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Call Of Duty Esports 101
With the Call of Duty League just around the corner, this is the perfect time to get into Call of Duty esports. But getting into a new esport can be a bit daunting, so take this article as a crash course on the needs-to-know about the competitive scene.
In contrast to other esports like Valorant and League of Legends, Call of Duty (CoD) has three game modes that are played throughout a series. The game modes are divided into two types, Respawn and Search and Destroy. Respawns are game modes such as Hardpoint, Domination, Capture the Flag and technically Control where you are able to respawn. As for Search and Destroy, essentially the exact same concept as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and Valorant’s competitive game mode, it’s the only game mode in Call of Duty where you don’t respawn.
In a Best-of-5 series, the order usually goes like this:
It should be noted that in the past, the third game mode was either Domination or Capture the Flag, but since its introduction in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, Control has been considered the favourite game mode among the pros.
In the respawn game mode, the objective is quite simple, there are usually five areas (hills) on the map that teams need to occupy. The teams need at least one player occupying the area and every second equates to one point. Every minute the hill will change and it’s the first to 250 points.
Simply known as S&D, Search and Destroy is probably the game mode most esports fans are familiar with as it shares the same premise as CS:GO’s and Valorant’s competitive game mode. Essentially, teams start on either Offence or Defence, the Attackers’ objective is to plant the bomb at one of the two bomb sites or eliminate all the enemies. The Defenders’ job is to prevent the opposition from planting the bomb by eliminating all the enemies or defusing the bomb after the bomb has been planted. The first team to six wins.
And lastly, there’s Control. Technically a respawn game mode but is more of a hybrid between Hardpoint and S&D. Like in S&D, the teams are split into Offence and Defence and are provided 34 lives spread across the team. Once these lives run out, the opposition wins. The objective is for the Attackers to capture two areas on the map but as I mentioned, either side can win by eliminating the enemy team.
Before we get into the teams, I should probably let you know about the roles that certain players play. Unlike other FPS games, CoD doesn’t necessarily have a strict role system as players tend to bounce between roles depending on the strategy they’re playing in that particular match.
In respawn game modes such as Hardpoint, a team will consist of one Main Assault Rifle, one Main Submachine Gun, one Objective player and a Flex player but depending on the team’s playstyle, they can mix and match having more than one of a certain role or gun type.
In S&D, these roles can still exist but there is also the addition of a designated sniper player, much like in Counter-Strike and Valorant with the AWPer/Op-er.
The Main Submachine Gun/Main SMG/Main Sub tends to be a fast-paced and aggressive player whose sole objective is to win every gunfight they run into. Strategically, these players will play close to the objective and act as the first line of defence.
Then you have the Objective player whose role is pretty self-explanatory. Often the second SMG player, their role is to play the objective. The role only applies in Hardpoint which requires at least one player on the hill, this is usually the OBJ whose job is to position themselves smart and stay alive to soak up time and gain as many points as possible for the team. This term for the role is somewhat redundant as players die a lot in respawn, so it’s essentially the job of everyone to be an OBJ.
The job of the Main Assault Rifle—or Main AR as the pros call it—is to hold medium-long range angles usually meant to stop the opponent’s advance or flank. These players tend to play on a much lower sensitivity to help with recoil control and more often than not, are slow-paced players.
Once you know that Flex is short for Flexible, you can put two-and-two together. Essentially their role changes often according to the circumstance. From a gun-type perspective, they have to be able to slay with either an SMG or an AR. With that said, in laments terms their job is to support as on the surface, they’re basically meant to cover for the other roles when they die, but as I mentioned before, the role’s objective can change depending on the circumstance or the team. One team’s Flex could have a completely different objective from the opposition’s.
Snipers are only used in S&D and just like in CS:GO and Valorant, they have a crucial job in terms of the strategy of S&D. On Offence their job is to hold angles and to get kills to help their team gain numbers advantage. On Defence, their job is essentially the same with the difference that they position themselves where they can see a cross. Gaining this information will help determine which bomb site the Attackers will push.
There have been times in the past were teams would use more than one sniper but in recent years, it’s been agreed upon by the pros to only have one sniper per team.
If you’ve just become acquainted with the Call of Duty League (CDL), then you may not know that the Call of Duty (CoD) esports league wasn’t always franchised and geolocated. Far from it, there was a time when the top tier of CoD esports functioned very much like English football leagues, where anyone had a chance to play in the top leagues as long as they were good enough.
A lot of the teams you may be familiar with started out in CoD and wouldn’t be where they are today without CoD. Many teams and organisations have come and gone, but many remain from the good old days.
A part of the original trifecta of organisations in Call of Duty, Atlanta FaZe is owned by—you guessed it, FaZe Clan. FaZe Clan originally started out in CoD as a sniper clan most known for their montages posted on YouTube back in the early 2010s, fielding their first competitive roster in 2012 with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. They have since gone leaps and bounds to become one of the most iconic esports organisations in the world and fielding teams in numerous other esports.
After falling to Los Angeles Thieves in the Grand Final at the most recent CDL Championship, FaZe have undergone one roster change, bringing in Austin “SlasheR” Liddicoat in place of their previous in-game leader and Main AR, Alec “Arcitys” Sanderson
The newest team to the CDL, the Boston Breach is owned by Oxygen Esports who are the new kids on the block that have investment funding to go toe-to-toe with the most popular organisations in the world. The only history they had with CoD was when they signed the Vietnamese representatives for the 2020 Call of Duty: Mobile World Championship. Having joined the league a year ago, the Breach certainly impressed at times but failed to a final all year round.
From last season, the Breach has kept Anthony “Methodz” Zinni and Dylan “Nero” Koch. After saying farewell to Thomas “TJHaLy” Haly and Kenyen “Capsidal” Sutton, the team has acquired Reece “Vivid” Drost and Joseph “Owakening” Conley from the next team on this list.
Probably the most underrated team since the league’s inauguration, the Florida Mutineers are owned by Misfits Gaming Group who also hold the Florida franchising spot in the Overwatch League. The organisation has no prior experience in CoD. Every team the Mutineers have built has always looked promising at the start of the season but always failed to live up to expectations by the Championship.
On paper, this year’s rendition of the roster is probably the weakest they’ve had to date, as they have overhauled their entire roster to feature former player Colt “Havok” McLendon, Carson “Brack” Newberry, Michael “MajorManiak” Szymaniak and the only Spanish player in the league, Javier “Vikul” Milagro.
Formerly known as the Paris Legion, the owners, c0ntact Gaming relocated from Paris to Las Vegas back in September. The org also has no CoD background prior to franchising. During their time as the Paris Legion, the team has become synonymous with being the worst team in the league and has gained the reputation of also being the cheapest team in the league.
This year they’ve hoped to change that consensus with the signing of three-time world champion, James “Clayster” Eubanks. They also acquired Byron “Prolute” Vera who was the substitute for OpTic Texas last year, and TJHaLy from the Boston Breach.
Now the only European team in the league, the London Royal Ravens have always rostered the best and upcoming talent out of the United Kingdom. Originally solely owned by ReKTGlobal, the owners of Rogue, another premiere esports organisation, hype around the team grew, even more, when YouTube star Vikram “Vikkstar123” Barn joined as a co-owner.
Going into this season the Royal Ravens have only kept Trei “Zer0” Morris and Byron “Nastie” Plumridge while they released Marcus “Afro” Reid and Joey “Gismo” Owen. In place of the aforementioned, London picked up Paul “PaulEhx” Avila and Obaid “Asim” Asim, the former of which had previously played for the Royal Ravens before.
Alongside the Legion, for the majority of the CDL’s lifespan, the LA Guerrillas have been considered to be one of the worst teams up until last year where they shocked the world with a miraculous cinderella run as they went on to win last year’s Major 2 with a substitute.
This year’s iteration of the squad looks to be—on paper—the scariest iteration to date. Cuyler “Huke” Garland remains with the squad alongside their Major winning super-sub, Kris “Spart” Cervantez, they have also brought in former Halo phenom Travis “Neptune” McCloud who has been considered to be one of the most promising SMG players since his move over to CoD. Alongside Neptune they also picked up Arcitys from FaZe as their Main AR.
Owned by none other than 100 Thieves, one of the biggest esports organisations in the world, little do people know that their co-founder and CEO, Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag is a former Call of Duty pro himself, having captained OpTic Gaming until 2015 as was considered the poster boy for the org. Alongside him, his fellow co-founder and world-recognised streamer, Jack “CouRage” Dunlop is a former CoD shoutcaster and is highly respected for his iconic play-by-play commentaries.
For a long time, 100 Thieves were considered a joke in the esports world as they prioritised merchandise over tournament placings, but over the past three years, it’s safe to say that they have definitely changed that stigma as they went on to win last year’s Championship. Coming off such a great feat, expectations are high for this squad coming into this season.
Having won the Championship last year, the team hasn’t made any roster changes going into Modern Warfare II. The line-up remains as Zack “Drazah” Jordan, Kenneth “Kenny” Williams, Sam “Octane” Larew and Dylan “Envoy” Hannon.
Owned by venture capital company WISE Ventures, the Minnesota RØKKR has always been on the brink between a top-tier team and a middle-of-the-pack team only managing one tournament win back in the Black Ops Cold War season. Since then, the team has been aiming to reach those heights again but has failed time and time again.
This year, they decided to rebuild their roster around their Dillon “Attach” Price who has been with the team since September 2020. To support his unique AR playstyle, the RØKKR has acquired the likes of the British beast in Ben “Bance” Bance and the scariest Scotsman in the league, Cameron “Cammy” McKilligan. To close out the roster they also acquire another English player, formerly of the Royal Ravens in Afro.
Owned and operated by NYXL and co-founded by Sterling VC and the New York Mets, who also own the Overwatch League’s New York Excelsior, the New York Subliners has had a very controversial history. This was mainly thanks to Ian “Crimsix” Porter who many claims to be the Greatest of All-Time as he is the ‘winningest’ player in Call of Duty history and is renowned for his incredibly hot takes and trash-talking. With Crimsix retiring, the team decided to build the team around their French-phenom in Paco “HyDra” Rusiewiez.
For those who are unfamiliar with OpTic Texas, you are not exactly mistaken for thinking that they are related to OpTic Gaming, which was a part of the original trifecta of orgs in Call of Duty along with FaZe Clan. Formerly known as the Chicago Huntsmen and then OpTic Chicago, what you may not know is that they have had an extremely troubled past with their ownership, having bounced from owner to owner until they merged the final member of the trifecta, Team Envy who previously owned the Dallas Empire spot. After rebranding to OpTic Texas last season, the teams merged their rosters keeping King of CoD himself, Seth “Scump” Abner and Brandon “Dashy” Otell from OpTic Chicago, and Anthony “Shotzzy” Cuevas-Castro and Indervir “iLLeY” Dhaliwal.
During the offseason, it was speculated that this roster was going to break up but after some thought and consideration, the team decided to stay together for one last season as it was officially announced that this will be Scump’s final season after competing for 13 years.
Owned and operated by Enthusiast Gaming and Canucks Sports & Entertainment, the Seattle Surge acts as the successor to premier esports organisation, Luminosity Gaming, which had competed continuously in Call of Duty between 2015 and 2019. Up until last season, the Surge was considered a joke for building stacked rosters that could never perform. Going into last season, they picked up veteran Main AR Lamar “Accuracy” Abedi to captain the team, and he decided to build a team of young guns around him.
And lastly, we have the Toronto Ultra. Owned and operated by OverActive Media as the successor to Splyce, although a Canadian-based team, until this season, the team had almost exclusively hosted the absolute best European talents. For the past two seasons, the Ultra has been consistently considered Top 3 and has always challenged for Major wins.
This year they let go of Bance and Cammy to the Minnesota RØKKR and in place of them, they called up Thomas “Scrappy” Ernst from their Academy roster, along with former Rookie of the Season, Eli “Standy” Bentz from Minnesota.
Since the CDL’s inauguration, it had exclusively been streamed on YouTube but news came out the day before the league was meant to start that the CDL will be streaming exclusively on Twitch. You can catch the Opening Weekend on either the official Call of Duty League website or over on Twitch, both links can be found below.
The 2023 Call of Duty League Opening Weekend kicks off on 2 December at 3:00 PM (ET) / 12:00 PM (PT) / 7:00 PM (GMT) / 3:00 AM (UTC+8). Boston Breach and Atlanta FaZe kick things off with the first matchup of the 2023 season. Check the full schedule here.
Also, if you watch on Twitch, you can also link your Twitch account to your Battle.net account so that you’re eligible for drops.
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