Minnesota needed a miracle to come back in a desperate round of Hardpoint. They had the courtyard on Raid locked down, but they had to hold it for nearly a minute just to start turning the tide against the Toronto Ultra.
The hope for that miracle ended quickly.
Ben Bance fried both Dillon ”Attach” Price and Michael “MajorManiak” Szymaniak with his AK47u, giving the European squad the opening to grab the final four seconds on the Hardpoint that they needed. The match ended with Toronto up 4-0 over Minnesota.
The beginning of the reverse sweep by the Minnesota Røkkr
“We can literally make history here; cause the first ever best-of-nine reverse sweep,” Røkkr Head Coach Brian “Saintt” Baroska said in the five-minute break between Rounds 4 and 5.
All the odds were against Minnesota. Fans had started to pour out of the esports Arena in Arlington, Texas and Toronto’s Twitter page was openly making fun of them. But, as it turns out, the miracle that Røkkr needed would come a little later.
“We’re in a deep hole bro,” Attach said after losing the Map 4 Hardpoint. “We’re in a deep f*cking hole.”
“We have to dig ourselves out,” rookie Eli “Standy” Bentz replied.
The break ended and Search and Destroy on Miami began. Every player on Minnesota Røkkr knew one thing: they would not let Toronto shut them out. The Ultra went through the first two rounds without landing a kill. The Røkkr were starting to get hot.
“It began with Miami for me,” MajorManiak said in a press conference a couple days after the comeback. “I wasn’t going to let us get 5-0’d.”
A miracle for Minnesota, a tragedy for Toronto
Toronto had been reaping the benefits of the best-of-nine format. They had the ability to warm up against OpTic Chicago before the grand finals, thoroughly embarrassing Matthew “FormaL” Piper in the final round in a 3-1 victory. They were piping hot heading into the grand finals.
Competitive Call of Duty has only had best-of-five and best-of-seven series for the majority of it’s lifespan; the best-of-nine format was introduced last year. There is no advantage — no bracket reset or game advantage — for the winners bracket team. Toronto knew this all too well, having beaten Atlanta in a wild losers bracket run at the Stage 2 Major.
“It’s the whole momentum thing,” Saintt said, adding that the losers bracket team gets to choose the map for games 2, 3 and 4. “They get the early maps. We don’t get any advantage.”
Just as Dallas started off hot against Atlanta FaZe in the Stage 4 Major in Arlington, Toronto came out with guns blazing at the Stage 5 Major. But like Atlanta, Minnesota kept its composure and played calm and collected.
“We were relatively good in practice, but we would change things up in games,” Saintt said. “We want things to transfer directly into our matches.”
Practice makes perfect
Saintt said that the team have been consistent throughout the year during practice, but that they made changes during matches that pushed them towards failure. They’d won six maps in a row in several scrimmages against other top teams, but they’d never seen that type of success when it mattered.
That was the case during the first four maps of the grand final. Toronto was moving too quickly and Attach and Saintt knew they were making mistakes with positioning, communication and trusting each other. They ran to the bathroom during each break to discuss what they did wrong and how to correct it.
Minnesota had been playing perfect Call of Duty throughout the Stage 5 Major, beating Atlanta, Dallas and Toronto before the grand finals. After they won Search and Destroy on Miami, that perfection came back. They demolished the Ultra in the next three maps, wiping them away in Control, Search and Destroy and Hardpoint. Those maps weren’t close.
The Røkkr’s reverse sweep came down to Search and Destroy
There has never been a tighter series in Call of Duty history. At 4-4, it came down to Search and Destroy on Raid and it looked like nothing would stop Minnesota. Despite Toronto being the better statistical Search and Destroy team, the Røkkr quickly went up 5-3. They only needed one more round to close the grand finals out.
It came down to a 2v2, Attach and Preston “Priestahh” Greiner against Cameron “Cammy” McKilligan and Tobias “CleanX” Juul Jønsson. Attach nailed Cammy from across the pool, leaving it all on the shoulders of the Danish wonder CleanX.
“We knew the bomb was down,” Attach said. “CleanX had to play in that area.”
CleanX did have the bomb and he quickly began to plant at B site before he saw Priestahh in the distance. He jumped behind cover and then pushed Priestahh, killing him at range with his AK47u.
“We didn’t think he had enough time to plant the bomb, but then we were oh shit he can plant,” Attach said. But CleanX decided to push instead. “Then he ran at me and I killed him.”
The round was over. Attach immediately stood up and started yelling.
“I felt like I was going to pass out,” he said.
It wasn’t a miracle or a massacre
Once Attach regained his composure, he told the rest of his team to hold off on the celebrations and to go shake hands with the Ultra, who were understandably devastated after losing a huge lead.
Going into the major, the Røkkr had a losing record. They left the event with a 20-17 record and the sixth seed at Champs. The win will help the new kings in the North fly into Los Angeles, California with all the confidence required for the championship tournament. Just a few hours after winning the Stage 5 Major, they were already thinking about it.
Call of Duty League commentator Clint “Maven” Evans called the comeback “the Minnesota Massacre” on broadcast, but the Røkkr squad disagreed with that title.
“I don’t think Massacre is the right phrase. We were down 4-0,” Saintt said. “It would have been a massacre if Toronto 5-0’d us.”
The team knew it wasn’t an accident. MajorManiak didn’t agree with Miracle moniker either. He said that every player and coach played a part in clutching certain rounds and pumping the team up. It was a victory they had strategized for between every map, so Saintt came up with a different idea.
“I kinda like the Røkkr resurrection,” Saintt said. “Resurrected from the grave.”
“I like that, I like that,” Standy replied. “It was a miracle but it was calculated.”