Heading into the inaugural Call of Duty League season, teams had many decisions to make. One of the seemingly small choices was how they’d use their two mandatory substitute spots.
While some franchises signed young and talented prospects, some teams chose to fill one of their spots with a content creator while others decided to list their coach as a substitute. The Toronto Ultra, however, were the one team that filled out an entire 10-person roster in the hopes of maximizing the players’ skillsets.
In an interview with Dot Esports, Ultra strategic coach Mark “MarkyB” Bryceland explained why the team went about doing this.
“A lot of the sort-of ‘top, upper-echelon’ players had already been signed at that point, so I guess we decided our chances were better if we spread our eggs in multiple different baskets,” MarkyB said. “It wasn’t really my idea; it was Marty [Strenczewilk]. I thought it was a good idea at the time. Obviously, it was completely new for me, so it was still a bit scary at the same time.”
Despite the unique strategy, wins have been hard to come by for the Ultra. With just two events left on their regular-season schedule, Toronto are tied for last place in the 12-team league. As expected, their poor results have led to several roster changes this season.
In February, the team made their first move by promoting Ben Bance in place of Adrian “MettalZ” Serrano. MettalZ made his way back into the starting lineup in April, replacing veteran Daniel “Loony” Loza. And the most recent change came when the Ultra benched Nicholas “Classic” DiCostanzo for Tobias “CleanX” Juul Jønsson.
Classic’s benching proved to be controversial, though, since he wasn’t allowed to practice with the starters while he visited a sick family member for several days before the Minnesota Home Series last month. While Classic did eventually return to Toronto and play in the event, he was officially benched shortly after.
MarkyB clarified that it’s team policy that no one can practice if they aren’t in Toronto.
“To confirm, he wasn’t benched when he went home. When he returned to New York, he just wasn’t allowed to play from home to practice,” MarkyB said. “I can’t really give too much insight into that; it was just a decision that was made. Players are to play from Toronto and that’s just the way it was. We obviously wanted him to play in the match because we practiced for like two months going into that.”
Throughout most of Call of Duty esports history, players have had exceptional power in regards to roster changes. While some organizations’ owners and managers would construct and move players around, players mostly controlled what their roster would look like.
With the addition of numerous support staff positions and general managers, however, that’s started to change for several teams this season. The Ultra are no exception. MarkyB said the players have largely been removed from the roster decision-making process within their team.
“It’s not really the players’ decisions. It’s myself, [Toronto GM] Dom [Gelineau], and our analyst, Ryne, who are making those decisions at the end of the day,” MarkyB said. “Our process is that we are constantly evaluating in the current meta, what the team needs. We’re very honest with each other about what we think our weaknesses are, what are our strengths are, what we need to work on.”
As the inaugural regular season comes to a close, Toronto, like the other 11 teams in the league, have their eyes set on the $4.6 million Call of Duty League Championship, which will be played online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There’s no guarantee the roster the Ultra put out in their next match will be the one when the CDL Championship comes around next month, though.
“I want to make it clear: we’re going to consistently evaluate the changes,” MarkyB said. “I wouldn’t say that if we get top four [at the next event], we’re guaranteed to stick or we’re guaranteed to change. Of course, I think if we go on to win an event you would probably say it would be dumb to make a change after that. But even top four—realistically, you’re just winning two games; it’s not a great achievement.”
The Ultra will be one of eight teams to compete in the New York Home Series, which begins on July 10. Despite being in the same group as first-place Atlanta FaZe, Toronto will play ninth-place Paris Legion in their first-round match and may also play the Los Angeles Guerrillas, who are tied for last in the league.