The 2021 Rookie of the Year Race

In the past three seasons of Call of Duty, we have been gifted a chance to watch some of the strongest rookie classes. Out of the last three rookie classes, 16 players are still on Pro League rosters. The Atlanta FaZe are the only roster to have 3 players that were rookies within the last three years, while Florida Mutineers currently have two players from these three classes plus current rookie Neptune. We’ll break down past rookie classes and run down the rookie of the year race for 2021.

Notable World War 2 Class (2018)

  • Kenny (ROTY)
  • Fero
  • Decemate
  • Blazt
  • Dashy
  • Alexx
  • Dqvee

The World War 2 season had two stages of its Pro League, offering players multiple chances to break into the League. Kenny and Fero (RIP legend) broke through early in the season, winning the CWL Dallas Open & CWL New Orleans Open. The duo was a force to be reckoned with and powered Team Kaliber to new levels. Decemate broke into the League during stage 1 with eRa, finishing with a 5-9 record. Blazt & Dashy followed through during Stage 2, finishing the stage with a 6-8 record with compLexity. Alexx also joined UNILAD’s ranks during Stage 2, making it into the Playoffs and finishing top 6. Even though aBeZy & KiSMET both played during the majority of the season, neither breached the Pro League gates.

Notable Black Ops 4 Class (2019)

  • Simp (ROTY)
  • Cellium
  • aBeZy
  • Envoy
  • Skyz
  • Dylan
  • Brack
  • Frosty
  • Asim
  • GodRx
  • KiSMET

One of the best classes in Call of Duty history, the Black Ops 4 season brought up 4 of the 5 MVP candidates from the 2020 season. Six of the players are still currently in the League, making up portions of many of the top teams. Simp & aBeZy created the Tiny Terror duo that helped eUnited win CoD Champs in their breakout seasons. Cellium & Asim both helped FaZe Clan return to the CWL and be a contender for the final portion of the season. Envoy made waves a part of the original Midnight roster and continued high play with GenG. Englishman Dylan helped Reciprocity turn its season around and was one of the most electric SMG players in the League. Skyz & Brack made waves a part of the Excelerate roster together, which helped them join Luminosity to end the season. GodRx & Frosty each played well on multiple teams during the 2019 season. Many of the players currently not on a professional roster in this class easily could be in the future.

The Modern Warfare Class (2020)

  • Shotzzy (MVP) / (ROTY)
  • iLLeY
  • Owakening
  • Vivid
  • Mack
  • CleanX
  • Louqa
  • Drazah
  • Hollow
  • Exceed
  • Spart

With Call of Duty switching to a Franchise format during the 2020 season, it became harder for rookies to break through to the professional level. With only 60 roster spots, the competition was fierce and many ex-pros were left on the outside looking in. To start the season only 4 rookies were on franchise rosters (Shotzzy, iLLeY, Louqa, CleanX), but that quickly changed as teams started to disappoint. With the League switching to online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it allowed AMs a chance to break into rosters. Owakening would do just that with the Florida Mutineers, joining the roster and giving them an instant boost in firepower. He’d help the team win two homestands and was one of the best flex players of the year. Mack would follow in his footsteps, join the New York Subliners, and giving them the boost in teamwork & SMG slaying that was missing. The team instantly got better and took home a homestand victory. The UYU duo Hollow & Drazah would join OpTic Gaming LA late in the season and help them make a late push. Exceed joined Minnesota for their Champs run, and even though they might not have found success, Exceed had some great moments with the Sniper in SnD. Vivid would join the LA Guerrillas with Spart and be one the lone bright spots as his aggressive SMG stood out. The Australian Louqa joined the Paris roster to kick off the season, and even though the team had a rocky season, he had many great performances during the season. Danish sensation CleanX started the season on the bench but quickly joined the starting ranks of the Toronto Ultra, helping the team win the final homestand of the season. Finally, we have the Dallas Empire duo Shotzzy and iLLeY. Not many expected them to perform at as high of a level as they did, as they were a major part of the team’s success. Shotzzy would be dominant on the SMG, eventually taking home the MVP for his elite play.

The 2021 Rookie Class

This leads us to the 2021 season. The League announced in the offseason that competition will be switching to 4v4, meaning the number of roster spots shrunk from 60 to 48. Additionally, with COVID still running rampant in the USA, the season will most likely be online for the majority of the season. This made it hard for rookies to crack into starting rosters off the bat, as we only saw Fire signed to the Paris Legion and HyDra signed on with the New York Subliners. With visa issues and the pandemic, HyDra has been stuck in France and is no longer expected to be on the starting roster for now. Florida Mutineers added one more name to this list this week, as they signed ex-Halo pro Neptune and quickly inserted him into the starting roster for Havok. We will break down each of these three players’ careers so far and who has the inside edge in the race for Rookie of the Year.

Fire

Luis “Fire” Rivera is an 18-year-old rookie flex playing for the Paris Legion this season. Joining Fire are veterans AquA, Skrapz, and Classic. Fire has only recently started competing, playing in his first Challengers tournament in April of 2020. He’d quickly climb the amateur ranks, joining Xotic, Goonjar, Pentagrxm, and ProFeeZy on GetBusy. The team would perform well, netting multiple top 4 finishes in Challenger Opens and Cups. The core of Fire, Goonjar, and Xotic would join Fire Star to end the Modern Warfare season with PaulEhx & Parasite. They’d take home a victory during the Toronto Open and finish 3rd at the Challengers Finals NA. Fire would be a consistent star player during the season, and certainly raised eyebrows over the year.

Going into the offseason, no one knew what the Paris Legion were doing, perhaps not even the Paris Legion. Rumors broke that the Legion were targeting the young gun and willing to take a chance on his ability. While many weren’t sold on the entire roster, taking a risk on the young Fire had positive reception across the League. He has a tall task ahead of his this season, as the Legion won’t be favored in many matches off the bat. If the rookie can find consistency and build chemistry with his team though, he should have a very solid chance at winning Rookie of the Year.

Kickoff Event

The Paris Legion shocked many at the Kickoff Weekend, taking down the London Royal Ravens 3-2. Fire played exceptionally well, finishing the series with a 1.20 overall KD. He finished positive in all three modes, the only rookie to do so. His stats were:

HP : 53 kills / 46 deaths / 1.15 KD / 108.5 average hill time

SnD : 16 kills / 10 deaths / 1.60 KD/ 2-2 in OpDuels / 0.89 KpR / 209.06 ADR

CTL : 21 kills / 19 deaths / 1.11 KD / 1321.0 ADR / 17-11 on Atk

This was a very solid performance by the rookie and he will be looking to build off of it going into Stage 1.

Neptune

Travis “Neptune” McCloud is an 18-year-old SMG player that recently switched from competing in Halo to Call of Duty. Neptune was a highly skilled Halo player that started making waves as soon as he started competing in 2017. The young gun worked his way up to playing with the best Halo roster in recent years in Sentinels (SnakeBite, Royal2, Frosty). They’d win 7 online tournaments during October & November of 2020 before Neptune switched over to Call of Duty.

After making the switch, he joined forces with Parasite, Blazt, and Decemate on Westeros. In the first Challengers’ Cup of the season, Neptune impressed individually as the team finished 4th. Even multiple roster changes and a team change didn’t slow down Neptune, as he’d finish top 8 and top 6 in the second and third Challengers’ Cups. His individual talent and rapid growth did not go unnoticed, as the Florida Mutineers quickly signed him as a substitute and elevated him into the starting roster for Havok. Now surrounded by a stable team, veterans that will help him learn the game, and an excellent coach in Atura, Neptune’s potential will surely be unlocked quickly. Watch out for this future star to shine bright for the Mutineers.

Kickoff Event

Neptune and the Florida Mutineers were one of the biggest shocks of the weekend. They took down the Atlanta FaZe in a 5 map affair that was one the best of the weekend. Neptune looked like a veteran in this series, making smart decisions and helping his team convincingly win Crossroads Hardpoint and both SnDs. His stats were:

HP : 44 kills / 40 deaths / 1.10 KD / 91.5 average hill time

SnD : 12 kills / 15 deaths / 0.80 KD / 1-3 in OpDuels / 0.60 KpR / 92.4 ADR

CTL : 33 Kills / 29 deaths / 1.14 KD / 25-19 on Atk

With the Mutineers being placed in a very good group for Stage 1, they will need Neptune to continue to develop and be a star player for them. We will see if he is able to continue to perform at a high level against Atlanta, Chicago, Toronto, and more during Stage 1.

HyDra

Paco “HyDra” Rusiewiez is an 18-year-old french rookie that signed to the New York Subliners this offseason. He has peeked a lot of interest in the past couple of seasons in the amateur circuit, as many in the European scene knew that he was going to be a star in the near future.

Paco started playing tournaments in Call of Duty Infinite Warfare but wasn’t allowed to compete in official CWL/CDL tournaments until he turned 18. Once he turned 18 last February, he was signed to TrainHard esports with Wailers, Keza, Breszy, and Defrag with coach DREAL. The squad was very strong, placing 3rd at the CDL Paris Open in their first LAN tournament. His placings would be very consistent over the season, with multiple runner-up finishes. Here are his results:

  • Dallas Open – 3rd
  • Challengers Cup #1 – Top 6
  • Chicago Open – 4th
  • Challengers Cup #2 – 4th
  • Florida Open – 2nd
  • Challengers Cup #3 – 2nd
  • Seattle Open – Top 16
  • Minnesota Open – 4th
  • Challengers Cup #4 – 3rd
  • Paris Open 2 – Top 16
  • Challengers Cup #5 – 2nd
  • New York Open – 2nd
  • London Open 2 – 4th
  • Toronto Open 2 – 2nd
  • EU Challengers Finals – 7th/8th

There was a lot of hype surrounding HyDra going into the offseason after his exceptional performances in the Modern Warfare season. Many thought that it was a given that the french talent would be the #1 priority for the Paris Legion, but it didn’t seem to be the case. After Clayster endorsed the french talent on Twitter, his stock skyrocketed. The Subliners interest in the rookie also rose, with rumors appearing that the team was looking to sign him to complete their starting roster. Soon after the Subliners announced that they have signed the french rookie, and we’re giving him a chance to compete with the best. Unfortunately due to COVID, we do not know when we will see HyDra in North America and playing with the team. With COVID requiring Europe to go into lockdown again, hopefully HyDra will be able to get his visa situation fixed and make it to the US.

If HyDra does make it to the US and into the starting roster, he will be a very interesting bet for Rookie of the Year. There are so many variables that will go into his performance. We know that his English is good, but how will it hold up in hectic situations where communication needs to be quick and clear? How long will it take to grow chemistry will his new teammates and get on the same page? Will his starting position still be up for grabs when he does make it to the US? Many questions, but one thing is for certain. HyDra is a real talent and will be fighting for Rookie of the Year.

Diamondcon

Conor “Diamondcon” Johst a 20-year-old Main AR that has recently joined the New York Subliners. With the recent news of Tommy “ZooMaa” Paparatto having to take a step back from competing, the Subliners have turned to Diamondcon in the short term. Conor will make this first appearance during Launch Weekend for New York.

The AR has only recently started competing, playing in his first CWL tournament in Black Ops 4. The Canadian had breakout performances when he had two Top 16 placements at CWL London Open and CWL Anaheim Open. He’d finish the BO4 season by finishing Top 24 at the Amateur Finals with 47, Noysii, Remy, and Mochilla. He’d look to build off these performances in 2020.

Diamondcon’s Modern Warfare season was rocky to begin. After many Top 32 finishes in the 2k series in the first 4 months of the season, Conor started to climb the ladder. His placements started to progress in April when the League fully switched to the online format. He’d finish Top 16 at the first Open for Dallas and then 4th at the Chicago Open. The rookie AR would hold on to that stability, placing no lower than Top 16 for the rest of the season. Once a part of both Sixth Gear and then Triumph, Conor would win 4 tournaments including the Challengers NA Finals.

With the switch to 4v4 in the offseason, Conor found himself off of the Triumph roster. He’d land on his feet, playing with Noysii, Apox, and Deelo to start the season. His placings in the Challenger Cups have consistently improved even though he has switched rosters three times. Here are his results in the first four Cups:

  • Cup 1 – Top 16 with Noysii, Apox, Deelo
  • Cup 2 – Top 16 with ACHES, Lacefield, Prolute
  • Cup 3 – 4th with Prolute, Saints, Spart
  • Cup 4 – 2nd with Prolute, Saints, Spart

With Conor now on the main roster, it will be interesting to watch how the roles work. We see a role clash with Clayster & Diamondcon, but that could work in the current meta. A major factor in Conor’s bid for Rookie of the Year is his playing time as well. Is he a part of the long-term vision for the Subliners? Time will tell.

Kickoff Event

It’s hard to judge how Diamondcon did in his first series due to the lack of practice from the New York side. The change was sudden and unexpected so we cannot be too hard on the Subliners. Diamondcon still looked good at times during their 3-0 defeat to Dallas Empire, and it will be very interesting to see how both the team and the rookie develop in the future.

HP : 27 kills / 28 deaths / 0.96 KD / 36.0 average hill time

SnD : 3 kills / 7 deaths / 0.43 KD / 1-0 in OpDuels / 0.38 KpR / 95.63 ADR

CTL : 24 kills / 25 deaths / 0.96 KD / 13-11 on Atk

Who else could join this group?

The talent pool in the Challengers scene is very deep this season. In all three regions, there are players that could be making their debuts in the Pro League. Here are our 5 picks per region for most likely to be in consideration for a starting spot during the season.

NA

  • PaulEhx
  • GRVTY
  • Zap
  • Venom
  • Sib

EU

  • Nastiee
  • Afro (Recently signed to London Royal Ravens, we will keep a close eye to see if he makes it over to NA)
  • Gismo
  • Defrag
  • Bidz

APAC

  • Pred
  • Crimzah
  • Setzyy

This season will be very interesting to see if struggling teams look towards veterans to fix their issues or if they will turn to unknown rookies to see if they can find a diamond in the rough. Here’s to 2021!

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