It's time to move on to the latter four groups of the Call of Duty World Championships. Just a reminder, the competition will begin with eight groups of pool play, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the championship bracket.
Here's a preview of the teams expected to advance from Groups E-H.
Group E: FaZe Clan, Red Reserve, Team Allegiance, eRa Eternity
Expected to advance: FaZe Clan, Red Reserve
Who will go furthest: FaZe Clan
No matter how many times the current iteration of FaZe Clan finishes near the top of major events, the move to replace James "Clayster" Eubanks with former eUnited slayer Pierce "Gunless" Hillman will be forever judged depending on which team places higher at the Call of Duty World Championships. It's been a mostly amicable divorce since the shocking move was announced in late June, but make no mistake, the pressure is on FaZe Clan to deliver after reportedly pushing out Clayster in favor of the fast-paced, aggressive Gunless.
Group E should act as a perfect warmup for FaZe Clan, given that it'll see a wide variety of different playstyles. Red Reserve should pose the biggest threat, having nearly qualified for the Stage 2 Playoffs despite being placed in Group Yellow alongside eUnited, winners of the CWL Atlanta Open, and Splyce, winner of the Stage 1 Playoffs. Still, this is FaZe's group to lose and it should hold serve.
Group F: Fnatic, Evil Geniuses, Str8 Rippin, Tainted Minds
Expected to advance: Fnatic, Str8 Rippin
Who will go furthest: Str8 Rippin
If you're going to make a bold call, may as well go down swinging with a former X-Games bronze medalist. Indeed, Str8 Rippin could become the only team to make it into the Championship Bracket after having advanced through their region's Last Chance Qualifier. Despite a roster chock full of professional talent such as Jeremy "StuDy" Astacio and Richard "Ricky" Stacy, Str8 Rippin's success will rest squarely on the shoulders of Donovan "Temp" Laroda, who joined Rippin after turning 18 in July.
Temp most notably earned a bronze medal with eLevate in the 2015 X Games before stepping away from the professional scene thanks to a rule change that required players to be 18 to compete at MLG events. Arguably the biggest free agent available since the beginning months of Infinite Warfare, we've yet to seen this edition of Str8 Rippin square off against the best of the best, making it the ultimate wildcard.
True, in terms of star power, Group F is by far the weakest, but what it lacks in top tier talent it certainly makes up for in depth. It's extremely feasible that any one of the remaining teams could come out of the group on top. Fnatic, a top-three team in Europe for the majority of the season, should claim a spot in the Championship Bracket with sheer consistency, something Evil Geniuses and Tainted Minds have yet to conjure up thus far.
And I didn't even mention the revenge factor that should play out over the course of Group F, as StuDy played with Evil Geniuses earlier in the year before being dropped. This pool should be fun.
Group G: Splyce, Ghost Gaming, Millenium, Team Kaliber
Expected to advance: Splyce, Ghost Gaming
Who will go furthest: Splyce
Which Splyce will we see? The team that throttled its competition for the first six months of the season, including a historic first place finish at the 2017 CWL Global Pro League Stage 1 Playoffs? Or the team that struggled to even qualify for the Stage 2 playoffs before finishing in 7th-8th place out of eight teams? It's perhaps the biggest question entering the World Championships, as Splyce is on the short list of best teams in the world when they are playing at the top of their game.
That question likely won't be answered during the beginning days of the tournament, as Group G appears to be fairly straightforward, with only Ghost Gaming causing any potential trouble. For what it's worth, Ghost Gaming could easily make a run of its own in the Championship Bracket, especially with Michael "SpaceLy" Schmale diagramming plays for a roster brimming with potent slayers.
Group H: Enigma6 Group, Cloud9, Team MRN Black, Rogue
Expected to advance: Enigma6 Group, Cloud9
Who will go furthest: Enigma6 Group
Enigma6 may be the biggest enigma (pun intended) of the upper echelon teams in competitive Call of Duty, as their meteoric rise in 2017 seemingly came out of nowhere. Still it's tough to discount a team that finished in the Top 16 in each of the five major open events this year, including a 5th-6th place finish at CWL Anaheim. While they might not have the highest ceiling compared to other North American juggernauts, they seem to excel in hectic and tiring situations, ideal conditions for a Wild Card Call of Duty Championships run.
At the very least, it would be a surprise to see Enigma6 stumble in Group H, as Cloud9 presents the only reasonable opposition for the upstarts. Everyone knows of Patrick "Aches" Price by this point, as he's the epitome of a living legend in the scene at this stage of his career, but it's the relatively new duo of Preston "Priestah" Greiner and John "Xotic" Bruno that could make or break this season for C9.