Despite taking a gamble on an all-European roster, the Toronto Ultra has shown that European talent should never be underestimated.
On March 10, 2021, Toronto Ultra player Anthony “Methodz” Zinni announced that he had been demoted to the substitutes bench, much to the surprise of his fellow competitors and fans of the veteran assault rifle player. Many questioned the motives behind the move, with Ultra coach Mark “MarkyB” Bryceland coming under intense scrutiny as to why the franchise would bench arguably one of the strongest assault rifle players from the opening stage of the 2021 season.
Some players and fans even went as far to state that the Ultra staff had no idea what they were doing, and stated that an all-European roster would never be able to compete with the North American juggernauts that often feature towards the top of the league table. Just over a month since the change took place, the all-European line-up of the Toronto Ultra is fresh off being crowned champions of Stage Two after a thrilling encounter with the Stage One winners of Atlanta FaZe.
With a win under its belt for the first time this season, many were quick to backtrack on their comments regarding the change after it became abundantly clear that the European contingent is more than capable of taking on the more established North American talents that have dominated Call of Duty esports in recent years. Toronto’s risk, alongside some impressive upturns in form, has paid off in spades, and we’re going to break down just a few reasons as to how the Ultra has broken free from the hectic mid-table battle.
The Addition Of Insight
Joining the roster and completing the line-up was former Team Singularity player Jamie “Insight” Craven, who initially joined the Ultra in late 2020 as a substitute. While on the bench, Insight entered a number of Challenger tournaments and struggled to make it towards the latter stages of the highly competitive tournaments that regularly feature former Call of Duty League players. The breakthrough came with a victory in the eighth running of the North American Challengers Cup, which was quickly followed up by scoring another win in the first Challengers Open tournament of the season.
Having conquered the amateur scene, the decision was made to bring Insight into the team. Known for being one of the most aggressive assault rifle players hailing from Europe, Insight was quick to make an impact, managing to break the CDL kill record in Search & Destroy, scoring a total of 18 kills in his debut match against the Los Angeles Thieves.
If he had flopped on the biggest stage in Call of Duty in his opening match, it could have been a very different story for Insight and the Ultra, and even though the team eventually lost to the Thieves, Insight had shown just a small taste of what he was truly capable of. His ruthless aggression with the Krig 6 in hand has become an instrumental part of Toronto’s setup, often found scoring multiple eliminations in quick succession and frequently shifting the momentum of a match in their favour.
The Resurgence Of Black Ops Bance
While the addition of Insight to the team favoured the Ultra and was one of the key decisions which led to championship success, an upturn in form for Ben “Bance” Bance also played a huge role. Bance skyrocketed into Call of Duty stardom during the Black Ops 3 season under the Splyce banner and made it to the world championship finals thanks to his supreme mechanical understanding of the game and ability to slay with the very best North America had to offer.
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Throughout the opening two stages, many had called for Bance to place himself on the bench after starting Stage Two with two losses to the Ultra’s name. Just after Toronto won the Stage Two Major, the 2016 world championship runner-up revealed that he came incredibly close to calling it quits.
Throughout the Major, Bance managed to rekindle some of the magic that saw him become a household name back in 2016. Exquisite movement combined with an incredible ability to outgun any opponent that stood in his way was on full display as the Ultra dispatched of the LA Thieves, Minnesota RØKKR, and the Dallas Empire before besting the FaZe in the Grand Finals.
Famed for his performance on Black Ops titles, Bance has certainly found his feet alongside fellow submachine gunner Tobias “CleanX” Juul Jønnson to form a formidable partnership that few teams can contend with.
European Rosters Are No Longer A Gamble
There were points in the history of Call of Duty esports where the European region was unable to compete with North America, and since the inception of a more inclusive international structure, the quality of talent within Europe is more than capable of contending with the more established North American talents. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly hindered the region in regards to being able to showcase their skills against the best North American teams, but if Europe was able to compete with them, many believe that Europe will come out on top.
The acquisitions of Insight for Toronto and Paco “HyDra” Rusiewiez for the New York Subliners is a sign that franchises are willing to take on top European talent in favour of players making a name for themselves in amateur North American competition. As the Ultra come off the first European victory since 2017, there is a real feeling of optimism for a region that has almost always lived under the shadow of North America.
Despite many criticising MarkyB, it’s now very clear as to why he and Toronto wanted the likes of Insight in the starting four, and if the team can carry the momentum into the third Stage of 2021, there is every chance for the Ultra to defend its title later in the year.
Images via Call of Duty League | Toronto Ultra