London Royal Ravens: The Surprise Package
Following a surprise fourth place at the 2020 Call of Duty League (CDL) Championship, expectations for the London Royal Ravens to consolidate their position within the top half of the league table was high. Despite the initial success, the franchise decided to overhaul its roster for the Black Ops Cold War season but failed to replicate the success achieved towards the end of the Modern Warfare season. After a season of turbulence instigated by issues pertaining to visas, travel restrictions, and a global pandemic, the Royal Ravens opted for further changes ahead of the Vanguard season, eventually flying Trei "ZerO" Morris across the pond to compete once again.
Alongside Zer0, the services of Marcus "Afro" Reid were retained while Joey "Gismo" Owen and Byron "Naste" Plumridge made the leap from Challengers into the highest tier of competitive Call of Duty. After one week of competition, the London Royal Ravens shocked the entire community with two victories against opposition that would’ve taken the win last season.
As the surprise package of the CDL so far, is it time for the London Royal Ravens to spread their wings and become a championship-winning team?
Gismo And Nastie: The Sky Is The Limit
While some franchises opted to bolster their squads with familiar North American talents that had fallen out of the CDL, London settled for Gismo and Nastie, two hugely underrated talents that go to show the European Challengers talent pool should not be overlooked in any capacity. The two players slotted into the team with ease, often combining to form a formidable partnership that’s still in its infancy. As the season progresses, Gismo and Nastie have an excellent opportunity to contend with seasoned veterans that know what it takes to achieve success on the big stage.
The opening week of the competition featured various highlights from the newest members of the Royal Ravens, with Nastie scoring clinical aces in Search and Destroy while Gismo shined in respawn modes, taking down multiple enemies with lethal precision. If the momentum of the first week is maintained, the sky is the limit for Gismo and Nastie, who can lead the charge as the battle for the top spot heats up.
Zer0: The Elder Statesman
As the player with the most experience on the team, Zer0 has the chance to mould the young talents around him into Europe’s next success story. Armed with plenty to prove after missing out on the Black Ops Cold War season, the European veteran has made it across the pond for his second season under the Royal Ravens banner, and an opportunity to reverse the fortunes of the franchise after a turbulent 2021 season.
As the elder statesman of the team, Zer0 is no stranger to success on an international level after taking home the title at Stage 1 of the Infinite Warfare Pro League alongside an MVP trophy. Since the win, he’s come close to winning another championship under various organisations but never managed to claim the top step of the podium. With plenty of explosive slayers around him, Zer0’s expertise and experience from competing at the pinnacle of Call of Duty esports for several years will prove extremely valuable as the Vanguard season progresses. So far, Zer0 has managed to keep pace in the main assault rifle role, providing a secondary line of attack behind the submachine gunners. Time will tell whether the leadership and guidance will shine through to his teammates but for now, Zer0 has the best opportunity to transform London into a championship-winning roster for the first time in nearly two years.
2022 Expectations: A Major Victory?
The London Royal Ravens have come out swinging in 2022, kicking off the Vanguard season with wins over the Florida Mutineers and an incredible reverse sweep against OpTic Texas, putting them at the very top of the CDL league table. The team has three matches of Stage 1 remaining, up against Minnesota Røkkr, Los Angeles Guerrillas, and an in-form Seattle Surge. These are winnable fixtures and if they’re able to beat a hit-and-miss Guerrillas and a Røkkr side that also looks out of sorts, there’s a chance London could head into the Stage 1 Major with a high seed, guaranteeing a place in the winner’s bracket.
Looking ahead to the Major, can London continue its run of incredible form moving from online to a LAN environment? If a high seed is secured, the opening Major of the Vanguard season is the best chance for the team to win a tournament in over two years. Achieving such a victory when the skill gap is so small would be an impressive achievement and yet another milestone for a region that’s finally escaping the shadow of North American Call of Duty. Is a shift of regional dominance underway? Only time will tell.