In esports, some of the biggest plays made in a season do not happen in a game, they happen behind the scenes, where general managers, coaches, and the squadmates themselves decide what they think is best for the team.
While some Call of Duty teams, such as OpTic Gaming, Team EnVyUs, Luminosity Gaming and Rise Nation, all kept their rosters consistent from the very first event of the 2017 Call of Duty World League season, others rebuilt their teams to try and better their chances at taking home some hardware.
Some of these changes involve only a simple drop and pickup, while others involve multiple teams and multiple players over several days of negotiation. There were roster moves that happened long before the start of the Global Pro League (GPL) Stage 1, and more swaps occurred right before the roster deadline date for the Call of Duty World League Championship 2017.
Here are just seven of the many trades and transactions that helped shape the 2017 Call of Duty World League Season:
Note: Roster moves that include entire teams switching organizations are not included in this list, such as the move that saw the entirety of Team Infused join the ranks of Millenium Esports.
European Rostermania feat. Splyce, Red and Epsilon
The Transactions: Trei “Zer0” Morris joins Splyce, Joshua-Lee "Joshh" Shephard replaces Ben "Desire" Wright on Epsilon, Rhys "Rated" Price joins Elevate, Niall "Niall" Sunderland and Sean "Seany" O'Connor join Red Reserve, Ben "Desire" Wright joins Team 3G
It’s safe to say that this trade, one of the few blockbusters of the season, had a good amount of moving parts.
With most of the top European Call of Duty teams upset by their performance at the Atlanta and Paris opens, four soon-to-be Global Pro League teams, and one team on the cusp of making the GPL, made roster changes around the late-February to early-March period.
The dominoes began to fall less than a week after the CWL Paris Open, when Elevate announced that Rated was joining Elevate, and that Seany was no longer playing for the team. Fans quickly put two and two together, by speculating that Seany would join Red, and they were correct.
However, they also had to deal with Zer0 joining Splyce and replacing an inactive Joshh. Red then picked up Niall from the upstart Team 3G, but the roster moves did not stop there, as Joshh officially joined Epsilon and replaced Desire, who moved onto Team 3G.
So, which one of these moves had the biggest impact?
The obvious answer is that Splyce got their GPL Stage 1 MVP Zer0 from this carousel of trades. Splyce joined the conversation as one of the best teams in Call of Duty after winning Stage 1 of the Global Pro League, and continued to place well with a silver medal earned at the CWL Anaheim Open. And through one day of the CWL Championship, they won their first match 3-2 over Team Kaliber.
Meanwhile for Epsilon, their success did not seem obvious from the start, as the team fell into the top-24 at the CWL Dallas Open. However, when Epsilon worked out its issues, they won back-to-back online GameBattles 2K tournaments, and won the CWL Birmingham Open shortly afterwards, besting Splyce. Epsilon then took third at the CWL Anaheim Open, before going back out to England to win the CWL Sheffield Open.
Rated would wind up rejoining Red Reserve from Elevate, as the Niall experiment failed in Stage 1. Red still requalified for Stage 2 of the Global Pro league with Rated, and had themselves a solid run in Anaheim by finishing within the top-eight. They then failed to make the Stage 2 Playoffs, but won their first match of the CWL Championship 3-0 over eRa Eternity.
Elevate saw themselves pick up Desire shortly after Stage 1, but unfortunately for them, they only placed top-16 in Anaheim, placed top-12 in Sheffield, and produced an 0-18 record in the Stage 2 Blue Group. However, they are seeming to turn things around in the CWL Championship with one win on the board over Projekt Evil.
Although Niall was dropped from Elevate, his story still has a happy ending, as he joined the new Team Infused roster and helped them earn a solid spot in the CWL Championship.
The Transaction: John "Xotic" Bruno and Preston "Priestah" Greiner replace Richard "Ricky" Stacy and Andres "Lacefield" Lacefield on Cloud9
With Cloud9 relegated for the Global Pro League, Patrick “ACHES” Price and company looked to make a major roster change in order to requalify for Stage 2 of the Global Pro League, as well as guarantee a spot in the CWL Championship. Their decision? To part ways with Lacefield and Ricky, while picking up two promising young guns in Priestah and Xotic.
Xotic and Priestah were members of the GosuCrew Blue roster who turned heads at both the CWL Atlanta and CWL Dallas Open events, as the team placed within the top-12 at both events. The GosuCrew team wound up missing the cut for Stage 1 of the Global Pro League, and shortly afterwards, both Xotic and Priestah bounced around several pickup teams before joining Cloud9.
The duo made an immediate impact on the C9 roster, helping ACHES and Adam "Assault" Garcia requalify for Stage 2 of the Global Pro League, and went on to run through the CWL Anaheim Losers Bracket to fourth place at the event. Cloud9 cooled off in their Stage 2 pool, failing to make the Playoffs after losing to OpTic and EnVy twice, but they still are in the CWL Championship. Through one day of play, C9 is already in the right direction towards the Championship Bracket, winning against Rogue 3-1.
As for Ricky and Lacefield, they went on to find teams that qualified for the CWL Championship through the North American Last Chance Qualifier, with Ricky joining the legendary Str8 Rippin’ organization, and Lacefield becoming a part of Global Pro League Stage 2 team Ghost Gaming. That Ghost team went on to win their first CWL Championship match of the 2017 finale weekend, as they dispatched Millenium despite the European’s strong Search and Destroy play.
Mindfreak / Tainted Minds
The Transaction: Denholm "Denz" Taylor joins Mindfreak, Cody "Excite" Rugolo joins Tainted Minds
A move that shocked international Call of Duty fans, Excite found himself off of a Mindfreak roster that placed third in their Stage 1 Global Pro League group, as the team wanted to reunite with an old veteran in Denz.
The move was met with criticism at the CWL Anaheim Open, as Mindfreak failed to win a single game in the group stage, and lost their first Losers Bracket match to Team Vitality. Mindfreak did rebound slightly in their Stage 2 Group Stage, taking a 3-0 sweep off of eventual Red Group second place team Fnatic on the first day of competition.
As for Excite, he hit the ground running with Tainted Minds, helping the organization qualify for the 2017 CWL Championship through the APAC Last Chance Qualifier. Tainted Minds punched their ticket to Orlando by sweeping their first two opponents, pulling off a game five victory over Empyre eSports, and finishing their Winners Bracket run with a memorable five game series against Mindfreak Black.
With Tainted Minds drawn into the interesting Group F, and Mindfreak drawn into a group with Stage 2 bronze medalists eUnited, all eyes will be on both these teams and their quest to survive the CWL Championship group stage.
So far, both teams have not had much luck in the CWL Championship, losing their first matches of the event.
The Transaction: Matthew “Royalty” Faithful replaces Mike “MRuiz” Ruiz on Enigma6
Enigma6 were first rumored to be on the hunt for the likes of Priestah, before the former GosuCrew member wound up joining C9. After Stage 1 of the Global Pro League though, E6 needed to find a replacement for MRuiz, and picked up Royalty from a strong non-Global Pro League Team Allegiance roster.
Known for breaking out with Epsilon Esports in 2015, and as a member of the infamous 100 Thieves roster of 2016, Royalty added enough strong slaying to the Enigma6 roster to help them grab top-six at the CWL Anaheim Open. E6 earned their placement by stunning OpTic Gaming in game five, round 11 on one of the featured stations at the event, before falling to eventual runners-up Splyce 3-1.
E6 then muscled their way out of a tough Blue Group, earning a spot in the Stage 2 Playoffs where they were beaten by eUnited and Fnatic in their first, and only two, matches. E6 was then drafted into Group H of the CWL Championship, and are 1-0 through one day of competition, defeating Team MRN Black 3-0.
EUnited / FaZe Clan
The Transaction: James “Clayster” Eubanks joins eUnited, Pierce “Gunless” Hillman joins FaZe Clan
Regarded as the blockbuster trade of the season, both eUnited and FaZe Clan were looking for fresher rosters after bad performances in Anaheim, with eUnited playing without Gunless for the event.
After CWL Anaheim, rumors swirled of the FaZe Clan roster, who stuck together for more than a year, making a major change to bring in Gunless, and those rumors turned out to be true. With both organizations announcing the trade, eUnited gained one of Call of Duty’s longest-playing veterans in Clayster, while FaZe got themselves the CWL Atlanta Open MVP Gunless.
With this trade happening right before the Stage 2 roster cut-off date, we have not seen much of either team perform with their new rosters outside of two weekends. Both teams qualified for the Stage 2 Playoffs by placing first in their respective groups, and in the Playoffs, eUnited placed better than FaZe Clan.
However, at no point during the tournament did these two teams face off, which is something that Call of Duty fans around the world are chomping at the bit to see. If the cards fall right, and eUnited and FaZe make it out of Group C and Group E at the CWL Championship respectively, then we could see this match unfold. It seems to already be a good possibility though with both teams winning their opening matches.
The Transaction: Christopher “Parasite” Duarte replaces Jeremy “StuDyy” Astacio on Evil Geniuses
Evil Geniuses placed well consistently throughout the 2017 Call of Duty season, securing top-eight in Paris and Dallas before qualifying for the Stage 1 Playoffs. But after failing to win a series in those playoffs, EG decided to switch out StuDyy and search for a new fourth.
Having Parasite join on a trial basis for a few weeks, EG decided that they worked well with the former Call of Duty World Champion, and signed him to the team full-time before the CWL Anaheim Open. At that event, EG placed slightly better than how they did at the previous two Open Events they attended, taking top-six after losing to eventual Anaheim champions LG and fourth-placed team Cloud9.
Evil Geniuses’ next competition weekend was not as successful however, with them missing the Stage 2 Playoffs cut through losing to Fnatic and Luminosity twice in the Red Group.
When StuDyy was dropped from Evil Geniuses, he soon found a home in the Str8 Rippin’ organization. EG also decided to build up a young roster featuring Brandon "Dashy" Otell and Donovan "Temp" Laroda. Showing their strength during the NA LCQ, Str8 Rippin’ entered the CWL Championship alongside Evil Geniuses in Group F, as StuDyy looked for revenge on his former team.
The New York native got his redemption in spades in their first match of the CWL Championship, sweeping Evil Geniuses by ripping through the opening Hardpoint and gaining crucial momentum via a Search and Destroy comeback win.
Echo Fox / FaZe Clan
The Transaction: FaZe Coach James "Replays" Crowder moves to the Echo Fox Active Roster, Mike “MRuiz” Ruiz and Tanner “Mosh” Clark also join Echo Fox
One of the final moves of the 2017 Season saw FaZe’s coach Replays rejoin the ranks of the player pool, and move over to Rick Fox’s Echo Fox Organization. Echo Fox had an interesting 2017 season, making a numerous amount of roster changes and having one of their star players Jeremy "Neslo" Olsen go inactive.
In July however, Echo Fox made one last push for the CWL Championship, picking up FaZe Clan’s coach Replays and putting him on the active roster. There, he joined former Enigma6 member MRuiz and the returning Mosh for the North American Last Chance Qualifier.
Before that event, Echo Fox placed well in GameBattles online 2K events, and placing top-eight among some of the other LCQ competitors. At the LAN event however, Echo Fox rolled through Fallen Godz and Havok eSports to punch their ticket to the CWL Championship. Unfortunately for Echo Fox though, they lost their first match of their time in Orlando, and are in danger of having their team of journeymen miss out on the rest of the CWL Championship weekend.
Which one of these trades had the biggest impact on the Call of Duty esports scene this season? While it could lead to some great debate now, we’ll only know for sure at the conclusion of the Call of Duty World League Championship 2017.
The CWL Championship is happening right now, and you can catch the broadcast live over on mlg.tv/callofduty, on the official MLG Facebook page, on the official MLG Twitch Channel, and on the official MLG YouTube channel.