An Interview With Huke And iLLeY From The Dallas Empire

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An Interview With Huke And iLLeY From The Dallas Empire

ESTNN got the chance to sit down with two of the 2020 Call of Duty League Championship winners and discuss their preparations, the winning moment, and their thoughts on Black Ops Cold War.

Cuyler “Huke” Garland and Indervir “iLLeY” Dhaliwal got their first taste of success this year winning three Home Series and the World Championship in the inaugural Call of Duty League season. We spoke about their family-like team relationship, a wholesome moment between Huke and the two rookies at the beginning of the year, and finally their COD 2020 hopes and thoughts.

ESTNN: The Dallas Empire is known for being one of the most prepared teams in the league, so what did your practice schedule look like in the days leading up to champs?

Huke: “In the month or couple weeks leading into champs we knew it was time to go all-in, in terms of strategy and all that stuff. So whatever was said in practice we all knew we had to implement that into our gameplay. If someone was like “yo you gotta start doing this on this map” it wasn't as if we had to adjust, we just did it right away. I feel like that’s something that’s very special with our team. Something can be said and instantly without practice we’ll just know what to do. Just lots of preparation and a lot of talk on how to play certain maps and it led to us winning in the end.”

iLLeY: “I would wake up at 12 o’clock and start grinding right then, two hours before scrims. I would go over VOD, I’d join the teamspeak early and Ray or Shotzzy would be in there and we’d go over VOD and clips before scrims start with whoever else was there. Afterwards we would play two or three scrims a day and end at 7:30 or 9pm. After that we would go over more VOD, we knew we were going to be playing Atlanta FaZe once or twice this tournament so we heavily prepared for them. We watched their VOD all together as a team, watched every map, did our vetos together so we knew what maps we were going to play against FaZe so we really really focused on those maps and it showed in Finals.”

ESTNN: You both managed to win your first chips this year and your first World Championship. Could you describe the feeling of winning your first World Championship and $1.5 million from your bedroom?

Huke: “It’s actually mind-blowing to think about that we were playing from our bedroom. Honestly, after winning that final match it didn't really hit you that you won. But the match on Saturday was super intense and that honestly felt like I was on LAN, for a second I was getting hype and looking around for my teammates. But in the Finals, we were really prepared and when we beat them I was sitting there for a minute like “is the series really over?”. Yeah, it felt good but honestly, I wish that these tournaments were on LAN, I’ve been competing at events for almost seven years since I was 14. But that feeling of being at an event is unmatched, but regardless of the circumstances we still put in a lot of work and we deserved that win.“

iLLeY: “It’s surreal. Honestly, the feeling is absurd and it’s still mind-blowing to me, it still hasn't fully kicked in. I’ve been playing since I was a little 7-year-old kid playing COD 4, I’ve just been doing what I love for the past 11 years just gaming every day and I had no clue, nor did my family have any clue that I could be winning $1.5 million sitting in my bedroom. It’s crazy to me and it’s still mindblowing.”

ESTNN: After winning three Home Series events and the Championship, do you think you’ll ever be able to replicate such a successful season?

Huke: “I definitely think I can, especially with this team that I’m on right now. I honestly think that Modern Warfare for me specifically and the other players on my team wasn't the best game for us. We managed to overcome that and get as many wins as we could. I got into competing because I love games, and Modern Warfare since day one I thought was garbage. I'm not gonna lie. I don't know if I should be saying that or not, but for me personally, I love COD but that game, I didn't like it. I’m hoping I get a game that I enjoy next year and from what I’ve seen it looks like it’s going to be fun. Maybe competitive wise it won't be the best, who knows. But as long as it's fun I feel like I’ll be a lot better and I think that everyone else will as well so I’m feeling way more confident going into next year.”

iLLeY: “I feel like I definitely could, being surrounded by people with the same mindset as me. A lot of the pros know me and they know my mindset, all I want to do is grind and get better every day. I’m not about the drama, I don't take anything personal I literally tell my teammates before scrims like “if there's anything you’ve got to tell me or if I’m doing a bad play don't hesitate just tell me right away”. If I have people with the same mindset as me like the Dallas team did how everybody just wanted to get on and get better, then I feel like I could definitely get better and achieve this next year or in the future.”

ESTNN: The Dallas Empire squad was well built with the two veterans Crimsix and Clayster seemingly leading the team, what was it like to play with these two and how did they help mentor yourselves and Shotzzy into winners?

Huke: “It’s great to have them on and I love both of them. They’re great minds in COD and there’s no doubt about that and they helped the team a lot. They’re the GOAT’s, they’re literally the GOAT’s of COD and there’s not much else to say other than that. But I think every player contributed a lot to the team and helped to play a part in mentoring Shotzzy and iLLeY. Even myself, I think that I could relate to a lot of the struggles that they were having because I was having the same struggles when I came back from Halo. They weren't confident, they were second-guessing their plays and honestly, I felt like I related to that a lot so I helped them with that, I had a good talk with them and after that they turned into animals.” 

iLLeY: “An absurd amount to be honest. The amount of stuff that Crimsix and Clayster taught me is absurd. They taught me how to play the game fundamentally correct, they taught me a lot of in-game and out of game stuff like event stuff. I’m a rookie and I showed up to the first event with no backpack so I had one of Shozzy’s little shopping bag things and I was carrying around my controller and headset in that. Not a lot of people know about this but one thing I won't forget and I know Shotzzy won't forget this either is what happened after the Minnesota event. So basically online we were playing really well, we were the best team online at the start of the game, but we went to Minnesota and got absolutely destroyed. So Shotzzy and I had a long talk with Huke and he knew that we were not comfortable at all, we had no confidence, we got smoked and everybody on twitter was roasting us. Huke had a long talk with us because he had the same experience when he came back from Halo in World War 2, he just talked to us about confidence and how we are the best teammates he's ever had and just giving us the gas that we needed. After that talk, everything went uphill, to be honest, and after that, I and Shotzzy opened up and got more comfortable so I love Huke, shoutout to him for sure.

ESTNN: With Call of Duty returning to 4v4 competitive play for the 2021 season, what are your thoughts on the change?

Huke: “I definitely think 4v4 is the right move. It does suck, especially coming off the team I just had, and losing Clay it sucks you know I really like him. But overall, for competition in the scene, 4v4 should be way better. It plays out way better but a thing people aren't taking into account is that we’ve just played two years of 5v5 and it was different, but I think that means 4v4 will be played a little bit differently because of the stuff that people learned in 5v5. People are going to take in the things they've learned and use them in 4v4 so that's something that people aren't taking into account. Everyone just thinks it's going to be the same old 4v4 but I don't know, we’ll see.

iLLeY: “It’s absolutely devastating to lose Clayster to be honest. I like the fact that it's 4v4 but I just don't think the timing is right at all and I think that a lot of people feel that way. We just came off a World Championship and the next day they tell everyone it’s 4v4. Obviously it's devastating losing Clay, he's been such a huge part of our team, a huge leader, he's taught me so much and I’m lucky enough to have the pleasure of teaming with him. I like the move to 4v4 but it's just the timing of it and having to drop someone that you love, it sucks.”

ESTNN: With some players getting to play the Alpha of Black Ops Cold War, have you had any playtime yourselves and if so what are your thoughts on the game so far?

Huke: “I didn’t get to play but I was watching them play at the office, but overall it looks very fun and that's the main thing for me. As for the two main things I’m looking for, one is definitely Dead Silence, I’m hoping that it's completely like you can't be heard from across the map running you know, I don't like that, that's what I didn't like about Modern Warfare. Secondly, I’m hoping for good maps. I personally don't feel like COD has had the best maps recently but I’m hoping they’re good because that's a major make or break for some games.”

iLLeY: “Unfortunately I did not get to play it. The game went to the office so the rest of them got to play it but I didn't. My whole team knows how much I love playing new games and I don’t know if you know this but after the Los Angeles event back in March one player from each team was supposed to go and play the new COD. Usually, it’s probably going to be Clay or Crim because they’re vets but they knew how much I love COD so I thought they were going to let me go instead. But I didn't get to go because of the coronavirus and they all sent messages in the text chat saying “Inder’s so pissed right now he can’t play” and yeah I was. But two things I hope to see are really good maps and I’ve heard them say three-lane maps so I’m hyped about that and also just good movement mechanics. But honestly, the game’s looking amazing right now.”

Dallas achieved three Home Series wins along with the World Championship in the inaugural Call of Duty League season, having a very successful first year. However, they will go into the 2021 Call of Duty League season with a roster of Ian “Crimsix” Porter, Anthony “Shotzzy” Cuevas-Castro, Cuyler “Huke” Garland, and Indervir “iLLeY” Dhaliwal. Can they repeat their success in a 4v4 format? We’ll find out next year.

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Charlie Cater
Charlie "MiniTates" Cater has been an esports writer since May 2020, specialising in Call of Duty. He is also a University Student studying esports.