian ‘Crimsix’ Porter in the Stage 1 Major final, etc. – so will you be bringing that flair to the stage when you’re sat across from these guys.
Arcitys: Oh absolutely, do not get it twisted. There’s a video released recently where I was telling the team to assassinate James ‘Clayster’ Eubanks [to win the Stage 3 Major], and Tyler said: “Nah, just finish it”… I was pissed! So yeah, it’s gonna keep happening.
The fans get mad sometimes when you do it. But at the same time, if you don’t do it people can be like: ‘Why aren’t you shooting bodies? Why aren’t you bagging anyone?’ I think it’s more fun to watch if people shoot bodies and I don’t really care what they say… If someone shoots my body, I’m not gonna be [bothered by it]. It’s just fun and games, and it makes Call of Duty more entertaining.
Right now there’s talk of having three ARs on the map and I don't like that
As one of the AR players on the team Arcitys, I just wanted to get your early thoughts on the Krig buff that went live this week? Have you noticed a difference?
Arcitys: Oh yeah, it’s somehow even better than it was before. I’m actually not a fan of it, even though I’m supposed to be biased as an AR, but I’ve always been a fan of having an even playing field. I don’t like more ARs on the map. I think it should be even. Right now [there’s talk of having] three ARs on the map and I don’t like that – my team doesn’t like that either. And I don’t think it’s going to be fun to view and people aren’t going to enjoy watching it.
aBeZy: Yeah, it seems a bit unnecessary. [The Krig] was the best gun even before the patch and now that they did this it is just making it even better.
The energy was HIGH,@Arcitys‘s veins were ICY AF.
— Atlanta FaZe (@ATLFaZe) May 17, 2021
Is that a concern for the team then, as I know having both you and Simp as an SMG duo is an integral part to how you guys play?
aBeZy: It’s not really a concern… Me or Chris can run an AR, so I don’t think it will affect us.
We’ve also just had a classic map, Standoff, added to Black Ops Cold War, and there’s talk of it potentially entering the CDL map pool. I know you were posting about some problematic spawns Arcitys, so do you think Standoff should be added?
Arcitys: I think it has the potential [to be a good map for the CDL]. I think there’s a lot of instances right now where it’s literally impossible to flip [in Hardpoint]. If you guarantee spawns before the hill pops, you’re guaranteed to have them when the hill ends. And that’s not how Call of Duty should work. We’ve already been talked to about how the spawns are [going to be] different though, so I’m hyped. They’re actually trying their best to make it a competitive map. So I love that.
aBeZy: I don’t think it should come in for any map right now, just because of how it plays. It doesn’t play the same as it did in Black Ops 2 because the movement speed in this game is a little bit faster. So I don’t know, I just don’t think the map will work personally, from a Hardpoint perspective.
Atlanta FaZe will look to bag its third major title of the season in Stage 4 of the CDL, where it will face OpTic Chicago, LA Thieves, Minnesota Rokkr, Paris Legion, and Seattle Surge in the group stage.