The 2020-21 Call of Duty League offseason has been one of the most chaotic and confusing periods in the esport’s history. Every team made adjustments to its roster to prepare for the return of the four-vs-four format and to build a better squad for the upcoming season.
The London Royal Ravens, in particular, dropped all but one player on its roster, which left many fans to believe the franchise would return with an entirely new team. But London recently revealed its 2021 lineup, including three returning players and a new face who previously competed with the Minnesota ROKKR.
Seany, Dylan, and Zer0 have returned for another year of competition with the London Royal Ravens. Seany was the only player not dropped at the end of the inaugural season, while Dylan and Zer0 returned after two months of free agency status. The three players are joined by Alexx, a talented player who spent the first year of the Call of Duty League with the Minnesota ROKKR. Alexx is ready to prove himself with a new team and is a valuable asset for the 2021 season.
The London Royal Ravens are moving forward without twin brothers Skrapz and wuskin, who many considered instrumental members of the roster. Despite this change, London is still confident in its new lineup featuring adaptable players with a passion for winning.
Following the reveal of London’s 2021 lineup, Dot Esports talked with London Royal Ravens head coach Dominate, assistant coach ShAnE, and Zer0, one of the three returning players. The trio explained how the new lineup was formed and their thoughts on changes introduced for the 2021 season. They also discussed their opinions on a possible bubble in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and how the new Challengers Series provides better insight into the amateur scene.
How did the new Royal Ravens lineup come together?
Dominate: I feel like we had the talent last season, but in this league where every team is super talented, I feel to be the best at this level, you need more than just talent. You need to be productive; you need to have the right attitude to improve, the right mentality, and so on.
Going into the players, I think step one for us was securing Dylan. I feel like that was a pretty easy decision on our part. We’re going back to a Black Ops title, and he has so much potential to be great. We’ve also taken into account that most of the other franchises were re-signing their SMG players that were also high-level players. So securing Dylan was pretty much our main priority at the start. By the time free agency came around, we decided on extending Seany’s second year. He came off the bench during the season straight out of our Academy team and proved why he deserved to be on this team. I also get the feeling a lot of people underestimate Sean and what he does for the team. Most people don’t notice the small things he does or sacrifices for a team to succeed. Next season, he will be using a main [AR] for us, which is his preferred role and the role he has honestly wanted for many years, but he had to adjust due to the way teams were built.
Picking up Trei was an easy decision for us. I have past experiences with him for almost three years now. He has a great work ethic, he makes the players around him better, and he’s proven that he can win, which many European players can’t say. He can fill in any role we need at the highest level, which is almost invaluable when the meta in a game can change drastically.
ShAnE: Trei also stepped into our team and completely brought in a new breath of life. We were very on and off throughout the inaugural season, but we did show glimpses of looking incredible but were also known for throwing some crazy games away. When Trei jumped into the team, he brought the extra firepower that we needed. Of course, he wasn’t having the best year to start off in New York, and I guess coming back to London kicked his confidence right back up. He turned back into an incredible player and made us a much better team.
Dominate: To round out the team, we needed an aggressive sub to match Dylan, which is no easy feat because he’s got a pretty aggressive playstyle. We instantly thought Alexx would be one of our best options. He is super talented and showed that this year and in previous years. The added benefit of having previous experience with both Seany and Dylan and ShAnE just added more to that decision. It was easy to assess how he would fit into our team and how we wanted to approach things this year and how we can put him into that situation of how we want to deal with stuff. Ultimately, the whole team gives us pure flexibility, which I think we lacked last year with all the meta changes. We also have players with a high skill ceiling, and I honestly believe with the right mentality going into next year, we can reach that potential.
Zer0, what do you think Alexx will bring to the team and how will he help your team’s performance this year?
Zer0: I feel like the best thing about Alexx joining our team is what Dom said basically. We have a lot of do-it-all players and Alexx is a proven player who can pick up a gun off the floor and use it, type player. I feel like with this team, if someone’s desired role isn’t working, anything can change and we can still be unreal. That’s what I like about this team, and that’s what I like about Alexx joining this team. He’s young and everyone on this team wants to win. He had an unreal start of the year as a top-five player and to see it not pan out the way he wanted it to, I know he has a lot of fire coming into this year, especially to beat the players on his previous team. So he’s a young gun and someone to watch out for.
What do you think you need to improve on as a group to be more successful during the 2021 season?
Zer0: I think the success of any team is just teamwork, especially as we are going back into four-vs-four. You don’t need the best players in the world to win; you win by outsmarting the opponent and straight-up teamwork. It’s good to fight a case of constructive criticism, but one thing I have learned is that if you can’t take constructive criticism, there is no point in you playing because everyone is there to help you get better. And if you don’t want to take that, it's just selfish. All it will be this year is teamwork and making sure we’re on the same page. If we can do that and keep working and not be complacent and always strive to be better, we can perform all year consistently. That’s what we plan to do.
How do you feel about the switch to PC and do you think it'll have a major impact on competitive play?
Dominate: Moving to PC was inevitably the route we have to take. I feel like consoles were not inefficient, but they’re just not better than PCs. You can do so much more from a PC from a developer’s point of view. They can adjust things easier on PC, especially with the rules and tuning and stuff like that. I feel like moving forward on PC is the ideal scenario.
Dom, do you have any insight into the upcoming Challengers Scouting Series? Will you be keeping an eye on the rising talent?
Dominate: I’m not sure how much has been released to the public, but we will be watching the Scouting Series pretty closely. But more importantly, we are looking forward to the teams competing in the cups during that period. I feel like watching players compete with actual teams before the start of the season at a high level will give us insight into how players perform in a team environment. This might also help us assess players we are interested in, whether it’s a sub or challenger player for our academy team. We have always kept an eye on up and comers, especially in the U.K. For example, if you look at this year, we picked up Nastie from the Challengers scene and moved him onto our main roster. He was looking promising until the visa situation happened, and he had to finish out the year in the U.K. We’ll always be on the lookout for players like him or any up-and-coming players who prove themselves. I’m also hoping we can continue to develop these players like we did this season.
ShAnE: It’s a good thing that Activision is doing because it was tough to keep tabs on the amateur scene last year when there were barely any streams. It was pretty much impossible to watch a team consistently, so having a straight-up Scouting Series relatively close after the game releases is a massive help for them and a massive help to franchises and the young players.
Are there any clear improvements in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War over Modern Warfare on the competitive side?
Zer0: Yes, there’s a lot of competitive improvements because, for the first time, we’ve had proper open discussions with the devs at Treyarch about the competitive side of things. It just looks like everyone wants to listen to each other. Obviously, there are things that they can't change and we can’t change, but just having the communication there is one step ahead of everything. And so far, before the game has even come out, that’s what we’ve had. Based on the updates they’ve done in the beta, I can say they are helping out a lot more this year. It’s good to see because that’s what we need to grow the esport.
Dominate: Treyarch was quick to change things they thought weren’t too good or the community thought wasn’t too good, sometimes within 24 hours. The last time a game company had that was when Fortnite first came out and Fortnite changed the gaming scene forever, so it’s clearly the right path to take.
Are there any changes to the competitive format that you'd like to see in the 2021 season?
Dominate: I would like to see like an old school tournament-based format, which I think is possible. I wouldn’t say I wasn’t a big fan of homestand events this season, but it kind of takes away from it when four teams are missing from each event, and it’s hard to gauge where you’re at or the points you need to get to a certain point on the table. I feel like 12-team events would make a difference.
ShAnE: I wasn’t really a fan of the home series format. I’m pretty sure they’re going to be changing it because of the situations last year where the groups were randomized where some teams could play the same teams over and over again in each group, whereas us, for example, roughly 25 percent of our games were against a team in the top three. It’s tough to track which team is doing incredibly well in the standings, especially outside the top four, because it’s an unfair representation based on which teams they are playing.
Zer0: I genuinely think it’s pointless having this league and not having every single team at every event. It makes no sense to me. I understand why they’ve done it before COVID, but I think now is the best time to change it. Still call it a homestand, but have every team there. Imagine having a homestand without LA Thieves or OpTic; the competitiveness just isn’t there. That’s why this year, I felt like it was lacking.
Dominate: The league is always actively looking to improve the format and to build the CoD ecosystem even more. I feel like we’re in for a good year in terms of competition.
ShAnE: They made the best of a bad situation last year and kept the ball rolling and are learning from their mistakes and improving on things they did well already.
How do you feel about the return of the four-vs-four format?
ShAnE: Call of Duty has always been made for four-vs-four, to be honest. Even when we first went to five-vs-five on Black Ops 4, you can tell the maps we were playing in that game would’ve run much better in four-vs-four. Everything is just more balanced; I feel like the games also become more exciting. Games play out with less headbutting, if you will, because five-vs-five matches usually feature headbutting and hitting hills as quickly as possible. It’s more focused on getting more numbers there. I feel like we will have more exciting games, and obviously, that’s what the fans need.
Dominate: I also feel like the fans will interpret the games a lot easier now with two fewer people on a map. Five-vs-five CoD was pretty chaotic; going back to four-vs-four on Cold War maps will give us more tactical gameplay and a better experience for the players. It would also be a better experience for us coaches in terms of learning the process and the fans watching. I feel like it was the right move as well.
There have been rumors of a potential bubble toward the end of the season if COVID-19 continues to impact the Call of Duty League. What are your thoughts on this?
Dominate: Unfortunately, I have not heard the rumors you speak of, but I’m sure most people would like to see some sort of bubble come in this season. I feel like an actual LAN environment is what all the players and we thrive on. It would be refreshing and good for fans to watch especially. Saying that, I’m all for it, assuming it’s done the right way. The safety and health of the players and all involved should always be the priority. I feel like the league will 100 percent be able to put something like that together. However, if it’s not possible, another year of online CoD, if that’s what we have to do, then so be it. I feel like many people have made sacrifices this year, and sometimes we have to do the same. Ideally, we should just be grateful that we still have the opportunity to compete.
ShAnE: An absurd amount of people in any industry haven’t been able to carry on their jobs because of COVID. Obviously, in an ideal world, taking away however much money it would cost, it would be great for the players and the fans because the game is just better at a LAN. At the same time, we’re not going to be extremely upset if it doesn’t happen. It was still a good show last year; Activision did extremely well adapting.