A conversation with the young, up-and-coming Spanish player about Call of Duty, why no Challengers team in Europe will practice against him, and how this is the most important tournament of his life.
Unlike other esports, Call of Duty is distinctly American. CS:GO is dominated by Europeans. League of Legends, by the Koreans and the Chinese. In CoD esports, the vast majority of players are American. Last stage, over 70% of starting players in the CDL were American players. 34 Americans, 6 Brits, 3 Canadians, 1 Australian, 1 Dane, 1 Frenchman, 1 Scot, and 1 Spaniard.
Spain sets the stage for possibly the most compelling storyline of this Major. It’s not about OpTic or Scump retiring. It’s not even about a pro player. This story is about a Challengers player in Spain who has been blacklisted from practicing. Call of Duty is no stranger to drama, but none is as drastic as the current controversy surrounding 20 year-old Spanish player David “RenKoR” Isern.
In the halcyon Black Ops 4 days, Heretics stunned the world by making CWL Pro League and RenKoR was hailed as part of a younger generation of prodigies who would propel Spanish Call of Duty into the Golden Age. From 2017 to 2019, RenKoR, Vikul, ReeaL, and EriKBooM won nine local European LAN Events together. In many ways, these players were all primed to follow the path paved by earlier European prodigies HyDra or CleanX. Now, years later, it’s a very different story for RenKoR.
Most of “la nueva generación” is thriving. Vikul (Florida Mutineers) and ReeaL (Minnesota RØKKR) are signed to professional teams. EriKBooM is playing for one of the top Challengers teams in Europe and will be one of the top seeds at the upcoming Challengers tournament.
As for RenKoR, he recently returned to competition after a community imposed one-year ban, a ban established by the European competitive Call of Duty community. Despite serving the one-year sentence, the European community is still upholding the blacklist preventing RenKoR and his team from participating in scrims against top European teams. In CDL, Challengers, and in most esports, the best teams frequently practice against each other. A blacklist on scrims is a death sentence for any team seeking to improve.
From an outsider’s perspective and in the course of our due diligence, it’s difficult to determine the exact reason for the continued blacklist. We surveyed the European Challengers community at large, and some will say that RenKoR assisted a teammate in hiding wall-hacks – on stream – during a CMG tournament. Others say that he was banned for distasteful comments about a British player’s family. Since returning, RenKoR released a statement expressing remorse for his past mistakes as a player. However, no concrete evidence has ever been presented that he himself has cheated or used hacks, nor was Breaking Point able to independently verify any allegations of cheating.
So what happened to this promising young player? He’s currently teaming with SupeR, another Spanish prospect, and two Spanish stalwarts, YaKo and Sukry. Because of pressure other European players, they were unable to find a team sponsor until the last minute.
Breaking Point was able to sit down with RenKoR ahead of this tournament, the most important of his career. Despite all the setbacks, his team just finished top 4 in the EU Challengers Elite Stage I. An impressive result after months of no scrims against top European teams, and a testament to RenKoR’s talent and his team’s tenacity. When Breaking Point observed his team in practice, it was against top 32 and top 64 amateur teams. Over the past few weeks, we were able to speak to RenKoR over Discord and social media from his home in Barcelona, and in person at Boston. Our conversation has been edited and condensed.
Hi David, thanks for speaking with Breaking Point. How did you get into Call of Duty?
Thank you for having me. I started playing COD with my older brother when I was 10 years old. He was the one who showed me the competitive scene in MW2, MW3 and BO2. When I turned 13 years old in Black Ops 3, I started competing. I’ve always been super competitive and just wanted to start testing myself against better players.
Do you remember your first few years competing? In the UK and America, there are a lot of small local tournaments. Everyone remembers EGL, NJRod, and now they have AGN and COD Agent tournaments in the US.
Yes, it was exactly like that. There were a lot of local tournaments in Europe. In Spain, we have NGL and EEG. When I was under 18 in IW, WW2, BO4 and MW, players couldn’t compete in CWL or in Challengers. We played and won a lot of EEG tourneys and I won local LANs against some of the best players from Spain and in Europe.
The top Spanish players, what was it like playing with them? How were they?
I played with ReeaL, Vikul and EriKBooM, we were known as the “under 18” talents of Spain. Everyone spoke about the possibility about all four of us to joining the CDL someday. Two of them [ReeaL and Vikul] are signed to CDL teams. They are all so good and so talented. It’s only a matter of time for Eric [EriKBooM] as well.
Let’s get straight into it. From your point of view: what led to you being blacklisted for one year?
In Vanguard, I played with a cheater in a small CMG tournament. It was just an online tournament, like a chall or a wager. I knew he did it, but we were already playing together. I should have reported him, but I didn’t. It was stupid of me. The community banned me from competitive play, but I know what I did was wrong and I still regret it, it was just stupid to do. In my case, the top EU Challengers teams decided to blacklist me for one year and I didn’t compete in Challengers in Vanguard.
That can’t be easy. What did you do last year? Did you always plan to return to competing?
As a competitor, it wasn’t easy to not be able to play in Challengers or be told by all the top European players that “hey, if you even think about picking up RenKoR, we will blacklist you from scrims”. I was cut off entirely from CoD, something I poured all my passion into for most of my life. I didn’t cheat, but I made a really bad decision.
Picture of RenKoR. From the player’s Instagram account
Last year, I worked and went to school. I worked at a paddleball rec center. It’s kind of like pickleball, and the place I worked had a gym and we threw a lot of charity events and youth sports events. During my year away from CoD, I took a lot of time to reflect on everything, my friends, including who I was playing with in Call of Duty, and what I wanted out of my life. I put a lot of work into living a healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally. Because I couldn’t play CoD, the most important thing was living a life I could be proud of and where I could be the best version of myself. If I could do that, everything would be better, including as a CoD player.
About the second question — for me, it was always very clear that I wanted to return to competing.
It sounds like you’ve grown a lot as a person and a player in your time away.
It really made me understand how important it is to surround myself with the right people and how those people can help me achieve my goals. Being the best individual player I can be isn’t enough. If I focus on myself, and avoid doing shitty things like I did before, than I know I can reach my goals. I believe in me and I want other people to believe in me as well because I’ve grown a lot as a person over this past year. I reached out to Detain to apologize about what I said to him about his family in a match. It happened in the heat of the moment when he was shooting my body in the middle of a match. A few of my Spanish friends helped me put out a statement a few weeks ago as well in English. What I can do now is demonstrate to people who I am with my actions.
Since you’ve returned, there have been mixed reactions. Some in the community — like Parasite and Surge head coach Fenix — have shown support for you. Others oppose your return. How do you feel?
I think that’s normal. I want to thank the people who showed support for me. Especially from the CDL community and the fact that they know who I am and take the time to even think about helping me means so much to me. I just want to have a fair chance at playing CoD, just like anyone else.
For people in the community who don’t support me, I respect their opinions. I understand that they’re angry over what I’ve done in the past. All I can ask for from them is the opportunity to let me show who I am now. I’m not the stupid kid who made a bad decision. I want to show them who I am now and that all I want is a fair chance to compete. If I don’t play well, they can say anything they want to say about me. But just give me a chance to play.
You’ve made the decision to fund your whole team’s attendance in Boston. Is this your way of showing your passion and desire to compete?
This is correct. I don’t come from a wealthy family, so I paid for my entire team’s trip to Boston [over $3,000 USD] with money I saved up from working over the past year. We weren’t allowed to practice against the best teams in Europe, and all I want is to be able to compete against the best players. What teams in Europe have done hurts my entire team [SupeR, YaKo, Sukry]. It was hard for my teammates to find a sponsor because of what other players said about me to esports organizations. I think we deserve another chance and I hope to prove in Boston alongside my team that I’ve earned it.
(*After this article was written, RenKoR, SupeR, YaKo, and Sukry were sponsored by PRS Gaming to attend the Boston Major Challengers event)
RenKoR (right) with his teammate SupeR (left) in Boston. From the player’s Twitter account
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Any final comments, David?
Thank you for hearing out my side of the story. I really appreciate you allowing me the opportunity to explain my perspective in this situation and for sharing it with the community. All I can do now is play this weekend and let my game and my passion speak for itself.
RenKoR, SupeR, YaKo, and Sukry will be playing under PRS Gaming this weekend. The matches from the Boston Breach Challengers event will be broadcast on the Call of Duty Bravo channel.
RenKoR’s Twitter account can be found here.
This article included contributions from LordJosh, PescaroDB, and the Breaking Point editorial staff.